**this is an ongoing series here at Carry on my heart, you can read the first part here.
Standing in my present, a safe distance from my past, I gaze back through the years to see a former me.
She is a new wife and a new mom.
She was also…
There is a night that she was at the end of her rope which is etched deeply into my memory.
The veil between here and the spiritual world felt thin that night, the demons were screeching loudly.
Sitting slumped on the edge of her bed, leaning over, face in her hands, she was sobbing silently as to not wake her husband. Exhausted by the frightening thoughts stuck on replay in her head and the panic that engulfed her. She was wishing it would all just end… and terrified it might.
She had a choice to make.
Meeting her there.
When I go back in my mind’s eye, I enter there quietly and kneel in front of her – silent for a moment in her presence because it feels like sacred ground.
The pain is raw, even now, all of these many years later.
Her face is mine, but younger and far more sorrowful. Smile lines have many years before they make an appearance and her tired green eyes leak endless tears. Dark curls are balled up in a bun, she lacks the strength to brush it.
Tilting my head, I imagine hunching down in front of her. Her arms were so thin, the wretched anxiety allowed her to eat very little. I long now to lift her trembling chin in my hand, to wipe away those tears and smile gently. Yearning for her to hear, “Don’t worry, your story becomes beautiful, nothing you’ve felt will go to waste, I promise.”
That fearful girl…
During my journey to healing, I was afraid of that fearful girl.
I was ashamed of her sadness, embarrassed by her swollen eyes and unkempt appearance. I didn’t want to share this ugly, shamefaced version of me. Surely no one would want her around.
I didn’t give her grace or a voice and I ignored the lessons I could have learned from her for a long time.
How to Journal Your Way to Healing
Letting her speak
I kept the pages she wrote during those years in a drawer.
I used to be petrified of her returning. I concluded that lingering too long over the tear-stained sheets would cause the sadness, like a snake sinking its venom into my veins, to overwhelm me and pull me back there again.
When I dared to go back I remembered that night as a turning point. A beginning of a choice.
Going through the pages she wrote has allowed me to listen to her and find value in those hard places.
What I found, to my surprise, were words written by a deep thinker, an extremely imaginative mind, and a hurting soul. I saw a changing on each page: a leaning in, a learning to listen and a willingness to try.
For healing to occur, it first takes a belief it can happen and then a choice to try.
Journaling is so very important. It is tangible evidence of where you’ve been and allows you to build a roadmap to where you want to go.
“Oh, that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!” Job 19:23
*Chills. Because here they are – written in The Book.
Job, a man at the end of his rope, speaking from the place of unimaginable pain, wishing his words were written down and saved forever.
These words were exhaled with no idea as to the impact they would have. I can’t help but think, what if he would’ve held them in? All of those amazingly painful, confused words.
The hurting heart finds value and comfort from Job’s pain, from his words and from God’s words to him. They are pearls occurring from the pressure cooker of pain that Job lived.
Thank God for his words.
Journal your way to healing
I challenge you to learn from your hurt places as well. Don’t hide them and don’t hide from them. It may seem like the last thing in the world you want to do, but friend, believe me – just write:
- Ideally, you want to write your words out on paper with a pen. Forming the letters with a pen on paper is healing and helpful, as it accesses the left side (or rational side) of your brain, it frees up the right side (or creative side.) Journaling allows both to work simultaneously to come up with solutions.
- If you can’t actually write- try typing or speak into your phone’s notes. Just get the words that are driving you crazy out of your head and into the world.
- Write out what you are feeling and thinking so it gets the thoughts into some sort of order – this helps with problem-solving.
- Be truthful in your writing and I challenge you to seek out the lies. When you do, label it as a lie and find a truth that will slap those lies in the face.
- If you struggle with persistent fears or worries, write them out and begin to look for a pattern in your worries. Find scriptures that combat that specific worry or fear or write them out. Work on memorizing those scriptures in place of those fears.
We have the choice to either listen and believe the thoughts in our minds or speak into them.
Journaling allows us to pause, hear our thoughts and address them head-on.
True peace comes when we replace lies with the truth.
I don’t fear her anymore—that frightened girl. Something I didn’t know then was that she didn’t need fixing because she was already fixed. She was His all along.
Through the pain and the words, a passion and perseverance I didn’t know were possible have risen up inside me.
She helped me, through her words, to find my own words and to release them to the world.
I go back to remind myself to keep moving forward.
Only then can I shut the door to those memories and sink my toes in the sand of where I am today.
Like a sunset immediately followed by a sunrise. My past and my present need not be so far apart; one does not lack more value than the other.
The veil was thin that night, this is true…
The veil of heaven.
He was there all along, slumped on the bed, arms wrapped around me, putting each tear in a bottle and keeping me safe.
There was purpose even there. I didn’t know it then, but I do now.
Leigha | OfferingGrace says
Susan, thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. I love the tips that you have about getting the thoughts out of your head, but then looking for the lies and labeling them as such. Very helpful. Just like you, I have struggled with depressed and anxiety since I was young. And just like you, I have always kept journals. Thank you so much.
Susan McIlmoil says
Oh Leigha, thank you. Yes, it is extremely helpful to write. It’s hard- there are times I really didn’t feel like it, but I found the more I did, the more it helped!
Wow! Thank you for sharing such a dark time to encourage us. You are a gifted writer and so full of wisdom.
Susan McIlmoil says
Thank you, Char! I appreciate your words.
You had me captured so much Susan. It was as though you knew everything about me and I was standing in front of myself as a little girl. I so wish I could put my arms around her and say that everything was going to be ok. I agree about the writing process. When I was little I did a lot of poems though. Thank you so much for your profound words.
Susan McIlmoil says
Hi Lynne, I am so glad this hit home for you! It’s amazing what making peace with the younger you can do… I too wrote poems and stories when I was young and have kept many. When I was suffering so terribly with anxiety/depression it was difficult to write so part of starting my blog was to encourage others and to rekindle that love of writing! God bless!
Leslie Newman says
Thank you, Susan, for being so open and honest in your post. God is surely going to use that to help others. Writing is healing. Thank you so much for sharing with us some ideas about how to do this in creative ways. This was a very encouraging post about a journey that many women take in life. Thank you for helping us walk on and move past fear and anxiety! Blessings!
Susan McIlmoil says
Thank you for these words of encouragement, Leslie! I’ve always found writing to be healing and my hope is others will as well!
“What I found, to my surprise, were words written by a deep thinker, an extremely imaginative mind, and a hurting soul. I saw a changing on each page: a leaning in, a learning to listen and a willingness to try.”
Susan, this was really powerful! I could feel your struggle and pain as I read it. I loved how you captured how you felt then and how you feel now looking back. Thanks for sharing!
Susan McIlmoil says
Thank you so much, Jen!