“What is that you have there? Is that your diary? Are you writing about your feelings? Does your boyfriend know?”
Journaling is something that was never for me, and I was sure of it, even though I didn’t really know how to keep one or what it was. Although, I was sure I knew what it was. It was a place where people wrote to themselves, a place where they could admit their weaknesses, imperfections, and insecurities. A journal was where you kept your deep, dark secrets, where you admitted your faults and where you wrote your judgments about the people in your life. A journal was for ‘those’ people. ‘Those’ people. Whatever that meant. It was never about a specific group or identity. It was never from any place of hate or anger. It just wasn’t something that I knew about so that meant it wasn’t for me.
I know that a lot of people keep a journal and as I think back, I can remember hearing about people that I knew writing in one. Other than a quick judgment and an awkward change of subject, maybe even a derogatory comment depending on who it was, I would go about my life unaffected. Knowing that it was never for me, it never even crossed my mind to keep one of my own. Why would I? What problems do I have? I am not weak and insecure. I am better than this… Besides, if I had kept a journal, my friends and family would have eaten me alive, guaranteed. I know this because I have seen it and been apart of it. I was a kid once, I allowed others to have a greater influence on me than I should have, I was an influence on others that I shouldn’t have been. A lot of our growth is realizing where we may have been wrong and then learning different ways and different perspectives to hopefully become better. Sometimes we are aware of this and sometimes we just realize that we have changed our minds.
Nobody is perfect and until we know, we don’t know.
From my childhood, possibly in my teens, maybe sooner, I have always had a weight problem. I was always one of the bigger kids and NEVER knew that it was a result of my own habits and routines. I mean, just like my opinion on journaling, how could I have known? Because the internet wasn’t around, or as easily available as it is now, I just had to trust that I was being taught the right way to feel, act and behave. I guess I also had to trust that those before me were taught the right way to feel, act and behave and those before them. Hmm, this really could go on and on for generations, but that is for another blog. Despite having this weight problem, I was still active. I played some sports and surprised those around me that I could run around and compete. This didn’t last long though because I got older as I lacked any confidence to try. This lack of confidence would hold me back as I would never try out for any team that I wasn’t guaranteed to make (i.e., house league), I wouldn’t try and make any school sports teams, I wouldn’t even go to any school dances. This lack of confidence and fear of judgment followed me for years. Growing up, we lived in the country, and I wouldn’t even risk asking a girl on a date and have my parents be involved in driving me somewhere.
As I carried on and was up and down in weight, at the end of 2020 and at 36 years old, I had finally gotten to a point that I reached my rock bottom. I was aware of the ways I was still very fortunate as I had a job and a healthy family, but I wasn’t sure what to call this defining moment if I had to put a label on it. As I started to become open to different podcasts and listen to people share their journey through adversity, I spent time, as we do, comparing myself to others and feeling ashamed of my darkest moment. I was ashamed because I was comparing myself to what others defined as their rock bottom moment. I guess I thought that I had to have it much worse to be qualified enough to call it that. According to Oxford Dictionary, Rock Bottom is simply defined as, “the lowest possible level.” No disrespect to what other people have gone through and what they call their defining moments, but this was about me and I was at my lowest possible level. I needed a change.
Near the end of 2020 and miserable in every way, I found myself at 320lbs and the heaviest and most unhealthy I had ever been. Why couldn’t I stick to a diet? Why couldn’t I exercise? Why…? Thinking about that moment, I would have argued that I tried everything. Now, having listened to many hours of Tony Robbins books and programs, I couldn’t confidently give you more than a few things I actually tried and none of them for very long, so it is no surprise why it never seemed to work for me. Most people that knew me, knew I was very negative and cynical. I would often find the negative in almost everything and find a way to change the people around me to feel the same. This negativity was all because of how I felt about myself and how upset I was that I had become this person. I could feel the people around me were growing tired of the negativity and I could almost hear their eyes roll in their heads as I downplay another otherwise happy event. Where else was I to complain and vent about the things that made me angry, the things I was jealous about or the ways that I was the victim. What was I to do?
As I grew more and more miserable and unhealthy and realised that the people around me were tired of my attitude, I needed another outlet. Extremely concerned for me and who I was becoming, my wife started catching me in the moment and trying to help me realize that I was being this way. As I continued being negative, upset, and stubborn about making anything better, I wasn’t yet making any changes and my wife was not afraid to call me on it. Because I felt that I didn’t have anyone that I could talk to and in one last effort to still have a place that I could complain, I started keeping a journal. I found the closest unused notebook, made sure nobody was watching and I started writing. I wrote about everything I was doing, everything I felt and everything I needed to complain about. I really beat myself up in this notebook. I called myself names. I questioned why I let myself become such a disgusting mess and I vented about everything. In the beginning, it was quite frequent that I wrote and all much of the same stuff. I didn’t even call it a journal because I felt very shameful and embarrassed not only about my current position at the time, but the fact I was writing in this way. I didn’t even tell my wife about it at first. I just didn’t want any feedback. I didn’t want any judgment. I didn’t want anyone to offer any suggestions. After I finished my writing sessions, I would bury this notebook in the back of my closet and would tell no one. Nobody could find out I was keeping a journal. This was my secret.
While I didn’t write everyday, or even every week, I did start to write more and more. I even started to feel that I could let my wife read a bit of it, so she knew what I was feeling and going through. This began to help so much because it gave me a safe space to outlet that I could choose how to both receive it myself and share with someone else, should I choose to. As I continued to journal, I continued to grow. I reached the beginning of 2021 and started setting new goals for myself. Goals that challenged the person that I thought I was and were as foreign to me as journaling once was. I have both written and spoke about the decision to stop drinking alcohol as the catalyst for any change that I have been able to make but the truth is that deciding to journal and be vulnerable, even if just to myself, was the start of something massive for me.
We all need help at various points in our lives and we don’t often know how to either ask for it or to accept it if it arrives. I felt I had to be tough, suck it up and fix it myself. In that belief, I thought things like journaling were for someone else, as I defined earlier. Much like the things I didn’t know and still don’t know, I was wrong in my assumptions and have found tremendous benefits to just organizing my thoughts and having a safe space to outlet. I have become more confident and have learned that we all deal with these adversities in our own way, most times without any tools to help us through it. Having come from very masculine dominant backgrounds, careers and lifestyles including doing or not doing certain things because I let my environment dictate what is and isn’t for me, I can confidently tell you that I enjoy journaling. I enjoy having these notebooks and I use them much more productively now than I ever have.
Why don’t you give it a try?