I first started writing after retiring from work due to my health when I was 28. I enjoyed it. It was a good distraction. I wrote poems and stories which took me to another world away from my pain. A couple of poems were published in anthologies and some others were published in newspapers. My confidence got a boost. When they were published, I remember doing a few happy dances during an otherwise difficult time.
But writing can be so much more than just a distraction. For people who live with a chronic health condition, writing can be helpful. It can be extremely therapeutic.
Writing became therapeutic for me
Several years ago, when I was going through a particularly difficult time with my trigeminal neuralgia, I started writing a blog. I had never been in the habit of talking much about my pain. I gave the standard, “I’m fine,” answer when people asked how I was. My family knew that I wasn’t fine, but that standard answer was easier than explaining. But you can only go for so long saying that. Sometimes you need to say how you really feel. And that’s where my old blog came in useful.
It helped me. It was like a release valve. I talked about the pain, but I also got a lot of emotions out of my system by talking about how I was feeling. It didn’t matter if nobody read it. It only mattered that I wrote it. I simply needed to say, “you know what, some days I feel crap.” It was cathartic.
I shared my blog in trigeminal neuralgia support groups and people wrote to me and said that I’d written exactly how they felt. They said that they’d had problems explaining their pain. They let their families read my blog, telling them it was exactly how they felt.
Blogging about my pain had not only helped me, but it had helped other people too.
I wrote about other subjects in that blog too – life, family, pets, even politics. Eventually, I wrote more about the other subjects and less about my pain. I think that was a sign that the ‘writing therapy’ was working.
How writing can be helpful
Writing can be cathartic
Writing about our illness is almost as though we are giving ourselves permission to open up. Very often, people really need to get thoughts and feelings out of their systems, but don’t want to talk. Putting them onto paper is an excellent alternative. They can let off steam, vent anger and frustrations, write about their worries and fears.
Writing can teach you about your pain and emotions
When people get into the habit of keeping a journal, a diary or blogging about their illness, they begin to pay more attention to what’s going on in their bodies. They might notice patterns and triggers.
Sometimes people don’t realise what emotions they are dealing with. But once they start writing, they start to examine their own feelings more. Once they know what they’re dealing with, they can find ways of coping.
Writing can help bring acceptance
Coping with a new diagnosis is often frightening and very difficult to accept. Often writing about it can help. Sometimes, everything becomes a jumbled mess in a person’s head, so writing down facts and fears can be a starting point to finding a way ahead.
Writing can help bring closure
Writing about surgery or a frightening illness can help to bring closure. If they write about how serious the operation or illness was and how they felt, both physically and emotionally, a person can often put it in the past and start to look forward.
Writing can help others understand
It’s often easier to write than to talk. Talking about their problems can become too emotional and only part of the story is told. That means that only part of the story is heard. When people take their time to write, they can say everything that needs to be said. This allows other people to read and really digest what’s been written so they can understand more.
Writing can help other people
People feel less alone with their health problems when they know other people live with the same issues. Reading someone else’s words, can also help them to explain their own health to their family.
Writing can help a doctor understand
When people get into the habit of writing about their pain or illness, they become more familiar with explaining it which will help when talking to their doctor. It can help them to realise the questions they need to ask their doctor.
Writing can put things into perspective
Sometimes when we see things written down, we can take a deep breath, then look at it more calmly and rationally.
Ways to write about your health
Keep a diary or a journal or write a blog. A journal would normally be private, unless you choose to let someone read it. A blog can also be kept private or you can allow a specific audience, or you can make it public. Writing a blog can be completely free of charge.
You don’t need to journal or blog about it. You could simply write a letter to your pain or illness. Tell it exactly what you think of it. Tell it how it makes you feel. Tell it that you’d like it to be more considerate. Or tell it that you will listen to it more so you can try to get on with each other better.
Write about your pain or illness, and any worries, fears and anxieties you have. Ask yourself questions like what’s the hardest part of your illness, what scares you about it and what’s your biggest fear. Sometimes, acknowledging those thoughts and fears can be a step towards dealing with them.
Try not to only write about bad days. Write about good days too. Try to find something positive every day and write about that. Very often we are bogged down by negatives in our lives, so it’s important to seek out positives.
Things to remember about writing about your health
- It is sometimes easier to write it than say it.
- Nobody needs to read what you write unless you want them to.
- Don’t hold back – write exactly how you are feeling.
- It doesn’t matter about spelling or punctuation if you are writing to help yourself.
- A few words or a few pages – it’s up to you.
- There are no rights or wrongs when you write for this purpose. Do what feel is right for you.
Do you write and do you find it helps you? Or do you think that writing could help you? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section.
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