If you asked me if I was a journaller, my answer would be a resounding “no”. I’ve always been hopeless at keeping a diary, and when I think about journalling, I think what the heck would I write about? But, as it works out, I was journalling, I just didn’t know it. This whole blog was me journalling through breast cancer.
You may have heard the story of this blog starting before, but for those who haven’t, I am a writer for my “day job”. I have two of my own travel websites and I do some freelance writing in the travel field too. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer my initial reaction was that I was just going to continue on with my travel stuff like nothing had happened.
But the few small things I wrote – announcing my cancer on Facebook (which you can see in this post) and then a blog post over on my main travel blog explaining why I might be a little absent – had amazing responses and they made me feel strong and empowered.
I mulled over it for a while, and eventually gave in. I purchased a domain, added the site to my hosting and within a couple of hours had a basic website up and running.
Over time I recorded my journey. Some of the posts were incoherent rambles, so they never saw the light of day. Some of the posts were just my thoughts (like this one) and others were practical information about whatever stage I was up to. Eventually the posts started to morph into ones that took my audience into account, and weren’t just my indulgent scribbles.
Looking back now, the writing was an important part of my breast cancer story. It gave me an outlet, and it was such a great feeling when someone told me I had given them hope.
While sharing with the world may not be for you, I have become a firm believer that journalling can help with whatever you are going through in life.
I think it helps to get our thoughts straight on certain topics. Even when the writing seems like a big jumble, just the process of writing down the words helps it to make sense. Right after diagnosis sometimes it’s hard for us to say the C-word (no, not the four letter one!), but writing it down can be easier. This can serve as a half way point to gaining our confidence with putting it out there.
It’s not just me making this stuff up either. Apparently there have been lots of scientific research projects done on the benefits of journalling and some of the outcomes are things like it boosts our immune systems and helps us heal quicker. Who knew, right?
Journalling before bed is known to help us sleep better too – and lack of sleep can be a real problem for breast cancer patients! I know my mind can sometimes be going a hundred miles an hour when I lay down, and there is no way it’s going to shut off enough to sleep. Grabbing a pen and paper and scribbling those random thoughts down can be just the thing to slow it down.
Journalling can help with feelings of anxiety or depression too. It can be a way of looking at what is making you feel that way. I think of it a bit like having a coffee with a close friend and blurting out all your worries. Even if your friend just nods and smiles through the whole catch up, you will walk away feeling so much better. As the saying goes: “a trouble shared is a trouble halved”. Even if it’s just shared with a piece of paper.
In fact, there seem to be a multitude of benefits from journalling. A quick google tells me that it’s good for our memory (and we probably need that with chemo brain), boosts our creativity (handy for replying to those people who just don’t get what we are dealing with), and is a great stress relief (I don’t think I need to explain that one!).
In fact, it seems to be good for nearly everything.
So how do we go about this journalling thing? Well, the good news is you can do it however you like! You can simply grab a pen and paper and write. You can of course also use a computer, which I clearly did, but I think that tactile experience of writing would be beneficial too. You can make your journal neat and pretty, or it can be random scribbles on scraps of paper.
If you don’t know where to even start, I recommend deciding on a small amount of time – say ten minutes – set a timer and write whatever comes into your mind. Write freely and with abandon. These words never need to be seen again – not even you have to read them in the future, you can write them and burn them if you so desire. It’s the process of writing them down that will help you.
Of course we sometimes sit down, prepared to write, and not a thing comes to mind (happened to me once in a law exam *gulp*). With journalling, a great way around this is with prompts. So to help you get started, I have come up with some. Take one of these, use it as a starting point for your writing.
Twenty Prompts for Journalling Through Breast Cancer
- Write your diagnosis story
- Make a list of twenty things that make me happy
- How has cancer changed my life goals
- What’s the weirdest thing to happen to me because of breast cancer
- What is one thing I am really good at
- What is one thing I would not change about my body
- What is something I have not told anyone else
- What concerns me about the changes I am facing
- What gives me hope
- Write about a favourite hobby
- What makes you feel cosy & safe
- What made you feel good this week
- How does my body feel right now
- List three things that “spark joy”
- What emotions do I find hard to accept
- What opportunities have come my way lately
- When I look in the mirror, I see….
- What items on my to do list can wait until next week
- What would I tell my teenage self
- What do I love about my life right now
You will get the best results from journalling when you do it regularly, but even if you can’t get to it every day, just do what you can. I always remember as a tween/teen starting a diary at the beginning of the year and being determined to write in it everyday, like those cool girls I read about in books that did that. By about January 10th I’d missed a day, so I gave up entirely.
Don’t make it a chore like that, just do it when you have a few quiet minutes or when your mind is racing. It’s good for a debrief at the end of the day, or perhaps a motivational tool at the beginning or the day. Enjoy the process as much as the result. Perhaps you too will end up with a blog that showcases your rambles!
Want to share your thoughts on journalling? Come on over to our Facebook group and tell me what you think.
Have you joined a breast cancer support group on Facebook but been completely overwhelmed by some of the posts? It’s fantastic that these groups are an open forum and all sorts of questions, worries and issues are addressed, but sometimes they can be too much. In fact sometimes they can be downright scary.
If you would still like to join a support group on Facebook but not be faced with some of the scarier aspects when you don’t want to see them, come and join Positive Breast Cancer Stories. Here we share positive stories, celebrate milestones and encourage each other rather than deal with the technical information >>
Click here to join now