Journaling is an excellent way of recording your thoughts and feelings about anything. Here are some examples of what you could journal about:
3. Relationship journal (I did this when I met my now husband which is really nice to look book on)
4. Learning something new and journaling your progress
8. Writing-a-book journal (keep all your notes on characters, etc in one place)
Some people like to do digital journaling which is 'writing' on your computer (I would not recommend using a pubic computer). I, personally find it faster and easier than writing. BUT, if paper is your thing--you can make it more exciting, such as buying a nice leather journal, a quill pen, bottle of ink. The art of writing becomes more of an enjoyable experience than the norm.
My dad was always fascinated with pens. He mostly used an old fountain pen at work, as a professor and at home, as well. Then I got interested in pens also. He bought me one of those Schaeffer pen box sets that had 2 pen cases, color plastic ink cartridges in 4 colors and different tips for the pen cases that were interchangeable. Later, he gave me a whole collection of wooden pen tip holders and several different tips that were also interchangeable which created various styles of penmanship from thick, rounded writing to very thin, more traditional quill tip of writing.
But you can also go the simple, inexpensive route. Buy a one-subject or however large subject spiral notebook or composition notebook to do your journaling. This way, you can take it with you anywhere, anytime without getting out fancy bottles of ink.
It doesn't really matter what materials you use to journal. That is all personal preference. I wish (but I'm trying to be better) about journaling successfully (meaning sticking with it) than not. Recently while I was looking through some old papers from my earlier website--I came across lots of stuff I had forgotten I published on the website. One of the things I found was a monthly journal of entries I made just for the website. I was in the midst of my depressive/OCD episodes and I started to journal to the 'audience' my real experiences. I will share some of these because the memories are not as sharp unless I look at what I was going through at the time. Maybe this will be helpful to you in your journey. It is a journey, you know. There are ups and downs like anything else. Setbacks, leap forwards--it's all there. Besides the obvious reason to journal your journey there are other reasons to do it:
1. Share your thoughts and feelings with your psychiatrist/doctor and therpist. This will help them help you by knowing how your meds are affecting you on a daily or weekly basis in associate with your moods. It also shows your therapist/counselor areas where he/she can give you tools to deal with the, perhaps disappointing physical reaction to a medication that wasn't suited for you or tools to help elevate your mood. Your health professionals cannot read your mind but the journal will be an insight into your mind that could prove immensely helpful for everyone. And knowing that you're doing it for someone can be an incentive to sticking with it. Be real about it too-don't just write what you think your doctor/therapist would want to hear. They are there as a service to you. Throw possible embarrassment out the window.
2. It's a record of YOUR experiences that can be helpful to someone else in the future possibly. Just like me sharing my experiences that you will see below. Yours are just as valuable and important because it's a part of you. And seeing your progress over time can really give you positive feedback for your mind to use in those doubting times.
Below is a record of my journaling during a certain point in my life and the middle of what seemed like mental mayhem. I am copying it all verbatim so you can get a feel of what I was experiencing.
You may not have OCD, but just clinical depression or a combination of depression with something else. Don't let that keep you from reading what my experiences are like because we ALL (who suffer with depression) suffer very similar experiences at a certain point. Maybe you are bi-polar where you go from an extreme high and to an extreme low. I get the low part. I get the depression part. I understand the self-doubting, low self-esteem, embarrassment, meds not working, etc. So, please keep an open mind when reading.
In early December of 2000 ("a date which will live in infamy"--figure that one out) I had to be hospitalized again--my 3rd hospitalization, but at a different facility that I was at two times previously. Even though the reason that brought me there was not great--it was good to get away from everyone and everything for self-reflection of my life, my future, what God was doing with it, etc.
I had suicidal thoughts again. Your question may be "Why?" I had recently, before going to the hospital had a depressive episode linked to how I perceived others viewed me at a new job at the time. I took a new job hoping it would reduce my stress levels to a place where I could handle it, but that did not happen. But clinical depression can be caused by all different kinds of things, including those that OCD patients experience--dwelling on the negative so much that you can't see your nose in front of you.
I was also realizing during this time that I could not keep up with the pace of my life. Do you always feel exhausted much of the time? Well, I do. Having fatigue can be caused by many things. Many things I experience cause fatigue, i.e. stress (#1), medication, doing too much in my life, depression causes fatigue naturally, PMS. People with OCD have a very active mind most of the time. Mental energy expelled can be just as tiring as physical work.
I was feeling trapped because I knew the stress of my 'pace of life' was getting to me again in a way that was heading into a pit of depression. It basically stemmed from knowing I needed to quit my new full-time job which then turned to temporary half-time right before Thanksgiving of 2000...then to less or NO work hours. I could not see how this could ever come about financially, or any other way. My health was on one side and bills on the other. I became overwhelmed and so it went.....And believe me, I prayed about all this and asked others to pray for me.
I kept asking God why He was allowing me to go through this again (it had been a year since my last hospitalization) and why couldn't He get rid of those suicidal thoughts. If you're a Christian, you know that this all has to do with faith and trusting in God and that He will provide for your needs. Now, I am NOT saying that depression is caused by not having enough faith to help one's situation. For me, it was always a cause and effect process. First, I get overwhelmed with something (i.e., new job, cleanliness obsession, or whatever). The 'nagging' in my brain about it does not go away and then I start sliding into depression that may turn into deep depression, requiring hospitalization.
When I finally heard my husband say in a counseling session that he just wanted me to be healthy and that he knew someday it would come to me working either part-time or not at all, a heavy burden was lifted from me. But I knew I had to go deeper to find out more about the suicidal thoughts. Yes, we worry about paying our bills, but if God has brought me/us to this place (I didn't ask for this disease or make myself have OCD) then I have to trust (hard one for me) that He will provide for our needs. I kept thinking back to the scriptures about (paraphrased here)....the birds do not worry about where their next meal is coming from and if He cares about them, then there is no need [for us] to fear of Him not providing us with clothing and food--things we need.
This is where the cognitive behavioral therapy working with medication does the most good because you [need] to 'look' at your thinking that may be going to the extreme.
After being out [of] the hospital for almost a week, I returned to the hospital again. Never before had I needed to return to the hospital so soon after leaving. I already felt like a failure because of that. But this was the best place for me to be and learned it was not a failure to return.....it's not like failing a test and having to retake it (and everyone knows about it who was still there from before). I was admitted by my husband with my permission due again to suicidal thoughts and depression about the same subject--stress causing me to get to a place of not being able to work. I thought I had not dealt with all the issues I needed to, plus due to the day of the week I was last admitted made a difference in my recovery from this depression since group therapy sessions were not available on the weekends. I still struggle with things as part of my illness. Just because I have a website does not mean I have all the answers, but I will tell you what I do know and be honest about it. I have also gone through IOP or Intensive Outpatient Program which involves attending the group sessions during the day without staying overnight in a hospital. This can provide a transition from the support system in the hospital to your return to work, etc. The group sessions are most significant in my recovering from an episode of depression, etc.
This time the thoughts of suicide came from feeling like I had no hope. HOPE?.....you may ask when this whole web site is about hope. When someone is in a deep depression it is very difficult for that person to see beyond the depression and their dark pit. Even when it appears they have everything to live for, i.e., me--my daughter, husband, family, etc. I needed God to give me and show me hope again. I know that nothing is completely hopeless or impossible when it comes to God. Jesus's death brings us that hope. He came as a sign of hope when He was born on the day we celebrate, but it is His death that gives us the victory!
I really care a lot about people who suffer with mental illness and enjoy talking with them. It is difficult for me to go from that setting to my home setting where I am not around anyone who is bi-polar or has OCD or anything. One's support system is so very important.
I LEARNED SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT AFTER I WAS DISCHARGED FROM THE HOSPITAL THIS LAST TIME AND HAD AN APPOINTMENT WITH MY THERAPIST....If you are a Christian and find yourself in the hospital...again...it does NOT mean that God necessarily wants you to learn something 'from this one.' There is no doubt God works in our life constantly, but He does not purposely put us in mental hospitals over and over so that we learn a great big lesson. And it does not mean we failed 'Therapy 101'. I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to learn and realized with help from my therapist that I can be in the hospital just for the simple fact that I have mental illness; not necessarily due to some profound lesson I need to learn from God. But He does help you through it all. His presence, thank God, is there with you. Well, I can tell you that was a big relief that I didn't have to keep fighting in my mind to find out the reasons why I had to go. I also realized I HAD to quit my new job. There was no question about that now. I was so worried about how we would pay our bills. This is what caused me a lot of anxiety and depression. I could not see how this was going to work. Before leaving this last time, my father volunteered to send us money each month to help with paying bills. I was shocked. I/we had not asked for such a thing. But he gave us a deadline when the money would stop coming--not a deadline that 'I had better get over this illness and start making money', but he could not afford to keep paying us that money forever. That is how God made it work--through my dad who I have never had a close relationship with. My anxiety was mostly lifted. My last day of work [for me] was February 2, 2001.
THIS WAS ALL A REVELATION TO ME! I needed to know that I did not fail God because I still could not figure out what caused me to go into the hospital again. It was okay. As always before, I learned a lot from the experience. I had viewed 'checking into the hospital as a mental patient' a big failure! It just meant my medication needed to be adjusted because it had reached a plateau where it wasn't working for me....and the opportunity to meet wonderful, hurting people and be used as a vessel to show God's love to others. And it may not be the patients you always help--but possibly the nurses and doctors to understand a little bit better about you and those they care for in a mental ward setting.