Scrapbooking Stories About Your Mental Health Struggles

Finding Freedom - butterfly closeup.
Finding Freedom – butterfly closeup.

Last week Ali Edwards and I had a candid conversation about our personal struggles with mental health on the Paperclipping Roundtable. We both suffer from anxiety and mild depression and a few other issues. I also have ADD.

I mentioned some of my pages that deal both directly and indirectly with my own struggles: once in a while I specifically mention my illness or disorder and talk about them directly on a layout. A lot of the times I just scrapbook the stories that inevitably lead from these struggles, but don’t explain how they are a result of my disorder/illnesses.

I decided to share many of those pages with you this week. If our episode made you want try scrapbooking about your own struggles, but left you wondering how to actually say what you want to say about your own condition, these examples might get your thoughts moving.

Scrapbooking How You Cope…
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This layout might be the first time I ever scrapbooked anything related to my anxiety and it’s about how I pre-empted a likely upcoming bout of anxiety by prioritizing scrapbooking, since it’s a relaxing hobby. This was just after my daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy.

An important note: In case you read the journaling in the above layout, I should clarify that I did not remain anxiety-free indefinitely. It eventually came back and I have had several episodes since then. I also have medication now that I use as needed. I clarify this because I do not to appear an advocate for not getting proper medical help and medication when needed.

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Sharing the Secondary Complications of Your Illness…

Finding Freedom - One-and-a-half page spread.
Finding Freedom – One-and-a-half page spread.

I have dealt with chronic pain since I was in junior high, in large part because my anxiety and obsessive perfectionism has always caused me to hold enormous amounts of tension in the muscles of my upper body and my jaw. My current physical therapist told me to imagine flexing your bicep constantly, breaking only to sleep, for 30-40 years. That’s what I’ve always done to my jaw, neck, shoulders, and upper back.

This layout is about my initial steps to get some help with my problem. It’s been a work in process for several years now. I’m trying to learn how to break these patterns.

Wish me luck on my most current attempt — my new doctor has led me to a physical therapist who specializes in my problematic area and is treating me with a promising type of breathing therapy I’ve never had before (I’m literally learning how to breath correctly).

Finding Freedom - closeup of journaling.
Finding Freedom – closeup of journaling.

Pointing Out Your Quirks…
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Depending on what you struggle with, sometimes it’s better NOT to focus on it, especially if you have obsessive tendencies. If you this could be the case for you, then this type of layout is probably not one to try. These quirks of mine are pretty harmless and it’s not triggering for me to list them. It’s a fun page for me to read so it works in my case.

Celebrating the Successes…

Journaling: After a lifetime of valuing punctuality and wanting to be on time, yet rarely being able to make it happen, you finally instigated a real change in me, Trinity! You get so stressed out if we don’t show up extra early to all of your dance classes, and knowing that it all depends on me -- I couldn’t put you through that stress by making you late!  Plus, nothing motivates me more than dance, so that pushed me to get there early so that we could warm up and get going. It forced me to revolutionize the way I deal with time and preparations for leaving. I actually show up early to most things now, not just dance! It took 38 years to learn to be on time, and I know it was only because of you. So good job, Trinity! You make things happen! I never thought I’d be able to transform myself into an early bird!
After a lifetime of valuing punctuality and wanting to be on time, yet rarely being able to make it happen, you finally instigated a real change in me, Trinity! You get so stressed out if we don’t show up extra early to all of your dance classes, and knowing that it all depends on me — I couldn’t put you through that stress by making you late!
Plus, nothing motivates me more than dance, so that pushed me to get there early so that we could warm up and get going. It forced me to revolutionize the way I deal with time and preparations for leaving. I actually show up early to most things now, not just dance! It took 38 years to learn to be on time, and I know it was only because of you.
So good job, Trinity! You make things happen! I never thought I’d be able to transform myself into an early bird!

It Was Time closeup

I have obsessive tendencies toward over-achieving, but I also have ADD. People with ADD or ADHD are not equipped to know how to be on time. Even though it’s always important to me to be prompt and it’s something I had to actively worked on for decades. If you have a friend or family member with ADD/ADHD, never mistake their lateness for irresponsibility or a lack of concern.

Unless we’re utterly bored, those of us with ADD are unable to feel the movement of time. We have wildly inaccurate judgement of how much time is going by. We also misplace things constantly, so ince we realize it’s high time we get out the door, we spend another 10 minutes looking for our keys, our phones, our purses, our shoes, etc. We also forget things — we even forget that lateness is our consistent experience, even though we have it every single time. And we forget essential items we need to take with us (like the 5 tickets to Disneyland I pre-purchased, which I suddenly remembered once we pulled up into the hotel parking lot 7 hours away from home where the tickets remained). And if our mind picks up a thought (maybe we see something that reminds us of something else) we truly, honestly forget that we were in the middle of doing something else, like preparing to go somewhere.

But I live with four family members who are supernaturals when it comes to time. Their instincts get them out the door in time to arrive 30 minutes early to everything. I’ve learned from them. It still is not natural — I have to actively remember that I need to proceed differently, and I still fail sometimes. But I succeed at it a lot now, too — almost always when it’s important. It’s a big deal to learn to do things your brain is wired against. It deserves recognition!

Finding the Humor in Some of Your Struggles…

Journaling: I had a moment one morning I’m not totally conscious of. My awareness was just beginning as Blake said to me,  “Mom, you’re funny when you’re spaced out.” I looked around the room and realized each family member was staring at me with interested looks on their faces. Izzy said, “Let me tell you what you just did.” That’s when he recreated for me the moment I missed while I sat at the breakfast table thinking about stuff. “You were staring off into space,” Izzy said. “And I asked if you wanted more toast. You didn’t answer but just kept staring off. So I asked again.” At that point Izzy imitated me and my spaced out face with my eyes all bugged out and huge, while the rest of my features were totally blank and relaxed. He showed me what I looked like as I forced my face to move slow motion in his direction and I stated back to him in a slow zombie-like monotone statement, “Do I want more toast.” That’s when Blake first commented on my hilarity as I began to retrieve reality-world consciousness again.  Hey, at least I correctly switched the “you” to an “I” when I made my hypnotized restatement of Israel’s question. All I can say is I inherited my tendency to get totally lost in my head from my mom. It’s genetic and I can’t help it. I could be a drunk, or an abusive parent. No, I’m just slightly negligent for short periods of time. It sure provides regular entertainment to my children and husband, though.  They now call these periods, “Toast Moments.”  Supplies:  Bazzill cardstock * Glimmer Mist by Tattered Angels in Tiger Lilly, Cherry Blossom, S.W.A.K. * stencil from Teresa Collin’s Chipboard clocks * alpha masks by Heidi Swapp for Advantis * Studio Calico chipboard butterflies * pearlized brads by My Minds’s Eye * glittered letter stickers by Making Memories
Journaling:
I had a moment one morning I’m not totally conscious of. My awareness was just beginning as Blake said to me, “Mom, you’re funny when you’re spaced out.”
I looked around the room and realized each family member was staring at me with interested looks on their faces. Izzy said, “Let me tell you what you just did.”
That’s when he recreated for me the moment I missed while I sat at the breakfast table thinking about stuff. “You were staring off into space,” Izzy said. “And I asked if you wanted more toast. You didn’t answer but just kept staring off. So I asked again.”
At that point Izzy imitated me and my spaced out face with my eyes all bugged out and huge, while the rest of my features were totally blank and relaxed. He showed me what I looked like as I forced my face to move slow motion in his direction and I stated back to him in a slow zombie-like monotone statement, “Do I want more toast.”
That’s when Blake first commented on my hilarity as I began to retrieve reality-world consciousness again.
Hey, at least I correctly switched the “you” to an “I” when I made my hypnotized restatement of Israel’s question. All I can say is I inherited my tendency to get totally lost in my head from my mom. It’s genetic and I can’t help it. I could be a drunk, or an abusive parent. No, I’m just slightly negligent for short periods of time. It sure provides regular entertainment to my children and husband, though. They now call these periods, “Toast Moments.”

Toast Moment (closeup)

Toast Moment (closeup)

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the Roundtable episode on this subject, click here.

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  • Sandi Elizabeth James

    Scrapbooking has been an integral part of my healing journey as well, from struggles with mental health issues, an assault, and grief. Thanks for sharing these pages, Noell. Shine on!!

  • Thank you for sharing these. My struggles with depression are fairly well-documented in my scrapbooks, but usually from an after-the-fact point of view. But now I’m going through rough times again and just finished some very current journaling about my feelings, and I found it so very helpful. So thank you for the inspiration.

  • Stephanie Hackney

    Hello Noell,

    I had a chance to listen to this episode of PRT while driving from IA to TX yesterday and it was both informative and humorous. Informative because both you and Ali shared so openly, and humurous because you shared the funny side of what you deal with.

    I applaud you both for being so open – it’s quite likely at least a few people will gain strength from learning they’re not alone in dealing with their challenges.

    And I couldn’t agree more with you two about documenting the aspects of life that are not all sunshine and roses. I would much rather be ‘real’ about life and share the not so good when it takes place. Think about future generations and how much they could gain from knowing their ‘history.’

    I’m fortunate that I don’t suffer from depression (like some of my relatives), but I do have OCD tendencies and most definitely quirks! I’m planning to do a little documenting of both – hopefully my current and future family members will enjoy learning more about me and will find comfort if they, too, experience the same.

    Have a great week,
    Steph

  • Kelly Jean

    Ahhh thank you for sharing these Noelle! (Sorry if I spelled your name wrong). I meant to comment on the episode, and will, but wanted to comment here first. I love your honest journaling about what you struggle with. I have not directly scrapbooked about my anxiety or depression, but it is hidden in all of my journaling. And I may try a page directly about the subject now! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Tracy Redford-Smith

    You are such an inspiration to me Noelle. That is all.

  • Inkfanatic (Robin)

    Love these layouts Noell! Thank You for sharing. As always you share a wealth of inspiration & encouragement! I’m inspired to scrap about some of my issues, mostly in the hopes of making peace with some of them. And if that helps me learn to deal…well, that’s just icing on the cake! Thanks again!

  • Gabrielle McCann

    You are brave and amazing and I thank you for sharing. I suffer from depression and once did a LO documenting this and that I was actually thankful for it because at least having a diagnosis and in my case, medication, meant that I can deal with it.

  • Cyndi

    Thank you Noell for sharing your layouts. I love how you incorporate humour to describe your issues. As well, your layouts are soft. There is a feeling of acceptance. You shine inside and out as you face your struggles and learn new ways to live and adapt within yourself and your environment. Thanks for the awesome inspiration!

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  • mom2h

    Ohhhhhh…..as an “artsy” sort of person (that’s always been my excuse/explanation for a lot of my behavior and personality), I totally get this. My son has ADHD, and I don’t doubt that if it is genetic, he got it from me. When I am in creative mode, whether that be painting, scrapbooking, or whatever, I am in “toast mode”. I’m also an only child, so I require lots of down time or I get anxious and ugly. I have developed coping skills through the years, but still have regular “brain-farts”, ditzy moments and it is what it is. I do my best. I can rest on that. Thanks for sharing. I’ll now consider whether to approach this on paper or not.

  • Esther Mendez

    I just discovered the power and I am starting to document my journey. Please visit my site: http://www.scrappinhard.wordpress.com my major depressive disorder has not been easy however I feel alive and I believe it is because of Scrapbooking.