Here’s the thing – I have anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and more often than I like to admit, these two mix together and create a nice little cocktail called depression (starting today’s post off on a fun note here). Over the years, I’ve found myself looking up different approaches to dealing with these which has always led me to some variety of “self care”.
Now, for me, I’ve always taken self care tips with a grain of salt. Especially as “self care” has become more of a mainstream activity, and it seems as though people are using it almost as an excuse for any behaviours outside of their normal. Which to be fair could stem from me having used it to justify eating too many red velvet cupcakes, and also the six step skin care routine I dropped several hundred dollars on at Sephora last year. Did either of these things better my mental health? Definitely not. Could they for others – maybe.
Self care is incredibly important to me – despite what you are probably thinking after that last paragraph – when done in the true essence of self care. This being to set time aside to sit with yourself, process your emotions and thoughts, and spending time doing things that serve you. For me this means meditating twice a day and filling in my eyebrows, but for others it can mean a wide gamut of things – bubble baths, shaving your legs, watching a marathon on Netflix while drinking a bottle of rosé, what have you. Debatably, the most common form of self care out there (if we’re going off Pinterest tips here) is journaling. Which you’d think I’d be all over, considering the fact that I blog now, and it is practically the exact definition of what I said self care is at the top of this paragraph. But, no. I’ve always thought journaling was a crock of shit.
That was, of course, until I bought a journal a couple months ago.
When I moved home over the summer, there was a whole heap of emotions that I had to unpack – emotions that had been building up for years that I had never taken time to address. I also wasn’t working, which meant that I had nothing but time sit in these emotions. As you can imagine, this quickly turned into depression. If I’m honest, this really was just a heightened version of my depression – I’d been living in a depressive state for a good portion of the last two years. I’ll save that fun story for another day. Anyway, moral of the story, I had a boat load of emotion that I didn’t know how to talk to anybody about because it was so jumbled up that I wouldn’t even know where to start. So, who do you talk to when you can’t talk to anyone else? Yourself, apparently.
I had very little expectation when I cracked open my brand new journal back in July. I basically had used this as an excuse to buy a notebook and some new pens (I’m obsessed with stationary), so there was definitely no thought about it changing anything about me. None the less, off I went. Now as I sit here, over a hundred pages later, I know how wrong I was about it.
A couple things I want to note before I go any further. 1) I have no artistic ability whatsoever, and I’m also incredibly long-winded (as you can probably tell). This is the complete opposite of a bullet-journal how to. 2) I am not an expert in any way, and I don’t want to present myself as such. I am only wanting to share what I’ve learned, along with some of my weirdest entries, in hopes that you can either relate, or at least laugh with me about it. Let’s get on with it shall we?
Page 2: “Also, who am I supposed to be talking to right now? Future me? This Notebook? Hello, who ever you are”.
Page 3: “What do you suppose the point of journaling is? Like, am I supposed to be recounting my day? Or just talking to myself, about myself?”
For the record – I still don’t know the answers to either of these question, so if you are a journal-er yourself, I’d love to know how you handle this. For me, I decided I’m talking to Future Jess, and as for the point – well, it ranges.
When I bought the journal, I was in a heavy YouTube Hippy/Witchcraft phase (the crystals, the tarot pick a cards, the spiritual healing, messages from spirit guides…), so the plan was to start a dream journal to look for messages etc that present themselves. Now, I have a one and a half year old German Sheppard who sleeps with me, and when she wants to wake up, I get a WWE body slam. So, remembering my dreams long enough to write them down – didn’t necessarily work out for me. But, not wanting to waste the notebook, I decided on the third day to just write.
I knew pretty much immediately that I liked the writing aspect of it, as well as the ritual – I pulled the bad boy out every night before bed and wrote out a couple pages. It started out slow, mostly talking about what I had done that day, or what I was hoping to accomplish. It took a solid 20 pages before I let myself write down anything sort of emotional. There was also a lot of things like:
Page 13 – “Future Jess, please let me know if the term ‘tea’ is still a thing. I’m trying to stay hip, and I trust you are doing the same.”
Page 15 – “I also figure I should probably become a YouTuber. Because that seems like the best way to meet Shane Dawson and you know, get Andrew Siwicki to fall in love with me.”
Page 18 – “You know what else impressed me today? Fan edits of the Dolan Twins. The amount of skill that goes into editing those is crazy”.
Yes. Those are all real things I wrote in my journal. No, I have no idea why I was watching Dolan Twins edits in the first place.
Not that the bizarre entries stopped after page 20. Some further examples here:
Page 21 – “I mean, for all I know you could have Alzheimer’s or something and are reading this back for memory. You know my life. I don’t know yours, Future Jess”.
Page 24 – (hungover) “I hope you’re doing well Future Jess, and that you’ve somehow figured out a way to feel less old than we do right now”
Page 25 – “There was a man at the bar who looked exactly like Jeff from the Vlog Squad, and we made hard core eye contact while singing Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. Pretty sure he’s my boyfriend now”
Page 35 – “Future Jess, are you looking back at this and wondering who the hell Andrew Siwicki and the Dolan Twins are? Or, better yet, are you embarrassing yourself by reading this to your new husband Andrew Siwicki?
Page 45 – “Quick fact about me. At least once a quarter I get overwhelmed by the need to listen to ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ by Boyz II Men”
Page 88 – “It’s Thursday. Beyoncé – Queen of Everything – turned another year older yesterday…”
Page 91 – “I wish I could accurately draw how cute Georgie (my dog) is right now. SHE’S JUST THE PERFECT LITTLE SLEEPING BEAN”
Yup. When I say I’m not an expert, I mean it. The difference between the first 20 and the 80 pages after it, is that these weird little tidbits are nestled in between pages of me basically talking myself through all of my problems.
I’m going to keep the quotes to the fun bits, and not the details of all the emotions I went through (gotta save something for future posts, am I right?). Just know that with leaving all my friends, my career and my life behind – plus family drama, and an ex boyfriend coming back 10 years later to ask if I’d be with him if he left his fiance… it’s been one hell of year. Through all of that – my journal came in clutch.
It seems strange to think about opening up to a book. I guess in essence you’re just opening up to yourself, but I have a hard time opening up to anyone so overall it was a strange concept. And I do have people I could talk to about all of it, but as I mentioned before, when you go through a lot at once, it’s almost impossible to know where to start.
Somewhere around page 20, I realized the value of the journal. I started using it as a space to write down all of my thoughts. The good, the bad, the Siwicki. This in turn, created a starting point for me to address what I was feeling. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things I was stressed about, I was basically creating a stress “to-do” list. And each item on the list had it’s own little time time to shine where I focused on it, thought it out, and checked it off the list for the day. This spilled into my days also – where if I became overwhelmed, I could think back to what I wrote the night before and use that to bring myself back to center.
Before I knew it (well, by page 50), I was using my journal as a way to unpack seemingly every emotion I’ve ever had. One night, I spent a solid 2 hours writing out and “letting go” of all the loves I’ve had in the past. I understand this sounds crazy. But try it sometime, I promise you’ll feel better.
Page 72 – “I always thought he was the one who got away from me. Turns out it was me who got away from him. Now, you can’t tell me that’s not some wise shit right there”.
Another thing I want to touch on here is my OCD. For me, this presents itself mostly by way of obsessive thoughts. As you can imagine, when combined with anxiety and a whole host of self esteem issues (again, what a fun topic), this basically means a constant rotation of negative thoughts. Now, let me tell you. The single handed best thing I have ever done for this has been writing down these thoughts. I know I’m starting to sound like one of those preachy Pinterest people. But it’s true. Thinking something negative about yourself is one thing – seeing it written down on paper is a whole other ballgame for me. I know my thoughts about myself are baseless most of the time, so seeing them written out gives me an opportunity to read it back to myself and think “hey, that’s not true at all” and correct the thought. Is it the be all cure for my OCD? Definitely not. But it sure didn’t hurt anything.
I should mention that I am by no means the most dedicated journal writer there ever was – hell, I’m writing this post now when I haven’t cracked my journal open in a week (sorry Future Jess). It also took me a while to accept that I didn’t need to be perfect at it. It’s a tool for when I need it, and shouldn’t feel like a chore.
Moral of this really long story – I, Jess Lawley, no longer think that journaling is a crock of shit. I actually think it’s quite the opposite. It has given me an outlet to organize and process my thoughts, recognize poor thought patterns, and document at length all of my YouTube crushes. What more could you ask for, really?
I’d love to hear from you guys on this topic – do you journal? Do you address your journal to anyone (aka Future You)? Do you also spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about Andrew Siwicki? Leave me a comment and let me know!