I have been a sporadic journal keeper for much of my life. Sometimes, I fill books. Other times, I scribble on any random piece of paper I can find. These scraps typically end up shoved between pages of the journal of the moment or even in a book I may be reading.
I am a firm believer that journaling offers a therapeutic release that you sometimes cannot find simply by talking to others. You don’t have to worry about grammar, punctuation, spelling, or sentence structure. You just write. Good, bad, or indifferent, journaling allows you to purge yourself of whatever emotions may be bubbling under the surface or clogging up your brain. Sometimes, journaling is not unlike vomiting; you may not want to do it, but you know the only way you’ll find relief is to puke up the troublesome by-products of the offending meal…or in this case, emotions.
During a recent organizing spree, I took a few moments to scan through my journals from years ago. After a quick perusal, I realized that they were nothing more than permanent records of negative experiences. They were reminders of past behaviors and decisions I’m not particularly proud of, struggles I thought would be the end of me, strained relationships, hurtful conversations, family losses, and episodes of dark depression. Journaling these instances was therapeutic at the time, but all these years later I could only wonder why on earth I had kept these things for so long.
After much pondering, I decided it was time to rid myself of these stagnant vaults of unpleasant memories, but for my personal privacy and a desire to add some symbolic sense to this farewell, I did not want them tossed out with tomorrow’s garbage – I wanted them destroyed.
I know that destroying old journals may not be the right choice for many people. I know some choose to keep their journals for a lifetime; each person must decide what works best for them. Personally, the following three reasons convinced me that I needed to get these journals out of my life for good:
My Old Journals Harbor Negativity
I’m not a new age spiritualist or someone who painstakingly plots out the arrangement of furniture and belongings according to the elements; however, I do believe that holding onto certain physical possessions can be a psychological impairment. Although I obviously didn’t read my journals every single day, I knew where they were and I knew what was in them. That was enough to make it seem as if those past events and the person I was then were still lingering in the atmosphere. Basically, they were much too close for comfort.
They are NOT Helpful Reminders
Until very recently, I was convinced that I needed to retain my journals forever. I thought they would serve as helpful reminders of how far I’d come and how much life had improved once I had clawed my way out of the dark well of depression. Today, I am certainly very thankful to be past those years, however, reading my own history was anything but enlightening or encouraging. In fact, reading my journals only left me with a heavy heart as I recalled the gross, yucky emotions I was feeling at the time I originally recorded them. I decided my old journals were not a healthy way to remind myself of how far I’ve traveled on this long, exhausting journey to mental well-being.
Time to Move On
Thankfully, after giving the boot to useless psychiatric meds, receiving much needed support from my husband and family, pursuing more successful behavioral therapy, and finally returning to church, I no longer experience the levels of sadness, hurt, anger, and frustration expressed in these journals. But, as long as I held onto these physical reminders of the past, the person I was and didn’t like very much seemed always just a page away. I needed to put more “physical” distance between us.
How to Destroy?
Once I made the decision to destroy my journals, I needed to figure out how I would do so. One article suggested burning old journals to ensure their departure was not only final but also symbolic; when I mentioned this to my husband, he seemed to turn rather pale and his face took on a somewhat worried expression. I can only assume he was replaying in his mind my many clumsy, household accidents and thinking, “Oh my gosh, she’s going to burn down the house.”
Burial is the Best
I decided the best way for me to destroy my journals was to shred each of them and then bury those shreds deep in the dirt throughout our back yard. I also decided to plant a flower or shrub over these spots. I can then watch as new and pretty life springs forth as my old, negative words slowly disintegrate and merge with the dirt below.
I finished shredding all of my journals yesterday. It was slightly more draining than I expected as I couldn’t resist one final perusal through some of the pages before me. Happily, after all the shredding was finished, I felt a huge sense of relief (although I was left with more shredding to dispose of than I had anticipated).
Again, if you are a journal keeper, the thought of destroying your old journals may fill you with anxiety. On the other hand, if you occasionally read through your old journals and find yourself feeling worse or heavy-hearted, perhaps it would be helpful to consider creating your own journal farewell ceremony.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of digging to do!