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Lives of Doctor Wives: Journaling the Journey

Friday, April 25, 2014

Journaling the Journey

Journaling the Journey
By Tiffany Sweeney

My husband and I are nearing the end of our medical training.  It has been almost nine years.  During these training years, we have moved four times, lived in three different states, and have grown our family.  As spouses or partners, we find ourselves cheering on our doctors (or doctors-in-training) through all the tests and exams, encouraging them through the long hours of rotations, and tolerating their forgetfulness and exhaustion through the many hours/days spent at the hospital.  We pick up the slack at home, learn to fill bigger shoes, and generally, support them through the highs and lows.  The question becomes … who is there to support and encourage us? 

Throughout this medical journey, we meet unforgettable and invaluable friends.  Then, we move away from them or grow apart or sometimes, just get lost in our daily lives.  Our doctors support us the best they can, but they can often fall short after the other responsibilities that fill their plates.  And, things happen outside of our little families that are completely out of our control that only add to the stress of our situation (i.e., economic strain, family crises, or sickness and death of family and friends).  We don’t deny that this path is a difficult one that contains struggles.  I found myself often seeing the negative, wishing the training was over, and getting lost in the difficulties that we have faced.

Throughout my life, I have always turned to writing in the difficult times.  In the elementary and teen years, I wrote angsty poetry.  As I grew older, I turned instead to blogging, then journals, particularly after the death of my father in 2012.  I began reading published journals, reading about how to journal, and even attended a journal club at my local library, where I sat the youngest among the group.  I discovered that through my writing, I have been able to find my support, work through my struggles, and find the positive that is needed in my life.  

Throughout my reading and experiences, I have discovered that journaling serves a multitude of purposes.  It documents life and family stories.  It shows me where I have been and how much I have grown.  It helps me to work through some of my anxieties and frustrations.  It assists me in finding the positive during difficult times.  It even highlights the things that I’m avoiding … it shows me what I am NOT writing and dealing with!  And, it has helped me to find the important things in life and heal through those times.

As 2014 approaches, I encourage you to begin journaling your journey.  Pick up a journal.  Get crafty with a memo notebook.  Grab the closest three ring binder.  Write.  Write.  Write.
Here are a few tips to get you started . . .

·         Write down the date at the top of your page.  Some people even choose to write down the time and where they are writing from (i.e., I sit on my oversized chair today, curled up with a blanket as I sip a bit of hot chocolate).
·         Free write.  If you don’t know what to do, set a timer for 15 minutes and just write.  Maybe start with a single word, the first one that comes to mind.  Or, maybe start with a favorite quote or passage from your current read.  Remember, this is only for you, unless you choose to share.  Sometimes you will be surprised what free writing will bring out!
·         Write down things you want to remember.  Did your daughter say something that made you laugh?  Did your son accomplish something that swelled your heart with pride?  Did your husband get off early and the two of you went off on a surprise date?  Document these.
·         Add to your writing.  Doodle.  Cut out newspaper clippings.  Glue in movie stubs.  Choose a color of pen that suits your mood.  Tape in postcards that your husband sent you from the interview trail.  Get creative in whatever way best suits you.
·         Write when you want.  You don’t have to journal every day.  Write when you feel like it, when the mood strikes you, when your husband is working night shifts, or when you need to get some particularly bad feelings off your chest.
·         Find the positive.  On a bad day, vent away, but don’t forget to document the good things in life.  Create a gratitude journal by simply writing down what you are thankful for at the end of every day.  Or, share what did go right or the way you had wanted it to.  Sometimes, you may need to focus on the small things.
·         Use inspiration.  Write down quotes that inspire you or touch you deeply.  Share your own thoughts about what that quote brews inside you. 
·         Share life stories.  Share your stories.  Share your children’s stories.  Document the stories of your parents, grandparents, etc.  What are some of your most memorable moments?  Do you remember the day that your spouse was accepted to med school?  What was it like to live through match day?  What were your feelings watching your doctor walk across that stage at graduation?
·         Re-read.  Every once in a while, go back and read what you have written.  Seeing where you have come from can sometimes help in choosing where to go from here.  Remind yourself what you have accomplished.  Reminisce.  Laugh.  Cry.  Discover what you are NOT writing about, but what may be on your mind often.  And, if you so desire, share with those you love and trust.
When the trying times are over, when the training is complete, you will have a reminder of what life was like, how strong you are, how much you have grown, and so much more. 

For interesting reading on journals, I recommend these titles:
·         Leaving a Trace:  On Keeping A Journal by Alexandra Johnson
·         Use Your Words:  A Writing Guide for Mothers by Kate Hopper
·         Creative Journal Writing:  The Art and Heart of Reflection by Stephanie Dowrick

I also recommend these links for further reading and proof of the benefits on keeping a journal:
·         100 Benefits of Journaling

Do you journal?  What is your favorite thing to write about?  What are other ways that you find yourself working through the good times and the bad of medical training and beyond?
Tif blogs regularly at Tif Talks Books, a site for all things books and literacy for the whole family. (Website link is http://www.tiftalksbooks.com)

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Blogger Bethany said...

This is EXACTLY why (and how I try) to blog! My only regret is that I started halfway through my husband's second year of med school. I wish I had started sooner! Since these years are a rollercoaster (at times) there are a few posts that get written but never published. It helps me process everything but it doesn't need to be shared with the world:) Someday I hope to have my blog printed in book form as a keepsake for our family.

April 25, 2014 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Tif Sweeney said...

Bethany ... Personally I don't think that it is every too late to start! At one point, I actually went back and wrote down my thoughts from deciding to go pre-med and the first year of med school! It won't be the same as if you wrote it in real-time, but it is better than nothing!! BTW, I love the idea of printing the book from your blog!

April 25, 2014 at 10:36 PM  

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