We all have a lot of issues and things that bother us. I do, and I know you do, too. And often we don’t know how to cope. Very often we are not even aware of the things that are the issue. You know that feeling when you’re anxious, depressed, overall dissatisfied with your life but you simply can’t pinpoint the exact thing that’s causing it all?

I don’t know how things are in your country and other countries around the world, but where I live it’s not so common to seek therapy (except if it’s really severe depression) and it’s still kind of frowned upon if someone decides to seek help. You have to deal with everything by yourself and most people don’t even know who to turn to for help. I know I don’t.

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journaling - the best free self-help therapy

I can honestly say I am under stress since childhood, which really is an accurate statement. My mother got gravely ill while I was a toddler and died when I started school. That definitely had an enormous impact on me and my whole family, and it is something we still haven’t recovered from, almost three decades later.

Obviously, lack of one parent and confusion of the other, lead me to recurring depression, constant anxiety, and lack of motivation and direction in my life. And because of it, all aspects of my life suffered. The problem was – I couldn’t find a solution, I didn’t know how to get out of that horrible feeling. I didn’t want to write about it, because I thought it would only make everything worse. Boy, how wrong I was.

One day, after I started writing about other people in my journal, I actually stopped and started thinking about ME. Why did it bother me so much what other people do? Why do I focus my time on them? It was obvious I was deflecting from the real problem – myself. I started writing about my feelings toward things and people that actually have an effect on me. That was the turning point – it was time to write about ME.

It was amazing that writing about my problems and issues and deliberations, I started to find the shape of the underlying problems I had. Of course, that didn’t come overnight. It took me quite some time to start really reflecting on my life, my thoughts, and feelings, and ultimately realize what’s really going on with me.

journaling - the best free self-help therapy

Yeah, I know it sounds like a cliché but I have a feeling that journaling really saved me. All my life I’ve wanted someone who will save me and make my life instantly beautiful and happy. It took me quite some time to realize that no one can save me but myself. I needed to find my way through it all. And writing it all out helped me crystalize some things.

You know, I always thought that people who are happy are never in a bad mood. I thought that feeling bad sometimes jeopardizes my happiness (the movie Inside Out comes to mind). Through journaling, I realized that if I really want a healthy relationship with myself, that I need to cope with the feelings I have. We need to process it all, we need to grieve, be angry, cry, feel helpless and sad, it’s all a part of a healing process. And if we don’t heal that part that’s negative, we can’t go on.

I learned that you need to give yourself the opportunity to come to terms with your feelings and not just ignore them, because they do exist and won’t go away. That’s why I love journaling. When you start writing, you’re not even aware of where it’s gonna take you and how liberating it can be.

For example, here in a post is a picture from my journal with my drawing of BoJack Horseman (a quite good drawing – if I might add :)), from Netflix show. I’ve drawn it the day they announced the show’s ending and released a trailer for the final season. In the trailer BoJack, who is in rehab, writes a letter to his friend Diane as a part of his therapy. Among other things, in the letter, he says: “I wasted so many years being miserable because I assumed that was the only way to be.” I watched the trailer, decided it would be a cool quote to use alongside the drawing and haven’t thought about it much. And then I started writing.

journaling - the best free self-help therapy

It’s amazing what just one sentence can do to you! A quote from a cartoon character ended up being an incredible, and very unexpected, lesson about my own life. About my own misery, my loneliness, and sadness. It jump-started my brain into thinking about all of the ways I’ve been coping with it all and all the ways I’ve been ignoring everything and embracing it as normal. As my normal. And suddenly, I started writing about all that was in my head, and my heart, at that moment and it made me realize some things I never knew were there.

We are not aware of how damaged we actually are. There are million different circumstances and events that had an impact on our mental health throughout our lives and very often we are not aware that the impact they had was far greater than we thought. The first step into recovery is acknowledging you have a problem. Keeping a journal can really help you with finding the root of the things that bother you.
This is a very simplified version and it sounds like a piece of cake. I must warn you – it’s not. It took me quite some time to decipher where my problems lay. And I’m still on the path of resolving my issues. But I do it day by day. Page by page. But it’s worth it. I can’t afford a therapist. That’s why I love my journal: I can dump all my problems in it and sometimes it will lead me to solutions. Or at least in it, I’ll find a much-needed comfort.

*side note* Just wanted to clarify that these here are just my personal experiences and by all means, they don’t mean a person with clinical depression should ditch their medication and just start journaling. Depression and anxiety are serious issues and should be taken care of professionally. Seek help if you need it – don’t be afraid!

And journal on the side to help with thoughts you can’t articulate. You got this!

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