My Filofax Planning and Recovery

So I can’t stop writing. Seriously, thank you all for being interested in what I have to say!

Thank you to those who voted in the poll–the results were a tie (at least so far) between how my Filofax has helped with my anxiety, and my depression turnaround, and as I’m upgrading to a new Filofax system soon I really wanted to write this one so that I can chronicle the current setup. If you’re interested there’s also an accompanying video, which is my first venture into Youtubing.

I’m excited because this is my first post that will have pictures. And they’re pictures of one of my favorite things, the nerd that I am, my Filofax!

So, I got into planning one really awful night when I was home alone for the weekend. I was coming off of a pretty horrific binge, and I remember just thinking, “What should I be doing right now? Because it isn’t this.”

I started researching journals, and planners, and I came across the amazing Filofax community! Soon I was sucked into the videos, and the decorations, and the different ways of customizing your pages, and your setup, and I just had to get one. I ordered my black Domino that night, rush order (yes–next day delivery) because I had this feeling that it could help me for that weekend, and she’s been with me ever since!
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(Also you get to see my face–exciting I know)

So this is my baby now, and it helps me in so many ways. So when you open it up:

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This is what you see!! I have my dashboard, which has the occasional post it on it with reminders, but is more to protect the pages, sticky notes and quotes behind it. Silly as it may seem, opening my Filofax up to a big ol’ bright pink “Hello” makes me smile, so I keep it. On the back of the cover is five card holders, which I use for appointment cards and to hold sticky notes, in the pocket behind I have some labels right now– it’s super handy.

Oh and just a close up of one of my favorite quotes. I don’t remember where I got these printables but If someone knows please tell me!

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After that…

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Is a pretty piece of paper that I washi taped and had to show off, and then…

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Comes the meat of the planner–my week on two pages. This is one section that really helps my anxiety. I use it to make to-do lists for every day, and I make all the lists on the Sunday before the week starts, using my syllabi and notes I make as needed about appointments. This way, I know what I have to get done, and how I’m going to spread up the work so that I have some free time but everything gets done. After I finish the to do lists, if there’s any doubt about how I’ll get through a day I used the calendar on my phone and block out every single minute, starting with the time-sensitive things, like appointments and classes, and then fitting in the rest of what I have to do. If it doesn’t work out, I rework the spread of the to do lists.

I also keep here a positive things sticky note, which I’ll talk about later, and a goals sticky note, where I have my goals for the week.

This might seem like a lot to do just to make a to-do list, but it cuts way down on my time later because I never have to worry about how I’m going to get something done: it’s already figured out.

The time consuming thing I did not like was the entering things into my phone. So I’m moving to an almost entirely paper based system and making…

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Day per page pages! I’m not actually making them for long–I ordered a set for 2015–but for now they’re working out fine! So on these, as you can see I have my calendar, which is only ever completely scheduled out if I have a day that seems impossible. I kept a section for to-dos, and added a section that I was keeping on sticky notes before–positive things about the day. It really is nice to fill this out throughout the day, and just keep note of the nice things that happen. Also I love turning to a past week and being able to say, “Oh cool, this was when I started
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My goals are now incorporated into my to-dos, and calendar, and I keep the ones for the week on my dashboard at the front of the binder.

So then after the bulk of the binder are the rest of the sections: contacts, which are hidden because Internet, quotes, which I have a few pictures of! Notes, which is mostly Starbucks stuff to remember, Projects, which is stuff I’m planning to make for Etsy, and for other people, and last but for sure not least my Recovery section.

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The quotes help if I need a boost, but the recovery section is super important and I will forever keep it in my carry-along binder. It has all of the notes from my treatment groups–CBT, DBT, Nutrition, the works. This way if I ever find myself really stuck I can look and see what I can do in that situation. This is also where I make the lists I talked about in my last post, of things to do, and where I keep a running CBT log, because I’m a dork and find that they work.

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Basically, in here is everything that I could possibly need when I’m out and around. It keeps me on track, and helps me worry less, because it lets me both figure out how to handle a situation that’s come up, and plan to handle ones that may come up in the future.

If anyone wants a post about setting up their own Filofax let me know–I’m planning on doing one around Christmas but definitely can sooner!

Until next time, with lots of love.

What it means to cope.

I had an odd conversation with my therapist the other day.

I’m definitely on an upward swing treatment wise. I’m stepping down in treatment, and stepping up in life. But what a lot of people don’t tell you is that even when you’re ready to not be in treatment for twelve hours a week, you’re still not always sure that you’re ready or able to recover. I was describing a slightly scary incident that I had the other day, and how a lot of the urges to act in “bad” ways had come back for the first time in a little while, and my therapist asked me, “So what did you do?”

I was a little shocked at the simple question, mostly because I was so caught up in how I had been feeling, and describing to her exactly how bad the situation seemed, and how it obviously meant that I was going back down my old road again. So when I answered it felt really, really anticlimactic.

“Well, I drew up a pattern, cried a little, watched some TV, finished my work, ate a snack, and went to bed.”

That’s it. That was the conclusion to my big night of emotional turmoil. Productivity, a few tears, and some much needed sleep. And she informed me that what I did was cope with it.

Now: I did not know until a few weeks ago that I had this ability. It still feels a little bit like a super power or something else miraculous. I mean, something horrible happening doesn’t mean that horrible things need to continue happening?! It may seem obvious, but when the pattern is to drag out the unpleasant and dismiss all good things, to start to reverse that feels like some bizarre opposite day.

So what is coping anyway? Its a word you hear a lot once you start treatment in any form– “Did you use any of your coping skills when that happened?” is a question that will forever be burned into my brain, and I’m not sure that its in an entirely helpful way. It brings to mind stress balls, CBT worksheets, and lots of suppressed feelings. It seems that if someone has to cope with the situation, they have to let it “win,” and just deal with the outcome, or at least that’s how I always interpreted it.

In reality though, I’m finding that coping with a situation is just the opposite of that. Its not that you’re giving up to the situation, its that you’re letting go of the pointless struggle. When you can’t change a situation, does fighting it do anything other than show that you’re fighting it?

For a long time, I thought that if I actually coped with a situation it would mean that I wasn’t feeling the actual emotion behind it. Because if you feel that strong an emotion, and that strong an urge, is there anything left to do but act on it? As it turns out the answer is yes.

But what coping is not is: artificial, forcing yourself into something, unpleasant, or suppression. An actual coping skill that you use can’t be something that you don’t want to do, or it loses its purpose as you’ll never do it.

Also: this whole coping thing? Not just for people with mental illness! Thaaat’s right, everyone can do it! (Cue cheering I know!) In fact, I learned how to really cope by watching people who weren’t depressed, and who (as far as I know of course) had never “officially” learned coping skills in therapy.

So how to do it? How to cope with a situation in a healthy way instead of overexercising, cutting, bingeing, purging, or beating yourself up in any way? I came up with a system that works for me, and I figured I’d break it down and share it with you all.

First, accept that the unpleasant thing happened. That’s right, let it into your mind: let it become a past event just like all the other things you’ve ever done, and don’t give it any more significance than that. Its something that happened, that’s now over, and that you cannot prevent or do anything about, other than move forward.

Next, look at your options. Usually, when something bad happens, you have options. If you don’t have any options, move onto the next step. I recommend at this point, until you’re used to doing things the healthy way, making a list of your options. I have a huge list from past events in my planner. And really consider what you can do, including things that you might initially discount. I’ll share my list from the example I was giving: binge, binge and purged, overexercise, restrict food for the next day, cut (and yes, it may be the unhealthy things that come to mind first: don’t worry about it), continue doing my homework, eat a reasonable snack. After thinking a little more, I added to this list: put on my favorite movie, let myself cry, practice banjo, play ukelele, plan out the next week, watch How I Met Your Mother, sleep, play with the rats, wake up my parents to talk, pet my dogs, feed the fish, go for a walk, plan out my meals for the next day, call my therapist, start a book for NaNoWriMo, make something for my Etsy shop. Get creative with this list: the only restrictions are that it has to be things that you actually like to do, and things that you could get up and do that second, without making excuses to prevent yourself from doing it. But you want a really good list, and you want to include literally everything you could do

Choose the ideal option. This isn’t always easy, because what you want to do is almost always what you should do. So take a look at that list, and pick out what it would be ideal for you to do–even if you don’t want to do it in that moment. So for me, I would circle “Continue homework.”

Identify what options would move you backwards. That is any action that won’t bring you towards where you eventually want to be. And not just short term. For me, although in the short term, when I’m in a bad place, I might want to just be a patient forever. It helps here to look at the long term, where I want to be a respected neuropsychologist, with research going, and patients that I see, happily married, with kids that I homeschool. So I would take my list and  (because I love colorful pens) underline in red anything that doesn’t bring me closer to where I actually want to be.

Then, decide what you feel like you can do, that isn’t underlined in red.  This doesn’t have to be the ideal option: we’re getting there! This is just what you feel emotionally prepared to do, in that moment, right away. For me, it was to watch TV. I felt a little guilty about not doing my homework, but it was what I could do, and even if it wasn’t moving me forward, it wasn’t going backwards either.

Repeat previous step as needed. As you do each thing, you’re distracting yourself, and proving to yourself that you don’t need to do the things marked in red. I ended up combining to things on my list: I made a pattern for something I’m going to put up on my Etsy shop! Make your way through your list, doing everything you can. What will usually happen is that you’ll either calm down, or run out of time and have something come up that you need to do.

Now, notice that the unhealthy things aren’t crossed off, just marked as backwards-moving. This is because if you go through everything, and you can’t calm yourself down, and you’re in a really bad place, I won’t pretend that they aren’t an option.  And its possible that you’ll make it all the way through, and have nothing left to do but something that will move you backwards. But if it gets to this point (which shouldn’t happen often) keep in mind how long you’ve made it without resorting to unhealthy behaviors. Try repeating some things on the list. Or seeing if you can add to it.  Just know that you don’t have to do those things: recognize them as a choice, not a compulsion. You’re free to make that choice, but you should do so recognizing that it’ll only move you backwards, and hurt you in the long run.

Anyway, hopefully you’re still on the happy things on your list, and you’re now calm enough to…

Do what you need to do to move forward in your situation. For me, as my crisis was school related, what I had to do was to do the homework that I could do. But because I didn’t just jump into trying to do this, I was able to get it done quicker, without getting frustrated with myself. Sure I could have gotten it done sooner without doing all the other stuff, but by pausing for a moment and doing something that made me happy, I reminded myself that there are things in life beyond the stressful situation at hand. There are things that you enjoy, and that bring you joy. Life is bigger than what makes you miserable.

Congratulations, you just coped with an upset in your life!

Yay, congratulate yourself!

If you actually try this out, and keep doing it, you won’t always have to make physical lists. You don’t even have to at first if you don’t want to–I’m just making suggestions, do what works for you. I like lists because I’m paper-obsessed, and like to write things, and see them all in front of me. Also, making lists makes me happy for whatever weird reason, so its another one of what my therapist would call my, “delaying tactics” (what I refer to as your options).

If you have a slightly backwards mind like me, it might be scary to successfully cope with a situation, without using your unhealthy coping mechanisms. To this, I say: f*** your mind, because it obviously doesn’t know what’s best for you. You made decisions specifically based on what will bring you to where you want to be, and if something in your mind doesn’t want that, then its only trying to hold you back.

Know this. Own this. And keep kicking butt.

Also, I have a ton of things I’d like to write about, but consider taking this poll to show me what you’d like to hear about. If no one answers, I’ll do whatever I want 🙂

Until next time, lots of love from me to you.

Well here it is.

After lurking, stalking, admiring, and envying all the bloggers out there, I’ve decided to join the club.

So first: introductions. I’m Kerry, a twenty year old full time college student, and a part time barista at Starbucks.

I’m also in the process of recovering from an eating disorder, social anxiety, and severe chronic depression that left me in places that I did not like. There are a lot of changes happening in my life: changes that I want to be able to acknowledge, and remember. Trust me: once you’ve been in the grips of something that’s seized your mind, and taken your life away from you, making decisions for yourself again is both scary and a process that you’ll never take for granted again.

I don’t know what I want the focus of this blog to be, but I want a few things to come out of it: increased awareness and acceptance of mental illness is the biggie, I want to help people who have loved ones who are suffering from depression, or an eating disorder, or any sort of mental illness to understand a little more, and be better able to help. I want to share my obsession with planners and how planning my life has helped me improve it (my Filofax is one of the loves of my life: don’t judge), and I want to show off my crafts (knitting, crocheting, sewing, quilting, etc.) and have a base for my Etsy shop so that people can get to know the person behind the shop a little better. Overall, I want to be able to look back when I’m fully recovered and see my progress, my fallbacks, and how I got there, so I can remember the process, and help others who are struggling.

So if you’re interested, curious, or want to know more, feel free to follow along!

I’d appreciate support along my journey as I come public about my struggles with mental illness for the first time, but I also want to support you. If you know me in real life feel free to message me on Facebook anytime, or anyone can message me here if you want to talk, or need help, or just want to chat.

I want to help change the face of mental illness: it can happen to anyone, and it isn’t something that need be taboo, or that anyone should need to hide. We’re all human, we all struggle, and we all have the ability to emphasize with and support each other. And I think that its when all people begin to use that ability, that changes will really start to happen.