I Write in Colours to Match my Mood

Sometimes the writing is poetic - it is today. I have woken to a beautiful snowy Dunedin and journaling has encouraged me to drink it all in and appreciate it. Sometimes it is just a few words, or a list.
— Melissa Bell

I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in March 2012.  At that time it truly felt like my world came crashing down.  I struggled to cope with the realisation that I had cancer.  I also struggled to manage the diverse range of emotions.

I am not sure what drew me to start writing. A friend gave me a book voucher when I was diagnosed.  I went to a book shop and bought a blank journal and some nice pens.  That night I went home and wrote about what had happened to me, and a little about what I was feeling.

My first journal entries, when I look back at them, are pretty devoid of emotion.  They are more like a record of what I did, appointments, scans, biopsies and treatment plans.  But as I wrote more and more, journaling began to morph into something truly meaningful for me.  I started to vent, I started to reflect, and grieve, I started to plan what I would do with the rest of my life post cancer.  And my journal became the one place that I felt I could be truly honest.  I quickly filled my first journal, and went and bought a second.  That too was filled very quickly, and so I filled another and another.  My journals have travelled everywhere with me – to Japan and the USA on work trips, to Kaiteriteri on a cancer retreat (thanks Whole Lotta Life) and I write in it almost every single day.  Without it I begin to panic.

I write in colours to match my moods, I add stickers to celebrate the completion of treatments and scans, I add inspirational quotes or passages from books that are powerful and meaningful.  I do a regular ‘Sunday set up’ entry when I plan the week ahead.  This helps me fit runs, yoga classes and catch up with friends around work and family responsibilities.  I also do a regular ’Wednesday checkpoint’ where I reflect on how the week is going for me.   Sometimes I write to my husband, sons, family and friends. 

Journaling has been described as meditating with a pen in your hand.  This is not what journaling was like for me in the early days, but it has evolved to be exactly that for me.  Sometimes I will write for 30 or 40 minutes, and when I am finished I am almost unaware of what I have actually written.

Sometimes the writing is poetic -  it is today.  I have woken to a beautiful snowy Dunedin and journaling has encouraged me to drink it all in and appreciate it.  Sometimes it is just a few words, or a list.

Every now and then I look back on what I have written and I reflect on how far I have come.  I am a different person now than when I was first diagnosed.  I take more care of my personal health, I appreciate the little things in life.  I think I am a better Mum and a better wife.  I am stronger and more optimistic.  I care less about constantly pleasing people, and I care more about sticking to my values.  All this is evident in my journal.

And one day I will die.  Personally I am really hoping this day is a very long way off.  But when I go there is an amazing record of my life, and more importantly our family life, left behind for others.


Suggestions for journaling:

·      Treat yourself to a beautiful notebook and some nice pens.  Journaling should be an indulgent activity.

·      Write what you want to write.  Be honest.  This is for you not others.

·      Appreciate that your journaling will evolve.  It might start as a record of your day, but over time it will become a source of support for you.

·      Some people use prompts to start their writing.   You could have a jar of prompts, and draw one out randomly.  I am happy to provide a list of prompts to anyone who is interested.  Kikki K also sell a 365 journalling prompt resource (http://www.kikki-k.com/blog/365-journaling-prompts/)

·      If you come across an idea that interests or challenges you, write about that.  I have been reading material from the Happiness Institute and am currently writing about their ‘CHOOSE’ acronym for happiness.  (http://www.thehappinessinstitute.com/freeproducts/default.aspx).

·      Record what inspires you – photos, quotes, ideas, cards from friends, recipes, poems

·      I often do a daily gratitude list – 3 things I am grateful for.

·      Write observations of others, write little notes and letters addressed to them

·      Some people draw and sketch rather than write

·      Keep a log of successes and achievements

·      Develop your intuition by posing questions, and then responding to them as if you were offering someone else advice.

Guest Blogger:   Melissa Bell