Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Bust-Out Power of Journalling

I'd forgotten how dazzling, exciting and soothing daily journal writing can be.

After the holidays had ended, I was feeling such a terrible void, which isn't that unusual, I suppose, at this time of year, but the whole season seemed to have a void to it, despite how busy I was. On the surface, I probably looked happy. My online Etsy shop--filled with all kinds of my art-related goodies--was doing well, and I was commissioned by six clients to do a pet portrait. And my pain level was holding steady, kept in check by a moderate daily morphine dose.

There really didn't seem to be any overt reason for me to feeling such a deep malaise, during the holidays or after, but there it was, grinding away at me day in and day out, and yet I couldn't even cry about it, which was really strange for me, as weeks earlier, it seemed I couldn't turn off the daily waterworks.

Very early in the season, I was so tearful that when an old friend, who I hadn't seen in about 15 years, came over to pick up her pet portrait, the tears came out in an embarrassing flood when she asked me the simple question as to how I was doing. I knew the dreaded words were coming while she was catching me up on her own life (with me laughing and smiling the whole time), and I kept saying to myself, "Please don't ask me how I'm doing. Please don't ask me how I'm doing." She did, of course, and the more I tried to regain my composure as I spoke, the more the explosion built up steam.

It all turned out fine, as she's as much a dear now as she was then, but I was indeed perplexed by my post-holiday numbness, and decided it must be the morphine, which only added to my malaise, as right now, it's just something I can't live without.

I don't know what made me do it, but I decided on New Year's Eve to seek out my journal and just start writing automatically, not to make any discoveries necessarily, but just to break the logjam of my feelings, which had come to a full halt. And what a break I made.

It's amazing what feelings lurk inside us when we just stop for 20 minutes or so, and really let them surface. At first, I wrote that I should go off the morphine at all costs, as I just couldn't stand the blankness of my life anymore, but suddenly, little glimmers of other matters began to appear. The first entry gently percolated with what family gatherings do to my feelings of self-worth, especially when I'm sick and in pain, and I found myself praying on paper for guidance, as I was so at a loss as to what to do next.

I ended with, "I need a miracle," and sure enough, the next day while talking to Glori, my therapist, while telling her that I just can't cry anymore, that the morphine has put me out of touch with any and all feeling, a few sniffles suddenly turned into a flood of tears about how yet another year has passed with me being in pain, and the sorrow I felt about it was overwhelming.

"My dear," she said. "I believe you are in touch with your feelings just fine."

Since then, I've made the effort to write every day, and the results have been unusually soothing, as any good purge of emotion usually is. Unlike my blogging, which is more controlled and meant for others to read, my journal writing is often splashes of sentences that only I can understand, filled with run-on phrases, misspellings, and deeply private feelings meant for my eyes alone.

While I'm as honest as possible in my blog, my journal writing is really honest, where I can vent and reach into the darkest corners of my soul, often with some trepidation, but always rewarded, as even if I don't discover an answer, I do always end with a prayer to the Great Spirit, asking for guidance, courage or whatever else I might feel I'm lacking at the moment, and the hope those words bring is always reassuring.

Perhaps the greatest discovery, which came from my session with Glori that day, was something I've let lapse, and that's been writing here.

At one point, Glori and I were doing an updated treatment plan (I see her at a clinic), and she asked me what I hoped to achieve with our sessions in the coming months. At first, my answers were very self-centered, as I seemed to answer by rote, with the old chestnuts like, "I'd like to be happier," "I'd like to become more social," "I'd like to feel less anxious," etc.

And then she asked me about my writing, which I've always felt has helped not just me, but others as well. When I started this blog well over two years ago, it was at first a way to give meaning to a harrowing experience simply by expressing it. But in time, as certain comments were made, I saw that the sharing of the experience had a reverberating effect that went far deeper than I'd ever anticipated when I started.

I haven't had to offer any answers here, or any deep insights, or even clever writing. I've just had to be honest, even when that honesty reveals that I just spent three days in my pajamas and I feel like crap. It's those entries that sometimes resonate most of all for others suffering similarly, and this has caught me completely by surprise.

When Glori reminded me that thinking of others will come back to me a thousandfold, I knew what I had to do, which is coming back to my blog and continuing the chronicling of this bizarre journey.

And that's what some simple journal writing has led to. In the search to find answers, the answer is simply to be honest and continue the search, and perhaps most important, to share the experience with others, for it's in the sharing of the journey that the healing truly begins.


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