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.

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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.

Retail Therapy

Last week turned out to be a pretty difficult one for me.

After scoring a grand total of 0 (zero) on the Department of Work & Pensions criteria for eligibility for ESA (despite scoring 20 on a PHQ9 test done with a mental health team member – within their highest bracket of depression.) I hit a low.

I won’t go into my very sore feelings about the current system, and the hoops I had to jump through just to know that there was something I could do, and no I wouldn’t be committing benefit fraud by signing on when I’m not able to work. Those are likely for another day, when I’m not in a state of flux.

No, this is about Saturday.

The story starts the night before, as so many stories do. Imagine my horror when I realised that the laptop charger for my beloved MacBook was no longer working. The white outer cable had split, exposing wires which somehow had frayed over a very short period of time. I made an executive decision there and then that tomorrow would require a trip to the StormFront shop in Lincoln.

It was a blood good job that ‘No Spend April’ had been such a beautiful success until then, because it meant I had more than enough for the £65 replacement.

Facing the crowds (it’s Lincoln, I hear you say what crowds??) wasn’t such a big deal for me when I had such a clear, and very important goal in mind. I’m not a poster child for ‘living without technology’. One day without the laptop is fine on my terms, but when the desire to do something online sets it’s difficult to handle. A lot of my current, daily goals actually actively require the use of the internet. (Funny how I managed that! =P)

I’m not going to lie, I really had to stay focused on my end goal whilst I was out. Keeping my head down and hunting for pennies to supplement this huge splurge was useful in making sure I didn’t clock each and every person around me. I dread to consider the notion that I might have completely blanked someone I knew in town. What I would say ran through my mind a fair few times, but I was on a bit of a high I felt sure I could manage.

After skulking around the desk at the Apple store, uncertain whether some of the people across at the other side were in a queue, or waiting to be seen, or being helped I quite happily took time in staring at the very thing I needed to purchase. It didn’t take long to manage to make eye contact with someone who was clearly looking for their next customer and it’s really easy to explain something when you’ve brought along the offending power cable with you.

Ten minutes and £65 later. I was a happy bunny. The status quo had been restored. My connection to the wired world was assured! Now I could happily banish all creeping fears of a day spent at my Dad’s without a laptop to the bin – no longer could they linger in the back of my mind and poke and prod, using up the resources I quite clearly needed to function properly in the rest of the day to day to and fro that needs brain power.

The trouble with being a happy bunny without care is that my mind starts doing that thing where it wanders.

I’ve been BulletJournalling on and off for a while. I started out with a gorgeous, A4, lined Kikki K number all the way from Melbourne. It lasted into the middle of February and I traded it for a wired, A5, orange covered grid notebook from Waterstones. It was supposed to be perfect. I carefully accounted for all possible difficulties. I only used one side of the page, I numbered my pages, I left space for a contents page.

Only those moleskines. With their joined up pages. There’s no worry that the pages might get caught in the spiral when you turn them.

I was on a mission.

And so, I began bimbling. It’s a dangerous thing. I ventured into Paperchase – where I purchased a reduced, new case for my phone, a cute card that was reduced, and most importantly a care for my Mum for her birthday. They’re all valid purchases! I’ve needed a phone case since I upgraded to the iPhone 5! The birthday card was well over due, and reduced cards are wonderful, aren’t they?

From there I took on WHSmith. The only place I know in Lincoln which stocks VeganLife magazine.

The next stop was Waterstones, just around the corner and would you believe it. They’ve got Gridded Moleskines, at about £2 less than Paperchase.

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Into the basket it went. (It’s a proverbial basket.)

The next stop was the post office, to send my Mum’s card – but hang on just a minute. I can’t stand there in the Post Office queue without writing in Mum’s card.

Impromptu, yet necessary stop at Costa Coffee needed! Of course. A packet of their finest (vegan!) crisps, and a large, soy chai tea latte. (and on another note – I need to get in touch with Costa on account of the fact that they no longer sell their vegan fruit crumble. :( :( :(.)

So, I sit. I drink. I write in my Mum’s card. It’s good. Great. Fabulous.

Except, whilst I’m there by Costa – I might as well pop into Holland & Barrett and see what they have for sale! More money spent.

Next stop, the post office. Finally. The card is posted! (and has three days to make it’s journey. Eep.)

I’m not done yet. Going home to an empty house just means risking the chance of upset – so I take a wander through town. Actually. I’m still kind of hungry and you know what, I haven’t been to Cafe Shanti in a while. So why not treat myself?

It’s a grave error on my part, really. Yes, I love the place. They do good food, at good prices, with wonderful staff and lovely customers.

Ruddocks is on the way.

Ruddocks have it. Ruddocks. Have. Dotted. Moleskines.

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The price doesn’t matter. The fact that no less than an hour earlier I had already purchased a gridded journal doesn’t matter. I have it in my hands. This is the thing that is going to make Ollie Bullet Journal history! Victory.

I buy it. I even enquire into whether Ruddocks can get VeganLife in, rather than have to go to money grabbing, WHSmith. (It wasn’t the best experience.)

Naturally, my journey’s last stop is Shanti. The usual of course. Vegetable Lasagne and some kind of wonderful fruit tea in the cutest tea cups.

It’s the story of how I managed to completely and utterly decimate my bank account in the space of approximately two hours.

The story of how I decided that I really don’t need the second Moleskine. (which I ended up taking out of the packaging, despite knowing I wasn’t going to use it.) It’s why I’m setting up a giveaway on the Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook page, and just maybe why you’re reading?