Sunday, 25 July 2021

PLANNING AHEAD & MENTAL HEALTH | BLOGMAS, ONE MILLION READERS, TRIPS AWAY, ONE YEAR FREE OF SELF-HARM, & ANOTHER GOD-CHILD!!

So, I have a few really important things coming up in my life and they’ve meant that I’ve had numerous conversations with a whole variety of people who have given a mixed response when told that I’m making plans and putting these things into consideration now…

When I was younger, I always felt like there was a plan to things… Like my Mum and I would plan what we’d do the following day – or week(!) – and I almost knew exactly what to expect. And then the abuse happened…

In the beginning – when I first met my abuser – I expected the complete opposite of him starting to hurt me. I had just been attacked on my way to school and my abuser offered to be a source of support for me in volunteering to make himself constantly available to me should I become upset at some point during my school-day. But it was only the third time I utilised that suggestion of support, that it turned into his opportunity to begin hurting me.

I was caught so completely off guard by the abuse – to the point where I considered whether I’d imagined the entire thing – that I instantly began going to extreme measures to avoid spending any time alone with him. But all that initial support and kindness, and the fact he had already held the respect of so many people, meant that when it all twisted and turned into him requesting time with me, no one questioned things!

Even though the Police have labelled those early, supportive occasions as grooming, I was completely oblivious to recognising that as some sort of warning and being as hurt as I was with no idea it might happen? Well, I think it’s understandable that it has led to me actually being comforted and reassured by things some people may deem unimportant or even – for some people – unnecessary; like having expectations, being organised, creating a plan, and making arrangements…

That sense of relief I experienced in those things meant that it was no real surprise for me when I found myself – two years after the abuse – planning suicide attempts and putting thought into instances of self-harm… Some people might think that illustrates that everything wasn’t genuine because if you really wanted to kill yourself or self-harm, why would you plan it? Wouldn’t you just do it?

Everyone is different though. For me, feeling suicidal was actually really terrifying and since I couldn’t seem to change or cope in other ways with those feelings when they were there, I was desperate for some level of comfort and with the knowledge that organisation is soothing for me… It just made sense that I started deciding on days when I could self-harm or attempt suicide, began writing notes to those I knew my actions would hurt the most, and even researched different cities and towns to run away to so that no one would find me. I would spend hours looking at the train times and prices, using Google street view to know which way I had to go for the local pharmacies, and booking cheap hotels.

I remember one Psychiatrist in a distant A&E saying, “if you put half as much effort as you do into running away, into your recovery, you’d be sorted by now!” Firstly, as if it was that simple! But secondly, he was so right! That comment has stuck with me all these years, and it’s actually something I’ve thought about throughout my blogging career. Firstly, when I created, I’m NOT Disordered in 2013, and then it has continued to crop up whenever I’ve found myself questioning how much time and effort I’ve been putting into blogging and into creating the content. It’s been a great motivation to encourage me that if I can put effort into ending my life, then I have the strength to put into my recovery.

It was that realisation – and a few other instances – which led to me cooperating and engaging in the inpatient Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) which psychiatric hospital staff had been trying to persuade me to do for the previous year or so! And when I finally noticed improvements in my mental health, I listened to my Mum’s brilliant idea… From my admission to the hospital in 2012, the recovery goal was to have my own home and my own cat. So, with the intention of keeping my mind focused on achieving that, my Mum suggested I buy a cat collar to hang in my hospital bedroom. Having that pink and white spotty collar was a huge help when I experienced any thoughts or feelings which had the potential to derail me. The collar was like a grounding tool and it really illustrated the benefits I would get from planning my future because doing so, encouraged, and reassured me that I actually had one (a future!).

When I first created, I’m NOT Disordered and began blogging, it took a while before I started planning ahead with it. Since I knew by then how helpful organisation was to my life and my mental health, a huge part of me not using it in the beginning stages of blogging, was more about the fact that I didn’t hold much hope or expectation that it would continue. I mean if someone had told me then what I’m NOT Disordered would be now; I’d have laughed in their face!

I think planning ahead came into I’m NOT Disordered when I finally recognised the progress and increase in my readership and launched my very first blog series – ‘The BP Series!’ And whilst I’ve learnt a lot over these years of blogging, discovering the pleasure and gratitude I get when a plan I’ve had for my blog is finally executed, has been one of the bigger learning curves. I guess that not having much faith in the potential of my blog meant that I didn’t put so much thought and time into my content. It also meant it was kind of a shock to the system when I saw it succeed and grow in popularity. And it was that popularity which really motivated me to improve on the posts I created and to really commit so much more of my time to making those improvements.

I think that in the blogging world, one of the keyways in which your time can become consumed in terms of your content, is when you’re publishing a series of posts – especially if that series is in collaboration with an organisation! I believe that a reason for this, is that in creating a series, you’re sort of making a promise to your readers. A promise that you’ll publish so many posts over a certain amount of time and with the assurance that they will each have a theme which will be consistent in some way. Making these commitments, these promises, these guarantees; it’s kind of like you’re setting your own bar. Your own standard. And in a way, putting pressure on yourself and the work you produce, setting expectations of yourself, can sometimes be that bit harder to cope with than when another person is pressuring you. I mean, if it comes from another person then you can have a level of control in making decisions around your contact and interaction with that individual. You can’t runaway from yourself and your own mind.

So, as I’m NOT Disordered has grown, so have my own expectations of myself and my abilities to be creative and to produce more and more original content which I can be confident in feeling that it is unique to my blog. And I think one of the greatest tests of my creativity – there’s been many of them in being a blogger – has been in publishing Christmas content. This themed content would be a prime example of me increasingly raising the bar for myself since my very first festive post was purely a few bits of text about what I’d done for Christmas and some photos of my trip to a Pantomime and the obligatory photo beside the Christmas Tree! Fast forward seven years later and Christmas 2020 entailed a daily blog post from December 1st until Christmas Day with a common theme of ‘recommendations.’

I’d like to think that giving you those two Christmassy instances as examples of this work ethic, would leave you with no surprise when I tell you that I started working on Blogmas 2021 a few weeks ago! One reason for this is about pressure in that I’ve kind of adopted the attitude ‘go big or go home.’ So, I’m a huge supporter of going that extra mile and always trying to go one better than the previous time. I think that building on your experiences in a way which only leads to improvements is the real mindset behind actual productivity, determination, and resilience. And whilst I’m not announcing the theme; productivity, determination, and resilience are actually three things which I’m trying to really encompass and illustrate in this year’s Blogmas! In addition to having that theme set, I also have a logo designed with the help of Canva, and a collaboration partner for the entire series (who will actually be announced later in August)!

Another upcoming milestone I’m in the middle of planning ahead of, is that I’m NOT Disordered will be set to reach one million readers by the end of 2021 (if the statistics are at least at the very minimum they’ve ever been!). Having hosted a party when my blog reached one hundred thousand readers in November 2015, it almost seems inevitable and predictable for me to say I’ll be throwing another event for the one million milestone! Since the event is invitation only, I’ll be keeping the details private, but so far, I have a venue, a menu, party favours (currently only 15 have been ‘put together’!), room decorations, and a few other exciting bits which I don’t want to risk spoiling for the readers who are actually attending the party!

I think that one of the reasons I’m enjoying planning the party is that it’s so rewarding to be able to do something which is so positive, and which marks such an achievement – not just for I’m NOT Disordered, but also for myself and my mental health recovery. I feel like reaching that milestone really says a lot about me and my mental health as well as the obvious of my blog’s popularity. To me, it’s kind of evidence that I’m a hard worker, that I’m committed, and that I have the potential to go so much further than even I thought I was capable of! It’s like proof that I’m not just my diagnosis and I’m not just another statistic as a hospital admission for self-harm or a suicide attempt.

I’ve decided to keep the one million readers party quite ‘small’ (50 people) because my first party had 100 people there and in all honesty; a quarter of them were just people’s plus ones and I didn’t even know their names! I definitely don’t want that for this party. I want 50 people who have all played a tremendous role in the growth of I’m NOT Disordered. Those people have helped my blog with their unwavering and unconditional support in so many different ways and so I’m looking at this party as the opportunity to thank each of them. To tell them all that they’ve changed the journey of my blog. That they’ve changed the journey of my life. They’ve made it better. They’ve made it so much more enjoyable, more rewarding, happier, healthier, full of fun and excitement.

More imminent and exciting plans coming up are my trip to the Lake District with Georgie and then my visit to Coldstream to see Lauren, Darren, and their baby; Greylan!

After a Facebook memories notification reminded Georgie that we hadn’t had an adventure together for a long time, we began looking at places to stay in the Lake District! The first place we reserved ended up too expensive, the second one… well I asked to make our visit into a collaboration and was told ‘absolutely not!’ So, our third and final one(!), is that we’ve rented a luxury studio apartment just ten minutes’ walk from Lake Windermere. It might sound extravagant, but I feel like we’re both very deserving of a little break and a bit of fancy accommodation! We’ve each been on tumultuous journeys with our mental health – especially recently – and so it’s nice to know that we have something to really look forward to and something which will really counteract all the recent, difficult, and upsetting moments. And can you really put a price on creating a memory that is really that special?

Visiting Coldstream again, is such a perfect chance to see my best friend (Lauren) who I’ve known for the longest time, and to spend time with the baby boy she gave birth to just a few months ago (and to see her partner, Darren!). It might only be an hour or so away, but going there feels like a lovely, refreshing break from home. And, I mean, last time I went I was so nervous and anxious that I would miss my cat; Emmy, because it would be the longest time, she has been without me; but I was so busy and had so much fun that I didn’t have the time to be sad!

Now, I’ve had so many people label my blogging as ‘work’ in terms of basically saying that when I’ve gone away to places – or when it’s the weekend etc – that I shouldn’t have my laptop. I’ve always said though, that blogging isn’t something which I resent or something which feels like a chore, because if that was the case; I’d have quit a long time ago! I do recognise though, that there are so many people out there who look to their job or career as an honour, a blessing… they love what they do and they’re passionate and dedicated to it. That’s me and my blogging. So, how could I just stop doing it or leave it at home when I go somewhere?! For that reason, I’m not only planning my travel and accommodation to the Lakes and Coldstream, but I’m also planning the content about the trips for I’m NOT Disordered. I’m imagining ways in which I can talk about an aspect of mental health in a way which I haven’t discussed before that can be relevant for my trip and provide an opportunity to share my photographs from it too.

Another milestone which I’m considering content for is that in less than one month, I’ll have not self-harmed for one years – which is the longest period of time since being discharged from the specialist hospital in 2014! My thoughts around the content for this huge achievement are that considering it all, has led me to realising that a lot of my blog posts about the idea of ‘promoting’ something. You know, sometimes it’s an obvious promotion where I’ve collaborated with a company and been gifted products to blog about. And sometimes, it’s less in-your-face like trying to promote using DBT skills or – in this case – talking about life without self-harm and encouraging and wanting others to experience that too.

The final upcoming event which is inspiring some content for I’m NOT Disordered is that the birth of another godchild is predicted as being at some point in August! Now, if you’ve read my blog for a while now, you’ll know I already have a few godchildren who I’m so completely in love with and absolutely dote on. Before Greylan, my youngest godchild (Kasper) was three, so it’d been a while since I’d been around a baby and as soon as Lauren told me she was pregnant, I realised how much I’d missed that!

Unfortunately, for my first two godchildren (Jonas and Emmy) my mental health was struggling so much, and I was really unsafe which meant I was often in and out of hospitals (psychiatric and medical) and so I missed some really important milestones in their early years. I’ll always be sorry for that, but I try to find a positive and I think I’ve turned it into a huge motivation to be as involved as possible in the lives of each of my godchildren.

Large Hare: £7.98

Baby Socks Gift Set: £14.99

Teething Toys: £23.99

Elephant Blanket Comforter: £11.99

Ingenuity Swing: £67.49