I was recently rummaging through my cupboards for a textbook and came across a journal from 2018. I found what I thought at the time to be a practical self-assessment:
Today, I can look back and say that these words aren’t a reflection of my self — or at least the whole of it.
I couldn’t see it then, but I was feeling defeated at the end of a long, tumultuous year. I was also entering that phase in therapy when I had begun to access and purge deep-rooted self-criticism.
I’m happy to report that things have changed, since. I am now much more rational when describing myself, and believe that though I may harbour some of those traits, they aren’t pathological.
We’re all perfectionistic sometimes, claiming to never be defensive is a bold-faced lie, and I continue to be sensitive, contemplative, and anxious. I can now also say that I’m a lot of good things — I’m well-intentioned, passionate about what I do, and able to find joy in so many of the little things that make up my immediate universe.
I was always jealous of ‘success stories’ — people who came out on the other side of darkness. If I hadn’t found this journal, I wouldn’t have realized that I had become one of them, and that this fact is — it always has been — glorious.
Finding this journal reinforced my love for archiving and my belief that even our difficult, transitionary phases and feelings deserve to be preserved. So I was curious about the experiences of others, and just how ‘together’ we may all be in our unyielding aloneness.
I asked people to send me their journal entries anonymously. Some messaged them to me with brief backstories. Some said that they had overcome whatever it was that they had written about. Others took the effort to email them to an anonymous email ID, because it is indeed difficult to bare our most hurt and anxious selves.
Here are some of the entries.
The person who wrote this said: “This was 3 years ago. I started therapy a year ago. Among many other things, suicidal ideation is one of the things I am working on. To see how I was just holding on 3 years back when I didn’t have resources or awareness to reach out for help just formed a lump in my throat.”
One contributor wrote this shortly after their friend passed away in a 2019 car accident.
“I block my ears and shield my eyes
From anything and everything
That may prove her demise true
Yes, I’m running away from reality
Because I have to I run like my life depended on it —
Life? I pause.
There is no guarantee to life.
I stop running.
And finally mourn for my friend.”
One contributor illustrated their inner bully.
A note that may never be read by whoever it was addressed to: “I know things didn’t work out. But it doesn’t change the fact that you turned 21. I love you, very much. Things were great this year, and they will be better in the next. People LOVE you, and they love you enough. :)”
Somebody listed their bad habits, which included ‘Always finding a way to brag’, ‘always thinking you’re right’, and ‘comparing yourself to others’.
When words fail, illustrations help.
One contributor penned down anxieties about children who had lost their parents to poverty. They had to be sent to child welfare as the writer could not adopt them and had no legal right over them. They told me that the sending process was nerve-wracking and broke their spirit several times.
“There is hell a lot of process to meet them which is scary and disappointing…I have waited for months to see them. I pushed the ocassion as much as I could due to anxiety and fear”.
“Thankfully I have got a date tomorrow. Maybe this time it will be a happy ocassion and not anxiety filled.”
One contributor wrote about what their anxiety does to them, drawing scruffy hair, eyebags, and a pursed smile.
“My anxiety doesn’t let me sleep at times.
It keeps me constantly running.
It makes me tired.
It makes me a recluse.
It makes me cynical about my relationships.
It keeps me hyperventilating.
It keeps me angry and defensive.
It makes me sad.”
A note of hope from early February: “By this time next year, you will be fitter, healthier, busier, stronger, happier, & have a better headspace! You will look back and be proud of how far you have come! :)”
One person listed the changes they would like to make, which included ‘leave behind victim personality disorder’, ‘beware of thoughts’, and ‘voice your opinions, gently but assertively even it its going to offend some people’.
The contributor said: “I can no longer draw like this. What’s special about this is, back then, I used to write over my drawings/doodles. For some reason, I didn’t write over this spread.”
One contributor wrote: “Do I have to feel guilty for asking for help even when he is busy with exams? It’s not like I do this every day. In fact, I’ve felt this way after a long time, what am I supposed to do? Stay alone and kill myself?
They don’t want to help me, they don’t want me to kill myself, they don’t want me to save myself, what am I supposed to do?
I don’t want to sulk alone in this loneliness, and I have the best boyfriend in this world but he has the worst girlfriend ever who is not willing to understand he has exams and is asking for too much. I’m not asking for too much. I’m asking for happiness. Is that too much!!”
“I’m thankful for this beautiful life and I’m sorry that sometimes I don’t love it enough.
I’m grateful to have all of this and I’m sorry I’m so sad.”
The contributor said: “Not really a journal, this is behind one of my engineering drawing sheets at work.
I was feeling low for missing deadline at work and being yelled at for that and wrote this. It was almost 8 months back.
The only thing that has changed now is that I’m better structured and more coherent when I write about my flaws and problems.”
One person wrote, repeatedly, that they do not deserve happiness.
(If you are reading this, you deserve all of the happiness in the world).
One person listed opportunities, including: “I have this image of a Boss Lady in my mind, which I wish to achieve.”
The diary entry of someone, who much like me, may have attempted a self-diagnosis of unpleasant personality traits.
Somebody visualized their worries flying out of the window.
“Its a piece of you that you want to protect from the minds who either wont understand or wont cherish”.
The writer did not provide context for piece, but said that they wrote it when they were 17. They are 25 now.
One contributor wrote at the end of her hopes for herself, “Thank you for my father.
He is kind, mindful of me and mother, a man willing to acknowledge, consider, and rectify his mistakes. Thank you for him because he helps set an example of what a man should be like.”
Somebody’s year in colour.
One person reflects on internalized misogyny: “Found an old journal I wrote when I was 9, making fun of little girls […] for putting a lot of makeup?
ASHAMED!!! Have grown up to think a lot differently. Just because it won’t be my personal preference, doesn’t mean I need to do this. Saying “I’m not like other girls” is one of the worst things to say, Amrita!!!
Because then you are subconsciously dissociating from your identity of being a woman and that is reinforced by subtle forces of patriarchy and misogyny.
I am like every other girl because I, too , like them, love to make choices for myself.”
“I feel pathetic, sometimes.
Messed up in the head
I don’t know why
I want to be someone else. Someone better. Who I used to be. Happy and stupid — stupidly happy. So assured.”
The entry of someone who wishes to be strong, fierce, confident, brave, full of life, and happy.
A reflection on living in India: “Waking up to the news of death after death, violence after violence, injustice after injustice has been intense and difficult.
These are the dark times that we live in and now is not the time to look away.
I don’t know how to be of help. It’s like wrestling with a large adult when you are a tiny child.”
“I guess it’s okay, if you just like what I look like.
On most days I agree.
The rest of the days I’m too thin.”
Somebody quotes a Phil Kaye poem and asks, “I wonder how many times more I need to say I hate myself until it loses its meaning.”
“I see distant hope in the clouds.
These clouds which are still a part of the ocean.
The ocean waiting for the river to join.
The river waiting for the ice to melt.
The ice for the sun to scorch it.”
You can find the rest of the entries below. Thank you for trusting me with your thoughts. If you would like to retract or edit your entry at any time, please reach out to me at email@example.com.