It’s over two years since I finished the counselling course and I’m still finding stuff that I’d lost back then. I had no idea what that course would cost me, and am still finding out.
Doing a counselling course means not just applying yourself academically, putting time and mental energy into the course work – it has emotional costs, because you have to open yourself up before you can be any use to other people in that way. I used to come home from those course weekends absolutely shattered and spend the week recovering. And walking around with your emotions all over the place like that, well, it doesn’t make it easy to apply yourself to a lot else. So the novel I’d started writing had to go on the back burner, and it was only yesterday I finally found it in me to look at it again and I thought: wow, this is actually good stuff. (The past two years have been about gradually recovering. Depression hit me particularly badly in the second year of the course. It still lurks and tries to grab me, but nothing like that very dark time when I felt like I was walking very slowly through very thick porridge and just getting up and getting basic stuff done like cooking or shopping was a huge achievement. Gah. Don’t wish this on my worst enemies. Horrible.)
But another thing I realise I lost in those two years was my journalling habit. You might say: oh, but you’ve been blogging, spilling your guts out onto the screen, isn’t it the same thing? No, it really really isn’t. When I blog I’m talking to other people – so I think about how I phrase things, I try to make it interesting, I edit out stuff that’s too personal or things that could identify/embarrass other people, I add explanations for certain things (like here I’ve had to explain a bit about the counselling course – obviously if I was writing just for myself I wouldn’t need to do that), and generally I try to make it coherent (though some of my ramblings may not show much evidence of that :)).
So, whilst blogging has been helpful in expressing myself, it isn’t the same thing as journalling just for me.
Why did I stop? (or, stop doing it as often as I used to. I still scribbled in my diary once in a while, but much more rarely.)
Two reasons. One is that as part of our coursework we had to hand in a journal – pick bits of our personal journalling that were relevant to the course and to counselling and present them to the tutor. This meant that my style of journalling changed, I no longer felt as free – even though in theory I could still be as free as I wanted and just edit later, in reality I began to write not just for myself but for the eyes of the tutor.
The second reason is that by the end of the course I was just really tired of looking into myself. After two years of very intense work on self-awareness, I was exhausted and wanted to just live my life without poking and prodding at it all the time and wondering what was behind my reaction when so-and-so said that.
But now I’ve come to the point of wanting to get back into regular journalling. I now feel it’s something I need. And I’m thinking it may be a much better way to end my day than spending late night hours on social networking – fun though it is, it’s not really an unwinding activity for me, it’s chilling out but not in a way that makes me relaxed and sleepy. Engaging in conversation with other people is something that wakes my brain up (unless I’m so sleepy that I’m beyond that). Whereas switching the computer off and sitting down and journalling – I think that could be more conducive to sleepiness.
So, as of yesterday I’m back to work on my novel, and as of today I’m back to journalling – and I’ve started a nice new notebook for it. I find pretty notebooks really helpful for this. The new one is purple! Yay!