Victoria Mary Clarke – Journalism

Articles & Interviews

My Priory Diary


My Priory Diary copyright Victoria Clarke 2000

This article first appeared in the London Evening Standard in 2000

Day One: 11am.

We stayed up all night last night,  at somebody’s studio, having a  final bender before we check into the Priory this afternoon. We’re  going there because I’m depressed and Shane wants to  give up the drink. I came home  early because I’ve no idea what to  pack. What do you wear in the Priory? It’s probably full of supermodels and footballers, all Guccied up. Fuck it, I’d better bring everything I’ve got. I’m already  depressed and anxious and nervously exhausted, without being underdressed as well. Maybe I’ll  phone Kate and ask her what to  bring.


Kate’s not home. Or maybe she’s just not picking up. I’m always afraid with famous friends that I’m far too unfamous for them to  like me. I hope they can cure me  of this in the Priory.


Shane’s not home yet. He says he’s on his way, but I hate being late so I’m going without him.  I’ve booked a taxi.


Okay, I’m here. I’ve got to admit I’m excited, even if I am depressed. It’s so glamorous, checking into the Priory at last. I really feel as if I’ve arrived. Everyone who’s anyone has been  here. General Pinochet was here.  This could be a career move. I’m  not disappointed so far. The  facade is splendiferously grandiose. I can’t wait to see my room, but I have to see the shrink first.


This is weird. I’ve been interviewed three times now, by different people, and I’ve told them each a slightly different story. I  hope they don’t compare notes.  They all wanted to know how much I drink and how many drugs I take and if I’ve ever tried to kill myself and if I feel suicidal right now. What if they `Section’ me? I only wanted a rest and  some nice therapy. They’re taking this way too seriously. The shrink asked me if I hear voices  or see things. Does it mean you’re mad if you see things? I’ve  seen angels frequently and I talk to dead rock stars but I’ve decided not to admit to anything  like that just in case.


I’m in shock. I need to lie down, but my bedroom is tiny and I’ve only got a single bed, a metal one  with a rubber mattress, like you  get in hospitals. No fluffy bathrobe and slippers and the towels  are thin and small, like the ones in motels. I checked and all you  can see from my window is a wall. The window doesn’t even open properly. This is scary. I’m pretty sure there’s no cable telly  either. It looks like a Travelodge. I’m sure this will make me even more depressed. One of us has got to go, as Oscar would say.

The nurse who showed me my room was highly suspicious of my  luggage and wanted to know if I’d brought any medication or sharp objects. Apparently, my bags will be searched and I have  to surrender my vitamins and  razors and nail scissors. Do they really think I could kill myself  with a Ladyshave? The thought of handing over my herbal remedies upsets me terribly. I take all kinds of stuff on a daily basis,  which I’ll collapse without. Ginseng, aloe vera, green algae. I’ll  never manage a bowel move ment. The nurses says I’ve gotto go down to dinner now and  it’s only six o’clock, which is ludicrous.


I might have to discharge myself. I’m not kidding. There’s no way I can eat this food and not put on  weight. And it’s not even organic.  I can’t believe I’m sitting here  eating deep-fried fish and chips  with mushy veg. It’s worse than boarding school and not remotely  holistic. The trouble is, I’m eat ing it because it’s comforting and  I’ve got no will-power. Now they’re offering me crumble and custard for dessert. I wonder where Shane is. I’m nervous. I  don’t like sitting on my own in the restaurant. I haven’t seen  anybody famous in here either.  Maybe the supermodels eat in  their rooms so they won’t get fat.


I’m in my room, feeling sick. I don’t know if it’s the crumble or the walls, which are my least favourite shade of bridesmaid’s-dress peach. I’m watching telly and I’ve lit some incense to calm myself down. They want me to  pay a cash deposit of ›3,000  each for me and Shane. I’ve told  them I didn’t bring any money.  Shane will have to sort it out  when he turns up.

I’ve just had a horrible thought. Supposing he doesn’t turn up? What will they do to me? I’ll have to call my agent and  ask him to lend me the money. Maybe we can sell my story to The Sun.


Shane’s arrived and they’ve put him in the room opposite me,  which is nice, so we can watch  telly together. The nurse comes in every 15 minutes to check on us. You get put on different  observation levels, depending on  how long you’ve been here and how much you can be trusted.  There’s nothing nice to eat in the  rooms, and there’s no room service, so I’ve ended up eating white sliced bread and jam and  drinking tea, which isn’t herbal, out of a plastic cup. You have to make your own tea and coffee in the kitchen and they don’t have proper cups, or even spoons. We could have gone to the Dorchester for what they’re charging us. But I’m glad we’re here and not at home. Our place was getting  too messy; even our cleaner had given up on it. It feels safe in  here and it’s nice and clean.


I’ve been awake all night. My bed is so small, I probably wouldn’t  have slept anyway, even if they hadn’t kept observing me and  waking me up. I shouldn’t have  told them my life isn’t worth liv ing  they’ll never let me get any sleep. I am getting breakfast in  my room, though. I’ve asked for scrambled eggs on toast. They’d better be free-range, or I won’t  be able to eat them.


My scrambled eggs were cold and the toast was soggy. Yuck. I  hate mornings; they just make me  want to go back to sleep. The nurse says I have to get up for Group Therapy. I like the nurse.  He asked me if I know Ronnie  Wood and I said yes and he was  impressed.


The admission office keeps call ing me about the deposit. Neither me nor Shane has any money. I promised them my agent will call  with a credit card today. I hate  worrying about money, it  depresses me and makes me think my life’s not worth living. I’m serious.


I didn’t have the heart to dress  up for Group Therapy. I was too depressed, so I just wore an old  tracksuit and last year’s pashmina. Luckily no-one else dressed up either. I feel much  better now. I hate having to try  and be glamorous. For group everyone sits around the lounge on armchairs, in a circle. You  have to say your name and how you are feeling and then people take it in turns to talk about their  problems. I was horrendously  nervous, naturally, about having  to speak in front of all those people, but I Felt the Fear and Did  it Anyway. I said I was glad to be  in here because it gives me a break from having to decide what  to do every day for the rest of my  life and from worrying about  what a failure I am now and how I’m going to cope with the mess at home. The others mostly had  more serious problems, which  I’m not allowed to discuss  because the group is confidential,  but they were very welcoming  and sympathetic, even so. And they seemed normal enough. I  like it when people listen to me  nicely and don’t just tell me to  get a job and be sensible.


I got apprehended on the way to lunch by the lady who wants me  to pay the bill. My agent hasn’t  called. I was too anxious to eat  lunch, even though there were chips and ice cream. I feel hopelessly inadequate now. I sat on my own at lunch, and pretended  to read a book, because I was too shy to talk to the others. My con fidence vanishes when I feel inad equate and I can’t think of any thing to say.


We had Dream Therapy just now, which I liked. I wish I could  get a job doing something like  that all day, just playing stupid games. I would have been an actress but I’m too afraid of rejection to audition for anything. Now we have a relaxation class. I can’t relax because I’m still afraid  they’ll throw us out any minute.


Shane’s having dinner with me in  the restaurant. I’m highly anxious, because I think everyone’s  staring at us. I have a phobia  about being embarrassed in public. Shane always gets stared at, but he’s doesn’t give a shit. He’s  got no shoes on and his suit is covered in filth and cigarette ash  and he’s reading to me, out loud, from a book of Irish history. I hate this, because I secretly have  a desperate craving for fame and  success, which I can’t do any thing about, because of my fear of embarrassment. I want to watch telly now.

Day 3 9am

I dreamed I was driving a sports  car which was out of control and  I couldn’t find the brake pedal.  The nurse says we have to eat breakfast together, in the restau rant with the others, and I don’t want to because they’ll stare. I  heard people talking about Shane  yesterday, because they read in the Sun that he’d been thrown out already. I haven’t had time to  look for the swimming pool or the gym. I need a massage, but  there’s more Group Therapy  after breakfast.


I confessed to the group that I think everyone’s staring at me  because of Shane and thinking nasty things. They were all very  nice about it. The group leader said maybe I should learn to see  myself as a separate person, even if they are staring at him, and stop worrying about what they might be thinking, because that’s Mind-Reading, which is a symp tom of anxiety. I’ve signed up for  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy,  which is supposed to change the way you think about things.


I phoned a friend and told her  I’m in here and she said she was  jealous. She said she’d like to be  in here, having her nails done  and chatting up footballers in the  Jacuzzi. Actually, I’ve discovered  that there isn’t a Jacuzzi. There isn’t a pool, either. There isn’t a gym. There’s only a crappy exer cise bike in the lounge. I’m horrified. Exercise is supposed to be  good for depression. There’s noting to do in the evening except watch TV or sit in the smoking  room with everyone else, where  they have a couple of board games and some paperbacks. Oh yeah, they do have ping-pong. Fantastic.

Day 4 10am

I dreamed I was being stabbed to  death with a carving knife on my  mum’s kitchen table, with the whole family watching. There’s  still no news about the bill being  paid. Shane says he’s asking his  publisher. I’m completely useless,  I never seem to earn any money  and Shane always has to pay for everything. I want to be safe and warm in a place where I don’t have to worry about anything. I’m not cut out for being alive. I  hate myself and I want to die but I have to get up and go to group.

12 noon

In the group, the three people  before me all said they were  ashamed of being depressed  because they felt like they should  be grateful for being alive and should count their blessings. That made me feel better. I’m having lunch with some of them  today. They’ve got far worse  problems than I have, death,  divorce, children, that kind of thing, but they’re very sympa thetic, regardless. It feels good to  have them to talk to.


My psychiatrist is very soothing. I feel like he cares about me, like a dad. My real dad never even phones me. I told him I get depressed about the fact that I’m not famous and I think people are only interested in me because of Shane. Sometimes I want to kill all the famous people, so I  can be the only one, like Mark  Chapman wanting to kill John  Lennon to get himself noticed. I  know it’s psycho and I know I’m sick, so I wouldn’t actually do it, in case you’re famous and you’re  reading this and you’re getting worried. Especially if you’re George Harrison. I just read too  many magazines and watch too  much telly and I’ve been brainwashed into believing that if you’re a VIP that makes you a better person. I do want to be  cured, honestly. But I get  depressed when I read about par ties that I haven’t been invited to.  I got depressed when Posh and Becks didn’t invite me to their wedding. And I’ve never even  met Posh and Becks. Shane says  I’m way more fucked-up than he’ll ever be.


Our friend Martin Mc Donagh is paying our bill! I’m so relieved I  could die.  Now I’m  playing ping-pong with a lovely heroin addict I met in one of the groups. He’s really good at ping- pong because they always have ping-pong in rehab.

Day 5 11am

There’s yoga this morning, which  I’m looking forward to. Last  night I dreamed that Posh and Becks were my friends and they  were phoning me to ask if I’d like  to come shopping with them for  clothes for baby Brooklyn. This morning I was allowed out into  the park, to walk around the lake thing. That means I’m sane  enough to go into the village, if I want to. I didn’t want to, though;  I just kept to the park. I’m not  sure I’m ready for the outside  world. But it felt good to be out side with the ducks. There’s a  tennis court, in the park, so maybe if I can find someone to  play with, I won’t get too fat.


I think I need a Sense  of Purpose. Something I can believe in and be capable of doing. I don’t know what


Yoga wasn’t very good. It was easy stuff, no headstands or anything, and they didn’t have mats  or a proper floor, just carpet. Sort  of over-60s church-hall type  yoga. Not like Triyoga in Primrose Hill, where I usually go.  Madonna would have hated it.  They’ve got vegetarian pasta for  lunch, but I’ll probably eat the  chocolate ice cream with it. I’ve decided I’m a compulsive eater.


This afternoon, we had Stress Management. We had to fill in forms, challenging our negative beliefs. Mine was I am inferior to people who are more famous than me. I listed lots of disad vantages to thinking that way,  but I’m still convinced that people who are slim and rich and successful and good-looking and famous are considered more  attractive, in general, than fat, poor, ugly, ordinary people. And  they get invited to more parties  and allowed to be on the cover of magazines and stuff. Is this just me or is actually true? We had to fill in charts, too, to see how much of a perfectionist we are. I ticked most of the boxes, which means I’m setting myself up for failure because I always move the goalposts when it gets too easy to  score. For homework, we have to see if we can stop being perfec tionists, so I might just not bother to do the homework.

Day 7 10am

Last night, in my dream, my Guardian Angel appeared and took me to the Clarence Hotel in  Dublin, where Bono was having a party. Me and my Guardian Angel were trying to get past the velvet rope, but the bouncers asked us what kind of passes we had; VIP, VVIP or Extra VIP.  We didn’t have any passes at all. Then Bono himself arrived, in a limo, with Naomi Campbell and the Corrs and I waved at him  frantically, but he didn’t see me.  The angel said maybe we should  just go to the pub, and I said no.  I wanted to go home and cry. So the angel went to the pub on her  own.


I had a visitor, which was nice,  because there’s nothing to do at  the weekends. You can go home,  if your consultant says you’re  allowed to, but I don’t want to go  home. I rang my dad to see if he  would visit me but he’s busy. He  asked me what it’s like in here and I said they make us wear  straitjackets. I think he believed  me. My friend Carole brought  me a card that her daughter,  Phoebe, made for me and flowers, which made me want to cry. Phoebe hopes I get well. I do get lonely in here. Shane’s busy writ ing songs and I’m still shy, so I hide in my room. They teach you here that depressed people usually hide from other people because they think no-one will  want to talk to them. You’re supposed to make yourself talk to  people or else you make it worse. But I can’t imagine anyone want ing to talk to me. I’m selfish and  boring and pathetic. I wish I could do something useful with  my life, like become a nurse, a teacher or help the homeless. I have thought about doing some thing like that, truly I have, but I  don’t think I’d be doing anyone a favour by inflicting myself on sick people or kids and I’m sure the homeless have enough problems already. You’re not supposed to think things like that, because that makes you more depressed.  I’m writing down all the bad  things I think, so I can change them.

Day 9 4pm

In last night’s dream, I was in a field with Joe Strummer and we  were being chased by a pack of  ferocious sheep. I tried to get into  the Social Phobia group this  afternoon, instead of the class I was supposed to be doing, but the door was locked when I got  there. Then the man who teaches it came along and said I can’t do Social Phobia because I haven’t been assessed for it. He was quite  abrupt. I feel excluded. Then I went to Psychodrama and the lady said I should go away and  come back on Wednesday. What  does this mean? I think I’m sup posed to be doing Pottery, but I  thought that might be too frivo lous and I want to be cured as  quickly as possible. I’m embarrassed now. It reminds me of  being in boarding-school, with  the wrong colour uniform on,  and getting sent home. I’m starting to worry that I may have  BDD, which is where you think you’re hideously ugly and you don’t want to go out.

Day 1011am

I was so exhausted this morning from the driving dream, which I had again, I almost couldn’t get  up for breakfast. But I’m starting  to enjoy it, once I get there. I’ve learned to let Shane get on with  it and I ignore what he’s doing and talk to people from my  group. They already know I’m  embarrassed, which makes it easier.


Today we did Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. You have to write down a situation or event that makes you depressed and  then list the negative thoughts that come into your head, automatically. Like for me it’s waking  up in the mornings. I immediately think, Oh no, it’s time to  get up I hate getting up I’m too  tired I’ve got nothing to get up  for I just want to go back to sleep where it’s safe. That kind of thing. Then you write how it  makes you feel, thinking those  things because your thoughts create your feelings, which then cause more negative thoughts. Then you write what that makes  you do. Like stay in bed every  day and feel guilty about it. The difficult part is where you have to challenge your negative thoughts  and dispute them. I tried to think  of situations where I might look  forward to getting out of bed.  Like winning the lottery or being on the cover of Vogue. The trick  is not to lose hope that some thing nice might happen, I suppose. After that, we had to plan a  new way of reacting which would be more constructive, like getting  up and doing some exercise  instead of lying in bed. I think I  need a Sense of Purpose. Some thing I can believe in and be capable of doing. I don’t know  what.

Day 11 11am

I got up early this morning and walked in the park and watched  the squirrels. I love squirrels. I  wish the Priory was my house  and I could wander into the park  every morning before breakfast. Thinking about the squirrels  makes me want to get out of bed,  especially if it’s sunny.


This afternoon, we had Art Therapy. I loved it. I did a painting of  me and Shane in a black hole  together, on a sofa with lots of  nice colouredy bits floating  around the outside, and I called  it Home. Then I drew my Inner Baby, covered in blood and stab bing itself in the stomach with a carving knife and asking Is this  what you want? It was fantastic.  I was so pleased with it I did a  whole series of Inner Babies in different situations, and a paint ing of all my friends, looming  over me like spooks, asking me  why I’m frightened. I’ve defi nitely found my vocation. I’m going to be a famous artist like  Tracey Emin.

I have to go home soon. I’m  scared. I want to live and do Art Therapy every day and eat fattening food and never see anybody  thin or glamorous again. I even like my room now and I like the way it’s decorated. It makes me feel safe. The psychiatrist said it’s common for people to feel safe in here and not want to go home. He says I’ve got to think about how I’m going to manage on the  outside. I’m very worried about it. It’s so much easier, having other people to plan your day.  Maybe if they won’t let me live here, I’ll join the army or become  a nun. I don’t like being a writer  because there’s no-one to talk to at work and nobody to tell you  what to do. And I’m not successful. The CBT man says labelling yourself a success or a failure is a  Thinking Error and is guaranteed  to make you depressed. I’ve only  got a few days left. I hope I don’t need something drastic, like  ECT. I’ve got a friend who had  ECT and he liked it, though.

Day 12 12.30pm

In the group, one of the women  said she’s planning to kill herself as soon as she gets out. I asked  her why and she said because  she’s a useless mother and her  kids would be better off without  her. We spent the morning trying  to convince her that she’s not  useless and she shouldn’t kill herself. A lot of people in there think  no-one would miss them if they  killed themselves. Hearing other  people say it makes you realise how crazy it is. We told her she  won’t always feel this way, it’s  only because she’s depressed. I’m going to miss the other people  when I go home. It’s like living in a village where everyone know you and knows your worst secrets  and they’re still friendly.

Day 14

I’ve been home. Shane got out before me, so he’s already here,  playing his guitar and watching videos. I phoned the Priory immediately I got here and asked  them to let me back in. The nurse said I won’t be able to live  in the Priory forever, so I’ll have to try and get used to being at home, but I’m not so sure. The  cleaner hasn’t been and the mess  is worse than it was before,  because I’ve got used to things being neat and orderly. I’m not so bothered about being famous  now, but I want to live in a nice big house in the countryside and  have all my meals cooked and  play ping-pong and paint pictures. I’m not sure what this means.


Author: Victoria Mary Clarke - Media Coach

I am a holistic Media Coach, helping passionate, heart centred entrepreneurs who genuinely want to make the world a happier place by sharing their work with the world. I have been a journalist/author/broadcaster for over 20 years and I use a unique mixture of Angel channelled guidance and energy work, presentation/voice coaching, Life Coaching and practical advice to get you out there with clarity, confidence and charisma!

2 thoughts on “My Priory Diary

  1. hi is this site still active?


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