How many of you journal on a regular basis?

I’ve been journalling for more years than I can remember, as evidenced by the mountains of journals stacked on a large shelf in my spacious home library.I’m so grateful for these journals. They are more like friends. Confidantes. I tell them my deepest darkest thoughts and feelings. I reflect on what’s going on in my life. They are my therapist, my friend and my companion.They have sustained me through many challenges in my life, including the deaths of my parents.So when the opportunity to submit a paper for Central Queensland University’s inaugural Narrative, Health and Wellbeing Research Conference came along, I promptly wrote an abstract.

This is what I submitted to the conference organisers:

“ ‘Blurred roles of health professional and carer: the role of narrative in easing the pain.’

When health professionals find themselves in the role of carer for a family member who has been diagnosed with a serious or chronic medical condition, it can either feel like a blessing, a curse, or both. The health professional may know too much information, resulting in them experiencing greater levels of anxiety than a lay person. On the other hand, their health background may make them a more effective patient advocate, as they will often know what questions to ask, what possible treatment options are available, and how to navigate through the often impersonal health system.

Being a carer and a health professional can also result in blurred roles, particularly if the latter is a medical practitioner. It is not easy for a doctor to sit on the other side of the consulting desk and hear bad news about a loved one’s health.

This paper outlines ways in which the author, a medical practitioner, used narrative to assist her in coping with the grief and feelings of helplessness she felt after finding out about health challenges of two family members. Excerpts of her writing will be included in the presentation.”

I was pleased to have my paper accepted and look forward to flying to Noosa, Queensland for some extra sun later this week.

Yesterday I prepared a powerpoint presentation for my 20 minute talk with the help of my husband, Michael, aka Mr I.T. It has lots of photos and very few words.

Preparing the talk reminded me of how helpful journalling was in coping with my father’s cancer journey and his death from prostate cancer in 1989. It was also cathartic to write about my experience of being a cancer patient’s daughter, and have it published in a medical journal for family doctors. I wrote the piece in 2002 with the intention of helping others who may have been struggling with similar challenges. I also hoped that the piece would create more empathy for doctors who are also carers for a family member. The article is not available to be downloaded online (it’s too old, I think!!), so I need to double check with the publisher as to whether or not I can put it up on this blog. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I challenge you to experiment with journalling and see if it benefits you. It’s a good idea to get into a regular habit of doing it. And remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. All you need to do is make a start!

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