If you’ve recently been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, it is understandable that you may currently be feeling a sense of inner turmoil. For instance, you might be overwhelmed by the uncertainty of your future, your financial situation and your relationships with your loved ones. Of course, it is best not to keep these thoughts bottled up. However, you may find it difficult to sort through these emotions, much less articulate them to another person.
So how do you express yourself? Many health experts maintain that writing can provide a valuable outlet. This is why you may want to think about keeping a journal.
Many patients benefit from journal writing
At first, the idea of keeping a journal for your health may seem strange when you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. You may think, Don’t I have bigger things to worry about than talking about my feelings? Actually, this is exactly why you should talk about your feelings.
A number of experts say that putting your thoughts on paper will help clear your head of troubling and confusing ideas. This is because problem solving usually requires the analytical skills of the left side of your brain, but writing can spur things along by stimulating the creativity that comes from the right side. Once that happens, you may be able to tackle practical and pressing problems more effectively.
Furthermore, expressive writing may actually have both physical and psychological health benefits. One scientific review, published in the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, lists a number of self-reported positive effects in patients who had therapeutic writing exercises. Among them were improved immune system function, better respiratory function, shorter hospital stays and reductions in depressive symptoms. When it came to individuals who had cancer, some of these patients said they experienced pain relief and better physical health.
How do I start?
If you have never kept a journal in your life, you may not know the best approach to take. Fortunately, experts from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) have a few pointers:
- First, try to decide whether you would be more comfortable with the old-fashioned pen and paper or a computer journal. For the former, use permanent ink as well as paper bound in a notebook or something else that is convenient to carry.
- Find a quiet place that will allow you to write without interruptions.
- Try writing about things beyond just what happened in your day. Discuss your feelings regarding your prognosis, fears you may have for the future or something positive that you like to focus on.
- Don’t censor yourself. This is your journal, so everything is fair game.
- Don’t get bogged down in correct spelling and punctuation.
- Feel free to include letters or photographs.
- Date and number each entry.
- Figure out whether you want to try writing every day or just when the mood strikes you.
People have been tracking their thoughts and emotions with journals for centuries. However, in the 21st century, there are other avenues for you to express yourself. For example, ASCO pointed out that some cancer patients take to writing an internet blog.
A word of caution
Asbestos-related diseases are often a contentious matter. At Kazan, McClain, Lyons, Greenwood and Harley, we want to remind you that it is best not to share anything you keep in a paper journal or blog with anyone other than your spouse or attorney. If you are in litigation, you may be compelled to produce anything you’ve shared with others – whether by handing the book to a friend or posting it on any website, regardless of privacy settings – in court.