Write, when talking is too difficult
Sometimes there is no quick fix in healing from challenges that can occur at any age or stage of life. Tests and trials happen to us all, and to some more than others. Sometimes things are pretty well decided before we are born. We might be genetically vulnerable to developing a condition and then, hey presto, a trigger in our social environment sets it off, and life can become a struggle through no fault of our own.
The impact of trauma or illness that comes our way can be influenced by the amount of misunderstanding, rejection, stigma or shame that is experienced. It can also depend on the amount of support and kind of support received, whether at home, or when accessing healthcare, or among peers in the wider community. If we are reaching out for support to family members, or the medical profession, and are told to “pull up our socks and get on with things” or “you need to think about others instead of yourself” then reaching out again for help can become doubly hard.
Fortunately, many people, including myself, have discovered, often in early childhood, that when support is not communicated in a helpful way verbally, and there seems to be nobody in our midst with whom we can share our pain or fears, then keeping a diary can provide a comforting outlet. Often our diary can seem like a best friend. At least it does not judge or criticise, even when we pour our heart out to it!
However without guidance, private writing also can intensify negative feelings and thoughts, and we might feel caught in a downward spiral and not know how to get out. This is where a writing mentor can guide the learning of self-help skills and assist a focus coping and healing.
With guidance from a trusted mentor, writing instead of talking can help overcome a tendency to misinterpret what is said or done, at home and in therapeutic situations. The mere process of writing can ease anxiety, provide comfort and be nurturing. In addition, it can put distance between you and the event, and provide an opportunity for reflection. Putting everything in writing and on the table helps to expose the eating disorder, so it has nowhere to hide. Caregivers and therapists can acquire narrative skills to gently confront the illness thoughts, and offer more healthy perspectives, by engaging in writing-sharing during periods of under-nourishment.
Knowledge, love and the diary are a powerful healing trio
Everyone in the family is affected in some way during a serious, possibly life-changing illness or trauma experience. With due consideration, the writing process can give permission not only to the diarist but also other family members to grieve, understand, forgive and develop self-love.
For instance, families do not cause an eating disorder. However, the family’s role and involvement in treatment and recovery can be crucial. Knowledge is power and so is love. Love is a powerful healing tool when expressed in a way that meets the needs of the person with the illness, and reduces the pull of the eating disorder. The narrative can help achieve this.
I am ever-grateful to my diary, family, and treatment team, for helping me to survive, cope and heal from my illness so that I can be free today to explore who “I” am in the fullness of life.
Making a date with your diary is time well spent. Consider it an investment in “true you.” Writing a daily episode of your own life story is the best investment you will ever make! And I encourage you to take another step forward through developing self-help skills with guidance from a trusted writing mentor. Beyond this, you might like to write your story to share with others as well. I am here to be your mentor!