“People ask me why I write. I write to find out what I know.”
- Virginia Woolf
Taking pen to paper to express myself and process my experiences has always been an important refuge for me. I’ve seen the world through a decidedly introspective lens from a very early age, and journaling provides a quiet connection with my inner thoughts, feelings, and moods that allows me to process my world and the world swirling around me. Throughout much of my journey with psoriasis and other chronic conditions, I’ve used writing and journaling to chronicle flares and symptoms, monitor side effects, correlate triggers, identify patterns, and relate the emotional toll of chronic disease. Recently, I’ve used my journals as a seed collection for more reflective psoriasis stories shared with the intention of helping others facing similar diagnoses and challenges.
Data Is Powerful
At its most practical level, documenting symptoms, flares, and other bodily happenings through journaling creates an important record of my physical experiences. Journaling creates a data set that can be used to prepare for medical appointments, clarify facts for my care team, and shine the light of awareness on the ways that I am improving or struggling from day to day. So much of my life can be lived in a disembodied state as I race around making plans, worrying about the future, checking things off lists, and managing my interactions. It’s easy to tune out of my body. Keeping a record of how I feel is a pathway to tuning back in. And it doesn’t need to be complicated. During past psoriasis flares, even simply noting three bullet points a day with a symptom and severity focus spoke volumes (swelling – 6, pain – 7, or redness – 8, for example). Direct evidence is hard to ignore, and more importantly, it helps match a problem with a meaningful solution.
Patterns Paint a Picture
Over time and through consistent record-keeping, patterns begin to emerge, insights surface, and critical connections are made. I discovered agency in the reflection, awareness, and curiosity. Healing chronic conditions can be slow going sometimes, and keeping a daily record helped illuminate both progress and setbacks. How has my skin changed since starting this medication? When did I start to notice a change? How has it changed? If it’s not changing for the better, should I ask my doctor what comes next? Is this medication related to the headaches I’ve been experiencing? This flare is worse than usual, what foods am I eating? Have I been stressed? This kind of thoughtful inquiry helped me take responsibility for my health in concrete, self-informed ways, which in turn empowered me to manage my psoriasis and other chronic conditions with more confidence. It also motivated me to analyze my behaviors and initiate impactful change.
Awareness Creates Change
In the past few years, lifestyle and behavioral changes have kept my psoriasis and other chronic conditions in check, providing a solid foundation from which to explore other important and interrelated aspects of my wellness – like mindset and mental health. At the beginning of this year, I began keeping a wellness journal to bring additional richness and intentionality to my daily life. I am recording new data centered around gratitude, mood, mindfulness, and movement. Beyond the bullet points, journaling is also now a way for me to nurture play and creativity using color, collage, drawing, and stickers – a delightful side effect of fun in a life experience and personality sometimes hemmed in by seriousness and control. Halfway through the year, wellness journaling has become a treasured ritual that helps me prepare and plan for each week, pause and reflect on my well-being each day, and respond to my own needs with mindfulness and compassion. More than the sum of its colorful, stickered pages, my wellness journal is a joyful outlet and a physical symbol of a daily commitment to faithful self-inquiry and self-care – always asking, “How are you today?”
Photo Credit: Cavan Images / Cavan via Getty Images
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