Journalin symptoms and habits for managing RA

Keeping Tabs

When I was twelve I wrote about my cat in a journal. I wrote each entry in the first person based on what she did each day. I continued this long after we got our second cat and our first dog but soon, school and life got in the way and I stopped. (Now that these three just crossed the threshold from geriatric to ancient I kind of wish I hadn’t stopped writing!)

A way to express me

From middle school to high school, I wrote occasionally but instead found it more fun to write my friend’s daily quotes all over my desk. To this day, I can tell you the story behind each one.

I didn’t journal in college, though maybe I should have. College was an interesting time and thankfully I remember most of it clear as day.

I was diagnosed right out of university and am 100% sure I experienced symptoms while there. This is when I started to journal again (by the way, I’m going to make journaling a verb even if my computer does not think it is one). It was a way for me to vent about what was happening to me. I found I wrote every little detail about every little thing and I ran very quickly through multiple notebooks. My brain felt better even though my fingers and hands did not.

Clearing my headspace

But, then I puttered out. There were large gaps in my journals from weeks to months. I think one was as long as six months and I realized my head was jumbled. I had too many feelings floating around, bumping into each other, clogging my headspace. I needed a better way of mapping out my thoughts. One journal for everything was just too confusing so I bought two more and organized them.

I recorded my daily activities in the first. I wrote about my day, how I felt about it and any other thoughts that ran through my mind at that moment. It helped me stay present and accountable to myself.

Journaling health trends for RA

The second chronicled my diet and medications. I didn’t count calories or portion control but used it to find trends. I also wrote my work schedule and how many naps I took and for how long. I found this the most helpful out of all my notebooks. I found out last year I lost 15 pounds because I had unknowingly cut out fatty foods (like picking the nuts out of my granola in the morning, not eating avocadoes or eggs and replacing whole fat greek yogurt with non fat). I also found out I am out like a lightbulb the weekend after my Orencia infusion.

The third journal was just a “symptom checker”. I wrote about my physical symptoms and color coded them. I made sure to write down pain “level”, any immobility, dry eyes, skin changes, period checker and anything else my doctor and I had spoken about.

Journaling was to me as the Pensieve was to Dumbledore. It cleared my mind of the extra thoughts that clouded my judgment or biased my decisions. I also made the most of my doctor’s visits. Before I saw my rheumatologist, I quickly scanned the entries since my last appointment and noted my concerns or questions.

Do you journal? What about? If not, are you thinking about it? I can honestly say it’s helped me tremendously during my journey with Rheumatoid Arthritis and recommend it to everyone!

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