When I was young (very young) someone bought me a Disney diary. It only had about four lines for each day, but as the weeks passed I started to write in it every day; and as time wore on I ended up with a diary that had a page for each day and I religiously diarised my life as it unfolded.
At the time I wrote about what had happened, but it is only now that I realise that I also wrote about how I felt; and those diaries helped me to make some sense of the tsunami of emotions that I experienced in my teenage years.
Looking back now I can see that it helped me to deal with the cruel things that come your way as you grow up. I was always the girl that had never had a boyfriend until I was fifteen. I was insecure about my looks: being the only girl that wore glasses, and I felt like a freak at times; so I kept my diary and wrote how I felt, and as a result I grew stronger and I realised that often boys found me attractive because of my personality. I lost the glasses along the way and ironically I ended up gettting engaged at eighteen and married twice.
I learned through writing those diary entries to see people for what they often were, and not what I wanted them to be. Writing those diaries enabled me to face my fears, they taught me to reflect, and they honed by ability to be resilient; it is only as I write this today that I realise that.
I stopped keeping my diaries when my dog was run over and died. It took me weeks to catch up on my diary keeping, because the thought of writing about what had happened was too painful. I did write it in the end but that was my last entry for over twenty-seven years.
So those who read this blog know that my diary keeping actually re-entered my life and morphed into keeping a journal at what was, ironically, the most painful time of my life: when infidelity entered my life and took up residence.
So why am I writing this post?
Because I know that most people who will have gravitated towards this blog will have a broken heart; and that will more then definitely have been caused by infidelity. I know that as part of the madness in which those people find themselves they will be swinging from one feeling to another like Tarzan through the jungle: I am happy, I am sad, I am happy, I am so angry! I am distraught, I am destroyed, I am lost, I am strong, I am frightened, I am bewildered, I am confused and on and on and on; God knows I remember it well
So this post is about journal keeping. Keep a journal: face your fears. As I say so often ‘the worst has already happened.’ If I had not kept my journal (and I still journal today) Danny and I would not have survived.
I know that a lot of people, since reading this blog, have started to journal. I wonder though how many of them have kept it up, and also how many of them are honest in what they write.
Journal keeping is different to a blog: as I write this I think about what I want to say, I think about how it will be received; I think about other’s feelings because there are so many different prismes to infidelity, and yet weirdly so many parts of it that are the same for all. But when I write my journal I don’t think about what I am going to write, I open the page and I just write the first thought that comes into my head, and let it flow from there.
All of my journals are handwritten; I don’t think about punctuation, spelling or grammar; once I start to write I know that I just need to keep writing and my mind will show me the way.
I suppose all those early years of diarising took the fear of what was in my head away from me; I had learnt early on that it could only make me feel better, although I may cry at the time of writing it.
I have recently researched the benefit of journalling with regard to mental health and in One article they explain that keeping a journal is especially helpful for people who are suffering from trauma and PTSD. I know that the betrayed (and sometimes the Wayward) suffer from that – of that I have not doubt!
Keeping a journal enables us to confront the very emotions that we are afraid of; sometimes over and over again, until in the end we are able to process them. But here is the crux and the whole point of this post: people struggle to journal because they are afraid of what they will write; they are afraid of what will come out; they are afraid to admit to what they are trying to suppress; we are back to good old fear again.
When you look at my journal entries from July until the October 2007, the subject of Danny having sex with ‘her’ comes up over and over again. To start with my mind protects me: it tells me that I believe Danny; that he is telling me the truth, that we can move forward because ultimately it knew that I wanted us to survive; and if I had faced the truth at that time, then I would not be here writing this post today.
But as I grew stronger the entries changed and in the end I knew that he had lied to me; but I also knew why he had lied to me: because he knew that I would not stay, and at that point I was able to write about it in my journal and process it.
In the October of 2007 there is a journal entry where I admit to myself that Danny had been lying to me, in it I am distraught but then I write:
‘I do want us to work; I think that for us to break up would be a waste and incredibly sad; a catastrophe for Danny.’
If I had not kept a journal where I had written so many times how I loved Danny, how I could see all the things that he was doing to make it better; where I had reflected on the person that I was, or seen some of the contributions that had led to where we were; and instead had listened to the left hand side of my brain the good old demon , then our story would have been a very different story.
Over and over I kept coming back to the subject of Danny having sex with ‘her’ because I knew that what I had been told was not true. When you keep a journal, and really keep a journal: by opening the page and not thinking about what you are going to write; the left hand side of your brain is ‘shut out’: the side of your brain that is analytical and spins you stories; and the right hand side of your brain is allowed to explain to you what is actually on your mind.
The other reason that I urge people to keep a journal is because it helps us to become more self-aware, and recognise our thoughts and behaviours.
I interact with a lot of people now whose lives have been torn apart by infidelity: sometimes more than once by the same person. I understand their anger, rage and how that has led to their bitterness; but there comes a time when the only person who can help the betrayed is themselves: by making decisions about what they want in their life, and from their life, and I believe that if they kept a journal it would enable them to move forward in a healthy way, by being able to reflect on themselves.
The only person you have all your life is you.
So here is what I did:
- I bought a pretty book to write in and I kept a hand-written journal
- I wrote in it whenever I felt ‘the need’, and sometimes because I knew that I had left it too long since my last entry.
- I opened the page and I just wrote the first thing that came into my mind. Some people advocate thinking about what you want to write but for me that enabled the ‘demon’ to have it’s say and tell me what I wanted to write. I have to just open the book and go with the flow. Here are some examples of opening lines from my journal entries:
“Why won’t this sadness go away? Or am I asking too much?” (2007)
” I am not getting any better: That is how I feel” (2007) ”
“Hormones again!! But my God how much better am I than the ramblings of the mad woman back in July?” (2008)
“Although I don’t have an overwhelming urge to write in my journal I have come to realise that I probably need to do it anyway – to keep my head clear.” (2010)
“So I am writing a quickie because things are running around in my head…” (2013)
“I have been asked by Danny if I regretted my move in my job, and I have always said no; but it is hard and again I have been lying to myself in some ways…” (2013)
- I always re-read what I had written before I wrote a new entry (apart from the very odd occasion when there was a particular thing on my mind that I needed to clarify) because more often than not I did not feel what I had felt before; or I had moved forward and resolved what was on my mind. But re-reading it gave me clarity, it let me file some things away; and it made me face things that were still on my mind.
- I reminded myself if I had not written my journal for a time, and I wrote in it; I was always amazed by how much was actually mulling away in my mind.
- If I felt ‘the need’ to write in it I did.
- I was not afraid of what I would write because I knew that acknowledging it was the only way I could deal with it.
- I never worried about my grammar or punctuation.
- I never lied to myself. What would be the point of that?
- I always re-read what I had written at the time I wrote it.
- I write my journals in a quiet place without other people around me. Often I don’t tell other’s I am going to write my journal, even now.
- I don’t worry about what others will think if they read it – they shouldn’t be reading it unless invited, so if they do and find something that hurts them that’s their lesson not mine.
I have highlighted one part of this because for me it is really important (and maybe what some people are afraid of) I write my journal in a quiet place, and often don’t tell others, because it is as if I am opening up my head and exposing all my personal thoughts. That is a scary thing; but once you do it, really do it, the benefit of it is so powerful; because you cannot lie to yourself, and if you do you know you are doing it and that in itself is scary place to be.
I do often tell Danny when I have written in my journal, I sometimed read the entry to him because more often than not what I have written is about us in the here and now, and where our adventure will take us.
Danny would never read my journal unless I asked him to. That is quite simply respect, and I would question where I was if I was with someone who may read it.
I hope this post has helped some people, especially those struggling to move forward.
I thought for those that really want to do it I would give you a kick start: Why don’t you write as the first line:
‘What am I trying to achieve?’
“Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.” – Natalie Goldberg
Making This Better the book is now available including the journal entries for the first 5 years of our recovery & the whole 21 days of ‘The War’. Available internationally in paperback and ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble also available at Xlibris and Apple Books for iPad and Waterstones Bookstores for click & collect
I would love to hear your feedback.