Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time. – Mina Murray, Dracula
I journal a lot, but I have to admit, I am terrible at journaling everyday. I didn’t know if I lacked motivation or commitment. However, one day I decided I was going to “google” it. I wanted to know how to “keep” a journal; turns out, “keeping” a journal wasn’t the problem, it was the way I was journaling!
Journaling can be therapeutic; but it’s not very therapeutic, if you think you might be journaling wrong. For me, I was beginning to feel a little stressed out not being able to keep a daily journal, because I was under the impression that there was only one right way to do it. When I think of keeping a journal, I think of having a beautiful thick leather notebook, written in perfect cursive handwriting, with 365 days of intriguing entries. However, in reality, I have several spiral notebooks, each with just a few days of intriguing entries, and the rest filled with colorful pictures drawn in crayon by my kids. Well, when that happens, I just donate the entire notebook to the kid’s art box.
I even tried setting reminders on my phone for journaling time. But then, I had this crazy irrational thought, “What if I could be doing something really cool, but instead, I wasted that opportunity because I was journaling instead? What if I miss out on an epic adventure!” (One of my irrational OCD thoughts from back in the day).
Turns out, you don’t have to journal everyday, it doesn’t have to be pretty, and there is no right or wrong way to journal; the therapeutic point to journaling is expressing yourself to a silent audience (the paper) that holds no judgement against you. And, just in case you are wondering, journaling for just a few minutes a day will not make you miss out on anything “epic.”
Having learned all that, writing everyday was certainly not for me. It wasn’t because I wasn’t motivated or committed, no, I later realized that I just didn’t have a desire to record my entire life story. I journal, because it is therapeutic and realized, the days that I do not journal (the large gap in between entry dates) tells me, that I didn’t have the need to journal and that is not a bad thing. But then, I discovered a new way of journaling, a better way in which benefits my OCD brain….I call it, “Purge and Burn” journaling.
Purge and Burn Journaling
I still journal, but it isn’t every day and now I don’t even keep a journal notebook. When I am feeling strongly emotional or upset about something, I “purge and burn.” Basically, I purge all the thoughts in my head onto a couple pieces of paper and then after a day or two, I shred them (alternative to burning). This is my way of clearing the mind when it feels as if it is being weighed down by heavy emotions, overwhelming stress, junk thoughts, or struggling with a personal problem.
Purge and burn journaling allows me to easily let go of my thoughts and feelings. Once those thoughts hit paper, I no longer feel attached to them. When I no longer feel attached to my thoughts, my mind becomes clear. Then, when I read those thoughts on paper, I am able to better rationalize those thoughts with a much clearer mind.
Purge & Burn Journaling To Overcome Pure “O” OCD Episodes
Truth is, purge & burn journaling helped me effectively end my bad Pure “O” OCD episodes. See, I couldn’t let go of intrusive thoughts which caused me emotional suffering. It was so frustratingly difficult, especially, when experts where telling me how easy it “should” be to let go of thoughts.
Have you ever struggled with letting go of thoughts and were instructed to do this:
“Imagine your thoughts as fluffy white clouds and just let them pass over you. Don’t hang onto your thoughts, because those thoughts are clouds and you can’t hang onto clouds…”
Well, I tell ya, that is WAY easier said than done. My intrusive thoughts never came in the form of white and fluffy clouds. They were dark, ominous, rain clouds that stood overhead pouring buckets of intrusive thoughts on top of me. Yeah, it was a lingering thunder storm in my head.
Fortunately, someone agreed with me that someone with Pure “O” OCD cannot just simply “let go” of thoughts. Sometimes the OCD brain must be tricked into letting go of its intrusive thoughts. It was then when I learned about a different technique where I was instructed to “voice record” my OCD experiences (no details spared) during an episode and then play it back, over and over and over again. After awhile, your mind begins to rationalize what it is hearing (rather than what you are thinking) and the strong overwhelming bad emotions begin to ease up.
Well, personally, when I speak, I sound like Minnie Mouse who just sucked helium out of a ballon. Basically, I don’t like listening to my high-pitch voice on recording (it seems to amplify my high-pitch voice), so I decided to journal my OCD episodes on paper instead, and then reading it over and over and over again (aloud if necessary). I experienced the same effect; an eventual sense of calmness. I was able to better rationalize my experience, thoughts, and emotions. Although it was difficult the first couple of times, this technique eventually became very effective for me. The first time, in a long time, I felt hope. Those dark, ominous, rain clouds turn into those white fluffy clouds those experts were telling me about and a gentle breeze pushed them away out of my OCD brain.
Purge & Burn Journaling As Routine Maintenance
Unfortunately, purge & burn journaling, by itself, was not the cure-all in overcoming my Pure “O” OCD. I overcame my Pure “O” OCD by also working on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques, Stress-management, and practicing Mindfulness and Acceptance (all in which I will talk more about later). Today, I rarely have any OCD episodes and when I do have one, they fizzle out within minutes without even thinking about it.
I still journal today, purging all my thoughts on paper and then tossing those thoughts into the trash. I think it’s great for my overall mental health. Not only does this allow me to better problem solve, but it is a great way to relieve stress. Also, I think this is my way of effectively keeping my OCD brain in check, by making sure emotions don’t build up into anxiety and trigger an OCD episode.
Feel free to share your thoughts…