My Experience With Therapeutic Journaling

How can I feel better? Do I pay for therapy? Do I vent to family and friends? Where do I turn to? All of these questions are common thoughts for someone who is struggling with mental health. Personally, improving my mental health has been a challenge for the past few years. My therapist ended up recommending I journal my thoughts, feelings and any immediate emotions I may have. Basically, it would be similar to keeping a diary. I remember when I was younger, I would keep a diary but that was for fun and ended up being funny when I got older and would open it up again. I hate writing my thoughts down on pen and paper. I think much too fast compared to how fast my hand could write. My thoughts would get jumbled, I would get frustrated and I felt it wasn’t effective. I decided to type in the Notes section on my phone for a month or so. Any immediate thoughts I had and anything triggering that caused me to become emotional I wrote down. Looking back, I don’t think this helped my mental health.

Initially, I felt like journaling helped me. It was refreshing to see all my thoughts and feelings in one place rather than having it be so scattered in my mind. While writing, though, I was a mess. I couldn’t stop crying. My fingers were typing at lightning speed, teardrops were splashing on my phone screen, and once I finished a thought, another one would pop in my mind. A small portion of my notes were positive thoughts and emotions, yet a majority were all negative and sad. If anything, it made me sadder to see the depressed state I was in and how one major event could’ve turned me into someone so weak and vulnerable all of a sudden. After writing, I would go back and read and, once again, cry. When I couldn’t sleep at night, I would read what I wrote that day or earlier that week. If anything, this made me even sadder. I was reminded of my sadness once again, of my inability to persist and get better and I felt like I was losing a part of myself. I soon realized maybe journaling wasn’t the best thing for me. It allowed me to dig myself in a deeper hole, overthink and make assumptions that were blatantly false. It was as if I was trying to make myself feel worse.

In my opinion, my journals became a constant reminder of my pain. I was mentally not in the state to look back and reflect, but rather I looked back and it was as if the pain manifested. The only benefit was that I was aware of my emotions and feelings and I didn’t hide them. I didn’t neglect them. I allowed myself to feel sad and vulnerable. The next time I go through a tough time, I will refrain from journaling. I have now learned from personal experience that journaling was not the best method of coping and I have adopted other ways to deal with my emotional side. Yet, do not let my personal decision influence what you should do when you go through a hard time. Do what is best for you. Try different things such as going to therapy, painting, journaling, working out or surrounding yourself with people you love. Most importantly, focus on yourself and make yourself a priority. In reality, there is no right answer, you just have to make sure you are taking care of you.