Just make it until November 13. 

That’s what I’ve been telling myself again and again over the past few weeks as I’ve battled my most recent bout of depression.

It’s been hard to get out of bed most mornings and I’ve cried myself to sleep most nights but I kept saying to myself, “Just make it until November 13”

This was the day I was scheduled to see my therapist. Although I knew a session with her wouldn’t make all my troubles go away, I was confident I’d at least feel better and get a new coping strategy to get me through everyday life.

Then today during my 3rd-period class I felt my FitBit buzz letting me know I was getting a phone call. My gut knew what this meant.

During my 4th-period study hall, I stepped outside my classroom for a moment to check my voicemail messages. I was right. My therapist needed to cancel our appointment.

I went back into my classroom and sat down at my desk. My heart was racing and I felt the walls closing in on me. But I had to get myself under control. I couldn’t have a panic attack at work!

As any writer would, I turned to words for help. I went to Valencia’s Garden, the blog by Valencia Clay, an educator and writer who has made waves and made news in the education world and beyond in part by using her own struggle with depression to change the way schools deal with mental health. On her blog, I found a post titled “The Suicide Journal,” which was about the journal entries she wrote (in green highlighter as it was the only writing utensil deemed safe) when she was hospitalized and on suicide watch.  She writes: “I filled this journal until the marker ran out. It has taken 9 journals to cope throughout this year since that day, uncountable tears, and breakthrough after breakthrough.”

I need a breakthrough.

I write every day in some form or another, whether it’s for this blog or a freelance gig. But I haven’t consistently journaled in years. Perhaps returning to this practice will give me the breakthrough I need.

The American Psychiatric Association also recommends journaling for mental health. As stated in an APA blog post on the matter, “Writing in a journal can provide an opportunity to reflect and consider alternative approaches and how changes in your thinking or behavior might contribute to different outcomes.”

The APA recommends writing 20 minutes a day and occasionally rereading old journal entries to help provide perspective on how far you’ve come.

The APA offers the following examples of questions or prompts to help with journal writing:

  • What was the biggest challenge I faced today?
  • Did I feel anxious, frustrated or angry today?
  • Did I have a positive interaction with another person today?
  • Did I have a negative interaction with another person today?
  • Is there a decision I’m trying to make today?
  • Was there something or someone what made me laugh today?
  • I am most worried about…..
  • I am grateful for…..
  • I am disappointed about…..

I’m starting 20-minute per day journaling practice today and praying I can write myself back together again.