I am battling with depression. Even though I have been open about this several times, it’s still hard to admit to myself and you. I feel like I should just “man up” and go on. But that’s part of it. Not feeling strong enough, valid enough, worthy enough.

How longer the lockdown persists, how harder it got for me. Sure there are ups and downs, like a sea saw, but the downs seem to become lower each time, whilst the highs are not changing all that much.

Another side effect is that I started to have a creative block. I can’t write or draw or work on websites. Taking pictures at home feels pointless. The tasks itself seem somehow too much. Usually my art helped me get over some symptoms of depression and made me feel somewhat more normal. But I guess with the current lock down there are more factors working against me then normal.

Hass thinks I am to hard on myself and send me several articles on how I shouldn’t feel the need to be productive. They where a good read and reflected some of my feelings and helpedf me feel not guilty for a while, but at some point life just feels meaning less if you don’t fill it with something more then Netflix, stroking cats and staring out of the window.

Ok, I did more. Much more. I haven’t felt bored the entire 67 days we are in lockdown, but my depression just whispered in my ear that I am useless and should just stop wasting everyone’s air,

I don’t listen to that voice though. Moreover, that voice always makes me angry with myself and when I’m angry I get stubborn.
I looked up how I can prove to myself, that I am more productive then I think with minimum effort, so that I can keep it up in my paralyzed state.

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I remembered bullet journaling from one blog article of a calligrapher I started reading at the beginning of the lockdown. Looking into it, it seems to be all the rage for hipsters, digital nomads and Gen Z at the moment. Some of it is quite daft in my opinion, but I could see how parts of the system could help me if I adapt it to my own needs. Basically, Ryder Carroll, the father of bullet journaling expresses it’s like this:

It’s best described as a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system. It’s designed to help you organize your what while you remain mindful of your why. The goal of the Bullet Journal is to help its practitioners (Bullet Journalists) live intentional lives, ones that are both productive and meaningful.

Ryder Carrol on bulletjournal.com

Honestly, I didn’t come across Mr. Carrols wisdoms and teachings until I looked for a concise description to use on this blog article, but it describes why i started looking into the matter very well.

I found other resources and people – mostly on YouTube – telling about their way of using the methods and I condensed their take on the bullet journal methods down even more.

Most of the people I found still wrote daily entries about their day, included to do lists and used the whole thing as a sort of organizer or planner. I however just wanted to show that ugly voice in my head that I do more then just vegetate on the couch and motivate myself to live a bit more balanced in quarantine.

Photo taken by .
the finished empty month.

So my approach was to just take the logging part of the bullet journal method and make it work for me.

The simplest way is to draw a coordinate grid with two perpendicular lines. The x-axis are the days of the month and on the y-axis you list the things you like to track or build a habit for. Then you just make a dot when you archived that on that day. Most people just use one color, but I chose to have one color per section.

Another logging matrix that I thought handy for me was to track things in relation to each other. The matrix looks similar, but you work with different color Dots to indicate the subject you measure and the y-axis is how much.

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I personally chose Blue – Hours of sleep, Red- Mood, Yellow – Strength of headach, Aqua – Water, Lavender – Stress, Green- Digestion and Light blue – depression to track in this.

I wanted to know if my water intake has a relation to my headaches which I have so much more since lock down, or if my constipation has any influence on my depression. Some studies link mood to digestion, so I thought this is an interesting thing to have a look at.

This was how I started and I quickly figured what worked for me and what not. It was much more easy to fill in the bullet matrix then the normal writing journal had become and I felt like I had accomplished something when it was filled in. Baby steps I suppose.

With that in mind I felt this deserves further investigation and stared giving it a better design and taking it digital. The bullet journal will be much more usable to me on my iPad, since I rarely have a notebook with me anymore, but I take my iPad with me most times – specially later when life might commence normal again

I added categories of things I think are good to do during lock down and habits I would like to train myself to do. Like drawing more, flossing and playing with the cats. I also made a different looking matrix to track house keeping task to show myself I am useful in this household and I added place to write down things I am great full for.

As mentioned, other journal users use the method alongside to do list and write daily short summaries. For those days they make artful spreads and draw each month under a new theme. I was not planning to add writing for now. I wanted to keep it manageable and not overwhelming, but I wanted to have all of the logging matrix on one page and let some room for doodling and added a shadow of some mandala work to one of the logging matrix as a help to be a bit creative.

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My approach seems to work, because I colored in the mandala and started drawing on the empty spaces, as I was filling in the Dots.

I am not saying that I mastered my depression. But I found a way for me to be mindful a smal portion of the day. I sort of gamefied certain tasks. It just looks nicer to have all the dots in color, so I am catching myself more often thinking, what could I do next to fill more dots tonight and I can see that I do have some contribution in this household, which quiets that mean voice in my head a bit more.

I still feel low and lonely. I still don’t manage complex art and for drawings I have to surf the web to get ideas, but I feel like I made a good start and with the drawing I made yesterday, I feel like I won a point over my depression. Besides… I finally wrote more then just a sentence again…..

How are you guys doing? Are you creative? Productive? Do you feel you need to be? How do you stay sane?

One Comment

  1. Hey Nadja! This is so fascinating to me because a few years ago I had envisioned an app that would be based around pictures made up of different colored dots, and it would be used to motivate you to keep on task… you color in a dot when you complete a task! If I were a programmer I would have made it! Anyway, this looks similar and I totally need a better way to organize my life than to-do lists. Thanks for sharing! I’m gonna look into this 🙂

    Naomi

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