Course Review: 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain

As you may know already, I live with an assortment of chronic illnesses, both physical and mental. Some are diagnosed and others are in limbo.  As you’re even more likely to know, I’m also a writer when I’m not blogging.  So, when I heard that Esther of Life in Slow Motion was looking for bloggers to review her course, 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain*, I just had to reach out!  Fortunately for me, she was willing to have me review the course and to become an affiliate for this and her other courses*.  I’ve truly loved the course and I’m more than happy to share my experience and thoughts with you in this Expressive Writing* review!

I’ll be drawing from the facts of the course itself, but also from my own experiences with it.  As I’ll explain further on, this is an incredibly personal course. So while we won’t have the same experience, I’m confident that it will be just as powerful an experience for you.  

I received a copy of 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain* in exchange for my review.  As always, my opinion is nevertheless 100% my own and completely truthful.  Additionally, I am an affiliate for this course, so this post does contain affiliate links.  See our disclosure for more information on reviews and affiliate links!

ABOUT THE COURSE

As you may have gathered from the full title, 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain* looks into using expressive writing as a tool for dealing with chronic illness and pain.  After a brief introduction to the course and to the concept of expressive writing, each module is focused on a series of prompts to inspire your writing.

A few of the benefits given for expressive writing and for this course:

  • Increased awareness
  • Increased understanding
  • New insights
  • Decreased pain intensity
  • Increased overall being

From my own experience, I can confirm each of these!

The course is set up to be taken over 31 days but is entirely self-paced.  For me, this was especially beneficial as I found myself needing to write more and ended up moving through it much more quickly.  For others, I’d imagine, this level of internal contemplation could be a bit too strong to work at that pace.  Or, if you’re especially busy, you can postpone a day’s writing without guilt.

Expressive Writing* looks at a variety of concepts including Grief and Emotions, Relationships, and Goals.  Each larger category contains a few days’ prompts. Esther recommends following these in order, and I completely agree.  I found myself referencing previous writings as I went along, too.

Perhaps most importantly, this course is a very personal one.  The prompts and subsequent pieces are meant to be for you. These prompts ask you to delve deep into yourself and really examine your thoughts, goals, emotions, and pain. It’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster at times, to say the least.  But the benefits are truly innumerable; I’m still working through some of them myself.

With that, it’s also recommended that these writings be personal so that you can write freely, without censoring yourself.  This is something I really struggled with, personally. I’ll be sharing an excerpt from one of my own prompts below, but otherwise, these writings have been kept to just me, myself, and I. I really recommend a level of privacy.  Much like a journal or diary, these are meant to be a sort of safe space for you to really engage with yourself.

MY REVIEW

The overview description of Expressive Writing* begins: “Chronic pain and illness change everything.  Sometimes you begin to lose yourself in the process.” I was struck by how strongly these lines hit me.  I’ve been going through quite the quarter-life crisis and while a big portion of that is simply my age and the point I’m at in life, I know that even more of it comes from my health and the limitations it inevitably puts on me.  When I started this course, I’d only just begun to realise how much this phenomenon was affecting me and seeing it written out so succinctly was poignant. This really stayed with me throughout the course and it definitely made my writing more effective.  

As I entered the course itself, I continued to learn from it before even putting pen (well, pencil, actually)  to paper. “Expressive writing is a type of journaling that focuses on emotions surrounding significant or traumatic events.” Coming from writing poetry, this immediately stood out.  To some degree, I was already using a similar concept in my typical writing (if you’ve read Mistakes Were Made*, “Fracture(s)(d)” stands out in particular).

One thing I noticed in going through this course is that I struggled to encompass my full experience across my multitude of illnesses in one piece of writing.  I may go back and re-do portions of it, focusing specifically on a single diagnosis, or just physical or mental illnesses.  This is, of course, not a fault of the course—I’m actually very excited at the thought of revisiting some of the prompts!

Overall, I got so, so much out of this course. I found myself writing pages at a time for the various prompts.  Conversely, for some, I ended up with only a paragraph or two. I found these were sometimes the most powerful bits of writing.

Emotional impacts aside, the most complicated aspect of the course, for me, was the section regarding faith.  As a non-traditional Christian, these prompts were a bit out of my comfort zone, but I nevertheless found them to be powerful, maybe even more so because of this.  

I found the most emotionally difficult prompts to be those regarding identity and bearing burdens.  I definitely struggle with defining who I am outside of my illnesses and other external factors. Feeling like my illnesses are burdens to others is one of the worst issues I’ve encountered in my own chronic pain and illness journey.  For these, I found myself writing out things I hadn’t given much thought to and it gave me an awful lot to think about. I’m still sorting through some of the thoughts and emotions I uncovered here and I’ll definitely be returning to this over time.

One of the prompts in Expressive Writing* has to do with writing a letter regarding your pain or illness.  From the given choices, I chose to write a letter to my loved ones who have stood by me throughout these seemingly endless health issues.  This was the piece I think I was most proud of. While The Mighty, my usual spot to share pieces like this, was unable to publish it, I’ve realised that here on the blog might be even more appropriate a spot.  After all, you’re all incredibly dear to me and have been through much of this journey with me, too. So, in reading the excerpt below, know that this applies to you wonderful readers just as much as it does to my “real-life” friends and family.  

A Letter to My Loved Ones, On Chronic Pain

Dear _____,

I wanted to tell you a little bit about my chronic pain.  

It’s impossible to really explain what chronic pain is really like, to let you walk in my shoes.  It’s even more difficult when my other chronic illnesses join the party.

It’s exhausting.  It’s like someone’s torturing your voodoo doll while someone else periodically hits various parts of your body with a sledgehammer.  It’s like you have an eternal flu and every time it starts to feel better you just catch it again. It’s a psychic sort of pain telling you it’s soon going to rain.  It’s wanting to do something but knowing you’re not strong enough or won’t have the energy—the spoons— to do it.

So, thank you.  Thank you for recognising that I’m not lazy, not unmotivated, not refusing to try a little harder.  Thank you for trying to do something like understanding, for recognising it’s not all in my head, for taking care of me at my worst.  

Thank you for loving me anyway.  

Phew. There’s a lot in those couple of lines and, again, I’m still working through pieces of it myself.  But this is the sort of provocative start provided in this course. The self-discovery is honestly priceless.  

ABOUT ESTHER AND LIFE IN SLOW MOTION

Beyond Expressive Writing*, Esther runs the blog Life in Slow Motion, where she helps people “address the physical, spiritual, and emotional impact of chronic illness and pain.”  She’s grown her blog from her own personal experience to a site that truly helps people who are grappling with chronic illness and pain. Additionally, she is a certified counsellor and offers a variety of resources, including this course.  

As well as this course, she offers two others, What Really Helps People With Chronic Pain* and  A Complete Guide to Pacing for Chronic Pain*. After experiencing 31 Days of Expressive Writing for Chronic Illness and Pain*, I have no doubt that these will be equally powerful, helpful courses!  

Be sure to visit Esther at Life in Slow Motion and on Facebook, and to check out her courses.  

HAS OUR EXPRESSIVE WRITING* REVIEW CONVINCED YOU TO CHECK OUT THE COURSE FOR YOURSELF? SIGN UP HERE* AND LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS WHAT YOU THINK!

Course Review - Expressive Writing

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