006. | Anxiety Is… (Art Journal Tutorial)

Anxiety doesn’t make sense. Not usually, anyway. Having been diagnosed in childhood with several anxiety disorders (social anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia and hypochondria) it’s about 50/50 that I can figure out what is causing my anxiety and thus, use the appropriate skills – whether it’s CBT, DBT or CPT.

Sometimes anxiety happens for no reason. I call those moments “when the fire alarm [in my brain] goes off for no reason and there isn’t actually a fire but the alarm is going off anyway” or “rogue anxiety”. It just… happens for absolutely no reason. It’s been explained to me several ways, mostly in variations of “your brain just has these random surges of adrenaline which kicks your stress response up”.

Other times I know it’s specific to GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) or hypochondria. Like the anxiety, I’ve had for nearly a week now, non-stop. It’s related to something that triggered this recent episode of health anxiety (hypochondria, but apparently the DSM5 doesn’t like that term anymore), which then turned into excessive worry about everything.

I read through the skills on my diary card and I’m pretty sure I used a few here today. I realised I had three choices:

  1. Stay in bed crying all-day
  2. Attempt to distract (gaming, journaling, reading)
  3. Double up on night meds and go back to bed


I wasn’t going to do 1 or 3 since I’ve done both so many times the last little while that it’s not helping anything and I know this. So I went for 2) Attempting to distract. I picked up my journal – the 400-page dotted Moleskine Expanded softcover that I’ve been using for months – and was going to write about my anxiety but I felt inspired to make a page showing what anxiety is to me.

That’s what this page is: Anxiety Is…

Sure, I’ve written a block of text about how anxiety robbed me of things and it’s mostly ruminating and depressive, but that’s true to my state of mind right now and I would be a terrible artist if I was to lie about it and make it all “pretty for the internet”. No. I’m not like that. So here’s the truth of what goes on in my journal, when I’m not writing pages upon pages of text. I sometimes get artsy.




Back in 2004, I was big into a blogging platform called LiveJournal. I had met a lot of good people there over the years and while I still have my accounts, I don’t use them. I miss the site, yes, but everyone has since left. Of all the communities I was apart of on LiveJournal (LJ, as it’s abbreviated) one of them was about mixed-media journaling or art journaling. It was scrapbooking meets journaling and we would fill our journals with collages and art while writing our daily journal entries on top of the art as well.

It was beautiful. I loved the community and loved taking part in it until it went defunct around 2010. I stayed with mixed-media journaling until the sudden surge of the bullet journal. Suddenly my mixed-media journaling could be part of a planner system that worked for me! Score! I did fall out of mixed-media journaling for a while but came back to it recently, when I realised I wasn’t keeping up with my bullet journal and was too depressed to do so, but I still wanted to use my bullet journal supplies. So I started mixed-media journaling again. I went on YouTube, found out that there’s a whole group of people who still do this only now it’s called a “junk journal”. Signs of the times, right? Even some of the supplies have changed but the idea is still the same.

Today I’m going to walk you through the two-page spread I did on anxiety and how I created it. My hope is that it inspires someone to start becoming more creative in their daily journaling, or even helps them begin a daily journal. I don’t always do this fancy art shite. Most of my journal is just long paragraphs and rambling but the art pages are starting to help me express myself. It’s cathartic.


Images and tutorial below the cut.


I’m taking part in Bell Let’s Talk Day this year, as I do every year, only this year I plan to release a blog series shortly afterwards (early February) around bullying/cyberbullying and the ways it can affect the mental health of the victim. I had planned to do this mid-January but life held me up, and I wasn’t sure if I could get everything done in time. As well, I did some thinking on what I wanted this blog to be about and I decided to center it -for now- around being productive/focused not only while struggling with ADHD but also while dealing with the symptoms of mental health disorders.

That made more sense to me, especially since I’m currently on medicinal treatment for ADHD and it’s working, but I’m also finding the struggle to get things done simply as a result of anxiety disorders and major depressive disorder. I plan to post on January 30th as well as utilise each of the ways to take part (see the link above). Below though, I’ve listed off the ways you can also participate, as well as linking back to the resources they’ve given.

I’ve sourced Bell Let’s Talk below, and do not take any credit for the resources below.

I feel like I should title this blog “irony, irony and more irony” because I keep writing about things like procrastination and how to write -whether it’s blog posts, your novel, a short story, an article, a journal entry- while also being distracted. I planned to have a series of posts done where one could refer to them and find themselves some good tips and tricks on how to Get Shit Done while being distracted and struggling with productivity. It’s something I could never find online and I thought that I would share all of my own tips, tricks and strategies and hopefully help others.

One month on and I’ve managed three blog posts that don’t have to do with much at all and I’ve accumulated eight drafts. A bit of a personal moment here (and if you know my other blog, then you know I’m very transparent with my mental health struggles and perhaps that’s a bit of a flaw but I find it easier to relate to others when I know what they’re going through; however I also understand people’s need for privacy. Maybe it’s because I’ve been blogging openly about mental health since the days of LiveJournal and communities on there, I don’t know.

Anyway – I’ve been struggling with MDD (major depression with seasonal pattern) and it’s obviously worse during the holidays. It’s one of those things where I just let it run it’s course while also adhering to a crisis management plan but for the most part, I’m able to get through it just by sticking to a schedule, which I have been. Blogging was something I did only on NYE [on my other domain] as a way to get my thoughts down, but otherwise, I haven’t been able to stick with it right now. I want to be able to post things that are quality and the stuff I have been writing the last month or so haven’t been quality at all. I know I can get back to where I need to be and once I do, I’ll be creating content full time here. It’s difficult to start something up when you have zero back and zero followers except for yourself. One feels as if they are screaming into the void or if they just wasted all of this money on a domain name, web space etc for nothing.

At the same time, I know that what I’m planning on doing with this domain will end up being a good thing, even if I don’t have a ton of people following me. I’m using Twitter as my means of getting other like-minded people involved and interested since it’s the least toxic place online (and I’ve mostly quit using Facebook so I might remove my page widget from the sidebar soon) and I know that eventually, things will take off. My goal here isn’t numbers, followers, or anything like that – if I can help at least one person, that’s all that matters to me.

So in closing, I haven’t disappeared or abandoned this project, I just need to sort myself out and while doing that, start to become better with time management. At the moment I’m sleeping anywhere from 15 to 20 hours a day and that’s making my timing/scheduling a bit off. I need to let my body do it’s what it needs to for now. I’m on the final leg of increasing my ADHD medication to the therapeutic dose I’m supposed to be on (just upped it today, actually) so I know there will be a few days where my sleep is going to be weird; this usually ends up being 3 or 4 days of insomnia, and then I’m fine. Then I can go back to the sleep schedule the specialist suggested for my sleep disorder, and hopefully, I can stop this 15-20 hours asleep thing.

Irony – a few weeks ago I was writing (or typing.. not sure where but I know I said it somewhere) about how there didn’t seem to be the usual tanking of my mood that tends to follow after Nanowrimo. I was.. emotionally fine, for the first 12 or so days of the month. I was also sick with a nasty cold-whatever-the-heck but that was only until the 7th or so. I didn’t start having the low mood until a few days ago and I thought it was just happening because my mood was strange while I was sick.


But nope. I’m still feeling that way and it’s making me incapable of doing a lot of things I wanted to do. So, here’s my post on what I’m doing about getting past it and my game-plan between now and January 1st, because it’s apparent I need one. Nothing wrong in that. I read more about seasonal affective disorder and seasonal depression shortly after Nanowrimo than any other time of the year, even though SAD affects us year ’round, it just hits harder during holidays – especially holidays that are centred around family and things we may not have.

A few weeks ago one of my close friends (also a writer) and I sat down to have one of our last writing sessions at our favourite coffee shop. It wasn’t closing, not for permanent, but instead it was going under renovations for the entire month of November. The month where I run write-ins for my regional chapter of National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo).

We were sitting at our favourite table, which probably won’t be there when the renovations are done and it had me thinking. Him and I met at that coffee shop while we were both writing. We had our specific tables, which were different from the table we current sat at. He said he had seen me a few times and wanted to ask if I was also a writer and it wasn’t until him and his friend had come in to have coffee, not write, that my phone went off and everyone heard my Teen Wolf ringtone. Since the three of us were fans of the TV show, that was what made us start talking and we have been friends since.

Him and I met while writing at a coffee shop. We wouldn’t have met if either of us could focus at home and thus, get our writing done at home, so I asked him why he felt he could only write at the coffee shop and not at home. We had the usual answers to this: distractions at home aren’t there at the coffee shop. I had some valid points as well: cafe wifi is generally terrible so you’re not able to stream Netflix and normally, there aren’t outlets so you can’t just plug in and play video games when you need to conserve battery power for writing.

I even Googled this and found that other writers also had the same question: what is it about coffee shops that gets us writing? In an age where there are apps and websites to stimulate the ambience of coffee shops and yet, using them, we still cannot focus at home.

My best explanation is the story of how (and why) I began writing at coffee shops.

It is day thirteen of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and my word count is currently at 112, 937 words. Nanowrimo’s “goal” is 50k words, and I’ve surpassed that by 62.9k – which isn’t so surprising for me.

Over the last few years, my then-untreated ADHD symptoms became worse and started to wreak havoc on my memory, as well as severely limiting my ability to focus on any task for longer than a few minutes and perhaps worst (and most dangerous of all) – rendering me incapable of living any sort of life that wasn’t filled to the brim with severe brain fog (to the point where, if I didn’t have music playing over my headphones when I went out, I would be so unfocused that I would walk into traffic at cross walks rather than thinking to stop and check if the lights were red or green for me).