Nathan's Blog- write yourself well
The benefits of writing about how you are feeling.
Ever had that feeling there’s just so much noise going on upstairs that your head is likely to explode? Perhaps dealing with your loved one’s substance misuse means you’re living with this kind of emotional turmoil on a daily basis. One of the more emotionally daunting tasks I’ve undertaken in my work for Kina was writing a blog about my personal experiences of coping with my son’s drug use. To say the situation was stressing me out is an understatement. I had become a hostage to my own fears and worst case scenarios were constantly running through my mind. Quite frankly I had become an insomnia suffering emotional wreck.
I want to share a little bit about the journey committing my feelings into print has taken me on and look at some of the scientific evidence out there proving that writing about our feelings is good for us!
When I decided to sit down and write about my son’s drug use, I essentially gave myself permission to let it all out- nothing would shame me, nothing would be withheld. I guess I was able to make this decision secure in the knowledge that whatever came out was free from the fear of judgment and shame (in my mind) of being a failed parent. I think these fears are powerful motivators that keep us silent when we should be unburdening ourselves. Writing about it freed me from these social constraints. I could write whatever I wanted and I could choose what I shared with others and what was just for me. It was actually a really liberating place to be. Once I started the process (the emotional equivalent of lancing a boil) and got what was going on in my head down on paper, I found I gained a new and much more balanced perspective on my situation. Nothing with my son had changed but somehow once I’d run the gauntlet and expressed myself in writing I was able to develop an acceptance of my son’s drug use I hadn't previously thought possible.
I found I had more acceptance towards him- more acceptance of how tough it is being a teenager- more acceptance that try as I might, I couldn't control his drug use- more acceptance that I wasn’t in fact a crummy parent.
This doesn’t mean any of my feelings about my son’s drug use have changed. I’ve got all the evidence in the world from generations of addiction within my family that his actions are highly likely to have a detrimental effect on his life. But he’s a teenager right! Who can tell him anything right now? I had to get to a place where I was able to disagree with his current lifestyle choices but be accepting of his teenage worldview- (smoking dope is fun, why wouldn’t you do it 24 hours a day!). What that actually means in terms of our relationship today is I’m able to express my feelings to him calmly and as a result, I find he is much more likely to listen to me because we are no longer caught up in an ongoing conflict where someone always has to be right. It’s been a hard place for me to get to. I’ve had to focus on what I can do as a parent and let go of the things that just don’t work.
Do I still fear for my son’s future? Damn right I do! The thing I acknowledge today though is that he is much more likely to come to me for help if our relationship isn’t one of daily acrimony. Today we are much closer and communicate with one another more effectively than when we were engaged in constant warfare. I sleep soundly most nights too, and find myself much less prone to having my fears overwhelm me. So what’s the message I’m trying to impart?
And science agrees. Here’s a list of health benefits psychology department studies from around the world have found associated with the regular writing down of feelings.
- Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor
- Improved immune system functioning
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved lung function
- Improved liver function
- Fewer days in hospital
- Improved mood/affect
- Feeling of greater psychological well-being
- Reduced depressive symptoms before examinations
- Fewer post-traumatic intrusion and avoidance symptoms
- Reduced absenteeism from work
- Quicker re-employment after job loss
- Improved working memory
- Improved sporting performance
- Higher students’ grade point average
So the moral of the story, pick up a pen today and write yourself to freedom! You might even decide what you write is fit for human consumption and choose to share it on the kina site. Remember your story might really help out someone struggling with similar circumstances!