Originally appearing on CreateWriteNow Blog: Journaling for Your Health https://bit.ly/34f9xZc
How can writing help you heal from emotional wounding? I journeyed to find the answer. Is it esoteric or a placebo effect? Is it rooted in scientific study and research? Or is it a little of both?
Over several years, I filled four journals with heartache and life’s misery regurgitating from my soul to pen to paper. Was it helpful in navigating my emotional wounding? You bet it was. I look back and read the pain, the rawness of disrupted thinking, and I feel a mixture of happiness and lament.
I see a version of myself past, like the first ghost from A Christmas Carol, haunting and fleeting. The woman who filled those journals with heartache and healing no longer exists, she changed and led to who I am now. This version of me, I like her. I enjoy being who I have become.
It took journaling to dig this version of myself out of the old muck wandering through life. I found who I was through writing down my deepest fears, allowing myself to separate from the negative emotions, looking at each objectively and finding a path forward to better thoughts and feelings. I connected to my spiritual side, discovering my beliefs and reconnecting to the Creator. Then I wrote a book about it and I continue to write on the subject through workbooks.
How did this happen, this healing through journaling? I began to examine the medical studies on such investigations. If you search “Writing Therapy”, you will find medical and psychological articles on the topic – studies showing writing down one’s emotions actual works in healing emotional trauma. One in particular, from the British Journal of General Practice, published by the National Institute of Health, starts with this quote from a Chinese Proverb, “‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I write and I understand.’
The article continues to give a summary of the existing studies, results, and a broader perspective on writing as therapy. The study’s conclusion is this, “there is enough evidence to warrant full trials of writing therapy in primary care”. Primary medical care, meaning your family doctor, internal medicine practitioner – those doctors on the front lines treating patients for general medical needs. How great is that?
I will continue to use journaling practice throughout my life. It helped me so much, I started teaching others. I developed a method of journaling to further assist in healing from trauma, the S.C.A.R.s. Method®, to Separate, Clarify, Access, and Rebuild one’s emotional and spiritual health – then to share (lowercase ‘s’) our experiences with others to offer hope and encouragement, but only when we have achieved sufficient healing. So, journal – for your healing, for your mental well-being, for spiritual renewal, and for your health. Doctor’s orders.
+ Br J Gen Pract. 2012 Dec; 62(605): 661–663. PMCID: PMC3505408
PMID: 23211255 doi: 10.3399/bjgp12X659457
If you are looking for an inspirational, beautiful book for your spiritual gardner, this book will be a precious gift of scripture, photos and stories by Melanie Boyer. Order direct from her website. https://agardenobserved.com/
I write alone, think alone, drum up ideas alone – I think. “No person can help me accomplish the task of writing,” I say to myself. Truth or lie? The aloneness can be debilitating. Finding a community of like-minded writers is important – I call it the Solitarian Community. It’s a dichotomy, for sure.
Writers are solitary by nature – a blanket observation of myself and those I have met. We suffer alone, write alone, and need to be solitary for our own comfort. Yet…can we accomplish writing goals by being truly alone? Sure, but a writing life is better in a solitarian community.
My own thoughts and imaginings – my own successes and failures – I believe most of the time I must do this alone – hash things out internally. Yet, a community of like-minded Solitarians to reach out to for support is essential when those internal musing become stumbling blocks. A well-established community offers encouragement and understanding without encroaching on our solitarian-ism.
I learned to choose my solitarian community wisely. I meet writers who are honest, encouraging, full of vigor and positivity. I meet others who struggle with those attributes, for whatever hurt or reason. I learned to weed through and keep positive influences close. Those who exhibit negativity in any form, I jump ship and steer away – regardless of how successful they may be.
I write workbooks. I encourage people to go on solo journeys to discover inner hurts, deal with coping mechanisms and find a healing path using the S.C.A.R.s. Method®. The first step – Separate. Sometimes we are so immeshed and intertwined in the lives of others, their successes, we tend to overlook ourselves – we do a lot of comparisons, gauging our worth as writers by comparing the success or failure of others to our own – this is not the community of which I speak.
I started a Writer’s Roundtable for a group of writers I met in the spring. We meet monthly on a Zoom conference call. What do we talk about? Our writing life, stumbling blocks, resources, helpful hints to get us going again. It takes 30 minutes – the connection is vital. The Solitarian camaraderie is encouraging. I also joined the Nonfiction Authors Association and now lead the local chapter to help other writers and authors.
The Solitarian Community is unique and necessary for writers to feel less isolated in their aloneness. Find those who you trust, have a commonality with, and offer support in your writing life.
Here are tips on finding your Solitarian Community:
My top 10 tips for staying motivated and successful in a solitary writing journey:
In 2013, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I sat across a conference table from a newly promoted director. He revealed my fate after learning of my health condition. His concern – whether I was able to perform the job at the same level as previous years and the impact it may have on his newly assigned department.
The solution, to him, was to move me to a subordinate, potentially part-time position not relevant to my skills, education, capability, and one not crucial to the business. I was being tossed downstairs without actually getting fired. What the director didn’t know was I had taken matters into my own hands.
I had worked for the paper company for six years and my annual performance evaluations were exemplary. I valued my group and was proud of the goals we had reached together. I was satisfied with the work and my manager was pleased with my throughput.
I shared with my manager an early suspicion of a plan to remove me from the group soon after my diagnosis was disclosed. Someone had confided in me several conversations they heard regarding my fate. To put it bluntly, the new director was part of the “good ol’ boy system” I came to recognize and learned to navigate.
Leadership changes in the group revealed a disturbing trend with no changes in sight – each promotion was a hand up from the predecessor. The clique of insiders provided an atmosphere in which I, and most other women, was not accepted.
When I was diagnosed with RA, I realized I could not succeed where I was currently positioned and I took action. Not because of my condition, but because of the dynamics of who was in charge of my department. I informed my manager, shared with him my suspicions on my removal, and asked for his support. He agreed and kept it confidential. I applied for a position within Human Resources, a department outside of my current one. I interviewed for the new job and was offered a comparable position within HR.
That day, as I sat across from the new director and waited until he finished telling me his plan, I realized how much company politics and power execution had a stronghold on the organization. I watched him carefully and took mental notes on the tone, attitude, and expression as he informed me I would be taking a lesser role in a small, insignificant department – because, in my mind, I was viewed as small and insignificant – a liability he didn’t want to have in his department. Whether he subconsciously thought of these things or it was blatant office power politics, I will never know.
I took a breath and revealed my own path forward.
“First, the plan you just revealed to remove me from the department is unacceptable and not something I am interested in,” I began. “Second, my diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis is a physical, not a mental disability, and should not be treated as such. I have interviewed for, was offered, and accepted a position in HR. I begin in two weeks and have already informed my manager.”
His reaction – surprise and then relief. The meeting ended abruptly.
In my new HR role, I thrived again, digging into data, finding discrepancies, reporting problems immediately. One of the serious issues I discovered resulted in legal action to the benefit of the company for hundreds of thousands in lost payouts. My talents and transparency were rewarded with “job well done.” Not one time was my RA mentioned by anyone in my new HR group, not my manager, director or anyone in the division. It was a non-issue.
I steered my ship out of troubled waters and into smooth sailing. I controlled my own path and did not wait for others to dictate my fate.
When you work for a company which values its employees, focuses on customer satisfaction, has a thriving work environment, people succeed and so does the company. The type of director I faced at my old job would not last long, likely would not even be hired in the company I work for now. Interestingly, the company I used to work for no longer exists.
My current organization is one of the best in Massachusetts! It values employees, is customer-obsessed, hires the brightest and most talented people, and is led by thoughtful, caring, trusted, and community-minded individuals. My talents, work ethic, productivity, and leadership are valued and rewarded. My RA – it’s a non-issue.
Saturday morning, joint pain excruciating 😖 – all I want is the relief to have a normal day. My handful of supplements gets washed down with a cup of water at the bathroom sink. Brush teeth, throw on a summer dress, now down to the kitchen for the vital large cup of coffee, then 600mg of ibuprofen just in case it works, but praying over my liver. Into the office where I keep my turmeric/coffee ointment, rub on every joint point I can reach.
I fry up dippy eggs (over easy) for my grandson, make an egg white omelet for me, ask Greg, my husband, if he wants breakfast, “Not yet, gonna cut grass first,” he answers. Feed the cat, clean up from cooking, drink the coffee, eat the eggs, clean up again. Now, I retreat to the porch to write. Are you exhausted? I am.
Pain is a cruel master forcing me to think of relief in lieu of lovely things like planting lettuce or hiking or vacuuming. Yeah, rather vacuum the whole stinking house than deal with this – it’s a bugger! Come on remedies – unite!!!
Then the looping thoughts – what did I do, eat, smell, think, miss in the last two days to bring this on? It’s a conundrum for sure.
Here is where I put the disclaimer: GO See your doctor before trying anything I mention or anything someone else tells you.
Another fruit loop – what can I do today I haven’t already done? The search begins again. I take stock of all I have tried and come to the same conclusions:
Do I practice these daily? No. Should I? Yes. Will I in the future? Most of them and sometimes I will hit all 11 in one day – woohoo! These are the treasures in my box of healthy living. Are more out there, more treasures to sort through and try? I am sure there are, and people offer them to me all the time. Most offerings are answered with thanks, but no thanks. Some are worth letting my doctor evaluate, but will only try if she says yes. And a few end up in my treasure box of the chosen few.
So, for those living with chronic illness, rheumatoid arthritis specifically, choose your treasures wisely. Weigh each one and have a critical eye. Here is my evaluation process to find the value when trying something new:
People offer me remedies a lot – I mean a lot – most unsolicited. Once they know I have been diagnosed with RA, the suggestions come fast and furious. I’ve had people connect with me on social media only to send me a message of what they are “selling” to cure my disease. Be careful. One person’s treasure is another person’s junk.
Other have directed me to healing churches, pastors, laying on of hands. I smile and think of MercyMe’s song “Even If,” and thank them for the suggestion. What I don’t say to them is, “Do you think I haven’t prayed for healing all these years for the pain to be removed and go away? If God wanted me to be healed, He would do it in an instant. But even if He doesn’t, I still have full Faith in Him.”
Now, we could argue theology, scriptural thesis, and waste a lot of my remaining energy. Some may even think my own sin is the cause of the RA – regardless of the fact I am Saved and Redeemed. I will leave that to God to sort out.
I say this, “I trust in Jesus for all things and I love my life for what it is and is not because God has designed it.” This body will fade, falter and fail. My relationship with God will not. I trust Him. If healing is in His plan, great, if not, He will walk beside me regardless. I will be the best-blessed human being living with RA I can possibly be – loving God, loving my family, and doing God’s will despite the pain, in lieu of the pain, instead of the pain. That is my true treasure in the box.
Have you ever been treated as an outsider or marginalized? Then this story is for you.
I was 10-years-old when my father accepted a new job with the State Police Academy in Richmond. We moved from our home in Tappahannock to Powhatan County. To leave my dear friends broke my heart. I had anxiety over making new ones in our neighborhood. Two girls lived on the same street and they were near my age. After growing up with so many close friends, to create new friends was all I wanted to do. I played with the two girls and, after a few months, realized they were nothing like the kind friends I missed.
One day, the older of the two girls invited me to come to play, She said to meet her behind the houses by the creek, which ran along the wood line parallel to the back yards. The neighborhood kids used the wooded area for games, hide and seek, war, and treasure hunting. Nature’s playground. Excited she wanted to play, I leaped out the back door and down the steps to cut through the woods arriving at the agreed to location.
I showed up expecting her to be running from her own back door excited to see what adventure would follow. I saw no one. I called her name and I waited. Then giggling came from several yards away. My first thought, “Well she must be wanting to play hide and seek.”
The search ensued. As I rounded a few trees and looked for the source of the snickering, the sound moved, then it moved again. Running steps crunching the season old dead leaves and sticks. Silence. Over and again, running, giggling, silence. The one giggle turned into two. I was heartsick. Not a game, but a cruel joke. The girl across the street joined in and the two ran and laughed at my expense. I began crying and headed home. I distanced myself from the girls after that day.
More than a year ago, I attended a writer’s gathering. The participants congregated in a creative collaborative space. We shared our writing and elicited feedback. I so enjoy the energy at such events. As we ended the morning session, the large group dispersed into smaller cliques for lunch.
I sat with a few writers. There were only us three at the table. I watched a person, one who I admired and was also in a position of leadership, marginalize another lady writer. The exchange was subtle, but clear, the dismissive attitude and disregarded behavior left a bad taste in my mouth. However, I sat there and did nothing, said nothing.
I was stunned someone I thought I knew would treat another in such a manner. I understood how the poor lady was feeling. Outcast, unimportant, undervalued, and insignificant. The afternoon went on with my heightened awareness of the dynamics in the group, who was sitting where, how people interacted with one another. The incident seemed isolated on the surface, but as time went on I saw a pattern emerge. Others were being marginalized in small moments.
I left the event with a lot of questions. How does one have the inclination to make another feel so trivial? How could someone I admired treat another person in such a demeaning way? Then the questions turn inward. How could I sit there and be silent when I knew how it felt? I was the fence sitter, the stander-by who did not speak up did not act. I felt shame but did not nothing more about it. The only action I took was to distance myself from the one I had seen be so thoughtless and demeaning.
This past weekend, my friend Sherry and I, along with a dedicated team of people at our church, put on the 2nd Annual Women’s Friendship Dinner. We invited a young, Christian recording artist to be the guest speaker, offer a message and sing her music. The whole event is designed to allow women to come, either in groups or by themselves, and feel connected and included, pampered and valued.
As the evening began, a lady arrived at the dinner alone and, after checking in, went into the dining area only to return a short time later with a question.
“If this is supposed to be a Women’s Friendship Dinner, and some tables are reserved with group names, where am I supposed to sit?” she asked.
A reasonable question and one I knew to answer with God’s Love. Instead of giving some long, drawn-out explanation of why some tables were reserved, purchased as groups of tickets, and other reasons why seats were labeled, I responded with grace and inclusion.
“I have a spot just for you at the main table, where the singer and her family are sitting,” I smiled.
“But that table shows it’s reserved for her family,” the lady responded.
“She only brought her sister. How about you be part of her family tonight? There is plenty of room,” I assured.
The singer and her sister were already seated and six chairs were available. I escorted the lady to the table, introduced her and wished her a wonderful time. I went about my hosting duties thinking no more of it. This is how each woman was treated when they came in, with Grace and Love and smiles and inclusion.
The God led event was fabulous – beyond anything Sherry and I could imagine. The food – delicious and filling. The singer’s music and message – exactly what each lady longed to hear – God’s love for us is perfect and extravagant. Our identity is in Christ and not in our past. We matter, we are loved, and we are Children of God. We are each important in His eyes.
After the event, the guests thanked the team for the evening. We all responded saying it was God’s event and He made them to feel so special, loved and significant. It was our privilege to be a part of such a wonderful evening.
Then the one lady came up and gave me a hug and expressed how much she enjoyed the evening. I responded with, “God gave you this evening. It was all Him, we just joined Him and served.”
God sparked my heart to show this one lady she mattered. The reason behind the Women’s Friendship Dinner is to show all women who attend they are loved by God. No one is marginalized. All are important. This lady was so important she needed to sit at the main table with a Christian recording artist as part of the family for the evening.
A couple of days later, I awoke with the lady’s name playing over and over in my mind. Where had I heard her name before, did she look familiar, had we met? I searched my old emails and I found the answer.
The same lady who was marginalized, dismissed and made to feel insignificant at the writer’s event the year before, was the same lady who came to the dinner last weekend where she was valued and important. She was escorted to her rightful place of significance and standing. She is a child of God and was treated as such.
God allowed a moment of redemption without condemnation or judgment for my previous complacent behavior. He invited me to get off the fence and be proactive in Love and Grace. He gave me a chance to show another His value for them, His extravagant Love, His inclusion into the family of Christ. If I believe those things about myself, how can I not believe it about another?
When we follow Jesus, truly follow Him with our words and actions, no one is in the margins. All are gathered at the table for the banquet, both those who seem to be out cast and the out-casters. We, as His followers, see others as God sees them – His Beloved Children and treat them as such. ♥️
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:46-48 NIV
Repost of TED Talk with Daniel Levitin – listen closely about the decision on medication. Be prepared to talk to your doctor about any medication they recommend.
Photo: Hans Benn
On February 1st, my step-son, Brad, passed away. Brad was 29 years old, an Army Veteran, and a survivor of 4 traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, pain, and PTSD. He was a warrior to the core. The last year before his passing, the family was able to pour love into him during the recovery from his latest TBI – a motorcycle accident in March 2018. The news of his death ten months later was a blow. The grief was and still is palpable. No one was prepared. No one saw it coming.
Grief is a strange and ugly bird of prey – poking, prodding, and pulling at the heart – circling around a carcass on the highway waiting for life to stop so it can swoop in and pick the bones clean. Impatiently bullying its way in, stopping traffic causing pileups and wrecks, grief has a job to do, but it causes trouble.
But do I give up hope? Never! Brad was a warrior, a fighter, a survivor of unimaginable trauma. He died that day in March 2018 and was brought back to life by first responders and then brilliant doctors. He recovered enough to have a pretty normal life. He could live, be happy, spend time with family, have friends and enjoy himself. This, I must do too.
Praying for our spirits to hold strong, our hearts to mend, our minds to find wholeness, while grief picks us clean to the bone. Then, with renewed flesh and spirit, we live life again in peace through God’s safe, loving and compassionate arms until we are called home, too.
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NIV
When RA flare-ups hit, I feel sick. My brain, muscles, bones – even my skin falls ill. These days are hardest to get through. I push my body to the limit which doesn’t take long at all, then I rest. I used to lament, now I surrender. This morning, I am off to my see my Internal Medicine physician – my Coach for all other doctors. He has a line of sight for all my health needs.
Our discussions today will be – when I feel sick, when my brain doesn’t respond well, or when my muscles give out – what do I do? Do I exercise? Do I rest? Do I fast (my least favorite choice)? I will follow his instructions and let him know how I fare. This is the back and forth relationship as patient and doctor. I tell him how I feel, he advises, I choose the path, then let him know if it’s working. I will let you know how it goes in a future post.
Last August, I suffered from severe hot flashes – yes, I am in that season at age 51. I had about 20 to 25 per day. And at night – oh boy – night time my skin started pumping enough water to swim in. After two months of this nonsense, I made an appointment to see Dr. A.
We sat in the exam room and I described my hot flashes, “It starts it in my scalp, then it moves to my face and creeps down my body until I feel like I am in a sauna.”
“Hmmm,” he said, “That sounds like a hot flash to me. Let me see what we can do about that.” Then came the questions,
Dr. A.: “How many times do these occur per day?”
Me: “About 20 to 25.”
Dr. A.: “How are your emotions?”
Me: “I burst into tears sometimes, but isn’t that normal?” laughing
Dr. A.”No, that is not normal.” seriously
Me: “I am not so much worried about my emotions as the hot flashes keeping me up at night and distressing me during the day.” Regaining composer
Dr. A.: “Here are your choices. You could try to take Vitamin E and see how that does. Or I could prescribe an anti-depressant.”
Me: “I would rather take the holistic route, but I will think about it on the way home.”
Dr. A.: “Ok, I will call in a prescription just in case. If you choose not to take it, no worries. Just let me know what you decide and how you are doing. If you go with Vitamin E, it will not touch your emotional symptoms. If you take the anti-depressant, you will have to watch for side effects (& he listed all of them).”
On the way home, I knew my choice was Vitamin E and I sent him a message via the patient portal once I was back on my home computer. “I will try the Vitamin E for now and see how I do. If it doesn’t work, I will go pick up the prescription,” I messaged. He responded with, “Great. Let me know how it works.”
Vitamin E supplements may not work for every woman suffering from hot flashes, but boy did it work for me. Within 5 days of adding Vitamin E to my morning and night supplement/medicine routine, the hot flashes were GONE – not just diminished – completely and totally GONE. Miracle? I like to think so.
I was very pleased the supplements provided my body with what it needed to regulate the menopausal symptoms. With my RA medication, I don’t want to add anything else that may interfere or diminish the effects of how the Plaquenil and Xeljanz are working. Don’t mess with a good thing, right now.
So this is my relationship with Dr. A. – I tell him how I feel, he advises, and I make the final choice. It is a collaboration in managing my disease and whatever else my body decides it wants to do. I hope everyone finds a Dr. A. to collaborate, give advise, and help you make an informed decision on your health.
I get paid to write. That is the writer’s dream, isn’t it? To get paid to do what you love to do! Yes, I write five days a week for a healthcare analytics company out of Boston, MA. I love what I do, love the people I work with, and love what this fast growing company stands for – integrity, innovation, fairness, and customer-focus.
It’s brainy, scrappy kind of company, a think tank of brilliant people working towards one goal – offer the customer the best product and customer service that will transform their business life – a product they cannot see themselves living without. And the company does it very well.
My job -manage and focus the News Team. We write about healthcare, hospitals, doctors, legal issues, labor, who is buying who, what hospitals are closing and on. We go out, look for news and transform it into brevity articles for the customers to access precise, concise news.
Brevity writing is a skill I had to hone to do my job well. Taking three to five pages (sometimes 20+ paragraphs) and hyperfocus the content into one paragraph – we do this 35-40 times daily. This practice changed how I write, but I love the outcome – it spills over into my personal writing – although you can’t tell from this blog post. I’m already into paragraph four.
Concise thinking, writing, and editing are such skills I never thought I could master. And I wouldn’t say I have mastered it, but I am better. Translating the conciseness into workbooks and books have a purpose. I want each word to have meaning, no fluff, and few descriptive avenues (ha, threw that one in). I don’t want to waste time anymore, mine or the reader’s – it’s valuable and precious.
Say or write expressively yet precisely – meaningful and powerful – those are my goals now with brevity writing. I want the reader to be encouraged, to find hope and focus. I encourage all writers to edit with brevity as the filter. What is most meaningful will rise to the top. Leave your concise, brevity comments below! Let’s see how brief and meaningful we can get.
this is an archived blog
Embracing God's Grace Daily
by Lize Bard