Keeping a mental health diary is like keeping a pond

I’ve had lot of different relationships to water this summer. I’ve been swimming the sea, and felt cool salty water on my body and face as I’ve raced a friend’s dog for a ball that was thrown into the waves. I’ve had a Turkish bath and sat as the mixture of steam and sweat tricked over my skin and my muscles relaxed. Most tellingly, I’ve been on retreat where my window was next to a pond with a fountain and at night I’ve left my windows open and heard the sound of the water bubbling and flowing over into the pool. It was a beautiful sound that reminded me of the presence of something spiritual, a closeness to nature that kept me and my mind still. The night I came home from retreat I sat in my garden, and there I heard a sound I hadn’t heard before. My neighbour has a solar powered fountain that rarely catches the light. In the height of summer, that cool night, I heard the sound of water flowing, and realised that that presence was still with me.

I haven’t been writing for a while. I haven’t made a video diary on my app, Mental Snapp, which helps me monitor my mental health, for a while. I’ve been thinking about that water and feeling like a still pool, one that just receives the necessary top up of rain. It is important sometimes to be still. But being still doesn’t mean that there is no inner life. There is no sound from a still pool, but it teams with life. Eventually that life will bubble up again.

The sound of communication, whether it is internal, or external, is like turning on the fountain. It makes a difference to communicate, even if it is just to yourself. Even now as these words form, I am making change. I am making concrete something that has only been an internal steady transformation. I wonder, as I look at my parents and friends who are older than me, that relationship between deep inner life and the communication I have with them, which doesn’t, despite their years, go beyond the apparently superficial everyday. We can’t communicate our deepest thoughts, there is a wordlessness there. That is the inner pool, with its life teaming, and the fountain below the surface. The water moves, imperceptible, and the oxygen that comes in through the movement sustains life. When we are in harmony, with no need to explain, maybe we don’t need words. There is a time for silence.

So that is what I have been wrestling with lately as I make no noise, record no diary, write no words. I want to receive what I am being given, and to put it to words is like putting it to music, it doesn’t add meaning in this context. In fact putting it to music would make more sense than giving it voice.

The changes I’ve been undergoing in these last couple of months don’t yet have words. They don’t yet even have music. They are a current below the surface of the pond. And yet… and yet, there is change. When I come to my conclusions, and can say what they are, I’ll be working out a way to make a record. Then the fountain of the pond will rise above the surface and there will be sound from the pool. But until then, I’m going to, as I have been on nights since I got back from the retreat, sit on my steps overlooking the garden, listening for the noise of a pond where the sun has not yet struck the fountain. Waiting is precious too.

You don’t always keep a diary. You don’t always articulate your heart. But when you do, there is oxygen in the water. Keeping a pond is life giving. Keeping a diary shows you’re alive. I’ll keep a diary again, and going back to it will be refreshing.

Also published on Medium.

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