Relaxing

I lost my step-father at the end of January. As soon as I found out about it, I knew that I needed to visit my Mum. That was the easy part of course.

Over the last two months, my Mum & I have been trying to sort through so much of their life together. It hasn’t been easy to say the least. It has been stressful, tiring, wearing, exhausting and mentally draining.

University needed to be placed on ‘pause’ and I had to depend on the support of friends back home to make sure things kept running smoothly whilst I was away.

However, I have been incredibly fortunate to have friends on this side of the world that offered to let me stay with them for about 2 weeks before returning home. The whole idea is that I let myself have a ‘holiday’ from what I’ve left behind so that I can prepare myself for the recovery that needs to take place once I get back into the UK.

The purpose of relaxing is not lost on me, but I actually think this is first time that I’ve been consciously aware of the fact that I am actually capable of it. Even after I started to ‘chill out’ I started to question what I was actually doing with my time. There was a sense that I ‘should’ be doing ‘something’, although it’s pretty clear that there’s nothing I can do from here that will fix anything that needs to be done once I get back to England.

So, I’ve been attempting to really relax, and it’s been liberating and also a little telling. There are still a lot of ‘thoughts’, I worry about this that and the other, what impact my actions and words have on the other people around me and what I’m thinking and feeling and most importantly why? In the end however, I did concede and ended up purchasing myself a Bullet Journal so that I could take some more control of my life. Perhaps it’s a step backwards, but I can say that since I bought it, and started using it to log my much smaller day-to-day chores and events I feel much better about the whole thing.

Being able to look back and see what I’ve done is useful, and to give myself smaller goals that will help settle the uneasy feeling in my head has actually worked! It’s simple stuff too, less planning months and months in advance and more accepting each day as it comes. I’ve set myself little goals, ‘have a shower first thing’ or ‘put laundry away’ or ‘mail postcards’. It’s definitely easy to forget that these seemingly ‘simple’ things were at one point or another really difficult to accomplish – but just ordering my life some how has given me a greater sense of purpose.

Weird, honestly – because I was already doing those things, but it felt increasingly like I had to open myself up to a new project or plan some huge ‘game plan’ for the future.

The truth is that I have decided on a few avenues to follow once I get back home, and there are definitely jobs that I will need to ‘get done’ when I get there. Not that I’ve written them down! I have a feeling that will happen on my return to England on the plane, maybe? It’s a long, overnight flight – but there will definitely be time to take some notes and make a few lists.

Mostly, I’m just glad that I’ve been able to take a deep breath and just ‘be’. It hasn’t been easy, and I still struggle to ignore that nagging doubt and the constant questioning but it’s all practice isn’t it?

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The Importance of Recording

One of the most useful things that I do now, is to keep a record of my daily ‘accomplishments’.

Right back in the beginning it was something that I attempted, but found that it was demotivating when all I did – day in, day out was sit and watch Netflix or play video games. Since then I’ve been able to learn to forgive myself, be kind to myself and show the same patience I’m capable of offering complete strangers.

Now, it feels like my most valuable tool.

For a long time I focused on working through a Bullet Journal to record and motivate myself on a day-to-day basis, and although I absolutely adore the concept and the work and fun that goes into keeping a journal like this, I found that a very different approach was important to help me to put together the foundations for my recovery.

A Bullet Journal actually created a wall between myself and my goals. When I would start a day with a beautifully thought out spread and only one goal to mark off I found it difficult to be attached to it, and equally difficult to go through the process of writing that same, single task over and over for days on end.

Giving up just wasn’t an option, so I chose instead to re-think my approach to keeping a daily account of my life.

My therapist was the first person to suggest that I keep a log of my daily activities. On a simple A4 gridded sheet of paper, with two boxes for morning, afternoon and evening I vaguely accounted for the ‘major’ things that I did every day. At first, they were incredibly basic. I ate food, I watched TV, I played video games. I met with a friend, I went for a walk.

It was the first time I’d recorded my day-to-day life as retroactively, and there were a few days when I completely forgot to write about what I’d done and therefore entire days were forgotten. I’m pretty sure that usually there was nothing significant about the things that I’d done, until I walked back into therapy and re-counted my week. Little things that seemed important when I’d done them, and then insignificant when I came to write down the last few days of activity were forgotten.

That important phone call that I’d been putting off for months to the bank, that form I filled out, the brief discussion I’d had with a friend or family member. Each and every single one of these things were important to my overall recovery from a very dark place that I’d managed to put myself in.

I kept these diaries for four weeks until I decided that enough was enough. My Bullet Journal had fallen to the way-side and turned into something like a book of lists (Books I owned and wanted to read, Holiday Destinations for the future, DVDs I owned, movies I’d watched) and I knew that whilst I was using those relatively small A4 sheets to log my weekly comings and goings it wasn’t going to satisfy me.

As a lover of notebooks and stationery, it wasn’t difficult to rifle through my ’empty notebooks’ drawer and find something to use to start logging my days, and even better that I’d found the perfect use for a notebook. (One of the reasons I have so many is that they’re all in there waiting for the perfect purpose. Sorry, notebooks.)

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So it began.

Almost 2 weeks later, I’m still swearing by it. Claiming that this act, and this act alone is the one reason that I’ve managed to pull myself up out of the funk I’d fallen into is a huge stretch of any imagination, but I feel very strongly that it has contributed to my continued improving mental health and will keep doing so much!

I write the time my alarm went off, and the time I actually got out of bed. Writing it down makes it a fact, and gives you a solid thing to refer back to. I find that when I am struggling the most I lose all sense of time and feeling and life. It’s easy for me to forget how I felt only a few hours ago, when I’m so preoccupied with the current moment, and the thoughts that are in my head at that time and in that place. So I feel it’s very important (for me) to be able to refer back to previous days, not to make negative comparisons or to judge the ‘value’ of the things I’ve done in the present day but to be able to look back and see, from hard factual evidence that ‘things’ over all are better now than they’ve ever been.

Thinking too hard about the shape of my life exactly a year ago would only promote a desire to reach out and take ownership of how I felt back then, in a time when my recovery was in it’s very early stages, and I feel very strongly that it would be detrimental to my health, but if I’d kept the same log I have now I might be able to recognise instantly the stark contrast in my mental health. Of course, it’s arguable – that if I’d kept a log back then, like I do now that perhaps my life would be very different but I also believe very strongly that it’s taken all of these incredibly small steps over the span of a year to get here at all and without them it just wouldn’t be possible.

We can’t fast forward progress, and we can’t force it. There are clear steps in any recovery that have to happen before you can continue on your way. That’s why we call them steps. It’s quite easy to visualise for example, the steps that might lead up to the second floor of your home and to accept the reality of the fact that before you can get to the tenth step, you have to make it up all the ones before that first.

April Showers bring May BulletJournals

I finally bought a dotted, blue, moleskine to use as a bullet journal earlier in the month.

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It was admittedly a bit of a whimsical purchase, but I tried using an A4 lined notebook I had, a smaller A5 sized one – was lucky enough to find an ORANGE gridded notebook in Waterstones, but didn’t get along with it thanks to the spiral running along the side.

Honestly, my heart had always been set on the Moleskine or the Leuchtturm 1917. One day this month I went into a gorgeous local stationery artsy-crafty type place called Ruddocks and was overwhelmed with shoppers delight when I saw it there.

April has been a rather difficult month, so I set my sights on May. It’s my favourite month of the year for reasons I just cannot fathom (!!!). Since then I’ve been trying to get to grips with what trackers will work best for me.

Endless lists of unachievable goals and deadlines have proven to be incredibly helpful at this time in my life, but I wanted to share with you the things I’ve been working on.

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Okay, so I’m a little obsessed with the whole money making stuff at the moment, but it’s nice to be able to write something down once a day.

Small steps.

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I have borrowed/own far too many books and although this is one of my favourite pages so far, it always highlights just how far behind I am on my reading! To make matters worse, I keep going to the library and adding to the collection!

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Lots of my friends know how terrible I am at watching a film. This is a list of all the DVDs I currently own, and not unlike my other trackers – I’m hoping it will inspire me to take time to watch them and feel that little more educated about film. (Also, it can never hurt to watch Tony Stark one. more. time.)

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May’s Diary spread as it looks at the moment. Honestly. I could have cried when my pen started smudging across the page. I think it had a lot to do with something I discovered not too long afterwards.

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An achievement in itself, I present to you. The first pen that I have used until the ink ran out.