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Journalling to honour myself: Writing has saved my life

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Journalling through my life

I have been writing a journal for over 35 years. I began as a young girl as a way to express feelings I couldn’t any other way. And also feelings I couldn’t understand.

I didn’t have a safe person close to me that I could confide in. And even though my father is very kind, he doesn’t do emotions very well. Expressing them are not comfortable for him. He was affectionate with me as a child, but doesn’t say he loves me out loud. And me being very happy or excited by something or upset and crying, he just doesn’t know how to handle. Everything needs to be kept on an even keel for him.

And he was the only adult in my life who was ever consistent and reliable and kind to me.

So turning to writing was a natural way for me to express all those emotions, questions, ideas that come up all the time in my mind.

Grateful for my journal

And I’m eternally thankful for it. Journalling is something I do every morning and often before I go to sleep too. It’s like a form of meditation for me. It’s the way I talk to my inner being.

I haven’t always been able to tell myself the whole truth, and therefore I would hide certain things from other people too, but I no longer do that. I have learned that feeling ashamed of who I am hurts myself most of all.

Sometimes I felt ashamed for the way people treated me. I wasn’t in control of situations that came up when I was a child, and those experiences hurt me deeply. I carried that shame inside of me and as I matured and grew into a woman and mother they changed and came out in different ways.

My journal knows all about what’s happened to me, and I have a shelf next to my bed with all my journals from all the years. They’re my private world that I believe is sacred, and a record of me growing as a human being.

I can honestly say that I believe writing has saved me.

How has journalling saved me?

  • It’s allowed me to express things I couldn’t tell anyone else.
  • It’s helped me feel rooted in my life, and a part of something larger than just any worries or concerns I have in my mind.
  • It also brings me peace. I feel more calm and centred after I write in my journal.
  • At it helps me connect with my inner voice, and that’s been invaluable.

I was not encouraged to be truly who I am as a child, and so many people grow up that way. I was considered a black sheep by some of my mother’s family, simply because I am different. And my father’s family found me a scary element because I grew up in the “dangerous” city, while they lived in the country. There was no inclusiveness, it was more the highlighting of our differences.

I have learned that I am who I am, and as long as I understand myself it doesn’t matter if others are able to see me for who I am or not. My family doesn’t but I have my friends and my tribe who do. I have my own life to live, and journalling will always be a big part of it.

 

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From the series, Write On! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Back to writing: Why are my characters being rebellious? They’re just fictional, right?!

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I read through the first draft of my novel. I have 68 pages done and about 40 more to come I think.

I’m beginning the most intricate part of my novel, the ending. When it all comes together. Or when the shit hits the fan depending on how you want to look at it.

As I was reading the first draft, I realized in some ways my characters have done things I didn’t expect them to do. Before I began my book, I worked out a story weave and each character very clearly, but even then situations started popping up as I wrote.

Characters became spontaneous with ideas of their own and even I wondered what they were thinking or talking about. How can a fictional character decide to change my well-planned story? Well, they just can, as I’ve realized.

It’s an exceptional experience when you’re writing and one of your characters does something unexpected. It’s like a “Who’s writing this anyway?” moment. Am I writing the character or is the character writing through me? I still don’t really have an answer for that.

I have learned to just believe in the process and keep going. Even though sometimes I kind of scratch my head in wonder.

And as I read events or dialogue I didn’t anticipate, I realized I’m not sure what is going to happen or even what some of the characters are going to do as my novel moves along and comes to a conclusion.

In my head I’m working on the first of a trilogy. That’s how I envisioned it, but I guess I’ll have to see what my characters want.

I know they’ll be another book after this one because I can kind of see it a bit in my mind’s eye. Some images, some feelings percolating. So the story will continue. That’s good.

I am back to working on my book. I’d like to have the second draft done by the end of this year so I can send it out to my trusted friends for some critiques. I hope that works out. It’s been years I’ve been working on this book. And as I’ve said before, I don’t believe I could’ve written the end until now.

I needed to figure out some things in my own life before I could progress with my main character. Writing is art after all. It takes the time that it takes.

 

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From the series, Write On! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Expressing our inner questions: Writing and reading as therapy

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Writing was something I started as a very young girl.

I could read when I was four and my earliest journals started after my best friend was killed in a fire when I was five, he was only six. That was not something I could make sense of. I wrote from the age of five on about events or feelings I needed to work through or couldn’t understand.

It was a real blessing that I was able to read at four because that was when my mother became abusive with me in earnest. Books have been an escape for me since then, and a fantastic source of information and support.

I remember waking up early and running down to the kitchen and getting a bowl of cereal, bringing it up to my room and curling back up in bed with a book. I read for so long that I’d hear the church bells ring from the church up our street. I used to love that ritual, and did it many times because I remember opening one of my windows so I could hear the bells more clearly. They were always hopeful for me.

And so it is no surprise that I’m a writer and editor. What else would I be after all? Considering how words have helped me make it through my life. Oh, I’ve tried other things: secretary, waitress, sales person. But they haven’t stuck because I always come back to words.

I write every day at least once in my journal, I write this blog, I’m working on a book (or at least trying to) and I edit freelance as well. I am going to start looking for freelance writing work too. Sometimes it comes to me, but I’d like to do it regularly. I find reaching out to people through social media very fulfilling.

It has opened up an avenue to share myself with people that didn’t exist when I was younger.

I have recently been reading Kelly Brogan’s book A Mind of Your Own and watching her videos. I am one of the few people who truly benefited from taking an antidepressant. As soon as I started taking it I could feel my mind stop racing, my nausea abating and my anxiety slowly lessening. But at the time I was already following a reduced diet because I’d developed temporary allergies from having gallbladder disease. After my gallbladder was removed I changed my diet for a year to eliminate the allergies. It worked.

What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. And I don’t eat dairy because I’m intolerant (though sometimes I cheat and eat a slice of pizza or a small ice cream cone). But Kelly Brogan needed to change her diet to feel healthy again and I respect that.

What I’m interested in is her discussion about childhood abuse and depression because for me I know there’s a definite link. What my mother did was bullying and gaslighting, which for a four-year-old girl is more than devastating.

Gaslighting is a form of intimidation or psychological abuse, sometimes called Ambient Abuse where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and quite often, their sanity. The classic example of gaslighting is to switch something around on someone that you know they’re sure to notice, but then deny knowing anything about it, and to explain that they “must be imagining things” when they challenge these changes.

A more psychological definition of gaslighting is “an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to, the victim–having the gradual effect of making them anxious, confused and less able to trust their own memory and perception.

I got these definitions from the Urban Dictionary.

And that was my young life. So no wonder reading and writing were such a solace to me. I could express myself freely in my journal, one of the only places I felt safe and I could live through other people through all the books I read and loved.

As I got older I was drawn to the self-help books that started me on my journey to healing. I have read so many and they’ve all helped me the way I needed help at different points in my life.

I just finished A Mind At Home With Itself by Byron Katie. An absolutely life-changing book that has affected me so profoundly in every way, but especially in the way I treat and perceive myself, and therefore, of course, others.

I am almost finished The Proof by James Twyman. The first time I picked that up I could only get about halfway through, but I am almost finished so I’m going to make it this time.

I also picked up Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life a while ago and again got halfway through. It’s likely time I started that one again. I have come a long way and the books that threatened me before are now speaking to me. I love that!

I often find books just at the right time. I can’t always read them through the first time, but I come back to them and they heal me eventually.

So I am very fortunate to have found Kelly Brogan. In a way I feel like she’s taking up the mantel for women’s health similarly to what Christiane Northrup did. And I know Christiane totally helped me with decisions in my life, and she still does.

I love that Kelly Brogan is coming from a psychological point of view towards women’s health, and people’s health in general that gives alternatives to drugs and helplessness. I know after I had my breakdown I wondered if I’d ever be able to support myself and my son again, I felt as if I’d lost it and wasn’t sure I could get it back.

That’s what books do they give you the wisdom from other people’s experiences and minds. And I’m so thankful for the role of writing and editing in my life.

It is the person I’ve always been and am meant to be. I love that, and through reading and writing I give my contribution to my world.

As Jesus said, “Be in this world, but not of this world.”

He would’ve been a book lover, I just know it!

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

The hot and cold of novel writing: Is it writer’s block or inner growth?

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I have written about 80% of my first draft. And then stopped.

I’m not sure why.

My characters are moving through my head, and sometimes I even hear them speaking to me, but for a few months now I haven’t worked on my novel. And it’s been in the works–from scene weave to first draft–for years!

Why?

I have asked myself this many, many times. And castigated myself too for maybe not being driven, being too lazy, not being able to focus, not believing in myself… The list goes on.

And as I was in the shower this morning (a great place to think by the way!) I realized that a novel is like any other work of art.

If you asked a painter why it took them years to finish a certain work, they might say they had to grow within themselves before the work finished itself. And so it is I believe with me.

I needed to get to a certain place in my own inner world before my main character could as well. And since she is coming alive through me, I guess that makes perfect sense now that I think about it.

My first draft is printing away next to me, and I will read it through to get back into the story once again. Then I will sit down every morning and write.

Wish me luck.

And I hope all you writers out there don’t give up.

Writing is a rather lonely endeavour, but the benefits are so broad.

Just think of how wonderful a beautiful book affects your heart and your soul, and remember your work could do the same for someone too.

So please, please, please, write on!

 

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From the series, Write on! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Use your voice and your word: You’re more powerful than you know

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The speech that Oprah made at the Golden Globes was so very important. Not only for young girls watching the show, but for everyone who has ever been victimized in any way.

She is an amazing speaker, and respected by many because of her outstanding accomplishments and her unending search for the truth. And coming from the background she did, her speech had all the more credibility.

She has bravely admitted in front of millions of people the sexual abuse she endured as a girl, and her resulting pregnancy. And how she felt losing that child was an opportunity for her to be who she needed to be.

So when Oprah stood there in front of a room filled with women and men who had been preyed upon by powerful men in their industry, she was speaking to a room of courageous people who have used their voices to help heal everyone.

Coming out about being sexually assaulted is an extremely courageous act. Standing up and saying, “I’ve been a victim!” is one of the hardest things a person can do. Because you feel at fault, that you should’ve been stronger or smarter to be able to avoid or get out of the situation. That it shouldn’t have happened to you.

But when we hear the voices of so many who have been assaulted, we know it happens far more than we ever imagined. And that we’re not at fault for being in a certain place at a certain time. We are not at fault for people’s sick ideas of their right to invade another person’s personal space. Another person’s intimate life.

I cannot know why a person feels like forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do. I cannot know why that excites them or makes them feel powerful. It’s a sickness, but where it originates is likely as unique as each person and their experiences.

The fact that it is so pervasive is extremely disturbing.

Where has this originated in our collective psyches? And why do so many men feel they can get away with it? Because they have been getting away with it over and over since time began.

But as Oprah said, “It ends here! And it ends now!” An historical moment for victims everywhere.

It brought goose bumps to my body when she said that. I could feel a shiver run through me.

And it is all about using your voice and speaking your personal truth.

It takes great courage to speak our personal truths.

I read blogs every day where people are doing exactly that. They are speaking up for who they are and where they’ve been and where they’re going.

And they’re all amazing.

And all amazingly courageous.

Today I’m thankful for the voice and the word because without them the victimization of vulnerable people would continue.

I believe this is only a small drop of awareness in a large ocean, but it is a very important drop because it will spread waves out into many aspects that we aren’t even aware of yet.

And that is what our voices and our words are all about.

 

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From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

Using plain language in self-help writing connects writers with their readers

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Sometimes when I read self-help books, I have trouble with the language the writers have used to express their ideas.

I’m a writer who is firmly in the simple language camp, and I’m not impressed when writers use flowery language or three-dollar words (as my mother calls them) to sound as if they “know” more than they do, or more than the average person.

I have read many, many self-help books, and some of my favourite authors are Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, Christiane Northrup, Elizabeth Lesser and Byron Katie for their amazing ideas and the plain way they have chosen to express them.

It is not easy to talk about the self, but I still believe that catch phrases and cute words separate readers from the true ideas the authors are trying to express.

Maybe the authors do this on purpose to seem distinctive, to stand out for their readers, or maybe they really talk the way they write, but I endeavour not to use jargon when I’m describing my experiences because I feel jargon separates me from other people.

I do come from a psychology background having a BA specialization in psychology, which is heavily scientifically based. And therefore I have read countless research papers on the life of the mind that did not use any cute, catchy phrases at all.

I know the DSM-5 likely has it’s own jargon, but that’s more so that psychologists and psychiatrists can speak to each other about the same conditions with the same words, not to sound hoity-toity. And that I understand.

I like very much how Eckhart Tolle explains clearly what he means by the words he uses, and he openly admits that it is difficult to discuss consciousness and being on paper, and even with words. It is a presence or a sense of being after all. Something we feel and experience, not chat about with our hairdressers, for example.

But still I felt this was a topic that I wanted to write about because a book I’m reading right now sometimes uses words that I feel put space between myself and their words.

I’m also writing this as a caution to myself because any writer can get caught up with jargon, and I remember one of my editors told me something very profound, “If you can’t explain clearly what a word means then you can’t use it in an article.” And this is so true.

I believe that for some writers words become a safety zone that they use to keep people away from their ideas, likely because they aren’t too secure with their ideas in the first place.

I’ve done this and likely all writers have done this, especially when they are writing about something they don’t feel they fully grasp or have an in-depth knowledge about.

So as I go on to express my inner experience, I will attempt to use as simple and clear language as I can. Because to understand myself is one thing, but to be able to clearly express my inner experience to others is something quite else.

And that is definitely my goal.

No one is alone in this journey we call life, and we all have our own inner worlds that we need to know and honour to fully grow in our lives.

I am sharing mine, and in doing so I hope it helps you with your journey.

Namaste.

I bow to you.

 

From the series, Because I’m a woman and because I can! by Jacqueline Snider, writer and editor

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