Posted in Mental Health

(Bullet) Journaling through Therapy

(Bullet) Journaling through Therapy Posted on 22/03/201810 Comments
Ahoy, hello! My name is Jenny. I am a thirty-something human female from Manchester in the north of England. I enjoy rainy days and sad songs, custard donuts and salt & pepper chips and beer, lentil dhal and fried okra, X-Files and Twin Peaks, fierce fat heroines and mental health advocates, dogs and cats and otters and a very special beirdo. To paraphrase Sylvia Plath: "I blog because there is a voice within me that insists on writing lots of ridiculous chuff".

Ahoy my friends, ahoy. This blog post reaches you from the very disorganised life and desk of me, Jenny, the marvel that is an adult human toddler flailing wildly in the kiddie-pool of life, even with arm-bands on. Here I flap in the metaphorical shallow waters of existence while life looks the other way. It’s a tricky time, and there’s far too much to untangle and commit to this digital brain-fart that bobs precariously in a terrifyingly vast ocean of beautiful lifestyle bloggos. In other words, life has been really really happening and I’m ready for it to slow down and happen a lot less.

Though I continue to embody “you’ve gotta laugh or you’ll cry” to a truly farcical degree, I somehow nevertheless seem to be sitting at a desk and writing this blog post with my fingers and somehow connected to my fingers is my brain and somehow my brain is playing a role in all of this as well. What I would like to talk about, if you’ll permit me, is using one’s (bullet) journal to propel one reflexively through a short or long-term course of therapy.

I myself personally very recently had a messy break-up with a therapist. Our final session consisted mostly of the most childlike, uninhibited, painful, hysterical sobbing I’ve done in quite a long time and the feeling that weeks had been spent breaking down emotional barriers and bringing me to a state of extreme vulnerability, before kicks were administered whilst down/blades were plunged into backs/salt was poured into proverbial wounds, etc., etc. Let us simply say that it did not work out between that therapist and I.

And so I informed the local mental health pathway team that I no longer wished to occupy the same building (or ideally the same suburb) as the Bad Therapist, and this was done with a heavy heart, readers, because I suspected this would result in my discharge from the service.

But thankfully, a very gentle and kind area manager spoke with me at length and agreed to place me with a brand new therapist in a centre dealing with more complex cases. Such unprovoked willingness to put the situation right rather made me suspect that the Bad Therapist had form for this sort of disastrous outcome, but as it all turned out my new therapist (let’s call her Good Therapist, for now) seems wonderful. She is a psychodynamic psychotherapist and is, I believe, just the ticket for my tremendously messy psyche. Our first session did (obviously) involve the customary battle between my tears and snot and the very inadequate NHS-issue tissues, but nevertheless I left feeling very confident in the work we’ll do together. I must also remember to bring quality tissues.

Anyhoo, I’ve decided that since the Good Therapist has inspired hope in me for some healing of trauma it would be nice to log my work between sessions in my journal. My bullet journal, that is. If you like you can read my post about using my bullet journal to try and be less of an utterly soggy mess of an adult human here.

The therapy journal

First of all, I set up a nice little ‘front page’ for this section of my BuJo, as below.

I’m busy sourcing an inspirational quote or somesuch to print and affix to the left page here. I’m currently re-reading Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections at the moment and I suspect that some little snippet of wisdom from the book might find its way onto the page. I am particularly fascinated by his untangling of his early childhood memories and events, which will be a journey I will attempt to replicate over the next few weeks, I think.

The weekly spread

I decided that it would be nice to have a dedicated spread for each session. After searching the internet for inspiration (I’ve listed some of the links I found at the bottom of this post) I came up with this layout, which I may change up in the future depending on how much I engage with the prompts (or not).

Because my life is so bafflingly, relentlessly, punishingly busy and stressful and complicated, the “for next week” prompt is particularly important. This means that I can debrief after the session by summarising what was discussed, what was tough, etc., but then I can jot down notes during the week (or whenever the thoughts occur to me) about what I would like to bring to the following session. I hope this will prevent me from sitting in the chair snotting into thin tissues wishing I knew what to say.

Further inspiration

I would like to share here some links that I found useful when figuring this little tool out:

How’s about you folks? Do you journal for/alongside therapy? Do you have any prompts that you find useful? Let me know!

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  1. The ‘for next week’ bit sounds like a great plan. I saw a counsellor for 2 years after my mum passed away (still seeing her, but not weekly anymore), and I was always worried I would forget to raise something that had been bothering me during the week. Also, only slightly related, but is that washi tape down the side? It’s lovely!

    1. I hope it helped <3 My Mum passed away at the beginning of September 2017 and whilst I was already on the waiting list at that point, it's certainly helpful!

      Yes that is washi tape! I got it in my lovely monthly stationery subscription box from Ohh Deer πŸ˜€

  2. There’s something about writing stuff down that always helps get stuff straight in my head when it all feels too messy, so it makes very much sense to use the bujo as a therapy tool. I’d be interested to know how you use it over/in between future sessions too. Will you be going through the written bits with Good Therapist too?

    1. I might do, I’d probably be all embarrassed if it wasn’t neat enough though lolllzzzz. I sort of have to promise myself I won’t show anyone in order to get the honest feelings down but maybe I should be brave and share it.

      Writing stuff down is my #1 way of absorbing both new and old info and I use it ALL the time in my study. I have about a million notebooks full of visual notes to help me understand concepts/ideas. It really helps!

  3. I saved your post about this on IG and I’m just getting to read it now. I have a really bad (dissociative) habit of not remembering anything we discussed at my one-on-one therapy. My therapist will ask and half the times it’s like I wasn’t even there. I think it’s because she asks me to access feeling — and I like to talk and analyze, which she doesn’t let me do. So it’s like what did we do last time? I don’t know — feel something? But what!? So when you posted that picture I thought – this is what I actually need to be doing. I don’t work on therapy during the week and there is no bridge from one session to the next, which means it’s like a total waste of time because I can only access my thoughts in the damn room, which are likely different or just the start of what I’d have on my own.

    I’ll start Instapapering all the links you posted and thanks for showing us your set up!

    1. No problem, I hope it helps πŸ™‚

      I also struggle a bit between sessions and I end up feeling terrible about it; after all, they make notes and recall stuff from previous weeks and I’m pretty useless. I’m hoping this will help me get the most out of it!

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