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.

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Confidence and Self Esteem

Confidence and Self Esteem

My confidence and self esteem issues started in high school and have such a strong impact on me even now. it’s something that follows me and triggers my depression a lot, and in turn, my depression takes advantage of my low self esteem and makes me hate the person I am.

As a child, I was a complete attention seeker, always in front of the camera singing and dancing.  I was confident and adventurous, I loved making friends and I was slightly tom boyish but happy with who I was.  When I look back at photos and videos of myself back then, I feel a lot of things.  I feel a happiness at seeing my old self and seeing how much I enjoyed life.  I feel jealousy because I’d give anything to be that little girl again with all that confidence.  I feel sadness because that little girl I was, isn’t here anymore and she didn’t deserve to be broken down and made to feel worthless.

High school can be a hard time of life for some, while for others it’s the best years of their life.  My high school life was a mix of the two.  On one hand I loved learning, I was a bookworm and I loved to soak up knowledge and express my opinions.  On the other hand, my classmates made me dread going to school and that’s where I began to lose the confident, adventurous girl I was.  I wouldn’t say I was bullied, I was never physically hurt by my classmates or singled out and targeted by a group of people.  The problem was, I didn’t fit in anywhere and although I had friends, I drifted between groups and never really found my place which meant a lot of the time, I was left on my own.  Group projects or gym class used to bring dread to my heart because I knew I’d always be the last to be picked.  When paired with me, my classmate would snigger to their friends and complain in whispers because I was the quiet shy girl who always got on with the teachers and did well on schoolwork.  To everyone else, I was uncool and no one wanted to be associated with that bookworm who actually enjoyed schoolwork.  When speaking aloud in class, I became nervous and blushing had always been an issue, my classmates picked up on this and whenever I had to speak up, my classmates would laugh quietly to one another and whisper about how red I turned and how I would just look at the floor.  Eventually I felt like my opinions and my voice wasn’t important and it was easier and safer to stay quiet and instead of answering teachers, just pretend I didn’t know the answer.  I was always a bit tom boyish and the popular girls made comments about my clothes and asked me where I shopped, they’d giggle and judge me.  The boys would make comments about how I wasn’t girly and eventually changed my name from Heather to Hector because they thought I was more of a boy.

I thought college was my chance at a new start but it was more of the same, I was quiet and shy so people found it easier to ignore me and pretend I didn’t exist.  There was none of the teasing and insults that I’d experienced in high school but being ignored and rejected was the same.  I’d end up sitting at a table in class all on my own because no one would sit near me, they thought I was odd because I wasn’t as confident and outspoken as them.  I never got included in group work, the rest of the group would just talk amongst themselves and do the work without me.  This was also a time in my life where I was bullied by a single person who chose to pick on the way I looked and my weight.  I wasn’t overweight, I’d never been sporty or skinny and I’ve always been very short.  Nevertheless, I’d always worried about my appearance and when a girl started to call me fat and post pictures of me on the internet with insulting names and comments about my weight, it really destroyed me and it was the final straw.  I’d held on and tried so hard to fit in and be like everyone else but all I got was rejected, made fun of and ridiculed for being different.  I hated myself so much at this point that self harming came easily to me, I wanted to hurt and scar the ugly person I was, I hated my body and my appearance so much that I physically sliced into my skin with knives or scissors to make the pain go away.

High school and college was a constant period of my life where I was ignored, left out and isolated by others because I was quiet and people didn’t want to know the shy, quiet bookworm.  This left me feeling like I would never be good enough, that my life wasn’t important and that I was below everyone else.

I hate the person I am now.  Lot’s of people are insecure about themselves and have things they wish they could change about the way they look.  For me though, it’s a hatred of everything I see when I look in the mirror.  I hate that I’m not skinny or in shape, I hate the my hair is frizzy and not straight, I hate that my nose isn’t straight because I broke it when I was 12.  I hate the stretch marks on my skin, the way my skin never tans, the colour of my eyes, my chest size, my ugly feet.  Everything about the way I look is disgusting to me, it physically makes me sick thinking about myself.  And it’s not just on the outside but the inside too, the self loathing I feel because I’m not out going or bubbly, the feeling that I will always be that girl sat on my own because no one wants to know me.  I’m worthless and not good enough, I don’t fit in anywhere and I’m just disgusting .

I look in the mirror and I feel sad, I feel broken and I feel disgust.  No one knows how their words affect others, sometimes people speak without thinking.  At school, no one thinks about how, they way you treat someone can affect them in the long run, it’s all just gossip and being cool.  I just want someone to read this and think next time they see someone sitting on their own, next time you see someone being left out and ignored and make the effort.  I wish that someone had made the effort to include me, even once.