Bullet Journal

Why a Bullet Journal was perfect for this Hot Mess Brain

You’d think after reading these entries over the years that there was absolutely no hope for me to get my shit together. I’ve never been an organized person. Not once. Not ever, never. Getting diagnosed with BP II and depression officially helped to sort of understand why I was a constant mess of GET EVERYTHING DONE and NAH, IMMASTAY IN BED FOR THIS WEEK…But to get all of my shit in one shit-stack and take it to a shit store and get it shit-organized? Was it even possible?

Surprise! It is almost impossible.
And that is O.K.

To do perfectly anything in my life is impossible. Admitting to this and being alright with not doing something perfect is a god damn senseless struggle I go through a lot less now at 41 and medicated–but a struggle still. And listen, I don’t make any sense. Neither does being human. So let’s all get together and admit that nobody has their shit together and if they say they do, they are lying liars.

But back to the actual god damn subject of this post: starting a bullet journal back on June 13th 2017 was a very perfect choice for this hot mess that is me, because it makes me a slightly less hot mess. A tepid mess. A cooler, more easily handled without burning yourself mess, if you would.

2017 bujo
First bujo entries.

It’s not easy and it doesn’t look at all like those hip hoppinin’ “bujo,” blogs with aesthetics out the butt and Tombow collections worth more than my monthly grocery bills–my bullet journal is a sprawling pile of laundry that starts mountainous and eventually peters down into something that started being somewhat manageable and working for me, and not against me. And that was hard. (Pssst: still hard.) But what’s that cliched saying? Anything worth doing is difficult something-something-darkside, something-something complete? Yeah!

So here’s why it worked for me, what didn’t and maybe, maaayyybeee it might help you. I don’t know. We’re all floating in our meat-sacks together winging it. So here’s how I’ve been winging it:

How to fail at Bullet Journals:

  • Compare yourself to every bullet journaler out there on instagram and facebook and reddit and their blogs. Don’t. Do not. What they do for their bullet journal is what works for them. You are not them. You are you. So feel free to start looking to get inspired yes, but do not expect to make perfect everything out of the gate.
  • Waiting for the “right,” supplies before starting, or waiting to be able to afford higher end supplies (Tombow, Zebra Midliners, Sakura Microns, a LEUCHTTURM1917. Start with whatever you have.
  • Don’t experiment or expect absolutely perfect layouts every time.
  • Thinking there is a wrong way or a right way to bullet journal.

How to Win at Bullet Journals And Win a Little Bit At Life

  • S.S.S. Start Stupid Simple. Some of you beautiful angels out there are already organized as-fuck kinda people, but the rest of us are disastrous chihuahuas trembling at the dishes in the sink. So we probably get overwhelmed and quickly. Overwhelming yourself with a bullet journal made to try and help organize stuff is a tinsy bit counter productive. So S.S.S it.
  • Maybe your first S.S.S layout will just be the weekdays spread across a page and below them, things you did that day. “Washed face, got out of bed, put dishes in dishwasher,” for example as a simple list. CONGRATS. YOU ARE A BULLET JOURNALER.
  • Do that for a week. Write down everything. Everything, yes. Even that thing you just muttered to yourself, “but, everyone showers, why should I–” LISTEN TO ME YOU BUTTERFLY OF BEAUTIFUL DISASTERS. WRITE. IT. DOWN. I don’t care if it’s, “had good poop,” (Which, if you’ve ever suffered from any sort of chronic bowl disease IS A THING TO CELEBRATE AND WRITE DOWN ANYWAY)–Write. It. Down.
  • Do that for 1 week.
  • Look at your week. Surprising, isn’t it? Surprising how much we do and can get done in a week when you stop dismissing the little things we all do–like showers, tooth brushing, or just getting up at a certain time. It’s time to celebrate. You’ve done a thing, everyday for 7 days.
  • Start to Experiment. SLOWLY. You’re new at this. You don’t yet know what’s going to work for you. The only way you’ll know is by fucking up and trying new things. So DO that. Don’t be afraid of your first bullet journal being filled with a few unfinished pages or layouts that you never touched because you didn’t like and started over–but keep going. Don’t stop. Keep trying new things, and don’t feel guilty about discarding what didn’t work.
  • Use the crayola markers, pencil crayons, your kids’ crayons and pencils, go to Dollar Tree and buy 1$ rulers, a composition notebook, a binder, a one dollar set of pens and pencils–use whatever you have on hand first. Don’t add complications to your bullet journaling when first starting out. You’re supposed to be trying to do something to help relieve stress, not make more.

Writing down your first week will help you see just how much you actually do and give you a real, tangible list of things you can see to work with. Writing everything down for 1 week will also give you a starting point of the things you DO want to keep track of.

Starting your bullet journal with 2929323 trackers and 203232 month pages and 2932932 step counters and 23232 goals when you’re overwhelmed, stressed, have a non-normal brain or chronic illness is going to discourage you very quickly. Because you’ve set yourself up too many expectations all at once. Also, maybe keeping track of what time you woke up, work hours, what you ate, how many steps, how many glasses of water, how many hours slept, how much food, when and where and why–and so on–is too much for you at first.

I want my bullet journal to ease my sorry ass into adulting better. I don’t want to look at it and see all these trackers empty and feel like shit because I “failed,” to do something that was too much energy for me to do.

So–look at your first week. Think about one thing you’d like to improve. Could you work on drinking more water next week? Do you want to try and wake up at a certain time every day next week? Do you want to make sure you take your medications every day, at the same time? Pick one goal for next week and maybe make a tracker for that if you want. Or just add a little box for ticking it off and write whatever you chose for that day.

For the first six months I made the mistake of overwhelming myself. I would add so much bullshit to my weekly spread. I’M GONNA SPRING OUT OF BED FULLY CLOTHES AND SHOWERED AND DRINK COFFEE WITH ONE HAND DO LAUNDRY AND GARDEN AND SWEEP AND VACUUM AND SMELL FLOWERS AND PUNCH NAZIS AND HUG KITTENS AND MOW 50 YARDS AND SOLVE WORLD HUNGER, I’d write, for my Monday mornings. And guess what?

I’d do one or two things and be unable to do the rest, leaving an unfinished list staring at me accusingly. And I would then get discouraged. And then that discouragement would tip off my thinking about what’s the point of keeping a bullet journal if I never do anything? And then that can topple over other thoughts that lead to a shitty spiral that nobody needs.

Bullet journal July weekly spread with detailed flowers and plants.
The most challenging layout I’ve done in years.

This is why I decided to go back to absolute basics for a while. Some weeks or months I simply wrote the hours I had to go to work and anything else I remembered to do that day were added, including just brushing my hair. Anytime I found myself thinking the bullet journal was too much, I dropped any fancy formatting, drawings, doodles, trackers and what have you and went back to my S.S.S theory.

Your bullet journal should reflect who you are and your life. I don’t know of anyone’s life that is absolutely the same every single week or month. Emotions are not a flat-lined chart. Events in life don’t happen to you on a schedule, so drop the expectation that your bullet journal should look amazing and aesthetically perfect and level and nothing out of place while, perhaps, your life around you is a shaking hand holding a marker wrong trying to wing a straight line while dancing in an earthquake.

When I realized that my journal could and should reflect my real life and be honest with myself, reflecting that in my layouts that changed from month to month? That’s when the bullet journal bloomed into something I loved doing, and, something that was actually making a difference, from self-care to laundry doing to waking up everyday on a schedule. That’s when I decided to finally start challenging myself at more detailed layouts as well–but only when I was extremely comfortable with my bullet journal. It took me years of working at it. And I am still doing so–but it’s changed my hot mess self for the better.

Maybe it’ll work for you too.

What’s in a tooth?

When I was 16, I was terrible. Not only was I going through what any teen at that age goes through–hormones, boys, body image issues, self-esteem problems, trying to fit in desperately where I didn’t–I probably had the beginnings of my depression and bipolar II crop up. I didn’t know the word depression. I didn’t and had never heard of bipolar. Anxiety wasn’t a word in my dictionary of angst filled teenage words.

I was fat, I had random giant zits on my face at all times, and I was and still am average looking at best. I didn’t know about makeup enough to change that.

When I was 20, I was a hot fucking mess. I made life choices worse at 20 than I would have at 16.

30 was a time of slow evolution. 30 was a time for me to finally, finally become more of an adult in thinking (at least at certain things) than I ever would. 30 was the time to look back at the teen years and 20’s and go, “What –and I can’t stress this enough–the fuck, me?” and often.

From 30-40 was the decade of relearning and unwinding horrible habits and thoughts that depression had mired into my head. I learned how to love what I had, including my body and my face. These were the lovely years where a wart? skin tag? I don’t fucking know–decided it was going to grow directly onto the end of my nose. And get a little bigger.

That was great. (I’m still struggling to accept that, because insurance won’t cover skin tag removal and my doctor looked at it without any concern what-so-ever. )

But I adapted. I learned. I self-loved. I evolved.

And then roughly 2016 I began to have a sore lump above my right baby canine. I say baby canine, because it was a baby tooth. As it grew worse, I thought it was an abscess. So off to the dentist we went. Turned out, my adult canine had grown sideways into the roof of my mouth and didn’t drop. Until I was almost 40 and then decided to HAI GUISE it up my trying to erupt through some of the thickest skin in your body…The roof of my mouth. The first dentist said, “oral surgeon.” My broke-ass said, “hahahaha haha ha ha ha yeah, I’ll do my best.”

I ended up at a strip mall sort of practice with an over 6 foot tall dentist that looked like he bench lifted elephants and used 40 dollars worth of styling wash in his head and talked like he just graduated from selling used cars in New York. He decided the best way to handle everything was to tear a hole in the roof of my mouth with I assume a very sharp knife and send me home. After he pulled the baby tooth.

So now I had this very obvious, no-way-to-hide gap in my teeth at the front. It’s been a few years and I am still struggling with this new image of me having a space in my face obvious whenever I open my mouth.

I went to the dentist today–August 1st–because I did have an abscess. It was on the lower right hand side, beside the front bottom and between the molars. I don’t know teeth-talk, so that’s as narrowed down as I can get it.

When a dentist first checks your teeth on a routine check up, they usually want to check your gums. Specifically, how healthy your gums are, how deep the pockets are, and if any of the gum has pulled away from your teeth. They use an instrument that looks like a pick, but it’s blunted on both ends. The healthy number for good gums is 3-4.

Maybe five or six of my teeth were 3-4. Most of them ranged from 5-7. Many of them on the left hand side were 9. 9.

I also apparently have an infection that has possibly been raging along in my gums for oh, months. Maybe years.

The dentist tells me they might be able to save the 4 teeth that came away as 9. But the tooth with the abscess has to go.

Possibly 5 teeth may go, 1 for sure. Leaving me with another visible gap right under the loss of my baby canine.

Thing is, going over my tooth care routine? I’ve been doing everything right. I have a water pick. I use mouth wash. I brush with an electric oral b, whenever I am done eating. My dentist tells me my tooth care is perfect.

And yet: here we are.

And I didn’t think, ya’ll, that I was vain but let me tell you some harsh truths: I took it all like a champ at first. But when the dentist left and the lady came in to go over the 3000 dollars worth of suggested dental work be done then left–leaving me in a quiet room? I almost lost it. My eyes watered up, a fist closed around my throat and I felt personal despair. Now, I’m going to be even uglier, I thought. I’m going to be a toothless old hag with nose warts and droopy fucking eyes and fucking hideous.

Written down like this, even I know this is ridiculous. It’s cliched but true: the people who love me, love me for more than what’s in a tooth. Or what isn’t in a tooth. Or whether I fucking have teeth or not. But I sure as shit am struggling right now with my self-esteem that took such a long journey to get to manageable levels.

I’m delicate right now. Balancing on the border between, better to be healthy with no teeth than miserable with rot infested mouth and but I’ll look like the white trash I am that can’t afford to do shit but pull teeth and grow more grotesque as the years go by.

I’m mad too. Mad this country doesn’t have universal health care that understands how insanely important tooth care is to health. I’m mad that it costs so much uninsured, that I could’t even go to get my teeth cleaned for years–which probably would have helped this entire situation. I’m made preventable diseases of gums and the mouth have to be treated with clove oil and garlic oil and turmeric powder and tea bags because the cost of removing a piece of festering bone in your head is more than what most people working minimum wage would take 2 months of spending no money to be able to pay for.

3-400 bucks for a tooth extraction is ridiculous. That’s half our mortgage for a month. That’s food for a month. That’s kid care and bills and what about if you’re on other medications without insurance?

Today apparently it’s my emotional, poorly balanced state of delicacy when it comes to my appearance and old-woman-yells-at-sky levels of rage at the cost of simply living in the United States when you aren’t swimming in dollar bills.

On the flip side, I guess if the worst thing happens, I can enjoy the rest of my life with soup and ice cream, right?