Journals: Good or Bad?

Journals: Good or Bad?

I saw something on television today about how keeping a journal is potentially harmful because it makes you stew in your own feelings and accept negative emotions rather than confronting them and changing it.  It was all about how writing about your feelings and emotions doesn’t actually affect them and that there is no advantages of writing about your misfortunes.  While I accept that opinion, I don’t agree with it.

I started writing in my first journal when I was 12 years old and I have every journal I’ve ever written in, saved on my bookshelf.  At first a journal was just a way for me to express my frustration and feelings during my teenage years and moaning about school and friends, talking about who I had a crush on and how I planned to make them marry me.  It was immature fun and it gave me an outlet, I didn’t have many friends as a teenager and my journal was in a way, my best friend.

As I got older my writing became more serious and reflective, it was about expressing feelings that I couldn’t express to people, talking about my worries and fears, and my dreams and hopes. I felt lighter and free after writing about my feelings, it made things easier for me.

Now, reading back through my journals has proved really useful, not only does it remind me of little happy moments I’d forgot about, it showed me how depression entered my life.  I was diagnosed with depression at 18 and I’d always believed that it had started at 16 after my parents divorce and after I’d been through some bullying.  Looking back at my journals though, I can see now that it affected me long before I realised.  When I was 13 years old, I wrote about killing myself for the first time and periodically after that, I mention not wanting to live and wanting to give up on life.  I wrote more often between the ages of or 12 and 15, and it was all very depressing and now I’ve come to identify my depressive behaviour, I can see that I was depressed long before I realised.  It wasn’t just normal teenage hormones and mood swings, it was a constant feeling of darkness and I described it in my journals as this blackness inside me, that tried to ruin any happiness, I wrote about not enjoying life and feeling not well.

Reading back has helped me, it’s showed me that my depression isn’t because of my parents divorce or being bullied, it doesn’t come from a negative or traumatic experience, it just is.  I didn’t believe in depression as a biological illness, I always thought it was triggered by trauma and I felt guilty for having depression when I knew that some people had experiences a loss worse than mine, people have it a lot worse than me.  Now I think that maybe depression was just always there in me, maybe I don’t have to feel guilty about feeling the way I do when I have so many good things in my life.

Reading back through my journals has also helped me understand where my anxiety stems from, I was always a shy child and I preferred books to people and I enjoyed learning new things, which made me different to other kids and kids can be cruel to someone who is different.  I let classmates walk all over me, I let them say mean things and laugh at me, and I did it because I wanted to fit in.  I tried to follow the trends and change myself to be more like my peers but it never worked, I was always still singled out and it caused me to sink into myself and choose to avoid rather than confront.  I started to run away from situations instead of standing up for myself and that’s why my anxiety has come to be as bad as it is.  One of the things that stands out most to me in my journals is the days I would fake being ill to get out of school because there was a presentation that day or a group project and I was terrified of being humiliated so I did whatever I had to do to fake sickness and get the day off.  I wish that I could go back now and just face my fears because by avoiding them, I never gave myself the chance to prove I was good enough, I made it impossible to build my self esteem and confidence because I found it easier to hide away.  It’s really sad to think that I was so terrified of my classmates opinions and actions towards me and I wish that I had been stronger and stuck up for who I was instead of hiding and trying to change myself into someone else.  I’m 23 now and ever since the age of 12, I’ve avoided any experience which I thought could cause me humiliation, and by doing this, I’ve never given myself the chance to prove my fears wrong.  Just because some kids at school laughed and said horrible things, doesn’t mean everyone is going to do the same and even though I can see that logic, it doesn’t help me because I’m too used to thinking that people will dislike me, so I avoid people and situations where I could be vulnerable.  Just being in public makes me panic, because I have so little confidence in myself and I see people laughing, and think they’re laughing at me, I see people talking and automatically think they are making comments about the way I look or behave.

My journals have shown me where I went wrong, they’ve shown me that I shouldn’t feel guilty for being depressed when I’ve had a much better life than some.  They remind me of better times and make me proud of some of the things I’ve overcome. That’s why I think journals are beneficial, especially when you suffer with a mental illness because you can track your mood and identify triggers and behaviours that may signal a relapse.  It’s like writing this blog piece, it lifts a stress from my shoulders and allows me to say what I want to say without that face to face fear of judgement.  It allows me to reflect and think clearly which is really helpful.  I don’t know how I would have got through most of my life, if I didn’t have a journal to write in.

Advertisements
My Name’s Heather and I’m a book hoarder……

My Name’s Heather and I’m a book hoarder……

I’m pretty sure if there was a book addiction/hoarding group then my Fiancé would send me off there with no hesitation.  I am a complete book addict, I have two full size bookcases crammed with books and a kindle which is also full.  I’ve been a complete book addict all my life, as a child I had a wardrobe that was filled with books instead of clothes and all my pocket money went on books instead of sweets and toys.

As I’ve grown older, my love of books has grown.  Books are my oldest and best friend,, they’ve been with me through all my struggles, they’ve offered me guidance, confidence and taken me to a completely different world when my reality has been tough.  As a result of my love for books, I’ve built up quite the collection, my favourites being my huge leather bound collection of classics which weigh a ton and take up a lot of space.  There is nothing better though, than looking at a bookshelf full of books and running your fingers over them, knowing that each book is filled with a different adventure.

Unfortunately my love of books has led to a huge issue with giving them up.  I’m sure most people will read a book and then lose the connection to it, it will be donated to a charity shop or thrown away.  I cannot bear to give books away, it’s like sending away a part of my heart.  I’ve gone through my collection many times and made a pile of books which I would consider giving away….and then a day later, they are all back on the bookshelf.  It would be okay if I resisted buying more books, but any chance I have to buy a book I take and then I come home and my Fiancé gives me an exasperated look and says “Where are you going to put that?”.

I tend to read multiple books at once so each night I’ll bring a different book to the sofa and read away till bed, the next night I’ll bring another book to the sofa and so on.  By the end of the week, there is a pile of books by the sofa and on the coffee table, and my Fiancé is wondering why I bother having a bookcase in the first place.

I also have a crazy OCD attitude towards my book case, my Fiancé will put books back in an attempt to tidy up and I’ll go crazy because he’s put it back in the wrong place.  I order each shelf of my bookcase and split up genres and topics so I know where to find everything and I get a little insane if people move books around.

On top of my huge collection of books, I have a kindle full and the one click buying option on Amazon will be the death of me.  My bank statements are just full of tiny amounts going out on random books I’ve downloaded and I also have an aversion to getting rid of kindle books, I keep them all in my cloud storage and can rest well knowing they are all in this invisible place waiting for me.

I am a book hoarder, a book addict and I wouldn’t change it.  Books are so underrated, so much new technology comes out these days and young people don’t want to bother with boring books when they can be playing all the latest games or chatting online.  It’s a shame because my childhood was filled with books and I’ve been on so many adventures through them, I’ve learned so much.  When I have a child of my own, I’ll treasure the times I get to read fairy tales to them and introduce them to all the fictional worlds I love, I’ll give them the same experiences I had and hope that books bring them the same support they’ve brought me.

A Familiar Stranger

A Familiar Stranger

It’s the strangest feeling to look at someone who gave you life, who shares your genes and resemblance but is a stranger to you. My Dad is a stranger to me.  In five years, I’ve seen him once, tomorrow will be the second time.  After my Mum and Dad separated, my Dad became distant, I tried and tried to keep the relationship strong but eventually it became to hard.  My Dad moved as far away from me as he could, to get away from my Mum and it seemed like the easiest decision for him to leave me.

For the first sixteen years of my life, I had the perfect Dad.  He was my best friend, my role model.  I was a complete Daddy’s girl!  I was a tom boy and I liked working on cars with him and working at his garage during the summer.  He was everything I could have asked for in a father and I look back at that man fondly and also sadly because that man doesn’t exist anymore.

Separation is hard and I understand that he needed time after the divorce but his children should have been his focus, instead he decided to run away from everything and move hundreds of miles away.  It was shortly after this I was diagnosed with depression, maybe his actions triggered it, or maybe it was a long time coming.  It was difficult losing my best friend and feeling like I had done something wrong.  I took his side in everything, I was terrible to my Mum in the hopes that he would see I loved him and if he had asked me to move away with him, I would have done.  Instead, he just left and did nothing to stay in contact, like he wanted to forget I existed.  It’s a horrible feeling to be rejected by your own father, and I live with that rejection every day.

My first suicide attempt was traumatic and shameful and I wanted my Dad, but despite the hospital and family contacting him, I heard nothing from him.  How can a parent learn that their child has tried to take their own life and do nothing?  How can a parent not care that their child wants to die?  My second and third suicide attempts brought no more than a text and the knowledge that my Dad didn’t care that I was suffering and dying inside breaks my heart.  I went four years without seeing my Dad, and having no contact apart from the occasional birthday text to him coming to visit for three days.  I remember being so nervous about seeing him, and wondering if I was better of just not seeing him but I still have this urge to please him, and to make him proud so I met him.  It was awkward and surreal seeing the man who for sixteen years was my world, he looked like me and he sounded like he always did but he was a complete stranger.  He knew nothing about my life, nothing about the person I had become.  He made apologies and promises to be better, to talk to me every week and visit more often and I believed him because I wanted him to be that person.  A year has passed and for the first two weeks, he kept it up and then it was like before, he lost interest and the disappointments kept coming.

Now he’s here again, wanting to see me for just a few hours and again, I’m too weak and hopeful to say no, even though it would save me the hurt and pain that is bound to come when he lets me down again.  Tomorrow I see him once more and the anxiety I feel is the same I feel when confronted with a stranger on the street.  My depression is looming in the background waiting for him to let me down so it can take advantage.  But somewhere inside me is that five year old girl who thought her Daddy was a hero, who would have done anything to make him proud and that little girl makes me risk my own heart to give him another chance.

Parents are supposed to be everything for their children.  I will never understand parents who abandon their children, a person that they brought into this world and had a responsibility to care for.  I’m lucky to have one amazing parent in my Mum and I know that she’ll always be there for me, but it’s not quite the same as having two parents who love and support me through life.  When my Dad was amazing for the first 16 years of my life, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer that man, no longer that great Dad who I loved.  He’s just a stranger now, a stranger that gave me life and looks just like me.