Video: The Power of Journaling with Heather Brittain of Bare Root Health

Author - Mari L. McCarthy
Published - Mar 8, 2021 10:03:30 PM

Heather Brittain, a registered nurse, holistic wellness coach, and founder/owner of Bare Root Health focuses on helping women who suffer from chronic pain get to the ROOT cause and find REAL solutions to ease their discomfort without another prescription.


Here is the full transcript of the video:

Heather Brittain: Okay. So hello, everyone. My name is Heather Brittain. I'm a master prepared registered nurse, soon to be IAWP certified holistic wellness coach and owner and founder of Bare Root Health, Wellness Coaching for Women, where I aim to help women with chronic pain and illness to live more, suffer less, and uncover the hidden superpowers of their pain.

Heather Brittain: I'm so excited to be joined here today by Mari McCarthy, a pioneer in journal therapy. Mari and I crossed paths after I heard her speak with the founder of my certification program at the International Association of Wellness Professionals. And after hearing her story and her work, I knew I had to get to know her more.

Heather Brittain: Mari L. McCarthy is the founder and inner work journey guide of, where she shows curious health-conscious people how to use journaling For the health of it. Journaling for the health of it is not only the coolest slogan ever, but its mission even more so, where the individuals she works with is to heal the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual issues in their tissue and know and grow their true self.

Heather Brittain: Mari is the multi-award winning author of Journaling Power: How To Create a Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live and Heal Yourself with Journaling Power. She also created 20-plus Journaling for the Health of It inner-journey workbooks that include Who Am I?, Declutter Your Life in 28 Days, and Take Control of Your Health in 24 Days.

Heather Brittain: To give you an even greater insight into Mari and who she is, one of my favorite quotes of hers is, "If it ain't a challenge, I ain't interested." Truly an inspiring and widespread difference her work is making in this world. Welcome, Mari, it's a pleasure to have you here talking with me today.

Mari L. McCarthy: Well, thank you for the invitation and the opportunity, Heather. Great to see you again.

Heather Brittain: You too. Now, I know I just did a whole lot of talking for you, but I imagine I missed a whole lot more of who you are. Would you mind starting by just telling us about you, your story, and how journaling became such an integral part of your life, your profession, and really your health as a whole?

Mari L. McCarthy: Okay. Let's see, I'll start with when my life changed, which was a multiple sclerosis, MS, diagnosis in July 19, 1991. It was at that point I had my own management consulting firm, so I was flying all over the United States. I have to say, I've been in the 48 contiguous United States. I've never been to Alaska and Hawaii, but I've seen Big Spring, Texas and Clarinda, Iowa and all those kinds of places.

Mari L. McCarthy: So when I received my MS diagnosis, it was like, "Oh, okay. It's time to get off the road." About a year earlier, I had achieved one of my goals, which was buying a house on the beach. So I thought, "Oh, okay. So this is good. I'll be able to be home now and start... " And internet was just starting up, so I just thought, "What I'll do next is set a goal that my next adventure will be running a successful company from my beachfront home."

Mari L. McCarthy: So I got into the whole thing with MS and going through the stereotypical routine of going from doctor to doctor and specialist to specialist and all that type of thing, MRIs and XYZs. And at that point, they were just coming out with new, the ABC drugs that they kind of sort of hoped would be helping the situation.

Mari L. McCarthy: Anyway, I was into a drug called Avonex. I used to have a nurse come because I had lost feeling on the right side of my body. I used to have a nurse come and give me this Avonex shot. Well, one week she didn't come, and I didn't get sick and get the flu for two days after. And I thought, "Oh, I'm getting off of drugs because it's not worth it."

Mari L. McCarthy: And at that point, I had been into journaling for two or three years, and I really felt like I was really clearing out the issues in my tissues and dealing with all these crazy thoughts and feelings and all that kind of stuff. And I just thought, "It's not worth it to be spending $10,000 a year, and the health insurance, all the craziness, to go through it."

Mari L. McCarthy: Anyway, long story short, I got into journaling when I did lose the feeling on the right side of my body because, at that point, I had to teach myself how to write with my left hand. So I got into journaling purely for physical therapy purposes. And as I got into journaling, I discovered, I remembered so many things from childhood. I remembered thoughts, feelings. I started writing poetry. It was like, "Oh my goodness."

Mari L. McCarthy: And I became left-handed very quickly because one of the things I remembered was that I had been left-handed, and the nuns changed me when I was in grade school. So, as I said, I got into journaling for purely physical purposes because having being a type A career woman, I had to have a procedure for learning how to teach myself. I had have the procedure yesterday because time was ticking.

Mari L. McCarthy: But got into it, and I thought, "Oh my goodness, this is unbelievable. This is emotional. This is mental. This is physical. This is spiritual." And I thought, "Okay." And I knew very early on the process, I thought, "Oh, this is the company I'm going to start and share this with the world." So I hope I answered the question [crosstalk 00:06:05].

Heather Brittain: Absolutely, absolutely. And I love hearing that transition. And I think a lot of people can relate to that, being stuck in this rut of physician after physician, appointment after appointment, medication after medication, and it starts to feel like a rabbit hole with no real hope sometimes. And so, I love hearing that transition into something that healed you in a very different way. I'm interested to know, how do you feel others that are living with chronic pain and chronic illness on the day-to-day basis and are stuck in this rut, how do you feel that they can benefit from journaling?

Mari L. McCarthy: Of course, the biggest thing is they get to, and we get to, reconnect with our true self. The story I tell is when we come into this world, we have our creativity, we have our intelligence, we have our talents, and all that. And then, we get all this, what I call adult supervision. We get parented and teacherized and socialized and all that type of thing. And so, we've pushed our talents, creativity, all those things down. And it's just like, we're behaving based on a reaction to a response of parents, teachers, and all that type of thing.

Mari L. McCarthy: So what journaling does is provide us the opportunity to reconnect with our true self, who we really are. It's not who we think we are, "Oh, I can't write. I can't do this... " and all those types of things. Those are issues in your tissues from your childhood that need to be processed. And journaling enables us to sit down with ourself and really explore and investigate who lives in our body and realize, "Well, wait a minute, Dr. So-and-So said this if I take this." Well, wait a minute, there's so much more going on inside of us mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and all the ways that the established medical profession doesn't address.

Mari L. McCarthy: You need to take a look at the whole person because we all have eyes and ears and organs and hearts, and we all have the structural makeup. But what goes on in our, good grief, autoimmune system, our digestive system, all the things down at the intricate cellular level that will not show up on what I call the XYZs, the MRIs, the CAT scans. It's like, there's so much going on that... And journaling helps us to get access to our energy, our spirituality, ourselves, things in our body that, "Oh, they never told us," we were not allowed to look at it. So journaling provides an access to our whole being.

Heather Brittain: Yeah. I love this idea of adult supervision that you brought in because we really do lose touch with our own selves as we grow and evolve. Which is crazy, because when we're little, we just want to grow up so we know everything. But then, as we grow up, we start to lose knowing about our own selves, which is what we probably knew most when we were a child.

Heather Brittain: So I'm interested to hear, when you started accessing this true self that you talk about, did you find it was easier to advocate for yourself in the medical system that was kind of rushed and things were being pushed on you and you were kind of given all these different options? Whereas before you knew this true self, it was like, yeah, sure, I trust you more than I trust myself, once you start started having access to your own true self, how did that change?

Mari L. McCarthy: Well, the first thing I did was I... When the nurse didn't come to give me the shot, and I felt really, really good, I truly felt the journaling had helped me get my power back. And the first thing I did was call up my doctor and say, "Thank you, doctor. We've had a great relationship." And all that type of thing, "But I'm not doing any more drugs. Thanks for all your help, but I'm going to do this on my own." So that was the first thing I did.

Mari L. McCarthy: And it was just really doing a whole lot of journaling and just really exploring it and using the process to try to figure things out and all that kind of stuff and come to the realization that it's like, "Wait a minute, my life and my health is not about me. It's about the doctors and them and the medical... " And so, just getting that clarity, Heather, was just like, "Oh, okay."

Mari L. McCarthy: And again, all the things, all the thoughts, and that's where journaling comes in is just all the thoughts I was carrying around, it was just like, "Oh, I can't do this, you need to do this, and the doctor knows... " all that type of thing. So it's just, I can't say enough that journaling really helps me understand who really lives in my body and understand that, wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense. Just thinking, "This is not a good financial investment to put all the money into things that are going to make everyone else rich and famous and all that kind of stuff."

Mari L. McCarthy: So I guess, it's a fantastic process. It's just a fantastic resource to help us understand that so much of our thoughts and our reactions and behaviors are just based on old programming. And it's just like with journaling that it's a real key resource to help us get through all that kind of stuff. And it's like, "Oh my goodness, I thought that." So it's just really...

Mari L. McCarthy: Again, I say the biggest thing was helping me find my power. And this is like, "Oh, power. Power, strength," it's like even the words are just like, "Oh." It's almost like the thing, oh, you don't say, "Empowered," and all that type of thing. So I think it's just something that it's there, that you can just... It's a process set to help you sort yourself out and understand yourself, explore yourself, and just, again, understand all the things that we didn't understand as children because we were influenced by doctors and parents and people that didn't do their own inner-work, you know?

Heather Brittain: Yeah.

Mari L. McCarthy: And I think one of the things I learned in the last couple of years was from Bruce Lipton, who wrote The Biology of Belief, is that as children, we are working at a totally different level. We are observers. We're ingesting everything. So in effect, we are carrying around other people's thoughts and behaviors and that. So journaling really helps us get those things out and sort through them and get the clarity that, "Yeah, wait a minute. We need to change this relationship. This is my body. This is what's going on with me. This is what I need help with."

Mari L. McCarthy: And when it's time, go to the doctor to ask for his or her assistance in partnering with us, and that's something totally different than the way we were raised. The feelings that we have, "Oh, I can't do that... " No, I think journaling's helped come to the conclusion that it's my life, it's my body. I'm an intelligent, experienced college graduate. And it's like, wait a minute, who's knows me better than me? And with journaling, you take the time to know yourself and reconnect with yourself. And then, you're much more able to say, "Okay, this is what I need. This is what's going on." And it's just like, "I need some help there."

Mari L. McCarthy: I guess what I'm saying is I have to say that I've only used my Medicare card once in the past almost three years, and that was for going to the emergency room for something. I had a really bad diarrhea situation with cramping and passing out, and I thought, "No, this is when you need someone."

Heather Brittain: I need some help. I can't journal out of this one. Yeah.

Mari L. McCarthy: Exactly. Right. Exactly. And I think that's... Excuse me, just changing that whole mentality, it's like, "Okay, yeah, I do need help with this." But the day-to-day thing like other symptoms, I've had edema or tinnitus or whatever, I mean, stuff just happens, and you just have to trial and do this and try this or read about that, and, okay, let's give this a shot or whatever. It's like, everything is not a terminal situation, a life threatening situation. But it's just like we've just been living so much in fear, and, oh, you got to run to the doctor and you get... It's like, whoa.

Mari L. McCarthy: And like I said, and to me, looking at our situation in 2020 with the pandemic, I'm really excited that I hope a lot of people, because a lot more people are getting into journaling and being stuck at home. So it's just like now they have the opportunity to, as I say, investigate who lives in their body, and just really... I mean, the pandemic is a positive life-changing event because it's just like... And people that are staying home and able to, "Oh my goodness, I can do my job and still enjoy my family." Hello. So it's just like, you know?

Heather Brittain: Yeah. I love that key point that you made that once we find this power and we develop this true self and know ourselves better than others do, then we can collaborate with our healthcare team rather than being patients and authority, right? And so, that's a huge key, especially in building rapport with our medical team and trusting what they're asking us to do. We can make those decisions for ourselves. And that's hard to understand until you have this sense of power and have this sense of true self.

Heather Brittain: So I'm thinking of some of the listeners out there that might be thinking, "Okay, I'm sitting here with my chronic pain or my chronic illness, but how did she go from point A to point B and come off all these medications? What was she journaling about that I'm not?" Because a lot of people, when I say, "Start journaling," it's like just talking about their day, and they're like, "I can't go... I'm just talking about my day. I don't know, understand how it goes further than this." So how did you start diving into the real inner work?

Mari L. McCarthy: Well, the way I started was really good. It was a procedure called morning pages. I don't know if you're familiar with them. It's the first thing in the morning, you just write three stream of consciousness, whatever. And that's what is so exciting, it's like, you don't have to have a topic sentence and all that kind of stuff, you just sit down...

Mari L. McCarthy: And I thought, when I first was introduced to that, I thought, "Okay, that sounds like a good idea. All I need to do is get up first thing in the morning and just write whatever." And it was just so freeing because we're so much in our head, "Oh, what do I write about? I can't, I got to get it right, dah, dah, dah, dah." We're all, I'm sure, carrying at least one experience from our childhood of the teacher who told us we can't write or the red marked paper or whatever.

Mari L. McCarthy: So to me, that's my first suggestion is go to the morning pages routine. And it doesn't have to be three, just set a page, okay, so tomorrow morning, first thing, I'm just going to sit down and write whatever. It's going to be crazy. It's going to be chaotic. Your brain, your over-analytical head, your inner-critic, everybody is going to go crazy. And you'll find all these reasons why, oh, you can't do that, or whatever. My suggestion is just put through and just start small. Make it a page, make it a sentence, make it something, and then take the time to just feel how that feels in your body. What's going on? Are you scared? Just really just take it one step at a time and just get into how you feel about what's going on, not whether you think it's a good thing or... No, it's a whole new total experience of being in your body, you know?

Heather Brittain: Yeah.

Mari L. McCarthy: So I think that-

Heather Brittain: You mentioned that everyone kind of shows up for this party, for morning pages, for this conscious party, including the inner-critic. She never misses a party. So I'm interested, a lot of clients when they move from along that journey, okay, so we're starting to talk about our day, but we're also kind of getting into a little bit of inner-work, but now it's starting to feel really negative on my page, Mari. Where do I go now? Because now I'm kind of concerned because my whole journal just feels dark and negative, what advice do you have when it starts feeling that way?

Mari L. McCarthy: The best thing to do is to ask your journal a question or write her a letter because your journal loves it when you ask questions and ask for her advice. Be honest and say, "I'm scared shitless. This is really driving me crazy. I'm negative. I'm this, I'm that. Help me out of this." And then, I'm also then a big proponent of the free writing of just stay at the page and just keep doing it. And then, after you've done a page or whatever, then take a moment and just assess, "Okay, that's what's going on, and that's what I feel."

Mari L. McCarthy: So my suggestion would be just take it one step at a time. But like I said, the questions I find are really good because that's a very common discussion point is about the negativity because what you're doing is you're decluttering yourself, all the things that you absorbed and sucked in as a child. And I mean, because, as you know, our subconscious carries everything. And it's really, we have to take the time with ourselves to un-process it. And it's going to come out as negative, and like you say, the inner-critic is going to be crazy.

Mari L. McCarthy: And with me, it's like, I had no idea when I first started about anything, about the inner-critic. It was just like, I just got really, really scared. I got scared to the point that I went, "Oh, I think I'll go back to the computer and do my journaling on the computer." And I went in there, and I thought, "No, this doesn't work. This is not doing it for me." And when you've been to nirvana and to heaven and everything, it's like, to go back to the computer, it just doesn't make any sense.

Mari L. McCarthy: And interestingly enough, I just talk [inaudible 00:23:57], I found a book that was written by a lady called The Art of Fiction Writing, and it was all about... And she introduced me to the inner-critic. So it's like, "Ah." So I guess what I'm saying is trusting the process, so it's just like, negativity, fear, overwhelm, all that kind of stuff, it's going to happen.

Mari L. McCarthy: But there are issues that they're little inner-child issues, but it's just like we've just not dealt with. It's just like, as kids, we just sucked everything in. And now, as adults, with the help of our journal, we can soar through, and we can find out who we really are. And like I said, and really realize that, hey, gratitude, positivity, those are the operative words, and it's really just a huge behavior change.

Mari L. McCarthy: But like I said, I think the thing I want to impress about journaling is that dialogue, interact, converse, ask questions, that tells us like if you have a thing of like, "Oh, why am I so negative?" Ask her, "Why am I so negative? And then, "How do I switch so I can get more positive and get more of my positivity cells working and functioning?" So I think that's the whole thing that, again, we think of journaling as something that is a linear type of situation, but it's really a dynamic situation. It's a process. Journaling is a process, not just a pedantic, dah, dah, dah, dah type of thing.

Heather Brittain: Yeah. Yeah, so what about for those that are still kind of stuck in those blocks, and they come to you and me, and they say, "It just doesn't work for me. Journaling doesn't work for me." What advice do you have in that space?

Mari L. McCarthy: I would ask for what is their experience and how they came to that conclusion. It's just like what have you done? What have you tried? And just really getting to ask some questions as to understanding where they're coming from as to why we just easily dismiss it. Excuse me. Excuse me. For some people, it may not work. But I truly believe it all gets back to attitude. I say, if you can envision it, you can experience it. I think just having a conversation and an investigative interview of, okay, well, it's an interesting conclusion you've come to. What have you tried? What has been your experience with journaling? So I just think that that's the whole thing, I think. To understanding whether people have even done journaling or had any type of experience in the journaling process, I think that's the key too. I think, too, that's when talk therapy is good.

Heather Brittain: Yeah, sometimes you got to switch it over, right?

Mari L. McCarthy: Yeah.

Heather Brittain: And ask the questions out loud maybe instead of on the page all the time to kind of get to that conclusion.

Mari L. McCarthy: Right.

Heather Brittain: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Well, I know I've enjoyed getting all of your e-letters through my email weekly. I just love all the things that you have to say and all of the work that you're doing. But I would love to give you the opportunity to express what resources you have for others out there and how they can really get started in this journaling practice.

Mari L. McCarthy: Okay. Well, I'm at CreateWriteNow, and the write is W-R-I-T-E And I have everything that I can possibly think of to get people started journaling and jump-started journaling. I'm up to about 380-some journaling prompts, which are very, shall I say, soul searching journaling prompts. So that will get you started.

Mari L. McCarthy: I have three blogs. One is a Life Matters blog that deals with money, health, and self issues in your tissues. Another, Mari's Journaling Blog where a lot of journalers talk about their journaling power journey, their experience. In fact, one coming up this week is about how journaling helped her write her first book. And so, all kinds of wonderful stories there of people that have... and how they have used the journaling process. And I think that's what will be eye-opening to a lot of people because it's a process to be used to help you with life, you know?

Heather Brittain: Yeah.

Mari L. McCarthy: And let's see, and my other, and I have the journaling prompts blog, Life Matters, and Mari's Journaling Power. So I have three blogs. And then, in my store, I;ve written two books in the what I call the Journaling Power Trilogy. The first one is Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live, which is basically my memoir. But it also includes a lot of exercises so that people can start to set up their own journaling practice.

Mari L. McCarthy: My second book is Heal Yourself with Journaling Power, which is stories about probably, I think, nine or 10 journalers and how they have changed their life. One lady has been clean and sober for 10 years thanks to her journal. One gentleman has dealt with the depression, anxiety, and other issues related to his mother's suicide when he was a teenager. So it just goes to show you, so I said I'm open to everything, but I think that anyone that wherever they are in their life, they would have all kinds of resources. Like I said, and I have all kinds of workbooks for all kind of other issues in our tissues.

Heather Brittain: Yeah, I love that. I love all the resources that you've built. And you have so much passion for what you do, and it shows in the community that you've built in there as well. So thank you for what you do. Do you have any last words for the woman that might be sitting here listening who is stuck in a rut of chronic pain and chronic illness and just feeling kind of stuck? Any last words of advice from you?

Mari L. McCarthy: Start journaling, get the desk, get the pen, get the page, sit down, and start to get to know your yourself. And I just, like I tell people, just write on. It's just like there's no right... That's what I needed to say. There's only one right way to journal, and that is your way. And you get to use my favorite four letter F word, feel.

Heather Brittain: I love that, Mari. Well, thank you so much. It's truly been a joy to get to know you and have you here with me this morning. Journal therapy is a key part of my programs for women who are working on managing their chronic pain and illness without using another prescription. So I feel really grateful to have the opportunity to learn from you and to share your story for those who are really needing to hear it most. Without a shadow of a doubt, and from personal experience, I know the value that others will get out of your work and using these incredible resources that you have to offer. So thank you so much for what you do and for making such a big difference in this world.

Heather Brittain: For our listeners, be sure to head over to to take a look for yourself at all of the awesome things Mari just spoke about. Additionally, this interview will be accessible on my business webpage,, and it will be up on my social media soon. So check it out and reach out to us if you have any questions. And thank you so much, Mari, it's been great.

Mari L. McCarthy: Oh, thank you so much for having me, Heather. Have a great day.

Heather Brittain: You bet. You too.

Mari L. McCarthy: Bye.

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