From Participant to Facilitator – a Snippet of Thelma’s Journey
It’s late afternoon in Los Angeles, early evening in Dallas, when I connect with Thelma by phone. I hear her energy and enthusiasm, and with a smile on my face and a small chuckle, we get right to her story.
Thelma, wrestling with the anxiety that comes from surviving cancer, shares that she joined a Better Choices, Better Health® (BCBH) workshop hoping that sharing her personal story will help her feel less alone. A few weeks into the workshop, she shares that she has recently lost her dog of 15 years, her constant companion throughout her cancer journey. Immediately others begin sharing stories about losing their pets. One participant comments, “Just think of the years she was with you and go back to the positive memories, and whenever you feel really down maybe start writing those wonderful things that you thought about your Nicky.” This suggestion inspires Thelma to start journaling.
In our conversation, Thelma shares how journaling has continued to help her manage difficult emotions. She tells me how she “journals whenever she feels sad or depressed”.
Now, as a leader and facilitator of BCBH workshops, Thelma knows that sharing her story of journaling can help current participants the same way it helped her. She tells me about a current workshop where the participants are discussing moments when they’re not able to express difficult feelings. Thelma shares with the group that through journaling, “You’re able to express yourself – what you’re feeling. And when you’re writing about it you may be able to cry about it. I also learned you can find a solution when you go back and read it later.”
Thelma goes on to share that one participant writes that she does not feel confident to even write in a journal, saying, “Where do I begin? How do I know what goes where?”
“Another participant shares that she keeps two journals”, says Thelma, “a not-good-journal and good-journal. One where you express your feelings that are not so good and another where you’re feeling so good you want to remember it. Journaling helps me relieve my emotions. It calms me down. It may not solve the problem, but it takes away that really bad feeling. The other participants respond they haven’t considered that approach.”
As I listen to Thelma speak, I am engaged and want to know how it ends. I ask Thelma and can hear her smiling as she says, “It’s just a brief snippet in the current week, but I know it truly helped my participants feel better. My biggest takeaway from these two workshops is knowing that you are not alone and that there are resources and tools to help those of us with chronic conditions or those of us who are caregivers. It’s important to know that we can learn, and we can manage to cope with the journey we are on.”