Why Journaling Helps Us Keep Perspective
I’ve always been terrible at journaling. When I was younger I would spend lots of money on fancy new journals, only to fill a few pages before abandoning the venture. Of course, a few months later I would decide to give it a go again… maybe I’d even make it 2 whole weeks this time before giving up. It just seemed to be too much work, remembering to write a whole page every day, and trying to fill a page even when nothing interesting happened. “Binged the whole first season of Suits on Netflix… oh, and my Visa card expired.” Riveting stuff, guys. Back in 2011 though, I went backpacking for 6 months and decided I would absolutely make myself write an entry every day in the new journal that my Dad had bought me for the trip. This time, it stuck, and I was so grateful in the coming years that I could read back on the adventures I had forgotten.
Finding the right journal
One day, a year after returning from my trip, I was browsing through a bookstore and saw a display for these “one-a-day” journals. Each page of the journal was a day of the year, with room for five vertical entries, only a few lines each. I thought “Wow, this I could manage!”, and I bought one. I can say that I am now in my fourth year of faithfully using this journal, and it is one of my most cherished possessions. It’s incredibly easy to keep up with (I mean, everyone can think of 2 sentences to describe their day!), and being able to read what you were doing on this day last year, 3 years ago, etc. is such a great way to keep perspective.
One year ago on this day? I was stressing about running a lab experiment.
Two years ago on this day? I was wrapping favors for my upcoming wedding, filled with joy and excitement.
Four years ago on this day? I was covered in psoriasis and thought I might have to quit my job.
Unexpected benefits for my health journey
Four years ago I was in the absolute worst flare I’d ever had. I was miserable, completely covered in guttate psoriasis, and depressed. I slept every hour. I wasn’t at work and lost a lot of weight. When I finally made my Dermatologist appointment, he told me I should start Methotrexate. Because I make a living working with microbial pathogens, this would have meant losing the career I had worked so hard for, because you can’t work with pathogens if you are immunocompromised. I was completely downtrodden. Luckily for me, there was a phototherapy center near my work, and at my next appointment, I convinced my Derm to let me try that first. In a few weeks from now, I’ll look back four years in my journal and read about my first consultation, and then eventually about my first session. I’ll get to re-live my elation as my psoriasis started to fade, and then eventually disappear. I’ll get to re-live how grateful I was that that winter I was able to wear a strapless bridesmaid’s dress at my friend’s wedding, without having to worry about my skin.
Why perspective is important
Journaling is important because it gives us perspective. In the midst of my last flare, I believed that my skin would never improve, that I would always feel miserable, that I would always be in pain. Looking back, I can see how far I’ve come, and it was an important reminder that the future can always surprise you. There is usually something positive to hold on to each day and that you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff (I’ll be darned if I can remember what that lab experiment was even about!). When I was in University and stressing about an assignment, I would call my Mom and she would invariably say “Vicki, ask yourself: 'am I going to care about this in five years?' If the answer is no, it’s probably not worth stressing over.” Like most things, my Mom was right about this too and nothing puts that into better focus than keeping a one-a-day journal. Having this journal has also been a great way for me to remember when I had appointments when I started and finished treatments, and how I felt the whole way through the process. The day I realized almonds were causing my flares. The day I discovered I could buy my favorite body butter in 2L tubs off the internet. My journal is filled with all sorts of useful stuff!
In three months from now, I’m going to read about how this great company called Health Union contacted me about being a moderator and contributor for their PlaquePsoriasis.com team one year ago, and how completely wonderful that felt. And in one year and a bit from now, I’m hopefully going to look back and read about my second round of phototherapy, and how my appointment with my new Dermatologist went (Did she like me? Did she give me free samples?!). The point is, no matter what you’re looking back on, it means that you survived it. And that should give you plenty of hope for the future.
What are you grateful for in your psoriasis experience? (Select all that apply)
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