The previous blog about Re-design your life, I started with the fact that post-its where the start of my recovery. So let me explain how.
From sessions with my psychologist I quickly understood what I had to work on. There where three main issues; Finding my authenticity back, accepting my insecurities & learn to deal with them and finally that it is okay to be secondary responder. Ok so that is clear, but where to start?
As a designer I was and still am skilled in pattern recognition. I decided to plot my full life from that moment to where I could remember. I was 37 at that time. I created timelines from different perspectives such as Family, Education, Friends, Sports, Love life, and Work etc. On each timeline I plotted every event or situation I could remember from those different perspectives. Being extremely low on energy I did this over multiple days. At the end I covered my wall with approx. 400 post its. This was a very confronting thing to do. But only plotting post-its doesn’t do anything. As a designer you want to see patterns. So I looked for two things. First distinguish the good, bad and mediocre events from what I could remember how they felt. And after that I basically searched for who I was in that bunch of post-its as I lost all sense of empathy for myself and I was very insecure about everything.
Rearranging the post-its into green, red and blue clusters, gave me a first insight. A green dot for every good experience, a red dot for the bad ones and a blue one on the mediocre events. My first main insight was that there were way more green events as there were blue and red ones. Which told me I actually have had a really good life. That gave me confidence and was something to hold on to.
The second thing I looked for was the type of person I was. Which was at that time very tough to do. But basically the person I found in that huge amount of post-its was a caring and sharing person, who liked to be active, and outdoors, a designer, a learner, a builder and a thinker. I deliberately write this in passed tense and use the word “person” as I was detached from myself at that time. I couldn’t feel that person. To me at that time it was just events written down on post-its.
I needed to trust that what I had written down was I. It gave me something to work with. I knew now what I was working towards. But how should I approach this? If that was me I wanted to find out by experimenting with myself who I was again. So I create a whole series of experiments over the period of a year and called it the Road To Recovery. An experiment could be something simple as going to a concert or going on a small mountainbike trip with a friend. At the beginning it were also things such as going to work for two hours. I also wanted to find out what kind of designer I was. So I also wrote down different design things I could experiment with. Basically I prototyped life events that I knew from the past I liked, but in todays setting. To me a prototype is an action where you can reflect on and learn from. As all these post-its were assumptions I needed to test them by prototyping. In the beginning I wrote down the reflections but as time passed my reflection were more natural as I slowly gained more empathy for myself.
When I told to my psychologist that I plotted my complete life on post-its and created this Road to Recovery, he was worried in the beginning. In his opinion I was over analyzing things. And I probably did, but I told him that as a designer I knew what I was doing design wise and I asked him to trust me and help me from his professional point of view along the way, which he did. What I learned in that sense from him was using the Road to Recovery as a guideline not as fixed plan. This helped me a lot.
“The road to recovery – I don’t know if this is the right path, but at least it is a journey.”
Previous Re-design your life blog
Author: Jeroen Spoelstra
Featured image: Dennis Cup