20 thoughts on “The Power of Reflective Writing…

  • June 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I journal. The last couple of months I haven’t so much. Once you write it down it becomes all the more “true” and real. There’s a latin quote: verba volant, scripta manent, kinda speech will (disappear), writing remain. The last few months has been a bit too much and hectic, writing about it would have made it more true than I needed at the time.

    I’m happy that you are feeling better!

    How’s house hunting going?

    • June 17, 2010 at 4:48 pm

      Curious, Jessika ~
      Yes, when you write it down, it is real. At that moment. Writing remains, but life moves on and you move with it.
      We found a little townhouse, very small, very sweet. We’re moving forward with it.
      Cheers, and as always, thank you.

  • June 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    When I’m feeling well, I don’t journal – it will be a year, sometimes two, before I sit and catch up in my journal. Unless it is significant news worth documenting. The death of my parents and how I felt, the election of President Obama – quite a historical moment. But lately, this past winter and spring I have been posting here on Sandy’s blog instead and it has been quite helpful as I have no therapist to speak to about my issues and challenges – so, this little bit of anonymous journaling has helped and I look forward, Sandy, to reading your posts and when they are not there I always wonder if you are okay. I have begun to read and comment on a few other blogs. Some of them seem to get quite heated. Not all of the bloggers reply back and this is unfortunate because I look forward to hearing back from you, then I know that someone truly is on the other side of the screen and it gives back to your readers a little bit of connection and it really does make your blog a community rather than just a sounding board.
    Hope your portulaca are out in full bloom today – nice, bright sunshine to make them happy.

    • June 17, 2010 at 4:47 pm

      I’m here. Though exhausted.
      Don’t you think writing to me is journaling? I think you’re a wonderful writer and if you collected all your comments, they would be a very thoughtful and insightful diary.
      Most bloggers do not reply to their comments, but the fact that you’re commenting in other places is remarkable and I’m proud of you.
      And the portulaca are gorgeous today, as are the petunias. I think of you every time I look at them.

  • June 17, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks, Sandy,

    I think about all the comments I have made here and yes, quite the little collection of thought.
    When I first began keeping a journal with my depression I was really scared – because like Jessika has commented it is real – but that wasn’t the part that concerned me so much it was the fact of “What if someone else finds this and reads it?” That was my worst fear – knowing that people wouldn’t understand where the thoughts came from, so, even in my own journals I found myself to be guarded, careful to not say too much. Coming out here, as you know, I was again careful until I decided that no one knows me anyway and I have been fortunate that I haven’t received any negative feed back from anyone on any of the blogs – so,
    I am still safe.

    • June 17, 2010 at 7:53 pm


      You’re safe here with us and at Psych Central.

      And… your legacy lives on as you’ve taught me to care about my flowers. And not to fear getting my fingers dirty planting in the earth.

      You’ll be happy to know, too, that I talk to them. I send them good thoughts.

      And there’s scope for a little potted garden at my new little housette ~ actually, a sweet condominium townhouse not far from here and with a lovely deck. I go for the inspection tomorrow.

      Wish us luck.
      With affection.

  • June 17, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    I am glad to here you won’t have to change neighbourhood’s completely – that should help with the adjustment. This will be good practice for the “less is more” ideal. As long as you have a place to hang your sunflower painting and other colourful works to brighten every corner of your new home. Condominium will be good too – you wont’ have to think about the outside upkeep.
    Good luck,

  • June 18, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Hello Sandy et al., (keep the Latin going, hehe)

    As a child, I marvelled at the idea that marks on a page could represent sound and meaning; and that sound itself could be meaningful. This fascination has stayed with me my whole life.

    I journaled, or kept a diary, until the fateful day of betrayal: I came home from playing, and my mother was reading my journal to our neighbours.

    When I write something down now, I make sure that psychologically, I am prepared to find others reading what I write. Otherwise, I don’t write.

    This means that when I write, whatever the topic, it is most meaningful and heartfelt.

  • June 18, 2010 at 7:22 am


    OMG! How horrifying. I would like to be able to say that I can’t imagine what you were feeling – but I think I can – at least a little bit. I found my mother reading mine too – when I was a teenager, thankfully not to the neighbours. Ultimate humiliation.

    • June 18, 2010 at 8:25 am


      I always wanted to be a writer. (Although I wanted to be an actress for a long time, too, and for a second or two, an architect.) However, overall, I wanted to write to be read. Nevertheless, no one ever, to my knowledge read the journals and diaries I wrote when I was very young.

      Today, no one in my family reads my blogs, either. I suspect there’s a deep seated embarrassment in some about the fact that I have always been so open and vocal about my psychiatric history and my mental and physical health issues. “You’ve turned it into a career,” someone said not long ago and it wasn’t a compliment, believe me.

      As a result of this impression I have (which may not be correct in all cases) and my passion for writing, I have a “no secrets, no lies” attitude about my life. With everyone. I’m not good at covering up or lying in any colour. One type career that never crossed my mind was “Private Detective” or “undercover police work.” I read all the Nancy Drew novels, but much preferred the Anne of Green Gables canon and the writings of L.M. Montgomery.

      When I wrote that chapter in the 2002 anthology called Beyond Crazy, Journeys Through Mental Illness it was another leg of my recovery, though I didn’t realize it then and knew nothing about recovery. Writing it and going public with it liberated me. For the first time, I was able to talk about and come to terms with the fact that the seminal cause of my psychotic episode may have been a sexual trauma (rape) when I was 14 by an orderly in a psychiatric ward. It was my first hospitalization. I was there for observation. I was in my early teens. I repressed the memory. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder hadn’t been invented back in 1962.

      Yesterday, Dr. John Grohol reviewed an article here on new research to substantiate this in a news story by Jessica Ward Jones, MD. Sexual Assault Increases Risk for Psychosis and Schizophrenia.

      I like being open.

      I’m not afraid of what people think of me. My biggest challenge is my family. But that’s another story.

      What’s really important to me in all of this is that you, all of you who write and comment here, are journaling publicly and it’s what makes this blog so important. As I mentioned way back, writing is a powerful process. It’s a voice, even if it’s silent and meant “for the eyes only.”

      It takes courage to post on a blog. To sign a name, any name, and own your ideas and feelings. Your commenting here is a powerful recovery process and I am honoured that you participate so actively. For me, it’s a validation of the ethos of this blog. We care about each other. We empathize with each other.

      Keep writing. And righting.


  • June 18, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Hello Sandy,

    Funny you should post about the “less than a compliment” (to make a career of your well-being and process of recovery) on the same day I received a “more than a compliment” comment about the very same thing!

    Cool! Here’s part of the story I can share. I teach students who are preparing to go abroad for further study (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands are this year’s choices). The course is called “Professional Development” and focuses on the students’ sense of self (that each human being deserves respect), self-awareness, life skills (clothing, attitude, cooking, budgeting, etc.), learning skills (how to write according to English logic, how to read well and quickly) and styles (alone, by reading, in discussions, via projects, through a portfolio, etc.), as well as those bits of knowledge one needs to know about when applying for studies abroad, or applying for work in any country.

    In conversation with some of these students this week, I have had some frank and blunt “self-awareness” discussions as a result of their inability and/or unwillingness to see the connections between the tasks of my course (homework, thinking questions, and assignments). Some other teachers were listening to a few of these discussions. One of these teachers actually spends some of her free time with me, which means she knows me as a human being, not just as a foreign colleague. Her comment after the third such discussion was that she could feel the passion I have for meaningful communication as I listened to the students’ various complaints, excuses, and sometimes, arguments (good stuff). Her closing comment was “You have made a career of letting people know that thinking before speaking, speaking politely, and speaking to people (rather than “at people”, a common phenomenon in many classes in China) are the reasons for learning languages.”

    I was so touched that she said this, and that she felt comfortable telling me so in the presence of my students. It is a crowning moment for me this year. I feel great when I realize that, even with a few people, I have achieved what I consider to be THE goal of education which is to awaken in others their own passion for learning.

  • June 18, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    Hi, Sandy–The comments about journaling are right on the mark! Some writer (whose name escapes me) once said, “Life doesn’t really happen for me until I write it down.” There is some truth to that, in that writing gives us a perspective that few other activities can. So, keep up the great work!

    Best regards,
    Ron Pies MD

  • June 18, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    HI Sandy,

    Great shot of you as a kid- so cute!
    I kept a lil red diary whilst at boarding school -grade 7-10. It’s a very amusing read though the teenage angst can be quite insufferable at times.

    I keep journals- moleskines actually, where I draw draw draw everything (a lot of cartoons). It’s almost always with me and I haul it out and draw where ever I go.

    Anyways a few years back, while suffering through a depressive episode that took me more than a year to recover from, I drew how I felt. I drew my depression.
    I thought about it today as I went to the doctor for my 6 month check in (depression/meds) and she is so pleased at my recovery (ya I am doing great) and as we talked about where I was a few years ago I remembered all the demons drawn into my journal- how when I didn’t have words for what I was going through or how I felt I just drew…. and the images and visual language emerged – expressing exactly what I was going through.

    Powerful. Healing. I can go back and look at those images and see a steady progression and also acknowledge how far I’ve come.
    Now my images are mostly happy. I love my moleskines. 🙂

  • June 18, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Hi, Ron ~

    Thanks for your kudos on the comments to this post. I have to agree with that writer “whose name escapes” you. I find, as a journalist, that writing is about a truth at a specific time. Not necessarily “the truth” ~ “a truth” and there are millions. We all have our own truths.

    Although I like taking photographs, nothing is more satisfying for me than writing. It’s so involving. It’s still boils down to me and a blank page with nothing in between. No camera, just my mind and my thoughts and my feelings.

    My fingers.

    I simply love the act of writing. The tactile sense of feeling my fingers engage with my keyboard ~ and there’s nothing like a silent and sleek, streamlined Apple wireless keyboard.

    Struggling to find the right word. The word that captures that emotion or insight or feeling or idea is endlessly captivating for me. I’m utterly wild about it and I’ve been at it for most of my life. It’s music to my ears, eyes and heart.

    Better than playing the piano because you can go back and correct, fiddle, edit, rewrite and play with the words. Better than a typewriter and paper, although I confess, I was a calligrapher way back and I love graphic design and typography and penmanship and paper, too.

    So, ultimately, we are in agreement. You know. You are such a fine writer and poet. In fiction and non-fiction. You can write anything. You have so many voices. You know.

    Yet, when it comes to journaling, we are all great writers. We all have unique voices. Isn’t that dazzling to know?

    Good to hear from you sounding so upbeat. So energetic.




  • June 18, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Hi, Sonia…

    As a teacher, though by no means as skilled as you (I have so much to learn from you about teaching) I can imagine how your student-teacher’s comment thrilled and satisfied you.

    Knowing you, as I do, I understand exactly where she is coming from because you have a remarkable calmness which intensifies your ability to listen and hear a person with whom you’re engaging. I always feel “heard” and “listened to” with you.

    Everything you say and write is intrinsically thoughtful and insightful. Polite is an understatement. It’s more than that for me. You’re empathic and genuine. Authentically interested in others. Patient beyond belief.

    I’m so happy you were given this “crowning moment” this year. This afternoon, I received a note from one of my students from last term. She is from Japan and we had a very rewarding term working together. She wanted to know if we could get together. A small “crowning moment” for me, but a lovely one, nonetheless.

    Your “student-teacher” captured you and your philosophy of learning so succinctly. At the same time, she capture you, Sonia. You, the human being, the friend, the teacher. All of you.

    I’m thrilled for you and I share your happiness. I’m so happy and honoured that you shared this “crowning moment” with us.

    Truly. Madly. Deeply.

    Sending hugs to you and Mikey.

  • June 18, 2010 at 11:49 pm


    How have I managed to forget my sketch books? I guess my writing has taken over from my sketches. There were many, many times when I would simply put pencil to paper and just let the emotion flow. When I was finished there would be a huge feeling of the burden released. Sometimes I would be crying, although I wouldn’t understand where the tears were coming from. The drawings had their own life and it was a great companion to my writing.
    I would date and time the drawings and see if the mood changed with each drawing. In the beginning I started out with large sheets of paper that my therapist had given me and when my daughter was very young she had those thick crayons – I took the black one and let my rage go on the paper, colouring the entire thing black. I was very, very, very angry with my first major depressive episode. Along with my writing, I drew, and I’m not an artist – it doesn’t matter though, it is just a way of getting things out and those “journals” I still have and I can go back to them and see the emotion on the pages.
    Unlike the writing, though, I found that the drawing was more mindful because I was expressing without thought, just emotion and I was able to get a break from my thinking because the focus was just on following the pencil or pen or paint brush, which ever media I chose and I again let colour choice come from feeling it rather than thinking about what colour to use.
    Again, thanks for reminding me, KP – drawing is an exceptional outlet.

    • June 19, 2010 at 12:03 am

      And thank you, Sheila, for demonstrating how “reflection” can take many forms and be expressed through many different media.

  • June 18, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Hello, KP ~

    Thank you for sharing you journaling experience and your “moleskins” with us. I used to do the same thing when I kept my daily diaries “in print” and I have a shelf of my diaries of all kinds, right here in my office, along side the collection of diaries from my youth.

    Last year, I began using Apple’s iCal program. With an iPhone, I carry my “schedule” with me. It is, by no means a diary, but simply an electronic record of my appointments.

    Unlike you, I have no talent for drawing, so my demons ~ and I have many ~ tend to be recorded in words or worked through verbally and vocally with my psychiatrist or my coterie of close friends and my husband.

    Most important, I think, is how you have such powerful visual record of your feelings in your Moleskins. What they mean to you and how much meaning you can derive from looking at them now, from your healthy and healing perspective. You can actually trace those images and words with your fingers.

    And see your recovery. Feel it.

    I’m thrilled to hear you’re doing so well. Enjoy those Moleskins of yours. You’ve inspired me to go back to paper and to my clipping and writing by hand in different colours of ink that reflect my mood, as I once did, day by day.

    To be able to turn the pages back and forth. I’m tempted, now. Really tempted.

    Thank you so much for sharing with us. I hope you’ll keep commenting here. I sense you have much to share with us. And we can learn a great deal through your experience.

    You write beautifully, by the way. You have a lovely voice.

    Speak soon.


  • June 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Hello Sandy,

    In tune with “reflection” … here is a bit of the story that began in late 1800s …

    Today is June 19 … not only is it Mikey’s mother’s 86th birthday (we just called her before her lunchtime to wish her well), it is also the day my mother died in 1996.

    My mother’s death was not as painful to me as the way in which I found out about it. She died of complications from more than 30 years of diabetes with little self-care … near the end, her driving permit was revoked, she was approaching amputation, etc., and she was in hospital suffering greatly.

    Back to how I found out. On the morning of this day, Mikey’s ex-wife (mother of his children) called our home to speak to her son (who was living with us at the time). He was 12 years old. He had already left for school. I answered the call, and told her that her son was on his way to school. She hung up the phone. Then, she went to his school, told him that his grandmother was dead, and left him at school to deal with his emotions on his own. At the end of his school day, he came “home” (to his father and me). He was upset, and we did not know why. In a moment of despair, he shouted, “Well, grandma’s dead, don’t you know?” I had not known. I had no way of knowing because my mother and I were not on speaking terms. Mikey’s ex-wife left her son to deal with his own emotions, and then, to face us thinking we already knew. The scars of that day – the shock that registered when he realized we did not know; the anger and betrayal he felt when he realized his mother had implied we knew when in fact we did not know; the disappointment he felt when he realized that once again, his mother had lied to him – have remained with him since, and with me as well, on very different levels.

    She knew how to hurt him, his father and me in one apparently innocent move: don’t tell us, lead him to believe we know, and let him come back to us. Then, a few days later, when he went to her home, the hurt continued because his mother had destroyed all my possessions that my mother had refused to give me while she lived: childhood photos, documents pertaining to me (medical, educational, sports, etc.), as well as childhood objects that were meaningful to me.

    His confusion only continued when his mother informed the whole family that I would not be welcomed at my mother’s funeral.

    Obviously, some details are not in the story – privacy issues for those still underage in the family, and privacy issues for legal reasons – but that is the gist of it.

    A few months ago, I think it may have been around April 19, memories of this week started haunting me, as they have each year. This may be the only regret I have in my life – the damage done to a child by his mother to spite her ex-husband and his new wife (we had been married just over one year at the time).

    Thanks for reading,

    • July 1, 2010 at 5:11 am

      Hi, Sonia~
      We haven’t heard from you lately and I realize now, that I did not respond to this very poignant reflection. Please forgive me for this oversight.

      Sometimes, when there are lots of messages, I get overwhelmed. I remember thinking as I read this, “What can I possibly say? How can I help her? I’ll reflect upon it and then write a response…”

      And life got in the way. I cannot imagine how you must have felt and still feel about that day. Especially, as Mikey’s ex-wife was (and is) so angry and hurt that she had to lash out at you by destroying your last memories of your mother and desecrating all your personal papers and possessions. Anger is such a toxic and destructive emotion. I am so sorry you are still suffering from this woman’s inexcusable emotional assault on you. Her outright abuse.

      Frankly, I cannot fathom anyone behaving as she did and I feel very badly that you did still suffer from her personal pain and anguish, for indeed, that is what drove her to do what she did. I feel very badly that I did not respond more quickly to this reflection. It’s one that reminds me how powerful people are and how potentially destructive when they are angry and cannot let their anger go. Although I can identify with you in some ways ~ not all my family relationships are blissful, to say the least ~ the most resonant message for me is how profoundly we can be hurt by those closest to us.

      Those scars do not heal easily, as you have powerfully shown. They continue to smart, they cut so deep, especially on anniversaries. As for regret, you did nothing to provoke this woman’s attack. Nothing and no one can ever replace what this woman did to you. This is what bothers me most about what you’ve so generously shared with us. The regret you still feel.

      I feel regret, too, that I didn’t respond immediately to you. That demonstrated lack of sensitivity and caring. I am terribly sorry. I’ve missed you here and I suspect your notable absence is because of my thoughtlessness.

      But your regret, at knowing that a part of you has been trashed because of a woman’s jealousy and pain, bothers me more. Remembering that moment each year and its pain is, in itself, a testimony to how much you loved your mother. Your not being allowed to attend her funeral was unspeakably cruel. Those memories are so powerful and one day, I hope your grieving, your sorrow, will heal a bit and stop hurting you as much as they still do, some 14 years later.

      Please forgive me for not returning to your reflection when you wrote it on June 19, more than 10 days ago.

      I am terribly sorry. It was stunning to me at the time. I remember. I needed time. I was terribly remiss in not returning to it more quickly. I hope you’ll return to our conversation and community, to which you add such compassion, intellect and empathy.

      I miss you. We miss you.

      With love and in friendship,


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