Month In Review: May 2018

May wasn’t the best month for me. I didn’t have the right medication dose and frequency, so I was struggling with the wrong dose and then adjusting to the proper one once I got it. My moods were all over the place. I’ve also been having nightmares more often, which wake me up early in the morning or in the middle of the night, and then I dissociate until I can ground myself in reality again. If you read my last post, about ugly bullet journal spreads, my planning was subpar. May didn’t have any major stresses, but it was a lot of personal issues relating back to my moods that influenced the month. Ah, the joys of having mental illness… But let’s take a quick look at other parts of May.

A celebration: I launched a Patreon! This will be for sneak peeks, behind the scenes, and exclusive content as thanks for support—and also, mostly, as motivation for me.

A change: For the last 2 weeks of May, I took a social media hiatus, which will continue into June. I have an addictive personality (thanks, bipolar!) and social media can become addicting to me. This was a needed and welcome change.

A conflict: I had issues with my prescription, so I wasn’t at the appropriate dosage for a few weeks. Then, I needed to adjust to the proper amount. I struggled with the adjustment and getting into a schedule/routine.

A relief: I got a job! Working for my own business is a job, but I got another part-time job that will hopefully help me over the next while.

A regret: Less writing than I wish I had done! This is a big pattern of regrets and problems for me. I’m not prioritising my writing as much as I’m prioritising other things.

A random memory: We had a massive wind storm in Ontario at the start of the month. It rained, and then the sun shone while the wind blew through in my town. I was out for a walk (returning a library book) and on my way home when I heard a tree cracking. I stopped and looked around—and then the tree fell down in front of me to block the whole road. A spider also fell on me in the wind right before the tree fell. The tree scared me more than the spider.

I’m feeling more hopeful for June. Some of my plans include signing up for a gym membership, finally finishing edits for The Pilgrimage, starting beta reading and sensitivity reading for The Pilgrimage, and making some adjustments to my website! Offline, the yard needs a lot of work, so I’ll be outside reclaiming the property from the overgrowth. I also have an announcement at the start of June, so stay tuned for that. I won’t be looking forward to the heat of summer, but a new month is a great time to start fresh with goals. Let’s hope I don’t burn out or get sunburned!

My Ugly Bullet Journal Spreads

Sometimes the ugly things around us are a reflection of ugly things inside us. Next week, in my regular month review, I’ll talk more about how May has been a rough month for me. But I’m focusing on the bullet journal this time around because it’s one of those ~*~aesthetic~*~ things in life, and I wanted to share how the non-aesthetic results are just as important as the beautiful accomplishments. I also wanted to mention that, even though I don’t like the ugly spreads, I still appreciate them.

For my weekly layouts in May, I had anticipated on using a similar format to the ones I had used in March 2018 and April 2018. But for a few reasons, they turned out terrible.

Sometimes, my bullet journal gets neglected. If you want to compare, April’s layouts were beautiful. I put effort in them and really enjoyed planning my month. But for May, my weekly spreads didn’t jive with me. There was something off.

I know I like to show the best sides of my life, especially online. Why shouldn’t I? After all, if I’m proud of something, I should share it. If something is beautiful, I want to show it to others. There’s nothing wrong with putting the highlights on social media or my website. I don’t deny the ugly sides of my life, after all. (Like when my mental health gets bad and destructive; or how I experienced therapy in 2016; or reflecting on changes, conflicts, and regrets each month.)

So here’s some of my trashy bullet journal spreads! They’re incomplete, they’re filled with scribbles, and they’re failed attempts at keeping my life on track.

A spread created after half the week had gone by, with unfinished art…

 

A week with missed days of planning…

 

A layout with a time codex that just didn’t work at all in the small module size…

My favourite thing about the bullet journal is the customisation capabilities. It’s nice to have the creative outlet as well, but it’s times like now—when I’m looking back on May and preparing for June—where I’m grateful for this planning system’s lack of commitment. If I had a printed planner designed by a company, no matter how beautiful it is or how well it previously worked, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to change it up on a whim.

I’ll be noting all of these struggles in my monthly review, which is one of my favourite bullet journal hacks, next week! My planning for June will change for sure, since my issues with using my journal this month were present throughout the month. Sometimes I’ll miss a few days in a week, or a week doesn’t get designed as well as the rest. But those are non-issues compared to ugly bullet journal spreads week after week. They’re a sign that I’m using the wrong tactics, and I need to readjust what I’m doing. They’re also evident that my mental health isn’t condoning good planning.

Layouts like this remind me of times over the last 3 years when the same thing happened. But now, I’ve started to notice that it’s a sign that my mental health isn’t at its best. I use my planner to keep on track of my life. My mental illness affects all aspects of my life. The two go hand-in-hand, so I’ve become aware of when my planner reflects my health. My journal is another tool to stay mindful of my life. The ugly layouts and ugly moments are part of that.

5 Reasons To Read Poetry

My love of writing started with poetry and song lyrics. Although I’ve been reading novels since I was kid, I branched out to read poems in my teen and adult years. I think all novelists should be reading poetry along with the books they read! Here are five reasons to read poetry, especially if you write novels.

Expose yourself to new vocabulary

Genre tropes mean you see a lot of the same language used for characters, settings, and conflicts. Poetry can span so many genres and topics, and playing with vocabulary is a key aspect of writing poetry. For me personally, I’m always looking for new words to add to my vocabulary. In all the languages I know, vocabulary is my weak spot. I struggle to use different words and get creative, so poetry gives me easy access to unique words.

Read styles different from genre fiction

If you’re like me and read a lot of genre fiction in the same demographic (YA fantasy!), you’ll notice that a lot of the writing styles are… very similar. Poems tend to have a strong voice, especially since there are so many styles of poems. Haikus, sonnets, free verse, spoken word—they’re all different. I love spoken word poetry and have a background in writing and performing it, and it shows in my fiction writing! Writing that can be read aloud has a different flow to writing that is easier to be read. So

Discover new writers

One of the best reasons! There are so many poets out there! It’s always a good time to find new writers whose work you enjoy. Poets need support and rarely become bestsellers, so hype them up and follow them online when you can.

Get out of reading slumps

Reading a new genre or form is one of my secrets for getting out of a reading slump. It’s an easy way to refresh my palette for reading. I outlined a few more ways I get out of a reading slump, but poetry and anthologies with poetry are some of the surefire ways for me to do it.

Read innovative writing

This is similar to the different styles, but I want to emphasise the innovation of poetry. Poetry can break all the rules of grammar and syntax. Metaphors, similes, symbolism, and imagery shine through in poetry. Innovation in writing craft leads to inspiration!


Here are a few recommendations for some poetry collections available online/digitally.

the secrets i keep by alex casso (Amazon)
bone by yrsa daley-ward (Amazon)
Various Collections by Elle (Gumroad)
Compasses and Other Ornaments of Direction by Coryl Reef (Amazon; I gotta promo!)

If you’re a poet and have some published writing (self-published, or self-hosted, or anywhere else!) feel free to comment below and I’ll be updating this post with them.

5 Bullet Journal Hacks

5 Bullet Journal Hacks

Honestly, I don’t like using the word “hack” for this type of post, but I couldn’t think of another word to use! I have some bullet journal hacks for you to “get more” out of your bullet journal. These are also some easy ways to change up your planning style in your journal, as well as try some new ways to plan your life. These are especially useful for me as a homebound person. I work from home and am my own boss, so I need to keep track of myself. Currently, I use all of these bullet journal hacks except for one! Maybe in June I’ll end up using the fifth hack, since I miss using it.

Without further rambling, here are 5 bullet journal hacks to mix up your planning and get more out of your bujo system.

Dutch Door Layout

A Dutch door layout may seem intimidating at first, since you have to cut your pages to make it. But once you have it planned out, you’ll have more space for daily layouts and still be able to see information from previous pages! I used the Dutch door layout in October of 2016, and it really helped me keep track of my personal projects and my final university semester. I’ll be doing a tutorial next month on how to make a Dutch door layout yourself!

Monthly Review Module

This is one of my favourite bullet journal hacks. At the end of the month, usually after a weekly layout, I include a space for me to review the previous month and pre-plan the next month. I assess what goals I want to work on for the next month, and what I need to change up for the goals I didn’t complete in the previous month. This space also gives me the chance to plan out the spreads and designs I want to use for the next month. Use this space to mindfully plan and review how your bullet journal and life are working together!

Monthly Goal Layout

I recently started adding a spread to list out my goals for the month, including all the individual tasks for completing the goal. While I’m still new to it, I’ve really enjoyed having the space to expand on goals without pinning them to a certain week or day. But the monthly goal layout that I use also has a space for me to assign goals and tasks to certain weeks! I have a bad habit of setting too many goals for the month. A layout each month to outline my goals is an easy way to see if I’m putting too much on my plate.

Daily Time Trackers

Working from home means I need to keep track of my time unlike people who have jobs they travel to and clock into. A daily time tracker (or time codex, to use some fancy jargon) keeps me mindful of how I spend my hours. My mental health also benefits from doing this! I lose track of time very quickly and easily—I don’t have much of an internal clock—so I like having reminders of time passing. A daily time tracker lets me check in throughout the day as I complete my to do list.

Non-BuJo Planning Options

I saved the best for last. My all-time favourite bullet journal hacks are the ways that I don’t use my bullet journal. Variety is so important in my life. There are also some planner features that do better when they’re displayed prominently, or take up more space than is available in my Leuchtturm. Currently, I have a daily habit and routine tracker on my mirror that I check off and track with a dry erase marker. I also have a tracker for my eating disorder that I keep on my bulletin board, since I benefit from the constant exposer. It also doesn’t fit in my bullet journal—tracking my binges is a longterm habit and act of mindfulness that I need to see displayed over the months and years. If there’s something you’re trying to include in your bullet journal, and it’s just not working, but you want to include it in your planning? Try using it on its own or in a different medium! Phone reminders, boards on your walls, or a whole other book may be the right direction.


These bullet journal hacks are very different from the original purpose of a bullet journal. They’re unique ways for you to personalise your bullet journal, while also varying your planning style. They’re methods I can swear by—they’ve been effective for me throughout my bullet journal experience over the last 2 years. Do you have any “hacks” that you use for your bullet journal or planner?

When My Mental Illness Is Bad

When My Mental Illness Is Bad

Mental illness isn’t a solitary, isolated, and vacuum-sealed experience. Mentally ill people, like myself, have friends, family, and peers. We interact with strangers. We can make mistakes and have messy behaviour, just like everyone else. Sometimes, mental illness is bad—or at least it makes us feel that way. When I say mental illness is bad, I don’t mean mental illness is a problem that needs to be fixed, or that mental illness is something immoral that needs to be punished. What I mean is that mental illness and its symptoms can have a negative impact on people. When talking about mental illness, it’s important to be honest without reinforcing stigma. But it’s also just as important not to dismiss or romanticise parts of mental illness. Sometimes, my mental illness is bad, and I end up doing hurtful things to myself and the people around me.

I have bipolar type II, with hypomanic and depressive phases. I also have complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). They’re not “pretty” or “easy” mental illnesses. Along with being complex and individual, they’re messy and difficult to manage.

This is going to be about my personal experience and symptoms. They are bad to me. They make my life harder, and they can be harmful to me and the people around me. I sometimes fear for my life when the symptoms get intense. Please do not take this as reflective of everyone with mental illness. If you can identify with what I say, then that’s okay—but if you’re neurotypical and reading this, remember that I am just one person.

Symptoms that my mental illness is bad

It’s hard to feel human when my mental illness makes me feel like an immoral person. Like what I’m doing and how I’m behaving are wrong, rather than difficult and symptomatic of a deeper problem. Maybe I’m overthinking how much these can affect other people, but I know I’ve lashed out or been incredibly irresponsible with some of these symptoms present.

Anger/irritation

I lash out a lot. When I get frustrated, I can get very impassioned and heated. It’s not nice to be around me. My hypomania often goes from hyper to angry, not happy or over-the-moon as the stereotype can be. Anger is not a bad feeling to have, but it’s very easy for me to disrespect the people around me when I get irritated.

Self-harm

I want to hurt myself. This is not good. Urges or desires to hurt myself are a sure sign that I’m not in a good place.

Lack of sleep

When I’m hypomanic, I don’t feel tired and I don’t feel the need to go to sleep. Not sleeping means that I’m hurting my body. It affects my reaction time, so driving and walking become dangerous. It also changes my routine and schedule. My self-care and work can be severely affected if I’m not resting. It’s irresponsible, mostly.

Delusions of grandeur

I become convinced that I can undertake projects and make plans that are, without a doubt, beyond my capabilities. This ends up wasting my time and resources, while also potentially wasting other people’s time and resources. If I start getting invested in a project or goal that originates from a delusion, I don’t follow through. It doesn’t get completed. I put a strain on my money and friendships.

Hallucinations

These are the scariest. Most of my hallucinations are visual and they set off anxiety. When they’re auditory hallucinations, I’m even more afraid. I hear things that don’t have a source outside my head, even if they sound like they’re external. My behaviour changes significantly, and I can end up lashing out or slipping into paranoid thinking.


These are all signs that my mental health isn’t being managed and maintained well. That’s what I mean when my mental illness is bad: it’s not being treated properly. I’m blessed to be able to have counselling and medication to treat my mental illnesses. But when I get to this severity? I’m in trouble. They can’t be managed by a crisis intervention. I feel just a level below crisis, or like it’s less concentrated and intense than a crisis, when my mental illness is bad like this. But it’s a little too much for me to handle on my own.

How I can improve

Talking about these issues requires self-awareness. Without being aware of my own behaviour, whether it’s from my mental illnesses or not, I can’t make an attempt to manage and improve myself. The mental health community needs to give space for these discussions as well. We need permission to converse about our harmful behaviour without being villainised for experiencing it. Mentally ill people, especially those with mood disorders like mine, have a reason for why they act certain ways. It doesn’t mean they should be given a free pass to continue that behaviour. It means that we need to be aware of the context.

If I flip my lid, I need to reflect on that. Why did I react that way? Was it appropriate? How is the rest of my behaviour, in terms of symptoms?

This also means I need to learn how to follow-through with correcting my behaviour and apologising if I do end up hurting someone. I need to be able to have the grace and forgiveness to apologise to myself, too. I need to be able to say to someone, “Hey, it was wrong of me to behave that way, and I sincerely apologise for my behaviour. My mental health has been poor, so I’ll be taking some time to address it and my symptoms—including the rage I directed at you and the irresponsibility of my actions.”

I am one person, and as Kelly Kapoor said so intelligently about managing her one-person department, I am not easy to manage. It’s especially true when my mental health is bad.

Launching A Patreon

After some deliberating, I’ve decided to launch a Patreon for my blog, writing, and art!

Why Patreon?

I played with the idea of placing advertisements on my blog, but I wanted to keep this website as clear and focused as possible on my content. I can’t describe how frustrated I get when I’m visiting a blog, trying to read a post or look at pictures, and I have to scroll through advertisements in order to find the content. Not just scroll past ads to get to the content, but to dig for it amongst the clutter.

I didn’t want that experience for my blog. It felt inaccessible and off-brand for me. So to monetise my work (because a blog is work, writing is work, and art is work), I settled on Patreon.

It’s free to set up. It’s also a platform I’m familiar with. But most importantly, it’s something I need to stick to in order to gain the rewards from it. I hope to get some support for my creative endeavours, notably my artwork. I haven’t had much motivation to create and share my art. Recently, I realised why: I didn’t have an audience for it, and I didn’t value my efforts.

With Patreon, I feel so much more motivated to deliver content, regardless of patrons and how many I have. It’s an external form of accountability.

It’s also a space that I want to grow and focus on. As such, I’ll be announcing blog posts, writing updates, and artwork there before I post to any other social media. While I will continue tweeting, instagramming, pinning, and facebooking, Patreon will come first.

You can follow me for free to get those first updates. I will love you and be eternally grateful if you pledge, too! Exclusive content is available at tier one, the Cait Siths, for $1 a month, so you don’t need to pledge much to get behind-the-scenes.

Click below to reach my Patreon page. I hope to see you there!

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