The Warrior Diaries
No Princess Diaries for this gal! I started keeping a journal since I was ten years old. Those pieces of paper tell my story and I am thankful for them as memory issues are one of the things that come with mental illness and childhood trauma. There is so much I can’t recall, which frustrates and upsets me a lot. Often, I pull out those old diaries and read them. It can be emotional and upsetting but it can also help me gain perspective, see trends, and remind me of how far I have come. There are many gaps in the story. Times where I didn’t journal for months or even years. But like any tool, you pick it up when you need it.
One constant theme emerges in all my writing and that is my search for connection with others. I can almost feel the longing and loneliness leaping off the pages. I write about being grateful for all the good things in my life like friends and family, however there is an emptiness underneath all that. This is one of the issues that comes with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a still debated diagnosis in the psychiatric community. When you have experienced ongoing interpersonal trauma, it manifests itself in feelings of low self-esteem, low self-worth, and a belief that you aren’t good enough. I continue that battle to this day but with many more tools in my toolbox to help get past those moments easier. August 20, 2003 – I am afraid that I am really not good enough. Any wonder why I’m still single?
Fear emerges a lot in my stories and most of it is related to being alone, never meeting my goals, never getting healthy and losing weight. Then it flips to being paralyzed by the fear so I wouldn’t move forward, like a self-fulfilling prophesy. All of us have fears and get stuck at times, but when you have a mental illness it is amplified ten or twenty-fold. You can’t move forward no matter how hard you try. Everything seems overwhelming right down to the smallest things. We hide from life because we are scared to live. Yet we desperately want to live. August 20, 2003 – I’ve come a long way but hit a bump; the only thing holding me back from jumping over it is my own fear.
What is interesting to me in my journaling are the moments of strength and clarity that I would often have. Despite the pain and anger and feelings of hopelessness, you can can see courage and resilience. This one entry was from February 1, 2002 – I will keep working hard, I will keep hoping, I will keep trying to be a better person and I will keep the faith and never give up. August 20, 2003 – I feel I can do it…..but I need to learn to believe I can do it. Those moments are times when I could see through the darkness and believe my life held some value, some purpose. Other times I find learning elements and can see how I strived to put in place the tools I was gathering. May 23, 2006 – I wouldn’t let myself believe the negative thoughts that were in my head. I heard them over and over but rather than go with it I said to myself, ‘I know that I will get up tomorrow and keep fighting, but for tonight I’m gonna have a pity party; I’m gonna cry my eyes out and let the despair take over me. Tomorrow I will let hope back in’. May not seem like much to anyone but for me this was huge. Instead of fighting the tears I allowed them to flow. Rather than deny the pain I was feeling I embraced it. But no matter what, I did not believe my head; I listened to my heart and kept the faith. When I read that I feel immense pride and about how hard I fought over all those years and how much better my life is now because of that struggle.
I urge everyone to try journaling. Even if it doesn’t come naturally at first or feels strange, it can be a best friend in hard times and allow you to get things out of your head. Putting those bad thoughts on to paper and seeing them there offers a sense of freedom and peace. If you have other creative juices that flow, such as painting or crafts, use them! Find something that gives you an outlet, even if it takes a dozen tries to find what works, I promise you it will be worth it…..and you ARE worth all that effort.