overhead view of a desk with a journal

Journaling Asthma: Black Notebooks and Beyond

“And I scratched these words into a black notebook,
I wrote your name on top, I knew you’d never look.
I tried my best to fight the atmosphere
To think the happy thoughts, that leave the phone lines clear.”

—Last Straw, Jack’s Mannequin

I have so many pretty notebooks, but for whatever reason—perhaps fear of scarring them—I am most drawn to the plain black, coil-bound notebooks. The versatility of notebooks, I think, is what makes them the most attractive to me.


Believe it or not, these are just some of my notebooks—currently in use or, I think, mostly empty!

Pre-quantified self

In my earlier days of asthma, I used to chronicle the details in notebooks. While at the time I was diagnosed I had an iPod touch (circa 2008!), the closest I could get to quantified self-ing my asthma was to use this cumbersome Windows software—needless to say, that didn’t last long. Every so often, I’ll come across a notebook with notes of asthma, kept up for similarly short durations of time.

The “proper” journals

My other journals contained the tougher stuff, the actual emotional impacts of asthma as I left my teens and entered my twenties, navigating the unknowns of uncontrolled asthma, and slowly—very slowly—finding control. Slowly, I moved from paper and pen to type-based means, because who has time to find a pen when you have ideas in your brain trying to escape you forever? Thanks, technology!

My notebooks that used to chronicle my asthma journey have turned to mainly online meanderings on asthma. As those who know me might have noticed, I’m a bit of an open book where asthma (and many things) are concerned, so the physical notebooks and space for “confidential” contemplation on paper have become less necessary, as I allow the world to enter my stream of consciousness online. But journaling is something that I have done in some shape or form since I was nine or ten, possibly earlier, and will continue to do for probably the rest of my life—whether that is on paper, on my laptop, or in my phone.

Benefits of journaling your asthma

I certainly didn’t need a website to tell me the benefits of journaling when I got started—after all, I quite possibly still had dial-up internet then. I’ve reaped these benefits from a young age—though, unlike the quip in this article, I don’t think I ever actually hid my journal beneath my mattress as a teenager. I mean, come on, isn’t that the first place people look?

According to the University of Rochester Medical Centre (URMC), in addition to helping manage mental health concerns and stress, journaling can also help you “prioritize problems, fears and concerns” 1 and engage yourself in positive self-talk, identifying negative thoughts or behaviors (oh did I ever do a bunch of that in my early teens!). 1 As well, while I think this is meant to refer to mental health triggers, URMC also notes that journalling can be helpful to track day-to-day symptoms “so you can recognize triggers and learn ways to control them”.1 This is certainly equally true of asthma!

I can’t say I’ve identified any patterns in my asthma due to journaling, but it definitely can help in dealing with the mental weight of living with a chronic disease!

Do you use a journal to help manage your asthma? Whether a “normal journal”, symptom tracking diary or something else, I’d love to hear what your system is and how it’s working for you!

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