To Journal–To Save a Life

Journaling saved my life. Throughout the turmoil of my twenties, writing in a journal gave me a safe space to live. In the pages of my notebooks, I drew pictures, raged, played with words, poemed, analyzed and understood myself, and basically figured out how to go on living day-to-day. I taped in images from magazines and newspapers, voting receipts, tickets to concerts, notes from friends, the poems of others. I was depressed, at times suicidal, and journaling helped me feel my worth. Despite whatever else was going on in my outer life, my inner life was one of growth. I sensed this and it kept me wanting to see where my words led. In short, the awareness that journaling gives birth to kept me alive.

Here are a few excerpts from that time:

6/26/78   SELF:

i am easily bruised today                                                                                                                                                                                                lying here  thinking only                                                                                                                                                                                                   of what i am not, what i could’ve been                                                                                                                                                                     who i could be like, where else i could be                                                                                                                                                                  . . .

i want to rewake, remake this day                                                                                                                                                                        wake early, morning tea                                                                                                                                                                                                  a poem                                                                                                                                                                                                                              inner blossoming                                                                                                                                                                                                          and no tear, no tears



Someone had copied the poem and given it to me, so I taped it into my journal.

7/25/78  INCUBATION:


This last image amazes me. I had taped it onto the inside of the cover of my journal titled INCUBATION. Indeed, the image captures the journaling process–one dives deeply into the water of one’s consciousness (sub- and un-) and surfaces with precious insights. At this time in therapy, I was exploring for the first time the effects of the pyloric stenosis surgery (stomach operation) I’d undergone at 26 days old. Here the diver receives oxygen artificially as I did lying in my oxygen-tented crib day after day in recovery in 1952. In 1978, 26 years later, I was beginning to recover my own version of that early story of trauma. I was writing a new script.

Journaling is an act of survival.



0 Responses to To Journal–To Save a Life

    • Your comment reminds me of the quote from Audre Lorde’s essay The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action. Lorde writes: “And of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. But my daughter, when I told her of our topic and my difficulty with it, said, ‘Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.”

    • In a way, it is! But we’re opening our pages for the world to look in! And, we reveal ourselves almost the moment we put our ‘pen’ down. Amazing!

  1. wendy thanks.
    i like
    ellen both writings
    i too carry all my little journals wherever i go in my bag on the bus, to the store everywhere. it’s my friend who i talk to as i go along.

    • Journals as your friend as you go along–lovely! You know, come to think of it, back in 1978 I didn’t have many friends. Actually, only one real friend whom I could confide in, so the journal was, I see now, another friend. 🙂 And I so needed the friendship back then. I still journal. One of my best habits. I still rely on it, but in a different way. Thanks.

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