Monday, 2 November 2020

EVERYTHING 800,000 READERS HAS MADE ME THINK ABOUT


WHY IT’S SO SPECIAL

I was talking to my Mum today about this one… As you probably all know, I’m already working on the Christmas content for I’m NOT Disordered (if you’re wondering why, read this post) and a huge reason for that is because my mental health is so much more stable that I feel more excited and happy for things in life. And 800,000 readers are obviously one of those things!

I worried that it’d seem weird celebrating reaching a sort of random milestone in my reader counter. I mean, the more obvious ones were 100,000, half a million, and then three quarters of a million… and you’d probably think the next celebration would be reaching one million but here I am, emotional and typing about 800,000!

And it isn’t necessarily that this feels any more of an achievement; just that I feel more able to really soak it in… It’s like my head seems clearer; no longer occupied by hallucinations so that it’s fully mine and mine alone. And having the opportunity to really feel like myself, really gives me the ability to work so much harder and be so much more dedicated to the content I create.

Before, when the voices seemed to control over half of my head, it was almost as though all my energies went into either fighting to silence them, or doing what they were commanding and self-harming or attempting suicide. I had no motivation left to produce unique and imaginative content. I was unable to chase my dreams because I wasn’t all too sure whether they were even mine. I began to lose understanding of which thoughts and feelings I actually owned and what had been put there by the hallucinations. I mean, even if I felt suicidal, I wasn’t sure if it was coming from me or them! And I almost felt like a fraud. Like I was pretending to be a person and that actually, I was just this hollow body full of these voices with beliefs and personalities of their own.

Thankfully – so thankfully(!) – my antipsychotic medication completely chases the hallucinations away. Like, it’s not even as though it just means it’s easier to cope with them; they are literally, totally, gone! And now I have my head to myself, I feel that I’m so much more invested in things in my life, such as blogging and creating content. Being so dedicated means that achievements like this, are so much more special.

 

HOW GRATEFUL I AM

I have so much appreciation for an incredible amount of people and organizations who have attributed to I’m NOT Disordered’s success and popularity. I usually try and name them all but at this point – after over seven years of collaborations and partnerships and ads – I’m worried I’d forget someone! And the core people and organizations know who they are.

After one post thanking some people, I got a message asking whether having to many people to thank meant that I hadn’t put much effort in – or shouldn’t be totally credited for the blog’s achievements. And whilst I’m so uncomfortable around blowing my own trumpet, and I wouldn’t ever want to take away from the gravity of the input others have had on I’m NOT Disordered’s content; I’d like people to remember or consider that those collaborations wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t initiated them…

I’d like to think I’m one of those Bloggers who doesn’t sit on her ass and expect opportunities to be handed to her on a plate. I’d like to think that I go out there and make them happen! I mean, I’ve given advice before about how to approach companies and organisations to collaborate with them because I’ve learnt different ways to do this over the years and I think my methods have improved over time.

Another area of gratitude and learning to do something for myself is the design of I’m NOT Disordered. When I very first started blogging, another inpatient in a room near mine designed the logo and the layout for me. But when staff started discussing her discharge way before my own, I realised that I really needed to learn how to do it. I also felt that I wanted to be able to take some sort of ownership for the entirety of the blog and having the ability to say ‘yeah, I did that’ when I felt totally incapable of doing anything else in life, meant the world to me. And whilst that girl and I are no longer in touch, I’ll always be grateful for her support in those early times!

I think that’s the point of this bit; that this achievement has really made me think about how grateful I am for absolutely everyone who has support I’m NOT Disordered, believed in its potential, and contributed in some way to its success and popularity. And I think that’s ok – to be able to attribute some of my blog to others. That doesn’t make me a failure or any less responsible for the content.

 

WHY I’M STILL BLOGGING

This is actually something I’m not sure I’ve ever really considered in recent years. The last time I really remember doing that was when I received some horrible comments on, I’m NOT Disordered, and I closed the blog down for a few months. The comments made me really question why I was still blogging when people weren’t enjoying the content or weren’t being supportive of me.

It didn’t help that at the time I received these comments, I had already been debating shutting down my blog because my discharge from hospital was underway and I realised that being back in the community, the content would drastically change. It would no longer be about providing insight into life in a psychiatric hospital; and this was one of the unique aspects of my blog because at the time, there was very few mental health blogs around and even fewer written by inpatients. I wondered whether anyone would be interested in reading about my recovery progress and whether my life would become so mundane that it didn’t deserve a place on the internet.

Closing the blog down was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for I’m NOT Disordered though because it really showed me just how important blogging was to me, how beneficial it is to my mental health, and how much I enjoy doing it. And learning these things, were my motivation to open the blog back up and continue…

From then until now, I’ve been incredibly lucky in not receiving any more negative comments or feedback – though I believe that if I did, I’d be a lot more robust – so I haven’t really had a reason to consider why I’m NOT Disordered is still going after almost eight years. For some reason though, reaching this milestone has really left me thinking about this… and not in a sense that I’m considering ending the blog. Just that I’m thinking about all the reasons why I haven’t quit since that one time.

It’s left me thinking about whether it’s superficial and shallow of me to put so much importance, time, and effort, into an online platform. But that debate doesn’t last too long because I believe that my blog is about so much more than being just another website. And I’d like to think that readers would agree and validate that. That the blog wouldn’t have built such a huge audience if it didn’t matter to me, and to at least some of its readers! I mean, I find blogging so therapeutic because it allows me the opportunity to really process my thoughts and feelings. And I’ve been told by some readers that they find my content helpful because it has made them feel less alone; to read that there’s someone else having similar experiences. It’s important to recognise though, that I don’t blog just for the sake of others. I don’t dedicate so much time and energy into this purely because it can help others – that’s just one reason why. And I honestly believe that this fact – that I really blog for myself – is an important quality of I’m NOT Disordered. That it helps it.

 

HOW MANY THINGS HAVE CHANGED SINCE I STARTED, I’M NOT DISORDERED?

I guess the biggest change has been me! I was in a very different place – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too – when I first started blogging in 2013. I was an inpatient of a psychiatric hospital specialising in my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and detained under section three of the 1983 Mental Health Act. I was really struggling with the visual and auditory hallucinations and was almost constantly overwhelmed by urges to self-harm and thoughts of suicide. I mean, it felt like all my energy was going into hurting myself in some way and that I’m NOT Disordered was just something I did in my room after the therapeutic timetable of groups and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) sessions when we were allowed our laptops. Almost like a little hobby.

And now? Well my antipsychotic medication was increased a few months ago and I’ve had no hallucinations and haven’t self-harmed for over 70 days! And it’s like I said earlier; now that my mental health is so much more stable, I can devote more attention and effort into producing content for I’m NOT Disordered. Now that I have all of my energy for positive, healthy things, I can be more dedicated and imaginative with my posts. I’m also more able to enjoy the positive feedback and success of my posts because I’m not constantly second guessing, finding contradiction to them, and just generally doubting whether the comments are genuine or even deserved.

Of course, with the changes in myself and my situation, there’s been a very obvious – and probably expected – change in the content I produce for my blog. That was scary at first because I was so worried that no one would be interested in the change. That people had only started reading my blog because I was an inpatient and that being discharged would render my content not at all special or unique. But finding joy in blogging, meant that I had the motivation to reinvent both my content and my blog and allow it to grow as I have over the past seven years.

I think that another change, has been in my readership. I’d love to think that there are some readers who have been here since the start and have stuck by I’m NOT Disordered, but realistically, it’s been seven years! And obviously that’s meant my variety of collaborations with different organisations and individuals, have each reached their different target audiences…

As well as doubling publicity by partnering with an organisation with their own audience, I think that people, in general, have become more invested in mental health since I started blogging in 2013. People are more eager to learn about mental illness and keen to develop a better understanding of it. I think that the change has probably stemmed from the amount of media around discrimination and the additional publicity of suicides – particularly with ‘celebrities.’

Finally, the changes in the blogging world! When I set up I’m NOT Disordered, there were about three well-known mental health blogs – one by an ex Service User, one by a mental health nurse, and one by a Police Officer who was interested in mental health. I couldn’t come across a single one written by a current inpatient and I think that made my blog very lucky because it was like a niche. Like, there was something different and special about I’m NOT Disordered. And I feel lucky about that because these days, where blogging has become a career and an entire industry, it’s so difficult to get your blog noticed and to build a following. It’s like the bar is raised every time a new blog pops up and it’s on you to either up your game, continue the way you are, or lose confidence and become intimidated by the competition. I’d like to think I’ve chosen to up my game and that I have come to create new, better content.

 

EXCITEMENT FOR BLOGMAS CONTENT

I wrote a post a few months ago about why I started planning the Christmas content for I’m NOT Disordered so soon this year (you can read it here), so I won’t go over all my reasons again! Just that reaching this 800,000 milestone has meant that I’m so excited to see whether that increases with Blogmas (publishing a blog post every day from December 1st until Christmas). Starting to create the content so early in the year means that I’m putting so much time and energy into the posts so I’m obviously very hopeful that it’s a success and that readers enjoy it and can see and appreciate how much effort I’ve put in!