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Journals - keep them or destroy them?

number4 posted 9/28/2020 23:40 PM

When I first went into therapy, almost 30 years ago, I started keeping journals. Between my therapist, and those journals, that's what kept me sane. I used them as a place to vent about things I was learning about myself, my FOO, and my husband (this was many, many years pre-affairs). Prior to therapy, I had spent my entire life normalizing my family and thinking I came from the perfect family. That was all shattered.

In those journals, I wrote about things that I'd never want anyone to read - they are things I told my therapist about, and my husband knows about, but no one else is privy to. Several years ago when we downsized from a house to condo, but in the same area, I didn't want the journals in my possession any longer, lest they fall into some wrong hands in the case something happened to me, or H. Granted, I stopped writing journals (until I found out about H's cheating) probably fifteen years ago... so they sat in our basement. When I contemplated destroying them, my therapist and I discussed it, and he offered to store them for me in his locked filing cabinet, so we could revisit it at a later time. We talked about possibly going through some of them together, and if I decided, we could shred them in his office in a sort of ritual - we're probably talking about 5-6 spiral bound notebooks.

Fast forward to now - we have since moved cross country, and the last time I saw my previous therapist was a year ago when we were back for a visit in the area. We talked about the journals again and decided I'd talk with my new therapist about what I might want to do with them. Then next time I was back in the area, I'd either take them with me, or we'd do the shredding thing. Of course, COVID happened - we never made it back for another visit (canceled the one we had scheduled) and have no plans to travel by plane anytime in the foreseeable future. I knew last winter that my old therapist was winding down his practice in the suburbs where I saw him, and where my journals were being stored. When I saw him a year ago, we thought, hey, we've got a year before I need to get them out of his office, one way or another.

Last I talked to him late spring, we didn't talk about the journals, but last week, I realized he must be getting close to closing down the other office, and is going to want to know what to do with them. So I emailed him, and suggested we schedule an appt. just for the purpose of discussing my options. We 'met' last week, and these are my options: 1) he can ship them directly to me (this makes me a bit nervous, knowing they are 'out there' for anyone to find; and again, I don't want them in my home in case anything happens to me); 2) he can destroy them; in fact, he has already moved them to his office downtown, which he will keep open, but won't have the permanent storage space to keep them - he's having to purge 35+ years worth of stuff from his suburban office and a storage facility. The office building he is in downtown has a twice yearly shredding company come, and their next date is Oct 4th... so we are both under the gun to make a decision. I'd feel safe with his overseeing their shredding. 3) he offered to ship them to my current therapist, who I've only been with for a year and a half. She and I have discussed my journals, and she knows my previous therapist has them in his possession. I haven't asked her if she'd be willing to keep them, but I'm not as comfortable with her storing them as I was him.

My gut feeling all along has been to have them shredded. My previous therapist offered last week to take a cursory glance through them to see if there was anything he thinks would be beneficial for me to reread again. If so, he would scan and email it to me; I don't even know if I need that. As I remember it, these entries/journals were from an extremely painful time of my life, reflecting on an extremely painful time in my life, my childhood - why would I want to reread those? It's as if I want to destroy them because I don't ever want to be reminded in such a visceral way what I was like when life was hell (I was doing therapy twice a week, I was in such bad shape). My old therapist has wondered if it might be cathartic to read stuff to see how much I've grown. I think at my age, I can observe that, without reading about it.

I am looking for those of you who journal, and might have been faced with a decision about what to do with old journals. FWIW... the journaling I picked up again after multiple DDays, is done on my laptop, and is password protected. I do occasionally go back and read those entries to see how far I've/we've come. But I haven't journaled in almost a couple of years now.

I have an 'appointment' with my current therapist tomorrow, and will discuss this with her again.

newlife03 posted 9/29/2020 10:06 AM

I also kept journals throughout the marriage, after the affairs were discovered, and through the divorce, and even after for a time. I wrote everything I was feeling, everything that I had discovered, and I knew I never wanted anyone - especially my children - to see them.

I believe it was in 2011, after several years of feeling indifferent towards xWH, that I finally felt comfortable enough to get rid of them. I hadn't written in several years, and didn't feel the need to go back to read them anymore. As you said, I knew how far I had come along in my progress towards healing, I felt like I had healed completely as I no longer had those negative feelings towards xWH but wished him well. I knew it was time to let them go.

[This message edited by newlife03 at 10:07 AM, September 29th (Tuesday)]

wildbananas posted 9/29/2020 10:22 AM

This is a huge, personal topic for me.

I started keeping a journal when I was 13 and continued throughout the years. Very long story short, ex-asshat and I were temporarily living separately (we weren't separated, though) and he took it upon himself to read my journals in my absence. And that was the beginning of the end. His As started, oh, about a year after that, maybe less. In a (failed) desperate attempt to appease him, I threw away 20 years worth of journals.

This is by far one of my biggest regrets in my life. My situation might be different, though - I recorded a bunch of different things over the years that I would do a lot to get back. Like stories from my father's childhood (which he rarely talked about) that I no longer remember...or just stuff in general about my family (they're all gone now). What it was like when my kids were born. Just life stuff throughout my growing up. I so, SO wish I had all that back. Yes, I did it and I take responsibility for it... but part of me will always hate him for backing me into that corner and feeling like I had to trade my history for my marriage (which didn't work, anyway rolleyes ).

That being said, I do have a couple journals (post ex-asshat) about my time with an ex-SO and man, they're painful to read. It was a very bad time in my life and I might destroy those so my children don't see them some day. I think it would be too hard for them to read.

All this rambling is to say... go with your gut and do what YOU want. If your gut tells you to destroy them, then do it. If you're certain you don't want them back and you trust your old therapist, I'd let him destroy them for you and be done with it. If you decide to take them back into your possession, maybe lock them up and have an agreement with someone you trust that they be destroyed immediately if you pass.

Good luck! This is a hard one, I know.

Notthevictem posted 9/29/2020 11:45 AM

it's a tough call. On one hand, I didn't keep any of mine. On the other, I wish I had. While I don't have a use for them now, and would probably be mildly embarrassed if mine came to light, I also realize that after I'm gone, I won't feel embarrassed about anything. The journals from my youth could have been used by my kids or later grandkids to see what I went through. Perhaps relevant to some inherited item of value (i.e. proof the coin collection has been in the family for x years). Or maybe hundreds of years later they might have some kind of historical or cultural value.

I get that some family secrets maybe aren't all that keen of an idea to keep. On the other hand, if you inherited a journal from a great great great grandparent detailing their life from the 1700s, would you find value in that journal?

AnnieOakley posted 9/29/2020 12:25 PM

This too is an interesting topic that I have struggled with. I have journaled on/off for the last 15+ years so not near the length of some of you. I specifically picked it back up a few months ago bcuz of CV19. I wanted my personal thoughts and feelings in black and white vs. just the news.

I think like so many, I tend to journal when things are not the best... how many times do we see that recommended here? So I completely understand the emotional aspect of not wanting to be reminded of those painful times. But I also used it for marathon training, positive affirmation, weight loss, etc. so there are good things in there too!

Based on your description, it sounds like you have not had access to them for several years and while there has been maybe some security knowing you could...you have not felt the need to reclaim them and in fact do not want them in your house. Are the last ones based on more healing that you would want to keep? If not, and they will all bring up those pain filled memories...let him shred them.

Will the symbolic photo of the shredded paper close that chapter for you? Or maybe he sends you a small box of the shredded that you can then burn so you have more control?

number4 posted 9/29/2020 13:44 PM

Will the symbolic photo of the shredded paper close that chapter for you? Or maybe he sends you a small box of the shredded that you can then burn so you have more control?

OMG... as I was reading your post and hadn't gotten to your final paragraph, after just finishing my session with my current therapist, my phone rang, and it was her calling me back. She said she wanted to suggest that I think up some sort of ritual to mark the destruction of them, either with my former therapist, alone, or with my husband present. I was trying to figure out what I could do, and this works... even if he sends me a large envelope with just shredded paper, that could work! Thank you so much for the suggestion!

allusions posted 9/29/2020 13:45 PM

My best friend from age 13 kept diaries for many years. When she died from cancer I took possession of her many diaries from age 12 to sometime in her early 20s. They weren't necessarily therapy journals, although there were a lot of introspective thoughts written down which could have been therapeutic for her. It is fascinating to me to read her words (and see me included!) referencing life in the 1970s and early 80s. I wish I had kept detailed diaries as she did. I am very glad to have her written thoughts in my possession. I guess my point is, once your journals are destroyed there is no getting them back. My suggestion is to make sure you are 100% certain you want to destroy them before you do.

AnnieOakley posted 9/30/2020 11:51 AM

Absolutely Number... Iím sure youíll figure out something that gives you the resolution you deserve! 🙂✨

number4 posted 9/30/2020 23:44 PM

Ugh... I sat down several times today to email my previous therapist and ask him about sending me shredded sheets of one of my journals, but every time I thought about it, I got an eerie feeling, like I didn't want him to shred them at all. If they're going to be destroyed, they have to be by me.

So I emailed him, and told him I was having reservations, and that I might want him to send them to me after all. If I get them, I might not read them, but I know they're here if I want to. We have a fireproof lock box that I can put them in.

Why is this such torture?

tl502 posted 10/1/2020 08:52 AM

Iíve never really been one to journal, so Iím not sure that Iím a good source of advice. I did journal for the first couple of years after dday though.
I light a fire in our fire pit one day when was alone. I burned one paper at a time until they were gone. It was very cathartic. I certainly didnít want my children to find them.
My mother passed away in March. While I was clearing out a desk, I found some journals that my mom wrote in the years following my dadís death. It was very hard to read and I really wish I had never found it.
Iím truly glad I got rid of mine.

Emotionalhell posted 10/2/2020 08:18 AM

I have considered destroying my journals but I am not quite ready. to destroy them. They are still somewhat therapeutic to me when I go back and read them. It helps me to see how far Iíve come. But I do not want my children to read this after a long period

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