By Tamika Greene, NAMI Connections Leader
In my 11th grade year of high school, I was introduced to journaling in a creative writing class. It opened up a whole new world in the form of intimate, living, and vivid personal communication for me. The experience was transformational, providing me with a new dimension of dynamic awareness. I felt like I landed on a different planet, but with a special kind of safety and comfort. Upon completing my creative writing essays for class, I felt like I could conquer the world.
After the class ended, I knew that I wanted to write as a profession. Some of life’s blows have discouraged me from pursuing this passion, but I am determined to persistently follow my heart’s deepest desires. I have at least 30 completed journals that I use to express my deep seated emotions. I have used journal writing to express emotions that feel like my heart’s blood shot red tears. I have communicated my life’s highest summits on the sun of triumph. When I feel comfortable enough, I even document my most silent secrets in a black abyss. My best times of journaling come when I am able to express times of exuberant joys that come from a waterfall flowing from a river of gratitude.
Journals have been called everything from diaries to cognitive behavior therapy. You can call it whatever you like. Journaling is a form of self-expression: your own personal story. You are allowed to express anything you like in full confidentiality. It can be as personal as you want it to be, as secretive as you want it to be, as open as you want it to be, and as happy as you want it to be. There are no restrictions or limitations on what you can write, because no one is grading you and no one is judging you. Nothing can be “wrong” when writing in a journal. You have total freedom to write anything you want. There are no rules or regulations. Just relax and be comfortable with it.
There are many benefits of journaling. You can clarify your thoughts and make them more real. Sometimes you just need to release emotions in a healing, therapeutic manner. With practice, you can develop your skills to be a more improved writer. You can tell your story, make up new stories, or even write poetry. Your journal can be used to record important ideas, events, and notes to reflect on at a later time. I review past journals regularly to review the ways of thinking that help me to be happy. I can then try to apply those same thinking patterns to my current life.
Journaling can be a form of expression when it is just you and God. You can use it as a form of prayer. My life is a little easier with my Creator by my side to strengthen and empower me to face each day and accomplish His will in my life. Consistent and continuous prayer has helped give me strength to accomplish so much academically and in life. Prayer through journaling has given me strength and power to complete great accomplishments, like a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree with honors and scholarships. All the while, I am living with a diagnosis that, based on statistics, should prevent me from accomplishing much of anything. Without this communication, I feel weak, weighed down, not myself, and bound up. When I don’t journal I feel incomplete, not myself, and like something is missing. When I write in it from my heart, I feel whole, content, complete, and totally myself.
Journaling can be cathartic, releasing bottled up emotions in order to bring healing, wholeness, and peace in my heart. It can be a means of venting frustrations, anger, or hurt to make way for forgiveness and express joys, successes, and triumphs. For me, it is like purging my heart of all the things that I have been holding on to. As a result, I am stronger and able to handle life challenges more easily, because I am not carrying the weights and burdens of life on my shoulders anymore.
I invite you to start journaling. It may seem unusual at first, if you’ve never done it before. But with practice, you’ll be more comfortable with it. Or your writing may flow naturally, because you may have done it in some other form before. Or writing may be one of your gifts. You may discover new reasons to journal along the way: any way you choose is just fine. You can buy an inexpensive journal at a dollar store, or you may find one that reflects your personal style. It’s up to you. It changed my life greatly, and hopefully it will greatly help you as well. Express yourself to the fullest and share with faith and no fear.