Friday, May 07, 2021

Depression: Five Throw-Away Journal Ideas You Write in Secret

Sometimes the best kind of journal is the one that you shred, light on fire, then cast its ashes to the wind.

Throw-Away iPad

Last January, I woke up severely depressed one morning. At first, I didn’t realize what was happening. I just knew that I had no will to move, no will to eat, no will to do anything. I felt interred with heavy, suffocating sadness.

Mmm, that sounds rather dramatic, doesn’t it?

The moment I realized I was depressed, I grabbed my iPhone and began dictating a blog entry to Siri as a coping strategy. However, it was all in the same vein as that emo sentence above—nice and juicy with just the right amount of adverbial angst and self-indulgence. We should all be grateful that I deleted every single word of it.

Normally, I avoid blogging or posting on social media while under the influence of Major Depressive Disorder. Despite my efforts to sound upbeat, depression affects my narrative voice and mental outlook. Fortunately, hindsight gained from experience keeps me from embarrassing myself online. I tend to write only when I have a handle on my emotions. Otherwise, my writing would become a morbid dance that leans towards the theatrical, like graves dancing in the rain.

That morning, however, I wasn’t worried about the need to self-edit. I had an urge to express my fathomless despair. I wouldn’t dream of sharing that private, turgid moment of maudlin, morning, mopey malaise with others.

Okeh, okeh…I’ll stop with the purple prose!.

The abandoned journal entry did serve a therapeutic purpose, however. It was so over the top, I laughed, which lifted my spirits immensely. As I deleted the colorful journal entry, I realized that sometimes my first blog drafts are just as cheesy. I wonder why I never noticed the similarity to throw-away journals¹ before.

The temporary, throw-away journal is a fantastic coping strategy for when you need to purge your feelings but don’t necessarily want to share them with anybody. One of the worst things you can do for yourself when you’re depressed is to bottle up your emotions. Those dark and toxic feelings tend to bounce around in our head, building up momentum and importance. When I am emotionally agitated, keeping ideas to myself is the quickest way towards blowing things out of proportion.

Although I’ve talked before about the importance of support networks, sometimes I don’t want to share these dark feelings with anybody. They’re too personal and often a wee bit self-indulgent. Long ago, I decided that burdening a family member or friend with that potent prose was a bad idea. Instead, I express myself into a journal I have no intention of keeping. I can be as turgidly maudlin as I want. Sometimes, the temporary journal helps me vent the worst of my feelings so that I don’t overburden my support network when I reach out to them afterwards.

Here are five temporary journal ideas for when you need to vent or work through your feelings before talking to somebody:.

  1. Write a letter to yourself, then crumple and throw it away after you’re done: By purging negative emotions in a creative and constructive way, we can prevent things from becoming more complicated in real life. This strategy has the presidential endorsement of Abraham Lincoln. Fireplace not required.
  2. Tap a letter to yourself, then delete it: We can be commuting, surrounded by people, and still vent into a notefile without anyone being the wiser. I would probably advice against using this technique where your boss or coworkers could look over your shoulder. You may also not want them to know about your mental health issues.
  3. Dictate to your phone, then delete it: It can be very helpful to just speak your feelings sometimes. You gain the benefit of feeling like you’re talking to somebody while also expressing yourself via voice if typing isn’t your thing.
  4. Record a voice memo, then delete it: If transcription errors make your note unintelligible, you could use a voice recorder or your phone to record instead. Get all of your feelings out, then delete them. It’s very therapeutic.
  5. Make a fake phone call: When I’m extremely agitated, and there’s no one to talk to in my support network, I’ll go for a walk and pretend that I’m on the phone. With earpiece in ear, you can walk down the street while talking out loud praying, dictating a note, recording a voice memo, or just talking to yourself and no one will think anything of it. Be careful of who is nearby because voices carry.

Although my depression did not magically go away that morning, I was able to lighten the depth of it, which allowed me to get out of bed, eat, get myself dressed, and move on with my day. I didn’t take to social media and embarrass myself with a self-pitying plea for sympathy or post that purple pile on my blog. I love journal writing, and I have a dozen or so volumes tucked away in boxes, but I don’t want every moment to be preserved for posterity. Sometimes, I just need to vent—maybe even wallow—until I’m ready to let it go. Those moments are private. That’s why I like to delete them. Hopefully, you’ll find these suggestions helpful when you have a bad day of your own.

  1. The Throw Away Journal: Point #5 in Six Journal Ideas to Deal with Depression and elaborated on in my book, Saying NO to Suicide  ↩