Learning from Grandpa Paul

It’s been a while since I posted, I’m afraid. Things have been a struggle for me since getting out of the psych ward, not to mention I’ve been rather busy trying to work as much as I can, and feeling like poop because my meds aren’t working. ANYway, the point is I’m sorry I haven’t been posting more. I’m hoping to get back to weekly posting from here on out. (Trying to, anyway.) But this post isn’t about me, it’s about my grandpa, Paul.

Trigger warning for death and loss of a loved one.

Grandpa Paul died this week after living a long, happy life. He was married to his wife, Lillian for over 60 years. He and Grandma Lillian had four amazing children, 8 wonderful grandchildren, 9 fantastic great-grandchildren, and too many dear friends to count. He was so generous in sharing his love, you couldn’t help but love him back. He was an author of many books, sharing snippets of his wisdom through words on numerous pages. Although I’m not a Christian, I do know quite a lot about Christianity from growing up around it, and I believe that Grandpa was about as close as you can come to what a Christian should look like: loving generously, never judgemental, selfless, and compassionate.

As a child I was lucky to go down to Kearney, Nebraska and visit Grandpa Paul and Grandma Lillian fairly often. I’d get dropped off with them for a week or two and we’d do a “writer’s workshop.” Grandpa encouraged me to write about whatever interested me, whether it was a fictional or factual story. One morning during every stay, he and I would have a date at Daylight Donuts, and another morning while I was there, we would make pancakes together. Well. He would make pancakes. I made a mess. Grandpa took me to the library to research anything I needed to know more about for my story. We’d go on relevent field trips (and some irrelevent ones, especially to the park) to find out more about my chosen topic, or just to spend time learning together. When I was finished with my story, Grandma would type it up for me, and we’d put it in one of those little presentation booklets so that I felt like I had really written a book.

Grandpa Paul highly valued education. Not just traditional education, but actual learning. He was in school for many years, getting various degrees and one day I asked why. He told me, “Every time I had a big, important question I needed answered, I’d go back to school and get a degree in it.” Grandpa also valued listening, something that I think is severely underrated in our society today. He was a counslor for years, in addition to teaching counseling at UNK. Going into counseling because he cared about people, he never made much money doing it. But he didn’t care about the money. He wanted to listen to people, and to help them. Even though I never sat in on one of his classes or office hours, I’d imagine he ended up counseling quite a few of his students for free. That’s just how he was.

And I deeply appreciated that about him. Shoot, I’m crying now. He always really heard me. From the day I could talk, he listened, really listened to what I had to say. As a quiet introvert, I often felt talked over and ignored during the few times I did speak up, but never with Grandpa. He always made sure I was heard. He’d find wisdom in my words that I didn’t realize was there. Grandpa made me feel like what I had to say mattered. He also never judged me negatively for my decisions, but supported me and helped me in choosing the right path to take. I always looked forward to the next time I could have one of our “sessions” where I could process my thoughts and ideas with someone who would listen and then offer insight.

For years, Grandpa had a radio show called “Learning From Children” (hence the title of this post), where he’d tell stories about kids offerring nuggets of insight without realizing it. He so valued children and their insights, in a way that a lot of people don’t. Kids weren’t just something cute to be taken for granted. To him, they were whole people, with just as much to offer as adults. They offer something different than adults, but just as valueable. His love for children is another thing I appreciated about him.

As an adult, I had the privilege to bond with Grandpa over helping him take care of my grandma, his wife. For over sixty years he was her husband. He provided for her, supported her, and encouraged her. For two years, Grandpa was her only caretaker. He tended to her, loved her, read to her, sang to her, prayed with her and for her. Toward the end of her life, she needed more care than he could provide alone. My mom, her siblings, and I took turns traveling to Kearney to care for Grandma Lillian. While there was a lot of down time, it was hard work. She needed help to do everything, and that’s what we were there for. I can’t imagine the strength it took for Grandpa to do it alone for as long as he did. As her time on Earth drew shorter, it became clear she wasn’t going to get better this time. She was sufferring, unable to use most of her senses except to experience the pain she felt. Food didn’t taste good to her, she couldn’t see very well, and she couldn’t hear much. When we watched movies with her, we’d have to pause often to explain what was going on. Even the ones she knew by heart, we’d pause to remind her of a humorous moment in the show so that she could laugh with us. I know how hard it was for me, but I can’t begin to imagine how hard it was for Grandpa to watch her slowly dying. To hear her say she wanted to die. He and I shared a lot of tears and many hugs.

Grandpa Paul was a beautiful soul. The legacy he left behind is his family and friends, who live on. All the people who’s lives he touched. We’re still here and we’re different and better because of him.

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My Story Isn’t Over

Hello! It’s been a little while since my last post, and I apologize for that. Some major things have come up in my life and I just wasn’t able to keep up with this blog.

(Trigger warning: suicide, self harm, psych ward.)

Here’s what happened:

I attempted suicide on October 23rd, 2016. I haven’t really been hiding the fact that I was struggling up to that point, but perhaps I was hiding just how much I was struggling. Between moving, isolation, having no support system nearby, financial troubles (like… a LOT of financial troubles), cars breaking down, my boyfriend, Adam’s, major depression, and my own mental illnesses, I felt totally and completely hopeless. Like nothing would get better. Life just wasn’t worth living anymore.

So I went into the bathroom, sat on the floor, took a razor, and slid it into my wrist. Again. Again. Again. And then, my puppy, Kenshō, came and sat on my lap. He looked at me with all the unconditional love in his heart and all I could think was, “If I continue, he would watch me die. He wouldn’t understand why I didn’t wake up. He wouldn’t know where I went, why I left him.” And I couldn’t finish. I texted Adam, who was next door, and told him I needed to go to the hospital.

He came running into the bathroom moments later to find Kenshō and I sitting on the floor. “Babe,” he whispered when he saw the wound, tears welling up in his eyes. Things were frantic as he tried to figure out where the hospital was. He picked me up and I leaned on him as he led me to the door. Sitting me on the bench he pointed and said, “Stay here,” as he ran to find his mom and step dad to tell them what was going on. Again, he helped me up and when he stepped away, things started to get blurry and black. “She’s fainting,” I heard from far away. A wash cloth magically appeared over my wrist and suddenly we were in the car, with lights flying by. The only thing I remember from the car ride is the lights that seemed to dance as we passed them.

Arriving at the hospital, I was helped out of the car and into the ER waiting room. The nurse asked what happened and when I told her I cut myself she had a doctor look at my wound, then handed me a clipboard to fill out paperwork. Slowly I wrote out all my information before I was called back to a room. Another nurse came in and asked if I was trying to kill myself. “No,” I told her.

“You can be honest with me,” she said, “The more honest you are, the better we’ll be able to help you.”

“Babe,” Adam pleaded, “The placement, the angle…”

“Yes, I was trying to kill myself,” I finally admitted.

The nurse washed my cut, and then we waited for the doctor. Adam told me he had texted me parents, so I texted them too, letting them know I was okay and that I loved them. Reception was terrible and my phone had to be in just the right spot on the bed to send or receive anything. Finally the doctor arrived and sealed my wound shut with butterfly band aids and a purple liquid that burned.

Then we waited for a behavioral health specialist to arrive. We waited and waited. I fell asleep, woke up, waited some more. Finally she came in and we discussed my options. She recommended an inpatient facility, but when she called, there were no beds available. At any of the hospitals within an hour and a half of us. After some convincing, she agreed to let me go home so I could sleep that night, with the promise that I would check in to the psych ward the next morning.

I didn’t check into inpatient the next morning. Instead, I woke up next to the love of my life. We cuddled on the couch with our pup and listened to quiet, soothing music. More than once he choked back tears saying, “I need you. Kenshō needs you. We’re a family. You can’t leave us.” It made me tear up thinking about how lost they would be without me. I hugged him close and assured him that I was here, and I wasn’t going anywhere.

Later that morning I saw Adam across the room, scribbling in his notebook. I walked over, sat on his lap, and he held the notebook out to me. I read it and wanted to cry all over again. It was a gift of words, the last of which were, “She’s sitting over on the couch, the morning sun dancing in her hair, her coffee on the armrest. The hospital bands still encircle her right wrist, while the bandages and blood her left. A small smile creeps across her face and up to her eyes as I look at her. She has never been so beautiful.” I held him close and told him the only thing on my mind: “I love you.”

A few days later my dad came down to visit and help watch over and support me. The self harm urges grew worse throughout the days and I struggled not to hurt myself again. Having dad here was a blessing. I got to show him around the ranch and get lots of hugs from him and Adam, but eventually he had to go back to work and we decided he’d drop me off at the psych ward on his way home.

At the psych ward, I was held prisoner for six days (and it would have been longer had I not been begging to leave.) I won’t go into details of those six days, or perhaps I’ll save them for another post. But I left feeling at least slightly more hopeful than when I walked in.

Today marks 12 days self harm free. I’m still struggling. I’m still in the same situation and environment as when I went into inpatient. But I’m feeling more hopeful. There are options in my recovery that I haven’t tried yet. There are things I can do to move forward. And maybe, one day at a time, I can find more hope and healing. In the meantime, I will continue to spread love and light as much as I can wherever I go.

When Nothing Goes Right

Sometimes things not only don’t go as planned, sometimes they turn out absolutely awful. You know those stretches of time where you just can’t catch a break? That’s where I’m at right now. I haven’t had the best couple of years, but these past couple months have been seriously rough. With the chaos of moving, feeling isolated and having no friends nearby, not being able to find a job, and my mental illnesses kicking my butt, I’m starting to break down. I have nothing left to give and yet somehow I have to keep going. It doesn’t help that my boyfriend is pretty much in the same place.

Thankfully, he was finally able to find a job, but as anyone living in poverty knows, that doesn’t mean your problems go away. We still have to figure out some way to eat for the next two weeks, not to mention find a way to get gas so he can actually get to and from work. Just today we were going to go to the grocery store until we realized neither of us have money to actually buy groceries. That kind of stress on someone who’s already anxious all the time does not go over well, let me tell you.

I’ve been shutting down. Barely able to get out of bed because what’s the point? Not being able to work on my business proposal because I have zero spoons. And then feeling angry and guilty because I’m not being productive and I’m not helping my family get out of this financial hole we’re in and I know I can do better. But at the same time… I can’t. You know what I mean?

I’m not trying to gain sympathy here, I’m just trying to give you some honest context. This is my life. This is where I’m at. It’s not pretty and it’s not fun and I have to live with it anyway. There are a lot of people in this position, or similar ones. So how DO you keep going? What do you do when everything’s going so horribly wrong?

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First of all you breathe. Allow yourself to witness your feelings. They’re valid. It’s okay to be anxious and upset and hopeless right now. Feel them, write them down if it helps. Then, let them go. Imagine or visualize all those negative feelings physically leaving your body. What color are they? Do they have a specific shape? A texture? What does it feel like when they leave?

Now it’s time to find your perspective. That doesn’t necessarily mean telling yourself that someone else has it worse. When I do that, I start feeling ashamed over the fact that I’m feeling upset over my own situation, and shame doesn’t do any good. For me, finding perspective looks something like this: Okay. I’m in a bad spot. However, I have a roof over my head. I have a supportive, encouraging family. I have a loving boyfriend and the sweetest pup baby to ever exist. We’ve been through rough situations before and we’ve always made it through. And besides that, as the tattoo on my wrist constantly reminds me, “This is temporary.” Everything is temporary. Feelings will ebb and flow, situations will change, life will go on if you let it.

Feeling slightly better? Just a smidge? Now it’s time to get to work. What have you been avoiding doing while you were broken down? The biggest two for me are that I’ve been participating in activities I can’t afford and I haven’t been working on my business proposal. So how do we fix that? The first one was embarrassing, but simple enough. I’m a model, but it’s mostly been for fun. I haven’t been making money from it. So I contacted the photographers I was supposed to shoot with in the coming weeks, apologized, and told them I simply don’t have the gas money to get to and from the shoot. Humiliating as it was, I felt a lot better afterwards having done the responsible thing.

Now the business proposal. This thing will allow me to apply for a grant to get my business going. If I get it, it will completely transform our lives. With something that important you’d think I’d be motivated to work on it! Unfortunately, depression doesn’t care whether something is important or not before it attacks and drains your energy and motivation. This one is a little trickier. My boyfriend and I had a talk about how I wasn’t working on my business proposal nearly enough (read: at all in the past couple weeks) and I felt so angry with myself and guilty that it actually motivated me to work on it. I don’t necessarily recommend that route if you can avoid it. It’s painful. But as much as guilt sucks, it can help you right wrongs in your life. (Note: Shame and guilt are different. While guilt says “I did something bad,” shame says, “I AM bad.” Shame is never a useful emotion and often stems from trauma or abuse. It’s skews your vision and holds you down. Guilt on the other hand can propell you forward, through the fray. Like I said, guilt isn’t fun, but it can be useful.)

Still, with my depression in full swing, working on anything is hard. So I decided to break down my Giant Business Proposal into smaller, doable tasks. First, I read through what I have so far. Then I edited my citations to Chicago style. Next, I’ll read through my mom’s suggested edits and make those changes. After that, I’ll focus on one of the more work-intensive edits my brother suggested. You get the idea. Looking at a huge task when you’re barely functioning is basically pointless. You’ll just want to fall back into bed and never get up. You know how much I love to do lists. Make one: Wash the laundry. Dry the laundry. Fold the laundry. Put away the laundry. Wash the dishes. Put away the dishes. Make dinner. Do that school assignment you’ve been putting off. Break the tasks down as much as you need to. It seriously helps, I promise.

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But the most important thing to do when everything is going wrong, is to have hope. Without it, there’s no reason to make a change. There’s no reason to pull yourself out of this funk. There’s no reason to keep going. And everyone’s reasons are different. Sometimes the only reason I get up in the morning is to take care of my puppy. My love for my boyfriend, and my dreams for a future that’s starkly different than this one motivates me to work on my business proposal. If you’re like me and have trouble finding hope in the middle of a truly trying day (or week…. or month….) talk to one of your loved ones. They’ll listen to your problems and then you can ask, “Why should I keep going?” I bet they’ll have some ideas for you. And as always, if you don’t have anyone to talk to about this stuff, email me at prettypracticalbyemory@gmail.com or message me on Facebook or Instagram!

What about you? What gives you hope?

Residential Treatment: A Personal Story

Trigger warning: self harm, blood, suicidal ideation, drugs, alcohol, pills, disordered eating

I’d been seeing a therapist and psychiatrist for six years. I’d tried so many medications I couldn’t name them all. I was cutting myself so frequently that my partner wouldn’t sleep because he was afraid I’d hurt myself. The cuts got deeper. Each time I hoped I would bleed out and be free from this world. What else could I do? How could I find hope again? How could I stop ripping myself apart?



After some deliberation, I decided to go to a residential treatment facility. Time to focus on myself and my recovery was exactly what I needed. My sweet boyfriend came with me to Chicago so that he could visit me on weekends and support me throughout my stay. 30 days. I could do it.
Upon arrival I was given the run down and said goodbye to Adam as the staff searched my luggage. The luggage wasn’t the only thing to be searched, I had a body check next. So much for comfort and privacy, I’d chucked that at the door. And what would medical treatment be without a long, unnecessary wait in a boring room by yourself? Finally a woman came in, introducing herself as Asia. She walked me to my lodge- Maple- and found me a lodge buddy to show me around.
Samara was my assigned lodge buddy, a beautiful young woman with long brown hair wearing sweats and a large plaid flannel shirt. After receiving an overwhelming amount of information, I went to my room and unpacked. And probably cried a little.
After the first few days of being on lodge restriction, I was finally able to go to the cafeteria with the rest of the women. It had been decided by the nutritionist that I’m not great at feeding myself, so I was on a meal plan and at a special table for those of us with eating disorders. Two staff members always sat with us and if conversation dwindled, they would start a table game so that we would hopefully be distracted enough to eat our food. At the end of each meal we “FAF-ed,” (food and feelings.) Each person had to say how their food was, how they were feeling, and one thing they were grateful for. Weird as it was, it quickly became routine for me. 
One fun surprise at the treatment center was getting to have my blood drawn nearly every morning. Bruises marked my forearms for days. Another fun part of treatment was med line. The dreaded med line. We were all, of course, on at least one medication and the nurses seemed to make it a point to take as long as possible popping out the pills for each person. They’d ask us about our poop. Every time we got meds we had to tell the nurses when we last took a shit, and being in the room closest to the med line my roommates and I got the privilege of hearing about everyone’s bowel movements or lack thereof. Med line wasn’t all bad, though. It was a time to chat with everyone, or read, or color, or sing, or whatever. 
There were lots of “classes” and meetings we had to attend, which were assigned based on what we were there for. AA for alcoholics, NA for drug addicts, DBT (dialectal behavioral therapy) for everyone. There were anxiety, mood, and eating disorder classes, as well as art therapy. Occasionally we would get pulled out to meet with our therapist, psychiatrist, or nutritionist. In DBT we practiced various techniques for distress tolerance like distraction and self soothing. In our ED group we talked about our strengths and struggles. We decorated scales, and eventually smashed them with sledge hammers. It was pretty gratifying, taking out all the anger and loathing on that stupid scale. 

At night we held our own 12 Step meeting for everyone who wasn’t allowed or didn’t want to go off-site. We took turns hosting it, and the topics varied from eating disorders to addiction to whatever recovery-focused topic we wished to discuss. Sometimes people got up and shared their story. Those nights were my favorite. I was surrounded by so many incredible, beautiful, strong souls. 
The real therapy happened on the smoke deck, where there were no staff, no professionals, just us. We talked and laughed and cried out there. Even the non-smokers sometimes came out to be with us. The smoke deck was where the party was at. 
We all struggled with different things and living in a house with 35 women in different stages of recovery and crisis was no easy task, but we gathered around one another, encouraging and lifting each other up, giving each other hugs (only after asking, of course.) I’ve never felt so loved and connected to a group of women. We were there for each other. We still are. I know if I need to, I can call any of the, and they’d love and support me from wherever they’re at. I made some truly amazing friends. 
I ended up staying longer than expected- about a month and a half. But I had something to look forward to when I got home. Not only did I finally get to reunite with my beloved, but I was also getting a puppy! And man, he has been such a point of joy and light in our lives. I’m so incredibly grateful for them both, my sweet, loving family. 

Transferring back to my treatment team at home, I felt solid, like I had my feet back under me and skills to fall back on when I was struggling. It was hard to adjust to the isolation. Being by myself most of the time was strange. No one to smoke with, no one to talk to, no one to encourage me while I was eating. I transitioned to a partial hospitalization program for a couple weeks and then I was back to once a week therapy and the occasional visit to my psychiatrist. 
For a while I was doing really well, but having just recently moved from Omaha, Nebraska to rural central Texas, I’ve been sliding back toward chaos and darkness. It’s a rough adjustment and, I’m not going to lie, I’m struggling. But so far I’m still self harm free (for eight months now. I’ve been losing weight, which is concerning my doctors. They may take me off one of my meds if my weight continues to drop. Either way I need a med adjustment to get out of this hole I’m in. I’ll be straight with you, I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless. But I’m trying my hardest to hold on to hope, work toward my goals, and spread love wherever I go. That’s all I can do, right? 
How about you? How are you doing? As always, feel free to message me if you need to talk, want advice, or whatever else.

What to Do When You Can’t Do Anything

I’m not going to lie, I haven’t been doing too well lately. My mental illnesses have been kicking my butt, and life hasn’t made things anything easier. I’ve been anxious to the point of puking most days and depressed to the point that it’s hard to even get out of bed, let alone be productive. I haven’t been able to focus or motivate myself like I usually can and I’ve barely gotten anything done the past few days, and you know what? That’s okay. My mind and body needed a break. So here’s a small list of things to do when you feel like you can’t do anything.

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1) Take a break. If at all possible, take a day and let yourself do nothing. Don’t worry about being productive or keeping up appearances. You deserve a break. Make sure to take care of yourself. (Are you hungry? Eat something nutritious. Have you slept? Take a nap. When was the last time you hung out with friends or family? Call or text someone and set up a movie or coffee date. Have you taken your medication today? Do it now. What about water? Make sure you stay hydrated!)

2) Self care. Have you taken a break and feel like you still can’t do anything? Take some time for self care, however that looks for you. Take a nap, take a bath, put on make up and get dressed up, paint your nails, hang out with a friend, binge watch something on Netflix, curl up with a cozy blanket and read your favorite comfort book. What makes you happy? What makes you feel safe? What makes you feel good about yourself? Do those things. Even just one thing will help you feel a little better.

3) Work on one task. I had so many things I needed to do, but I couldn’t get anything done. So instead of worrying about all of it at once and stressing out about not getting everything done, I chose my most important task and decided I would work on it for as long as I could. And I finally made a little progress! I didn’t finish the task, but I made a dent in it. And it encouraged me to know that I can get back in the swing of things eventually.

4) Take one day at a time. Try not to worry about tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Just focus on today. Continue to take care of yourself. Eat, stay hydrated, take your meds, don’t isolate yourself, etc. Don’t beat yourself up for not accomplishing everything you wanted to. Instead, focus on what you did get done. Be kind and gentle with yourself.

I hope this gives you some ideas on what to do when you can’t do anything, and I hope it gives you hope that healing is possible. Together, we’ll get through this rough time. As always, feel free to reach out to me by comment, email, or Facebook if you need to talk. I’m here to love and support you.

As a freebie bonus, here’s a graphic I made for my most important daily affirmations. Feel free to print and use!

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The Absolute Best Productivity Apps

I love productivity apps. Like… LOVE them. However, many of them aren’t actually that useful. Unfortunately, productivity apps are only useful if you actually use them and I tend to not do that if they’re not extremely well-designed. Have you been searching for the perfect apps to help you be your most productive, efficient self? Look no further. I’ve complied a list of the best five productivity apps that are not only functional and helpful, but beautiful as well! (What can I say? I’m an artist.)

Note: These are all for iOS and/or Mac, because I’m an Apple girl.

Here they are in no particular order:

Wunderlist

My go to list app. I used to keep lists in Evernote, but I’ve deleted Evernote and switched to OneNote (more on that in a bit.) So now I use Wunderlist for any and all lists I need to keep with me at all times. The app is simple, easy to use, and easy to organize. You can keep lists in folders, or keep them separate, and you can drag and drop them to put them in any order you want. You can (satisfyingly) check off items as they’re finished and make notes within any task. This allows subtasks within each item, if you need it. You’re also able to sync across all your devices, so your lists are always up to date, no matter where you added to or edited them last!Wunderlist.png

Pomodrone

From the app: “Pomodoro is a technique that is used to increase productivity that was created by a man named Francesco Cirillo. By combining relatively short periods of uninterrupted and focused work with frequent breaks you can maximize the amount of time you remain focused and your overall productivity.

First choose a task that you need to complete. Eliminate all distractions and set the timer for 25 minutes and work until it rings. Give your work your undivided attention. The world can wait 25 minutes for you to finish your tasks. Then take a break! Take a short 5-minute break. Do some push ups or take a breath of fresh air. This break is designed to let you regain your energy.

Repeat this cycle four times and then take a long break. The more you do this, the more productive you will become as your body gets used to this method and rhythm.”

Again, this app is simple and easy to use, and is based on the Pomodoro method, which increases your energy and productivity throughout the day. It’s helpful whether you’re a workaholic who tends to work for ten hours straight, or a procrastinator who can’t seem to stay focused for ten minutes.

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OneNote

For me, OneNote has replaced Evernote and good riddance! I can’t figure out what exactly irked me about Evernote, but I just couldn’t stand it. I liked the idea, but something about the execution seemed messy and disorganized to me. OneNote on the other hand, is exactly the app I wanted. It syncs across all devices, and it’s very intuitive. You can create various notebooks and within the notebooks are sections and within each section are pages.

I’m actually typing this up in OneNote in my Blogging notebook under the Blog Post Section in a new page titled “The Absolute Best Productivity Apps.” Within pages you can save audio, pictures, and video, as well as text and tables. There’s also a “draw” tool, which is especially useful for the iPad, so you can simply write out whatever it is you need to get down. The other thing I love about OneNote is the Chrome extension that allows you to “clip” articles, or webpages straight from the internet. None of that copying and pasting nonsense!OneNote.png

Documents 5

Unfortunately, Documents 5 doesn’t have a Mac version, but it does sync across iOS devices. It’s a document reader, PDF annotator, file organizer, and media player. It has a built-in web browser from which you can make any web page a PDF file for later reference. Within PDF documents you can strike out, underline, and highlight text. You can also use the excellent search mechanism to find the bits you need. Documents 5 integrates with multiple cloud services so you can easily back up and/or get to any files you need from the cloud. In addition to all that, it supports viewing movies, music, and photos! I love this app, and often use it when I need to do research, as it makes storing, managing, and marking up articles and webpages so easy!

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Spark

Last, but certainly not least is Spark, an email app. I don’t know about you, but I hate email with a passion. I’ll avoid it for weeks and then get stressed out when I have hundreds of messages I need to sift through. Created by the same company that made Documents 5, Spark’s tagline is “Like your email again” and they’re not lying! The best feature on this app is the Smart Inbox. It automatically sorts your email into personal, notifications, and newsletters, so that you can easily get to the most important messages first and deal with the others when you have time. I have mine set so that it only notifies me when I get a personal message and it’s seriously helped lower my email-related stress.

Spark allows you to connect to multiple email accounts so you can see all your emails at once and it’s integrated with multiple cloud services, so you can easily attach photos, documents, or whatever else without ever having to leave the app! My only complaint about this app is that there’s no Mac version, so I’m stuck checking emails on my phone or iPad all the time, instead of the computer.

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Well, that about wraps it up. What are your favorites? Are there any great ones that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Are you thinking the wrong way?

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my recovery journey is to manage my negative self-talk. My negative self-talk was constant. “I’m a bad person” “I’m a failure” “I can’t do anything right” “I’m ugly and fat and stupid” “No one likes me” “I’m unlovable” and on and on. Anything that went wrong in my life was somehow directly my fault and had to do with my unworthiness, incapability, etc. And anything that hadn’t gone wrong yet was sure to go wrong in the near future because I believed that I didn’t deserve anything good or happy in my life and the universe knew it. It was a miserable way to live, but I didn’t know how to change it.

The first time I heard about retraining my brain to be more positive was at my first stay in the psych ward and I took it as a personal attack against me. To me, it sounded like, “Well if you just think happy thoughts, you’ll be happy! Your illness is all your fault and you have total control over it!” Obviously that’s not what they were saying, but that’s what I heard. But as I got to a different place in life, it started to make more sense. 

My brain is a muscle. Because of depression and anxiety and PTSD and my eating disorder, my thoughts were consistently negative. The only way my brain knew how to speak was in a negative language. What I had to do to take an active role in my recovery was teach my brain a new language- the language of truth and positivity.Dustin Scarpitti.jpg

First, I had to come to a point where I accepted that my brain and my disorders and my abusers were lying to me. And that was a really difficult step. It felt disingenuous to challenge my own thinking. But you have to remember that challenging your thoughts isn’t lying, it’s teaching your brain to tell you the truth.

 I’m NOT worthless. I’m NOT a piece of shit. Everything that goes wrong is NOT automatically my fault. I’m NOT unlovable. One activity that helped me confront these negative core beliefs was to write down the core belief, then write down a new, more positive thought. (It can even be neutral, for example instead of “I’m a piece of shit” you can change it to “I’m struggling and that’s okay.”) Then write down evidence for the new, more positive thought, or anything that doesn’t support or line up with the old negative belief. This activity is really challenging, but if you give it an honest try it can be really helpful. And don’t forget to ask for help from loved ones if you get stuck!

Next I had to realize that there’s a difference between my automatic thoughts and my “controlled” thoughts. I don’t have control over my automatic thoughts because, well, they’re automatic. What I do have control over is what comes after my automatic thoughts and THAT’S what I had to work on changing in order to ultimately change my automatic thoughts. 

For example, I smoke and I’m trying to cut back. I give myself a certain amount of time that I have to wait before I can have my next cigarette. But sometimes, I don’t wait the allotted period of time. My automatic thoughts when I don’t wait as long as I say I’m going to are, “You’re a piece of shit. You can’t even wait three hours between cigarettes? You’re pathetic. No one will ever love you and your boyfriend is going to leave you.” When those automatic thoughts start, I have to stop, take a breath and reframe my thinking. My controlled thoughts are, “You’re trying to do something really difficult. You’ve recently had all your old coping skills taken away and now you have to learn an entirely new set of skills. It makes sense that you’re having trouble letting go of this negative coping skill.”

It was also important for me to realize that my “positive thoughts” don’t have to be rainbows and butterflies. I touched on this earlier, but you can’t go from “I hate myself” to “I love myself” overnight. You can’t even go from “I hate myself” to “I’m not a piece of shit” overnight. This process takes months of recognizing your negative self-talk, and then challenging that negative self-talk, and it’s a slow and exhausting process to constantly be fighting with yourself. But going from negative to neutral is still a positive change!Worth It.jpg

I hope this helps at least one person understand how to challenge and change their thought process because I honestly believe it’s THE most important part of recovery. It IS possible and you ARE worth it. You deserve to know the truth. And the truth is that you are a beautiful, lovable soul, deserving of kindness and respect from everyone, including yourself.

Goal Setting: Why it’s Important and How to Do It

Here’s the deal: You can’t reach your goals if you don’t know what your goals are, and you’re unlikely to reach your goals if you don’t have a plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

Goal Setting in Recovery

Have you ever considered that goal setting is key to recovery? I hadn’t really thought about it until I got into bullet journaling and started regularly setting myself goals. My productivity and sense of purpose skyrocketed. Goals can help you stay clean. (That’s kind of the idea of “just for today,” right? Your goal is to stay clean today.) Goals can help you move forward with your life after a rough period of time. Goals can help you create a life you enjoy, one you’re excited to wake up to.

A photo by Patrick Tomasso. unsplash.com/photos/Oaqk7qqNh_c

How to Set Goals

Hopefully I now have you convinced that you should start setting goals for yourself regularly, but you may be wondering exactly how you do that. It can feel overwhelming at first, but not to fear. I’ll break it down for you and you can use my free goal-setting printables to help you get going!

  1. Take some time for reflection to figure out what your goals are. Think about what you want to accomplish, what makes you happy, and what you need to do. I’m a big fan of lists, so I recommend writing them out. Write down all the goals you think of. We’ll prioritize them later. Right now you’re just getting them down on paper (or computer, whatever.) Make sure that these are SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. But I say, don’t get too caught up in whether or not it’s realistic. Dream big! You can accomplish all you set out to do. I believe in you!
  2. Organize your goals by timeframe. Some of your goals will be short term and some will be long term. Figure out approximate deadlines for each goal. Remember to be realistic. You’re not going to change your entire life in a week and setting unrealistic deadlines is setting yourself up for failure and disapointment. I try to be amitious, but reasonable. If you’re not in a good place right now, don’t feel like you have to be super ambitious with your deadlines. It’s okay to take the time you need. Seperate out your goals into weekly, monthly, and yearly lists. (If there are any really big ones, you may need an even longer amount of time like 3-5 years. That’s okay too!)
  3. Prioritize your lists. It’s always good to know what’s important to you so that you put more time and energy into that. If there are things that absolutely need to be done, they get put at the top of list. If you’re like me and feel like everything is important and have trouble prioritizing, talk to someone you trust. Explain what you’re doing and let them look at your lists and help you figure out what’s important. I always ask my boyfriend to help me when I’m trying to prioritze any list.
  4. Break down your goals into actionable to dos. Looking at a list of goals can be exciting and overwhelming. You want to do all these things, but how do you get there? That’s what this step is here for. Some goals are small enough that they’re naturally a one-step task, but for larger goals you need to figure out all the steps it will take to get from where you are now to where you want to be. For example, one of my goals this month is to grow my following on social media. My SMART goal is to gain 50 followers on Instagram by the end of September. To turn that into actionable tasks, I researched how people organically gain real followers. So my subgoals are to post a new photo at least once a day, use Later to schedule out posts so I’m not clogging up anyone’s newsfeed when I post multiple pictures, spend 10 minutes a day interacting with other Instagram users (following, commenting, and liking), and make sure my photos are all high quality.
  5. Schedule out your goal tasks. Take those tasks you just figured out and create a schedule! This step is crucial because it’s easy to make goals and then forget about them or procrastinate them when life gets in the way. Pull out your planner, bullet journal, or calendar and write in every task you need to complete to reach your goals. It’s okay if the timeline changes as you go, and you can always move things around later. The important thing is to have a schedule to start working from. For larger goals, you may decide to do one task a week to work toward your goal. Or maybe you’ll do one every day. Again, try to be realistic when scheduling your goal tasks.
  6. Start creating the life you want. Now it’s up to you to actually follow your schedule as best you can and work toward achieving your goals! If you think it’d be helpful for you, have an accountability partner, someone who will check up on you once in a while and ask how your goals are coming along. They can also be the person you go to when you hit a road bump and need advice or encouragement.
  7. Review your goals and your accomplishments. Set a time each week, or month, or six months, or whatever makes sense for your timeframe and review your goals. Are these all still things you want? Or have your goals shifted? How are you doing with your schedule? Are you doing your goal tasks when they’re scheduled? Are you reaching your smaller goals? If not, reflect on why that is. Perhaps you were too ambitious with your timeline, or maybe there were outside forces holding you back. Adjust accordingly. Rewrite your lists with the new adjustments, and go back over your schedule to make any changes you need. And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for making all the progress you’ve made so far! Every step you take toward your goals is important and impressive! You’re doing awesome.

And don’t forget to subscribe to receive your free goal setting printables!

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The Planner Hack: How to Bullet Journal

If you’ve looked at my about me page, then you’ve got a small taste of how obsessed I am with bullet journaling and now I’m going to tell you why and how to start your very own!

A few months ago, I was a mess. Well… I’m still a mess. BUT I’m a more organized, more productive mess. All day I’d sit fiddling around and when the end of the day would come, I’d look back and realize I’d accomplished nothing. Then I discovered bullet journaling. That sounds a bit dramatic, but I’m not kidding when I say this system has changed my life. I get so much done in a day and I feel so much better knowing that I won’t forget anything that I need to get done in the future. And becoming part of the bullet journal community has inspired and motivated me to follow my dreams and believe that I can do whatever it is I set out to do.

So, let’s take a look at how to bullet journal with this handy dandy infographic I made:

The Planner Hack Infographic

Now that you have an idea of some of the basic anatomy of a bullet journal, let’s dive in a little deeper. The system was developed by the wonderful Ryder Carroll. If you’re still confused on any part of bullet journaling after reading this post, or if you just want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out the bullet journal official website! It’s full of helpful information for getting started and seeing what all the hype is about. You can also buy The Bullet Journal Notebook there, if you want that. (I’ll give you some ideas for other possible bullet journal supplies later in this post.)

The whole system is built on something called rapid logging. The first step is to title and number your pages. The title is a short description of what will be one the page. It may even just be a date. And get in the habit of numbering your pages and filling in your index as you go. It seems like a pain at first, but it makes things so easy to find!

As you’re creating your pages, use bullet points and signifiers to help you log information quickly and effectively. I personally don’t use the bullets suggested on bulletjournal.com. Instead, I created my own system of bullets that make more sense to me. I use a square to indicate a task, a circle to indicate an event, and a triangle to indicate an appointment. Take a minute before you create your own to search for “bullet journal key” on Pinterest and figure out what will work best for you. The beauty of the bullet journal is that you can adapt it and individualize it to make it exactly what you need. Signifiers “give your bullets additional context.” For example, I put an exclamation point next to bullets to indicate that they’re a priority or a little clock next to something to indicate a deadline.

Supplies

If you get into the bullet journaling community and you’re not already a notebook and pen snob, you’ll soon become one. But just to be clear, you can start a bullet journal with a plain lined notebook and a ballpoint pen. Using quality supplies helps me enjoy bullet journaling more and motivates me to stick with it. But I’m also poor, so I can’t go out and buy every pen and notebook popular on Pinterest. Don’t go over your budget because you feel like you just have to have these specific supplies to really bullet journal. Seriously. In fact, when you’re first starting out, I recommend using stuff you already have around the house and make bullet journal goals and rewards for yourself. If you stick with bullet journaling for a whole month, for instance, go out and buy yourself those fancy pens you saw on Instagram. If you find that helps you and you stick with it for two months, get yourself an awesome notebook for bullet journaling.

Now, without further ado, here’s a few supplies you’ll likely see being used in the community.

Pens

  • Microns. $10 for a pack of 6 black pens. I’m an artist, so since I already had a couple of these laying around when I first started bullet journaling, they were the pens I used. They’re good quality and available in lots of fun colors.
  • Staedtler Triplus Fineliners. $13.25 for a pack of 10 colors. These were the second high quality pens I tried and I fell in love. They come in tons of beautiful colors and they’re great quality. I personally like them better than Microns.
  • Staedtler Pigment Liners. $11.50 for a pack of four black pens of various thicknesses. These are my absolute favorite pen right now. I mainly use them for design work since they’re expensive, but I wish I could use them for all my writing all the time.
  • Pentel Arts Hybrid Gel Pens. $11 for a pack of four black pens. I haven’t used these yet, but I’ve heard great things about Pentel gel pens.
  • Faber-Castell Artist Pitt Pens. $11 for a pack of four black pens (one of which is a brush pen.) Again, I haven’t used them, but I’ve heard great things.
  • Papermate Flairs. $9 for a pack of 12 black pens. These are a great everyday writing utensil and they’re a good cheaper alternative to the pens listed above.

Notebooks

  • The Bullet Journal Notebook. $20. It’s made for bullet journaling, so it has a bullet journal guide, an index, and page numbers already built in.
  • Lechtturm 1917. $18. A popular alternative to the official bullet journal notebook.
  • Rhodia Webnoebook. $17. I’ve only heard good things about the Rhodia. Namely that the paper quality is amazing. No more bleeding through!
  • Peter Pauper Press Essentials Notebook. $7.50. A popular cheaper alternative.
  • Baron Fig Confidant. $16. This is what I’m using right now and I love it! I had a Moleskin before and I feel that Baron Fig’s notebooks are much higher quality. Minimal ghosting, it lays flat, and it has a whopping 192 pages.

Washi Tape

Note: you absolutely do not need washi tape in order to bullet journal. It’s just a fun way to add some color and prettiness to your planner.

Ideas to Get You Started

Well, now you know how to bullet journal, you know what you might want for bullet journaling, and maybe you’ve decided you’re going to start. Below are some layouts and ideas to help you get going.

First, I promised in my inforgaphic that I would explain habit tracking. Lots of people keep track of things they need or want to be doing daily, weekly, or monthly. It can be used to help you start a habit or break a habit and track your progress. Here’s some habit tracker inspiration from Bullet Everything. Some people also use their bullet journal for meal planningHere you can find ideas for collections, and of course you need inspiration for you daily, weekly (x), and monthly spreads!

If you’re interested, here’s a peek inside my own bullet journal:

Weekly Spread 2.jpgWeekly Spread 3.jpgWeekly Spread 4.JPG

If there’s anything I missed or you have questions, feel free to ask me! And let me know in the comments: Do you have a bullet journal or are you going to start one? If not, what kind of planner do you use?