The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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My Journal Saved My Life

When I was in the 9th grade, my mom lost her job and we could no longer afford our apartment. My dad had left us and wasn’t giving us financial support. I was really depressed because I was concerned about my next meal and where I would sleep (and you can imagine how my mom felt).

I wasn’t really talking to anyone about what I was going through, which wasn’t a good feeling. But I eventually started keeping a journal and that really helped me out. I gained a better understanding of myself and how to handle emotional problems through writing in my diary and re-reading it.

Writing allows my emotions to pour out of my emotional storage bag, my heart. Once it’s opened and my feelings are released, I am at ease. But when I’m going through a hard situation and my emotional storage bag is closed, I feel a lot of pressure. I worry that I may eventually explode or take out my pain on someone else if the pressure is not released.

At one point, my father was the main source of that pressure. He made everything a nightmare for me. He was physically abusive to my mother when they lived together. I hated him for hurting her. Sometimes I wished he would die. But those were just angry thoughts. I didn’t really mean it. I always thought that I should try to forgive him because he was my father and it was the “Christ-like” thing to do.

I felt like I was basically on “No-Man’s Island.” I had just started high school and was getting to know people there. I couldn’t talk with my friends about what was going on at home. I didn’t feel like I could trust anyone. I felt pushed into isolation.

Toward the end of the school year, my father stopped helping my mom with the rent. She couldn’t afford the apartment alone, so we moved to a two-room basement apartment a few blocks away. It was small and I didn’t like it, but it was the only thing we could afford.

Apart from getting good grades, nothing in my life was good. I felt suicidal. Life to me was not worth living because everything was so complicated. At 14, I just couldn’t understand why I had to deal with so much.

I made it through 9th grade, but I felt terrible. My father was still calling my mother even though they weren’t living together. On one particular summer night, he called and they got into a heated conversation. He threatened to kill her. I think my mother was worried, but she didn’t show it. I felt horrible. The thought of losing my mother terrified me. After I heard what happened, I wrote in my diary for the very first time. It was really just a plain notebook, but I felt like I had to write in it. I had to release what I was feeling.

image by Yvonne Chen

When I began to write in my journal, I was finally able to detail what was happening with my parents. Although my diary couldn’t offer advice, it was such a relief to get my emotions down on paper.

I began to write in my journal almost every day. After I poured out everything in those entries I felt much better, though I still worried about what would happen to my mother. I would open up completely in my diary. It’s almost like my head went from heavy to empty, especially when I wrote about my father’s behavior. When I wrote my angry thoughts, my mind was less stressed. It’s like I told someone my feelings and they offered to listen. I didn’t feel sad or suicidal anymore.
Eventually I realized that writing was helping me cope with my father. In fact, I think my diary saved me. Whenever something bad happened, I would write about it. Before I had my diary, I would just sit and cry and hope for the best. Sometimes I prayed, too. But writing helped me the most. A few days after making an entry, I would go back to read what I wrote. Re-reading the journal entries still made me angry as I remembered those awful situations, but the feelings of hate toward my father had left me.

Thankfully, my home life eventually got better. My mother got a job and we started getting back on our feet. Mommy said that as soon as she got enough money, we would move to a better apartment. My dad is now incarcerated because of other offenses, and I don’t fear him hurting my mom anymore. We correspond with him by mail.

My journal helped me to let go, and as a result, I’ve changed a lot. I understand myself better now. I’ve also been able to write about things besides my difficult home life. When I re-read my diary a few times, I noticed that I write about sports a lot. That led me to join a couple of sports teams in high school.

I’ve also written a lot about boys. I kept a record of the guys I dated and how I felt about them. Reading these entries now, I realize that for a long time I was looking for a father figure, not a boyfriend. I noticed how the guys I would go for were usually older and more serious. I felt like I always wanted a guy who could give me fatherly advice as well as intimacy, probably because I lacked a father who was consistent in my life. But I see things a lot differently now.

Re-reading my journal entries, I realize that I’m a capable person and I don’t need a boyfriend who would be like a second father. For instance, in one of my entries, I wrote about Ron. He was definitely a “father-figure,” but I realized I never liked how I felt around him. I didn’t feel I could fully voice my opinion around him because he had a serious, gruff tone that scared me. Scanning my entries on Ron, I began to figure out that I might be better off dating a guy who could be a boyfriend and a friend at the same time, a person who isn’t always serious. My journal helped me figure out that I wanted someone to have fun with.

My journal was my best friend. It made me think and helped me come up with different ways to handle problems by myself. I still write in it, but I feel more comfortable now talking about my problems with a few chosen friends. My diary has made that a lot easier as well. By writing down how I feel about something before talking about it, I’m a lot more clear about what I want to say. I don’t have to hustle to figure out my feelings right before I speak.

I now have more than three years of my life recorded in a book. I’m so glad to have my journal. I recently named it “Precious,” because that’s how I feel about all the thoughts it contains.

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