Thursday, 4 November 2021

CELEBRATING ONE MILLION READERS!!!

Having been a Blogger for almost nine years, you’d think I would never run out of words – that I would never become speechless. And I think this should be especially true considering I’m a mental health Blogger, which is arguably the most challenging topic to communicate to others effectively enough to stir compassion and empathy. However, seeing that I’m NOT Disordered has reached over one million readers?!

As with a lot of the milestones I’ve celebrated over the years of my blog, I wanted to use reaching one million readers in a way that would help others. I think it’d be fair to say that usually, my means for helping others has meant advising readers on ways to safely manage their mental health or how to navigate upsetting situations. So this time, I wanted to do it a little bit differently, and considered all the occasions, situations, and stages I wish I’d been advised on during my own blogging career…

NEW BLOGGERS:

The most obvious and first step to advise on, are for the early days of your blog… When I created I’m NOT Disordered in 2013, there were three well-known mental health blogs – one by an ex-service user, one by a psychiatric nurse, and one by a Police Officer who was really passionate and interested in mental health law. 

Whilst this meant that there was a niche for a blog written by a psychiatric hospital inpatient (as I was then), it also meant I had no one to turn to for relevant and actually experienced advice and guidance. And the absence of this meant I got a very terrified and intimidated feeling that almost filled me with a sense that I had to learn things the ‘hard way.’

1.     Don’t be embarrassed to read/watch online tutorials

2.     Utilise hashtags on social media to connect with other Bloggers

3.     Trust your heart as well as your head – don’t second guess yourself

4.     Consider pros and cons to keep your worrying productive and reasonable

5.     Never stop being yourself – no matter how different that may be

STUCK FOR INSPIRATION:

Having blogged for almost nine years now, I’ve had so many occasions where I’ve felt completely tapped out for inspiration for my content. I think the biggest reason for this has been that in mental health blogging, there seems to occasionally be a lull in activity; where every now and then, there are no events, no meetings, no appointments, no collaborations… 

Obviously when I first experienced this, I was completely thrown and lost on how I was going to create content with no inspiration or influence. I mean, where would I get my ideas from?! However, my passion and determination for blogging has – fortunately – always helped see me through these challenging times. I guess that it’s been about me recognising that lacking inspiration isn’t a big enough problem to throw me off blogging. It’s not enough of a deterrence. And because I thrive from being challenged, I learnt to cope with those quiet periods in a variety of ways…

1.     Search relevant keywords on Pinterest for more creative imagery ideas

2.     Never outright copy another Blogger’s content – no matter how stuck you are for inspiration

3.     Consider what you’d like to read about

4.     Use a lull in activity to prepare for a busier period

5.     Check relevant, trending topics on social media to write a ‘response’ piece 

CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE:

I think that some people will be surprised to hear that I ever have moments where I’m not confident and where I doubt myself! But honestly, whilst it’s not as often as it was in the beginning of my blogging career, that struggle still happens on a regular basis.

When I set up I’m NOT Disordered I had only been talking about my mental health publicly for less than a year; but I had gained a lot of support from everyone and that bolstered my confidence when it appeared that I’m NOT Disordered was going to become a whole lot bigger than being targeted purely at my loved ones on my private Facebook account!

As the years (almost nine of them!) have gone by, I have found my confidence has gone from panicking every time I clicked ‘publish’ on a post out of the terror of what others would think of it; to collaborating with well-known organisations and individuals. 

My confidence has definitely built with the collaborations I have secured, the opportunities I’ve been offered, and my number of readers continuing to rise to exceed any and all of my expectations! It’s a lovely boost to think that there are well-known organisations out there willing to work with me and my little blog. Then, on a more personal level, I find the emotional and psychological benefits I get from blogging also raise my confidence. They give me the motivation to be confident in putting myself out there – to be honest and open about my mental health.

1.     Show yourself the kindness you would show others in your situation

2.     Write down self-critical thoughts to get them out of your head

3.     Talk to someone who you can trust to be honest about your capabilities and content quality

4.     If you wouldn’t say it about a friend, why say it about yourself?

5.     Find a quote or lyric you can relate to which will motivate you through these crises

TOO MANY PROJECTS:

Being a psychiatric hospital inpatient in the beginning of I’m NOT Disordered and not having the intention of it becoming so important to my life meant that I didn’t struggle with having too many projects on for quite a few years. 

Also, with there only being three or four well-known mental health blogs when I started blogging, I really had no expectations or warning that this (having a lot of projects on at one time) was even a ‘thing!’ I mean blogging in general wasn’t what it is today; there wasn’t a forewarning that there might be collaborations, work with the media, freebies…  Now that blogging is more known, it’s a much high probability that you’ll find yourself faced with an overwhelming amount of projects; and knowing that, enables you to be more prepared than I was…

Something I do want to say on this bit, though it might be solely about mental health blogging, is that I’ve found there to sometimes be a lull in activity. On the one hand it’s meant using my initiative to create opportunities myself, but then it’s also meant that when that lull is over, the sudden onslaught of events and meetings and presentations can be more overwhelming than if they’d been continuously available. 

1.     Create a scheduler/a to-do worksheet on Canva or another creative image/document site

2.     List pros and cons to each project

3.     Utilise the calendar function in your phone/iPad etc.

4.     Invest in some appealing stationary to motivate you to use it to be more organised

5.     Consider projects that might come up again and ones that are a one-off

STRUGGLING TO SECURE COLLABORATIONS:

You know there’s that saying about not recognising how fortunate you are… I’ve always felt fortunate and lucky for everything my blog has brought into my life – and this is especially true where my collaborations are concerned. I mean I’m not saying this to ‘show off’ or anything, but I think I’ve only ever had one ‘no’ to a collaboration request/suggestion/pitch! And yes, that ‘no’ was a whole lot ruder than just being a ‘no!’ 

After my first collaboration with YoungMinds, and then the Time To Change event; I realised the impact they had on the quality and individuality of my content and the increase in readers that it brought to I’m NOT Disordered. Recognising theses benefits, really motivated me to pursue other organisations and individuals with ideas of collaborations and partnerships to provide content for both my blog and my social media accounts. 

Initially I struggled when I was considering who I’d like to work with because I was so dedicated to reading fashion and beauty blogs that I felt as though I had to wrack my brain to think of an organisation outside of those featured on the blogs I read. I had begun to define success in blogging by the standards of those blogs – by the growth fashion and beauty bloggers made in starting with collaborations with high street stores to finally working with couture, luxury brands. 

So, rather than try to approach those same organisations, I decided to think up which ones I considered to be the mental health equivalent… I thought of local charities and support groups as important, but also a means of getting experience to improve my knowledge and work in preparation/hope for working with more well-known, powerful organisations such as national charities, emergency services, and the most influential individuals in the mental health/social media world. And once I had established that list of collaboration goals, I moved onto researching the necessary layout and advice on pitching an idea to them.

1.     Look to more established bloggers for advice

2.     Remember collaborations aren’t essential to make your blog awesome!

3.     Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an easy task by more experienced bloggers

4.     Know that even the most ‘successful’ bloggers will have been ‘turned down’ in the past

5.     Be willing to ask for feedback if/when you get a ‘no’

CONSIDERING FEATURING ADS/GIFTS:

Similarly to the collaboration progress, being a reader of fashion and beauty blogs meant that I found myself defining one element to a successful blog as being in receipt of gifted items/products. As though free lipstick meant you were a well-accomplished blogger! And that was the other problem – aside from thinking freebies were of huge importance – I also thought it only pertained to those exact same items gifted to the fashion and beauty bloggers I followed. I hadn’t imagined that there could be some sort of mental health equivalent that was more apt for the themes my blog was dedicated to.

So, initially in my blogging career, I signed up to a website and received two or three beauty products which I attempted to review, but I almost instantly realised that I wasn’t much good at it! Or at least, my reviews weren’t (in my opinion) of the same calibre of those featured in the blogs I had been reading. And I had the epiphany that I should really stick to what I was good at – writing about my experiences and producing content related to mental health. These thoughts and beliefs were only supported and evidenced by the drop in readers when the beauty reviews were published.  

1.     Create a list of pros and cons

2.     Where apt, take inspiration for layouts from Pinterest images

3.     Try asking your audience/readers for their thoughts and opinions

4.     Don’t prioritise monetary or materialistic gains over the message you want to get across

5.     Take inspiration from bloggers you admire/respect

REACHING OVERWHELMING MILESTONES/ACHIEVEMENTS:

I very obviously had to pick this stage of my blogging career considering the entire cause/inspiration for this post is about the fact that I’m NOT Disordered has reached over one million readers!

I’ve found it very strange that whilst I’ve done a lot of preparations with the prospect of reaching this milestone in mind. I mean I got the balloons, I started this blog post, I’ve been planning for hosting a party to celebrate… And yet despite all of that, I still found myself completely overwhelmed, shocked, and amazed when the numbers reached that magical amount! 

Having spent almost nine years blogging, I’ve obviously reached an enormous amount of milestones and achievements in that time; and the one thing they’ve all had in common and which I’ve been very aware of; has been a sense of inequality. The notion that suddenly having so many readers makes you different to bloggers with less. But I completely believe that this stresses the importance of remaining humble, honest, and grounded – no matter how many milestones there are, nor of what gravity or significance they’re at/thought to be. 

1.     Be aware that you might never be full prepared for how they’ll feel

2.     Consider how you could use these milestones/achievements to benefit others

3.     Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to mention and celebrate your achievements

4.     Practice grounding techniques where you feel overwhelmed and emotional

5.     Remember to appreciate every moment of it

RECEIVING MIXED FEEDBACK/COMMENTS:

Another instance where I’ve been incredibly fortunate and lucky is that in the almost nine years of I’m NOT Disordered, I’ve only received a handful of negative, detrimental comments. The sad thing with that, is I shouldn’t actually feel grateful because really, just one horrible comment is one too many! But, we live in a world of online bullying and negativity so…

After those comments, I stopped blogging and it ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever done with my blog because it provided me with the opportunity to really recognise my passion and dedication for it. And I believe that in realising this, it’s made me a much better, more motivated and more confident, blogger. 


It’s kind of ironic because whilst that negativity influenced a positive change, the positive comments have actually taken a bit longer to learn how to cope with! Initially, that feedback was hard to accept because I definitely wasn’t a fan of blowing my own trumpet; and that meant it all felt very awkward. And I guess that considering the supportive, encouraging upbringing I’ve had, you’d think I’d be used to positive comments, but I’ve found that because of the criticisms I got at school, I haven’t become complacent with the niceties. I’ve never thought ‘well that’s been said before’ because then the comments would lose all importance and meaning. 

1.     Where apt, take negative comments as constructive criticism

2.     Don’t be afraid to revel in compliments

3.     Use horrible comments as motivation to prove those people wrong

4.     Don’t take positive feedback complacently – use it to continue to better your blog/content

5.     Recognise that you can’t please everyone

EXPECTATIONS NOT BEING MET:

With there being so many blogs now, a lot of new bloggers will – unlike me back when I started – will have greater expectations as to what they may be faced with in starting to blog. Sadly, those expectations aren’t always met.

The fact that there were very few mental health blogs when I started I’m NOT Disordered in 2013, meant that I had no real thoughts or hope/goal in mind. I didn’t imagine it to be ‘easy.’ I didn’t think that I’d be gifted a ton of products instantly. I didn’t expect my reader count to soar. I didn’t picture being a blogger as in any way glamorous with travelling first class and staying in fancy hotels for free. I didn’t imagine any of the things which new bloggers seem to expect to come to them on a silver platter the minute they change their description to ‘blogger!’ 

I think that whilst I had no expectations when I first started blogging, I’ve developed some over the years… I mean, I’ve had ideas and organised collaborations then had certain hopes for the response they receive from readers. It might sound funny considering I’m celebrating one million readers, but there have been so many instances where I’ve had very high hopes for a particular piece of content and it just hasn’t matched up to them.  

1.     Draw up a list of pros and cons to each expectation

2.     Know that no one gets everything they want

3.     Look to other bloggers for support with disappointment

4.     Where appropriate, don’t look at yourself as a failure or responsible in any way

5.     Recognise the amount of effort you’re putting in to make your expectations happen

DEBATING A RE-DESIGN:

Over the almost nine years, I’m NOT Disordered has (I think)had three or four re-designs. The majority of these have been mostly about the logo of it.

When I first created my blog, I was a psychiatric hospital inpatient and a fellow inpatient agreed to do the design and technicalities behind the running of it. But then, she was being discharged before me and I realised that I really needed to learn how to do those things for myself if I was going to continue blogging and continue improving and growing my blog. And so I did a ton of research and a lot of Googling, watching tutorials, speaking to other bloggers… Going to that effort and spending my time being so pro-active, meant that when I made the edits to my blog, it was all the more gratifying because I had done it myself and I knew that I was responsible for whatever my readers thought of it. 

1.     Don’t fix what isn’t broken

2.     Consider asking readers for their thoughts on a change

3.     Recognise how much time and effort it will take to make the edits

4.     Assess any financial implications, including the cost of printing new business cards etc

5.     Take inspiration and ideas from other, popular blogs and use Pinterest for colour themes

CONSIDERING QUITTING:

I think it’d be hard to believe if I were to say that over the almost nine years I’m NOT Disordered has been going, I hadn’t once considered quitting blogging. It’d be hard to believe; and it’d be a lie.

About a year or so after I started blogging, I received a few horrible comments – with the worst probably being that I was wished ‘good luck’ if I were to attempt suicide again. They came at a time though, when I already felt I was at a crossroads with my blog. I had started blogging as an inpatient and with one of my main goals being to shed light on life inside a psychiatric ward. So, once my discharge was being discussed, I wondered whether I’m NOT Disordered had a future beyond the hospital. I mean, what would I write about if I was just like any other person living in the community?!

Ironically, closing my blog down was probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for it – not that I’m in any way recommending you do the same! It’s just that having that time without my blog was really enlightening in illustrating to me just much I enjoyed blogging, and how important it had become for me. It was like I’d found a whole new sense of passion and purpose.

1.     Consider advice you’d give a loved one in the same situation

2.     Seek support from other bloggers

3.     Be reassured in knowing you aren’t alone

4.     Don’t think of yourself as weak for considering quitting

5.     Try not to put extra pressure on yourself to make the decision – take your time