Welcome to Day Sixteen of Blogmas 2022!
In late November, I visited the Whitley Bay Christmas Market which was hosted by Spanish City, a historic building in the nearby costal town. “Now, how did that inspire this post?” I hear you say… Well, I went with a best-friend – Martin Baker, who is also a mental health blogger (all of his links are at the end of the post!) – and so whenever we get together, we’re pretty often talking blog stuff (totally a technical term!)! And that means so much to me, because Martin is the only person in my life who has a blog and with I’m NOT Disordered being one of the biggest and most important parts of my life, it’s so crucial that I have someone to talk to about it who will truly understand where I’m coming from. And so, our chat – when we went for food after the Market – about the effort going into Blogmas 2022, inspired me to write this post…
“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”
Time, organisation, & dedication
Now, I think the predictable start to a post like this would be to recommend that you make a careful, conscious decision as to whether to even do Blogmas, but this is something which I really talked about in a previous post (here). So, I thought that the next point of importance/necessity that is really early on in the planning and creating stages of Blogmas, is how essential it is to ensure that you even have the time to do it.
Having created I’m NOT Disordered whilst I was a psychiatric hospital inpatient, it meant that my only commitments were therapeutic, activity groups and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) sessions. So, I didn’t have to consider, or struggle with, the time required to maintain it, until quite some time into my blogging career. In fact, I don’t think it was really until I had been discharged from hospital and living in my own home for a year or so before I began needing to consider the time commitment blogging was.
This only started to become a problem because I’m NOT Disordered’s popularity was taking off and I found myself being offered more and more opportunities to attend events, to have media interviews, to meet with various people and organisations to plan collaborations, and then having to travel to some of these commitments. Because I really enjoyed all those things, I didn’t ever really struggle to find the time to commit to all of them, but I became aware that this seemed to mean that I was starting to produce less content on my blog. On recognising this, I started to feel kind of guilty because I could totally recognise that none of these opportunities and experiences would even be available/offered/possible if it wasn’t for my blog and its content.
So, just like that, I found myself attempting to fit everything in and, after a while, I began to feel my mental health deteriorate from the stress and all of the effort and energy (it was like I had no energy to cope with my mental health and use better coping skills) I was having to put in to make everything happen in a way that didn’t just maintain how they were; but also improved them too! I immediately knew that I needed to find a balance; because if I wanted to stay healthy and safe, then I couldn’t do everything at once… At the same time, I still wanted to continue to do everything that I had been! I guess I kind of had a superwoman thing going on(!) which led me to feeling weak and useless as though I were somehow less a blogger for not being able to spin a ton of plates whilst standing on one foot!
One thing I found massively helpful with this difficulty was in discovering an inspiration. I found another blogger who is creating incredible content that I admire and who is juggling multiple responsibilities that are somewhat similar to the ones I’m trying to maintain/commit to. Now, if you’ve read, I’m NOT Disordered for a little while, you won’t be surprised when I say that my inspiration is Victoria Magrath of www.inthefrow.com . I’ve followed her for a number of years now (actually, since not long after I started blogging in 2013) and so I’ve watched her blogging career develop and continue to grow and succeed, and the most inspiration part, isn’t about content ideas; it's about recognising how much time and effort she puts into every single piece of content she publishes – not just on her blog though, but on her social media accounts and YouTube channel too. You know, in the blogging world things can get kind of mean with a lot of jealousy, judgment, and competition; and I’ve noticed that there are some bloggers who – once they become well-known and reach certain accomplishments – they kind of stop working for it. It’s like they think they can just sit back and have everything handed to them on a plate. Victoria definitely doesn’t do that. She doesn’t seem to achieve something and think ‘that’s it, I’ve hit my limit. It can’t get better.’ Instead, her mindset looks as though it works more about being so incredibly grateful for her accomplishments and letting them spur her on to do bigger and better.
Having a role model in my blogging career has been so helpful when I’m feeling a bit stuck for motivation and inspiration because it means I have someone I can look to in this industry and see that no dream is impossible if you work hard enough for it. But equally, I’ve seen her struggle and find herself feeling hopeless and like a failure when she hasn’t been able to meet a deadline, she has set herself and which is usually for uploading a YouTube video. And it’s hard to not want to scream at her through the laptop screen that her loyal readers won’t desert her for missing out on this one promise, and that she shouldn’t blame herself for not being able to keep her word. I say ‘hard’ because these are all things which I can completely identify with. Things which I’ve had said to me when I’ve found myself in such a situation – particularly where I’ve promised to announce or launch something on a certain day and, for one reason or another, I’m not able to. And being reassured myself in a way that I would reassure Victoria, just highlights – to me – that if I whole-heartedly find these things true for someone else, why shouldn’t they be for me?
So, aside from timekeeping being important in blogging in general, it’s essential in Blogmas because I think it’s something where you can really find yourself in complete disbelief as to just what you’ve gotten yourself into when deciding to take on creating twenty-four (or twenty-five depending on how technical you want to be about it!) blog posts. Like, it’s something where you don’t recognise the important elements of it until you’re in the thick of it; until it’s ‘too late.’ And honestly, even though I’ve done Blogmas before, I genuinely feel as though this has happened to me this year… That even though I began considering and then planning Blogmas in Summer(!) I’ve still ended up feeling completely unprepared and very stressed out that I’m way behind in creating the content. But I’m pushing myself through it by relying upon my dedication as strength to motivate me in remembering how worthwhile and special it felt when I completed Blogmas last year.
On Day One of I’m NOT Disordered (and for a small amount of time after it) I didn’t feel at all dedicated to blogging in any way. I mean, I was hopeful that it was going to become useful in my one goal of utilising it as a means of telling my loved ones more about what I was going through as a sectioned inpatient in the psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away from them. Having this aim and goal, meant that even when blogging began to prove helpful for myself and my recovery, I still had very little dedication to it. Well, enough to continue blogging until my discharge from hospital. But, of course, by the time I got to being discharged, I stopped blogging… But only long enough to recognise just how much I benefited from it and so I picked my keyboard back up and since then, I’d like to think I’ve become a very committed blogger.
Having been abused and raped when I was younger and then ending up on life support twice after suicide attempts, I’m very much passionate about appreciating even the smallest of things that make a positive difference to your life – even if it is in the smallest of ways! And I think that this stems from the fact I’ve experienced something so horrific (in both the abuse and suicide attempts) and come back from it. I’ve seen the difference anything can make to your life – I’ve seen them influence whether you even have a life – so to have found something (blogging) that has proven to be so completely therapeutic and lifesaving? Well, it’s left me extremely passionate about blogging and really dedicated in encouraging others take it up as a coping skill too. And it is this dedication that really spurs me on into developing ways to better plan my time and be more efficiently organised in creating Blogmas content.
So, being creative is a trait that I’d definitely label as being essential and beneficial in creating a Blogmas series (and to be honest, in blogging in general too). I mean, when I talked about Victoria Magrath being inspirational for me with her dedication and well-organised diary, I also find inspiration from her blog posts. And, being primarily in the fashion and beauty area of the blogging industry, some might find this a challenge to take that content and make it relevant to a mental health blog like I’m NOT Disordered. But to be honest, I find it a lot more enjoyable when it is a bit challenging and when it does exercise and test your creativity. I really love reading her content’s titles and themes and figuring out ways to adapt them to being applicable and have continuity with the posts I usually write – but whilst also trying to make them into something a bit new and original too.
Having loved writing short stories when I was younger and then enjoying fashion drawing in my teens, I’ve really been creative from a young age. Then, I had an Art teacher at High School who gave me nothing but negativity, insults, and unconstructive criticism; and with her dismissal, I lost any and all confidence that I had in my creative abilities, and I stopped writing and drawing. I think that part of this destabilisation in my thoughts and opinions of my efforts and work in these activities was severe enough to also affect my relationships with others in a way, as I began questioning their support and encouragement. Like, how could my family be a good judge, when an actual professional in the subject hated my work?
My love for fashion drawing hasn’t really come back… I did a few projects in hospital, but mostly I think that enjoyment has turned into just being interested in that world. I actually like to read a lot of fashion and beauty blogs and enjoy looking at those sorts of images on Instagram and Pinterest. So, the very obvious creative passion to return has been in my writing, which I found myself almost re-discovering when I was first sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act. Until then, I had kept just how much I was struggling with my mental health a secret and hadn’t told anyone about the abuse, and it became apparent that unless I started talking about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences, I wouldn’t be going home any time soon.
Unfortunately, though, I struggled to put all of those things into actual verbal words. It was kind of like when you feel like you really can’t thank a person enough or say that you love someone in a way that really does illustrate just how much you appreciate that person and how grateful you are for them. And so, after reporting the abuse and finding myself working with the Police to put together a very lengthy written statement, I found myself inspired to turn to writing as a means of getting my thoughts and feelings across. So, I began writing pages and pages of all the things I wanted the mental health staff and professionals to know. All the things which I thought would help them to better understand me and to be able to recognise what would help – what I actually needed from psychiatric services. Unfortunately, though, I was writing for the wrong people. Because the professionals back then, in my locality, had no real skill – or even interest, to be honest – in helping and supporting people with a/my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. And so, even with them having my writing, I was left feeling judged and misunderstood.
Then, in 2012, I made another suicide attempt that left me on life support in Intensive Care and afterwards, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital specialising in Personality Disorders. I was still hesitant I’d be treated poorly because I’d sort of lost a large amount of trust and faith in professionals by that point; but I’m so relieved and grateful to say that I wasn’t. When I wrote notes to the staff, they would not only read them, but they’d also ‘listen’ to them too! They would believe what I said and validate it; and then they would do whatever they could to help and support me.
3 Hair Scrunchies: £10 from www.northstarneedlework.com
@northstar_needlework on Instagram and Facebook
2 Mug Coasters with Robin print (given to Mum, so no prices) from www.philbentonphotography.com
@philbentonphotography on Instagram
@loveofthenorth on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
Boys Get Sad Too Hoodie: £45.00
LAMY Calligraphy Fountain Pen: £18.11
Autumn Theme Stickers: £3.99
HP Sprocket Photo Paper: £12.99
Sleep Headphones Headband: £14.50