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Physician, Heal Thy Self

How I Gave My Pain an Outlet

Photo by Brent Gorwin on Unsplash

I have kept a journal since I was old enough to know how to write. I have documented almost every moment of my whole life, and more importantly than that, I have recorded my feelings on the things that have happened to me. I don't do this because I think my life or thoughts are particularly note worthy, but because it is a coping mechanism.

I spent a lot of my life without anyone close to confide in. I was a weird kid, who did weird kid things. And when you are a scraggly 8 year old in your big brother's punk rock shirts and hammer pants who wants to talk about other dimensions, no one wants to be your confidant. So I did what I did normally, which is talk to myself. I learned pretty early on that talking to your self verbally is frowned upon, so I would scrawl out my problem on the page, and then read them over as if someone else, a stranger, had written them for me. I would edit and rewrite, and in this way I learned how to be concise with my language. I am constantly self editing, so when I do finally get words on the page they are usually exactly what I mean. 

I know that not everyone has the time or energy to journal, but I will tell you, I come by my habit honestly. My dad was also a journal enthusiast, a documentary of self reflection. Reaching self discovery through writing and rewriting his feelings on anything he could get his hands on. When he died, there were boxes and boxes of notebooks, and napkins, loose paper, and the backs of envelopes still full of junk mail. 

It has been over a year since he died, and I still have not read all of it. It is not in any kind of chronological order, in fact, sometimes he would buy a journal, write in faithfully for four months, and then the next date would be from five years in the future. As I have been reading through them, I have realized that it probably was because he lost the book, or left it at home, and had to get something onto paper, so he bought a new book, and then filled it before he came back to the first. 

Having his life from the time he was 10-years-old, laid out in my dad's untidy scrawl has helped me immensely since he died. I am glad to be able to leave a legacy like my journals behind for my kids when my time comes as well. But more than what I will leave behind for me, it is about shaping how I feel now. If I can write about something, then I am able to analyze it through the editing process, look at it as though it were an objective story, and that allows me to make decisions about things that I would have otherwise been unable to do so about. When I couldn't afford a therapist, my journals were the keepers of all my secrets. How many times over would I be dead if I didn't have this method of venting?

Not that I am advocating for the removal of mental health care in favor of giving every citizen a Moleskin journal and a Bic pen, but in the moments when I most needed to be understood, when there was no one there to understand, I was always able to get what I needed out onto a page, then read it, as though the words were not mine, gain understanding, and thus have community within myself, even when through my awkward, and horrible youth, I had very little community with anyone else. 

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Paige Graffunder
Paige Graffunder

Paige is the Director of HR and Operations at a small firm in Seattle, as well as a contributor to several local publications around the city, focused on politics, business, satire, and internet sub-culture.




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