Saturday, 14 August 2021

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For a while now, I’m NOT Disordered has been on the list of the top five blogs in the UK about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), but now it’s been refreshed, and my blog is moving up (to number three), I thought I’d write a little piece about what it means to me, everything it’s making me think about, and any advice I have for other Bloggers to make the list…

“Mighty things from small beginnings grow” – John Dryden

Even over eight years later, it’s still overwhelming and startling to really consider and think about how I’m NOT Disordered started and then all that it is now!

In 2013, when I started blogging, there were about three well known mental health blogs, and none of them were written by a current psychiatric service user. It meant that I’m NOT Disordered had found a niche without even really trying; and I’m so grateful for that, because I think it’s something which has had a big impact on its popularity. I mean, why would people choose to read my blog over one with similar content?

In having this niche and the blogging market being completely unsaturated by mental health bloggers, it also meant that there was a lack of more experienced bloggers to look to for guidance and inspiration. I sort of felt as though I was learning as I went – and yes, that often meant learning through ‘mistakes’ or errors in judgment. And yes, that meant I was shedding tears of frustration and failure quite a lot, but it also meant that I was so much stronger for going through those instances. And that I now have the experience that I can use to help others to avoid having to go down the routes I did to learn these things.

In the very beginning of creating I’m NOT Disordered, my target audience were everyone on my private Facebook account – friends, family, and old colleagues etc. I had a cull of my Facebook ‘friends’ not long before and so I was happy and content with the thought of all those people knowing the things I blogged about. One drawback to having loved ones as an audience are that it often became too upsetting for them to read about what had happened to me and what I had done to myself.

It was, however, with that notion, that I decided to branch out and publicise my blog on my public Twitter too. And whilst it was initially very intimidating to think of how all these complete strangers could be reading my very personal and vulnerable words; I learn to sort of ‘zone out.’ After discovering this coping mechanism, I had to learn to find a balance between acknowledging the numbers and the gravity of my audience, as well as not letting those statistics really impact my confidence and attitude in my blog posts. But, having started I’m NOT Disordered from my little bedroom in the psychiatric hospital, to now be planning and preparing for my party to celebrate one million readers, I think it’d be impossible to not let that affect me any my blogging.

Am I even entitled to give advice?

There was actually a point in my eight years of being a Blogger where I began questioning whether I could even really be labelled as one. This, primarily, came from the fact that back then (2013) blogging was becoming a huge aspiration for people who wanted to have a life like all the popular bloggers during that time who were doing TV interviews, getting VIP passes to various locations and creating their own ranges of products! And having those bloggers sort of setting the way for others, it had kind of left me with the feeling of having some huge footsteps to follow!

After toying with the idea of using the label to describe myself, I obviously decided to go ahead with it. I came to the conclusion mostly because by that point, I’m NOT Disordered held such a huge, important role in my life that it actually felt almost disrespectful to not acknowledge that in some really deserving way. With the audience numbers rising, even though describing myself as a Blogger, came with some incorrect judgments and naïve expectations and assumptions from others, I’ve never stopped being proud of it.

Acknowledging my position in the blogging world, really aided me in feeling able and entitled to give advice and guidance on the subject. Which is why I think that being on this list of five BPD blogs in the UK, has given me the motivation and inspiration to write this post… To feature on that list gives me a sense of permission or authority. Something which seems to boost my confidence and feel validated when I give advice and guidance.

A lot of the messages I get on a daily basis from readers are either around positive feedback for a particular blog post or for the style of my writing etc, or a request for advice on coping skills for mental illness. It’s not very often that I’m asked for blogging advice and so it leaves me wondering whether anyone even wants it, but I received a Twitter DM recently asking for my thoughts on mental health blogging these days and it’s kind of boosted my confidence a bit. Like, maybe there are more people out there who just aren’t asking…?

The pleasure of “you were wrong!”

There are so many instances where people I know have started a blog and then they’ve gotten distracted by other things in life – which is totally understandable and I’m not saying anything is wrong with that! But I think that having people in my life who had done that, meant that a lot of people didn’t really have high hopes or any real, substantial expectations for I’m NOT Disordered in the early days!

I won’t lie, I didn’t ever imagine my blog would become what it is now, but it has always felt right. Always felt like it’s been a purpose of mine – that I was meant to go through everything I had so that I could write this blog and achieve everything I have from it. And this meant a lot to me because for a long time, one hugely triggering thought for my suicidal thoughts and feelings, was my belief that I had been put on this earth to die young. Being convinced of this gave me every reason not to engage in therapy or cooperate with my medication regime. There was no motivation to do those things because I believed that they wouldn’t make a difference – if I was meant to die, then I’ll die.

Another reason for the lack of people’s faith in the beginning of I’m NOT Disordered, was the pure fact that I had a mental illness. I think it’s a common stigma and misinterpretation that someone with a mental illness is untrustworthy and unreliable. And it doesn’t just depend on what the diagnosis is; it can also be influenced by the person’s behaviours and in particular, whether they self-harm. I think that a lot of people had the unreliable view of me because I told so many lies in order to be able to self-harm or to attempt suicide. I mean, there was one instance where I assured staff, I was going to hug my Mum but then made a break for the exit doors right next to her. And looking back, I can’t believe I used that opportunity to do that, and it really makes me comprehend why people didn’t trust me.

I think I’ve been very lucky in that I didn’t let everyone’s reluctance to believe in what the blog meant, stop me from continuing with it. But I think that’s kind of a common thing in my life – doing something just because people have said I couldn’t! I mean, there’s a lot of unsafe examples, but I was thinking of my GCSE exams and all the teachers who called me ‘useless’ or predicted low grades; then I passed every single subject!

I’ve had so many opportunities through I’m NOT Disordered to speak publicly, to feature in newspapers, on TV, on the radio, and other social media accounts; and my motivation for doing those things wasn’t just about all the reasons why I believe my blog deserves recognition and publicising. It was actually more about being able to rub my success in the faces of those who didn’t believe I would make it this far. Because saying “you were wrong” can be so validating.

Inspiration Vs Competition

With there being so many blogs these days – especially mental health blogs – it can be difficult to not look at everyone else in the industry as competition. And, to a certain degree, this can sometimes be helpful. I mean, there’s a healthy level of competition in looking at other blogs and allowing their successes and achievements to inspire you.

Having so many blogs written by people with my diagnosis of BPD, has also often meant that I’ve felt the inclination to ‘up my game.’ As I said earlier, why would someone choose to read my blog over another one if their content and design are the same or even if they’re just similar? I get through this because I actually prefer to read fashion and beauty blogs because I like the escape from the mental health side of my life and the industry. Doing this can mean one of two things: Either it can be more challenging to find inspiration or ideas from the content because they’re on such different topics. Or, the inspiration I do find, makes my content more original because it can be surprising for a mental health blog to write something inspired by fashion content!

Of course, the other side of competition is that it could break you – and your blog!

If you discover the industry is so popular and begin to believe that other blogs are better than yours, rather than that thought inspire you to work harder, it can – very understandably – lead to you feeling insignificant and unimportant. It can leave you feeling hopeless with a crisis of confidence at the thought that your blog will never be good enough and that you just don’t feel adequate to compete.

My thought here is that as long as you’re worrying about other blogs and as long as you’re making those unhealthy comparisons, you’ll likely not get anywhere! I mean, if you were to look at another blog, think that they’re doing something well, try to make improvements to yours, then you’re progressing, and your blog is growing. And in all honesty, I think that having that motivation and drive and passion in you, will shine through your content so much more than purely competing.

Organise, plan, prepare

If you actually know me or have been reading, I’m NOT Disordered for a while, you’ll not be surprised by this tip. I mean, last year I began putting my Blogmas (one blog post for each day of December) series together in September! And this year? Well, I’ve already announced my Blogmas partner (you can read the announcement here) and have four blog posts finished and scheduled for various dates in December!

I think that I’ve always been a bit of a planner… I mean, even when I was poorly with my mental health. If I was running away or going to self-harm, I would put so much thought and effort into planning it that it was almost a relief when I actually did it! In running away, I went so far as to Google street view the train stations to see what my view would be when I arrived, and I’d look up the local Police force to ensure I kept out of the way of their stations!

Planning in that negative sense, has probably been a bit factor in why I really enjoy being organised around my blog and in creating and producing content; because it feels so good to turn that into something completely opposite. Something really happy, special, and positive. I think that this change in my motivation and the reasons I’m planning, are a true testament to my mental health recovery in that they illustrate just how far I – and my blog – have come!

I think that planning and organisation can be helpful – but aren’t essential – to blogging. However, I think that this is something which I’ve felt has developed and become more necessary as the years have gone by and the statistics have built. I mean, like a lot of bloggers; I’m NOT Disordered was never intended to be such a hugely defining part of my life, but since it is now, planning content and collaborations etc. in advance, has become more relevant.

It isn’t just about planning your blog posts though, it can also be about preparing for different aspects behind-the-scenes of blogging e.g., travelling to an event you’ll be talking about on your blog or altering the layout or design of your blog. One particularly important preparation I do along these lines, is that of considering about the response I might get from the content I’m creating.

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