Sunday, May 10, 2009

Professional Perspective: Stressed? Journaling Helps

It's Mother's Day, so the topic of caregivers seems appropriate for the calendar. Whether you are the mother of a PTSDer, or the caregiver, or both the stress of watching someone struggle with symptoms is tough. I marvel that my own mother had the strength not only to watch me struggle to survive a horrific, life-threatening illness, but also to watch me for over 25 years afterward battle this shadow self and all its extreme behaviors. She didn't once crack, abandon me, give up or lose it herself. Thank you, Mom! You are an inspiration in how to handle trauma and its stressful aftereffects. If only I could have been more balanced like you and a little less the PTSD me.

Today's guest post comes from B. Lynn Goodwin on the topic of how caregivers can care for themselves while in the difficult position of helping and supporting someone else.

My Caregiver Experience

Though I have never had PTSD, I know about the havoc that extended stress can cause. For six years, I cared for my mother, who had undiagnosed Alzheimer’s.

My beautiful, proud, stubborn mother clung to her home, even when she could no longer punch the buttons on the microwave or get herself out of bed in the morning. She believed that leaving her home would kill her, believed it with a ferocity that intimidated me. I wanted to honor her wishes and make her healthy again. I hated the fact that her condition was beyond my control, so I did my best to support her, even though I secretly feared that her disease was eating holes in both of our brains.

Why Journaling Helps

I never discussed this fear with anyone. Instead, I turned to my journal. It never argued. It never shamed me, gave irrational praise, or treated me like a nine-year-old. Instead, it accepted my thoughts unconditionally. As my truths spilled out, sentence after sentence, it let me vent, rant, process, plan, analyze, discover, and hope.

Now that I am a former caregiver, I understand that journaling gives perspective and restores sanity. It is a lifeline. James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D. has documented that writing saves lives, and I believe it saved mine.

Journaling eliminates mental toxins and deepens awareness. It validates you and honors your worth as a caregiver. It lets the strong, sane, safe, healthy, hopeful parts of you emerge. Do not underestimate its power.

How You Can Begin Journaling

What do you do with a journal if you think you have nothing to say? Sentence prompts help. There are plenty of them in my book You Want Me to Do What? – Journaling for Caregivers. The book is filled with encouragement, instructions, and over 200 sentence starts. If a sentence start says, “Today I feel…” you finish the sentence, write another sentence, and you are journaling. Everyone can do it.

I created the book and also group workshops because journaling helped me process my frustration and isolation and reclaim myself. I’d like to share its power. I offer a five-week workshop, conducted through group e-mails. One participant said, "Writing from the heart seems to be all that is needed." She is exactly right. Another said, "I can't tell you how many things I've sorted out by being able to write them down." Does this sound appealing? The remaining groups in 2009 start on July 14 and October 13.

If you’d like more information about the book or the group, please e-mail me at (replace (at) with @). Put “Journaling” in the subject box.

I hope to hear from you soon.

B. Lynn Goodwin, author of You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers and owner of Writer Advice. You Want Me to Do What? is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and through Writer Advice.


Lynn said...

Thanks for posting this today. I hope everyone had a stress-free Mother's Day.

Journal about your day. It will be interesting to look at what you had to say when Mother's Day comes around next year. Not sure how to start? Begin with "Today, I know..."

B. Lynn Goodwin
Author of You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers

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