Being in an abusive relationship can cause one to feel like they have lost their sense of self. When I was in unhealthy relationships, I would often disown the parts of me that my partner didn’t like. Either he would outright express his dislike of an aspect of my personality or he would do so indirectly. Either way, I was so afraid of losing him, that I lost myself and my sense of who I truly was, in order to keep him in my life.
I turned to journaling to help me heal from this experience. It was a way for me to honor my thoughts and feelings. To give me a space to express what was going on in my mind and what I was feeling. I also found that once I began writing, ideas and emotions would come out of me that I didn’t even know I had.
The best part of journaling is that it can be a reflection of you—there is no right or wrong way to do it. Here are a few of my personal tips for a great journaling experience:
1- Find a serene, quiet spot
It can be a nook in your bedroom, or a calm spot surrounded by nature in a park—the important thing is that it is a space where you feel comfortable and secure.
2-Allow your thoughts to flow
Write out thoughts as they come to mind, in a stream of consciousness way. Let go of any judgment you may have and just be with your thoughts and feelings. You may discover things you didn’t expect to. Try writing with your non-dominant hand (i.e. your left hand if you are a righty) to help access more of your subconscious thoughts).
3- Set a realistic time limit
You want to give yourself enough time to express what is on your heart and mind, but also know that you can return to other tasks you have for the day. By setting a realistic time limit, you give yourself the space for self-expression, while knowing that you can put it aside and continue another day.
4- Choose specific days/times
Decide which days/times you would like to designate as journaling time. This doesn’t mean you can’t write down your thoughts at other times as well. It just ensures your journaling practice has a set time in your calendar and won’t get overlooked. It will also be easier to put your pen down and honor your realistic time limit, knowing that you have a designated time in which you will return to your journaling in the future.
Journaling has a way of allowing us to access the deepest parts of ourselves. We get to know ourselves in a more intimate way. Our voice is no longer overshadowed by the wants and desires of our partner. Journaling can help us regain our sense of who we are and what we stand for, and we may find that the person we truly come to fall in love with—is ourselves.
Gila Daman is a registered dietitian nutritionist and health and wellness coach dedicated to helping people achieve optimal physical and emotional well-being. She is grateful to be contributing to Break the Cycle’s blog for Mental Health Awareness Month. Gila is the author of First Comes Self-Love, Then Comes Marriage, a memoir about the lessons she learned on how to have healthier romantic relationships. She continues to write about self-love and personal growth on her blog: firstcomesselflove.com.