Happy New Year!
You’re probably inundated with blog posts celebrating the New Year; and they’re probably all from a very similar angle – as is probably the case with my doing a whole new logo and theme for I’m NOT Disordered… So, this year, to mark the beginning of 2023, I’ve decided to do something a bit different (hopefully!) on here; and I’ve picked out a few random – but memorable – bits and pieces from throughout 2022. There’s no real order to it, I wanted it to be kind of similar to opening a memory box in that everything is in a bit of a jumble, and you just ruffle through it to pick bits out and talk about them…
I’m NOT Disordered’s history of design (did you notice the new logo?!):
I guess it was kind of obvious what I was going to write about first…
I actually only just decided to give the blog a bit of a freshen up in December! I mean, it’s something I’d thought about for a month or so, but I really decided to just go for it in the beginning of December.
I started by first thinking about a colour scheme… I loved the blue in the previous one, so it was really just the pink I wanted to get rid of. Even since the beginning of I’m NOT Disordered way back in 2013, I was conscious of ensuring that nothing about the design is off-putting to a particular group of people e.g., would using pink be unappealing to someone identifying as male? Back then, though, I wasn’t hugely convinced that blogging would end up as being all that it is to me now; I definitely didn’t – for one minute – think that I’d still be doing this almost ten years later! So, making my blog attractive at the cost of me not liking the colours, didn’t feel worthwhile and so it remained largely pink for the first few years.
Of course, not knowing that blogging might become a long-term, important element in my life, wasn’t the only reason why I didn’t reinvent it for a while; the other reason was that I didn’t know how to make changes. When I first set up, I’m NOT Disordered, I was a psychiatric hospital inpatient and had no real clue when it came to intense, more technical aspects of computers and so, when my blog’s popularity grew, I found myself feeling the need to improve it and make it ‘worthy’ of the attention it was gaining, and so I asked one of the other inpatients for help in the design of it. And whilst I’m always so grateful to her for the time and effort she put into helping me to make it into everything I had wanted and imagined, it meant that when her discharge from hospital was being talked about way before mine, I was left kind of stranded.
Fortunately – or unfortunately depending on how you look at it – I tend to be one of those people who has to learn things the hard way, so being almost forced into learning how to do all of the things I wanted to with I’m NOT Disordered, actually ended up being productive and rewarding! Don’t get me wrong though; it was incredibly stressful too! I mean, the more readers my blog got, the more I felt a sense of pressure to make my blog worthy of that increased attention. And every time I looked at the blogs I followed, I found myself inspired and influenced to edit my own blog’s design/layout etc… I like to consider other blogs in the industry as influential rather than competition, but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t feel the urge to ‘keep up’ when I see other bloggers creating new logos or adding new features. So, the other stress came from me ending up Googling hundreds of questions on how to do all of these new complex and up-to-date functions. But, after the years of going through that aspect of needing to put a lot of time and effort into things, I’ve not only learnt how to cope, but it has also begun to really just end up becoming a big contributing factor to the pride I feel when I see the final result… I just hope you all like it too!
Favourite song of 2022:
Reflecting on the 1 million readers’ party:
In November 2021, I’m NOT Disordered hit an all-time high when it reached over one million readers (I blogged about it here), and so, in January 2022, I hosted a party to celebrate (which you can read about and see photos from, here). So, in sitting down to write/type this blog post, it was one of the first things which popped into my head…
Now, I’ve often talked about the party I hosted back in 2015 (which you can read about here) after my blog reached over 100,000 readers, and referred to it as being The Greatest Night of My Life. And whilst the moment I was dancing with two of my best friends at the end of the party will stay with me forever, I had been feeling kind of sad that it’d been so long ago. That even after seven years, nothing had beaten it – or even came close to! So, when I began planning my one million readers party, it was with the aim and hope of creating a celebration that would beat that memory.
Unfortunately, even though it was a number of months later, the pandemic and lockdown regulations weren’t quite removed and so a number of people had to cancel their attendance of the party. In fairness, there were probably only a handful of people who didn’t come who I wish had; other than that, all the people who really mattered were there. And in a way, I came to actually enjoy that fact because it ended up meaning that everyone got to talking to everyone else, instead of just staying in their own little social groups and not mingling with each other. I still, however, can’t shake the notion of a kind of disappointment and sadness that the venue wasn’t absolutely packed with people!
That small amount of unhappiness and lack of satisfaction, has led me to planning a party to celebrate I’m NOT Disordered’s 10th Birthday in a week…
Favourite Instagram accounts of 2022:
For funny pet posts and reels: Xena & Finn
For mental health related content: Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust
For all things fashion and beauty: Victoria (was @inthefrow)
For content about Eating Disorders: Cara Lisette
For stunning photography: Alex Harrison Magrath
For high street bargains (on her reels) and wholesome family content: Kayleigh Couture
For a down-to-earth Blogger: Em Sheldon
For mental health related Politics: Danny Bowman
Most popular blog post of 2022:
Working with my local Ambulance Service (NEAS), was one of a few collaborations where it genuinely feels like a huge illustration of my mental health recovery.
I mean, for the best part of three years – whilst I didn’t ever have a ‘bad experience’ with NEAS – I was very ungrateful for the part they played in saving my life (on every occasion they did!). And, of course, this was really only because – for so many reasons and with so many motivations – I very obviously, didn’t want it to be saved. I was so suicidal that it no longer mattered whether the Paramedics and their Technicians treat me with dignity, respect, and compassion (which they literally always did!); no matter how they treated me, I would resent them. And, looking back, I do genuinely feel quite bad about that because it really wasn’t fair on those professionals. Like, it would have been so understandable if they had taken it as an insult and saw my attitude and response with them as rude because they really had done nothing whatsoever to deserve how I treated them.
So, with all of that history and previous experience in mind, the fact that I’m now so well and stable in my mental health has meant that I can finally show gratitude to those who have helped and supported me, and who really did save my life. I think a lot of that new-found appreciation really stems from how I feel about my life – like, if I was still struggling then I might be hesitant to be grateful for someone making it possible for that to continue. But, since my life is pretty ideal and positive and really something I’m proud of right now, I have ample amounts of gratitude which I’m very eager to voice and express! And it is that – the urge to say thanks – that has really helped to motivate this collaboration with NEAS and the blog post that resulted from it.
Now, my only real quibble with the post – the things I’d really like to change – are the photos! I hate to say it, because it was an amazing experience to have a photoshoot (for only the second time in my blogging career) with two of the NEAS staff (their Communications Director and their Mental Health Lead) and their photographer. I mean, I really, really, really appreciated their belief that our collaboration was worthy of them going to such efforts. So, I don’t want to sound ungrateful or like a diva, but I have a ‘thing’ about having photos taken, and I usually hate any that are taken of me by anyone, but me! And a huge reason for this is that for a long time, I was underweight; but then I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital and began taking mental health medication that had weight gain as a key side effect. Putting weight on, has left me feeling fairly self-conscious in photos – especially where I’m not in control of the angle etc.!
I’d say that I was more appreciative of the collaboration than I was wary of the photos; and one of the reasons why was because it made me realise the risk that’s taken by both the collaboration partner and me in agreeing to work together. I think that before this, my only real recognition of this fact came when I worked with my local Police force, and I realised I really needed to start being more careful with what I posted online; especially in terms of swearing and commenting on controversial issues.
Then, I learnt what this means in reverse when an Officer treat me so poorly and my complaint about him was a complete ‘stick-together’ kind of response, so I made the decision that I didn’t want I’m NOT Disordered to, in any way, be affiliated with an organisation who has staff that behave in this way. And I think that as the reader count continues to climb to heights I could have ever only dreamed of, that thought of collaborating with an organisation or a person leaves me so much more wary. Having so many people read my content has meant that I’ve felt almost obliged to put much more consideration into the decision to collaborate; especially in terms of paying attention or researching their reputation and the public’s opinion where necessary/applicable.
So, with all of that in mind, I felt really honoured that an organisation so big and so important in society were matching their name with my blog and considering its reputation to be good enough to collaborate.
Upcoming reasons to be excited:
ü I’m NOT Disordered’s 10th Birthday
ü A big step in my career journey (all will be revealed soon!)
ü More exciting work on a project with the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
ü My 32nd Birthday (February 1st)
ü Some more opportunities to travel in collaboration with various railway companies
ü The possibility of a new resource I have created being published
Thinking about Emmy:
While we’re here,
Can we all, spare a thought for the ones who have gone?
Merry Christmas – Ed Sheeran & Elton John
As Christmas grew closer and closer, I found myself thinking about Emmy more and more often. Losing my lovely little Calico rescue cat; Emmy, in October 2022 was probably the lowest and worst thing to happen in 2022. She was poorly for about a week or two prior to having to have her put to sleep – which is why I did a blog post titled: DEAR EMMY, PLEASE STAY ALIVE. In all honesty, it’s so strange to look back at that post and to have it pop up on social media or in conversation with people… It’s kind of surreal to think there was a time where I was begging and pleading for Emmy to not have to be put to sleep – like, now she’s gone; it’s hard to remember that time we spent sort of in a really sad and difficult limbo. The post also makes me really sad to think of just how desperate I had been to save her and how I felt so completely like a failure when my ‘begging and pleading’ didn’t work/wasn’t enough.
The notion that I’ve been somewhat inadequate in terms of saving a pet’s life; isn’t a new thought, feeling, or experience because I believed this once before when my first bunny; Pixie died in 2021. I had carted her backwards and forwards to numerous Vets appointments and admissions and then, coming home to Emmy without her best friend? I felt so completely useless and like an utter failure. I fully believed that I had let Emmy down and was an absolute disappointment to her; one that she really didn’t deserve. And I had that exact notion when I came back to Luna without her best friend.
Having experienced these thoughts and feelings before and having firstly, learnt to cope with them, and secondly; overcome them, I was filled with hope that I could do that again in losing Emmy… And it kind of worked out like this coping skill I learnt in therapy – that rather than immediately acting on suicidal thoughts and feelings, you should try to cope with them and distract from having your full concentration on them. The hopes and beliefs with this are that sometimes, doing that, will mean that by the time you’re finished with a distracting activity or whatever you’d chosen to do to cope, those thoughts and feelings might be gone – or at the very least, easier to manage and deal with.
So, I’ve used this coping mechanism for not only my thoughts and feelings of inadequacy and failure, but also for when I think about Emmy because even though I’m not thinking of bad memories from her being poorly, my heart usually hurts whenever my head is filled with her. It’s like it’s breaking all over again – splitting in two and having one half stamped on, and the other just massively aching for its partner so that it could be made whole again. Now, if these feelings and experiences happened a few years ago, I wouldn’t have made it… But, with losing Emmy happening when my mental health is so much more stable and well, it’s meant that I’ve been able to cope with the heartache and devastation in a safe and healthy way.
It hasn’t been all about my mental health and my own strength and coping skills, my ability to survive the loss of Emmy could also be massively attributed to Luna (my little lop-eared, mini Lionhead bunny). The number of times I’ve said to people (about Luna) that “I’d be lost without her,” is unreal! I mean, through the majority of my entire mental health journey, I’ve considered myself so unfortunate especially in terms of how often I put myself in dangerous situations and yet I didn’t die… Until I entered recovery and seen the better, amazing, exciting side to life. In doing that, I finally recognised that if you think about how many times I attempted suicide and that I ended up on life support twice, I’ve actually been really lucky to still be here now. And losing Emmy, is of course an instance where I feel so very unlucky and devastated; but (as another means of coping with this) I try to focus on just how grateful and appreciative I am to still have Luna. She has been one of the most frequent reasons in instances where there’s been a smile on my face during any of the time after losing Emmy.
Favourite Amazon purchases of 2022:
Makeup Organiser Bag: £12.99
A last-minute 2022 achievement:
For such a long time, I would completely refuse to blow my own trumpet and to regularly talk publicly about things that might be deemed to be achievements and successes. Growing up, my Mum was always really supportive and encouraging and so I don’t recall ever having a problem telling her when I achieved a good grade at school or was proud of a short story (because I used to write them regularly when I was younger) and I don’t remember ever receiving a response that would put me off doing that.
So, I think that the reluctance I developed to talk more about my achievements, was actually massively influenced by the abuse I began to experience when I was 15. And that might sound strange, but hear me out… My abuser regularly put me down, insulted me and my intelligence (or, in his opinion, lack of) and even went to the lengths of doing everything in his power to impact my education – to give one of the greatest examples of this: So, I handed in my work that was in preparation for some exams and it meant the teacher was going to take a look and check I was on the right path. I later found out that the reason I didn’t get any feedback was because the teacher didn’t even receive it; since my abuser ‘offered to give it to her personally!’ And when he had the nerve to interrupt three of my exams, so that I had to sit them in a completely other building(!); I was pretty certain that I wouldn’t pass any of them.
On results day, my abuser even attempted to ruin the importance of that and rob me of the rituals all of my friends were doing. But I had the last laugh when I saw 7 C’s and 2 B’s (which meant I had passed all nine of my subjects) on that paper and I was filled with this intense pride that bubbled in me until I got to my Mum’s place of work and shouted that I’d passed, and she gave me a huge hug and lifted me into the air, and then she took me around the building, telling all her colleagues!
I was actually really relieved with her reaction. I had worried that no one would understand just how huge an achievement these grades were because no one knew about the abuse. No one knew I had overcome all of that too. But my Mum’s response and celebration left me feeling as though she couldn’t be prouder of me! It still meant, though, that after those results, I went back to feeling as though I couldn’t stress how important – what might sometimes be referred to as ‘little’ – achievements were for me in the two years between the abuse ending and me finally reporting it.
When I made my first suicide attempt and was sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act and admitted to a psychiatric hospital (after the life-saving medical treatment), I found myself telling the hospital staff about the abuse. Even though I had thought that in doing so, everything would just magically get better, that wasn’t the case at all. Whilst I have never – and will never – regret reporting it, I won’t lie; things did – understandably – get extremely difficult afterwards. And so it wasn’t until around three years later when it was a little while after creating I’m NOT Disordered that I really began to find some confidence and willing to acknowledge and talk about my achievements and successes.
I think one huge reason why this happened was because I recognised that if I didn’t – if I didn’t talk more publicly about my blog – it might not continue to grow in popularity and I might not be offered so many amazing opportunities. It left me agreeing with – and promoting that others believe it too – my Mum’s wisdom of ‘shy bairns get nowt.’ And so, with this confidence and motivation to talk about achievements – particularly to do with I’m NOT Disordered – I had no reluctance to post on social media that Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) had written an article about our Blogmas collaboration (two of their most senior staff completed Q&A’s) in their Trust-wide bulletin. I wrote in my social media posts about this achievement how it was particularly special because in the beginning of my mental health journey all those years ago, I spent at least three years so resentful of the Trust for saving my life when I didn’t want them to; and now my blog is being featured in their bulletin! It’s kind of overwhelming and feels like I’ve made a complete full circle in my experiences, thoughts, and feelings about the Trust.
My most-watched of 2022:
Favourite read of 2022:
This, was an easy one: Delirium by Lauren Oliver (which you can buy the trilogy of here)!
This actually isn’t my first time reading this book; another inpatient in the psychiatric hospital I was in for two and a half years recommended it to me back in 2013 so that’s when I first read Delirium and the rest of the trilogy (in addition to Delirium, there’s also Pandemonium and Requiem). And I think the reason I loved it so much was because it’s so far-fetched that it was kind of like an escape from my reality of the ward, drama with other inpatients, arguments with staff, difficult therapy sessions, medication side-effects – all of that! I would do therapy and engage in the therapeutic activity sessions with the focus that when they were done – when we had free time – I could escape in my book. I could leave everything and be wrapped up in this incredible book.
One amazing quality to the actual storyline, is that whilst it is so incredibly different from reality, it’s actually pretty believable. I mean, I’m trying not to really spoil the plot, but there’s a part to it about love being a disease (as you’ll see in the blurb below) and they list the ‘symptoms’ and it’s like… It’s totally real – like, these things happen when you’re in love – or out of love – so it feels somewhat practical and actually really possible!
They say that the cure for love will make me happy and safe forever. And I’ve always believed them. Until now.
There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it.
Everyone who turns eighteen must be immunised with a procedure called the cure. Lena Haloway is looking forward to being able to live the safe, predictable life the government claims the cure will bring. But meeting Alex, an enigmatic boy from the Wilds, might just make her question everything she’s been raised to believe.’
Favourite ASOS purchases of 2022:
Sporty Slippers in Cream: £9.00
Hope and Ivy Frill Sleeve Top: £20.00
Wednesday’s Girl Teddy Coat: £27.00
Snake Design Bangle: £3.50
Neon Rose Moon Knit: £32.00
My favourite blog post for each month of 2022:
Items I want to purchase this year:
4500 mAh Portable Charger: £30.99
Lola Design Organiser: £12.99
Travel Makeup Brush Set: £5.59
Coccinelle Liya Suede Handbag: £299.99
Blog goals for 2023:
I read a newsletter from Victoria Magrath’s blog; inthefrow.com and in it, she talked about the pressure there is to ‘finish the year in style’ (you can read the full piece here) and I think that this is very much a huge issue in the blogging industry. I mean, I had intended for this subtitle to be before a big list of actual goals, but then I struggled to think up a lot and also started to consider how I might struggle and feel really disappointed if I were to write a list of them and decide upon some, and then struggle to achieve/meet them throughout the year.
So, rather than create a set of goals for myself and I’m NOT Disordered to accomplish in 2023, I wanted to say for you all to just be brave and honest and say when you aren’t 100% sure of any. And you never know, it might influence someone else to do the same and experience less challenge and pressure.
Most memorable moments of 2022: