Self-isolation kinda sucks, huh?

Now, while colouring stuff in obviously won’t save us from COVID-19, it might possibly help save a little bit of our sanity while we’re all forced to self-isolate.

So, from me to you in this surreal and scary moment of history…

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Share some sanity with your friends, family and followers on social media.

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Challenging The Black Dog provide a safe, private place for you to get to know your personal Black Dog—to explore and tackle your depression—through a combo of proven creative therapy techniques in a 6×9, softcover first edition, including:

– 234 pages
– Artwork by Patmai De Vera
– 37 art prompts
– 54 writing prompts
– Monthly trigger log
– Daily mood doodle log
– 22 colouring pages
– Mental health resource lists

Order Now By Clicking On A Retailer Link Below
Book Depository | Amazon US / UK / CA / AU | Books-A-Milion | Barnes & Noble | Waterstones


Silencing the Inner Ghosts is to self-harm as Challenging the Black Dog is to depression. The StIG creative journal provides a safe, private place for you to get to understand your Ghosts—to explore and tackle your self-harm activities—through a combo of therapy techniques in a 6×9, softcover first edition, including:

– 212 pages
– Artwork by Patmai De Vera
– 39 art prompts
– 43 writing prompts
– Monthly trigger log
– Daily mood doodle log
– 15 colouring pages
– Mental health resource lists

Order Now By Clicking On A Retailer Link Below
Book Depository | Amazon US / UK / CA / AU | Books-A-Milion | Barnes & Noble | Waterstones


These creative therapy journals were created by someone who has over 25 years of “been there, done that” lived experience with mental illness. Created under the guidance of a qualified psychologist, they are specifically designed ito be suitable for all ages, although the visual style might be most appreciated by young adults (13-25).

They can easily be used as a form of guided self-therapy for those unable (or unwilling) to access other medical interventions, or in conjunction with other medical resources, such as psychologists and counsellors.

With use and time, these journals can help you transform yourself into an active participant in your personal journey towards recovery.

Isn’t it time to reclaim control over your psychological well-being?


Challenging the Black Dog is a resource for depression sufferers by a depression sufferer. VJ’s approach provides a very specific type of compassion and understanding that’s only available from lived experience, yet still manages to get across the idea of personal accountability for recovery. It is a treasure trove of ideas, strategies and bite-sized prompts which can be added to by the reader. An experimental approach is encouraged! Importantly it provides hope and will complement professional expertise.

Patrick McGorry AO MD PhD FRANZCP

Professor of Youth Mental Health & CEO, Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health

Challenging the Black Dog presents a refreshingly original approach to grappling with depression. The exercises here spark a creative process that simultaneously grounds and explores. I wish I’d had this book in my teens and twenties.

Mark Pellegrino

Actor, Supernatural, Lost + Thirteen Reasons Why

What a brilliant idea — Challenging the Black Dog is a creative resource, designed to support personal reflection and insight into the experience of depression.  And why shouldn’t the exploration of depression be creative, stimulating and ultimately uplifting? Challenging the Black Dog effectively takes the currently popular, designer “happiness journal” to a new level and depth, confronting the reality of living with depression in a format that can be both pleasurable and relatable.

Professor Jill Bennett

Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow @ UNSW & Director, The Big Anxiety

Similar to training our muscles to become stronger, our minds can be trained to be strong and content. We can train our ‘Black Dog,’ all we need is a little bit of guidance to get there. [Challenging the Black Dog] is a resource that you can use as a guide to psychological well-being. It guides you to see the courage and strength that you have to step into the light … It’s a support crew in your own corner, there to use anytime, anywhere.

Belle Brockhoff

Professional Snowboarder & 2x Olympian


VJ Cast is a neurodivergent non-fiction author, major introvert, and co-parent of a home-schooled teen on the spectrum.

She’s spent over two decades struggling with depression, social anxiety, trichotillomania, non-suicidal self-harm, disordered eating, and bipolar II. Fibromyalgia enjoys kicking her ass, so she’s close friends with numerous hot water bottles.

She’s likes comfy pants with pockets, replaying Mass Effect, watching Supernatural, table-top roleplaying games, and making a mess with DIY projects. She’s a cat person.

She dislikes (most) social media, having to wear makeup, photographs of herself, and watching her child grow up.

She lives on a small island off the coast of South East Queensland (Australia) with an abundance of wildlife and way too many mosquitoes.

Her hair colours, like her medications, are subject to change.


Patricia “Patmai” de Vera is an illustrator and artist from the Phillipines who graduated from De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde with a degree in Multimedia Art.

She aspires to become a character concept and storyboard artist in the hopes of creating and molding the childhoods of future generations. She currently works as a freelance illustrator with numerous, varied clients and curates her works-in-progress on her Instagram, Tumblr, and website.

Patmai has worked has worked creatively with VJ in different capacities since they met online several years ago.

She is currently accepting personal and commercial commissions.


“…Like a Bill Bryson travel book, it’s more a guided hike in a dark forest, than a trip to the mechanic to have something fixed for you… a personal project that can get you started on a new approach to your life as a whole…”

Dr Travis Gee, PhD (Psychology, Carleton, 1998) is a psychologist practising in Queensland, Australia, with nearly two decades’ experience helping people from around the world. He has sat on the Executive Board of the Australian Counselling Association for many years, where he has edited journals and consulted on policy, and he has recently joined the Executive Board of the Black Ribbon Foundation of Australia.

Dr Gee has experience with a broad range of clinical issues, ranging from depression and anxiety through schizophrenia, bipolar disorder with psychotic features, drug and alcohol addiction, phobias, Asperger’s Disorder, grief and trauma.


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Why are the journals self-published?

Self-publishing has given me the opportunity to work on all aspects of the book myself with an illustrator of my own choosing and within the timeframes that worked around both my health issues and home-schooling by aspie teen.

Also, the POD and distribution company I’ve chosen provides the specs I need for the book and allows me to keep the price of the book and shipping costs as reasonable as possible.

Are the journals available worldwide?

YES, except for countries restricted by various retailers or postal services. The journals are POD and will (usually) be printed at the nearest printer to your location.

Do you sell mainly to individuals or organizations?

Sales for Challenging the Black Dog have been roughly split 30/70 between individuals and organizations. Shout out to Warragul Regional College which has been implementing CtBD with its students for over a year now.

On the other hand, Silencing the Inner Ghosts sells predominantly to individuals at this time.

Is there an option to bulk order?

If you’d like to order more than 5 copies at a time, please email as discounts may apply.

Are you (VJ) a mental health professional?


My ‘qualifications’ for creating these books comes from 25 years experience with various mental disorders of my own, including depression and NSSI, both of which first began in my teens. However, I have regularly consulted with a qualified psychologist regarding the contents of the books during their creation.

Will the journals solve my problems?

I wish it was that simple…

Some depression goes away for a long time, only to sneak back up on you later in life. Some people seem to suffer from a low-level depression as their emotional ‘set point’. Other people find that with enough help that they can permanently exclude the black dog from their life.

The same goes for self-injurious behaviour. Everyone is different and I can’t make any claims that the journals will cure what ails you, but they can help alleviate the symptoms and guide you towards recovery if you give them time and a chance.

If I get a journal do I still need other treatment?

Everyone is different and this isn’t something I can advise you on. I’ve known people who have relied solely on self-guided therapy and lifestyle changes who’ve improved their condition. I’ve known other people with treatment resistant depression or embedded self-injurious behaviours where nothing seems to work.

Most people find it best to go with a combination of treatments, which can include such things as: psychotherapy interventions, medication, self-therapy, exercise + diet changes, establishing routines, hypnosis, regular self-care, support groups, and medical interventions such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

The journals were written to use either as self-guided therapy (for those unable or unwilling to access medical treatment for their condition) or in conjunction with working with a therapist (as a activity workbook).

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Do you recommend any specific treatments?

I’m not qualified to give medical advise and recommend you speak, at the very least, to your GP if you have concerns or questions about available treatments for depression or self-harm. I will, however, recommend you (and everyone else!) practice regular self-care.

Why'd you create these journals?

I’ve spent more than 25 years dealing with mental health issues, but I also ended up wasting a lot of that time to struggling and barely keeping my head above water because I was unable (and occasionally unwilling) to access appropriate mental health care and a strong support network.

Over the years I’ve lost (a lot) of friends, a marriage and numerous employment opportunities because of mental illness. Some of it to the stigma attached to having a mental illness (or more), some of it to my own inability to deal with my mental health at the time.

After painstakingly building my life back up since becoming a parent and finding out how much of a difference good mental health care can make I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and watch other people lose time they don’t have to with struggling, when they can, with some help and compassion, lead fulfilling lives with just as many opportunities as everyone else.

Aren't your embarrassed to have a mental illness?


What's Offbeat Brains about?

Offbeat Brains is the name of my publishing imprint. The name stems from the fact that I don’t see people with mental illnesses as ‘broken’, simply a little offbeat when compared to what is considered a neurotypical brain.

What is Trichotillomania and Fibromyalgia?

Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder. Basically it’s an urge that results in you pulling out your hair (and can include all forms of hair on the body). My tendency is to pull out my head hair (which is an improvement over my earlier years which also involved trichophagia a.k.a. hair eating) and eyebrows. For me it’s usually in response to feeling stressed, anxious, frustrated or from wrestling suppressed anger. These days I keep my hair dyed bright, unnatural colours as a form of aversion therapy because I can see the dye on my fingers if I start pulling (it’s slowly working).

Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that involves chronic widespread pain and a heightened pain response to pressure. Other symptoms include extreme tiredness, memory problems and sleep issues. The cause is unknown, treatment is difficult and even though it is neither degenerative nor fatal, the chronic pain is pervasive and persistent.

What's with your almost non-existent social media presence?

Basically: social media or sanity. I cut back heavily on social media because it was becoming an interference in my day-to-day life. Yes, this makes it hard to get the word out about the books as an author – I breached the ‘cardinal rule’ of authors needing to create a platform before publishing. However, on the other hand I’m less distracted by ‘shiny things’ I see online.

However, if you really want to see me occasionally in my natural environment, I still sneak onto Pinterest and I used to post on Tumblr solely for providing original, creative prompts for fiction writers.

I also respond to emails. Actually, I prefer them!

At the moment the social media accounts for Offbeat Brains are still in development.


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