A few years ago, my mind was all over the place and my life was desperately seeking organisation. When I was studying in the U.K., I was diagnosed with depression. When and if I told anyone, the would ask me, “How come?? What happened??” My answer was always, “I don’t know”. But over the years, the more I’ve tried to analyse it, the more it’s obvious as day: my anxiety lead me there.
I remember staying awake the whole night, unable to sleep. Listening to the birds chirping in the background and thinking, “I have to try to sleep now.” My mind was anywhere but where I needed it to be. Someone that managed to get the highest marks in class just a few months ago was struggling to even stay focused.
I was angry all the time. Fighting with my best friends. Turning to passive-aggression all the time. Constantly paranoid that someone would break into my ground-floor flat and take everything away. Surviving sometimes on cans of coke because I couldn’t bring my self to spend money on something to eat. Or just eating one thing after another because I couldn’t stop myself. Changing my dissertation idea multiple times because I was worried it wasn’t good enough. Or waiting until the last moment to submit my assignments, just in case I needed to change anything. I was constantly worried about what others thought of me.
Once I came back to Nepal, I thought things would get better. And they did for a while. But my anxiety didn’t leave me. I didn’t leave my house for 3 months. I would get up, leave my bed, go to the living room and lie down on the sofa. Each day was the same as the other. I had a degree, but no job. Worried about how I would even get a job because I wasn’t even trying. Not trying because, “Do I really want to be a journalist?”
But then, I got a job. I enjoyed it. The people were great. But I had built my comfort zone— which I’m a pro at, by the way! Whenever I was asked to even try to slide my computer out of it, those same symptoms came up: anger, discomfort, passive-aggression and stress. I was convinced that no one in my department understood me.
I would feel my heart sinking whenever the stories for the week were handed out. “What if I would have to talk to someone? What if they don’t understand what I’m saying?” Whenever I had to call anyone, I would hope and pray that they didn’t answer. Every. Single. Day. I would stick to “fluff” pieces because I was worried that my “serious” pieces wouldn’t be good enough. That someone would think I’m stupid for not knowing something or for not being “serious” enough.
Any new information would struggle to fit into my over-exhausted brain. My Editor in Chief would always try to help us writers by talking about language, grammar, syntax… and nothing resonated. I felt numb. I felt stupid. The girl who loved writing from a young age was struggling to type a single sentence and was stating to hate what she loved. The stress that I put myself in every day was showing on my face too in the form of cystic acne! When I left the job, I joked, “I am SO done with writing. Never again!!”
But writing wasn’t the problem. The problem was my anxiety, and it was eating me alive. The problem was my negativity, and it was eating me alive. My loved ones could not figure out what was bothering me, but they knew there was something.
It wasn’t really until I started bullet journaling that things felt better. It made me feel more in control, more organised and more “with it”. I didn’t go in thinking it would do anything for my anxiety. I had almost accepted anxiety as my life, my way of being. And my track report showed that I would pick up a new planner and never look at it again two weeks later. I wanted this to be different. To keep myself accountable, I started an Instagram page where I would post my bullet journal layouts.
The process of writing things down helped me. The process of planning my time helped me. The process of thinking about what I want to do helped me. The idea of keeping a track of everything helped me. Bullet journaling, lead me back to journaling. The act of writing down your thoughts, feelings and emotions. I used to journal on and off growing up but one incident made me stop.
I remember there was a time when I was so furious at a family member, I could feel my head throbbing. I picked a notebook up and wrote everything down. I could feel the throbbing subside but the anger was still there. When I looked back at it a few days later, I was embarrassed by my own words. I decided to tear it up and never journal again because it looked like I was only capable of writing negative things.
But bullet journaling forced me to evaluate my situation. It forced me to think about how I want things to be better. It made me realise that I am more than my anxiety. It made me realise that I am not the person I used to be. It wasn’t an overnight thing— it never will be.
Over the year I’ve also realised is that mental health illnesses don’t ask for permission before entering your life. They don’t wait for something to happen to enter your life. They just happen. It’s important we try to heal ourselves. It’s important that we take care of ourselves.
My current job requires me to work with students looking at higher education abroad and I guide them through the application process. I realised that some of the students I was working with have gone through so much in life, and are still smiling. Still hopeful. Still determined. Still not giving up. I would see them being so strong on the outside, but struggling to carry the burden on their shoulders. Kind of like me from a few years ago.
That’s when I decided that I have to talk about mental health and wellness. I started having discussions with them about it. I started encouraging them to talk more about it. This lead me to become more active on my bullet journal account about mental health and wellness. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if there could be a platform where people could talk about mental health and wellness? Wouldn’t it be great if people could talk about their perspective and help others? Wouldn’t it be great if we could help those that don’t suffer, understand those that do? That’s when Project Mynd was born.
In a few short months, we’ve discussed topics from anxiety to schizophrenia, from COVID-19 to suicide. From people sharing their personal battles, to people reading about someone else’s and knowing they’re not alone. People from Nepal, to people from the US or Australia.
My goal with Project Mynd is to have open communication about mental health and wellness. To spread the message far and wide that you’re NOT alone. That you are more than your mental illness. For it be accessible to people. For us to educate each other and help us try to understand each other. For us to be able to grow.
Thank you for being a part of this journey. We have just begun!
If you would like to get started on bullet journaling or journaling, you can follow along here. If you would like to try out journaling, I just finished hosting a 14-day ‘Journal with Me’ challenge there which is perfect for beginners.
— Astha, Project Mynd