In the fall of 2017, first semester finals loomed ahead and I was incredibly stressed. The bags under my eyes slowly worsened along with my mental health, and I was constantly on the verge of dozing off. My weekly counselor check-ins were always a short-lived escape and didn’t quite seem to solve my problems. Worst of all, I was distancing myself from the people and activities that made me happy for what seemed to be no good reason.
I thought I would eventually get better if I just let it be, but the state of my mental health refused to change. I spent every day alone, avoiding people I knew and missing out on their bubbly personalities. Being around others made me feel worse, like their pity was a smothering blanket on a hot day.
I was stuck between a rock and a hard place: I had no idea what would make me feel better, but I wasn’t exactly trying either.
“Your journal brings out the best and worst but an honest you.”
— Aiden Chang, senior
My first ever journal entry was named “jasper told me to write.” I wrote it on a Google document that I shared with a friend who had suggested I try writing as a coping mechanism. Little did I know, this step would be the beginning of my recovery.
At first, my journaling consisted exclusively of poetry, and I soon fell in love with the feeling of writing and was always looking for new ways to understand how my brain was working.
As my journals ventured into deeper waters, I discovered the idea of bullet journaling.
The bullet journal method – or ‘bujo’, as many call it – was created by Ryder Carroll. It is designed to be a personalized mesh of planning, organizing, and self-reflection. Every entry can consist of anything from simple shopping lists to daring life goals. Bullet journalers often like to add stickers, photos or other visual aids to their notebooks. Without the advantage of a physical notebook, I realized that my Google Docs could incorporate different elements that notebooks would never be able to have. Embedded links were easily identified with an underline; song lyrics, conversations or books were characterized by their italics. Most important to me, however, was the ability to share everything.
The ability to show my friends what my thoughts were at any given point in time became incredibly powerful.
“[Your journal] makes it easier to tell people what you’re thinking in a way that’s more vulnerable but also more thought-out than in a conversation…”
– Madeline Rose, junior
When I started, my journal was like a constant therapy session. I used my journal to explore my ideas at a deeper level, almost like I was thinking out loud.
Before journaling I was a very closed off person who found it difficult to tell others what I was feeling. Conversations about how I was doing always began and ended with “I’m okay,” and as a result, nobody ever knew for sure what was going through my head. However, my very first document shared with Jasper proffered him a window into how I was feeling. Instead of having uncomfortable conversations about my mental health, Jasper could read my journal to see if I needed any support.
Once I had shared it with all of my friends, I found it easier to open up about my emotions with them because I didn’t have to have those awkward conversations at all. But it wasn’t all so perfect.
“On one hand, it [your journal] makes it easier to tell people what you’re thinking in a way that’s more vulnerable but also more thought-out than in a conversation,” my friend Madeline Rose told me. “But there’s the big risk of using it as a crutch to avoid actually having those, in my opinion essential, real life conversations.”
As Rose noted, I found myself shying away from any conversation, barely talking to others about what was going on in my life because I assumed they already knew, that they’d already read my journal.
After a series of arguments with my friends, another issue surfaced. When I journaled about how I was feeling about our arguments, I wasn’t being straight-up with my friends, which was what they wanted from me. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to them face-to-face, instead relying on this alternative mechanism to tell them what was going on.
I couldn’t bring myself to talk to them face-to-face, instead relying on this alternative mechanism to tell them what was going on.
“I think your journal brings out the best and worse but an honest you,” my friend Aiden Chang told me.
Overall, journaling has changed my life. And although it might not be for everyone, the experiences I’ve had, for better or for worse, are ones that I felt were worth sharing. And who knows, if you see yourself in a similar situation to my own, maybe sit down and journal sometime.