Morning Pages For When You’re Depressed AF
For the past few years, during the ‘cocoon’ time of being in Ohio (as I have dubbed it), I’ve done my best to try every creative habit under the sun. The most elusive of these has been the gold standard of daily creativity: Julia Cameron’s morning pages.
I’ve read the excerpt from the book of why these are so important.
I’ve poured over every article I could find on Pinterest about how these turned the writer’s life around.
And I’ve set myself to them, in a variety of notebooks, custom browser windows, and writing programs.
And I still hate them.
For a while there I had a multiple month streak going and still - nada.
Then about a year ago I was hit with a particularly insidious depression low.
Let’s call it high-functioning depression because I can make it look like I am fine and dandy - which I was doing at a bare minimum - but once I was up and out of bed, I had no idea what to do.
Getting dressed was laborious.
Trying to decide on a breakfast? Excruciating.
I may have been able to brush my hair, but tend to anything beyond a bare minimum, and I was toast.
It’s almost as if my brain had this bar to which my actions were being held - REAL depressed people can’t get out of bed, so by virtue of getting out of bed, I couldn’t be depressed!
[Brains are a real hoot sometimes.]
In any case, not only was I weighed down by the deep depression, I wanted so badly to be able to eat in the morning, to get dressed with some joy, maybe to even do some yoga?
At the same time I was coming to terms with the fact that I did, in fact, have some sleep issues.
Turns out, waking up in a cold sweat multiple times a night and having paralyzing nightmares ISN’T the norm. Plus my oh-so-helpful attitude of ‘if I haven’t died from it, it can’t be a real problem’ wasn’t serving me anymore.
Enter: Get To Work Book project pages.
(not a sponsored or affiliate post, but GTWB I am DOWN to chat about this)
I had ordered some washi tape and paper products from Get To Work Book, and the project pages caught my eye. By the end of the day I was typically feeling good ENOUGH that I could see the gaps in my day from what I had wanted to do and what hadn’t gotten done, and it occurred to me I could create a guide of sorts for myself. I’d assess my sleep and give myself basic choices like one might with an autonomous toddler: this or that. THIS could be my version of morning pages. It would keep me structured, with flexibility, and help me get through this very low LOW.
To be honest, that first week of creating my version of Morning Pages, I was so proud of myself, I brought them to my therapist (she even gave me the ‘wow, good job!’ I was so desperately seeking). And most importantly with this version, I allowed myself the space to make the pages optional. If I wasn’t feeling it the night before, I wouldn’t do them. And I was totally ok with that.
In the spirit of community, let’s break these down, shall we?
I always write “Good Morning!” in the project name space.
Do I read it every morning? No.
Do I love knowing it’s there in case I need a little love from Past Megan? Oh yes.
In the grid section I set 3 affirmations for myself, depending on what feels particularly stopped up in my heart.
[My background is in theatre, I have a strong at-home yoga practice, and I go to talk-therapy centered on sensory-motor reactions as well as weekly PT. I am ALLLLLLLL about getting in touch with my body and feeling things out physically.]
Sometimes the mantra is as simple as “I am wildly capable” and sometimes it’s as specific as “I am open to a flow of financial success.”
Truly - I go by what I’m feeling that night before, and what I instinctively know I’ll need in the morning.
Final bit of the header is some washi tape.
Just for funsies.
Every flow since the beginning has started with the same question: “how did you sleep?”
This is two-fold: for one, I want to honestly assess my sleep. Two, I’ve kept every one of these morning pages since the beginning, and I use them when visiting my psychiatrist to better assess my meds effectiveness and the ebbs and flows of my depression.
The rest of the flow has some variance and flexibility. There’s usually some combination of the following:
Get dressed (with notes on getting fancy for myself, or snuggling into my favorite comfy pants, etc)
Eat breakfast (often with a suggestion of what to eat)
Some calming or centering activity (reading, writing, yoga, etc)
Hair/makeup: this is generally phrased as a question, making the choice up to me that morning
I always sign-off with some encouragement for the day
The right-side column of smaller to-dos is for whatever I know I need to get done, and I do my best to keep these as simplified as possible so I have the satisfaction of crossing off ALL of them. Sometimes it’s biz work for MHGW, sometimes it’s writing a card to a dear friend, sometimes it’s calling insurance to make sure something is covered, and sometimes it’s to read for 30-minutes. Whatever the case, this is a mix of things to do for the day, so that even if I’m at a lowest of lows, I have a clear list of objectives for the day.
I love that these pages are individual and not in a bound notebook of sorts. I may one day bind my completed pages, but I love the singularity of the pad of paper. There are no previously completed morning pages to unconsciously compare that days pages to. Everything stands on its own.
Ultimately, this is the most consistent morning practice I’ve ever had.
Where others trill about the magic of Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, I’ll enthusiastically gush about my own method that gets me going and keeps me focused for the day. Most importantly to me, this practice supports me through my mental health ups and downs, and helps me feel like I have some sense of control when everything else feels like it’s spinning out and away.
Curious about this method?
Wanting to start your own and need a little nudge?
Please - never hesitate to hit me up.
I’d love to help you develop your own version of morning pages, a practice to be exactly what you need in the morning.
Psssssst: if podcasts are your jam, check out my interview with Lauren Hooper of How She Creates here!