March 9, 2017

MY LIFE IN JOURNALING

                 -- Post #1 -- 

Something  I’ve learned from the past year, and in my wellness class this winter quarter:

                                                   Journaling saved my life. 

 

I am here today partly due to my passion for and history of journaling. Ever since kindergarten, I have never not been actively writing in a journal, and as of today have piled up around 11 that I keep in my memories box for when I’m older. I believe it is as healthy for one’s mind, body and soul as drinking water is: it nourishes you. Journaling is a cleansing process, and for a multitude of reasons. For one, it is a friend that you never have to worry about judging you. It is something that doesn’t do anything but simply listen; all a journal cares about are your problems, and no one else’s. You are allowed to be as selfish as you want, as crude as you want, as uncensored as you want. There are very few people in the world with whom we feel we can be our complete selves around -- showing them the good and bad unyieldingly. With journals, though, we are doing ourselves (and everybody else) a disfavor by holding back because whatever you are feeling, journals allow you to translate into paper to be acknowledged. And not just acknowledged, but accepted. It is your mind painting its colors onto a canvas; almost like writing a song that you know will never be sung but still write anyways because as long as you admire it, that’s all you need. 

 

Journaling hasn’t always been this way for me, though. In looking at my journals from when I was just beginning to write, my entries seemed to be very objective. “Today I went to school and saw Taryn (my best friend) after I got back. She’s sick and it’s sad. We watched Pirates of The Caribbean after dinner. It was fun.” What I did that day, who I was with, and a broad statement about how the activities I participated in were. That was what I journaled, because that was all that I was capable of processing in my mind at such an age. By then I didn’t know the words ‘nervous’ or ‘anxious,’ ‘frustrated’ or ‘curious.’ 

 

Once I started lower school, my entries started to reflect those of your average seven year-old girl: who my ‘boyfriends’ were (of which I apparently thoughT it okay to have many at once), what I thought about some of my classmates, what I wanted to do over the weekend, which of my friends were annoying me, which of my siblings were annoying me. My journal had become a sort of friend of mine that I could gossip about others to and entrust my ‘deepest, darkest secrets’ in. It was new, and instilled in me a newfound sense of power; to know things about myself and control who else knew them excited me. I kept writing, resultantly. Journaling had not yet become a therapeutic and self-sustaining measure for me, but was on its way to becoming a big part of my life.

 

Now, I bet you have a pretty good idea of what my middle-school journals were about. Essentially, the entries started to reflect exactly what was going on in my mind -- and what was in my mind at the time were not the most productive things. Looking back at my journals from the age of 12-16, all I seemed to care about were two things: friends, and popularity. Who was being a bitch, who was being a bad friend, who was or wasn’t being invited to birthday parties; who was going to a dance, what that person wore to the dance, what that person did at the dance - it was a complete mess. Of course, at the time I didn’t think so. I was convinced all of these things mattered to me and played a crucial role in my life. Nowadays, I’m actually thankful to have done this. Not to have written the things I did write, but to have written at all during this time because it really tells me a lot about what my mindset and maturity was like. In analyzing them a bit more, I started to notice that all of the entries involved talking about other people and their lives, while rarely mentioning mine. How I was dressing and what I was doing didn’t seem to matter to me, only what others were doing did. I was at a time in my life where I didn’t have any idea of who I was at the core, so it made sense for me to be defining myself solely by my surroundings. Also, other things in my life were going on that had been playing a large role in my well-being behind-the-scenes, so it’s understandable that I didn’t want to talk about the hard stuff because it was truly unbearable to acknowledge, and I didn’t have the right tools to deal with the reality of things - yet. 

 

So, high school began, and with high school comes the question “Who am I?” Because I had been journaling for almost 8 years by Freshman year, I had no choice but to continue on writing about anything and everything -- it was an innate thing to do before bed every night. My high school journals saw me through all of my break-ups, failed tests, insecurities, and after a few years became a place for me to buckle down and reflect at the end of the day on how I was actually doing. The more I practiced being transparent, the more I found I had to say. I realized so many new things about myself -things that had always been a part of me, but that I had never really acknowledged until writing about it. A few such examples were how sensitive I was and how passionate I am about animals, and the ocean. How I really did have a self-destructive mindset, more specifically the tendency to blame myself for other’s issues and things I have no control over. There were all sorts of things that I learned about who I am through the process of writing and forcing myself to dig deep and ask the harder questions I never before would’ve dared to ask. Some good things, some not-so-good things. But nonetheless, they were things that helped me gain a better sense of who I was.

 

As high school progressed, so did my self-destructive behaviors. I developed an eating disorder, of which I am still struggling to overcome today, and discovered just how deeply rooted my trust issues were as a result of challenges during my upbringing. As these mindsets began to take over, my journal entries began to change in essence. I was still writing everything I thought, but what I thought and what my eating disorder was telling me to think were two very different things. A sort-of tug-of-war constantly being played between me and the disease, and more often than not my disease took over. This surrendering to my eating disorder brought me down a path I just didn’t have the strength to turn away from for long time. In fact, it wasn’t until two-thirds of the way into my senior year that this all came to light.

 

Eating disorders are nothing to be proud of, but nothing to hide either. I wish I had known that at the time, but sometimes the only way to learn is through experience. It had taken over my entire being, in a similar way a parasite would: invading all of the different parts of your body and paralyzing you. Constantly thinking about my appearance and having anxiety attacks at every meal proved damaging to other parts of me that I didn’t think would ever be affected. I began to sleep and cry more, care less, and lose motivation for doing things that used to bring joy to my life. I was diagnosed with hypersomnia at one point (yes that’s a thing, crazy right!?) In short, I began to decompose before my very eyes. As a skill I gained from my journaling, I was aware of my feelings the entire time and knew I was becoming depressed, but didn’t think it was worth doing anything about. Not until February 28, 2016, did I realize that I needed to pull myself out of the hole I permitted (and maybe even encouraged) to have created. On this day, I got the yearning to hurt myself - permanently. I was at such a low that I truly didn’t believe I had anything or anyone to live for, and I was convinced everyone else’s lives would be better off without me. That I wasn’t worth it. I will never forget sitting on the lawn of my small all-girls high school in Palo Alto wanting everything to end. I had my keys in my hand, and my car was in the senior parking lot. I was fully capable of acting on these impulses, and felt  prepared to give in completely to my various mental illnesses.

 

But, I didn’t. In fact, I did the exact opposite thing someone would do in these situations - I called my mom and asked for help. Instead of ending my life, I saved it. Somewhere deep down inside of me, there was a little speck of light that shone through and was able to rationalize myself out of this. Now I could go further into detail of what happened from here on, but this is the exact moment where my original argument comes to play: my journal saving my life. While it is true, I alone was the one to seek help, I genuinely believe that to this day if I hadn’t been writing in my journal and been made aware of my complexity and this internal pandemonium that existed, I would’ve followed through with what my disease was telling me to do. Without journaling when I was younger, I wouldn’t have continued doing so in high school. Without being so accustomed to talking about anything and everything every day up until this one, I wouldn’t have developed a sense of identity -- that all of these words in all of these journals came from nobody else but me. I do have an identity, and therefore I do have a purpose. Whether I thought it was a worthy one or not, I was able to remind myself that I am unique, and as such do have a purpose on this earth. And that purpose is being me.