How I Use A Field Notes Pocket Notebook To Help Me Manage My Mood Disorder

I have always been the kind of girl who likes to write down my thoughts. 

I started keeping a journal when I was 12 years old and was given the gift of a basic one-year diary for Christmas. It was the kind of diary that has about four lines per day, which suited me fine as a kid whose journal entries were no longer than a sentence. 

In my later teens, I rediscovered journaling after watching The Basketball Diaries with Leonardo DiCaprio. My journal entries extended to pages and pages, and I filled my journals up with all of the colourful emotions of my adolescence. Actually, "colourful" may not be the best descriptive word for them, dark and looming emotions are a much better fit. 

It's so interesting to look back through my old journals now and be able to see my cyclothymic mood swings in retrospect. I was only diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder last year, and I'm in my thirties, so before that, I just thought that I must be "doing life wrong". I always had the niggling feeling that my emotions and experiences were a lot more intense than they should be. And now it all makes much more sense!

I still keep a journal, but I have also started to carry a small everyday pocket notebook. The brand I am using is Field Notes. They are a bit pricey for such a small notebook, but the size is precisely why I like them so much. 

In this blog post, I am going to talk about how I am using my Field Notes notebook to help me manage some of the symptoms of my mood swings. So keep reading if you're curious to find out more...

Beautiful Journals Vs. Scrappy Pocket Notebooks

Not everyone is a natural-born writer (like I am, ahem!) Maybe you are one of those people who freezes at the sight of a blank page, having not written more than a grocery list since you left school. Or maybe you just don't have the time to sit down and ruminate on your personal thoughts as there are much more important things to do like watch Netflix or use your best friends as therapists. 

I get that. Sometimes I find myself sitting down with my journal and I have to force myself to quickly write up what happened in my day so that I can get back to doing those much more important things. Sometimes journaling can feel more like a chore.

I do believe that when used correctly, journals can be great tools of reflection that can really help to manage mood swings if you have the patience and interest to use your journal consistently. I highly recommend them, but for those of you who don't want to keep a journal, you should try to keep a pocket notebook instead.

What's the difference? I hear you ask. 

Well, there is quite a difference in the way I use my beautiful leather journal and my scrappy pocket Field Notes notebook. If like me, you are someone who suffers from cyclothymia, or if your own personal affliction is one of the other bipolar disorders, depression, anxiety, or if you are simply a super busy or creative kind of person, you will know that having a head jam-packed full of racing thoughts, ideas, inner monologue, and snippets of random information, conversations or song lyrics kind of comes with the territory. I use my pocket notebook as a means to get all of this chaos and noise out of my head. 

Because it is small and light enough to be kept in a pocket or handbag, as long as I have my trusty pencil with me, I can just whip it out and jot down a few notes. Transferring information from my spinning head into my notebook really does seem to help me. 

I just feel better going about my day not having to feel anxious that I can't keep up with all of my thoughts because they are all safely stored in between the pages, waiting for me to flip back through if ever I feel I want or need to recall them.

A simple pocket notebook doesn't seem to have that sense of expectation that an attractive journal has, which makes them far less intimidating to use. It doesn't matter if you forget to use it for a few days or even weeks either, it's just there in your pocket ready for when you need it.

Why Do I Choose A Small & Thin Pocket Notebook?

The Field Notes brand of pocket notebooks is my favourite because I can get through one of them pretty quickly. This means that I am more likely to go back through my notes before I move onto a fresh new notebook, as I like to flip through the old one to make sure that there isn't anything in there that I want to follow up on. 

Much of the content is useless, shopping lists, wish lists, random quotes from conversations that struck me as interesting... but going back through the pages helps to relieve any anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed like I can't keep up with myself.

it also gives me the opportunity to sit down when I have more time and organise or write up my notes in the relevant places - for example, dates or events can go on the calendar, work notes can be put in the relevant section of my planner, and anything else can be discarded or ignored.

There are other brands you can use like Moleskine, and even cheaper generic notebooks, which are probably a better option if you need your notebook to be disposable (it can be extremely satisfying to chuck a notebook away once you have sorted through its contents!) 

I want to keep my notebooks after they have been filled though, because I am a writer, and I never know when writer's block is going to rear its ugly head. It's fun to look back at some of the random notes, and they can spark new ideas or remind me of the things that I have forgotten about myself or the people I come across in my life. 

Field Notes have a rather lovely wooden archive box the perfect size to store old Field Notes notebooks, and the notebooks themself come with different collectible cover designs, which is kind of fun too. 

I treated myself to a fancy Palomino Blackwing pencil and brass pencil cap while I was at it, just to entice me to whip out my notebook whenever inspiration strikes - be it at the bus stop, in the supermarket, or when I am walking the dog. Again, this probably isn't necessary, but I like to do things in style.

I have to say that my Field Notes shopping spree did happen during a somewhat hypomanic mood swing. But even though I spent far more in total than anyone should really spend on notebooks and pencils, I don't regret it. I know my purchases are not only going to bring me a lot of pleasure, but they are also going to help clear my mind, and you can't put a price tag on that when you have a mood disorder! 

(I think I spent over a hundred pounds in total. I bought several different editions of the notebook, the wooden box, my fancy pencils, and the brass cap - all at once - yikes! You know what it's like though, once you get something in your head in that state of mind. It is my birthday next week, so I'm justifying it by saying it was my birthday gift to myself. I won't tell you what other "birthday gifts" I bought for myself during that up-mood though!)

Let me know in the comments if you like to journal or use a notebook to help manage your moods. Share details of your hypomanic spending sprees too, if only to make me feel better about mine...

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Thanks for reading x

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Could Vlogging On YouTube Be Therapeutic For My Mental Illness?

Call me crazy... no, don't do that, because it would be insulting... but lately I have been getting the overwhelming urge to start a YouTube channel.

There are a few things fuelling this stupid desire:

  • The fact that I am turning 37 next week (which is just three years away from the big 4...0... yet somehow I have found myself back in exactly the same position I was in ten years ago - single, penniless, and living a lonely life in the city. The only difference is that I have replaced my human friendships and social life with decidedly one-sided relationships involving a cat and a dog.
  • The fact that I discovered last week that my ex, the one that I thought was "the one" is now engaged to be married to an upgraded and apparently perfect version of me. I need to achieve something amazing now in order to feel - much - better - about - myself.
  • The fact that I just really want to be rich and famous. All I need is money and fans. My million subscribers will give me the self-validation I need in order to love and accept myself, and my money will buy me happiness, not to mention reduce the financial stress that is currently triggering all of my mood swings.

It is, however, a stupid desire. Why? Because I am too old to be a vlogger, and my grey streaked hair gives me away. My mood swings are likely to make filming consistently blockbuster-level videos and uploading them every week - impossible. I'm also an introvert and I hate the way I look and sound on camera.

On the other hand, I read something about how "Vlogging can help people with severe mental illness overcome social isolation and aid recovery by building an online community".

I don't know about the "online community" bit, but this could be a way of making a million friends and being able to keep them all at a safe distance (on the other side of a laptop screen).

The sensible side of me can't help but think that exposing myself, basically to the world, could potentially unleash my nemesis (stress) into my life and cause utter chaos. The more romantic side of me wants to think of this as a therapeutic opportunity to express my writerly self in an even more creative form and free my untapped potential to become a beloved star, inspiring people all over the world to be amazing, just like me.

Today has been a funny kind of up/down day though. Fuelled by energy and optimism, I have embarked upon my YouTube journey, smartphone in hand, only to be rained upon by a stormcloud of doubt and self-loathing halfway through editing the footage. My cycle of courage, belief, positivity, self-love, grandiosity... and then doubt, fear, irritability, hatred, misery, and finally exhaustion... has completely taken over my afternoon and evening.

I have also been reading horror stories about the more negative impacts that Youtube has been having on the mental health of so many vloggers, with the experience of feverishly creating content in order to stay in front of people's eyeballs and not lose subscribers or income leading to inevitable burnout.

It is now way past my bedtime, which is never a good thing for someone with a mood disorder. Staying up late is a sure sign that my elevated mood is running away with itself. I think I will have to wrap it all up for today and see what tomorrow brings. I will come back to this post in the morning and review the situation.


Good morning everybody! I didn't go straight to bed last night - naughty naughty. I had too many ideas racing around in my head, and so I had to read my kindle for a while so that I could drift off thinking about Harry Potter and his magical friends instead of visualising my life as a Youtube celebrity, which would have kept me up all night in alternating states of awe-inspiring ambition and self-defeating dread. Despite staying up pretty late I am up bright and early this morning with a head brimming full of ideas... again.

I rose from my pillow with the perfect solution to all of my problems - What if I don't have to actually appear in the videos? What if I can animate them instead? True, I have no idea how to begin animating my scrawly curly-haired avatar, but not knowing how to do something has never stopped me from doing it in the past. So animation is essentially what I will be looking into today.

It's not going to be the same thing as vlogging though. The whole point of vlogging was to address my self-isolation issues and put me "out there". Animating my videos kind of defeats the point, I know this. However, I reckon the project will still provide some form of self-therapy, and while it may not bring me fame, it might make me rich, eventually. The content would after all be "evergreen" and hopefully lead to a passive Youtube income. Plus it would be awesome and highly validating to actually succeed at creating something that other people enjoy and may even find useful.

Wish me luck!

(Of course, this may just be another one of my unrealistic creative whims, fuelled by ever-so-slightly hypomanic energy... there's always that.)

Leave your thoughts in the comments below... DO YOU think I should start a YouTube channel? And don't forget to subscribe to the blog in the sidebar for updates on new posts.

If you don't really understand what cyclothymia is, it is a mood disorder on the bipolar spectrum, and you can read more about it HERE

I also have a descriptive post of what My Experience Of Cyclothymia Hypomania is like if you would like to find out more about what it is like to have an elevated mood.

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