Thursday, July 29, 2010

Daily Journal Writing: Healing with Words - Interview with Author Diana Raab

Over the years, I have written extensively on the importance of daily journal writing, as well as the benefits of journal writing.  So, I am greatly honored to be hosting Diana Raab to Words from the Heart as she continues her blog tour for her new book Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey. 
Diana is an amazing woman, who meets the challenges of life head on. Diana has earned three degrees: an undergraduate degree in Health Administration and Journalism, an RN, and a MFA. She is the mother of three, who dealt with high risk pregnancies. An award winning author, she has written eight books to date. The focus over the past 25 years has been medical and self-help writing, as well as memoirs and poetry. Her new book, Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey combines a little of it all.

Hi, Diana! I am so thrilled to have you as a guest on my blog, especially today. It is my second daughter’s 30th birthday. She had surgery last year to remove a cancerous tumor, so your book has hit close to home for me on several levels. Thankfully, she is doing well, expecting the birth of her third child in about four or five weeks.

I like that you are encouraging journaling as a way to invite health into your life. As a nurse, do you encourage patients to journal? When you are teaching or leading a seminar on journaling for health, how do you explain what happens to the body/mind/spirit that contributes to wellness? In other words, what is it that allows journal writing to contribute to health? I know writing is cathartic, but what actually happens?

I recommend journaling to anyone who is going through a difficult time, whether it be emotional or physical. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of writing to heal. Dr. James Pennebaker is a research psychologist and one of the pioneer researchers in this area. He discovered the healing power of writing during an experiment he performed in the 1980s. He asked some clients to write for four consecutive days for 15-20 minutes a day about either a traumatic experience or a superficial event. The results showed that those who wrote about their traumas needed less medical attention in the subsequent months than they had previously. The subjects also admitted that writing had changed their lives. 
Regular expressive writing has been shown to elevate mood, decrease stress, improve sleep, work efficiency and how people deal with one another. Biologically, all of these factors can positively boost the body’s immune system.

You are a tenacious cancer survivor, having battled both breast and bone marrow cancer! You are also a prolific writer, having written eight books. What made you decide to write a memoir, as opposed to a novel or book of poems? 

Ever since being given a journal by my mother at the age of 10, I have always gravitated towards personal, nonfiction writing. In my 20s, I was a medical journalist and when I began having my own health issues in my 40s, it was natural for me to turn to writing memoir. I simply feel most comfortable writing in this genre.
One of the most difficult problems for people with chronic illness to deal with is depression. Can you explain the link between creativity and depression?

Many studies have linked depression and creativity. Personally, when I am going through difficult times, I will turn to journaling to help me find answers and self-guidance. After receiving my breast cancer diagnosis in 2001, in addition to exercise, the only way I knew how to cope with my sadness was through writing. This passion has helped me heal during so many times in my life and helped me make sense of chaotic events. 
It has been said that creative persons, such as authors, artists, actors, musicians, performers and poets are more often plagued with the demon of depression. One of the reasons could be that creative types tend to feel powerful emotions, which motivate their creative endeavors. If we examine the lives of accomplished artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Darwin, Virginia Wolf, William Styron, Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, we will note that they all battled with depression at some point in their lives. If you’ve ever been depressed then you understand the sense of helplessness and numbness which accompanies this illness. Sometimes, a sense of helplessness drives creative individuals to be more creative, but other times, depression can be immobilizing.

I saw Morgan Freeman’s movie, “Bucket List” not too long ago. It is about two very different men, who form an unlikely friendship. They create a list of things they want to accomplish that will make the world better. What would be on your bucket list and why?

My bucket list would include teaching people to take care and honor their health and also, to do more expressive writing. I have seen many positive things come from people expressing themselves on the page. Also, I would encourage people to live in the moment, appreciating what one has rather than thinking about what one does not. 
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about journaling, wellness or healing?

I want to stress the importance of making journaling a regular habit. Typically, I tell my students to write first thing in the morning for at least 15-20 minutes when thoughts are the most pure. Keeping a journal at your bedside encourages this practice. Even if you are feeling fine, you should write every day. Also, remember to date your entries because you might want to look back at how you were feeling and compare it to your present state of mind.

Thanks again, for visiting today, Diana. I wish you well in the days ahead and much success with your book and blog tour.  

Readers who want to take a peek at Diana's book or get a copy for their own library can click this link: 

This post is dedicated to my daughter, Courtney, who has face cancer with grace and courage.  Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!  I am so proud of you.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Words Connect Us to the World

There aren't too many people today in the world that do not have some form of communication device.  Phones, cell phone, mobile phones, computers, hand-helds, blackberries, Ipods, notebooks, laptops...the list grows daily.  We are no longer a world where the words of others take hours, days, weeks or years to reach the other side of the planet.  Today, at this very moment, what I write, the words I use can travel at the speed of light to readers, or listeners in China, Australia, India, Africa.

Words connect us.  They bind us in Love or repel us in fear.  This is why it is so important to be mindful of what we write, or say.  Too often, unconscious comments are flung through the Universe creating pain and tearing us apart.  

As we move forward in time, let us take the time to be mindful of our words, whether written or spoken.  Let us center each syllable in Love and Peace.  When our words connect us to the world, let us create bonds strengthened by our mutual Respect and Compassion.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Words that Bring Hope

Have you ever had the experience where something you said really made a difference in someone's life? Isn't it amazing how that happens?  Often, we don't even think about the impact of those words.  They just come to us.
Hope is a wonderful gift to give another.  Hope that things will change.  Hope that dreams will come true.  Hope that prayers will be answered.

Gogo's Dream: Swaziland Discovered was written with words of hope.  Hope for the Gogos of Swaziland, hope for the children and hope that the words of the poems found within its pages would somehow touch the readers, inspiring them to reach out to people they don't know.

 Gogo Ndzimandze with her Grandchildren and Dr. M

My close friends and family were great.  They immediately purchased a copy of the book, so I was able to send all the profit from those few sales to Possible Dreams International (PDI) to aid Dr. Maithri Goonetilleke and the PDI staff in the work they are doing to bring hope to the peoples of Swaziland.

People like Gogo Ndzimandze and Gogo Ida who have benefited through the generosity of others and have enough food to feed the children and a home that keeps critters out, sheds rain and holds in the warmth.

 Gogo Ida

I had a wonderful blog tour recently, which spread the word about PDI and the work they do.  I had lots of people visit the bookstore online to view my book.  But, no sales.  Needless to say, I was disheartened.

Dr. M and the PDI staff in front of Gogo Ida's new house
So, in an effort to continue supporting PDI and my dear friend, Dr. M, I have lowered the price just a bit.  ALL the profit will still go directly to PDI.  
It is my Hope with a heart full of expectation and gratitude, that my readers will find it in their hearts to make this small gift to PDI

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Words Heal

It never ceases to amaze me how a few kind words can heal the most grievous wounds. 
"I'm sorry."  "Forgive me." "I'm here." "I love you."
Simple phrases; easy to say.  Sometimes, we say them without thinking.  But, when we take the time to look into the eyes of another human and say with all our heart these phrases, healing happens.

Interestingly, these same phrases are seldom said to the one person who needs to hear them the most...ourselves!

When was the last time you looked in the mirror and said, Forgive me, or, I love you?
It's not easy.  We feel foolish.  We don't see the need.  
It's a shame, really, because when we are not able to love or forgive or care for ourselves, we cannot truly be there for anyone else.

It took me many years to forgive myself for not being the perfect daughter, the perfect wife, the perfect mother.  Once I was able to understand that it was OK not to be perfect; it was only necessary to try to be the best you can be, healing happened. 

The moment I forgave myself, I was able to say without shame or hesitation that I love "me."  

Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a magical fifteen second revelation.  It has taken me years.  It was hard work.  Sometimes, I slip back into old habits.  Forgiveness is difficult, love is difficult, caring is difficult.  The difficulty, the fear lies in the chance that you may get hurt again.  I won't lie, you probably will get hurt again.  

However, the good news is, that with forgiveness, comes new opportunities to love and care for yourself and others. 

May you see the Sacred in yourself as well as others.  Namasté!