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.

Mindfulness for My Mental Health

The biggest thing I took away from my therapy was how mindfulness can help me. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.

“Mindfulness” means something different to everyone. For me, I’m being mindful and aware when I don’t have dozens of thoughts swirling through my head. I’m mindful when thoughts come and go easily. I’m mindful when I’m not replaying memories without control. I’m mindful when I’m not instantly forgetting information after repeatedly taking it in.

Ways I practise mindfulness:

Bullet journalling

Through planning and being aware of my days, weeks, and the future, I get a better grasp on myself. I find I dissociate a lot less when I’ve got a solid plan—or even a loose one—than when I’m just flying through life spontaneously. I don’t do a lot of journalling in the traditional sense (anymore), like a diary. But the bullet journal is still one heck of a journal.

Tarot reading

Doing a few spreads and asking the cards a certain question (“What can I expect from my day?” for instance) or doing a quick check-in for my body, mind, and spirit lets me hone in on myself. I can see what’s bothering me or what I want in the subconscious while also attaching those feelings to something more tangible. The symbols, metaphors, and long-standing history of tarot give me a place to translate my emotions. I don’t aim to read the future or anything like that—but tarot is a great way to reconnect spiritually with myself.

Guided meditation

One of my favourite websites for guided meditations is Fragrant Heart. I will also occasionally do a self-guided meditation, either in silence, or using atmospheric sounds like rain and wind. Meditation helps the most. The best analogy for meditation is that I’m sitting in a car in the passenger seat and watching my thoughts like trees along the side of the road. I can acknowledge the trees without focusing on them or distracting myself from them. The core to meditation is not to let your mind go blank: it’s to acknowledge your thoughts and let them pass by.

Yoga

Psychosomatic treatment was a focus of my therapist’s, and yoga was something I started doing before I went to therapy. Yoga combines the meditation with awareness about my body. Yoga isn’t a workout for me. It’s how I connect my emotional, bodily, and spiritual parts.


All of these ways let me meditate on myself and, in turn, let me be more in-tune with myself. I have less brain fog and feel more present. I’ve lived most of my life being dissociated and disconnected. Finding ways that make me feel real and whole are valuable and irreplaceable.

Therapy Diary: Mindfulness

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

When I was in therapy last year, my counsellor told me that the goal for our sessions would be creating mindfulness. There were a number of ways we worked through being aware of my body and my emotions. Because my PTSD is very dissociative, it means there’s a mind-emotion-body disconnect. I often feel “outside” of myself in varying ways. Sometimes I am a floating balloon being held by my body. Sometimes I am a suitcase being dragged. Dissociation is a beast in itself and I wrote a short blog post on it a few months ago. This post acts as a bit of a follow-up.

Along with the exercises we did, such as identifying where an emotion existed in the body and describing it (anger being in my throat, or despair being in my belly—that kind of thing), I use or have used these tools to become more aware and mindful of my entire existence:

  • journalling
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • tarot reading

I don’t journal as much as I used to while I was in therapy. I think this is because I’ve gotten better at being mindful/aware/in-tune/etc. Journalling was a very explicit way of creating awareness of my emotions and my body, and the relationship between the two.

These days, I lean toward yoga, meditation, and tarot reading. The yoga helps with my mind-body connection, with a focus on my body and how it connects within itself. The meditation points me toward the relationship between my mind and body while emphasising my emotions, feelings, and thoughts.

Tarot reading is a new one, though. I grasp onto symbols and metaphors, and that’s all tarot is. I don’t use a classic tarot deck, with Major Arcana and whatnot. Instead, I use regular 52-card playing cards with numbers and suits. There’s an additional layer of abstraction with these cards. The symbols and metaphors come from interpretation of the numbers and the suits. Instead of seeing a moon or a sun, I have to consider my own intuition and understanding for the numbers and suits.

When it comes to the tarot reading, I do a combination of reading cards for in-depth interpretation of a single card, or I do a self-reading with a 3- or 4-card spread. Some spreads require a question to answer, and others are assessment or guidance spreads. I don’t read the cards for prophecy or fortune-telling. I read them so there’s somewhere I can project my worries, concerns, desires, and intuitions.

On the whole, creating mindfulness has been the key to lessening my dissociative states—whether by frequency or intensity. I have been plagued by a constant disconnect between my mind and body because connecting the two was dangerous during my traumatic childhood. There’s been a lot of learning, trial and error, and patience involved. I have to constantly work in order to hinder the PTSD from dictating my life, but I’m finding ways that let me progress.