A friend pulls something nasty from the fridge. He smells it, makes a face, and says, “C’mere! Smell this!” What do you do?
A. Smell it to see what all the fuss is about (recommended) or:
B. Pass up the opportunity, confident that you have a pretty clear notion of what bad smells like.
(If you answered B, you’re way ahead of me. Hold on a sec. Just… hang out while I talk to my peeps. Here’s a magazine.)
Okay, A people, so here’s the idea: supposedly, if you suffer from depression, what you need to do is keep a daily journal. You write down all the negative, painful, illogical thoughts that make up the beating heart of the experience.
The logic of it is that you get the bad ideas out of your head, and leave them on the paper. You exorcise them. You expose them to the light of day, to make them shrivel up and die.
Journal as trash can. Priest. Disinfectant. Simple.
I liked the idea, so I got me a journal. It was nice, too: a beautiful leather book with lots of pages of creamy, heavy-weight paper. Says “Journal” on the cover, so you know what it’s for. A pleasure to own. Lovely to hold. It’s the the sort of volume you’d like to see Bohemian Val Kilmer fill with sensitive poetry, landscape sketches, deep thoughts, and the like.
I didn’t have none of that stuff. I just had my “creative” thinking. In the course of a day, I could generate about a thousand destructive, hurtful, soul-crushing thoughts, each a fully-formed statement of belief detailing my uniquely wretched place in creation. These thoughts spanned the full spectrum of wrongness, from silly nonsense to pure invention to utter falsehood, but by the magic of faulty brain chemistry (yay!) they were transformed into TRUTH! with a capital all of it.
My journal was my purgative. I would write every toxic notion there, and it made sense to lovingly recreate each one in its fullest glory. After all, if you’re exorcising demons, you don’t want to leave splinters behind. Get it all. Really dig. Scrape. Write up a complete report, and if you can supply charts and graphs, all the better. Remember to include support.
There! Another day’s crap smeared all over my pretty journal. I should feel pretty darn good any minute now.
I would like to report that it worked as advertised. That would be awesome. Failing that, I would like to report that I gave up on a seriously flawed strategy early on.
Nope. Neither. I gave this really bad idea my best effort.
Months of curdled id went into that journal. Every day, instead of letting malformed thoughts go extinct, I preserved them on beautiful paper, in the process handling every poisonous idea a second time, making myself feel as miserable as I did the first time around. You know, like a helpful friend poking at your bruises. “How’d you get that?” (Ouch. Stop it.) Sometimes, I’d reread stuff from previous days, and it was just like it was the first two times. Oh, look, it still hurts!
You do something stupid two, three hundred times, eventually you gonna learn. C’mere. Smell this!
No, thank you.
Brother Dave, when asked something he wasn’t interested in answering, would say, “What, you writing a book?” [Yes, I am, I would cleverly answer.] “Well, tear that page out.”
Good advice. Better yet, just don’t write it in the first place.