I am convinced that there is truth in the statement that writing or even creativity of any kind is healing. What! You think that's a cliché. Have you already tried it?
Of course, writing in a diary is no substitute for a session with a psychologist or other therapist. Still, writing, preferably with your hand on your arm, or being creative in some way can help sort out thoughts and process pain. I experience a similar effect when I cook. I am creative, distracted and evoke beautiful memories. Food and memories
Writing accompanied me through childhood and adolescence with many difficult episodes. Sitting at the table with paper and pen to write down my thoughts is like being in a protective cocoon. I have a patient listener and no one to judge me. When I read through my writing again, some things become clear to me and I can see more where I am. This can be calming and relaxing. I can encourage you - write yourself back to health!
The Art Of healing
a kind of poem
My calligraphy experiments
Write your way to health!
As a child, I spent a lot of time alone. I didn't feel lonely because I had places I travelled to - in books. There I was part of a story and could create a world of family and friends in my imagination. I remember hearing stories about Peter Rabbit on records before I could read. Peter Rabbit is mischievous and spares no effort to get his hands on Mr Mcgregor's vegetables.
My parents ran a pub, or as it's called in England, a pub, for a year. That was also where our home was. Behind it was a garden divided into different plots, some of which were lying fallow. It looked like there was a vegetable patch at the end of the garden, but behind it, quite hidden, was a neglected rose garden. That's where my dog and I spent our afternoons. As soon as I could read, one of the first books I got was The SecretGarten. The author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, was described by The Times as the J.K. Rowling of her time. I felt a kinship with Mary, almost. Wrapping myself in these stories made me feel less of a loner and gave me hope.
In England at that time, you started school at the age of five. So I was soon able to read and write a little bit. I always had a notebook in my pocket and wrote little stories in it. They were peppered with spelling mistakes. It didn't matter, because no one read them except me. One day a cousin found a story I was working on and made fun of it. Simply to annoy me, he threatened to tear the sheets. I didn't want to burst into tears and pretended to be cool and unconcerned, so I said "go ahead" hoping he wouldn't. Ritch Ratch and the scraps of paper lay scattered on the floor. I was amazed myself at how much it hurt me.
"I can shake off everything as I write: My sorrows disappear, courage is reborn."
Strictly speaking, writing never became my profession. I am a foreign language correspondent and translator. So I wrote for others. For myself alone, I wrote about everything that came into my head, sometimes so that it would go away. I was a member of a book club and knew all the libraries in the area. Soon I got the impression that creativity comes from suffering. Many of the wordsmiths who inhabited my bookshelves were ill. Charlotte Bronté suffered from comp pain and generalised body aches. Flannery O'Connor was diagnosed with lupus like her father, to name but two.
As a teenager, I wasn't officially sick yet, just somehow different from many others. Later I found out that I had ADHD and was introverted. I also often suffered from various pains. Everything was very diffuse. I was relatively often too ill at home. There I read or wrote to escape the pain, to be part of another world.
Chronically ill people are often said to be thin-skinned and sensitive. They are often sensitive. They are attentive to little things that happen around them. Details that could happily be woven into stories.
This "being on the edge" that "being different" often entails certainly plays a role in developing very good observational skills. This ability is a treasure in storytelling. On the one hand, excluded from many "normal" activities because others do not want you to be there, those living with chronic pain often watch themselves in those very moments from behind the scenes, while others participate in life normally. For this reason, they can become very good at noticing important details - or telltale signs.
"The metaphor in the mouth of survivors became a way to innovate around pain."
It is not only our observational senses that benefit. As a chronically ill person, we are confronted daily with seemingly insurmountable hurdles. To find viable ways, we have to get creative and think outside the box. Soon it becomes clear that there are many ways to do a task. None of them is right or wrong, but the one we choose because we can do it that way. We train our flexibility and resourcefulness. On the one hand, this is a skill that helps with writing. On the other hand, it is one that we can deepen when we write.
"Writing is medicine. It's an appropriate antidote to injury. It is an appropriate companion to any difficult change."
"I don't have a lot, but I have a lot of notebooks. They comfort me by reminding me that no matter how hard life gets, I can always write."
Why you should start writing
You don't need to be intimidated by the thought that you can't write. Diary writing is a very subjective matter. You write for yourself. You can just write away. What thoughts move you? How did your day go today? Maybe you think it is not worth it because you will never look at what you have written again. Just writing down your thoughts can be relieving. It also helps to sort them out and develop distance.
It wasn't like that
Do you know this? You "remember" a certain event together with someone else. In the end, two very different narratives emerge. A diary helps to preserve memories as they are. You don't really remember exactly how you felt when a friendship fell apart, but you can read about it from the perspective of that time. Unfortunately, our memory is not a faithful servant. We remember differently depending on the event or emotion that triggered the memory.
I am my own therapist
By writing a diary you can learn to reflect well. That is, to look at what you have seen and to understand from a distance why things happened. You can formulate your thoughts without full stops and commas. Your diary "listens" without interrupting. You also have the possibility to read about better days on worse days. This can be a mood lifter.
Things I would like to do
If you write down what you want to do, e.g.
- conduct a conversation
- try a new therapy
- learn something new,
the chances are better that you will make it happen. Writing can be motivating.
I cannot write
That's what you think. By writing for yourself every day, you automatically draw on phrases you have read or heard. This can improve your ability to express yourself.
It has't been such an awful day after all
When something goes wrong in the day, we often tend to forget everything good about the day. If you sit down and think about the day and write about it, hopefully you will realise that every day has good moments. So you can feel better at the end of the day. Today, away from the hustle and bustle, I had a very happy conversation in the bakery with the shop assistant who was extremely friendly and in a good mood. It was contagious and I will remember it as a positive experience today.
It does not have to be a diary
You don't have to write in your diary every day. Of course, you can also try out many other ways of writing. You can also write a letter that is never sent. The letter is addressed to someone but only for you. Or you can write positive impulses that you pick up somewhere.
- on the radio
- in a book
... in a small notebook.
A digital diary is also an option
There are also various apps for personal diaries.
Horn, A. H. & Mehl, M. R. M. (2004, December). Expressive writing as a coping technique: A review of the state of research. https://www.researchgate.net/. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247701209_Expressives_Schreiben_als_Copingtechnik_Ein_Uberblick_uber_den_Stand_der_Forschung
Pennebaker, J. W. P. & Smyth, J. M. S.. (2016). Opening Up By Writing It Down (3rd ed., vol. 1). The Guilford Press New York, London.