Having just posted a recent “In the News” article on Written Exposure Therapy (WET), I thought it may high time I discuss something of a similar nature… PTSD journal writing.
Although WET and personal journal writing are similar in concept, the former is a much more therapist driven and structured process. Many therapists recommend writing as a form of therapy and a way to help cope with the symptoms of PTSD. Understanding that everyone is different and that not all things work for all people, writing down your thoughts can be a very good start (or continuation) down the road to recovery.
Benefits for those suffering from PTSD
Journal writing can be very beneficial in both the physical and mental ways which we’ll get into in shortly. Two direct benefits are that it can be done at any time and it is very cost effective. Really, it only costs the price of a pen and some paper. These two benefits aside, here are some more which have been proven to help:
- Journaling will help focus the mind and put the fragmented pieces together into a complete picture. I know through my own experiences and those of friends suffering, memories and thoughts can be very unorganized. It’s hard to have cohesive thoughts at times. It will, like everything else, take time to see this.
- With the focus comes a renewed sense of perception. Seeing your story unfold and how things affect you on paper will go a long way to understanding everything in a different light. Being able to see yourself and your traumas in a different way can enable you to accept things that cannot change and reflect with a bit more of a positive spin on things.
- As difficult as it can be to revisit the traumas, willfully doing it is much different than it just happening because of a trigger or flashback. If I revisit it willingly, my thought process is different. I am not facing my demons at the most inappropriate time and I am not afraid of them during this time. The time and place is my choice, and it’s when I’m ready. I begin to take control back. This is a very empowering feeling to have when things are going sideways.
- Journal writing also has the positive effect of relieving stress…lots of it. You can say whatever you want. It is the ultimate honesty machine really. As a society, we’ve been conditioned to keep emotions bottled up and to just deal with them. This is the societal norm. But what do we do when the bottle is starting to overflow? If you’re not comfortable talking about something with someone, and it can be anything, then writing is an excellent outlet.
Some helpful words on PTSD journal writing
- Remember that this is for you. Who you choose to see what you write is completely up to you. With that in mind, keep your journal in an appropriate place. If you don’t want others to see it, then place it where no one can access it.
- Write when you’re ready. As stated earlier, revisiting traumas, events and emotions can be extremely difficult and uncomfortable at first. This will get easier over time. You will be confronting things that are deep rooted, being ready and willing is key to opening up to yourself.
- Find a place where you feel at ease. Whether on the toilet or outside under a tree, find a quiet place where you can relax and reflect as you write. Leave your phone in another room, better yet, leave all distractions in another room. This is your time.
- Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or anything like that. Just write, draw, doodle, whatever.
- On that, if you are having difficulty finding words to describe something, use another way of expression. You can draw how you feel or the trauma itself. You can find pictures and paste them on the sheet…or even do it all digitally. The point is to get your thoughts on paper in some format.
- Take your time. There’s no rush. Don’t force yourself to write just for the sake of writing. Journal writing is a process of exploration. If you need to, take a break or even stop for the day.
- When you’re done writing, read it over. How does it make you feel? In a week or a month from now, read it over. How does it make you feel now?
There’s been lots of literature on journal writing and its benefits, whether for those suffering from PTSD or not. I am a big proponent of it and feel it does really help a lot. This is not an entire therapy on its own though. This should be used in conjunction with other methods as well.
A lot of therapies take time to get involved in and appointments made. With this, at least you can start whenever you like and it’s cheap. Perhaps it would a good way to prepare for therapist appointments.
To help get you started, I’ve created a PDF file that you can download. It is based off of what I use, but you can use it as a template for your own if you wish. If you have any ideas for changes or have problems downloading, by all means, let me know. Here’s the LINK.