Wednesday, 13 January 2021

WHY LOCKDOWN 2021 IS MAKING THE DIGITAL WORLD SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT


Regardless of statistics, the UK lockdown and Coronavirus pandemic have become controversial topics of discussion and controversy is something I like to try and stay away from on I’m NOT Disordered… However, since the Prime Minister announced the new 2021 UK lockdown restrictions and guidelines a few nights ago, I’ve felt that I needed to do something on my blog just to recognize the momentousness of the situation…

I was asked a little while ago how the new lockdown was affecting me and I said that the only real difference to my life was that it’s meant losing my sessions with my Richmond Fellowship support worker. I can still do my weekly food shop, collect my medication, do tasks online for St Oswald’s Hospice, and have my Carers over. Most importantly, I can still do the one thing that I put the majority of my energy and time into: blogging.

Of course, I recognize how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to say all of that when there are so many people out there who are less able – or completely unable – to keep to their own, usual routines. However, I’m definitely a believer that you shouldn’t compare your own hardship to another person’s. Everyone is different, and each person’s struggle has the right to be regarded as equally important to any other person.

I think that whilst everyone is having completely different – sometimes even opposite – experiences of lockdown 2021, a mutual beneficial source has been the digital world. As a blogger this is very obviously a great thing, but not only because it raises my audience numbers! It’s also because I feel that I’ve spent the eight years since I started blogging trying to encourage more people to use social media and access the digital world in general. There’s always so much negative publicity around the industry; largely because of the number of instances of trolling and online bullying leading to someone committing suicide.

Another factor around the criticisms and drawbacks on the digital world is that there’s a lot of content online that can be deemed as encouraging and inspirational of some aspects of mental health; particularly self-harm and eating disorders. Regarding this, I always believe that if you search for that sort of unsafe content, then you’ll find it. If, however, you search for support groups and help and advice, you’ll find an abundance of that too!

I’d honestly say that blogging has changed and – in some ways – saved, my life. Before I’m NOT Disordered, I felt as though everything was filling up my head and that it was becoming so overwhelming that I was at great risk of actually killing myself. So, the fact that lockdown is helping others to see the digital world in a more positive way, has become really comforting and reassuring. The thought that there’s a chance someone else might benefit in a way that I have, is encouraging and fills me with hope that someone might come through something really hard.

So, I thought a lot about the benefits of the digital world because it’s not just about tweeting or writing a blog post… 


One of my best friends always comments on my ability to network and I think that the digital world is a really great platform for doing this. I mean, there’s an actual app dedicated to building your professional network: LinkedIn, and with so many organisations having social media accounts, it’s become so much easier to communicate and connect with others. I think this is true for a lot of different people in lots of different positions and not purely about me being a blogger and it make for an easier job approaching organisations for collaborations.

In the early days of I’m NOT Disordered, I had very little confidence in speaking to people about my blog and my ideas for partnerships with others. I guess it was because I felt that I really had no leverage or right to suggest something like that when my blog was so new, the content was basic, and it had a very small audience. As though it was almost ‘cheeky’ of me to think I’d be anywhere near good enough to work with such an organisation like my local Police force or the local NHS Trust.

Since my numbers have grown and – I believe – the quality of my content has improved, I’ve found a lot more confidence and courage to put myself, and my blog, out there and take risks in suggesting collaborations to very important people and organisations. I try to live by my Mum’s advice that ‘shy bairns get nowt’ because I think it’s especially true in the blogging industry. So many people begin blogging with the belief that the opportunities will be handed to them on a silver plate. They don’t realise that actually, you have to earn those opportunities and it takes a lot of hard work and time to even begin to be at a stage where organisations are approaching you. And some of that hard work is about networking and building connections with others. 

Five Favourite Twitter Accounts by Organisations:

1.      https://twitter.com/leapsonline

2.      https://twitter.com/CNTWNHS

3.      https://twitter.com/rfmentalhealth

4.      https://twitter.com/CatsProtection & https://twitter.com/CPMediaTeam

5.      https://twitter.com/LoveWilko 


Having Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, I learnt a lot about communication and how best to do it in a way that will improve the chances of getting what you’d like from a conversation or other form of communication, without you having to be in any way manipulative or deceitful. Fortunately, the Therapy skills I’ve learnt, have probably meant that I’ve found communication in the digital world a bit easier to navigate.

I think that one of the best aspects of communication on social media etc, is that you have a huge opportunity to speak with like-minded people. Especially in mental health, this can be so helpful and provide reassurance for someone who has been feeling alone in their experiences. Sometimes, however, having someone in a similar position to you, can become triggering and upsetting to think that someone is feeling the way you do or has gone through the things you have.

A benefit I’ve found from the digital world improving my communication skills has been that blogging and composing posts on Twitter and Facebook, has really helped me to learn how to put my thoughts, feelings, and experiences, into actual words. Words that someone can understand and perhaps empathise with. Being able to articulate these things is a really important quality because it can ensure you get better and more appropriate help and support if people are more aware of what you’re actually struggling with.

Another benefit in this part is that in finding the ability to effectively express yourself, you’re more likely to come across – and communicate with – people who might have alternative thoughts and opinions. This can be really educational and can leave you reflecting on your own views and becoming more passionate for a cause you believe in. Of course, there’s also a downside to communicating with someone of an opposing thought process to yours; and that’s the risk of the connection becoming bitter, spiteful, and unproductive. A huge criticism around the digital world is about online bullying or trolling, and it’s definitely a real issue where you’re posting on a big platform or using hashtags or labels that’ll get your post noticed by a wider range of audience than purely your followers.

If you’ve been reading, I’m NOT Disordered for a while or know me personally, you’ll probably know that I like to look for the positives in everything. The silver lining to every cloud. I think that in considering being confronted with someone’s hateful response or messages, you might actually be able to learn from it in a few different ways. I mean, you might see that your original post could have easily been perceived as rude or confrontational in itself. Or how you feel with the message could teach you all the things you need to avoid if you were going to message someone of an opposite opinion to your own. Treat others how you’d like to be treated and all that!

Five Favourite Twitter Accounts by Individuals:

1.      https://twitter.com/DaveChawner

2.      https://twitter.com/GumOnMyShoeBook

3.      https://twitter.com/KerryDaynes

4.      https://twitter.com/laurengrntpls

5.      https://twitter.com/Amy3amz


This is an aspect of the digital world that I hadn’t used so much until the first UK lockdown in 2020. Being raised by a single parent, I think I’ve always been aware of the nature of being independent, and so perhaps I have some of that quality in me. This fact made having to shield in 2020 very challenging and coming from such a small family, I felt sort of lost and a little bit abandoned because there was literally no one to help (my Mum was also shielding).

When supermarkets introduced special measures such as opening hours purely for NHS staff, an increase in delivery times, a protected count on the amount of some products a person could buy; I thought it was really important because there were people worse off than me. My Mum found a local organisation who were doing food shops on behalf of those shielding and I trusted them for a few weeks. It was kind of hard not being in control of my shopping because there’d be instances where they didn’t have a particular item in stock and where I might have picked an alternative, the organisation had to just not get it. Obviously, I was so grateful to have the service though and it proved to be a huge help!

Aside from food shopping, I’ve also found myself using the digital world a lot more for health advice and information. Very understandably, the likes of even non-emergency numbers like 111 for the NHS, have found themselves overwhelmed with calls and now have an online service for you to type in your symptoms and other information so that they can determine which sort of access to health services you need such as an ambulance, GP appointment, or to attend your local Minor Injuries unit. In connection with this, my GP surgery now also have an online service where you can send in a non-urgent message detailing your difficulties or symptoms and receive a response from a GP within two working days.

The final practical aspect of life which can now be managed more easily online, is that of getting information on your local lockdown guidelines, the national restrictions and other information related to the Coronavirus pandemic and UK lockdown. In the UK, the easiest way to obtain such information is through: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home 


Now, for a light-hearted part!

This is an aspect of the digital world that definitely isn’t new to me, but which I have found myself using more and more since lockdown! It’s mostly because I’m at home and blogging more often now and I always like to have some sort of noise in the background, so music on YouTube or an ‘easy watch’ on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video are always helpful with this. I think that my thing about having noise in the background comes from two reasons: the first, is that it stems from being an inpatient of a psychiatric ward. I became so used to the constant noise – no matter what the time of day – and I was on that ward for two and a half years so I think its really reasonable to have gotten accustomed to trying to sleep or do therapy homework through any level of noise.

The second reason for me needing background noise has come from the auditory hallucinations I used to experience. One of the coping mechanisms a Psychologist once told me was to put in headphones and play the music so loud that the voices were drowned out until I could turn it off and they’d be gone. As though they felt defeated.

Watching something online, listening to music, or playing a game; also proved to be a great way to distract myself from the hallucinations or whatever hardship I was going through in that moment. And I think that distraction is a key coping mechanism through the huge surge in worry, anxiety, and concern around the lockdown and pandemic.

Favourite Game:

Sims Freeplay


My five favourite YouTube ‘challenge’ videos:

1.      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06KEOnRt50o

2.      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC6VNJ6jNKc

3.      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVHsBPd_ZRk

4.      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0vPzYhxy9c

5.      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYYq6emG5ug 


Five favourite music videos on YouTube:

1.      P!nk – What About Us

But man, you fooled us, enough is enough

2.      The Greatest Showman – From Now On

But when I stop and see you here, I remember who all this was for

3.      Ariana Grande – One Last Time

I should’ve done you better

4.      Andra Day – Rise Up

I’ll rise unafraid

5.      Ed Sheeran – Castle on The Hill

And I miss the way you make me feel


Five favourites from Disney Plus:

1.      Lava

“I have a dream, I hope it will come true”

2.      Moana

“If I go, there’s just no telling how far I’ll go”

3.      Frozen

“I don’t care what they’re going to say”

4.      Tangled

“Standing here it’s all so clear, I’m where I’m meant to be”

5.      The Princess Diaries

“I know that you’re scared of failing, but you can’t succeed if you don’t try”

 

Five Netflix favourites:

1.      iZombie

“It never occurred to me that I’d have something to give. A way to contribute.”

2.      Pitch Perfect

“I’m going to finish him like a cheesecake!”

3.      Gossip Girl

“There’s nothing you could ever say that would make me let go.”

4.      The OA

“To exist is to survive unfair choices.”

5.      Identity Thief

“You know what, you’re crazy!” “Yep. Diagnosed and everything.”

 

Five favourites from Amazon Prime Video:

1.      Grey’s Anatomy

“Maybe we have to get a little messed up before we can step up.”

2.      Pretty Little Liars

“Things change, you know. People grow.”

3.      Suicide Squad

“But everyone has a weakness, and a weakness can be leveraged.”

4.      The Hitman’s Bodyguard

“There is no redemption, no atonement for a man like you.”

5.      London Has Fallen

“Find something you care about, and care deeply.”

 

My five favourites from the Kindle app:

1.      Delirium by Lauren Oliver

“Hate isn’t the most dangerous thing, he’d said. Indifference is. “

2.      All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

“The problem with people is they forget that most of the time it’s the small things that count.”

3.      I Was Here by Gayle Forman

“I can keep picking small fights, or brave the big one.”

4.      After Anna by Alex Lake

“You make me want to be good for you…”

5.      The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

“You can never love people as much as you can miss them.”


I think that being a blogger, a lot of people will assume I’m a creative person; and they’d definitely be right. When I was little, I used to write short stories for my Mum and my Nana, and I’d make collages with my Nana out of old Argos catalogues. As I got older, I became interested in fashion and took Textiles as a subject in High School, but my teacher was overly criticising, and I lost a lot of my confidence in my work. It became one of a few reasons why I stopped writing and most other creative activities until my mental health deteriorated and I realised that such activities could be helpful when I was struggling. It helped me to feel that I was releasing some pent-up anger or frustrations in channelling my energy into creating something positive and healthy.

So, I guess that these qualities apply to creativity during lockdown. Putting your focus and concentration into something creative can relieve the feelings of tension and stress that the uncertainty and fear around lockdown and the pandemic have caused people to experience.

My favourite creative items to buy online:

30-Day Creativity Challenge: £10.00

Flamingo Jigsaw Puzzle: £8.00

Watercolouring Painting Set: £10.00

Modelling Clay: £4.00

Paper Monsters: £9.99

Puzzle Treasure Hunt from home: £6.00

Adult Colouring Book: £5.99


When I first started blogging, I had so much inspiration for my content because I was an inpatient so there seemed to be something blog-worthy happening each day! It meant on my discharge from hospital I really believed that I’d stop blogging because I’d have nothing worth reading!

One reason this wasn’t the case, has been that I’ve discovered that mental health recovery isn’t linear. Once you find yourself being deemed to be in recovery, that doesn’t mean you won’t struggle any more. It doesn’t even mean that you’ll never hurt yourself or experience suicidal thoughts again. Even just the act of discovering this, became content for my blog because I wanted others to know that this might still happen and that if it does happen, it doesn’t make you a failure or a disappointment in any way.

So, it is when my mental health is settled that I struggle to find inspiration and sometimes turn to online resources such as Pinterest and other blogs. I think that some people might find it a bit strange that I’d say I get inspiration from a fashion and beauty blogger (inthefrow.com) but it’s not always about her actual content as it is her work ethic and sometimes the design and format of her blog posts. I’ve learnt a lot from looking at her structuring of posts and occasionally, she has written lifestyle posts which have inspired me to do something similar or based on. When seeing her collaborations with huge fashion houses and companies, I began considering approaching these organisations too, but realised that what I really needed to do was use those big brands as inspiration for me to find the – somewhat – equivalent organisation in the mental health industry.

I think that lockdown has maybe shrunk a lot of people’s worlds and that in doing so, it has deprived a lot of people of their usual inspiration – in blogging, and in life. So, finding platforms online to do much the same job, is really useful.




Education has always been a rough topic for me since I was in High School at the time of the abuse I experienced. That my teachers didn’t realise or notice what was happening to me (though they told Police that they had always wondered!), it left me with a very soured opinion of those professionals in the education sector. Which isn’t very fair. It’s understandable, but it isn’t fair. And it’s meant that I’m extremely reluctant to engage in classroom type education. Which is hard, because I actually really love learning!

So, online courses are perfect for me and, whilst I’m aware that there are so many long-term and of a higher level learning, courses (particularly from the Open University) the shorter, more informal ones, are perfect for the amount of time I can dedicate to the course.

I think that lockdown has made the digital world a brilliant place for education in the very obvious way with a lot of education facilities e.g., schools and colleges, are having to close as per the government guidelines. There’s also probably an aspect of boredom for some people who are struggling to fill their time whilst at home.  

 

Five favourite courses from FutureLearn:

1.      Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) In the Global Context

2.      Start Writing Fiction

3.      How to Create Great Online Content

4.      Covid-19: Psychological First Aid

5.      Impact of Trauma on Mental Health

 

Five favourite courses from Centre of Excellence:

1.      Freelance Journalism Diploma

2.      End Of Life Therapy Diploma

3.      Journal Therapy Diploma

4.      Criminology Diploma

5.      Feline Behaviour & Psychology Diploma

Finally, one of my favourite aspects of the digital world – shopping! I think that online shopping has actually become a bit of a necessity for some people who are shielding and have to rely on doing an online grocery shop. There’s also the fact that so many non-essential shops are closed and whilst their products may not qualify as ‘essential’ or ‘necessary,’ they’re important to a lot of people’s lives.

Recreational shopping has also become a bit of a coping mechanism for boredom for people who are having to spend so much time at home!

 

Five favourite online retailers & their best lockdown items:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/


T K Maxx: https://www.tkmaxx.com/uk/en/


Paperchase: https://www.paperchase.com/en_gb/


ASOS: https://www.asos.com/women/