3 Journaling Prompts For AS Self-Care

When I’m really down, I tend to turn toward writing. There’s something about putting pen to page, or fingers to keyboard, that alchemizes the experience of emotion. It gives it permission. It makes it real. It helps me reclaim whatever I’m feeling. And sometimes, it transforms suffering into insight and loss into catharsis.

Writing, to me, is a kind of medicine. It is the expression of in-between, hard-to-admit feelings. It is a way of sitting through the truth and conveying it. It is so hard to lie to the page because the page doesn’t judge. The page comes with open arms and beckons you to share that which you cannot say aloud. It’s a confessional.

I’ve included four prompts below that I have used when I wanted to explore my chronic illness experience or when I’m dealing with a heavy flare-up that seems to take over my mind.

Accessibility tip: Remember that you’re allowed to write by hand, of course, but that you’re also more than welcome to use talk-to-text dictation or a computer to type up your feelings!

Write a brutally honest letter to your body

Write a letter to your body, explaining how you feel about it. Shout at it. Resent it. Soothe it. Speak to it as though it were outside of you and could listen. You’d be surprised at the kinds of feelings we store about our bodies — many of which were forced into our minds by ableism and social ills, while others come from trauma and pain. You don’t have to show anyone these words, so get them out onto the page.

Write a gratitude list to ankylosing spondylitis

The term "gratitude" can sometimes feel a bit empty. In the wellness community, you often hear people convey their love for making gratitude lists, which can feel a bit strange when you feel angry or exhausted or resentful. Still, I think it can be an interesting exercise.

Sometimes a gratitude list is what pushes me past the darkness and forces me to get real and find perspective. With this prompt, I sit with gratitude for ankylosing spondylitis itself. What has it taught me? What has it given me? What can I offer others now that I have this perspective? Sometimes this can help reframe the disease experience.

Write a letter of forgiveness

Although this feels like it’s along the lines of gratitude, forgiveness is a different beast. You may not be at the point where you’d like to write this, and that’s OK. You can always come back to it.

In this prompt, you will write a letter of forgiveness — to your body, to your genes, to your ancestors, to your doctors, to your medication, or — above all — to yourself. You'll write to your hard days, to your anger, to your exhaustion, to all the things you’ve had to say no to, to all the dreams that you’ve had to put on hold.

Forgiveness is the hardest thing for me, and yet at times, it can be freeing. I believe forgiveness is a condition and a practice — something we return to.

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