ARLINGTON, Va. – The team at the Soldier Recovery Unit in Hawaii are helping recovering Soldiers learn to journal, jotting down their thoughts and feelings on paper. And it has proved crucial in their recovery.
SRUs offer adaptive reconditioning programs that help wounded, ill and injured Soldiers resume active lifestyles and reach short- and long-term goals. It's one aspect of the Army Recovery Care Program, which supports Soldiers as they transition back to duty or to veteran status.
Carol Hickman, adaptive reconditioning support specialist at the Schofield Barracks SRU, sends writing prompts to the Soldiers. She said they often are about actions one could take to improve things over time. A prompt might say, “list something you can accomplish today” or “name a time you were proud of yourself.”
It doesn't take much to get started journaling.
“It is easy to do because all you need is pen and pencil or even just somewhere to record thoughts – like a phone or a computer,” she said.
Hickman said that journaling offers a space to express oneself and examine emotions and thoughts.
“Many of our Soldiers found journaling to be a helpful tool to work through anxiety they had,” she said.
Sgt. 1st Class Karl Wiggins, who is assigned to the Schofield Barracks SRU, has been journaling for 15 years. He calls it the “notes of life.”
Journaling is cathartic for Wiggins. He grew to realize that his journal would not judge him, hold things against him or find fault. In journaling, all of his thoughts, emotions and feelings could always be expressed, he said.
“I must admit as I started writing, I realized that with this pencil, I can tell the paper whatever I wanted to with all my might, with all my truth, with all my heart and be truthful and real with myself,” he said.
Wiggins said that it’s therapeutic, calming and provides a “place of comfort” that allows the writer to “attain a measure of peace and understanding even in times of difficulty and distress.”
Through journaling, one can become more accepting and compassionate toward things that happened in the past that might be holding them back, he said. It also provides a way to look back and see one’s growth.
Getting those first words down on paper may be tough for some. Wiggins explained that there isn’t a correct way to get started. For those interested in giving it a try, he said to begin by having a conversation with oneself that will have a lifelong impact.
“Do not be so caught up in grammar and everything,” Wiggins said. “If you are seeking a forgiveness plan, this is for you. If you are seeking peace, this is for you. And if you are trying to put some things behind you, then this is for you.”