It was an afternoon date with a chaperone but my parents still refused to let me go. I think I had the sense that something momentous was about to happen. If something momentous did happen after 11 February, I neglected to make a note.
As a twenty-something freshly moved to London, I saw how a diary should be written when I got a job helping author Lady Henrietta Rous prepare the diaries of the late Ossie Clark for publication. Fashion designer Clark was no quitter when it came to recording his life. And what a life it was. His diaries, which spanned decades, were peppered with all the big names from the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties — the rock stars, the film stars, the politicians.
He wrote in rainbow colours, setting the words in triangles, circle and spirals of ever decreasing size. Diego, gone to Holland Park. Come there if you like. A day later, Cogolato stabbed Clark to death. If his diaries helped me to know him, did they help him to know himself and carry him through the low points?
Between dazzling moments in the celebrity spotlight, Clark experienced periods of deep depression, when the colourful pages turned monochrome. All the same, Clark kept writing. Keeping a diary is recommended by many mental health specialists as a way of coping with depression.
It can help with the management of anxiety, stress and overwhelming emotion. It can help you to prioritise problems and worries. It offers a space for positive self-talk. It can also show up where you have repetitive negative thoughts and behaviours. Franz Kafka nailed it. There are plenty of scientific studies that back up the anecdotal benefits of daily writing for mental health. A more recent study, in , by psychologists at the University of Michigan, found that subjects diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder reported lower depression scores after only three days of expressive writing for just 20 minutes a day.
In a blog for Mind. There are no time constraints involved and I could go as deep as I wanted with my thoughts or just stay on the surface.
When I first started to journal I was heavily frustrated with the lack of help afforded to people like me. The journaling serves more than one purpose to me. My writings hold me accountable as they remind me of where I came from but also how far I have to go still. They remind me of what I had to do to get where I am today making it impossible not to appreciate or love myself that bit more. But whether we feel in need of therapy or not, journaling is a great way to parse the past and use the insights it throws up to help plot the future. Make it interesting enough and it could even be your future.
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