Bullet Journal Mental Health Tracking

The largest feature of my monthly spreads for September is my mental health tracking! I have two pages devoted to tracking my mental health, and with me, that’s a lot of space to devote to a single topic in my notebook.

Being on medication or going to therapy aren’t the only ways that we can take charge of our mental health and work on managing mental illness. They can help, but they aren’t the only resources. Self-awareness through my trackers has given me an edge to being on top of my management that I never had before I started doing it.

This month, I have three separate spreads: unhealthy habits and triggers; healthy habits and self-care; and symptoms and side effects. I also track my moods within these, and how they fluctuate over the day. My friends and family have commented that my moods can change very quickly in a day, so that’s something I’ve looked at and attempted to balance out. This month, I haven’t tracked my sleeping, but my sleeping has been fairly regular due to the sedative portion of my medication.

I like recording some of my “unhealthy” behaviours. They’re unhealthy in the sense that I have a suspicion they can interfere with my wellbeing that day—hence why I have caffeine and nightmares in the same section. Yesterday I had an awful dream and the rest of my day felt off because it kept intruding my thoughts, so I checked off “nightmare” for that day.

My self-care and unhealthy habits are side-by-side so I can see if I’m balancing out the two, or doing one more than the other, and how that affects my mood. I contemplated putting everything into one table, but I wanted to be able to compare my “good” and “bad” activities at a quick glance.

I started doing the “bubble” list last month to track some symptoms, and I’ve tweaked it to get more information tracked. I started doing the bubbles because they reminded me of material equipping in Final Fantasy VII. That’s really it. I wanted to have a “scale” of sorts to gage how I was feeling.

I’m not sure how much this has helped this month. My medication doubled a few days ago (thankfully), so I’m still adjusting to that. But these layouts are definitely the most eye-pleasing I’ve done. They’re both pragmatic and nice to look at.

Since I’ve only posted the blank spreads here, it’s hard to see how they look nice. However, I will have some pictures on my Instagram by the end of the month!

These spreads are some I’ll definitely repeat in the future.

C25k Journey, Part 4

The couch-to-5K program is supposed to be done consistently, like any other exercise program, for it to be effective. I did not do it consistently over the summer. It may sound like I’m making excuses, but the weather just was not adequate for me to be outside running and I didn’t have the means to get to an air-conditioned gym or indoor track. I know what’s bad for my health, and exerting myself in humid and hot conditions is something that’s definitely, definitely bad for me.

So I’m restarting C25K! Now that fall is approaching, the temperatures are chillier (to a certain amount, but they’re still higher than they used to be because #climatechange). I’ve tried running in different temperatures, and anything above 18*C is too hot for me. What better way to get my regular exercise in by just restarting a program I knew was working and knew I could do? I’ve already done the first week again, and it was weird running the 1-minute intervals again after working myself up to 3-minute and 5-minute intervals! I felt like I was doing HIIT cardio while redoing Week 1.

The unfortunate thing is that the temperature has picked up again this week, so I haven’t run since I last went, and I don’t think I’ll be able to get a run in until the end of the month. But I know that when the temperature is a consistently comfortable one, I’ll be out every other day for my run. I’m so excited.

Week 1 was easy, even if I was blindsided by the 60-second intervals. I’ve gotten faster and my cardiovascular strength has improved. My usual 30-minute route isn’t long enough to fill 30-minutes now, so I loop back in a few sections to make up the difference between the time and distance. My heart rate returns to normal and has lowered significantly compared to when I first started.

Overall, I’m proud of what I’ve done even if it wasn’t a completed couch-to-5K program. This time, though, I’ll finish it for sure.

C25K Journey, Part 3

C25K Journey, Part 1| C25K Journey, Part 2

I know I’m supposed to do C25K three times a week, but the weather is not nice where I live.

Week 3

3 sessions of 28 minutes each, consisting of:

  • 5-minute warm up
  • Two 90-second runs
  • Two 90-second walks
  • Two 3-minute runs
  • Two 3-minute walks
  • 5-minute cool down
June 21: Week 2 Day 3 (repeated)/Run 7

It had been nearly 3 weeks since I last went for a run, so I repeated the last one I did to make sure I could still do it. And I could! It was nice to get out again after being sick.

Runtime: 9 minutes

June 24: Week 3 Day 1/Run 8

This run was later in the day, right before sunset, so it was a little too dark for me to be very comfortable. I did a road run instead of a trail run, and there was a large hill and the distance was more than I thought; so I did more walking than the program calls for, which is okay by me!

Runtime: 9 minutes

June 26: Week 3 Day 2/Run 9

An okay run. I think my stomach was a bit too full from dinner, since I got a side stitch in the last 1/4 of the session. This was a trail run, and it was again too close to sunset, so the paths were dim and my fear of the dark was intense.

Runtime: 9 minutes

July 3: Week 3 Day 3/Run 10

I tried to go before the weather got too hot, but unfortunately had to stop the last 90-seconds of the final 3-minute run. I wasn’t sweating properly—my skin was abnormally dry compared to how it is when I run. I was getting lightheaded and nauseated, and that’s how I knew I had to stop exerting myself so much. Overall, though? It was a pretty good session.

Runtime: 8.5 minutes

July 13: Week 3 Day 3 (repeated)/Run 11

I was so excited I got a run in! I woke up, checked the weather, and managed to get it in really quickly after getting out of bed. Breaking my fast with a granola bar, then going for a run 15 minutes later? It was do-able, but probably not the best. I loved that it was raining, though, since it kept me cool.

Runtime: 9 minutes

I think I need to put the program on hiatus until September. The temperatures just aren’t good for me to be outside running. I can get my exercise in with free weights, yoga, and at-home cardio… I hope.

C25K Journey, Part 2

Another check-in for my #CorylC25K activity! This will be a short one. Why?

I’ve only done two more runs since I posted part 1 of my C25K journey.

Week 2

3 sessions of 31 minutes each, consisting of:

  • 5-minute warm up
  • Six 90-second runs
  • Six 120-second walks
  • 5-minute cool down
May 25: Week 2 Day 2/Run 5

This was a great run! I was pumped up and excited to go, and was pleasantly surprised with myself that I did the whole thing (since the run before it was shortened due to my sinus infection). This is also when I started doing dynamic stretches to loosen up my hips, legs, and back before doing the 5-minute walking warmup.

Runtime: 9 minutes

June 1: Week 2 Day 3/Run 6

This was the best run I’ve had so far. I didn’t need to pump myself up for the jogging segments and wasn’t double checking my phone to see how much time was left until I could walk again. If all my runs were like this, I’d become a runner.

Runtime: 9 minutes

Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t made it very good for me to go running at all since then. First, there were lots of rainshowers, and since I run on trails near a creek, it would’ve been dangerous for me to go running in the wet. The erosion in the trail is pretty bad during and after rain. Second, the heat waves started coming in! I’m already heat sensitive, so when it gets hot, I avoid outdoors like crazy—but we also had a few heat warnings from Environment Canada.

And then I got sick again.

June 14th would’ve been a good day for a run if I weren’t sick again. I think I have a bout of the flu and I’m coughing up gunk. The day before, I was feverish and slept a lot, so when I woke up early today and feeling great, I thought I could go for a run. Then I took a deep breath and hacked up phlegm.

I wish I could keep at it more, but when cardio exercise is a risk for my health, doing it isn’t worth the effort.

I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to continue once I’m breathing normally again. I may be able to if I manage to wake up early in the morning before the sun burns everything (including me), even though I need a lot of time after waking to get my body ready to even walk around, let alone jog and hit the trails.

But we’ll see! I keep thinking about that great last run and how I want to aim for that again. On my next run, I’m definitely going to repeat a run from Week 2, since I didn’t fully complete one of them and I’ll have taken a long break.

C25K Journey: Part 1

If you follow me on Twitter or Snapchat, you might have seen that I’ve been doing the Couch to 5K runs! I’m using the “C25K” app on Android by Zen Labs.

Here’s a quick rundown of the C25K program that I’ve done so far.

Week 1

3 sessions of 30 minutes each, consisting of:

  • 5-minute warm up
  • Eight 60-second runs
  • Eight 90-second walks
  • 5-minute cool down
Week 2

3 sessions of 31 minutes each, consisting of:

  • 5-minute warm up
  • Six 90-second runs
  • Six 120-second walks
  • 5-minute cool down

So far, I’ve completed week 1 and done the first day in week 2! I’m trying to go for sessions at least every 3rd day, or even 3 times per week. I started on a Wednesday, so the scheduling has been a little off. I wanted to get started a lot sooner, but after I moved at the beginning of this month, my town got rain every. single. day. I’ve done the runs through the trails near my house. The paths go up and down hills and have loads of roots, so it was nice to be mentally on my toes (haha) and on the lookout for possible hazards. I don’t like monotonous exercise, so running on a flat path gets incredibly boring.

My goal for this program is to increase my cardiovascular skills and heart health. My grandfather has had numerous heart surgeries. My uncle was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It kind of dawned on me that I need to make more effort in taking care of my physical health, and having a guide like C25K has been helpful so far. It’s hard to value myself, so any motivation to take care of my body has usually sucked. Things like, “You’re worth the effort!” are useless on me. The practical aspect of “Aiming to reduce heart problems in the future” is a lot easier to convince my brain as the truth. I’m tired of getting winded going up the stairs.

Anyway, I digress.

I wanted to check in to hold myself more accountable. Going into week 2, I was low on motivation, so checking in here might help keep me more accountable.

May 3: Week 1 Day 1/Run 1

I felt dead for a lot of this. After the 2nd run for a minute, I was very wheezy. I was still figuring out my route. I skipped one of the runs since my route took me to a large gravel hill, and I spent more time than intended, but with the longer route, I had lots of walking time involved.

Runtime: 7 minutes

May 6: Week 1 Day 2/Run 2

It was rainy this day, so I put on a hat and sweater, and went anyway. I felt more like a badass, even though it was only spitting. I thought I would have to cut the session short, since the route I went on Day 1 was different, but the loop I did ended up being just enough time! Unfortunately, I overdressed to compensate for the rain, and ended up overheating a lot.

Runtime: 8 minutes

May 9: Week 1 Day 3/Run 3

This was a great one. I did the warm up in my backyard, doing a bunch of moving stretches and high knees. I much preferred this to walking for 5 minutes. I did the same loop as Run 2 and got back to my house with time to spare—I ended up pacing around the house for my cool down.

Runtime: 8 minutes

May 12: Week 2 Day 1/Run 4

I was hesitant to go this day, but I knew that if I didn’t go, I’d start feeling guilty. Besides, I was a little angsty and needed to “do” something. I did the same warm up as Run 3, and walked until I hit the trail. I cut back on two of the running segments, reducing my total running time from 9 minutes to 8 1/2. Still, better than I was at the start.

Runtime: 8 1/2 minutes

At some point at the end of my run, usually during or after the cool down, I measured my heart rate, and I’ve noticed it’s gone down as I’ve gotten through each run.

So far, I’m enjoying this. I know at some point I’ll need to buy new shoes that are more appropriate for my feet. My current shoes are from 2008, getting worn down, and aren’t very “technical” when it comes to a running shoe. But at this point in time, I don’t care. I haven’t accrued any injuries or sores, aside from the exhaustion of, y’know, running. In time I’ll get better gear for my feet.

I got sick at the beginning of this week—not just a cold and sore throat, but an additional infection that would’ve made running incredibly uncomfortable—so I had to take a small break from the runs. The weather got hot, too, and I’m heat sensitive. I hope I can do a session tomorrow after the thunderstorm risk passes! I’m planning on doing Week 2/Day 1 again, since I struggled with it and have also had a week-long break from jogging.

I’m not sure when I’ll post the second part, but it’ll likely be next month!

15 Months of Birth Control And Why I Stopped

I started oral contraceptives—birth control pills—in September 2015, and stopped in the third week of November 2016. I was on Alesse’s 21-day packet that included 7 days “off” that lacked the hormonal contraceptives and was supposed to simulate a period.

Why I started

Well, the most obvious reason was the sexual health and not getting pregnant. But my PMS symptoms were getting really bad. The change in hormone levels made me moody and really affected my depression. In a way, I used the birth control as a form of mental health: I was not capable of handling the emotional changes that come with menstruation. For the first few months of 2016, I went to therapy once a week and finally learned some tools to deal with my mental illness. The birth control helped to balance out everything, and I was able to get more in-tune with how my emotions and mental state were affected by hormones. It was easier for me to see what was depression, binge-eating, and trauma—and what was simply change in hormones. My acne was also causing me a lot of stress and body image issues, and I knew taking birth control could help with that.

How it affected me

I knew I would go through a transition phase as my body got used to the change in hormones. It lasted 3 months, actually, and my withdrawal bleeding (like a period, but an egg doesn’t get released) was incredibly sporadic. My mood was also very up and down, although mostly up. But aside from that, I felt fairly normal. I moved around when I took the contraceptives and the placebo pills a few times, to coincide with when I’d be seeing my boyfriend, or to stretch out the pack until my next refill. The only downside was the 7-days-off: I would have breakouts more easily, my overall body odour was a lot stronger, and the bleeding was a bit sporadic. Sometimes the withdrawal bleeding (the simulated period) would come a few days before the 7-days-off pills; sometimes not at all; sometimes longer than the placebo pills; and sometimes just as scheduled. I thought this was caused by the change-arounds I did, but it happened when I was taking the pills on a schedule too.

Why I stopped

First and foremost, my coverage and prescription both ended and I would have been paying about thrice as much for the pills. But I decided not to get a refill for reasons other than finances. I want to see how my mental health would be with the natural hormone balance in my body. I’m also curious to see how my skin handles the difference. The main reason, though, was to get out of the 7-days-off transition. It was a little unpredictable, with the odour, acne, and bleeding. I could look into different brands with different levels of estrogen/progesterone, but I don’t want to go through the larger normalisation period again, or risk a birth control pill that doesn’t work or have more intense negative reactions with me. I also felt that nearly a year and a half was a good span of time considering the reasons I went on to the pill. I also kind of missed having my period, complaining about cramps, and the joy of wearing cute panties again without fear.

If I need to in the future, I would definitely go back onto the pill. I might not use the same brand, but I might stick with it just because I know what to expect.

Bullet Journal for Mental and Chronic Illness

I’ve been using my bullet journal as a way of managing and being more aware of my mental illness. If I had a chronic physical illness, I’d be doing some similar things to see if there are trends and to overall manage it.

Currently, I’m looking at the mood aspect of my mental illness. In my monthly tracker—which you can see in my October 2016 monthly spreads—I’m looking at the following:

  • Overall “quality” of the day, with a legend
  • Binge-eating
  • Self-harm or thoughts of self-harm (including suicide idealisation)
  • Self-care
    • Washing face in the morning and evening
    • Brushing teeth in the morning and evening
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Exercise

On the daily pages this month, I’ve been looking at my energy levels throughout the day. I use a bar graph with the time on the X/horizontal axis, and a 0 – 5 scale for the energy on the Y/vertical axis. Here’s the long-form description of those numbers:

  • 0 = asleep
  • 1 = very low energy; sluggish; desire to lie down or sleep
  • 2 = low energy; begrudgingly doing things; not very aware of surroundings; habitual tasks
  • 3 = normal energy; doing things; not really leaning toward laziness or excitement
  • 4 = good energy; feeling a bit peppy and not feeling tired in the slightest
  • 5 = high energy; I’m hyper and excited and playful

I also have a weekly tracker that repeats some of the self-care aspects. I’m very bad at taking care of myself, so having the boxes to fill in give me some motivation outside of “I need to take care of myself.”

Other Ways to Manage Your Illness

Your illness is unique to you. You could be suffering from multiple illnesses and need something more intense. Like the post mentioned later, something could show up and you need to figure out what triggers the pain or fatigue or migraines. Here are a few more suggestions of what to include in your bullet journal for your health. Something here might be relevant to your situation!

  • Fill a page with affirmations.
  • Fill a page of self-care ideas and activities.
  • Write journal entries before and after appointments with doctors, therapists, etc.
  • Create a calendar to show your appointments, or when you need to schedule them in the future.
  • Log eating habits, such as when and what you eat. You can also track blood sugar levels and your feelings of energy.
  • Track medication to make sure you’re taking them all at the right times; or, to see what happens if you miss a dose so you aren’t thrown for a complete loop if you do.
  • Track symptoms and their intensity, like headaches, migraines, fatigue, pain (generalised or localised), anxiety, other moods. Like my energy levels, these might be easier to track on an hourly rate, or if you create a table to note the start and end times of certain-intensity symptoms.
  • Track activites and their duration, such as commuting and driving, sitting, walking, standing, or more vigorous activities.
  • Track quantity and quality of your sleep, as well as when you wake up and fall asleep.
  • Track sunrise and sunset times, the hours of daylight, and your energy (for seasonal affective disorder, or to check into your circadian rhythm).

These are just a few ideas for what you can consider in your bullet journal. One of the posts that inspired me was from Ruth at Delightful Planner. She started using the bullet journal after suffering intense back pain. She used the bujo to track the pain, various activities, and medications. Her post is incredibly thorough and was an eye-opening for how I could become more aware of my own health.

Hopefully this helps inspire you!

Your mental health and your physical health are important, and there are so many ways you can manage it. Use this information for your own direction, to help doctors with diagnoses and management plans, or to create more awareness in your mind and body. You’re worth the effort.

Social Media Break

A person holding various pieces of technology featuring photographs of the background landscape.

I’m taking a break from social media. If you follow me on social media, I posted about this earlier the week.

My posts for the rest of October are pre-written (including this post), and I won’t be responding to comments on the blog.

I’ve noticed myself becoming quite habitual with my social media involvement. And it isn’t a good thing. On Tuesday morning, I woke up, checked the time, and immediately went to check social media. I removed the apps the night before, so I didn’t open anything. But that was my first reaction: check Twitter, check Instagram, check Snapchat. I’m exhausted by it.

I love social media, but only when I choose to include it, and not when it’s a ritual I use to start, end, and punctuate my days.

For the rest of October, I’ll be focusing on my health—physical and mental—as well as my novel. When I get near the end of a project, I feel much less motivated. I’m 15,000 – 20,000 words away from finishing, so I can’t let social media become a distraction or a means for procrastination. I can’t let myself get lazy and self-destructive. It’s happened too many times before.

Since I’m going to continue writing, I’ll be over on myWriteClub occasionally participating in sprints. Feel free to add me—or join the beta!—if you want to write with me. I’m still not sure if I’ll do Nanowrimo. I want to have THE PILGRIMAGE drafted before November so I can edit it during November. But I think I might do a fast-draft novel? We’ll see—you can add me as a buddy if you’re participating.

Anyway. I won’t be on Twitter and all that. The earliest I’ll be tweeting and snapping and instagramming again would be November 1—but I’ll take as long a break as I need to. The latest I’ll be back is December, that’s for sure. (There’s a Twitter pitch party I’m aiming to participate in.)

*salutes*

Thanks for respecting this. I’m sure there are oodles of you tempted to take a break like this—do it if you think it’ll help!

Therapy Diary: Day 3

Blue and white paint splattered and dripping down a black wall.

Pre-Session

I don’t want to go today, but it’s too late to cancel without needing to pay a cancellation fee. I don’t know why I don’t want to go, but I’m not thinking hard on it.

I know I’m doing something good for myself. I am reminding myself to be patient, to be kind to myself, to be mindful of how I express and feel and react.

When I arrive on the hour for the beginning of my session, the door is closed. The meeting room adjacent, with its windows and boardroom table and multiple chairs, has a few people sitting around in it. I hesitate outside the door. Should I knock? I knocked last time, but something tells me I should stop. I kill time by going to the bathroom and then come back. My instincts were right. I hear voices near the door and it opens. I give a small smile to the person coming out of the door, and feel awkward standing right outside. I know how it feels to walk out of that room. She smiles but I can tell she was crying. I know the puffy face. I still don’t know the protocol. Perhaps, for future sessions, I’ll wait around, be a few minutes late, and see if the door is open when I arrive.

Session

At this point, I feel like I’m repeating myself. Didn’t I say this before? Didn’t I relay this information already? But these are patterns, not verbatim repeats and replays. And all these things I feel, all these parts of me, have one source. Not multiple sources. There are roots in a poisoned ground, and all these shaking leaves, these rushing winds past branches, come up from those series of roots.

I am a computer and my files are being defragmented. I am being rearranged, and it’s taking time, but once the process is done–not forever, of course; it will require maintenance–but once it is completed this first time, this long-haul and messy process, I can access things more easily.

There is nothing inherently wrong with me. I have just been broken so many times without any repairs.

Metaphors, analogies, comparisons. Because emotions are hard to talk about.

Post-Session

When I return home, I notice Netflix has added Inside Out. Watching it—this was the first time—was a serendipitous moment. Content from my session lined up with this beautiful, fantastic, and (I believe) important movie. I feel a bit better. I don’t do much else for the day, but that’s okay with me. I need to be alone and let my emotions do their thing, my files rearrange, my branches shed their leaves and regrow.

Still nervous and scared.

The third session in my therapy experience.

2016 Goals

As is custom at the start of January, I made goals for this year. They are similar to New Year’s Resolutions, but more specific and–dare I say it–loftier than a common resolution of “Be healthy” or “Be happy/happier.”

I believe in tangibility. I enjoy things that can exist in physical form, rather than things that exist solely in abstract, ethereal, and overwhelming headspaces. My goals for 2016 focus on the achievable; on things that can have progress; on small actions I can take to obtain a larger goal.

Baby steps.

If I work toward these goals and have successes along the way, I will find success elsewhere down the road. If I practice (writing, designing, self-love, healthy habits, etc.), then I will improve. Even if I don’t meet my end goal, I will at least better myself by trying.

2016 Goals:

  • Graduate from the University of Windsor.
  • Maintain a 75% average for my final two semesters.
  • Finish a novel manuscript for submission.
  • Have a poem published in a literary magazine.
  • Blog consistently within a routine.
  • Design a day planner.
  • Open an Etsy shop for digital art prints.
  • Tend to mental health (depression, anxiety, eating disorder, and whatever else pops up).
  • Here comes the cliché: Lose 25 pounds of fat.

Some of these goals are going to be more difficult (publish a poem), while other goals I’m 90% sure I will achieve (graduating university).

But it isn’t the end of the world if I don’t reach any of these goals.

What is one goal you’d like to accomplish in 2016?

2016 Goals--My 9 goals, or resolutions, for 2016, raging from health to writing to business!