Somewhere in the Nevada desert, there is a storage unit stuffed with boxes of my grandmother’s china and mason jars, two old steamer trunks filled with the remnants of my deceased mother’s life, and my journals. Dozens of them.
The one constant in my life has always been my private notebook. It was the only place I felt I was safe to try and understand myself. Everything that happened to me, everything that I struggled to understand. Quotes from books that called to me. The urge to document my life was strange, as if I wasn’t sure I existed, as if I couldn’t prove that I was real.
Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. – Joan Didion, Why I Write, Regents’ Lecture University of California at Berkeley, 1976.
My notebooks were always there for me as I crawled through years of heartbreak, depression, addiction, triumph, elation, confusion, monotony and anhedonia. I scribbled emo songs as a teen in a psych ward. Cried endless pleas for hope from the universe. I’ve blind-drunk-eyes-closed-rave-typed, fingers reaching for solace in the dark. I’ve written angry, desperate, and awful poetry. Shared my triumphs with myself as I found ways to conquer my mind.
Writing is the only freedom of expression I have in this world of fear. Fear of loss. Fear of loneliness. Fear of exile.
I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life. – George Orwell, Why I Write
Today I’m convinced that my private notebooks may have saved my life. I have always kept my notebooks and my writing to myself because I learned at a young what can happen should my journal fall into the wrong hands. (At 14 my mother found my notebook under my mattress. She read it. She burned it. She sent me away. But that, my friends, is a story is for another day.)
Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss. – Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Later in life, when I actually wrote for a living, I compartmentalized my writing. Writing for work was something separate from me. It was something I did. Writing in a notebook was me.
I initially found the idea of personal “blogging” abhorrent. Though notebooks were a hindrance in the digital age, every time I started a blog, I would murder it after several months. The idea that someone could find my private thoughts created an editor in my mind that stopped me cold. The freedom of privacy, gone.
But then I thought – How can I connect to others if I keep everything to myself?
This site is not a personal journal. It is an attempt to breach the stigma of shame. To break the silence that holds us captive. To reach out to others who may suffer like I have.
There are tons of us out there, suffering in silence, and many of us are dying.
I want to create a place where we are safe from the stigma of judgement. A place where we can share our thoughts and struggles, our triumphs and losses. What works, what doesn’t work.
Our stories our important. Sharing them helps us feel connected. We may learn that it is not us who are insane. But the world.
Only we can save ourselves. But maybe we can help each other along the way.