Don’t fret – journaling does not have to be an onerous task. Keeping a journal is much like keeping a little diary filled with tidbits of information that happens day to day. But you can take journaling to another level by infusing your entries with thoughts, feelings, and emotions. This is where the power of writing can help a person heal their broken heart or to record the history of their life, or to visualize their greatest dreams and desires.
Journaling can be a dynamic and enjoyable experience for people with brain injury as well as family members. It can be an emotional outlet for the concerns, stresses and anxieties of survivors, family members and caregivers. Journaling is also a coping strategy for dealing with the challenges of living with brain injury or being a caregiver. These blogs on jourmaling share guidance and interviews on the strategies, methods and process of journaling.
There are many methods for telling your story—from personal journaling to creative writing to other art forms—by exploring, you will find what works for you.
Journaling is a method that both survivors of TBI and caregivers can use to cope with the aftermath of brain trauma. Life after brain injury—to yourself or a loved one—can feel as if you’ve been hijacked to an alien planet where nothing feels familiar or makes sense. How can you possibly make meaning or find healing there? Barbara Stahura explains that journaling is one way to express your emotions, explore your options, and examine your life. Simple writing from both your heart and head for just a few minutes several times a week can help you heal and build resilience.
Meditation helped Bill Roper, a veteran of Vietnam, deal with a serious brain injury and PTSD. Using the power of his mind, he learned how to turn a catastrophic injury and experience into a journey of healing and self discovery. His perspective and experience may be helpful to veterans now returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The wars are different from Vietnam but the effects on wounded warriors have much in common. Today, Roper believes that his “catastrophic experience had allowed me to discover this awesome power within me.” He stresses that this same power is available to everyone. “It’s really the power of all creation.”
Writing got me in touch with my emotions after I came home from Iraq. Through writing about my life during my time in the Marine Corps and after, I started to get in touch with the deep down, raw emotions of the darkest corners of my mind. They truly scared me, and I really did not know what to do with them. With encouragement from my wife and some pushing from Melanie, I started to express these emotions on paper, in ways I never had before. The power of releasing those emotions was amazing. I started to feel the stress of the hard times in my life beginning to fade. They never will go away, because they are part of me, but they started to fade. I just started writing, and my writing became free form poetry.
Ron Capps manages the Veterans’ Writing Project which helps wounded warriors manage stress and cope with PTSD and TBI by writing and journaling as self-expression. “Either you control the memory or the memory controls you.” These words on a sign in Ron Capps’ office remind him not only of how he has learned to deal with his own past but also how his new work helps others. Fortunately, he learned from his doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that “the arts bring back the higher brain function.” Writing, his chosen art, helps him get control of his traumatic memories, unlike “therapy, medication, and whiskey,” which didn’t, he says
When Barbara Stahura’s husband Ken was hit on his motorcycle by a hit-and-run driver less than a year after their wedding, she was thrown into the new world of caregiving. With the uncertainty of his prognosis and their future along with the stress of caring for a spouse while learning about traumatic brain injury, she quickly became exhausted. As a professional writer, she began journaling as a method for coping with her stress, anxiety, and grief. Journaling literally became a life saver for her and helped her own healing journey from the secondary traumatic stress known as compassion fatigue. She describes the benefits of journaling and gives tips on getting started.
If you have a brain injury or are a family caregiver, you know that your life encompasses much more than caregiving and TBI. It’s important to make your life as well-rounded as you can. If you journal (and I hope you do!), you know that inspiration for your writing can come from anywhere. You’re much more than a caregiver for a person with a brain injury or TBI.. But when you need a jumpstart, you can try these three methods for fun and enlightening writing sessions. They will spark creativity, open up your heart, and provide a look into your life. You’ll need to do a little prep work, which can also be fun, but then you’ll be set for many journaling sessions, alone or in a group.
Whether you’re living with your own brain injury or are a family caregiver, you can benefit from writing your thoughts and feelings for just a few minutes a couple of times a week. It helps to have some good techniques available both to help you start a writing session and to broaden your journaling practice to make it more satisfying and productive. Some of these techniques are the Unsent Letter, Perspectives, Captured Moment, and Dialogue.
After a brain injury to yourself or a loved one, you can begin journaling by simply writing your thoughts and feelings on paper or screen (or by speaking them into a recording device). But if you want or need more structure and ways to stay focused, some easy-to-learn techniques can make your journaling practice deeper, more satisfying, and healing. Among these techniques are the 5-Minute Sprint, Topics du Jour, and Lists of 100, all of which can help you to discover how to better manage your post-brain injury life.
Journaling is usually a healthy, therapeutic strategy for people with brain injury and family caregivers. But for those who have suffered deep trauma, it’s important to create a journaling practice that is structured, with comfortable pacing, and ways to contain writing to prevent emotional meltdowns. If journaling about an especially difficult subject will make you “flip out,” don’t write just then. If you want to journal and also want good, basic guidance in how to get started, try using the Journal Ladder, developed by Kathleen Adams.