Writing for Healing
I turned to journaling regularly in 1993 just after my son Paul was diagnosed bipolar, and I continued on after his suicide death in 1999. Journaling became my therapy. Keeping my fingers moving across the page was both an obsession and a healing balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. As a result I have become a huge proponent of journaling as a way to heal. I still journal every day.
At first I wrote in notebooks – the finer the better. I especially love the ones I bought in France and later found at Banner Stationer’s in El Segundo California – Clairefontaine. The pages are very thick and slick and don’t show through to the backside when written on in ink. Also the covers are in beautiful jewel-tones. I always felt like I wrote in a very special place when I wrote in those notebooks.
However, a few years ago – after being so careful to clutch my notebooks close to my chest any time I was out and about – I left one in the seat pocket in front of me while on a flight home. And personally going to the airline’s lost and found didn’t get the notebook back. Now I use my notebooks for taking workshop notes. I write my journal entries on my computer.
The Decision to Go Digital
When I look back at that decision to write my journal entries digitally, I realized that digital journaling would have made writing my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, so much easier. My hand-written journal entries were source material for my memoir, and as such, I had to painstakingly read through my notebooks, underline appropriate entries, and then type them into computer book files one word at a time. This task took months. By the way, journaling is a good way to kick start any kind of writing piece.
Even the physical act of writing is helpful. When I used a pen I wrote until my hand cramped. Now when I type, I sometimes pound my fingers on my computer’s keyboard. That really works to heal some kind of stress. Also when I wrote by hand I found that I couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. Now when I write on the computer I sometimes type 500 to 750 words in a matter of minutes. I just tap away with no stopping for editing. It’s total stream of consciousness. My fingers just seem to fly in time with what I have on my mind.
Keeping our precious and secret journals private is also easier when journaling digitally. The computer gives me the ability to have complete privacy – the key to honest and open journaling. I keep my journal entries in a password-protected locked document file, which seems so much safer than the risk of losing a journal notebook someplace where anyone can get their hands and eyes on it. But no matter how we journal – either digitally or by hand – I recommend everyone try it and learn the power that can be gained from journaling.
Madeline Sharples is the author of the memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, released in a hardback edition in 2011 and re- released in paperback and eBook editions (Dream of Things, 2012). It tells the steps she took in living with the loss of her oldest son, first and foremost that she chose to live and take care of herself as a woman, wife, mother, and writer.
She also co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994), co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1 and 2, and wrote the poems for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (with Paul Blieden, photographer). Her poems have also appeared online and in print magazines.
Madeline’s mission since the death of her son is to raise awareness, educate, and erase the stigma of mental illness and suicide in hopes of saving lives. Connect with Madeline at her blog Choices, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.