I can nurture my inner self and just seamlessly transfer all that baggage from my shoulders onto a page.

Growing up as a shy child, I was never able to express my feelings, something I still struggle with to this day.  

I find myself holding back any negative emotions out of fear of causing conflict and refusing to cry in public because I subconsciously believe that people are not meant to see my vulnerable side. Perhaps my introverted nature, my subconscious fear of being judged comes from being raised by a strict grandmother who always emphasised the need to be strong 

According to her, African women are meant to carry their pain with grace, never allowing people to see their weakness. I got accustomed to emulating her behaviour, avoiding vulnerability and the accompanying emotions. Now, however, I have found an outlet that feels safe for my emotions, I have found my journal.     

I had been thinking of keeping a journal for a while but worried I would not have time to do it consistently or on a long-term basis. Until Tuesday, March 16, when I challenged myself, and somehow landed inside a bookstore, ready to purchase my first journal. I guess at that point, my brain was fed up with all the mental baggage I had forced it to carry.

Checking my options at the store, my eyes finally laid on a simple, minimalist-styled journal, in my favourite colour – lilac. This would soon be filled with years of built-up emotions from my parents’ divorce to my mother’s absence due to her working in a different province, and the very sudden death of my grandmother from cancer. She was the person who molded me into the woman I am today. Losing her made me feel as if I had lost a huge part of myself. These are things my heart needed a safe space to detox 

I have come to realise that I articulate myself best through writing. When I try to express my feelings verbally to someone, I struggle, whereas on paper, he words just flow. Writing is my therapy. It gives me the chance to be completely vulnerable with myself. I can be honest about my emotions and why I am feeling that way without fear of judgement. I can nurture my inner self and just seamlessly transfer all that baggage from my shoulders onto a page. Writing is my form of healing. 

I have decided to be flexible throughout this journey by not confining myself to a specific time to do it. Writing first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. It is soothing to just write while your mind is still refreshed and at peace. But, on the other hand, writing just before bed also offers an opportunity to mentally declutter. can write everything I am feeling without overthinking it. My casual writing style makes this experience feel very authentic to me. 

I can just picture the old Karabo staring at me with amazed eyes and sayingSo you’re one of those journal huns now?” I used to think journaling was only done by Caucasian girls in those coming-of-age movies or teenage romance films. 

After reading a few online articles on the benefits of journaling, and how it can help relieve stress or anxiety, improve the quality of sleep and can propel you towards your goals, I had to try it. 

My goals included being consistent in nurturing my mental health, becoming a better communicator within my friendships and learning to accept every challenge as it comes. These are things I feel I have improved on since the start of this journey. It has relieved me of my insomnia. My anxiety levels are not as excessive and I feel less overwhelmed when it comes to dealing with challenges such as my academics.  

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that human interaction is still a necessary part of one’s emotional wellbeing and that I am not immune from the need to be vulnerable with other humans. However, writing has helped me get to a point of realising that it is okay to pour out my feelings. My journal offers the first steps towards overcoming my fear of vulnerability. It is my haven. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Karabo Mashaba