“Do what you can with all you have, wherever you are.”
This post has actually become something it wasn’t going to be when I first thought of it and started planning it! Initially, I thought that it would just be a ton of images created on Canva, but in creating the images, I began thinking a lot about what they mean, how important they can be, and how they can impact mental health…
METHOD OF CREATIVITY:
I think I’ve been a creative person since I was little. I used to make collages with my Nana out of torn up catalogues and then I began writing short stories about horses! The writing sort of fizzled out when I got older, but for a few years I wanted to be a fashion designer, so I opted to study Textiles for my exams.
Unfortunately, I had a really terrible subject teacher who would constantly undermine my work and criticise my understanding of the briefing we’d be given to inspire our projects. It was as though – only with me – she couldn’t decide whether she wanted literal interpretations of the topic or imaginative. I couldn’t win. Couldn’t get anything right. And it really knocked all the confidence and passion I had in my creativity, leaving me with absolutely no drive or interest in pursuing some sort of career in the industry.
I don’t think it was until my second psychiatric hospital admission after a suicide attempt that I re-discovered creativity; and more specifically, writing. I think it was a truly pure moment when I just felt that writing how I felt and what I had experienced for the staff, was the most natural and obvious way to get help and support, and to recover.
Over the years, I’ve very fortunately had so many people compliment my writing and I’m always reluctant to accept it because I mostly don’t feel as though I’ve tried very hard. And I often worry that to say something like that would sound as though I was looking for a compliment or reassurance. I now realise though, that this – me thinking I haven’t put a whole lot of effort in but being told it was good – was evidence that maybe it was just that writing came naturally to me… Perhaps it’s this, that has contributed to I’m NOT Disordered’s popularity and its (thankfully) forever growing audience.
I’d like to think it’s not just about being a good writer/blogger though – it’s about being creative with it! It’s like this one instance when I was invited to an event about coal mining and I somehow (I still wonder what I was thinking!) made it relevant to my mental health blog! I also enjoy different, very simple, formats for posts; like including bullet points and subtitles. Most recently though, I’ve become very fond of creating and adding images to my posts using a bit of Pinterest and a lot of Canva!
People are usually surprised to hear that I’m not massively talented with technology; I guess a lot of them assume that having a blog with the numbers I have will automatically mean I’m confident and knowledgeable using computers and their various functions! This was pretty well evidenced when I talked on Twitter about my tutorial sessions with Elev8 Web Design for the new LEAPS website being created on WordPress. The thing these people didn’t know was that when I was creating, I’m NOT Disordered, I’d had a brief, little scan of WordPress and very quickly deemed it too complicated and that was why I decided to go with Blogger. And in that very beginning, I didn’t have a clue about designing a blog, so I had another inpatient in the psychiatric hospital do that side of it. Then, because she was being discharged before me, I was sort of ‘forced’ into learning things for myself! Obviously, this was intimidating and scary to feel as though I’d been thrown in at the deep end, but ultimately, I’m so glad it happened because it’s allowed me the opportunity to use my creativity in a way that feels more important. I’m NOT Disordered means so much to my life, that to be able to take full responsibility for everything about it – good and bad – is rewarding and a notion that is full of pride and honour.
I don’t think I really appreciated or knew just how creative I could be with my blog and social media until I had my Digital Marketing Internship and was taught the amazing joys of Canva in creating memes. Or at least that’s how it started. In creating title images for my blog posts, I discovered so many more features of Canva and particularly enjoy the photo collage element to it – which I used in this post! It’s proven to become one of my favourite aspects in creating blog posts and some of the content on my Twitter feed.
My other favourite aspect of creating these graphics, is sourcing the images for them on Pinterest. I think using the platform in that way, can really open up how creative you can then be on Canva because often, I find that my vision of the finished graphic becomes completely different the more I scroll through Pinterest! It really feels as though a whole other realm of creativity is opened when you search for a particular subject or topic of image. I think my absolute favourite example of this was when I compiled my Christmassy pins!
INSPIRATION & IDEAS:
I think that growing up, I never really had someone – other than my Mum – that I felt inspired by or who I looked up to. The respect and appreciation I have for my Mum leaves me with the belief that if I can be half the mother she is when I have children, they’d be pretty darn lucky! I guess there was an element of a really vague inspiration in the series of books I used to read about the adventures of a girl and her Shetland Pony: Sheltie. I was obsessed with horses and had horse riding lessons for a few years, so the thought of having my own horse and going on exciting missions with him, felt like a great idea!
I don’t think it was until I started blogging that I began really investing myself in the work people I deemed inspiring, would produce. When I first created, I’m NOT Disordered in 2013, there were only three very notable mental health blogs and none of them were by someone in my position as an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital. On the one hand, this was a good thing because it meant I had very quickly – and somewhat easily – found a niche for my blog and that could mean more readers who had been looking for something that was missing in the industry. On the other hand, it meant that my first year or so of blogging, was kind of lonely… I mean, I didn’t have anyone to brainstorm with, there was no one to give me tips and advice, and I had to make absolutely all the decisions for my blog by myself because I couldn’t ask someone for their opinion on something, they knew little to nothing about.
Feeling that I’ve learnt a lot about blogging ‘the hard way’ has definitely had an impact on myself as a person in that I think I’ve become more resilient and confident around learning new things and developing skills. It’s also driven me to produce content around advice and tips on blogging or mental health in general because I have the hope and intention of helping others to avoid having to take the scenic route(!) I did. I guess, there needs to be a balance though; because some people need to learn by doing, but there’s also people who might completely give up on something when a seemingly overwhelming challenge comes along.
I think that the feeling that I was really floundering in the early part of my blogging career meant that when I somehow discovered Zoe Sugg from ‘Zoella’ and Victoria Magrath from ‘inthefrow’, I felt reassured and relieved. They were both also in the early years of their blogging and YouTube careers, yet they were already proving successful, popular, and influential, so they were both pretty much instantly inspirational in different ways.
With Zoe, I loved watching her going from filming videos on her phone or web camera in her bedroom at her family home to now filming in her own little studio in her home worth over one million pounds an! And then her fashion hauls used mostly be from Primark, but she’s now gifted hundreds of products upon products! I found it so enduring to see that she has remained grounded and is always grateful for her roots and recognizing how far she – and her blog – have come.
Seeing this, I’d like to think it became something I was inspired by and have come to learn and embody. You know, I’ll never forget starting I’m NOT Disordered in my hospital bedroom and with another inpatient designing it and then screaming and jumping up and down to celebrate my first 100 readers! And I think that’s a really good quality when I – and my blog – are at the point they are now; with heading toward one million readers and affording me so many incredible opportunities that I might have never gotten if it weren’t for my blog and its readers. So, I guess I really recognize just how important my readers are, and I’m forever grateful to every single organisation that’ve offered me those opportunities. I’ve never deemed one to be ‘better’ than another or any more of an achievement because I recognize that if it weren’t for the collaborations earlier in my blogging industry, I wouldn’t have gotten so many more.
Grounding myself also became a lot more important when I began speaking to the media about, I’m NOT Disordered and mental health in general. I guess it was the typical challenge of the whole ‘five-minutes-of-fame’ and people thinking that if you’ve been on TV or in newspapers or on the radio, then you’ll think you’re famous, that everyone will know who you are, and that – in some way – you should be treat as special. I think that the closest I came to this feeling was when a few staff in my local shops would say they’d seen or heard me in the media. And I think it was really helpful that I was speaking to Journalists and Reporters about self-harm, and suicide, and mental illness because it filled me with the belief that I wasn’t publicising myself. I was talking about my journey and my experiences to better the help and support others receive.
Then Victoria, I also watched her blog come on leaps and bounds from filming hauls with companies like boohoo, to now being invited to fashion shows with Dior and opportunities to design her own beauty collection and to write a book! Aside from seeing inthefrows continued improvement, I took the majority of inspiration from Victoria herself and her incredible work ethic. I mean, other than my Mum, I’ve never known someone to work so hard, or be so dedicated, and so passionate, about something. I think that finding someone – and for that someone to be a Blogger too(!) – who embodied these things to a level where I hoped to one day be at, was really beneficial for my blog. It’s meant that I use those qualities and that work ethic, to apply to creating content and I’d like to think that it has resulted in an improvement in the standard of the posts I’ve published.
Seeing Victoria’s work really motivated me in terms of collaborations. I would see her advertise fashion brands and work with beauty companies, and it made me think ‘what would be the mental health equivalent?’ Her content inspired me to be so much more creative with my ideas for my own blog posts and I think doing that, has made I’m NOT Disordered so much more unique; enabling it to remain popular and successful regardless as to how many mental health blogs there now is. Victoria’s ethos of constantly bettering her content, has inspired me to do the same.
Again, I felt it important to shed light on the challenges of this platform and others like it because there are so many opportunities and instances of developing a feeling of inadequacy occurring.
I think my first experience with the belief came with my exams in High School. Unfortunately, the preparation and revision for them began not long after the abuse had started and I was already very aware of just how much it was affecting me, that I couldn’t imagine ever achieving passes on my subjects. I mean, how could my brain really absorb all of the required information when all it seemed to be doing was thinking up methods to hurt myself? The exams I was studying for were milestones in my education and finding my path to a successful, employed, future. So, I also wondered how I could even consider having a future when my present was so difficult and upsetting. I was already having suicidal ideations so a big part of me recognized that actually, maybe I wouldn’t even have a future far enough to sit the exams.
As it happened, the abuse ended a few months before the exams and my determination to beat my abuser’s efforts to sabotage my studying, motivated me to persist in my revision as a desperate attempt to feel as though I had ‘won’ in the war against him. As it happened, his one last attempt to ruin my future failed thanks to the love of my Mum, and I passed all of my exams!
Going through that, I don’t think I had been fully aware of the thoughts and feelings around inadequacy, so the first time I can remember having full recognition of inadequacy was when the auditory hallucinations (in the form of voices) began two years after the abuse. I remember walking out of the retail store I’d been working in and all of a sudden this man’s voice whispered in my ear: ‘you’re useless. Kill yourself.’ I looked around but there was only one man and he was too far away to have said those things as close to my face as I had felt, and heard, it. I somehow shrugged it off as a very random one-off experience; but the following day, he was back.
For the next ten days, I battled overwhelming feelings of inadequacy as I came to realise that my mentality and determination were absolutely no match for the hallucinations. My counter arguments to their continued and persistent comments that I’d deserved the abuse and should kill myself, became so insufficient and insignificant that I wondered why I even bothered trying to put up a defence. My attempts seemed futile and ultimately pointless; it was almost as though from that first day, I knew it was going to end in a suicide attempt. As though it was almost inevitable…
From that first suicide attempt in 2009 until my admission to the specialist psychiatric hospital in 2012, I spent almost every day feeling inadequate in some way. First it would be because I continued to fail at the suicide attempts, I made or that the instances of self-harm were totally pathetic because they would ‘only’ amount to steri-strips at the very worst. A lot of those feelings of uselessness stemmed from experiences as an inpatient in psychiatric hospitals where I witnessed so many incidents of others making a suicide attempt that left them unable to breathe, or self-harming in ways that resulted in them needing plastic surgery. It almost became a self-created competition – something which, to be fair, isn’t unheard of in psychiatric services.
Thinking I could never hurt or kill myself in a way I could deem adequate, continued for over four years until I created, I’m NOT Disordered and found a whole other subject to feel inadequate about! I think that blogging can be deemed a competitive industry to a lot of people so feeling that way, wasn’t exactly self-created as the previous occasions of inadequacy had been.
Finding the absence of a mental health blog written by an inpatient of a psychiatric hospital, meant that probably for the first year or so, I was quite confident and comfortable in continuing to create content just the same as I had from the first day of my blogging career. Looking back, I partly wish I had appreciated that comfort a little bit more because honestly? When the industry became more saturated with mental health blogs, blogging became a little bit more exhausting!
Initially, beginning to experience inadequacy around my blog was a bit off-putting and left me questioning whether I should even continue blogging. I almost weighed up the pros and cons – did I experience enough benefits from blogging to make putting so much more time and effort into it, worth it? Obviously, I came to the conclusion that it was and now – over eight years later – I’ve found the inadequacy has actually been beneficial to I’m NOT Disordered. It’s meant that I’ve almost been forced to improve my content; to be more imaginative and more dedicated.