TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses depression.
I've always, from the time I was 10, been an avid writer. I used to sit on our porch and wax poetic about the trees as if I were a brandy-drinking Henry David Thoreau, using nature as a metaphor for social structures. This evolved naturally over the years into poetry and fiction, however, I always held true to my diaries, completing more than three dozen during a three decade stretch... all of which were burned in a yearly ceremonial pyre of release!
In 2016, with the growth of my business well under way, I began to recognize the need for a conventional planning system, which extended beyond standard notebooks, to help organize my projects, goals and tasks, while still maintaining a daily journaling practice. While I toyed with a digital system, I felt it never held me accountable because... well... I had no desire to view a digital planner. It made everything feel a little too clinical and clerical. Blech. So, to pen and paper I went! The Hobonichi planner became my obsession and I was truly excited about planning and completing projects, simply for the excuse to be inside all these beautiful books and crisp, crinkly paper!
And the planner helped, too! I was more organized, more likely to stay on task if for no other reason than to enjoy the satisfaction of ticking tasks off my list with my favorite pen. I rarely left my house, but could now highlight the few instances of social gatherings and appointments that kept me connected to the outside world. And, with a daily journaling habit, I had a clearer path towards living a healthier life. It was a joyful, almost spiritual process, during which I would empty myself of the heaviness of the day.
Then COVID hit.
social anxiety against which I (sometimes barely) won my battles was a small price, I learned, for the precious freedom to socialize. We need one another, dont we? We are not the solitary creatures some of us might convinve ourselves we are. So, without those rare social situations in which to invest my energy, I slowly withdrew into my own thoughts for company. But I'd forgotten, somehow, that my journals were meant to take the burdens of my day. Perhaps I thought "What day?" I was home. I'd done nothing to plan, had no experience to journal. But ignoring what was once a natural inclination to journal because the world shut down somehow began to burden me with my own negativity. In the past, I would've naturally turned towards journals during difficult times to work through the shadows and eventually... hopefully, see the light. But, for some inexplicable reason, I abandoned them and, as a result, the sadness festered deep in my thoughts.
I didn't understand at the time exactly the depth of the damage I caused myself but retreating from my journaling habits into a really poisonous internal monologue of negativity. If I wasn't putting these thoughts to paper, they took root and grew. They grew with a ferocity I almost didn't crawl out from underneath. My work suffered. Our income suffered. Our home was no longer a bright place of promise, even though I struggled to maintain a face of (if nothing else) benign resignation with some inkling of hope.
It was a dark time for me, the past (almost) three years. And, during a rare day of clarity, I realized at least one thing I'd been missing... my journals.
And I started to enjoy productivity again. I was releasing, while slowly, some of the best tutorial designs I've created (in my opinion, ahem) in years. Truly. I was proud and excited for work. I was making plans, again, for a future I could finally see through the darkness. I was able to work through the mud in my head with my journals and, as a result, experience clarity and, most importantly, a hint of happiness, for the first time in almost two years.
I will not lie. The darkness almost took me.
So now I have many notebooks. For poetry, prayer, journaling and planning, for notes and tutorials and jewelry ideas. I have notebooks I haven't even found a use for yet, but they bring me comfort regardless. I have filled six 400 page books since last August. Filled them with fear and doubt and allowed them to strip me naked of negativity, to make room for something... bright. I am a minimalist, yes, and I had to work through a period of justification to have so many notebooks. But it's an easy justification to make once what was on the line became so frighteningly clear.
They have been my friend these last several months, when I felt the most lonely. Without judgement, without suggestions or opinions or ideas about what's best for me, they allowed me to work through the pain of depression. And I'm smiling again. Laughing again. Hopeful again.
I wont say that journaling is the answer for everyone or everything. How could I possibly know? But what I will say is that it saved me, and I'm grateful.
2023 may not be any easier than the previous three years, but I'm ready for it.
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