Journaling After Brain Injury
Brain Injury Blog by Barbara Stahura
July 11, 2012
Journaling after Brain Injury
Keeping a private journal after a brain injury allows survivors and family caregivers to record their lives in whatever unique way suits them. Additionally, when a journal also includes its owner’s thoughts and feelings, it can become an easy-to-use therapeutic tool that can bring some measure of peace, acceptance, clarity, and healing. Since journals are as individual as the people who write them, entries can contain anything: events, dreams, lists, poems, quotes, art work, memories, celebrations, rants, and much more. Over time, they track the various pathways their owner’s life takes and so become a valuable record of post-injury stories.
We humans constantly “talk” to ourselves in the privacy of our minds, yet especially in times of crisis, this talk can lead us in circles or carry us away from what is most important to us, which only compounds the problem. (This kind of ruminating self-talk can increase after a brain injury and in horribly stressful times, such as while caring for an injured family member.) Yet by committing our words to the page (or computer screen, or audio recording device), we capture our thoughts and stop the incessant chatter for a few moments. With journal writing, we become our own compassionate listener. Especially after the traumatic, life-changing experience of a brain injury, journaling gives survivors and caregivers the opportunity to begin the process of personal understanding that can foster crucial self-empowerment.
Diary vs. Journal
Many people ask about the difference between a diary and a journal. Both are records of a person’s life, so using one name or the other can be a matter of semantics. However, with journaling’s rise in popularity over the last few decades, a distinction is usually made. A diary is now more often seen as a brief record of mostly objective truth—brief reporting about what happened during the day. A journal, on the other hand, is more reflective, more about emotional truth in that the writer goes beyond merely recounting or reporting to include deeper feelings and thoughts, too. Journal writers give themselves more opportunity for healthy self-exploration by going below the surface of events to look at their emotions.
Journaling can be therapeutic
And today, journaling is also a proven, evidence-based therapeutic method for healing, self-empowerment, and self-directed change, among other things. People can certainly keep a journal if they’re in therapy, but they can also keep one if they’re not. In fact, keeping a journal in itself is like having a therapist who listens to the most private emotions and thoughts without judgment or criticism—and it’s much cheaper!
For those who think they couldn’t possibly make time to keep a journal, it doesn’t have to take an hour or a half-hour a day. It can be done in as little as five or ten minutes several times a week. And for those not able to write by hand or use a keyboard because of a brain injury, they can use an audio recording device, voice-operated software, or have a trusted person scribe their words. There’s always a way
In upcoming posts to this blog, I’ll take an in-depth look at journaling for people with brain injury and family caregivers: its benefits and cautions, techniques, facilitating a journaling group, and more.
Benefits of journaling after brain injury for survivors and family caregivers.
After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, by Barbara Stahura and Susan B. Schuster, MA, CCC-SLP. Lash & Associates Publishing/Training, 2009.
“Journaling After Brain Injury,” tip card by Barbara Stahura. Lash & Associates Publishing/Training, 2011.
Journal to the Self: Twenty-two Paths to Personal Growth, by Kathleen Adams, M.A. Grand