And what do their journal entries look like?

Hello! Hope your morning is off to a good start, fam.

Question: Do you keep a journal? Why or why not? Let’s chat in the comment section.

As someone who fell in love with writing at age 10, I’m almost embarrassed to say that I only recently started keeping a consistent journal back in, like, 2016. I have a ton of loose leaf one-off entries from my life in random places like my childhood bedroom, my phone, and in undisclosed Blogger & Tumblr blogs from the early ‘00s that shall remain nameless. But I never consistently wrote down what was going on in my head and heart.

While I know who my younger self was to a certain extent, I wish I could look back on exactly what she was feeling at different points in time (although, I wrote a TON of poetry back then in my teen angst phase so I get the gist lol). On one hand, to see what my patterns were and how they compare to my patterns now, and on the other hand for the laughs because whew, being crushed by your crush in the 8th grade was DRAMA, and I know I was going THROUGH IT.

Which brings us to this week’s story. Our partnership with Namaste By Jay, a Black woman’s wellness collective, continues! So many of you enjoyed last week’s piece from one of their writers so I hope this one resonates as well. I know it did for me.

Take care,
EIC of Carefree

A Girl & Her Journal

by Anonymous. Trigger Warning: Mental health

“This morning began so calm, I felt as if I was in someone else’s body. I felt the morning sun hitting my face as it peeked through my broken blinds. I could hear the birds singing outside of my window, people rolling their trash bins, and dogs barking at who knows what. I sensed my whole body feeling so warm and tingly as it was slowly waking up. I then felt jolted back to reality with a rush of thoughts, and I felt frantic as I searched for my glasses and then my phone.

“Get up! Don’t be lazy today! Message everyone back ASAP! Check your email! What if you are missing something important! What hairstyle are you going to wear today?! Hellooo..” Notifications were popping up on my screen and I felt myself tense up as I tried to follow them. I saw a good morning text from my partner, a text from my boss about a meeting, a depressing news article title from Twitter..

When I unlocked my phone and hopped on my socials, all I could see were pictures of girls with pale skin, long shiny hair, and dazzling white teeth. These images feel burned into my brain, I can’t stop comparing myself to them.

When I finally was able to get out of bed, I felt so heavy. I felt like I was dragging not only myself, but two 50 lb weights attached to my feet when I went to work today. I feel so lonely at work. After being isolated at work for criticizing the racist behavior of a manager, I just keep feeling my sanity slip away. Something has to change.” 

This was what a typical journal entry looked like for me just 3 years ago. I’m a Jamaican-American recent graduate and I live with OCD, Major Depressive Disorder, and ADD. I’ve always struggled with my mental health, but a breaking point came. I had to make a tough transition out of my academic life where I had a loving network of friends and a community that supported the whole me to the “real world.” In the workforce, I learned quickly that as a Black, queer woman in STEM, most people would rather me stay invisible. I felt myself getting smaller day-by-day. 

For years, I wasn’t able to fathom that I was suffering from a mental illness. I used to think I had to be “perfect.” My brain was having such a hard time accepting what I was dealing with. And though I had no idea where to start, I knew I just had to ask for help. Then, I found someone who listened. And from there, the healing began. 

After several years of healing, I have finally fully accepted my diagnoses and myself. I began to understand how much more likely it is for African decided that a diagnosis doesn’t define me, and that I’m allowed to express the full range of my emotions, and that I too deserve true happiness. 

I had never been educated in regards to how to maintain a healthy mind. When I was a child and I was physically sick, I was still forced to continue with my regular activities, so I just assumed the same thing should happen when I was feeling mentally down as an adult. Poor mental health impacted every area of my life, including my physical health. 

Through all of my years of healing and learning how to live with mental illness, I’ve developed my own Black girl mental health toolkit. I went through my childhood things and found my old journals. I read them and laughed and cried. I started doing the things that used to make me happy. This included things like walking through local trails, sitting out in the sun, going for long runs, journaling, and meditating (as well as therapy, doctor visits, and medication). 

For Black women especially1, knowing the tools available and where to ask for help are so important for maintaining our sanity. More often than not, Black women are more likely to tackle mental health problems such as anxiety and depression on their own compared to white men and women2 and while there is a huge uptick in Black women leaning into self-care in all of its forms, we still have a ways to go to get all Black women on the mental health train. 

When I finally started doing journaling and other self care behaviors as a part of my regular daily routine, I learned it not only feels good but it IS good for my body. As someone who also deals with chronic physical illnesses as well, I’ve seen those symptoms either plateau or decrease. And even if it was just me being mentally well enough to take my medication every day at the same time or when I needed it, I still counted it as a win.

Being a researcher in neurobiology, I have always known about how more grey matter in the brain is important for not only someone’s cognition, but also their mental health. Scientists even went further to show how mindfulness and meditation, or techniques that improve self awareness, can increase grey brain matter in as little as 8 weeks3. It really changed my life to know that the tools I have always been using actually work.

It all has not been a walk in the park. There were scary and uncertain times. At one point I felt that me going to get help would somehow make me worse. But, I have only gotten better and stronger. I can finally look at my life from a perspective of love and live it on my own terms. 

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