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Alzheimer’s Disease, The Art of Journal Writing

Posted Sep 29 2010 6:10am
Journal writing has enriched my life spiritually and emotionally. It can do the same for you. Take a leap of faith and try it....
By Barbara Pursley
Alzheimer's Reading Room

For the past 25 years, I have been a journal writer and I have boxes of journals filled with the light side and the dark side of my life.

It all began in Boulder, Colorado in the 70’s when a psychologist suggested I buy a journal to write about my divorce.


I fell in love with the process and began to read The New Diary by Tristine Rainer to learn about the many techniques of journaling and explored my life by putting the pen to the paper most every day. My journals are gut-wrenching honest and for my eyes only. Some people enjoy sharing their writings. There’s no right or wrong way.

In 1993, Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and journal writing was a great medicine for my anxiety and depression. I didn’t have to carry junk in my head. Cathartic healing came when I put the pen to the paper and dumped all of my emotions, holding nothing back for the sake of privacy. It was my saving grace.

I carried pen and paper to the nursing home everyday to document our conversations, Mom’s changing behaviors, nursing home incidents, and my personal feelings of pain and loss.

My journal carried me through some of Mom’s tragedies such as being physically abused by an aide, the times she was in the hospital for urinary tract infections, confrontations about why and how Mom fell so often and the emotions I was feeling as a caregiver with moments of guilt when I couldn’t be with her for 24 hours.

Then there were the humorous writings such as the time Mom discovered this interesting glass filled with a patients false teeth and she drank the denture solution. The nursing home had to call Poison Control because her lips, gums and tongue had turned blue. On another day, she was whacked on the head by Mrs. Baker for eating the cherries out of her cobbler.

When Mom couldn’t communicate and I was experiencing a lot of grief, I began to write Unsent Letters which simply means Mom wouldn’t read them. An example.

Dear Mom, This morning I read a poem that is symbolic of our relationship.
“This slow erosion from below-or within-it’s me falling down around my life because you’re still in that life-but not really. And you’re out of that life-but not quite.”As tears roll down my cheeks, I reminisce about our good times. Love, Barbara"
Eleven years have passed through my pens.

I wanted to share this with other caregivers who are bottled up with emotions of distress, pain, grief, and even the days filled with joy. It’s challenging living in
the “Alzheimer’s World” and the” Real World.”

People resist journal writing because they usually put too many restrictions on themselves. I don’t have time. I don’t have the discipline. Sometimes it only takes 15 minutes to unload a bucket full of feelings.

I have only three rules: Date of writing, time of day, and place of writing. Don’t get hung up on grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Write about the two worlds you are living in. The second your loved one makes a hysterical statement, grab your paper and jot it down. The day will come when you will look back over your journal and you will be grateful that you took the time to write.

If you feel you have nothing to write then focus on gratitude and list all of the gifts and talents you’ve been blessed with.

Pour your heart on paper and let the teardrops smudge the ink. Once you let it all out you’ll be feeling great. Don’t be afraid to face yourself. I promise the rewards of peace and serenity is wonderful.

Journal writing has enriched my life spiritually and emotionally. It can do the same for you.

Take a leap of faith and try it.




Barbara Pursley was born in Galveston, Texas and is the author of EMBRACING THE MOMENT. Barabara attended Santa Monica College, studied photography, and worked as a commercial photographer before returning to Texas to care for her mother. Barbara also taught journal writing to women in Texas rehabilitation facilities. She put her God inspired journal entries and photographs into book form in 2009.


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Original content Barbara Pursley, the Alzheimer's Reading Room


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