For National Writing Day, Orri has launched a contributor section to our blog so those who have been impacted by eating disorders can share their experiences via guest blog posts.
Here, Nikki, Orri’s Creative Arts Therapist, shares her thoughts on the power of journaling for those suffering with an eating disorder.
For National Writing Day I have been asked to share some of my thoughts and insights on journaling. As a self-confessed journaling-evangelist, I jumped at the opportunity.
The first rule of journaling is that, there are no rules! I think this is one of the things that gets in the way of people feeling able to really utilise it as a resource for self-care.
“I often hear our clients say things like, ‘I’m really in my own head.’”
A lot of us have preconceived ideas of what writing in a notebook ‘should’ look like. These may be linked to school, where there was an expectation for perfect presentation and where what you write on the page has the potential to be marked within a black and white framework of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
Perfectionism and black and white ways of thinking can be prevalent for people suffering with eating disorders, which is why journaling can be a great space to begin challenging some of these qualities. A time to embrace the mess of our thoughts and to step into the grey areas!
I often hear our clients say things like, ‘I’m really in my own head’, ‘I don’t really know how I’m feeling’ and ‘I’ve just got so many thoughts’. Finding a starting place to begin to unravel these can feel understandably overwhelming, yet there is something powerful in the physical act of ‘showing up’, pen in hand and getting some of those thoughts OUT of our heads and ONTO the page. We can begin to slowly untangle the web, to get enough distance from the thoughts that we can observe and bear witness to them in the hope that maybe, by the end of the page, we might have a clearer sense of how the answer the question, ‘how am I feeling?’.
As humans, we are beautifully imperfect, and we are walking-talking contradictions. When our clients are feeling particularly consumed by the voice of the eating disorder, other parts can quickly get lost.
“I think many feel a great pressure to make sense of and articulate ourselves perfectly in our everyday lives.”
The part that may be considering recovery, or the part that may be feeling hopeful. Journaling has the potential to make space for these parts and hold them. It can physically hold them and be available for us on the days where we may needing to hear a message of hope or read an encouragement, whilst we can also ‘close the book’ on the more painful feelings that may be burdensome to carry around, and take comfort that they have been seen, that they are valid, that they matter.
I think many feel a great pressure to make sense of and articulate ourselves perfectly in our everyday lives. Fear for how other people will receive us and our feelings may mean that we all too often resort to the diluted responses. How freeing is it, that what your write in your journal doesn’t need to make sense to anybody other than YOU? The colours, the metaphors, the doodles, the scribbles and the crossings-out that make their way onto the pages of your notebook are YOUR truth and they’re YOUR story.
Only you can write it.