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.

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).