di·a·ry: a daily record, usually private, of the writer’s own experiences, observations, feelings, attitudes, etc.
Sometimes, writing about an experience can be easier than talking about it. I have kept a diary since the age of 12. As I grew into adolescence and adulthood, I would write about my feelings, and about people or events that were troubling me. Writing helped me sort my thoughts, ease my load, put things in perspective and illuminate the road ahead. Keeping a diary helped me become observant, reflective and I often saw details that others didn’t.
— JUNE ALEXANDER
Writing as a way of expressing emotions instead of repressing them can help you feel better about yourself. By tracing feelings back to traumatic events, and reflecting on them, you can defuse their power to affect you in the present. When my treatment team encouraged me to do this, even though many years had passed since my eating disorder had developed, I began to experience calm instead of chaos and peace instead of torment. I gained sufficient self-awareness to realize when ‘something is bothering me’, and became more able to follow the feeling, find the cause and attend to it. This skill allowed decision-making to occur without feeling overly anxious or defaulting to ED behaviours such as restricting food intake or binge eating to ease distress.
Two Rules for Diary Writing
There are only two rules in keeping a diary
#1. DATE each entry
#2. Make NO RULES
When you have an eating disorder rules dominate every day, which is counter productive. Your diary is a place for free expression, not a place for limitations and restrictions.
Depending on the length of your illness, recovery might require uncovering and addressing deeply entrenched thoughts and beliefs, as well as discovering and confronting mysteries from your past. Your diary can store these pieces and preserve them until you feel ready to reflect on and revisit them. This same approach may also assist in understanding and healing from deeply upsetting or confusing experiences that may have occurred years ago or only yesterday. When you feel ready, your diary can facilitate and nurture this process, helping you to see your life from all sides and, eventually, put suffering into a context that allows you to live fully in the present.
Primary Focus of Diary Writing Therapy
Some therapies incorporate diary writing as part of their homework, but few specialize in diary therapy, which relies almost solely on writing in diary.
A primary focus in diary writing therapy is to develop intimacy with, and be truthful to, self. This process, when shared with the therapist, can help to ease deep-seated feelings of shame and stigma that may be the cause of resistance to engaging in therapeutic work
The diary – whether handwritten or online – can help to fill the gaps between consultation sessions with members of your treatment team as well as provide supportive care within the home to those unable to receive formal treatment due to lack of access for insurance, financial, location or other reasons. If you are interested in exploring your diary writing at a deeper level for therapy and healing, including online instruction and mentoring with June, please join The Diary Healer community. You will gain insight and advice in diary Writing for Self, Writing for Therapy, and how to begin Sharing Your Story. If you are a health practitioner or care-giver, a Practitioner’s and Caregiver’s Guide provides insights from experts, both professionally and with lived experience, on how diary writing can enrich your care toolkit.
To hear how diary writing has helped June to heal from an eating disorder, listen here as she speaks to Ruth Nelson on the Creating Space Project podcast series. In this podcast series, Ruth interviews women and asks them for a personal story. By exploring this way of using her skills as a psychologist to help reduce prejudice in the community, Ruth hopes to increase what she aptly describes as ‘the store of compassion in this world’.