I Mean it, Writing Saved My Life
Updated: Oct 6, 2019
An old journal from 1993 reminded me that my anxiety has been around for so long that it has a name.
I started writing in a journal as a teenager to release emotional overwhelm I just couldn't contain. Writing saved my life. A decade later, I was still writing in journals, navigating breakups and wrangling my self worth. Now, three decades later, I continue writing in my journal as a means connect to my deepest self—not the self at work, at play, or the self parenting, but the spirit within. I use journaling to think clearly, and ask questions about everything from parenting to my values, purpose, spirit, and writing to goals, finances, and dieting, as well as just generally blowing off steam.
When I don't write in my journal my insides begin to feel like a kettle about to boil—no one's coming to lift the kettle off the burner.
I didn't realize that I was creating a lifelong habit (and dear god, never imagined teaching journal writing) when I wrote to save my life. I was just putting one claw in front of the next, trying desperately to scale the walls of the emotional well into which I'd fallen. Deep.
Confession: I read my old journals. But, they're old-old. No way am I going to read anything from the past, say, three years or so (unless I'm collecting data on some hunch I have about my personal habits or neurosis). I make myself read with a compassionate eye.
I came across this entry:
"I just had one of those morning where I wake up with my stomach in knots, scared & with fear. (feeling out of control.)" —June 28, 1993
I was able to think, "Okay, this has been going on a while. Wow. Interesting. It's a thing, it's part of my path. It's threaded into my pulse." That, rather than, "Fuck, I have been crazy my whole life. This proves it."
What I used to describe in journals as morning stomach pains has become just the snakes over the past decade. I see them in my mind's eye: They are black and shiny and there's a pile of them. My anxiety looks like a plate squid ink spaghetti.