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

The tools are designed to help you get more value out of your healthcare dollar by creating a clearer picture of how you are REALLY doing.

The Need

People who live with mental illness and do not have access to significant financial resources or find themselves 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. Wait times to see a mental health provider can extend out as far as six months, and in the last ten years large healthcare systems have systematically shut down desperately-needed inpatient behavioral health facilities in order to cut costs.

Depression is acknowledged by healthcare providers as one of the leading causes of disability, but the criteria used by local and federal agencies to establish 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. People with severe mental health conditions die prematurely—as much as two decades early—due to preventable health issues.

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.

Despite progress in some countries, people with mental health conditions often experience severe human rights violations, discrimination, and stigma. While it’s encouraging to see more open dialogue about the importance of mental health, it doesn’t help someone who is having a panic attack or on the verge of suicide and has been told the soonest they can see a psychiatrist or therapist is in three months. Awareness campaigns 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.

Awareness campaigns 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.

We must do it ourselves

Like many Gen-Xers, I grew up in a broken home with an violent alcoholic parent, so developed most of the traits commonly associated with childhood trauma, including hyper-responsibility, perfectionism, and crippling anxiety and depression.

After my father and mother divorced, my uncle declared me “The Man of the House,” and my childhood more-or-less ended as I entered my teenage years. I had no adult support and this required I figure out how to manage life on my own. As an adult, when I lost my insurance and was unemployed for a sustained period of time, I was faced with either accepting a steady decline into insanity or doing something to improve my circumstances.

I’ve also found most self-help books and strategies unhelpful, because the approach they take is often superficial, repetitive, and unsustainable. Many gurus and wellness systems even suggest magical thinking as a way to overcome challenges and live a full life.

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 to the Madness Life Designer is a personal development tool for individuals who want to cultivate the skills and habits for living a full, creative life despite a mental health diagnosis. 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.

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 to move us from survival to a life where human flourishing, creativity, and healing are possible.

The Method

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, research, trial, error, and 10 years of direct experience as a healthcare professional.

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. The vast majority of printable journals and planning systems only offer very generic, limited templates for processing life experiences, and most assume the person using the tool is in full possession of their mental faculties most of the time.

There isn’t any fluff. The MTM Life Designer is a stripped-down DIY approach in which every component has a specific purpose intended to produce a verifiable benefit.

While nothing comes with a 100% guarantee, it’s safe to say I’ve explored and synthesized years of literature and research on how to live with a mental health diagnosis, freeing you from the need to buy more books or spend time searching for quality resources on an internet clogged fads, quick fixes, and miracle cures.

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.

Structured, flexible, evidence-based practice

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. The system and tools are also informed by my background as a Six Sigma Black Belt specializing in process excellence and improvement.

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

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.

The tools and processes are certainly usable by people who don’t struggle with a mood disorder, but the underlying principles make it especially effective for people who do.

Making the Invisible Visible

The Designer’s unique value comes from how principles and practices are combined in order to make the invisible visible. Living with a mental health challenge is difficult for many reasons, but the fact that it’s an invisible illness that 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.

The digital downloads that support the process include:

  • MTM Daily Pages
  • MTM Weekly Review Worksheet
  • Method to the Madness Workbook
  • MTM Decatastrophizing My Thoughts Worksheet
  • MTM Thought Analysis Worksheet

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

You’ll need some type of notebook to act as your Designer. I prefer a discbound notebook because the sheets don’t tear out as easily as they do with a three ring binder, but choose whatever works best for how you like to work and how much you want to spend.

I use the Letter Size TUL Custom Note-Taking System Discbound Notebook from Levenger. It’s more expensive than some notebooks, but has lasted me for years and meets my physical process requirements.

Each week, print seven copies of the Daily Pages on 8.5 x 11 paper. Before you print, check the box for printing on both sides of the paper. Once your print job is done, punch and bind the pages in the notebook.

To punch and bind the Daily Pages you will need a hole punch designed for disc bound notebooks like the one shown below.

At the end of the week, set aside some time to review your week using the Weekly Review PDF. The Daily Pages can be used as valuable source material for your weekly review.

I update my Workbook each day because the heatmaps it creates are an invaluable source of information about my mental health journey.

I keep the Weekly Reviews and combine them with the Workbook data to prepare for appointments with my therapist or physician. The tools and process help me fashion a clearer story of my journey and get the most value for my healthcare dollars.

I keep several of the Worksheets in the back of my notebook and use them when I get stuck or am struggling with a symptom flare-up. The Worksheets can help you de-escalate when your judgement is clouded by your mood disorder(s) and serve as another valuable source of information for discussions about your mental health with the key people in your life.

No, there isn’t an app for that

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.

Easy to use & Customize

When coming up with the physical designs to support the process, I was determined to remove barriers that had previously discouraged me from actually sitting down and writing.

There are thousands of different physical journals on the market, and while a lot of them have fancy covers or are made with exotic materials, I struggled to find a journal or planner that would lay flat enough for me to comfortably write, and the bindings were often so tight that I ended up not being able to use the full page. I wanted something that I could lay flat without force and pages with enough space to make writing less of a chore.

The Madness

As a writer and avid reader I know how much words matter and my use of madness as a noun comes from a love of literature that feature characters who struggle with mood disorders or mental illness. I have nothing but compassion for the mad people in our world, and for me being called ‘mad as a hatter’ is just fine, as long as whoever calls me it is authentically in my corner and supportive.

For many people who struggle with mood disorders, open-ended journaling is difficult and can become a repetitive chore. The Daily Pages provide a structured, but flexible, approach to journaling  that can be integrated with other parts of any self-development or wellness process. Each section is based on evidence-based practices research has shown support human development and mental wellbeing.

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

MTM Workbook

Includes Excel worksheets to track and monitor General Mood, Symptoms, Sleep, Exercise, and Medication. Also includes a free SMART Goal worksheet. Requires Microsoft Excel and…

Continue reading → MTM Workbook