(a chapter from Telling Ed No! by Cheryl Kerrigan©)
When I was a little girl, I got a small brown diary with a lock, and in its pages I wrote my deepest thoughts about how I was feeling and what was going on. At times my entries were about trivial things, such as who I liked in class and what my friends and I did at recess. Nonetheless, it was a place where I could express myself and get things off my mind.
As the years went by, the pages of my diary filled up and life got busy, so the writing stopped. As a result, I internalized my feelings and thoughts, which worked against me because they would fester and build and eventually Ed would take over. But when my recovery started and I entered treatment, I decided to bring with me a brand new journal. It was festive-looking with lots of pages. I wasn’t sure if I would ever write in it, but I knew it was there if needed.
One day when I was an inpatient, I was feeling overwhelmed and scared when my meal plan was increased and more fear foods were being introduced. I didn’t want to gain more weight because I already felt like a balloon—bigger than everyone else. I wanted so badly to run to Ed for help, but realized I needed to turn to something healthy instead. So, I grabbed my journal. It took me awhile to get in the swing of it again, but as I continued to write, the feelings and thoughts flowed like a rushing river.
In the days and weeks ahead, my journal took good care of me. If I was feeling anxious because of a meal I was about to eat or a family issue I was facing, or if I was feeling sad because I felt like I was losing my best friend (Ed), or if I felt lonely, frustrated or scared, I opened my journal and put pen to paper. There, I opened my mind and heart to whatever needed to come out.
When I was writing, I never judged what I was saying or feeling, but rather gave myself permission to express anything, all the while reminding myself that “feeling the feelings” was a necessary part of recovery. Writing gave me a sense of freedom and release. My anxiety around the feelings would lessen and my mind would become clear. “Writing it out” gave me more room inside my mind, heart, and body to utilize in my recovery. I kept that journal with me and pulled it out so often that the binding was worn! I also brought it with me to my therapy sessions and frequently read from it.
To this day, I still use my journal as a tool for healthy living. It is always nearby and I can pull it out anytime to get something off my mind or get through a situation. It keeps my feelings honest and real and helps me express them in a healthy way. Using my journal gives a sense of respect and validation not only to my feelings, but also to whatever issue I am facing. It provides me a safe place to say whatever I want. Through my journal I can feel, express, accept, and work through my feelings—and then let them go. This helps me move forward in the journey of recovery and life.
What healthy tool do you do to express yourself and your feelings? Do you keep everything inside and give those moments to Ed? The next time you are faced with intense feelings and thoughts, write them down and get them out of your head. Let the words flow on the page and don’t judge what you write. What do you feel and how will you express it?
With health, hope and strength,