I Mean it, Writing Saved My Life
Updated: May 7
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 myself questions about everything from parenting, my values, purpose, spirit, writing or even finances and how I eat. I also use journaling to blow off steam.
When I don't write in my journal my insides begin to feel like a kettle about to boil—a kettle that no one's coming to lift off the heat.
I didn't know I was journaling per se. I don't know where my first journal came from, though my best guess is a birthday gift from my aunt Martha. I also didn't know that I was creating a lifelong habit. I was just writing to save my life. Honestly, if I'd known about self-harm and cutting back them—who knows. There might be stacks of scars across my thighs instead of stack of journals (not that the two are mutually exclusive). All I knew was if I had a pen in my hand I could put one claw in front of the next and scale the walls of the emotional well into which I'd fallen. Deep.
Confession: I do read my old journals. Why not? The old ones. Decades old, not 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).
Not long ago, 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 read those oldies with a compassionate eye. So I was able to think, "Wow, okay, this has been going on a while. That's interesting. It's really...a thing. Anxiety is part of my history, part of my story. It's threaded into my pulse." (Rather than, "Damn this girl has been crazy since way back.")
What I used to describe in journals as morning stomach pains has become just the snakes. 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 of squid ink spaghetti.