There was a time, which seems long ago but really wasn't, when I had huge difficulty keeping a journal. I've been wondering why it was so difficult back then and now I go to it so readily. The other day, in the midst of a crisis and lots of switching, I realized why. When there is so much chaos that you can barely keep track of what's going on all the time, how can you possibly write? Healing from dissociative disorders not only requires a commitment to be alive, but also requires one to contain the chaos to a certain extent. When you get to that place, you are not at all done with your healing. In many ways, I think you are just beginning.
But it is at this point where journaling becomes necessary. Because the goal becomes learning to find ways to be more aware and stitch together experiences and teaching yourself new skills. There is a lot of learning involved and many of you know that in school it's often important to take good notes. Journaling is akin to that.
I have made significant progress this past year because I have made a huge effort to increase communication and awareness through journaling. This has come at a price for me. It's super hard to do. When you start documenting as much of your experiences as you can, huge worlds get opened up to you, but you also become aware in a much more intimate way of how chaotic life is and how quickly states change. Everything is right before you. You really cannot escape what's going on.
A couple days ago I was posting to my private journal that I was feeling fine one minute and literally two minutes later I was falling apart. I also write about the many metaphor-type dreams and nightmares I have right after I wake up (the laptop is beside my bed). And I document almost everything that happens in my life.
Many treaters have suggested that I journal over the years. But the journaling I had done was sporadic and not at the level of commitment I have now. Mostly I had nothing much to say. Or didn't like the handwriting or what was written. But I guess I was just not ready to do what I'm doing now.
I mainly keep things from my perspective. Though parts of my psyche can write and share their views. I also think I often speak as a conduit for parts of me in a co-conscious kind of way. And sometimes I journal from my perspective about what parts of me did.
This level of commitment has really accelerated the healing process many times over for me and the journal almost becomes like a second therapist. I have found that you can really get things out of your head, in the journal, and put them away. I have also found that when I document experiences, I later go back and tease out the meanings and begin to understand what is really going on and what parts are trying to communicate.
As I did this, I began to see patterns that I never saw before and triggers I never realized existed. I also found that it helps parts gain a sense of responsibility. Darker parts who would engage in self-harm began to see that their actions affected others; and now the journal reminds them that we are, most of the time, all in this together. Sometimes for these parts, being able to get out their pain into the journal makes the difference for them and they don't need to act out.
I keep a private electronic journal and I date and time stamp each entry. I keep it on a private password-protected section of this website with access given only to me and my therapist. My therapist follows the journal and, for me, this has been quite helpful. I have talked to others whose therapists read theirs and everybody I've talked to has found this to be helpful. This minimizes the amount of time I need to spend on telling her day to day stuff. It also gives her an almost firsthand view of how things work for me.
I keep the journal for each month in a single file. I mark important posts so I can find them easily. On the first of the month, I take the current journal, archive it, and start a new file. In the archive, I then write a summary of the month. This allows me to keep track, at a high level, of what's happened over the course of the month. When I get to one year, I'm at month 9 now, I'll write a yearly summary.
Sometimes I don't know what to write and I feel like I get stuck. So, I have a few tricks to get me going. If it's real quiet, I try asking basic questions. Like how do I feel in my body? I write down the boring details of what I did today. Things like that. These are the things you may need to do as you first start a journal, and then eventually it will become easier.
I remember my first therapy appointments many many years ago when I couldn't say anything for the whole hour. Everything was meant to be kept inside I suppose. I had been so conditioned to keep things secret. Journaling helps to change all that. So does therapy. But therapy is such a small percentage of your overall week. Journaling can be as much as you need.
In addition, I also keep a handwritten journal in which I both write and draw. I find that the drawings can be very painful. This is the medium that many of my younger parts work best in.
I use this blog for sharing with others some of what I write in my journals. Nothing you read on this blog hasn't already been thought about carefully and written about elsewhere. The blog serves two purposes. It allows me to put "high level" writing (stuff I deem important) on the public pages that is synthesized and edited. But it also allows me to open myself up to others and this is healing. As I wrote in my welcome, I believe that sites like these can contribute by offering unique perspectives and knowledge, thereby enhancing opportunities not only for authors but for readers and society as a whole.
I'd love to hear from others how you use journaling in your healing process.