Write your way through it

journal giveaway bipolar mom life

I’ve been writing in journals ever since I was a tween. Back then they were sparkly little diaries with the lock and key protecting all the secrets inside. I’d write about life and love, about boys I thought I’d fallen in love with but who didn’t actually love me back. Or about arguments with my parents or my friends, trying to justify my side of the story.

I turned to journaling whenever the moment struck me, throughout high school and college, and even once I had graduated and started out on my own in the world. My husband and I traveled Europe for a week together after I completed a 2-week study abroad in Antwerp, Belgium, and I still love flipping back through that play-by-play notebook of our trip. I can almost transport myself back by reading those words.

I never realized how many ways the simple habit of putting pen to paper could actually help someone until it helped me.

When mania threatened to ruin my life with two psych hospitalizations in a month’s time, everyone close to me was sent spinning. Psychiatrists, therapists, prescriptions. It was all so new to us.

My husband may have been scared, but he wasn’t afraid to stand by my side through the hurricane of what was now our life. My parents, although heartbroken for the pain and uncertainty I was facing, were committed to helping me get well.

In the midst of doctor’s visits and the flurry of medications I was put on, I felt out of control. Too much was going on. There were all these symptoms and I didn’t know how to describe them. I couldn’t pronounce the meds I was on. My mind felt weird.

A week after my second hospitalization, my dad came up with a brilliant idea. He bought me a plain pocket notebook at CVS, and told me to write down the same three things each day: what meds/doses I took each day, any side effects I was experiencing, and how I was feeling. That way, we could work with my doctor to figure out what was going on in my brain and how to get me well.

I kept those journals for four years straight, barely ever missing a day. Some days I’d only write those things my dad said to write, other days I’d write pages and pages. I used it to track my progress. It helped me to recognize my triggers. I learned a great deal about myself through taking the time to put my thoughts down on paper.

It was the start of my writing my way through my mental illness. Which has led me to where I am today. I haven’t kept a journal since 2010, since that’s when I starting to transition my words online to this blog. But I want to return to it because I recognize how I love looking back at the past, to see how it led to the present.

Being diagnosed with a mental illness can be absolutely terrifying in the beginning. But getting through it doesn’t have to feel impossible. It takes time to get to the bottom of things, to figure out what meds work, to start feeling like your old self again once you do find one that works. Trust me, I know.

Also trust the process.

I saw these little journals in a drugstore this week. They reminded me so much of the small Vera Bradley notebooks I transitioned to after I filled up the one my dad bought for me. I bought two, one for me, and one to give away to one of my readers who could use it.

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  1. Brittny says:

    Thank you so very much for blogging. Knowing I’m not the only bipolar mama has helped me tremendously.

  2. This was wonderful. i never thought about it this way. i too have kept journals since my tweens and it has always been fascinating to go back through them. I find mood charts somewhat helpful but i really like your father’s idea of writing about those three things each day. that gives a much richer picture of what is going on. Thanks so much for sharing this! please visit me over here https://bipolarfirst.wordpress.com sometime.

  3. I don’t have a physical journal.. but I do write daily “diary” posts on my blog. :)

  4. You are a treasure. So glad to have met you!


  6. I would love to chat with you about a few things. The hypoglycemia , I wonder if there is a link with bipolar. The family in my life with bipolar deal with it also. And your hospitalizations, it would be nice to relate to someobe. I am a married mom of four. Visit me at happybipolarlife.com please!

  7. Amie Lout says:

    I don’t share all of what you are going through, but your posts are always so helpful and insightful and I thank you for that. I struggle with becoming depleted due to be everyone’s everything. I have been reading The Thriving woman’s guide to setting boundaries by Kim Buck. It’s has been a God send and I am already seeing changes. Your posts are adding to that change, and I thank you!

  8. Did you get some of your thoughts from here (similar perspective): https://fullarticle.org/FCidea

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