The importance of reflection and journaling

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Every medical professional and supporter tried to impart on me the importance of reflecting and recording daily. Therefore, since being diagnosed, I have kept a journal.

On and off I tried to record my mood and sleep patterns. Initially, this was fine and medical professionals could use the data to assist in their prognosis and adjust medication accordingly. However, I felt that in addition to this, I should record what happened that day. I needed to capture why I was recording it, where certain events took place and how I might have done things differently.

This is a lot to reflect on. So my first tip is to time limit journalling. I started by just writing. It could be anything. What I just watched on TV, a meal I had enjoyed, whatever, and then I keep writing with only seconds between each sentence until I run out of ideas. Then I stop and put it away. This may not work for everybody but I don’t want journalling to become a burden, something that I feel I have to do every evening. I want it to be quick, snappy and to the point.

My secret is to keep my journal next to my tablet box which, by the way, is essential for managing your medication. Every evening as I take my last medication for the day, I start to write.

Another tip here is to not concern yourself with the content of your journal. You can write any thoughts you want. The contents of it are important and it’s a great insight into a time in your life. Upon rereading it again you feel that it may hurt, offend or just embarrass. If this is the case destroy it. When writing, don’t limit yourself. Express yourself. What is important here is the act of writing it down. By reflecting and thinking about your mood and feelings, whether manic or depressed, you can better deal with the illness.

With destroying my journal in mind, I looked at earlier diary entries to see how mood-stabilising medication has eventually led to finding a dose that stabilised my moods. The side effects of lamotrigine and Quetiapine have given me insomnia, scary vivid dreams or hallucinations between sleeping and waking, along with a spell in A&E. However, it has been worth it. My bipolar is under control and I’m stable now.