My Own Experience Of Blogging :
I started this blog about five years ago as I believed it would help in my recovery – it has certainly done so.
It has introduced some structure into my life and has had a cathartic effect. Most importantly, it has helped me understand my past feelings and behaviours better which has been, for me, a vital prerequisite to meaningful and lasting recovery.
Should You Start A Blog?
I therefore strongly recommend others who have experienced the pain of mental illness in their lives also start a blog. However, there is one proviso: it is important that you feel well enough to embark upon a blog, especially one which may stir up painful past memories which, in turn, could trigger symptoms.
Writing As Therapy :
Of course, starting a blog about one’s mental health is just one option when it comes to therapeutic writing; there are many others’
If we were emotionally wounded as children, writing down our thoughts and feelings, perhaps in a journal, can be extremely therapeutic. Or, if we are particularly creative, writing a novel or poetry about early experiences can be extremely cathartic.
Alternatively, writing a letter to the person/people who hurt us, explaining how their treatment of us has affected us, can also be extremely helpful (whether or not we actually send the letter).
Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear writers say, because of the difficult early experiences they have had, that they actually feel compelled to write and start to feel unwell if they are somehow prevented from doing so. Franz Kafka is an example of this – he had a very bad relationship with his father and, as well as writing novels (and the well known short story – Metamorphosis), he wrote a famous letter to his father (although he never actually sent it).
Above – Franz Kafka
EXTERNALIZATION: One of the main reasons why writing about our early life trauma can be so effective at helping to feel better is that it gives us the opportunity to EXTERNALIZE what has happened to us, rather than keeping it painfully bottled up inside.
It also helps us to organize our thoughts about what happened to us, as well as helping us to gain a better understanding of how we have been affected by our experiences. Indeed, understanding what has caused us to have problems in our adult lives is of fundamental importance if we are to properly recover.
Furthermore, writing about our negative experiences helps us to put distance between them and ourselves and allows us to view things more objectively. This can come as a great relief and lessen any painful, intrusive thoughts we may have been suffering.
RESEARCH ON THE THERAPEUTIC BENEFIT OF WRITING ABOUT [email protected] TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES
Pennebaker (1994) developed a structured writing activity for trauma survivors in which they were encouraged to write about their thoughts and feelings connected to their traumatic experiences for 3-5 days per week and for 15-20 minutes each time. Prior to this, in 1988, Pennebaker and his colleagues found that DEEP DISCLOSURE through the means of writing improved both mood and physical health.
Frisina et al., 2004, carried out a meta-analysis (overview) of studies that had looked at the benefit of writing activities amongst clinical populations. They found that expressive writing had benefits for mental health and even greater benefits for physical health.
A leading theory is that certain forms of writing can reduce levels of stress and this, in turn, has health benefits. A study conducted by Esterling (1990) supports this idea – the study showed that making a conscious effort to conceal one’s emotions is linked to adverse effects on one’s immunity system and that the opposite (i.e. the EXPRESSION OF EMOTIONS, INCLUDING THROUGH WRITING has beneficial effects on the same system.)
Expressive writing can, of course, be undertaken without financial cost and can be done at home at one’s own convenience. Some choose to publish their writing on the internet by starting a website. This can be done under a pseudonym if anonymity is desired or, of course, access to the site can be restricted. Other options include journaling, writing poetry, short stories and novels.
However, writing about one’s traumatic experiences does not, of course, help everyone equally. For example, those suffering from severe clinical depression may find it less effective, as may those suffering from PTSD or complex PTSD. In the case of complex PTSD/PTSD, some may fear being triggered by writing about their experiences and may find it better to pursue such writing under the guidance and with the support of an appropriately qualified therapist.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).