Tips for journaling when dissociative

Rikki

New Here
I’m new to the site and wondering if anyone has any tips for allowing journal writing to happen when you are prone to dissociation. I am currently in both regular therapy and specialized therapy for chronic pain and have a daily homework assignment of journaling but have found that I have a difficult time getting there on days where I’m struggling more and therefore dissociating to some degree. I find that I have no idea what to write about, or on the occasions when I can come up with something, I can’t seem to keep enough of a stream of thought going to continue writing through the allotted time (which is supposed to be for a minimum of 10 minutes). I just realized the fact that dissociation is a factor here and have been trying to focus on being in my body and doing things like noting, and naming something I can see, feel, hear, etc. but still find that I’m hitting a wall when it comes to letting things flow out onto the paper. Any tips/ideas would be appreciated.
 

Ireusa

Confident
I too struggle with dissociation so I look forward to reading the responses you'll get.

Have you tried grounding right before journaling and once you are a bit more settled try to answer a prompt? Maybe it could be something specific (it always helps me if it is more specific rather than broad as I tend to space out more then).

I sometimes just write what I'm doing for grounding while I'm journaling: I live in xyz, I'm xyz years d, I am a (job), I am in my house, I see blah blah blah...

OK , I was trying to talk about xyz when I spaced out. Let's look back at it.

(And I include that in my journaling).

Sending love 💜.
 

Rikki

New Here
I too struggle with dissociation so I look forward to reading the responses you'll get.

Have you tried grounding right before journaling and once you are a bit more settled try to answer a prompt? Maybe it could be something specific (it always helps me if it is more specific rather than broad as I tend to space out more then).

I sometimes just write what I'm doing for grounding while I'm journaling: I live in xyz, I'm xyz years d, I am a (job), I am in my house, I see blah blah blah...

OK , I was trying to talk about xyz when I spaced out. Let's look back at it.

(And I include that in my journaling).

Sending love 💜.
Thanks for your reply and suggestions, Ireusa. I really only tried the five senses exercise, breathing, and body scan/noting for grounding purposes. I am currently trying to find a few different examples of ways to ground to add to my repertoire so that they become more second nature and I don’t have to “search” for them when I’m needing to ground in the moment. I will try your suggestion of writing basic info when I’m not sure where to start.
Thanks again, I appreciate the 💜!
 

HealingMama

MyPTSD Pro
I am not sure if you have to do this handwritten but of not, maybe try recording audio or using a speech to text application? I find it is harder to talk when dissociated but if I am making myself talk for the purpose of getting my thoughts out in a private way it actually helps somewhat with the dissociation.
 

Friday

Moderator
Journaling is one of those things that helps my disassociation.

It’s not something that comes naturally, although I’ve tried the diary thing since I was a kid, if it weren’t for the trauma diaries here, and miscellaneous threads that track various things (like ‘what did you eat today?’I wouldn’t know where most of the past 6 years have gone. Oh. Right. That. Ditto, even on days I have zero recollection of / DONT even remember writing things? The journal at LEAST let’s me know I was fairly lucid, at the time, I just didn’t “save to long term storage”.

So, for me, a platform helps. Something that is already set up to record things in a certain way, or to a certain purpose.

As someone who’s been in pain-psych, the outline of what my T’s wanted were roughly ... my personal pain-scale (what’s today’s baseline, and any spikes or reliefs), what’s my personal mood scale, and what was out of the ordinary? ((I’d outline a ‘normal day” in the beginning, so I’d only need to record any deviations.)) So if I were going back to that mode? Today would look lkke

Pain - 7ish
Mood - Concerned/Tired. (sick kid)
Day - Normal
Exercise - I wish. Swimming or riding or rowing would be grand.
Notes - Heels sore & lungs tight... calf crampy but not as bad as yesterday.
Weather - Sunny, cold, damp

It’s a pretty boring day, today. Other days? The journal might look like (to choose a day from last fall after I’d broken both my feet, no idea how, I have a lot of neuropathy from my knees- & the winter before -just dealing with normal chronic pain- )

***

Pain - 7ish with spikes to pissing myself. Stairs are the enemy. No stairs today. Walking isn’t much fun, either. Will cat-bath in the kitchen sink, not worth it to shower upstairs. Cant feel anything below my knees, and I’m concerned I may have broken a few more bones in my feet. Will monitor over the next few days, and go in for X-rays if the weird weakness doesn’t improve.

Mood - Up and down. Fierce determination married to DGAF married to despair. Exhausted. So, so tired. So, so many things to do. Hate myself for being so damn weak, and hate myself for being so damn stupid I keep pushing too far, too fast. Bored. Frustrated. Angry. Happy. Relaxed. Calm. Excited. Nervous. Terrified. Furious. Chill. All over the map, today. Mostly, though, I’m worried about tomorrow & trying not to be. Using video and lock picking as sitting-down-distraction.

Day - Restricted. Cancelled several things, as I’m just not up to them, then had energy to spare and did XYZ but was still annoyed with myself for cancelling ABC. TONS of energy for few minute bursts, then cross eyed dizzy and need to sleep. Lay down, but don’t sleep. Energy increases. Get up, but flag again after a few minutes.

Exercise - Bite Me.

Notes - Tomorrow is parent teacher night, so I tried to play it safe and curtail activity today, since it’s a bad pain day I don’t want to turn into a bad pain week. Need enough ooomph to appear normal for 2 hours. Tomorrow is sorted, touch wood, but today is rather f*cked.

Weather - Cold, wet, miserable.

***

Pain - 4ish (opiates = 10, 5, 10, 5, 10 ibuprofen & Tylenol every 6, albuterol once)
Mood - Brilliant!
Day - Snowboarding
Exercise - see above <grin> Apx 10 hours of riding, with breaks every 2 hours for about 10 minutes. Hot tub afterward.
Notes - So happy/tired/boneless/thrilled
Weather - Sunny, cold, dry.

^^^
See how those 3 days really paint a picture for you -who doesn’t know me- like they would for both your therapist AND you (if you’ve forgotten what was going on). Simple. Straight forward. Useful.
 
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sshernobyl

New Here
I’m new to the site and wondering if anyone has any tips for allowing journal writing to happen when you are prone to dissociation. I am currently in both regular therapy and specialized therapy for chronic pain and have a daily homework assignment of journaling but have found that I have a difficult time getting there on days where I’m struggling more and therefore dissociating to some degree. I find that I have no idea what to write about, or on the occasions when I can come up with something, I can’t seem to keep enough of a stream of thought going to continue writing through the allotted time (which is supposed to be for a minimum of 10 minutes). I just realized the fact that dissociation is a factor here and have been trying to focus on being in my body and doing things like noting, and naming something I can see, feel, hear, etc. but still find that I’m hitting a wall when it comes to letting things flow out onto the paper. Any tips/ideas would be appreciated.
it's never the same for everyone, but when I journal, I try to make it as sensory involving as possible, to prevent myself from slipping into the extent that I am writing about. I try to use new words, expressive language, and I make an effort to listen to some music while I do it. Journaling in different coloured pens is not only really fun, but it gives me that little bit of visual stimulation that I require when I can't listen to music (i have synesthesia). I find that keeping my brain a little bit busier than it normally would be doing something like this helps so so so much. Just make sure not to overstimulate yourself, (it has adverse effects)and you might do it a bit at first, but sooner you will realize what works for you and what doesn't. When it comes to topic ideas, it really doesn't matter what you write about. I find that writing about my surroundings, as well as basic "facts" that I know to be true; eg, the sky right now is dark because it is nighttime. that usually gets the ball rolling for me, and on your better days, you might be able to actually write about your dissociation, how it makes you feel, and what you think triggers it. I've been in therapy for almost a year now, and my T is pretty great, they gave me these tips n I hope they work for you :")
 

triptych

Learning
I also struggle with this. When I am struggling I’ve found it’s best to try to write it everyday, even if only a few sentences. How much you write is also a record of your feelings/state that can be useful to reflect on. Some days I write almost nothing and some days I write pages but I don’t always know what I’ll be able to do before I start. In my experience, not getting angry/upset at yourself for how much you write is a really important part of creating a space on the page that feels safe to share with and that you want to come back to.

Good luck!!

@sshernobyl I’ve also found changing pen colours helpful when I’m having a difficult time journaling!
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
I teach workshops on journaling and healing.

I can’t seem to keep enough of a stream of thought going to continue writing

You have some good suggestions above. One of the things I have done when dissociative and can't really think to write is to just write what comes to mind, even if it doesn't seem connected. I have pages and pages in my journal of disconnected ideas that, later, I've been able to go back to and see what was going on.

I know you said this was an assignment, but is *writing* required? There are a lot of ways to keep a journal, and one of the best ways for me when I was going through intensive therapy was visual journaling. I would draw. No, I can't draw. At all. LOL That doesn't matter, though. It can be blobs on the page or colors or stick figures or whatever.

Journals can also be audio. Or on video. Lots of different ways to get your thoughts and feelings down; if your assignment is for writing, maybe you can ask if another form would be acceptable?
 

barefoot

Sponsor
Lots of good ideas here. I also find different coloured pens help!

Like @whiteraven I have also run journaling workshops. So, my biggest thing around journaling - whether dissociative or not - is to let go of any ‘rules’ you have or pressure you feel around it. There are no rules to how you ‘should’ journal. I know your homework is to write every day for at least 10 mins. But you might not write every day. You might not do as much as 10mins sometimes. And you might not write sometimes - journaling doesn’t have to be free writing, it can be bullet points, a brainstorm/mind map, drawing/doodling, it can be making a collage or a mood board, recorded spoken word or video… And all those things are just fine. They all count. They are all very valid.

In my workshops, I often start with a prompt opening phrase: ‘I am here…’ and everyone writes with that for a few minutes. It is very simple and looks like it may not lead to very much as it feels so open and non-specific. But I’ve had people in my classes go very deep with it in just a few minutes. But you don’t have to go deep with it. I also use it because it can also be quite a grounding phrase to start with. ‘I am here’ - there’s a sense of presence. Though there doesn’t have to be - you could say ‘I am here feeling really spaced out…’ But if you continued writing, it could become a grounding exercise ‘I am here feeling really spaced out…it’s hard to write but I’ll keep trying…just putting my pen on the paper…head feels a bit jumbled….pen on paper…can I feel my feet? Wiggling my toes now as I write…there they are, I can feel them a bit now…’

You get the picture?! It’s perfectly ok to have a rambling stream of consciousness and, if you can’t think of what to write, writing that down…’I don’t know what to write, my mind’s gone blank….’ will probably get you some where at some point because when a thought does pop up, whatever it is, you can write that down and see where it takes you.

If you start getting spacey, you can just write that phrase again at any point - ‘I am here…’ - and continue on using the writing as a grounding exercise…or doing some doodling at that point.

You could draw/doodle/find a picture in a magazine and stick it in that represents how you feel in that moment.

Another exercise I like is to use a stimulus, such as a painting, a photograph, a greeting card, a piece of music. Or a quote. Write about whatever comes up for you.

There is no right or wrong. Just try to go with the flow - and if it’s not flowing some days, that’s ok!

Also, you might like Jackee Holder’s book,

49 Ways to Write Yourself Well​

And she may well have some free resources on her website.
 
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