In times of stress and duress, journaling can help work through some of the most difficult life challenges, such as the death of a spouse with the difficulty that follows.
An award-winning author, grief support advocate, and marketing consultant, Linda Donovan,1 shares a personal piece about the healing power of journaling in her life as an opening to our exploration of a valuable tool anybody can use. Dr. Parks then continues the narrative about the history and purpose of journaling, how his fascination with it developed, journal types, benefits, eight tips for doing journal keeping, and resources.
The season for a fresh start seemed upon us with its promise of renewal and healing. Out of the deep darkness, a seed, a kernel of insight, grows towards the light and life with opportunity and challenge. People were reemerging after a trying and difficult period with some hopefulness of new beginnings.
The scourges of a pandemic seemed to recede with the anticipation of a reopening of society. The regaining of prosperity and security was the hope. But then, there was the possibility of new variants and surges. There were still people that had lost their faith in science, vaccines, climate control, our government, and democracy.
|Ron Parks, MD Feb 25|
Valentine’s day that passed recently reminds me that there are more profound realities than myself and related busyness. The holiday about love and relationship almost got overlooked, with my over-involvement and preoccupation with what I was doing. Luckily, my wife and something in the news gave a subtle reminder of Valentine’s Day coming. After reflecting on the day’s special significance—love, relationship, and our mutual interdependence—I went into action with roses and a special day together.
Unfortunately, the loveliness of the holiday was diminished by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The dynamics of relationship and choice-making become even more poignant when seeing the tragedy of another war unfolding. I reflected on the relationship between an individual’s emotional and mental functioning and extension to one’s social group, society, or country.
I’m Simon, and I have bipolar disorder. I like to joke that I was a late bloomer, very tongue in cheek, because that was far from the truth. I was in my mid-forties when I physically collapsed. Life and everyone in it just became too much and my mind and body had come to a place where something had to give, or in my case, both gave way at the same time.
I spent a long time in bed thinking that the heart palpitations, cause by my excessive drinking, were killing me. Eventually, I took a stupid Am I Bipolar? test in a magazine, and found that I ticked all of the boxes. That led me back to my GP, who set me up with an appointment with Arno, my first psychiatrist. Within an hour, and with prescription in hand, I entered life after diagnosis and the circus show that comes when dealing with extended family and friends. Luckily, I had Jax to help me...
Dr. Sid—endearingly just called “Sid” by his peers, colleagues, and fellow healthcare workers—made his way through the city in the early morning darkness. For fifteen years, he’d traveled this way, but the ordinarily busy city was now quiet, a sad reminder of the pandemic’s impact. He cranked the heater as a shiver crept up his spine at the thought of what lay ahead of him.
Mary1 had a history of mood swings, depression, anxiety, and PTSD from childhood sexual abuse. Her years growing up were in a chaotic and disruptive home, especially after her alcoholic father deserted her and her mother. She had experienced a hard time growing up with parental neglect, physical, and emotional abuse. Her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) returned after the hurricane with a vengeance.
As a nine-year-old boy, while enjoying the warmth of the midday sun, I was easing my way out onto a branch of a wild apple tree. It was in a deserted field with the sweetest green apples I had ever tasted. These weren’t like the shiny red ones you can buy at the local store. The tree’s singular presence in an untamed field of weeds and wildflowers made it an even more tempting challenge to climb.
Growing up in the rural countryside, I loved to run and play, in the open fields and woods, with my friends and dog. I became good at swimming and other sports. Even though polio was in the news with pictures of children paralyzed from the untreatable illness—there was no effective treatment or vaccine. I felt invincible and in robust health. But with a turn of fate, the virus found me one summer day.
In his timely book, now published, Ronald R. Parks, MPH, MD, examines the impact of COVID-19 or other forms of crisis, loss, or tragedy on individual mental health.
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