“Writing things down” became a way of life for me at a young age. Intuitively, journal writing became a mainstay for me in navigating the emotional waters of my life while facing the inevitable everyday challenges as well as being diagnosed with cancer over 20 years ago.
Throughout those days and weeks, I wrote daily, often multiple times in the day. It helped me uncover the emotions that were driving my feeling like a victim, and helped me move on to be a self-advocate partnering with care providers. By writing about what mattered to me, my values, my powerful self-affirmation, emerged being an inspiration to live life fully. It was and is today:
“I successfully maintain a healthy lifestyle, and will see my grandchildren grow well into adulthood”.
As I continued to evolve and change with my life’s journey, I continued to repeat the process of writing, reflection, self-affirmation and committed action-planning. It’s my way of managing stress and forging ahead positively.
I decided to share the gift of writing to those in my professional life. During my years as a VP in a large consulting firm, I got to know the leaders of various organizations. These were executives who paid a huge price with their health from the stress they experienced every day. Many adopted writing to support themselves in making personal change as well as change for those they led, and their organizations.
After leaving the corporate world, my life’s work focuses on writing, integrative health coaching, community service and sharing the integrated writing method that makes a difference in peoples lives, health and stress management.
In doing the research for our book, we were struck with the volumes of proof that stress causes illness and writing improves health. Put the two together and I feel compelled to campaign for writing to be atop the list of tools to achieve and maintain optimal health and manage stress, as the research pioneers have proven in the last many decades.
For years, my email closing has been ‘Be Well!’ I mean that wholeheartedly; it’s a personal self-affirmation and gift all rolled into one. It is also central to the process Sue and I want to share with others to help address stress and achieve a lifestyle of optimal health.
I started writing personal narratives in my mid-20’s when I was going through a particularly stressful time of life. Writing down my thoughts and feelings provided the clarity I needed to chart a course of action. I’ve always turned to writing at critical junctures in my life. That’s why it was a normal response to journal about my new health condition when I was diagnosed with diabetes.
Around the same time I was diagnosed, I began taking classes to become a facilitator in legacy, creative and memoir writing. I also achieved a master’s degree in clinical counseling. I combined counseling with my interest in writing and began facilitating writing groups for my clients and others. The people in my groups told me how much better they felt after writing. Their words opened new windows of understanding on their lives and their health.
I also tested the healing potential of writing in an international setting with women living in Malawi, Africa. For many, this was the first time they’d been encouraged to write their stories and feelings about their life experiences. I witnessed the power of writing to touch deep places within these women and what it meant to them to share their secrets. Although it was not easy for them to write about some of their traumas, they felt affirmed and heard. The experience confirmed for me that writing our life stories, the painful ones as well as the joyful ones, is universally healing in any language.
I continue to apply what I’ve learned through these experiences to my own resistance to the lifestyle changes diabetes demands of me. Diabetes is an unrelenting, inconvenient disease that is with me 24/7; but, writing about it has helped me shift my perspective so that today I can live side by side with diabetes without having it rule my life. The affirmation I live with daily is:
“I am a healthy, vibrant woman living successfully with diabetes.”
My affirmation reminds me that diabetes is not my whole life story; it is merely one storyline among many in my personal narrative. And ultimately, we are all so much more than any condition that might be challenging us.