Digging Deep: Who Benefits From Journaling and What Are The Obstacles?

An Interview With Sherri Brisson

Digging Deep
Digging Deep. Sherri Brisson

I had the opportunity recently to interview Sherri Brisson, one of the co-authors of Digging Deep. This is a wonderful book for adolescents with any chronic illness. Digging Deep helps a young adolescent in expressing their feelings about their asthma. Many times parents and doctors fail to recognize some of the impacts chronic illness has on kids-- mostly because we have not given our kids the appropriate outlet.

Take a look at the questions I had for Sherri and her really inciteful answers. After reading the questions and answers let me know if you think journaling could help your child's asthma control.

Are there any particular groups of children that are more likely to benefit than others? Are there any kids who should not participate?

One of our biggest surprises has been the variety of young people that our journal has helped. Two boys I particularly remember were teens with brain tumors, both 16-years old, not the most likely candidates for pouring their hearts out in a journal. One said to his mom, “Look, Mom, Sheri wrote this journal just for me.” He could see himself in the journal and could identify with it. The other teen said to me, “You gave this book to the right kid. I can answer all of the questions!” It is very empowering when kids realize they already have  the answers inside.

Whether a young person has a chronic illness or a disability he or she was born with, I truly feel journaling can help.

All these health challenges may bring up feelings of loss, feeling different, being out of control, or trigger strong emotions, such as anger or sadness. Journaling can help throughout the process, as the young person’s relationship to their illness grows and changes over time.

Digging Deep supports kids with physical illness who may have emotional issues stemming from these illnesses.

Our journal was not intend to address the needs of kids with mental illness or learning disorders or kids whose parents or siblings are sick. In fact, kids with these issues have been using Digging Deep because there really isn’t any other alternative, but this is not our primary audience or the focus of our nonprofit.

Digging Deep is also not intended to replace therapy if needed. We stress to parents, professionals, and the young people themselves that journaling may bring up strong emotions, and they are uncomfortable or concerned, to reach out immediately to a trained professional who is there to help.

What obstacles or problems are most amenable to journaling? 

Although kids may have different illnesses, the feelings and issues surrounding illness in their lives are remarkably similar.

Although it would be ideal if children started journaling at the time of diagnosis or initial understanding of their health challenge, we know that this is not always possible. Journaling can truly be started at any point in time—whether it is to record feelings at time of diagnosis or an opportunity to reflect back and gain understanding of their health challenge.

Journaling can help whether young people are reflecting on a particular situation they are grappling with or as they begin to understand the overall role illness has played in their life.

Journaling can also be a wonderful tool for kids in isolation, such as isolation following a bone marrow transplant. Journaling can also be used in a group setting. It is very true that having one’s story witnessed is powerful. Having someone voice what you were about to say gives kids a special feeling of camaraderie.

If your child is having problems finding things to write about you might consider these 26 writing prompts about asthma specifically.


Interview with Sherri Brisson

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