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several journals laid out on a table with a pencil

The Benefits of Journaling

I was in 7th grade the first time I journaled. A class assignment for English, I think. We could write about anything we wanted and our grade would be on participation, not on substance or content. We were free to express anything we wanted to with no filter or editing.

I had plenty to write about

In the two years prior to this assignment, I had moved 4 times, had 3 stepmothers, changed schools twice and tried smoking. I had plenty to write about. Unfortunately, I also had a 7th-grade manner of expression, a lot of anger, and a nosy stepmother. “Train wreck.” That is the way I would describe the chaos that was born from my journal becoming dinner conversation.

My attempt at journaling was a train wreck

I vaguely recall being called all manner of names - “selfish" and "a liar” have a familiar ring to them. How dare I write this? Who did I think I was? Didn’t I realize how lucky I was to have this and that? Yes, a train wreck is what my journaling brought forth. I spoke with my teacher and must have been shown grace because I do not remember journaling anymore, and I passed 7th grade.

A fear of having my most intimate thoughts revealed

Many times I would think about journaling or have it suggested to me by concerned adults, but I could not shake the memory of my first disaster. As I sit in my office writing this, I can look at my bookcases and see no less than 8 journals. Each one has a page or two that was written on and then torn out and burned to ensure anonymity and privacy. My fear of having my most intimate thoughts made public overshadowed any benefit to writing - until I bought a tablet with a pencil and a password and face ID.

Freedom to express my thoughts without fear

Freedom. Freedom to write and express and unburden my mind. Glorious, that is the descriptive word for it, glorious.

Journaling allows me a safe place to unload and decompress. Day in and day out, life keeps flying by, and I get overwhelmed. Trying to be okay for everyone often leaves me so full of others' concerns and issues that I have no room left. Add to that my fears of seeming needy and burdensome with those I am close to, and I can land in a dark place quickly. Journaling allows me an unlimited space to unload. In my journal, I am allowed to be utterly open and honest. I have no need or concern for the impact of my words. There are no constraints or filters. In other words, there is freedom.

I can express all of my emotions

In a journal, you can be afraid. You can be sick and weak. You can have good days without being whole and you can have horrible days without having to “look” sick. In the pages of my tablet, I am free. I can laugh and cry and write anything that feels true to me. I can express my thoughts in ways that I have never felt able to do, in spoken form, to anyone. Even in a therapeutic setting, I still feel a need to be aware of the impact of my statements. Spoken words have ramifications that can be cast-off in a journal.

Today, I recommend journaling to anyone and everyone. Find a secure format that you are comfortable with and a nice pen. Be expressive and bombastic if it helps. Be shy and halting if that enables you to take a burden off of your daily comings and goings.

Making room in your mind

Think of your mind as a wheelbarrow. As you walk along, you pick things up and stack them in that wheelbarrow. After a time, you stop and reorder the stack. Maybe you move things left or right, forward or back to make more room. At some point, you begin to notice that every time you lift the wheelbarrow or walk along, the load is shifting and becoming top-heavy. If you keep stopping and picking up and stacking stuff, a time will come where the load tips over and spills. Now you have a mess. However, if you unload the wheelbarrow from time to time, you will be able to pick up more and complete the jobs at hand without creating a mess.

Taking steps to unburden your mind

If the mind is the wheelbarrow, then the journal is the unloading. I can stop as often as I need. That may be several times a day some days and other days, it may be a few minutes when I get home. The point is that I am aware of the load I am taking on and willing to stop along the way to unload or unburden my mind so that I may continue on without dumping everything in a huge mess.

Cancer is a burden and carrying it with us all the time will break us down. Unloading will strengthen us and give us relief. Grab a pen and a bit of paper and give yourself some rest.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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