It is probably safe to say that at some point or another in each of our lives, we have felt alone, no matter how many people surround us. Am I right? Health, divorce, family arguments, having children, not having children, an intense career, no career, finances, heartbreak…the list of issues that lead to a knot in the pit your stomach is endless. Sometimes our problems may seem too deep to discuss because those around us will never be able to understand. We may even have everything we could ever want in life and still wake up in the morning wondering what is missing from our equation…the life equation. Is there a way to curb that feeling of emptiness, or the feeling that happiness is so far away? Will there ever be a day when satisfaction comes easily or maybe even often? Are we taking for granted the good things that we have in life when we feel down? I can’t answer these big questions, but let me say this—there is a way to help ease your mind from whatever is causing isolation and depression: blogging.
I began journal writing with the old school black composition books which were great at helping me forget how awful my spelling and comma placement really are. However, blogging offers what journaling does not–feedback. Regardless of where you write and how you write, your words will be out there for the world…. someone can find you, someone can help, and someone may just be helped by whatever it is you have to say.
These are the possibilities that offer us a sense of feeling more complete and less alone, or as author Amanda Enayati may describe – healed. In her CNN special report: How Words Have the Power to Heal, Enayati explains how writing helped to save her life after being diagnosed with breast cancer. “The writing was automatic, intuitive and almost unconscious for me. But as time passed I felt certain that it somehow had helped save my life.” Enayati says that over the course of her history fighting the disease, she has learned that “it is a basic human need to tell a story.” She quotes Colum McCann who told her, “Storytelling is a great democracy. We all want to – need to – tell our stories. There is a certain catharsis in being able to tell your story, in confronting your demons.”
For me, my demons resided not in fighting a cancer myself but in watching as close family members battled through the viciousness of the disease. My mother and her mother (my grandmother) were diagnosed with different forms of cancer within weeks of one another. My mother who was diagnosed with uterine cancer, kept her troubles a secret in the hope of easing the anxiety of my grandmother who was being treated for breast and colon cancer. As a junior in high school in the midst of softball season and the depression of breaking-up with a first love, the stresses of my surroundings seemed unbearable. How could I ever talk to anyone about my struggles when two of the cornerstones in my life were dealing with real pain? It couldn’t be explained out-loud. So I described everything in my journals as if they were listening to me. Both my mother and my grandmother survived, and it was up until knowing that they were going to be ok that writing helped me heal. Writing filled the time I would have spent helping my mom preparing dinner and going to grandma’s for a visit or helping her with grocery shopping. My journals went everywhere with me and closed the gap where the “the love of my life” was supposed to be. I wasn’t alone. My stories were with me…clean and organized and being held by the paper to give my heart and soul a break.
Dr. James Pennebaker a professor in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin and author of several books such as Writing to Heal and Opening Up, studies the effects of writing on human health, both emotional and physical. In a university publication, Professor Pennebaker goes on to say that he is convinced that writing, in appropriate amounts, about our deepest feelings and secrets does help our immune systems, our minds, and, for students, our grades. Like all things, moderation is key; for, too much writing about our troubles can worsen sadness and lead into a downward spiral of self-pity.
So if you are finding yourself struggling to wake up in the morning, for whatever reason it may be… write it down, post a blog…focus your thoughts and help yourself to answer the questions in your life that trouble you. And who knows…maybe you’ll be able to find relief in this pastime and to help a fellow nameless, faceless, journeyman who reads, and potentially responds, to your ideas and insights.
This essay was written by Dayna Keene, a rising junior majoring in communications at Cornell University.