Welcome to Day One of Blogmas 2022!
As you may already know if you follow me on social media (@aimes_wilson on Twitter and Instagram); I decided a few months ago to do Blogmas again this year. So, today – to kick things off – I have a little introduction for you, all about my decision to create the series, different elements of the series that I had to consider in the planning process, some links to previous Christmases on I’m NOT Disordered, a little bit about what you can expect, and ways you can join in with the festive fun throughout the next twenty-five days…
Making a list of the pros and cons to creating Blogmas 2022 is a way of making a decision that is actually something which is promoted and discussed in the Distress Tolerance module of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and having had DBT for over two years as a psychiatric hospital inpatient; I very regularly use the skills I was taught in it. This one – pros and cons – is one I find a bit awkward owing to the fact that it could very understandably and easily be deemed as simple, straight-forward and something which really shouldn’t take much effort or consideration. As if, you shouldn’t have to be taught it or even encouraged to utilise it in the right situations and scenarios; it should come naturally and without hesitation.
Unfortunately though, when your mental health is poorly, a lot of your instincts – and thought processes in general – can become somewhat altered and different to those you may experience before/without the illness. For me, my Mum said that when I had made the decision that I was going to self-harm or make a suicide attempt, it was as though I was in a tunnel; I was set on doing it and I couldn’t see any alternative coping mechanisms. And it’s quite scary to think that my mental health had deteriorated so badly that I no longer had that ability to think clearly – even in so far as when it was arguably very simple and blatantly concerning/jeopardising my safety!
So, in learning about pros and cons and discovering that it’s actually useful (for me, because everyone is different) I now use it for making a lot of decisions – big and small! But it’s times like this – making a decision like this about my blog – I think back to when I had just created, I’m NOT Disordered in 2013 and realise that if you told me back then that I’d be making a decision like this, I’d have laughed in your face. I mean, I had no real intentions for any sort of future with my blog… I thought of it as a way to keep my friends and family updated on everything that was happening in my recovery because the psychiatric hospital, I was in was over 100 miles away from everyone. Beginning to blog, I hadn’t even thought about whether I would maintain it when I was discharged from the hospital (granted this was partly because I honestly didn’t know if I’d actually make it out of hospital alive!). So, to now be talking about my plans for my blog’s TENTH Christmas?! Well, it’d have been quite an unbelievable notion back then.
I won’t lie; I didn’t really feel as though I made an actual decision in starting to blog, and, when I made decisions in those early days of, I’m NOT Disordered, I found putting together a pros and cons list quite challenging because there were so few mental health blogs to look to and learn from. Back then, there was a handful of mental health blogs and none of them were created and written by a current psychiatric hospital inpatient, so I really couldn’t create my opinions and determine any concerns from reading them/asking the actual bloggers. I try to look at this as a good thing because it meant that I went into blogging with no prejudice or pre-conceived notions that clouded my judgment or affected my content in any way.
Despite this brilliant experience of putting no thought or consideration/doubt into making a huge decision, I do actually do it when making decisions around I’m NOT Disordered. Over the last almost ten years, I’ve definitely established how important it is for me and how beneficial it is for my mental health. In discovering this, I very much recognise that it means that making decisions around this hugely special element of my life, is a huge process and not so simple as doing what I had previously and just acting on what ‘feels right.’ It’s kind of like showing respect, you know? If someone or something is important and matters to your life, then the least you can do is look after that person or object or whatever in a way which illustrates just how grateful and appreciative you are of it.
And so, here are the pros and cons which I contemplated before deciding to do Blogmas 2022:
After deciding to do Blogmas, my next challenge and thinking point was around having some sort of theme which I could use to also shape the title and many other things to do with creating the content for the series. You’ll see later in this post, but this is something I’ve done in previous years – I’ve always tried to keep to something that at the very least brings an essence of continuity to my Blogmas posts/content. But, this year, I found myself battling this area of the planning/creation process…
When my mental health was at its most poorly, any sort of change in what I was used to would have the potential to influence me to self-harm. And I think this stemmed from the fact that before my abuser became my abuser, that was the thing I had least imagined him being! Like, I – and so many others – had respected him and felt supported by him, so when he turned into the person I would have labelled as my absolute, worst enemy, it was like my entire world had turned upside down. Him turning from being reliable and genuine, into what he became…? Well, I just couldn’t understand how that was even realistically possible. And when the people around me still continued to experience his charming, trusting side, I felt even more bewildered and full of disbelief. How could one person play two such different and utterly contrasting characters? That question, left me with very little trust in anyone – or anything – else in my life; I mean if he could make such a change, how could I ever rely upon anyone to remain who – or what – I thought they were?
This saddening experience related to the subject of change, definitely played into things when my mental health deteriorated and it left me treating everyone else in my life – no matter their role or personality – as a potential threat. I felt I had recognised and come to accept that people weren’t always who they seemed to be. And so, in the process of my recovery, I had to learn that no, you can’t always trust absolutely everyone to be true and honest; but, rather, you can choose to not allow their change – or any change – to destroy you. Because life is literally all about change – without it, you cannot grow. You cannot develop. You cannot learn. You cannot achieve. And in realising these things throughout my mental health recovery, I’ve used them in my blogging career and I’ve utilised them when creating content for I’m NOT Disordered.
I think that there’s already a ton of change in mental health in general – whether that be with staff and the professionals in that world, attitudes, judgments, treatments, diagnosis, symptoms, thoughts, feelings, experiences… So, whilst I accept change is part of life, I’d like to minimise anyone having similar thoughts to my old ones. I mean, it’s very obvious and natural for a blog (particularly a one centred around mental health) to grow and develop over time because everything is changing; the blogger, the technology available, the trends in aesthetics, but I don’t want readers to look at my blog and feel confused with a change in design, a disappointment that something they loved was now gone/has changed, or that there’s no continuity on I’m NOT Disordered, because this might mean they are reluctant to continue reading and following the blog’s content.
With all of this in mind and being considered, I still came to the conclusion that I wanted some sort of theme for Blogmas this year. I thought that with it being such a lengthy series (25 posts in 25 days!) it might be a lot less intense and overwhelming (both for me creating it, and for readers being hit with a new post every day!) if there’s some essence of continuity and similarity. But, having already created a few festive series’ for this blog in previous years (there’s links for the history of Christmas on I’m NOT Disordered coming up in THIS post!), it seemed to be taking a lot of brainstorming and I eventually came to the conclusion that I’d make this year’s Blogmas kind of mixed up and unique. I mean, with the blogging industry being so saturated these days, it can already be challenging to think up different, unique, and original content – let alone do this for an entire series of 25 posts!
So, this year, you should expect Blogmas 2022 to be a more organised various of opening a Christmas stocking jammed full of gifts! There’ll be a mixture of everything from Gift Guides to Q&A’s to photos, vlogs, and more from festive events I’m attending! Be excited!
When I was successful with my original intention (to better communicate what I was going through as a psychiatric inpatient in a hospital which was over 100 miles away from them) for starting to blog, I was just coming to realise that I actually really enjoyed it!
In the hospital, we (the inpatients) had a ‘therapeutic timetable’ which meant that from morning until tea time, our time was set into activities, various groups, therapy, etc. and so it wasn’t until after the evening ‘Reflection meeting’ that we were allowed our laptops for a set number of hours before bed. Having just that scheduled time to ourselves, meant that whatever we each chose to do during those hours was really meaningful. It was something we really enjoyed, and which made all those hours that were scheduled to doing things we didn’t really want to do, totally worthwhile so as to be allowed just this small amount of time to have more control over what we do during it. And that’s what blogging became for me. No, it became more than that. It became my purpose – I looked at the hours I could spend on it as an honourable result of my hard work during all those structured hours.
When, I received a few negative comments on I’m NOT Disordered, in the run-up to my discharge from the psychiatric hospital; I stopped blogging. And I found that in doing so, I had the opportunity to really recognise the benefits it was having on my life and because of that – and a few other reasons – I resumed blogging a few months later. It was because of this, that I finally saw my blog was something I could be in control of, and after being in that psychiatric hospital for over two years, and spending even more time feeling completely at the mercy of the orders from the auditory hallucinations, this new-found control felt almost miraculous! It was so refreshing and it really encouraged me to take make a step up in my blogging and I began to put more effort and time into its content and then into the opportunities that began to arise from the success and popularity of it.
As the years have gone by and the reader count has risen – to now be at over 1.1 million!!! – my thoughts and feelings on that popularity have changed randomly and without any sense of prediction or forewarning. I mean, the ones that are most appropriate for this part, are that, at times, I’ve found the gravity of the readership intimidating and scary. Having experienced the notion of being under the control of others for so long, I felt more easily aware of the signs that it was about to happen again (the control, not being hospitalised!); and so, I was very conscious that there was every chance that I would perceive the number of readers as having too high of an influence on the content I was publishing. That maybe, I’d face an instance where I was eager to write a piece about it, but felt uncertain that it would prove popular.
Having been blogging for almost ten years, I’ve come to adjust to a lot of things, and this is one of them. I’ve learnt to work on this concerning prospect of new-found control by accepting that readers influence my content and using my posts to illustrate that I really do consider them, their thoughts, and their feelings when creating content. I also, like to think of the fact that this can actually be really helpful e.g., when there’s something controversial I’m dying to write about or something that could be so triggering for others, but then I consider my readers and how it will affect them, and I resist the urge to blog about it, and, instead, I look for another outlet for my thoughts and feelings about the issue/topic.
One area where I’ve created posts with little thought for readers is in putting together Gift Guides. I think that with me liking fashion and beauty, in an average way (not passionate enough to really blog about it or work in that industry), I do look at blogs on that topic. Actually, I’d say that I look at them more regularly than mental health ones! And so, I’ve often searched for ways that I can make some fashion and beauty content relevant to, and in keeping with, I’m NOT Disordered’s usual posts. However, I’m very aware that with that not being my usual topic to write about, I’m not exactly a ‘pro’ at putting together fashion/beauty related content. But the one type of commonly used themes in fashion and beauty blogs that I thought might be useable, are Gift Guides… And when is it that these posts are most popular?
Ever since I published my first gift guide on I’m NOT Disordered a few years ago, I found that the enjoyment I got in doing them, really out-weighed the idea that readers might not want to see such content from a mental health blog. And, I mean, I know I chose to focus on mental health and that I make the decision exactly what to write every single time I put a post together; but that doesn’t mean it’s always ‘easy’ or ‘enjoyable’ creating such content. It’s obviously beneficial to me – in so many ways – to write such deep, intense, and personal things; but I wouldn’t exactly label it ‘fun.’ And sometimes, I want that element when I’m working on my blog, and so, for Blogmas 2022, I will be including Gift Guides throughout the series…
Another regular feature of Blogmas 2022, will be that I’m including Q&A’s with a huge variety of people who all have different roles and professions.
I decided to include this element this year because Q&A’s have actually been very popular content when featured on, I’m NOT Disordered – particularly the ‘24hrs with…’ posts. I think that it’s really a testament to the, sometimes, natural curiosity we all have about the lives of others. I mean, it’s like when people joke about someone being ‘nosey’ but chances are if something dramatic was going on, you’d be wondering what it was too! And so, in addition to reading the completed Q&A’s from some lovely people, below is the Q&A so that you can complete one yourself. Then, if you’d like to feature on I’m NOT Disordered, you can send me your answers (to firstname.lastname@example.org) and include any social media/blog links you’d like mentioned, and I’ll publish every single completed questionnaire on December 25th!!
I really, really, really hope that you enjoy Blogmas 2022. I hope that I’ve managed to include content which is of such a variety that it will appeal to different readers. And I hope that all of the hard work and time I have put into this, shines through!
To finish off Day One, here’s a history of links for all the Christmases on I’m NOT Disordered so far: