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How to Journal Your MS Journey

By Matt Cavallo
So, you want to get started journaling, but you don’t know how to start. Well, you have come to the write, I mean, right place. We all have different writing styles, abilities and voices. The goal here is to help you create a safe space for you to document your relationship with MS. We discussed the health benefits in a previous article, now let’s learn how to put a journal together. Here are some tips on how to get started.

Find your writing medium. The first thing you have to do is determine what is your most comfortable way to capture your writing. You don’t want the object that captures your thoughts to be a road block. Instead, find something that will become an extension of your thoughts. For me, that is typing. For some it is dictating. For others it is putting pen to paper. Whatever your preferred style, the critical point is to get started.

Create a safe space. If you are like me and you like to type, then create a folder on your computer and save a Word document. Make a folder that you can find, but that you keep private from others. You want your journal to be a safe space that only you have access to. If you like to dictate, send yourself a text. Most smart phones have a “talk to text” feature. That feature will allow you to capture your journal thoughts and text it to yourself. That way you don’t have to write or type, you can simply talk into your phone and record your thoughts. Finally, pen to paper is the classic way to write. I would invest in a comfy grip pen and passion journal to write in. If you invest in your journaling, you will be more likely to stick to it. Passion journals typically have some kind of elastic binding on the front which keeps your journal closed tight from spying eyes.

Structure your journal. While we love a great grabbing headline or title, this isn’t important when we are writing to ourselves. What is more important is documenting when you write each entry. If there is no structure, like date and time, to separate your entries, then the journaling will be hard to decipher. You won’t know when one train of thought started and the other ended. Organizing your thoughts makes the entries meaningful in the long term.

Relax and let your thoughts flow. What are you writing about? There is no right or wrong answer. The easiest place to start is usually with what you are currently thinking about or feeling and go from there. You may find that your starting points vary each time you begin a new entry or you might have an ongoing theme like tracking your MS symptoms. Starting with a mundane fact or event often unravels a stream of consciousness that can lead you to insights about yourself of your disease that you would not have been able to bring forth without arranging your thoughts in the journal. 

A MS diagnosis can be a physically and emotionally devastating life event. Writing about it can help you cope. You write the way that works for you. You can use a journal to help you communicate internally or to organize your thoughts so you can communicate with others like your loved ones, doctors or even other people living with MS. I turned my diagnosis journal into my memoir, The Dog Story a Journey into a New Life with Multiple Sclerosis. When I started journaling my story, I never dreamed about being a published author. Now, my journaling helps others all over the world. If you are open and honest about your current state, then this becomes an exercise in personal growth and a powerful tool to help you in your journey against MS.