By: Danielle Workman
Most girls have that one ‘must have’ item in their purse at all times. For some it is a certain lip gloss, others have a pair of great sunglasses, others hide great items like portable chargers or spritzers. These days, my go to items are my planners and journals, and yes, I carry those in my purse at all times. Let me explain more.
It came as an accident that I discovered bullet journaling and planning. I had always carried a small notebook on my person for odd notes and to-do lists, but never anything fancy or special. When a facebook group a friend was in popped up on my ‘suggestions’ list, I knew I had to at least check it out. As soon as I realized what I had stumbled into, I was hooked.
My journal, a little raspberry colored notebook, is full of my mental health trackers and my bullet journal pages. It’s full of ideas, comments, conversations and notes. It’s gloriously messy and wonderful in helping me keep track of my health. My planner is bulky, big and colorful with pages full of washi tape and stickers. While it is a planner and there isn’t much more you can do with it, I absolutely love it and love that I can be creative with my life and plans. It keeps me on track and inspires me to continue to keep on track. Both of these help me with my aspirations as an author, they help me keep track with my full-time job, and most importantly they help me with my mental health.
If you aren’t sure of what a bullet journal is, it’s a great method of organization and tracking for your day-to-day life and can cover quite a large variety of topics and tasks. It is a very flexible system and inside of mine are pages including, movies I’ve watched, songs I like, and things I’d like to do. What is most important for my health though are the pages that came by accident, surprise, or were even created while thinking, ‘what the heck.’
One of the first pages is a page with my medications and dosages on it. This is helpful because at any given time I have an easy place to look it up. This page includes current and past medications and dosages I’ve tried, including documentation as to why it didn’t work (like allergies, adverse reactions, etc). With brain fog being a very real thing, this has been incredibly helpful in helping me through various doctors appointments, emergency room visits, and check ups outside of the health care system I see my psychiatrist in.
Another page is a page of compliments. This idea originally came from the author and blogger Gala Darling, who proposed it as a way to boost your confidence and self esteem. It sounds very self-righteous and egotistical, and to be honest sometimes it does feel that way whenever I fill it out. But stay with me now, because I have a great reason for doing this. During my depressive bouts, I’ve found that I doubt myself on the things I’ve been complimented on in the past. When I’m in the dark of depression, reading those compliments makes it just a tiny bit better. It’s also interesting to see what people say about you, to you, when you’re not dismissing those compliments.
One of my favorite pages is literally bathed in doodles of sunshine and rainbows. It’s a lis t of things that make me happy. On good days, I make a note to write down something in there that makes me happy, whether it’s a good cup of coffee, a certain song my son has been singing non-stop or even just something out of a good book I’m reading. It all goes down on the list. And just like with the compliments, I turn to that page when I’m having my bad days. Not only does it serve as a list for things that I’ve done or have that make me smile, it also serves as an emotional to-do list to try to bring myself up from the low.
There is an entire section for journaling. I love it because I am a very flexible journaler, and I allow myself to write about anything I can. To me, it doesn’t matter, as long as I write daily. What’s amazing about doing it this way is that I can actually see my bipolar on paper. Sometimes it’s what I say, other times it’s how my handwriting looks, and even what I add or don’t add. I always suggest journaling to those who are starting their mental health journeys so that they too can see what their life and minds look like on paper once you get more stable. This is so crucial for my own mental health because then I can review my journals when I am struggling and remind myself of how far I’ve come.
Lately, the most important page for me has become the symptom tracker. I write down everything my body does, feels, or wants to do and I track it. From doing this I can see how long I was manic for, how many migraines I had last month, and how many times I had anxiety and symptoms of it. All of it is right there in the neat little tracker and it’s all at my fingertips. It is so crucial because you can tell your doctors what is going on, and show them. If it wasn’t for me doing this I would have had no idea I needed to double my meds or half another. I would have stayed in a dangerous depression forever instead of being able to tackle my mental illness head on.
Something very important happened in this journey to wellness. I realized I was losing my life to my bipolar disorder. Not just the little bits and pieces like I had thought, so much more of my life was lost to it. It makes me feel sick to even admit it, to be honest. By starting a bullet journal and tracking my life and my mental illness, I came to discover that I had so much life I could live if I could only figure it out. Planning my life became planning for my health. And planning for my health was one of the single biggest things I could have done to help myself.
As I tuck my big, bulky and worn bullet journal into my purse, I feel confident and comfortable. Even if it does add an extra pound to my purse, it allows me to know that whatever happens, I’ll track it. And that security and comfort in knowing that I’m planning for my health, for myself, that security gives me that extra ‘oomph’ to get through even the tougher days.