After my traumatic brain injury I was bed bound for a good month. My muscles were incredibly weak, and I was suffering with chronic fatigue. I couldn’t read very well and my attention span was minimal. I really needed to find a way to train my mind to get out of itself, and to let go of the anger and frustration I was feeling. I also needed to find a way to coach myself to get out of bed and to remind myself of who I wanted to be. To give you an idea of how weak I was, the first time I had a shower following my accident I slept for 15 hours to recover from it. I didn’t know if I was going to get better, how long it would take, or if severe fatigue was going to be in my life for good. At the time, it was very scary. I was depressed and tired of feeling that way.
I had to think of things that I could do from bed that would cheer me up, give me meaning and help me to enjoy my life at the time. A friend of mine told me to write out a list of all the fun things I could do from bed, such as listening to podcasts, books on tape, singing and reading when I had the patience. Luckily, I had a notebook next to my bed, so I made my own list of what I could enjoy whilst being in bed. Something about putting pen to paper unleashed a need to write down everything that had happened to me, and how it made me feel. From there I decided to keep a hand written journal to track my progress and write out my frustrations.
Prior to the accident I was enrolled on a creative writing course at City University with grand plans of completing my first novel. I was recommended Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way, and in it was an exercise called, ‘The morning pages’ which is where you write 3 pages of long hand, stream of consciousness writing to get your creative juices flowing and help you prioritise your day ahead. I thought it would be useful to use elements of this practice to create an ‘aide memoir’ of my experiences and thoughts. My memory following the accident isn’t what it was, and I was (and still am) worried that I could have memory problems when I’m older. I thought the best way to help myself was by keeping a collection of dated reflections on my experiences- so should I need it, I have something that can remind me of who I am, or who I was, and what I’ve been through.
I found that a journaling practice substantially aided my recovery and it has now become part of my weekly routine. My journal has become a mixture of a confessional, somewhere I can plan, cultivate positivity and sometimes meditate on life and where it’s going. Any issues/feelings/upsets I am holding onto I just jot down and it kind of gets it out of my system. It gets cogs turning, forges new connections in my brain, firing off the synapses that get my creative juices flowing, and in turn, it helps me to focus my mind on stuff I want to do.
I have found that keeping a hand written journal helps me to deal with my day in a better state of mind. It is incredibly therapeutic, and there is something very mindful about putting pen to paper, rather than typing. Since there isn’t a delete key, it feels like there is more of a thought process involved.
Focussing your mind following TBI is a big issue, and there are numerous reports that suggest TBI sufferers develop ADHD symptoms, (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/298478.php). Interestingly, journaling has been referenced as a coping mechanism for ADHD in other areas, which kind of gives some scientific credibility to keeping a diary; (http://www.adderworld.com/blog1/2013/04/22/never-lose-another-moment-if-you-have-adhd/).
In my next blog I will share some journaling techniques and prompts that I had picked up from Amelia Harvey (http://www.ameliaharvey.com.au) and how I changed my attitude towards myself for the better, inspired by something I read on internal acceptance movement (http://internal-acceptance-movement.tumblr.com).
Thanks for reading so far. Please get in contact if you’ve been keeping a journal and if you find it helpful.