Saturday, 10 July 2021

“IT FEELS SO SURREAL” | EVERYTHING I’M THINKING ABOUT ON THE WAY TO ONE MILION READERS!!!

Some people may think I’m a bit eager with this blog post, but I think that it’s in my head a lot at the minute because if my daily statistics continue at the very lowest, I’m NOT Disordered should reach one million readers before the end of the year. And figuring this out, meant that I’ve began organizing a private event to celebrate the milestone. Which, again, has drawn my attention to the fact it’s going to happen… When I was telling someone what the party was for, I was asked how it felt – the notion of having one million readers – and I told her it was surreal. But that’s not all that’s in my head around this momentous occasion…

Small beginnings should be recognized and remembered…

Instances like this – getting closer and closer to one million readers – make me so grateful that I can remember the very beginning of I’m NOT Disordered. For those who don’t know the story…

It was January 6th, 2013 and I had been a psychiatric inpatient since summer 2012 after a suicide attempt left me on life support. I had just had a 1:1 with my Key Nurse and we’d decided that I would start writing a little bit about the abuse I’d experienced when I was younger every night. Agreeing to do this felt like a massive step forward into recovery and it inspired a sense of wanting to document it. So, when I got back to my room from the 1:1 and saw my laptop lying on the bed, I realized that rather than document my progress in one of the many notebooks I wrote in, it might be a better idea to do it online.

I thought that at least that way, my loved ones – family, friends… could join me on the journey and be better placed at understanding what I was experiencing. I hoped that in doing this, they would be able to be even more supportive, they’d be able to help others struggling with their mental health, they’d feel more confident in speaking up about any difficulties they have too, and they’d be better educated in mental illness so as to dispel any stigmatized thoughts and opinions (because even your loved ones can have them!).

With those intentions in mind, I created an account with Blogger and I’m NOT Disordered was born! Right there in my hospital room, on my single bed – which was bolted to the floor – and with the laptop I was only allowed for a few hours every evening once the therapeutic timetable was finished and with those very genuine motivations. So, to look at where we (me and my blog) are now? Sometimes it’s beyond surreal – sometimes, I’m speechless.

Remembering the 100,000 reader’s party & setting expectations:

Obviously and understandably, since I’m planning a new party, my last one (which you can read more about here) has definitely been on my mind a lot recently.

When I first began Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) in 2012 as a psychiatric inpatient, and was taught the coping skill of Mindfulness, I had so many hesitations about it (you can read more about them and DBT in general here) that I refused to engage in the entire module. Ironically though, I learnt more about it when I was discharged from the hospital and the new aspects of it and the realizations and understandings, I developed around it made the skill so much more appealing that I finally began to utilize it. 

The main thing I learnt about Mindfulness was that you can use it in a positive situation too! It’s not all about sitting with a terrible feeling or accepting harmful thoughts and feelings and not acting on them. So, when my 100,000 party was finishing and the room was emptying, and I found myself on the dance floor with two of my best-friends whilst the musician played Mr Brightside, I made a conscious decision to use Mindfulness as a way to remember that moment. To remember exactly how happy, peaceful, loved, and proud I felt. And doing that, has made that memory and that event the greatest night of my life.

Of course, making that statement – that it was the greatest night – has meant that so many other nights and events since that one in 2015 have been measured up against it. And understandably, this one million readers party is already being compared to it in regard to the planning of it and the purchasing of certain products and items (I’m trying not to say too much because I want the invited people to be surprised)!

I guess having the ‘bigger-and-better’ attitude which I have and usually illustrate best through Blogmas(!), has really enhanced this habit of comparing. Being aware of this though, has meant that I’m cautious of setting expectations and standards too high in that they put some sort of pressure or stress on me to meet them. I’d rather enjoy the planning stages and have fun buying bits and pieces for the party.

I’ve also decided to make this party a fair bit different because similarly to my blog content, I’ve learnt a lot over the years and a lot of things have changed… I think the main aspect here is about the number of guests I’m planning to have. On the 100,000 party there was 100 guests, but to celebrate reaching one million readers, I wanted something more intimate – which is why I chose a venue which only caters to 50. I feel that one lesson which has affected this change, is that I’ve learnt – over the years – the people who are really important and who have been there for me and supporting I’m NOT Disordered the most…

The importance of everyone from the start and everyone I’ve met along the way:

Starting to blog whilst a psychiatric inpatient meant that the majority of people in my life were staff and it turned out their only real interest in my blog was when I mentioned one of them by name! I remember one of the Ward Managers leaving and he was asked a question and he said that he didn’t want to answer because he knew it would end up on my blog! I cried and later confronted him about it and attempted to explain my blog’s importance to me and that it isn’t for – or about – moaning and complaining about staff.

Having such little support for my blog in those early days, wasn’t an enormous detriment to me and my blog because I wasn’t hugely serious about this new venture! I didn’t imagine it’d become such a huge part of my life and actually, I’m grateful for that lack of reassurance and encouragement because it meant that right from the offset, my blogging was fueled by my own determination, dedication, and passion. And that really set me up into a good, productive position for the rest of my blogging career.

Of course, being discharged from hospital was a bit of a shock to the system in general – but also because it meant I was suddenly surrounded by a lot more people. Not just friends and family, but I also now had a better ability to access other organisations, companies, and charities, which would be a window to collaborations.

Even if you haven’t read, I’m NOT Disordered for very long, you’ll know that I’m a fan of collaborating with others because I really like that it sheds awareness on the collaboration partner and their connection to mental health. Whilst my collaborations have meant that I’ve come to meet or connect with so many more people along my blogging journey, I’ve always tried to stay loyal to those I’ve worked with. And this has meant so many different journeys with different people and different organisations, which has left me feeling very well supported.

I’m so grateful for that support because whilst I didn’t really need it in the beginning, since I’m NOT Disordered has become bigger and bigger, it’s also become a lot more serious and important. And inevitably that’s meant that I’ve learnt a lot over the years so having company and support through those learning curves has been really beneficial in making those scary moments a little less distressing. So, I’d like to look at my one million readers party as an opportunity to thank some of the most important people in my blog’s life.

Will I’m NOT Disordered ever end?

If you’ve read, I’m NOT Disordered since the beginning you’ll know that there was a time when I actually closed it down and stopped blogging (you can read the post about it here).

 One huge reason for ending my blog was that I was being discharged from the psychiatric hospital and I felt as though I were at a crossroads. Firstly, I worried that I’d not be able to create as much content if I didn’t have daily ward dramas. Secondly, I wondered if it’d be like going backwards or holding onto the past if I were to take my blog with me into this new chapter of my life.

My decision lasted just one month before I cancelled the deletion and started typing (you can read my first post after that break here) and I haven’t looked back since!

I don’t regret taking that break because whilst it did mean I missed blogging about some bits and pieces, ultimately; it gave me even more dedication and passion (if that’s possible!) for doing this. I had seen what life was like without I’m NOT Disordered, and I didn’t like it too much. And that experience has meant that I’ve grown a thicker back bone in that I’m so much more robust and defiant of any hardships or instances which have the potential to ruin my attitude and leave me hesitant to blog. It’s like I can now weigh them up – I can put into perspective how terrible something is and consider whether it’s powerful and deserving enough to ruin my blog and everything it means – not just to me, but to others now too.

It might surprise people but, whilst there’s been so many challenges in the years since that temporary stop, and there’s been a lot of moments that’ve taken a lot of time and effort to get through, I don’t think I’ve ever really regretted my decision to start blogging again. There’s never been a moment where I’ve felt it was a mistake.

Recognizing that, and then considering that my blog is coming up to its ninth Birthday, I’ve questioned whether an end will actually come to I’m NOT Disordered! I mean, I honestly can’t imagine not being a Blogger. Like, it’s something that scares me about when I’m ready for a fulltime job; how would I fit blogging into my schedule?! It’s obviously not a reason not to work, it’s just something that the prospect of, upsets me…

The two biggest learning curves in creating content:

In creating this blog post, I’ve had to look through some older blog posts and doing this, had me comparing them to my most recent pieces. On comparison, I began thinking about why there’s been such an enormous change in the content I create in considering the lessons I’ve learnt and how I learnt them…

1.       Using and creating images

One of the greatest ways I learnt to develop my own images for my blog posts was through my Digital Marketing internship where I was taught how to use Canva. It’s a few years later now, but I’m still learning functions of the site and the different creative services it has to offer. And I think that having images in your blog posts, can really lift the content – particularly where it’s heavy in text. Having visuals can encourage someone to stay engaged in reading a lengthy piece.

2.       The importance of titling your piece

This is obviously something I’ve really learnt or discovered just naturally over time. I think a big inspiration for this change has been seeing so many other Bloggers come to the forefront of the media and I made the observation that two could literally post very similar content, but the popularity could be impacted by how the piece is titled. Like, titling it ‘things I’ve learnt about…’ can have a lesser impact or encouragement for the reader to show interest in your piece, than ‘everything you should know about...’

Party outfit planning(!)

So, I’m a very big fan of clothes, handbags, shoes… And an even bigger fan of ASOS(!) so I used their site to create some little mood boards of my favourite items of theirs which I’d love to have as my outfit to my one million readers party…

Floral sequin midi-dress: £180.00

Puff sleeve mini-dress: £120.00

Pleated trapeze mini-dress: £50.00

Oversized T-Shirt dress: £28.00

Lace insert mini skater dress: £38.00

Tiered ruffle maxi-dress: £40.00

Asymmetric smock mini-dress: £38.00

Midi skirt spot print: £22.00

Midi skirt in lilac gingham print: £35.00

Midi skirt in silver sequin: £120.00

Mini skirt pink boucle: £25.00

Embellished skirt in gold: £33.75

Embellished tiered midi skirt: £80.00

Tiered tulle midi in lilac: £40.00

Chakra multirow necklace: £4.80

Tiny heart pendant in rose gold: £21.75

Four layering necklaces: £12.00

Ear cuff moon and star design: £4.00

Wishbone necklace: £10.00

Necklace in star design: £4.50

Sterling silver double ring pendant: £18.00

Square back court shoes in bone: £35.00

Platform heeled shoes in pale pink: £44.00

Tie leg mid-heeled shoes in blue: £35.00

Pointed heeled shoe in rhinestone: £110.00

High heeled court shoes in forest green: £25.00

Platform mid-heeled sandals: £40.00

Platform heeled court shoes in black with red hearts: £46.00

Valentino cross-body bag: £105.00

Studded cross-body bag: £85.00

Cross-body bag in silver diamante: £100.00

Floral print scarf: £27.00

Leaf hairband: £10.00

Leather watch in grey and rose gold: £67.50

XL scrunchie in blush: £10.99

Missing everyone who should be here…

Having lost my lop-eared, Lionhead bunny Pixie not too long ago (you can read about her death in April of this year here), I’m still thinking a lot about those I’ve loved and lost… I think that at special moments and milestones like this, thinking of those who you wish were here to experience it alongside you, is a very understandable and common notion.

My Nana (who died before I started blogging) was a huge fan of my writing – right from my little, short stories when I was younger! So, I’d have loved for her to be here and see that I have so many readers and that my writing has proven to be so successful and popular. I feel she’d say, ‘I knew it.’

Recognizing how lucky I am…

Thinking of myself as ‘lucky’ was something which – for a long time – I couldn’t have ever imagined that I would one day say…

A lot of my suicidal thoughts and feelings stemmed from an anger and upset over how many bad things had happened/were happening, to me. The abuse, the hallucinations, losing loved ones… some might argue it’s just part of life, but because I held a lot of blame towards myself for the abuse, those things felt like a punishment specifically for me. And spending so many days, weeks, months, and then years, feeling suicidal, self-harming, and being in and out of hospitals, I felt so hopeless and had very little belief that I would ever recover.

Even when I started blogging, I wouldn’t have imagined branding myself as lucky in terms of that too. I mean, there are so many bloggers out there these days, that I was incredibly lucky I started I’m NOT Disordered when I did because it meant I had a niche – without even having to try to find one!

Collaborating with so many different people and organisations, has resulted in me receiving some gifts, and being given some amazing opportunities which I may not have had if I hadn’t started blogging and working so hard at my mental health recovery. Putting so much time and effort into my work really helps me to feel deserving of these honorable experiences, yet there’s still a luckiness there that my hard work is paying off.