The Importance of Journaling in Eating Disorder Recovery
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
So I’ll be the first to admit that I do not journal regularly. The idea of it sounds great, but sitting down to actually write and pour out your thoughts feels like too much work. I’m pretty sporadic at journaling, but when I do it feels SO good.
When I came home from school to attend treatment for my eating disorder, there really wasn’t much I could do. I couldn’t go for walks, go to the mall without a wheel chair, go out to eat (without excessive planning), and most of my friends were at work or school during the day. Netflix got boring after watching it all day every day and of course I read a little, but what really helped me sort through my thoughts was journaling.
It was really hard for me to make sense of everything- I was so mad at myself for “putting myself in this situation.” I 100% blamed myself for “allowing” myself to fall into the trap of an eating disorder. Eating disorders don’t discriminate and they are a combination of biological, psychological, environmental and social factors. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I had no control over having an eating disorder. Looking back, I now know it was just a hurdle in my life I had to climb.
Journaling is so important for many reasons-
Journaling my thoughts and feelings, when I felt so scared and alone, allowed me to understand my anger and confusion.
Journaling also helped me express myself to my family and friends. Eating disorders can be complicated and difficult for an outsider to understand, so when I shared some of my journal entries with family and friends, it really helped put everything into perspective.
When I felt so consumed with negative thoughts- of calories, weight, food, criticism- writing them down, closing the notebook, and shoving it away for the rest of the day really lifted a weight off my shoulders. It felt like I was expelling all those toxic thoughts and feelings into the universe and leaving them there to dry. Good riddance.
Journaling can bring a lot of mental clarity. Sometimes if I write down negative thoughts I have or if I’m stuck on a tough decision, after writing it down and reading it back sometimes I’m able to see how silly and false my negative thoughts were or able to make a decision about something after re-reading it, because it’s brought into a new perspective. It’s clear and literally written out right in front of me.
Journaling can be whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be you writing out your thoughts and feelings. It can be a recap of your day, about a specific situation, a story from the past, about someone you love, or even just bullet points of random thoughts. For me, this is how my journaling looks (when I do it). It’s just a jumble of my thoughts, feelings, day to day, goals, inspirations, and stories. In a way, this blog is like my journal- with each post I feel better about getting words onto paper and hope that it connects to one person.
Journaling is an outlet and can be so creative. I agree, it’s not for everyone. But when you’re stuck in the trenches of an eating disorder, it’s so scary. If you’re not ready to talk to anyone, but you want others to understand your perspective and struggles, write it down. It’s so rewarding to look back and see how far you’ve come.
Before I went into treatment, because I was so malnourished, I was a raging bitch to my friends. I was short, snappy, always blew them off, was defensive, I could go on. I couldn’t help acting this way because my brain was essentially broken- I wasn’t nourishing my brain and my hormones were completely off balance. But back at home I was writing in my journal how grateful I was for my friends sticking by me and still being supportive. I wrote about how much I valued their friendship during a time of so much uncertainty. Finally, I showed my friends my journal entry, and I think it brought them a lot of clarity and understanding into that my actions did not reflect my feelings towards them.
So basically, if you’re struggling with an eating disorder, disordered eating or body image and you’re not ready to talk to friends, family or even a therapist, start journaling. Write down your thoughts even if on paper they’re all jumbled. If speaking the words on how you’re feeling or how certain situations make you feel, write it down and revisit. When you are ready to talk to someone about your struggles, but you’re so scared to speak the words, bring someone you trust your journal and ask them for support and understanding.
I know eating disorders can feel shameful and embarrassing, and making the first step in speaking to someone can be so hard. Journaling can really start to break that barrier and validate your feelings for yourself.
If you have questions or need resources, reach out to myself or the National Eating Disorders Association website.