Thursday, 6 January 2022

NINE REASONS TO CELEBRATE | HAPPY NINTH BIRTHDAY, I’M NOT DISORDERED

Having made a suicide attempt that landed me on life support during the first year of I’m NOT Disordered, it wasn’t just about psychologically not being able to imagine my blog to still be going nine years later! So, excuse me while I try to recognise, accept, and celebrate the fact that I’ve now been blogging for NINE YEARS!

One of my most popular blog posts for my own Birthday was when I talked about all the reasons why I was grateful I’d made it to that age; so, I thought I’d do something a bit similar in using this occasion as an opportunity to talk about all the reasons why I’m celebrating …

1.       ALL THE LESSONS LEARNT

Being a ‘look-on-the-bright-side’ kind of person, where I’ve made – what some people may deem to be – mistakes in my blogging career and decisions around my blog; I try to view them as learning curves. It means that rather than be upset and tackling feelings of regret, I feel productive and positive instead!

When I first created, I’m NOT Disordered in 2013, there were really only three well-known mental health blogs out there and none of them were written by a psychiatric hospital inpatient. Whilst, on the plus side, this meant I had instantly and accidentally found a niche for my blog (something which becomes increasingly more and more difficult with the overly saturated blog industry); it also meant that I had no real template for what I was doing. I had no one I could really look to as a guide or a blog to look to as a model and a goal.

Again, looking at the positives; whilst this absence of a traditional/predictable inspiration left me feeling alone a lot, it also meant there was no real pressure in those early years of my blogging career. And experiencing any sort of strain when you first start blogging can have a massive influence on whether you continue. So not feeling the need to ‘keep up’ with everyone else or to ‘be better’ than other bloggers, really allowed me the time to find my footing by myself and really learn and develop everything I want I’m NOT Disordered to represent, the content I want it to be a home to, and the reputation I want it to have.

I think that having that strong, genuine foundation has meant that when the mental health blogging world has become larger and more and more blogs are being created, I’ve found a positive in that. Rather than it becoming competitive and me feeling some sort of constraint in creating my content – like, I couldn’t write one piece because such and such wrote something similar, or that I needed to write about a particular topic because everyone else was – I found inspiration in the content of others and took motivation and drive from the quality of their blog posts.

The blog world expanding meant that I could learn lessons in a more objective style by observing other bloggers and the impact their actions and decisions around their content had on their blog’s popularity and the feedback readers expressed and provided. But, in my drive to create unique content, I also (very obviously and understandably) still managed to make decisions that left me at the crossroads of considering it a mistake and looking at it as a learning curve. So, I guess it’s a good job that I enjoy learning new things because I think it’s safe to say that any person’s blogging career will centre and revolve around learning, analysing, and growing.

A while ago, my Richmond Fellowship support worker asked what one thing I had learnt that had helped my mental health recovery that I’d want others to know (in case you’re curious, my reply was that I’d learnt that things doesn’t last forever; that you can feel like it’ll never get better, but it can). So, I thought about that with this part of the blog post… Is there one thing I’ve learnt over these nine years that I’d like other Bloggers/prospective Bloggers to know? 

Do what you love, because you love it.

If you stop enjoying blogging, you shouldn’t have to push yourself to continue. There’s a balance between acknowledging when something has run its course and deciding it’s just a challenging time or a crisis of confidence that you can get through.

Then, it also rings true for the content; don’t create pieces for your blog that are in any way negative for you; your mood, your mental health, your physical health, your reputation, your relationships… Publish posts that you’re passionate about and which you enjoy creating.

2.       THE COLLABORATIONS

In all honesty, I can’t remember actually sitting down, weighing up the pros and cons, and make a balanced, informed, and conscious decision to feature collaborations on my blog. And whilst that’s obviously still worked in my favour, I’d not recommend anyone else do the same! I’d advise bloggers to properly consider the prospect of working with other individuals and organisations carefully, because agreeing to collaborations on your blog has the potential to either un-do a lot of your hard work and ruin your reputation or boost your blog in doubling its publicity.

The first collaboration and event I remember attending as a Blogger was with Time To Change and was just over one year after I had created I’m NOT Disordered (and you can read about it here). Like I said, I can’t remember ever making a real decision to collaborate with the UK’s organisation campaigning against mental health stigma… I didn’t think about what could come from the collaboration. I know now though, that I was very fortunate that associating my blog with them meant extra publicity and the offer of some incredible opportunities that ranged from speaking at events to writing a piece for their website. Whilst I recognise that for some, those elements aren’t appealing – and at the time, I honestly didn’t even know I would find them appealing – those results of the collaboration ended up being perfect for I’m NOT Disordered.

With that first collaboration under my belt, I learnt a lot that left me with the confidence, passion, and determination to actually go and seek out opportunities with other organisations. And initially this meant reaching out to a lot of mental health charities e.g. my collaboration with Young Minds (which is here) and people who were well-known in the mental health industry e.g. my collaboration/guest post by Jonny Benjamin (which you can read here). But over time, I began putting a lot more creativity into my collaborations and decided to try working with organisations that might not usually be associated with mental health e.g. Oliver Bonas (collaboration here), Liverpool Football Club (collaboration here), English Heritage (collaboration here), and Future Learn (collaboration here).

I like to think of I’m NOT Disordered as fair and balanced, so before I talk about my long-term collaborations, I couldn’t not mention the collaborations that haven’t worked out so well. As I said earlier about regrets; I try not to consider certain experiences as ‘mistakes’ but more as lessons, so whilst there’s no bad blood between myself and this collaboration partner, I won’t be naming them – but if you’re a long-time reader you’ll probably be able to guess!

I think that the most negative collaboration was with an organisation who I - and many others – thought very highly of. They are mostly respected and appreciated for the work they do, but they definitely do have their critics and there are so many people who have only ever had negative and debilitating experiences with them. And before I created, I’m NOT Disordered, I was one of those people. To the point where I found myself in shock by the notion that I’d gone through so many horrible moments with them, but here I was putting it all to one side and working with them. Whilst I was very aware of the extra publicity and opportunities I was being afforded because of the collaboration, I was more motivated by the prospect of my work with them changing the experiences and opinions others have of them. And so, with this drive, I put a hell of a lot of time and effort into our collaborations (because there was more than one) and then I was in an instance where the organisation treats me the exact way, I had spent so much time on encouraging them to do literally the opposite!

It’s months later since that instance, and I’m still full of resentment. I mean, loyalty in collaborations is something I’m very ‘big on’ and I’ve worked so hard to form working relationships with some organisations that will continue to collaborate with I’m NOT Disordered. But it’s hard to stay ‘loyal’ and supportive of an organisation that seems to have the very contradictory ethics than is reasonably expected of them. And it felt as though it was at a point where I really needed to cut the cord – which, even though I knew it was the right decision, was still so difficult – and disassociate my blog from an organisation that I was becoming increasingly ashamed to say I had worked with.

That one organisation, however, has absolutely nothing on the handful of amazing ones that I’m honoured to continue to collaborate with and support: Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (recent collaboration post here), Cats Protection (most recent collaboration piece here), and Richmond Fellowship (a collaboration post here). These three organisations have been with me and my blog for years now and it means so much to have them still around to celebrate milestones like I’m NOT Disordered reaching its ninth Birthday! 

3.       THE READER COUNT

Every time I think about the number of readers I’m NOT Disordered has; I’m reminded of when I was asked why it matters so much to me. Honestly? It felt like a bit of a dig, as though I was being shallow or superficial for caring so much about this. For putting so much focus and attention on a quantity. Like, doing that, meant my priorities were wrongly aligned.

My first interpretation on the popularity of my blog growing, was that it meant so many people cared what I had to say. Back then – as a psychiatric hospital inpatient – I really craved validation because I had spent the three years previous to that hospitalisation with professionals being judgmental and doubtful. My actions and thoughts and feelings were regularly scrutinised and called into question; and it led me to start questioning myself and my experiences. So, to now have the opportunity to talk about all those things and to have people want to read that? It’s special.

The second benefit I experienced to the reader count became about the opportunities I was either being offered or was managing to secure for myself.

I think that from the very beginning of me approaching organisations and individuals, I recognised the power and the importance of mentioning my blog’s statistics. In all honesty, I do sometimes think of it as wrong – I do sometimes think that it should be the quality of your work and not your statistics that is the deal-breaker in collaborations. But it is the blogging industry, and the reality is that organisations and well-known individuals, don’t want to give up their time and their name if there’ll be no benefit from it for them. And I guess that really, it does both ways in that I’m wary of associating I’m NOT Disordered’s name to a cause that has very little appeal with no real positive impact on me and my blog.

When I would take on collaborations and have a real awareness that chances are my reader count has solidified the opportunity, I used to have a total crisis of confidence and panic that me – as a person and as a blogger – wasn’t good enough. That me and my creativity and writing abilities were somewhat insignificant and unworthy. However, like more things in my blogging career, this changed over time, and I realised that if I really was that useless, I wouldn’t have the number of readers that I do. I mean, I recognise that not everyone who visits I’m NOT Disordered enjoys its content, but still… there’s no ignoring or arguing against over one million readers!

And the final large benefit I’ve experienced with my high number of readers has been the notion that yes, some of those readers don’t like the content, but there’s also a whole ton of people who do. A ton of readers who I have the potential to help in some way. And it’s kind of like that Friends episode where they’re proving that there’s no such thing as a selfless good deed because no matter how much, a person usually benefits from doing something nice for someone else. So, in recognising the impact I can have on others, it’s also helped me. Helped me to feel more confident and to be more honest because if I don’t have those things, I might not be able to have this influence. And when I’m struggling and losing motivation in writing blog posts, the thought I might help even just one person, is more than enough motivation for me to power through!

4.       PROVING PEOPLE WRONG

There’s been two big statements people have made which I feel I’ve proven wrong now that I’m NOT Disordered celebrates its ninth birthday…

Firstly, I was once told that I wasn’t “creative enough.” Whilst it wasn’t about my blog, it has still stuck, because I fully believe creativity can be essential to a blog’s success/life span! I mean, my High School Art and Design teacher was referring to my work as a result of my interpretation of the set theme ‘under the sea’ and not my writing abilities. So really, she should have dismissed how poor I was at being artistic because ‘creativity’ comes in many forms, and so I’ve found myself holding onto that comment throughout my creative writing and in creating blog content.

When I opted to study Art and Design, my dream career was to be a Fashion Designer and I really enjoyed drawing – fashion drawings mostly, plus some drawing from favourite photos. My Mum raised me to believe that I could be whoever I wanted to be. Do, anything I wanted to. That encouragement meant that whilst I believe I wasn’t big-headed or cocky, I was quite confident in my drawing; and so, starting to study the subject with a teacher who was forever giving me very unconstructive criticisms; was kind of a shock to the system! I wasn’t used to feeling degraded and humiliated. And I obviously didn’t want to experience those feelings and the thoughts they induced again, so I quit drawing… After being graded at a pass for the class!

Whilst I mainly stopped writing out of sheer fear that I would end up writing about the abuse and someone would see/read it; I think that maybe if I’d still been confident in my creativity, I would’ve powered through and persisted with my creative writing. If I was as passionate as I am now, I would have continued regardless of anyone’s thoughts and opinions of my work. And I am so grateful that I found the passion and determination again – and that I found it myself. It wasn’t as though someone came along and began suddenly praising my work! I build a dedication to creativity through my own hard work and my own thoughts and opinions of it. I stopped seeking validation and realised the most important opinion on something you do, is your own!

I think that creativity has really come into I’m NOT Disordered in ensuring that it stands out from the crowd. When I first created my blog in 2013, there was really only three well known mental health blogs, and none were written by a psychiatric inpatient. Without trying, I found a niche. But, as the digital world has grown, developed, and increased in popularity and usage; my blog being different from others seems more and more difficult to achieve. It now takes so much more effort. And don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not complaining about that! In fact, to the contrary – I love that it takes hard work and more creativity because it leaves me feeling more deserving of any achievements and highlights that come my blog’s way. 

The other comment to drive my need to prove people wrong was after my first suicide attempt and I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I remember being sat in a plain, yellow ‘visitors room’ with a grey, bearded Psychiatrist; and him telling me; “you’re not going to make it to nineteen.” And at the time, I was struggling so much that I told him “good!” In that moment – and in a lot of moments that came after that – I honestly believed suicide was the only way through the memories of the abuse and the scary hallucinations that would persistently and constantly call me useless and unworthy of help. And it makes me think of this quote about how suicide doesn’t only take away the possibility of things getting worse; it will also take away the chance that things might get better. I think that the way I used to feel was that I’d rather take the chance of stopping it worsening. I mean, I couldn’t stand the thought of that happening. I couldn’t stand the thought of any more pain or heartache. Couldn’t tolerate the idea that I could feel even worse. That I could go through something even more terrible.

On my third suicide attempt, I remember being in the resuscitation area of the hospital and an Anaesthetist telling me that I was going to be treat against my will and sedated to begin the life-saving antidote treatment. The last thing I said before they restrained me and administered the sedative was “I hope it goes wrong and I die anyway!” So, I guess, knowing that… Well, I shouldn’t have been surprised that when I woke from being on life support, I was taken to a psychiatric hospital where the ‘average length of admission’ was said to be 12 – 18 months.

In that hospital, I underwent therapy for over two years, and I learnt so many things that helped me to come through those suicidal thoughts and feelings. Initially, when I was putting time and effort into therapy and cooperating with medication regimes, it was for the sake of others. I had begun really considering how my loved ones must feel with what was going on with me and I found myself engaging with the hospital staff in the hope it would appease those loved ones. I was told numerous times that I needed to ‘get better’ for myself. That if I – myself – didn’t want recovery then maybe it’d never be genuine or permanent.

Working hard at recovery for the sake of others though, provided me with ample opportunity to build a passion and determination myself. Seeing how happy and proud I was making people spurred me on and I began to experience a pride in myself. I found myself enjoying the benefits of maintaining my safety and really appreciating having the trust from the hospital staff. So that – for what feels like a long time now – I’ve been able to count myself lucky and fortunate to have survived and I’m eventually grateful to all those professionals who I used to hate and resent for saving my life.

So, to have been blogging for nine years, has proven to be a really thrilling achievement that has left me feeling as though I’ve really shown that Psychiatrist from all those years ago, just how strong I am!

5.       FINDING A PURPOSE IN MY LIFE

When I first began therapy in the specialist, long-term hospital, the Psychologist suggested we start by tackling all the reasons why I was suicidal. Having only just met her, I wasn’t prepared to talk about the abuse just yet, so we discussed my conviction that my purpose in life was to highlight the terrible mental health services by committing suicide at a young age. I genuinely thought my purpose was to kill myself.

So, the Psychologist had me list the reasons why I believed this and then list the things which undermined the belief, and which were evidence to the contrary. It helped me to see that there was so much more truth to that second list. I mean, having those lists right there in front of me made it all so much more real, clear, and understandable. Like, there was no hiding from it.

It meant that the exercise really spurred me on to face facts and in recognising that there was no real truth to the belief; I had made a huge step in the direction of recovery. It was a reassurance that actually, me committing suicide was about me and my decisions. I could have power and influence over that be cause there was no greater plan or purpose to it. I was fully responsible if things went that way… And so, if I didn’t want to die – I then needed to take measures to do all that I could to prevent – or better cope with – any suicidal thoughts and feelings.

You know people talk about ‘light bulb moments?’ Well, I think that learning that I could take some positive, healthy control over this, was one of three light bulb moments I had, that really influenced and inspired my recovery. But the only problem was, now that I recognised my purpose definitely wasn’t to commit suicide, I was kind of left wondering what to do now. Initially, I actually struggled with this notion because it left me feeling that everything I’d gone through – including everything I had put myself through – had been worthless. Pointless.

Ironically, being in the psychiatric hospital when I realised I could do anything with my life, meant that actually, I was kind of limited with what I could do! So, I enrolled at a local College and began studying a variety of distance-learning courses I was interested in that ranged from Customer Service to End of Life Care. I really enjoyed improving my education and it allowed me the opportunity to better my knowledge whilst also providing me with the chance to figure out which subjects I enjoyed the most so that could then shape my new aspirations.

I found myself gaining – and reigniting – a passion for retail and fashion; and in particular, visual merchandising. I began doing a ton of research on the career and industry and the therapy team used their budget to purchase a few books for me. And it was whilst I was building my knowledge, that I created I’m NOT Disordered and started blogging. 

Within days, it was as though the whole retail thing was a childhood dream and now, I was on track. My life was finally heading the way it was always meant to go! My mental health was finally going to have a positive impact on me, my life, and the lives of others. It felt worth it. As though all the blood and tears had a point. They hadn’t been for nothing. My life hadn’t been a complete waste. There was still hope and the chance for me to feel successful. To feel as though I had achieved something.

6.       HAVING A JOB BECAUSE OF THE SKILLS & EXPERIENCE GAINED THROUGH BLOGGING

This actually really connects with the previous bit! Finding a purpose in my life through I’m NOT Disordered, has meant I’ve really dedicated a lot of my time and energy to creating content and in doing this, I’ve learned some skills and developed knowledge that has really helped me in finding a job and building a career.

When people have suggested I go into some sort of role centred around care and mental health, I’ve felt confident and reassured in my response that it wouldn’t be the right role for me. Because, in teaching me what I enjoy and what I have an interest in, blogging has also really helped me to be aware of the fact that I would really struggle to have a career that would involve hearing and seeing some upsetting stories/situations. And I think it sounds ironic because I have a mental health blog that I spend so much time on, and that a lot of my content revolves around upsetting situations! But in doing that, I’ve learnt my tolerance level for it. I’ve learnt that I highly respect those who do work in such a role, but I acknowledge that I’d find it incredibly hard to stay somewhat ‘removed’ and boundaried in a way that would protect me and my own mental health.

To be honest, a lot of pressure and encouragement was put on me to work in psychiatric services in some way and it was to a degree that when I knew it wasn’t the right career for me, I wondered what else I could do! I mean, if everyone thought I was suited for that… was there anything else I would be good at?

As the years went by with, I’m NOT Disordered; social media, bloggers, and ‘influencers’ became more and more talked about and eventually, ‘blogging’ became a career path. So, for a brief time, I wondered whether my blog was actually going to become my job, but I found that my blog was teaching me all the qualities that would be necessary for me to work in communications and marketing. And what’s more than that, it was proving that I enjoyed, and was passionate about, having a career in that industry.

I started as a Digital Volunteer for St Oswald’s Hospice in December 2019, but because of the pandemic and lockdown, my tasks were kind of sporadic. I absolutely loved everything I was asked to do though, and I felt an almost instant connection to the organisation and, in particularly, to the Communications team. Even though, for a long time I had thought that my ideal job would be to work for a Communications and Marketing department within a mental health related organisation.  So, I had pictured my volunteering with St Oswald’s as temporary and a steppingstone in aiding my experience of the industry and the type of work I might go on to do elsewhere. But the bond was immediate and just like that, it felt like I’d found my home. Like I had a confidence that this was where I belonged. Which, similarly, to having a purpose; was something that’d been absent for a large part of my life because of my mental health.

Hopefully, explaining that will inspire the thought of just how special and overwhelming it was to be offered a contract as Communications and Marketing Assistant in December 2021.

7.       HAVING THE BEST SUPPORT NETWORK

Initially, when my mental health first deteriorated and for a while after that, I had pretty useless professionals involved in my care, help, and support. I remember one CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) telling me that my new diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) was a ‘death sentence’ and various members of my local Crisis Team making judgmental assumptions and stigmatising comments.

I don’t think it was until around 2011 that I really had an efficient and effective team of professionals which included a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, and CPN. The Psychologist taught me about the different parts to my thoughts and feelings and helped me to be able to better explain my actions to people, which increased the chance of those actions not being misinterpreted. The Psychiatrist encouraged me to complete an Advanced Decision document which detailed that when I was well, I wanted to stay alive, and so if I refused treatment for a suicide attempt or self-harm, it was a clear indicator that I was lacking capacity and I should be treat against my wishes. This document literally saved my life on at least three separate occasions. And the CPN? She battled for funding for me to be transferred to a specialist psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt left me on life support. And that admission meant I could assess the recommended treatment and therapy for BPD – which also saved my life.

After my admission to the specialist hospital, I was discharged to my own home and in addition to having a CPN and Psychiatrist, I was assigned a Recovery Worker from the national mental health charity, Richmond Fellowship. Inevitably, being with the organisation for over seven years now has meant that my Recovery Worker has changed a number of times, but I’ve never had someone I couldn’t connect with, appreciate, respect, and find helpful. I recognise that I’m very lucky to have such a positive experience with the organisation, and this is why I joined their Working Together Committee (which is basically meetings with the most senior staff). Being in those meetings, I have the opportunity to influence the service and help improve the chance of it being as helpful as it is for me, for others.

Above all these people, is my Mum. Ironically, the one moment in my life that I’m the most grateful for her (and that’s choosing one out of a lot of them!) is a moment she thought I might hate her for.

When my hallucinations developed into visual ones as well as auditory, I began seeing rabbits everywhere and in a desperate attempt to be free of them, I attempted suicide for the third time. Because of the hallucinations, I was told that I didn’t have the capacity to refuse the lifesaving medical treatment and so I was put on life support whilst the treatment was administered. It was ten years ago now, but I still remember one of the first things I heard when I was woken from the coma was my Mum saying, ‘you might hate me forever, but you’re going into hospital!’

I later found out that whilst I was on the ventilator, a psychiatrist had told my Mum that once I was conscious and physically well, I would be sent home. So, she ended up on the phone to my CPN and Psychologist (the ones I talked about earlier) to ask them to organise an admission for me to go into one of the specialist hospitals I’d been assessed by just weeks before but which I had refused to go to.

On either of the two ways I was looking at the situation, I was thankful to my Mum… So, the largest portion of me – or at least the part that the hallucinations seemed to control – was grateful with the thought that she was providing me with the opportunity to make another attempt. I was pretty confident that either the staff would want to discharge me before the ‘typical length of admission’ (12 – 18 months) or I’d manage to run away; and with the specialist hospital being over 100 miles away, I felt pretty confident that would mean no one could stop me. I mean, my Mum, the CPN, the Psychologist… No one who believed in my potential for recovery would be around to stop me or to be upset by it.

On the completely other hand – the part of me which was still me! – was grateful to my Mum for having such an intense level of faith and belief in me. For having such a strong conviction that I was capable of getting better and that I deserved to live a more healthy and safe life. My Mum is always saying that she’s not perfect; but if I become a Mum, she is exactly the kind of Mum I’d strive to be like.

And then, I couldn’t talk about my support system without mentioning my pets – who are more like my family – my mini lionhead lop; Luna, and my calico rescue cat; Emmy.

When my first cat, Dolly, was put to sleep in 2018 I found myself desperate to get another cat… not just for myself, but for my first bunny; Pixie, who had been best friends with Dolly for over a year! So many people were telling me that it was too soon to get another cat, but thankfully I ignored them and added Emmy to the family within just one week of losing Dolly.

Then, when Pixie was put to sleep in 2021, I immediately wanted to get another bunny, but I allowed myself the time to really think about whether that would be wise. And most importantly, whether it would be a good idea for Emmy. I mean, when we lost Pixie, Emmy got so distressed and upset, she would constantly scratch and cry at the door to the room I kept the hay and sawdust in. After a while, I bought the Feliway plug-in and after a few days, she stopped doing it and seemed to settle a bit. Which then meant I wondered whether getting a bunny would send her backwards.

When I got Pixie in 2017 though, the visual hallucinations of rabbits had just come back and I was desperate for some healthy and safe way to tell the difference between reality and those scary, slightly blurred, hallucinations. And getting Pixie, feeling her soft fur and cuddling her lovely warm body, was the greatest tool in grounding me. So, losing her – losing that – meant that as much as I cared about how Emmy would cope with a new bunny, I also really recognised just how beneficial another bunny would be for my mental health and ultimately, my safety. And so, Luna joined the family!

Having my two babes has made living in my own home in the community after two and a half years in a psychiatric hospital surrounded by people 24/7, actually practical and more than that – enjoyable. I would honestly be lost without these two.

8.       ALL THE CHALLENGES FACED AND OVERCOME

Creating I’m NOT Disordered in 2013, I didn’t imagine it becoming all that it is today. And that’s meant that I definitely wasn’t prepared for and hadn’t anticipated some of the challenges I’ve faced throughout my blogging career.

I think the first one I can really remember and hold as important, was not long after I started blogging and I had very little knowledge of computers and website design, so one of the other inpatients in the psychiatric hospital agreed to do the aesthetics of I’m NOT Disordered. Whilst I was obviously so incredibly grateful to her for it, the first challenge with it was that it meant whenever I wanted to make a change to the blog’s design, I had to wait until she was up to doing it and then go see her and see if it was even possible!

The second challenge with this came when the hospital staff started discussing her discharge before mine. And with her moving to Liverpool and me still being in the hospital in Bradford – plus she had so much she wanted to do when she was finally home – meant that it was going to be near on impossible to be able to really effectively communicate the changes I wanted doing. And so, I decided to learn how to do everything for myself. So, I studied YouTube tutorials and read up on how other bloggers had made similar changes; and the gratifying notion I experienced when I knew that the change in logo, the layout, or the colour scheme was all down to me, was incredible. I mean, in hospital, they were very big on teaching you about responsibility and encouraging you to take it for your actions – no matter what the influence on them – so I liked the idea that any feedback for my blog (good or bad) could genuinely be credited to me and me alone.

The next challenge was when I received my first horrible comments through the content of, I’m NOT Disordered. The one which still really stands out came from a blog post about Suicide Prevention where I’d talked about my attempts, and the comment wished me ‘luck’ with my ‘next one.’ At the time, this comment (and a few others) being my first experience of such responses, meant I was really thrown and almost instantly and automatically destabilised. Like, I just lost all my confidence and ferocity. I questioned myself and the content I was producing. I started debating whether I was doing the right thing in blogging so honestly and openly; and with that in mind, I quit I’m NOT Disordered.

After just months without my blog, I missed having a platform to release my thoughts and feelings so much that I jumped back on the horse and opened I’m NOT Disordered back up! Now, I’ll be the first to say that I’m quite stubborn and so I struggled to recognise that maybe stopping blogging at that time was the right decision, but it wasn’t as permanent a decision as I had thought it would be. However, I wanted to continue blogging so much that I was prepared to deal with any kind of criticisms I got for not sticking to my guns. And thank goodness I didn’t! Because if I hadn’t relinquished that decision, myself nor I’m NOT Disordered would be where we are today.

The final biggest challenge has been that over the years the blog industry has most definitely grown and evolved. It has gone from there being about three well-known mental health blogs when I created my blog in 2013, to the sensation that everyone on Twitter or Instagram has ‘Blogger’ in their bio! But rather than be intimidated by the notion that there were so many more people out there producing content similar to my own; I found a healthier mindset with that fact. I think of other bloggers not as competition, but as inspiration. I look to the content of others and see it as a positive motivation for me to improve my own content I produce. To be more creative. To have more drive and passion and determination.

9.       EVERYTHING THERE IS TO LOOK FORWARD TO…


Previous Birthdays:

Happy First Birthday, I’m NOT Disordered

Happy Second Birthday, I’m NOT Disordered

Happy Third Birthday I’m NOT Disordered

Happy Fourth Birthday, I’m NOT Disordered: 4 Things I’m NOT Disordered Has Taught Me in 4 Years

HAPPY FIFTH BIRTHDAY I’M NOT DISORDERED | A YEAR IN IMAGES

HAPPY SIXTH BIRTHDAY I’M NOT DISORDERED

HAPPY SEVENTH BIRTHDAY I’M NOT DISORDERED!!!

I’M NOT DISORDERED TURNS EIGHT | A LESSON PER YEAR