Thursday, 28 October 2021

FIVE OF THE MOST ESSENTIAL REMINDERS FOR BLOGGERS | IN COLLABORATION WITH PRETTY PERFECT PRODUCTS | AD

So I’ve spent a fair amount of time recently working on my blog posts for Blogmas (I’ll be publishing one post each day from December 1st to Christmas) and I began considering ways to remind you all that there’s still a discount code (it’s at the end of this post!) valid with my Blogmas collaborator; Pretty Perfect Products! On thinking up ways to do this, I had the realisation that ‘reminders’ - in general - are actually very important and with my collaboration centring around their Christmas Planner, I thought it would be a really relevant topic…


I met someone new the other day and he asked me what I do for a living and I talked about blogging and he asked if I made any money from it, and I was like; “no… I could but no,” and then he said “why do you do it then?!” And I told him: “because I love it!”

When I first created I’m NOT Disordered In 2013, I was a sectioned psychiatric hospital inpatient and my reasons for starting to blog were largely centred around the inclination to better the knowledge and understanding of mental health in my friends and family. 

Even though no one in my life had ever made any derogatory comments around mental health, I felt ashamed and embarrassed to talk about my own experiences around the subject. But after a suicide attempt left me on life support in Intensive Care, and I came round from the coma to be told I’d be going to a psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away where the ‘average length of admission’ was 12 - 18 months; I realised I couldn’t lie my way out of that. I mean, I did think about it - I wondered if I should say I was going to University there or something(!) but I realised that I’d probably want to talk about what was happening throughout my hospital admission. And I finally found myself at a point where I felt robust enough to talk about my mental health without allowing any negative comments to impact me.

However, when I announced - on Facebook - the reality of my mental illness, I was overwhelmed by the thoughtful, kind, and caring comments from my loved ones (and I actually ended up feeling quite terrible for thinking that they would be anything but supportive!). Receiving that response was a real confidence boost to my eagerness to talk about mental health and I became motivated to continue with that and hope that in doing so, my loved ones would not only learn more about my experiences and how to support me, but also, that they’d be encouraged to speak up themselves.

I think that those two elements are the fundamental basis for my reason to continue blogging for almost nine years(!); to help myself and others. Having that strong determination and drive has really helped me to fight my way through the difficult and challenging moments in my blogging career. It has given me good reason to get my priorities in order. To consider whether a really early start for an event is too off-putting when compared to the possible benefit my speech might have on the attendees. 

It has also meant that as the years have gone by, there have been many occasions where my reasons for blogging have become… somewhat less significant or even completely forgotten about! And I’ve found that where that has happened, the quality of I’m NOT Disordered’s content has suffered because I’ve felt kind of lost and detached from the reasons why I had been working so hard on creating unique and interesting content.

Initially, I wondered if this reminder was largely appropriate for mental health bloggers, because I kind of assumed that is the category where the content can be the most challenging and overwhelming. But really, any blogger can find themselves prioritising their readers or audience when working on their blog. 

When I was first admitted to the psychiatric hospital I began blogging from, I made a conscious decision to start cooperating with the staff and engaging in therapy for the sake of my loved one - particularly my Mum. And a lot of people said I needed to be working on my recovery for myself and that I needed to want to get better. But actually, doing it for the sake of others, provided me with the opportunity to be safe whilst developing that self-reliant motivation. 

I think that doing that with my mental health recovery and the effort I put into it, really impacted the way I run I’m NOT Disordered because for a long time, I focused on the impact my blog had on others… There’s one response I’ve had on the impact I’m NOT Disordered has had on a reader which I’ll always remember and hold importance to. A lady emailed me to say that a blog post I’d written about tips on getting through the process of reporting abuse, had inspired her to report the sexual abuse she’d been subject to as a child. And her abuser was jailed.

Obviously, I’ve received so many other very important and humbling messages detailing the positive impact my blog has had on a reader, but that one just seemed to be a lightbulb moment. It really brought home the level of influence I - by way of my blog - have on the lives of so many amazing people who read it! And whilst having that quality to my blogging, has largely been a good and positive thing; acknowledging your impact on others can become a negative pressure. 

I mean, when I first started referring to myself and my mental health as being ‘in recovery’ and then I self-harmed, I felt so ashamed and embarrassed because I thought it would make me a phoney and a disappointment. Without it being said, I’d come to think of myself as a ‘poster child’ for mental health recovery and so many readers would message me saying I’d given them hope - that it helped them to know just how poorly I’d been, but had managed to come back from that. So if I were to blog about my ‘blip’ or ‘relapse’ I worried a lot of readers would lose hope. That they’d look at the situation and think ‘if she can go from being that well and still go backwards what hope is there for me?’ 

Ironically, this acknowledgement of the negative side to being able to impact readers ended up being a turning point in recognising the impact my blog has on me too! It was with the reluctance to be open about the difficult sides of recovery that I realised how therapeutic blogging is for me because I believed that if I could write about it, I’d actually end up feeling better. And so, for the first time, I prioritised my own benefits from my blog over the impact on my readers. 

In all honesty, I think it was one of the most influential and monumental moments in my blogging career because it really promoted the notion that I’m truly invested in I’m NOT Disordered. That I’m completely passionate and dedicated to it. And in doing this, I’ve found the motivation to power through a lot of challenging occasions. This, has given me the motivation to encourage other bloggers to concentrate on their own benefits of their blogging because I truly believe that can make or break a blog.

Having spent a large portion of my childhood writing short stories, or engaging in some kind of arts and crafts activity, it feels almost as though I’ve always been creative. I mean, I think that if you had told my Mum or my Nana (who were the biggest fans of my stories about ponies going on adventures!) when I was little that I was going to spend years writing a blog for thousands of people; they’d have believed it! So probably having that creative quality to me already has really paid-off with my blog, especially in the more recent years…

When I first created I’m NOT Disordered in 2013, there were three well-known mental health blogs; one by a Police Officer who was interested in mental health law and crisis call-outs, one from an ex-psychiatric inpatient, and another by a Psychiatric Nurse. I couldn’t find a single one written by an actual psychiatric inpatient. It meant that without even trying, I had found a niche in the industry and whilst I was - and still am - grateful for that, I think I took it for granted. I mean, I wonder whether if I’d had to try a lot harder to be different from the off, that would have made it easier to up my game in the more recent years.

With the blog industry - and mental health blogs specifically - becoming so incredibly drowned out with new bloggers and their more unique content; it’s very obviously turned a lot of bloggers who (like me) have been going for some time, feel a more competitive nature or vibe when creating their content. This, can have a number of different impacts/results: For wannabe and budding bloggers, the sense of competition can be off-putting and leave them hesitant to take on such a huge challenge. However, perhaps this is a good thing because it means that - unlike me - those people are weighing up their decision whether to blog. In doing so, they can come to a more informed conclusion that will leave them with a realistic assumption or insight of the challenges they might face in starting to blog. I honestly wonder whether I’d have even started blogging if I’d known all of the hardships I might face in doing so. Or - at the very least - I wish I’d known about them so that I could have been better prepared and with less sensation that I had been thrown in at the deep end, floundering around for help.

The best impact though, is where the notion of it being a competition has an instrumental in motivating a blogger to better their own content - whether that be through their imagery or their collaboration partners or the quality of their words. I’d like to think that’s something I’ve experienced because whilst I’ve always been pretty creative, the thought that there’s someone else out there doing the same thing, really inspires me to take things a step further and to push the creative and imaginative boundaries just that little bit more.

In the blog industry widening, it’s sort of understandable - to the point of being predictable - that it’s caused a few bloggers to find themselves considering whether they should see another blog’s content as a guide or an inspiration. Should we be copying off one another and trying to do the same thing better? Or should we just completely change the game and draw ideas from other’s content to inspire content of a totally different perspective? 

At the end of the day, it needs to become about making the best decision for you and your blog, and its readers. 

Believe it or not (you probably will if you’ve been with I’m NOT Disordered from its beginning) this was something I’ve only become experienced with doing in the last two or three years! 

I think that in the beginning of my blog, it was literally only aimed at my loved ones so there was no real reason to publicise it much further than my private Facebook account. It wasn’t until my friends started passing the link on to others and I watched things snowball as the reader count went up that I found myself becoming so much more passionate and determined to raise my blog’s profile.

In realising the benefits my blog could have on my readers and discovering that my words can actually help someone;I found the confidence to speak to complete strangers - whether that be a taxi driver who mentions mental health or a Journalist - about I’m NOT Disordered. It was as though holding onto that hope that I could help, drove me and became my motivation to find some level of courage. Like it was strong enough to counteract all the anxiety telling me to shut up, all of the fear of judgment trying to keep me quiet, and all the crises of confidence saying that I was being arrogant and bragging.

 I think that a large reason behind the challenge of the prospect of blowing my own trumpet, largely stemmed from how confident I had been in my creativity before I went to High School. From a young age I enjoyed being creative - whether that meant in writing short stories or doing some arts and craft - and was always, consistently supported, and encouraged to do those things.  My Mum and Nana were huge fans of my writing (even thought it was mainly about horses going on adventures!) and my Nana would sit for hours with me tearing up catalogues and making collages of my favourite toys. 

Having that lovely, caring upbringing, meant that I didn’t think twice before selecting to study Textiles in the Art and Design department of my High School. I had a confidence and pride in my creativity and the products of it because of the endorsing comments from my loved ones. And that quickly disappeared within weeks of meeting my Textiles teacher because she almost instantly began offering her very invalidating and not at all constructive, criticism on my work. I think it’d be fair to say that I do well with criticisms that is meant to be helpful and that is given will good intentions, but her comments?! Well, they were of the nature and had the power to completely undermine my confidence in my creativity. 

Losing my steadiness and courage, meant that in the beginning of I’m NOT Disordered, as much as I enjoyed blogging, I doubted my own capabilities and the quality of the content I produced. But, I finally found validation (whether rightly or wrongly) when the number of readers continued to rise into the thousands. Whilst I recognised - and still do - that it’s very likely that not everyone who looks at my blog will like its content, I must be doing something right to have attracted at least all the others who do enjoy the it. 

After a year or so, I found that as much as I thrived on the thought of my blog helping readers, I, myself,  had also begun to really benefit from it. And not just because it felt so good to help others, but also because I enjoyed being creative again. I enjoyed being able to spend a large portion of my time harnessing all the creativity I’d either lost or bit back since that Textiles teacher. 

Then, as the popularity rose, I found that the more I blew my own trumpet, the more opportunities I was offered or the more that I managed to obtain. And as intimidating as it felt to begin speaking at events, attending meetings with people who were highly regarded in the mental health world, and being filmed for segments on the news, I began to thrive on it. To live for it. And almost out of nowhere, I found myself considering I’m NOT Disordered to be my ‘calling’ in life - to be the reason why my suicide attempts had failed. It was my purpose. It was the reason I needed to fight for my recovery and maintain my safety. And discovering this, left me wondering whether that itself was a reason to blog - the hope that in doing so, I might encourage or help someone else to discover their own purpose. Or at least to discover some sort of comfort and hope in their life.

Again, this is another element of blogging which has taken me years to get the hang of - I would actually say that even after almost nine years, I still haven’t mastered it!

In starting to blog, I didn’t, for one minute, consider - or even remotely entertain - the prospect that I would end up with a lengthy to-do list around it. I guess this was largely because I’m NOT Disordered was never intended to become all that it is today. I didn’t consider it to become a bit of a career; and one that I would still be enjoying almost nine years later! I mean, my blog’s initial purpose was to document my recovery as a psychiatric inpatient and to use that to improve the understanding my loved ones have of mental health.

As the blog’s popularity grew and I had the confidence to speak more openly about it, I found myself receiving so many offers for some incredible opportunities. I mean, I’d be reluctant to start listing my favourite ones; that’s how many I’ve accepted and completed! I obviously think myself so completely lucky and honoured to work with the organisations and people I have, but it has definitely been a learning curve and a challenge... 

Having made a few suicide attempts and with two resulting in me being on life support, I’ve developed a ‘life-is-too-short’ sort of attitude that has often resulted in me agreeing to a number of opportunities//projects at the same time. To put it into perspective; I found myself travelling to London so often for meetings and events that I began looking into moving there! I hope that in saying that, it’ll make sense for me to go on to say that working in that way - saying ‘yes’ to so many offers - left me with no choice but to start considering the practical and emotional impact of doing that.

From a practical angle, I get motion sickness even on a twenty-minute bus journey, so travelling the three or four hours from my home to London (which usually meant a taxi or bus, then a train, and then the underground or a taxi) and back, was a challenge that resulted in me being prescribed an anti-sickness tablet. 

When I finally really acknowledged the tiredness and stress of travelling so often, I began making the request to be provided with accommodation to reduce it. But then I grew kind of tired of living out of a suitcase and having to navigate around random hotel rooms, where each had everything in a completely different place to the previous one! 

It took probably two years before I finally recognised the impact the stress of travelling and nights away from home was having on my mental health. I realised that with me being so tired and stressed, my content and my presence or work at an event or meeting were being affected too. And so I made the decision to begin being more selective in the opportunities I took in; I stopped agreeing to anything that meant more than three meetings in one, no more than two events per week, and having to write no more than four blog posts per week. 

Ironically, I’ve found myself enjoying things a whole lot more because I’m agreeing to the projects I’m most passionate in and limiting how many I do, means I can be so much more invested and dedicated in my contributions. And having this benefit, has meant I’ve not regretted any occasions where I’ve had to turn down an opportunity.



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