The Truth About Writing Honestly
The Comparison Game
Recently, I was engaging in an activity I know is pointless…dangerous, even. I’m sure you’ve done it, too. It’s something I like to call the comparison game. Thank you, Instagram. I was innocently scrolling (read: lurking) through a former colleague’s feed, and I started playing the dreaded game.
Yes, I know how awful it is. I’m sure I could easily cite ten wellness articles about “Keeping Your Eyes on Your Own Paper,” or “How Social Media Only Shows the Highlights of People’s Lives,” or “How to Limit Your Internet Surfing.”
Regardless of the fact that I consider myself a mental health writer, and the fact that I most definitely know better, sometimes the pull is too strong.
For some reason (read: unresolved career disappointments, I later learned), I wanted to know what my former self was doing in comparison to her timeline. (By the way, this is the devil’s playground, and WE ALL KNOW THIS.)
A Place to Be Honest
But, it gets worse. I even went as far as to find my old journals to compare. Thankfully, the comparison game came to a screeching halt once I started reading. My own journal entries for late 2012 were sporadic and surprisingly shallow. My journal indicated little of what would come next: therapy. This was a major phase in my life, which I started in early 2013.
It was baffling to me that missing from the pages was my crippling social anxiety at work, my overwhelming sadness, the phases of uncontrollable crying, or the coldness I felt from certain family members. My journal didn’t capture any of that. It was pure fluff. A mask. An alternative reality where everything was beautiful and perfect. Just like social media!
Instead, I chronicled shallow, mundane activities, with occasional mentions of “feeling blue.” Journaling about daily routines is fine, but that’s not all that should be on the page when your world is crumbling!
Get It All Down
From a mental health perspective, I can’t speak enough about the health benefits of journaling. Psychotherapist Maud Purcell says, “By writing routinely you will get to know what makes you feel happy and confident. You will also become clear about situations and people who are toxic for you — important information for your emotional well-being.”
When you journal, it is important to be honest with yourself. That blank page will never judge you, so get down every last ugly word, every unpleasant thought you’ve been trying to avoid. All of it! Write it down. Because when you do, you chip away at buried pain while creating a better version of yourself. A little more calm. A little pain erased.
A Little Step Each Day
How exactly do we proceed? What do we do?
Recommendations show that journaling for at least 20 minutes a day is a good place to start. These days I journal for a larger amount of time. It’s essential for my continuous mental health recovery. I also write publicly to share my experiences because I know. I know what despair is like. Depression. Paralyzing anxiety. Paranoia. Fear.
But with a little step each day, it becomes a little better. Driving to therapy, writing a page, jotting down a quote, and participating in work I love…. This is what has helped me.
Your Strength Gives Others Hope
I feel optimistic when I read personal accounts from mental health bloggers — most likely inspired from journal entries, just like this piece!
Reading about others working on their mental health pushes me to be better. Whether they’re accounts of taking a break from a toxic relationship, surviving a mental health illness, or finding the strength to leave an unhappy home, they all urge me to do the same. To live in the same bold, brave, and honest way.
Each time I’ve read a mental health blog post, I’ve found something that hits me in my gut, and I wanted what they described for myself.
Living honestly (and writing it down if you can!) is one of the best things you can do for yourself and others. People always want to hear the truth.
Amanda Dacquel is a freelance writer and mental health advocate. She is passionate about conveying social impact research through online mediums. In 2014, she started The Current Collective, which shares mental health resources and news.