A mental health diagnosis carries with it both distress and blessings.
Distress emanates from the depression, stigma, the delicate balance of medication, therapy and building a positive support system. Blessings come from learning passionate self-care and finding expressive outlets for the sometimes overwhelming emotions and triggers.
Enter journaling. Journaling can take many forms: Old school on paper, digitally in journaling programs such as Penzu, a password protected journaling app (penzu.com) or Day One, an app for your mobile device (http://dayoneapp.com/) or art journaling, which combines text, color and a multitude of available mediums for self-expression.
Journaling can increase one’s mental health awareness and recovery by providing a safe place to hold thoughts and emotions without fear of the reactions of others.
It can also help in those moments when there are things that need to be said but you are unable to find the words to clearly express things. My first exposure to journaling was through a human relations class. The professor required us to keep 2 journals throughout the quarter: an emotions journal and a gratitude journal. The purpose of the emotions journal was to allow a safe place to capture intense emotion – anger, sadness, fear, etc and simply free write. No editing, no self-censoring, curse if you like, but release. The process allowed me to read through entries, identify thought patterns that were holding me back or to identify triggering events. The gratitude journal is a place to write about “What’s Right With Me”. It takes no effort to come up with the things that annoy us in our lives. The journey within to find what is going well – even just “I am here” – requires a healing, loving introspection. I keep both of these journals in a Google document so that they are password protected and are only for me.
Art journaling is another tool that can be carried in your mental health recovery toolbox. Art journaling opens the door to YOU. My foray into art journaling began 3 years ago when I had back to back medical crises that each took 18 months to diagnose and resulted in emergency surgeries to remove my reproductive system. I bought a sketchbook, paints and pens and began splashing down my frustration at being passed around through 6 doctors, trying to find the correct phone number for the correct department and the feeling of betrayal by my body. That 1st piece is titled “Can You Hear Me Now?”
The magic of journaling is tapping into the subconscious and bringing it into the light.
Over time, I have learned to allow the pages speak on their own: inspired by the color or a mental image, a phrase or a line, the composition builds itself. Recently, I have discovered zentangling. Zentangling is a form of creative meditation in which the creator is not concerned about the final image. My most recent piece is a reflection of my thoughts about my mom’s passing and is titled “Willow Weep For Me“. For more information regarding zentangling, pop on over to http://tanglepatterns.com/tag/zentangle
Creativity can be a lifeline to our mental health recovery.
How are you positively expressing yourself?