The Method to the Madness Life Designer is a set of practical, evidence-based digital downloads that help you live a full, creative life despite a mental health diagnosis.

Many people who struggle with mental illness find themselves settling for survival as the most that can be hoped for out of life. The Designer is informed by behavioral psychology and helps move us from survival to a life where human flourishing, creativity, and healing are possible.

The tools and process encourage you to become more fully yourself while faced with the significant challenges produced by mood disorders like PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Each download is designed to help you get more value out of your healthcare dollar by creating a clearer picture of how you are really doing when your brain is acting as a hopelessly unreliable narrator.

I lived with the wrong diagnosis for 13 years and spent over $100,000 treating the wrong mental health conditions. This was a painful education in the high cost of bad data, unreliable anecdotal evidence, and working with providers who are buried by unmanageable case loads. I know the providers I’ve worked with all wanted to help and they did the best they could, but a bad system will beat good people every time, and they’re stuck with one of the worst systems of all.

I settled for ‘stability’ for years, primarily because like a lot of people I assumed the psychiatrists and therapists treating me were infallible and sincerely invested in seeing me do more than survive with my mood disorders. This wasn’t the case, and until I began creating a more accurate picture of my mental health I wasted a lot of money and effort treating misdiagnosed illnesses.

It was only after I developed the early versions of these tools and was using them on a regular basis that I began to suspect something was seriously wrong with my treatment and took long-overdue steps to correct it; first and foremost of which was finding a new provider who figured out I’d been treated for the wrong mental health conditions.

Digital downloads that support the process include:

  • MTM Daily Pages: 8.5 x 11 PDF
  • MTM Weekly Review Worksheet: 8.5 x 11 PDF
  • Method to the Madness Workbook: Excel Workbook
  • MTM Decatastrophizing My Thoughts Worksheet: 8.5 x 11 PDF
  • MTM Thought Analysis Worksheet: 8.5 x 11 PDF

The needs

People who live with mental illness—particularly those who don’t have access to significant financial resources or are uninsured or underinsured—must face a hard reality:

No one is coming to help.

Mental healthcare services around the world have been in decline for decades, and even people with adequate insurance or access to financial resources face a chronic shortage of qualified psychiatrists and therapists.

44 million Americans are estimated to have a diagnosable mental health illness, but only one out of five adults can receive the treatment they need, a number that has not declined since 2011. 10% of youth experience severe depression that often co-occurs with substance abuse and anxiety, but 61.5% of youth who have depression do not receive any mental health treatment, which advocacy groups link to an alarming increase in suicide among younger people.  

Depression is acknowledged by healthcare providers as one of the leading causes of disability, but the criteria used by local and federal agencies to determine if someone is eligible for support are so restrictive that only the most severely ill people qualify.

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds, and people with severe mental health conditions die prematurely—as much as two decades early—due to preventable health issues. Despite progress in some countries, people with mental health conditions often experience severe human rights violations, discrimination, and stigma.

While mental health is being discussed more openly as a social issue, policy makers, insurance companies, and drug manufacturers have done little to improve the lives of those who struggle with mental illness and demonstrate no interest in doing so in the future.

More visibility of mental health issues is always a good thing, but it has yet to change the fact that wait times to see a mental health provider can extend out as far as six months. High profile celebrities talking about mental health hasn’t stopped large healthcare systems from systematically shutting down desperately needed inpatient behavioral health facilities in order to cut costs. Workplace efforts to raise awareness haven’t made pharmaceutical companies realize charging $87.00 for single 10-milligram tablet of escitalopram (Lexapro) is a vile and disgraceful business practice.

Awareness campaigns and PSAs about it being ‘ok to not be ok’ do not help someone who’s health insurance deductibles are so high they must choose between paying the rent or buying food and seeking care.

Read more about the mental healthcare crisis

Some backstory

The Method to the Madness Life Designer is the result of years of experimentation with how to manage my mood disorders and live a full life despite a mental health diagnosis. The processes and tools represent a synthesis of what I’ve learned through hundreds of hours of therapy, dozens of medication changes, research, trial, error, and 10 years of direct experience as a healthcare professional.

I lived with the wrong diagnosis for 13 years and spent almost $100,000 treating it. It was only after I developed the early versions of these tools and was using them on a regular basis that I began to suspect something was seriously wrong with my treatment and took long-overdue steps to correct it; first and foremost of which was finding a new provider.  

While the financial costs associated with having an inaccurate picture of my mental illness were enormous, they’re eclipsed by the personal and interpersonal price paid both by me and the people I care about.  

I spent much of my career working as a healthcare leader responsible for protecting patient and clinical worker rights, providing oversight to clinical research trials, and the development of service line delivery strategies.

For three years I fought to keep a vital inpatient behavioral health facility open in west Michigan, so have direct experience with the issues and barriers faced by those seeking treatment or support.

During my time as a healthcare leader I was immersed in the best-practices centered on evidence-based, patient-centered care, and gained valuable experience working with psychiatrists, physician, and nursing professionals trying to meet the ever increasing demand for mental health services.

This experience provided me first-hand exposure to the complex problems faced by therapists, psychiatrists, nurses, and social workers when trying to meet the enormous demand for mental health services in a system that is chronically underfunded and ignored by policy-makers. I left healthcare for the same reasons we’re seeing an accelerated exodus by providers and nurses post COVID; it had become an unmitigated nightmare where everyone was set up to lose.

Read more backstory

Americans do not have access to the mental healthcare they need, so there is a need for practical, evidence-based tools and practices designed to produce tangible results.

The Method

The MTM Life Designer is built for people who have mental health challenges but find traditional self-help, journals, and apps unhelpful or difficult to stick with.

I’ve read a library’s worth of books on how to manage mood disorders outside the clinical or therapeutic setting and incorporated only those principles that have had a measurable positive impact on my mental wellbeing.

Making the invisible visible

The Designer’s unique value comes from how principles and practices are combined in order to make the invisible visible.

The pages are structured to help us put in writing a more accurate and hopeful version of our human experience when things like anxiety, dissociative disorders, or trauma are feeding us an endless stream of bad data.

Sometimes we’re doing worse than we believe we are, and sometimes life isn’t the horrorshow our mind wants us to think it is. Each page is designed to give shape and depth to our lives when much of what we are experiencing seems nebulous or beyond description.

Living with a mental health challenge is difficult for many reasons, but the fact that it’s an invisible illness and can be impossible to describe to others is one of the most vexing problems faced by those who struggle.

The Designer helps you get the most out of therapy, clinical treatment, and life by creating a more accurate picture of how your mental health challenges are impacting your life.

Read more about the Method

No right or wrong way

The process is designed to scale to your needs. It may be that the only tool you find useful is the Daily Pages or one of the worksheets. You don’t have to complete each section of the Daily Pages and there are no right or wrong ways to write about your life and experiences.

The pages can be completed in as little as five or ten minutes, but there are no rules about how much time to spend writing or how many sections to fill out.

How to use the Designer

Yes, there’s an app for that; it just wasn’t helpful…

The value of physical processing

Research demonstrates that taking notes by hand has a significant positive impact on knowledge retention, the quality of our writing and verbal expression, and our ability to think critically when problem solving.

I tried dozens of apps and digital journaling tools, but none of them are really designed to support people who struggle with mental health challenges. Plus, especially with apps, it always became an out of sight-out of mind scenario.

You’ll need some type of notebook to hold you pages. I’m picky, and willing to spend extra for a discbound notebook, primarily because the sheets don’t tear out as easily as they do with a three ring binder and they lay flat.

You’ll need some type of notebook to hold you pages. I’m picky, and willing to spend extra for a discbound notebook, primarily because the sheets don’t tear out as easily as they do with a three ring binder and they lay flat. Most journals are bound in such a way that they can be difficult to handle while writing and it can be next to impossible to use the entire page.

Journaling can already seem like a chore, so I was committed to removing any reasons I might use to avoid it, even if those reasons seem eccentric or weird. I’ve been eccentric and weird my whole life, and after years spent trying to hide that part of my humanity, I’m ok with not being ‘normal.’ I’m actually more than ok with it, I thrive on it.

Quick Start Guide

  1. Open your digital download(s)
  2. Print them out (save paper, save the planet; print on both sides. You know the drill)
  3. Find something to put them in (3-ring binder; discbound notebook; file folder; secret compartment under the floorboards. Suit yourself, doesn’t matter.)
  4. Set aside time each day (5 minutes or 5 hours, totally up to you) to reflect, write, or just stare at the blank page until it’s time to do something else)
  5. Wash, rinse, repeat (make a habit of it)
  6. At the end of week, either file, recycle, or burn the pages

Read more about how to use the Designer

Supply Ideas

I’ve included links to some discbound supply options below if you choose to go that route. I like the TUL, mainly because it was given to me years ago and has held up remarkably well to constant use.

CAGIE Discbound Notebook with 5 Dividers
Talia Discbound Notebooks, Planner, Customizable – Summer Blue – Letter 8.5in x 11in

If you choose to use a discbound notebook, you’ll need a hole punch. I got about 5 years out of this small plastic one, but am upgrading to the heavier duty version because it punches more pages at a time and is made of sturdier materials.

Again, I use my designer a lot, but you don’t need any supplies to use the tools. A file folder works just fine and costs about 3 cents.

TUL Discbound Hole Punch

Choose whatever works best for how you like to work and how much you want to spend.

Using the Daily Pages Video

Watch the video to find out how the daily pages work and see examples of how to use them.

Method to the Madness Digital Downloads

Daily Pages

Add a simple, but powerful component to your mental healthcare and self-development toolkit. Structured daily journal pages include 10 sections with writing prompts designed to…

Continue reading → Daily Pages