Guest post by Suzanne Marie

There are many reasons keeping a journal can be beneficial to those dealing with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar, and eating disorders. The world can be scary for individuals with thoughts and emotions they don’t fully understand. Living in an unrelenting world is hard enough, then add in raw feelings you don’t know what to do with and it makes it even harder.

Most people with mental illness feel “stuck”. They may not like themselves or understand who they are. Their thoughts may race or they may feel void of emotions altogether. It isn’t easy, but you have to start somewhere. Finding ways and means to express yourself is key.

This is where writing in a journal can be cathartic. Even if you’ve never done it, it’s okay, it’s not as hard as you think! There are many ways to journal; one may work better than Journal 4the other. First, get yourself a really cool notebook or journal. Then, find your favorite pen and find a quiet place to sit alone. No phone, no computer…

The hardest part of journaling for most people is knowing where to start so I will give you some ideas to help. However, feel free to come up with your own ideas. Remember, no one will see this but you. Be honest and just let the pen flow.

  1. Gratitude List: Write down everything you are thankful for or grateful to have.
  2. Positive Trait List: Write down a list of positive traits you have. Include the things you like about yourself and what you have to offer another person. Dig deep, there are plenty!
  3. A Letter to Yourself. Include the good and the bad. Let those bottled up emotions go, and just write! It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else but you.
  4. Self-Care: Make a list of good things you can do for yourself to help you feel better. You may be doing some already!
  5. Let It Flow: This is where you just write. Don’t worry about penmanship or grammar. Don’t go back and read. Write about your day, your life, your feelings, a particularly hard time you may be going through. Don’t censor. Just keep going!

Talking about yourself, writing about yourself, even thinking about yourself can be terrifying. Especially when you’ve tried so hard to hide it and pretend it wasn’t there. Writing your thoughts and feelings down can be the easiest way to bring them to light. It can be freeing and therapeutic at the same time.

Learn to journal every day. Even if it’s for five minutes, just do yourself a favor and start. It’s your time. Do it for you.


Suzanne Marie is a professional writer living in rural North Carolina. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, and anxiety. She looks forward to writing posts for “This Side of the Creek” and expanding her knowledge of mental health.

If there is one thing I never imagined I’d be able to do, it was travel to another country. Thoughts of having to get a passport, fly for hours, acclimate to another culture, figure out where to go and how to get there, among other things, created a heightened anxiety like none other. Yet, I wanted to travel. I wanted to experience something new and be able to tell my anxiety to screw off!

It was summer 2016 and I was working in a treatment center with some wonderful colleagues who were planning a trip to Europe to attend a Cincinnati Bengals game in the fall. 14980748_753502604464_8118517951997617941_nWhile heating up lunch in the small staff kitchen one afternoon, one of the RDs going on the trip asked me to go with them. “Uh, I mean yeah, totally I’ll go if they approve the time off for all of us.” Anxiety. Set. In.

I texted my boss and then spoke with her in person. I later learned that yes, it would be possible for me to go to Europe with three of my favorite people. I purchased the plane ticket and took a deep breath as I started the process of getting my passport. And just like everything else I’ve felt anxiety about, getting my passport was not as difficult as my mind made it out to be. A few simple steps and now I have the travel book I never thought I would.

The months before the trip seemed to drag on and I purchased more travel items than I actually needed. I had moved from anxious to excited…until the week of the trip! Anxiety settled back in and I packed, unpacked, packed again. I made lists, checked them off, made new lists. I lost sleep and lost my ability to concentrate. And then THE day arrived.

We spent a majority of our trip in London, with one day/night in Paris. Fortunately, one of my travel companions had previously lived in Europe so she knew how to navigate the tube system and was more organized than my anxiety would have allowed me to be. I considered her to be the leader of the trip and it helped me to be able to enjoy my experiences that much more. Our London hotel was next to the London Eye so obviously we had to take a ride up! We visited many additional sites including Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Harrod’s, and of course Wembley Stadium. In Paris, our main goals were to go up into the Eiffel Tower, eat crepes and get breakfast at a pastry shop. We did all of those things!IMG_0090

Fast forward two years and I’m so thankful for this trip and my ability to power through feelings of anxiety and do something I never thought I’d do. Unfortunately, anxiety’s best friend is avoidance and oftentimes we stop ourselves from doing anything that creates this emotion. By not doing, we relieve the anxiety and are back in a comfortable state. Whew!

Had I allowed my anxiety to keep from going to Europe, I would have missed out on one of the most memorable trips of my life thus far. I wouldn’t have grown closer to my colleagues, tested some of my personal limits, or had wonderful photos to look back on.

So, the next time your anxiety wells up, how will you respond?

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Driving home from the office last week I heard a clip on the radio about all of the “should” articles that exist on the internet these days. It’s a topic I had long been considering blogging about because it seems so many of us can fall prey to believing such articles.

“10 Foods You Should Stop Eating Now;” “5 Things All Parents Should Be Doing;” “10 Reasons Why You Should Give Up Relationships.”

So here is my list of 3 reasons why we should stop reading and believing such articles.

  1. The writers are most likely trying to drive traffic to their website versus having our genuine well-being in mind. There are few things that are so black and white that we should do or should not do them in order to live a happy, healthy life. We all know that exercise is beneficial and there is no one thing we need to be doing all of the time. We know that eating nutritious food helps us feel better and stronger and we can still eat foods that have less nutrition value and are enjoyable.
  2. The articles can do a good job convincing us that if we do or don’t do what they say, somehow we’re a worthless human being who is going to die young or suffer a serious illness. Our relationships will disappear and we’ll be left all alone. We know that not everything on the internet is true and this is even more crucial to understand in 2017 because of the amount and types of these articles that exist. Many of them don’t have research to back them up and when they do, they are often only discussing one side of the picture. If we have a genuine concern, it’s going to benefit us more to speak to professionals, do our own research, and draw our own conclusions.
  3. Ultimately articles such as these can cause more harm than they profess to protect us from. For those struggling with existing mental health disorders such as depression or eating disorders, reading about why they should end relationships or why they should stop eating certain foods can exacerbate the disorder. If we’re depressed, the last thing we need is to further isolate and if we have an eating disorder, we can become more obsessed and ritualized by eliminating even more foods. The challenge is that these articles are shared so broadly that there is little escaping them. This isn’t to say that we should blame the articles fully because we do have control over what we click on and what we read. However, when someone is in a vulnerable state this information can reinforce irrational thoughts they may be having. They can search for evidence that supports the reasons why they shouldn’t get better. “See, according to this article, I shouldn’t be eating red meat because…”

The next time you’re tempted to click on a “should” article, I encourage you to stop and consider your intention. What are you hoping to learn, really? Are you actually doing harm to yourself by living your life the way you are? Is there a professional you could talk to instead? The reality is that some pieces of the articles may be true, but we have to pick and choose responsibly what we’re going to believe.

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