I started journaling years ago, and at that time, it wasn’t in conjunction with or in response to my eating disorder. Recently, though, journaling has become a more regular and cathartic staple throughout my eating disorder recovery. If you are in eating disorder recovery or feel like you are on the other side of recovery, you have undoubtedly read, received, and filtered through advice about how to, along with professional treatment, use strategies and techniques at home to help the healing and recovery process. Intentional and regular journaling has helped and continues to help me process, track, and navigate complex emotions, experiences, patterns, and trends throughout my recovery process.
4 Benefits of Journaling Through an Eating Disorder Recovery Process
1. An Outlet for Emotions
Journaling provides an outlet for emotions that may be difficult to express in verbal form or to other people. Eating disorders often involve feelings of shame and guilt which can be hard to share with others or even acknowledge. Writing down these thoughts and feelings in a journal can be cathartic and has helped me to confront some of the emotions, their roots, and how they are connected to one another.
2. A Space to Be Unfiltered
Journaling has been particularly cathartic for me because it provides a safe space for me to express their innermost thoughts without fear of interpretation, judgment, or my thoughts being shared with someone else. As my thoughts and words became more unfiltered, I was able to gain some clarity into some specific triggers for my eating disorder and for eating disorder thoughts while in recovery.
One initial barrier I experienced was the fear of someone “finding” my physical journal, so, my therapist suggested I experiment with locked notes in my phone or a journaling app. Due to the volume of writing I was doing, I eventually bought a computer that only I have access to. Luckily, I was able to do so from a local technology sale, so I was able to buy a small Chromebook for extremely cheap. I recognize that this is a financial investment, so if this is something that you are not able to do but would like to try a digital option, you could start with the Notes App on your phone or a journal app like Day One app!
3. Anytime, Anywhere
There have been moments, days, and weeks that have been particularly challenging. And on those days where I didn’t have therapy, it sometimes felt like I didn’t know what to do with the emotions and thoughts invading my day. This is where journaling has come in for me. Sometimes it is a letter to my eating disorder, just a reflection on why my day is so hard, a poem, a bulleted list of unhelpful thoughts I am having, and it is often a rambling of thoughts and emotions that does not much adhere to a structure at all.
This can help identify patterns in struggles (do you tend to struggle most at a certain time of day, week, or year? What kind of pattern are these thoughts following?). I have brought my writing to therapy to process through my thoughts, and this has been first revealing and then healing for me.
4. A Time Capsule as Motivation to Keep Moving Forward
Recovery is hard. We know that the journey is not a linear one. Some days feel like leaps and bounds forward, while others feel like starting at square one again. Journaling through experiences, feelings, thoughts, and even the “mundane” details of your day can provide you with “evidence” for the big and small wins you experience in recovery. Looking back on things you have written can help give you motivation on days that feel all-consuming; the recorded “wins” can be reminders of the progress you have made during the recovery process. Looking back over past journal entries and seeing how far you’ve come can be empowering and can give you the boost of confidence you may need to keep going.
And here’s the thing about journaling:
Journaling doesn’t have to just be a written diary in the traditional sense. You could start an art journal, or a digital one like I have. Having different mediums at one’s disposal can offer new ways to creatively express your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
You also don’t have to “just write about your feelings.” You can write is a variety of modes, like these, for example:
- Letters– to yourself, your eating disorder, to other people (you don’t have to give them to them!)
- Rants – about anything! Don’t hold back. If it comes to your mind, write it down!
- Poems– also about anything! It doesn’t even have to be directly about your eating disorder to be cathartic and beneficial for your healing journey.
- Timed Expressive Writing– Write continuously whatever comes to your mind for 10, 15, 20 minutes
- Lists – Lists of things that you fear, are stressed about, have questions about, of different emotions you are feeling at once, recurring thoughts
- Gratitude Reflection – This can be a way to take stock of the progress you have made, a way to show gratitude and appreciation for how far you have come on your journey, who has been with you, and what you have accomplished personally.
Journaling as a Recovery Rhythm
Journaling has become a regular rhythm in my eating disorder recovery journey, one that has helped me make connections between thoughts and emotions I may not have otherwise made. I have gained a sense of authority over my own healing that I believe has deepened through the practice of journaling. Journaling regularly could be a way for you, too, to slow down, process things that come up throughout your recovery, and can also be a way to help you track the progress you are making. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to journal, so doing so in whatever way helps you can take off any pressure you may feel, and it just may end up becoming a healing staple throughout your journey, as well.
By: Erika Muller, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC
All images via Unsplash
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