Self Caring

Writing Wrongs

Last updated: Jul 28, 2010

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"My life changed forever when"¦"

Every caregiver can complete that sentence, right? And if you can write a sentence, you can access a powerful way to preserve your own health and sanity: You can journal.

Journaling is a la-di-dah word for keeping a diary. The "prompt" in the first line above comes from a lifesaving little book I like called [You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers] (, by B. Lynn Goodwin. A writer and writing coach in Danville, California, Goodwin was not at all coincidentally her mother's keeper for the last six years of her life.

"No one else knows I worry about"¦"

There Goodwin was, "dealing with the crisis du jour," as she says, "when the stress began to get to me." So she did what she knew: "I journaled my way out of it." In a blank book that, ironically, her mom had given her, she ranted, jotted down stories, processed difficult events, and vented on paper words she was afraid she'd regret later if she blurted them out loud.

It works. Really. For years, I've followed fascinating research on how putting your thoughts on paper reduces feelings of powerlessness, heals emotional wounds, opens up perspective, and helps people feel heard "“ even if nobody else ever reads it. Even if you're not a "writer." Because anybody can vent, whine, and ponder.

"Someone else might have walked away when"¦"

You can burn the pages immediately after. Or stuff them deep in your underwear drawer. Use sheets of looseleaf or an elegant book bound in Italian leather. Whatever makes you feel comfortable enough to tell the truth. Do a daily brain dump, just the way you take a daily vitamin or get daily rest. In a crippling crisis, hobble for it as you would a crutch.

"It's hard to admit"¦"

My own life changed forever, to go back to that original prompt, the day my mom called me, four states away, to say, "Oh, now don't come up but well"¦I fell and broke my pelvis and pubic bone"¦."

What I actually wrote in my journal on that June day "“ aboard an airplane I'd hopped just hours later:

"Happened Tues, apparently. Missed the bed. Pain got worse and worse and she finally went to see doctor Friday, who x-rayed and found the breaks. Nothing can be done for it except"¦bedrest for 4-5 weeks. With Dad "“ the one we're all worried about "“ as her caregiver. Here's Dad so frail, memory fritzing, and Mom has the fall. It's never what you expect."

Luckily I'd been keeping a diary since I was 9. So I'm a true believer!

But I like to think that, if I hadn't, somewhere along my caregiving journey someone would have tipped me off to this stress-releasing, cheap, and easy outlet somewhere along my caregiving journey.

"I love you, but"¦"

Goodwin's book is full of prompts to jump-start you. I've quoted five in bold type here...give one a whirl and see what happens.