“Create in the dark, only then can you recognise the light.”
` It took me quite a while to figure out what angle to choose in writing this post – which I really wanted to use to mark I’m NOT Disordered reaching 1.2 million readers on July 15th. In the end, I’ve decided to do a bit of an in-depth look into the milestones my blog has achieved in so far as its reader statistics over the entire ten years of its existence…
I want to start off by saying something that I’ve spoken about before (particularly in this post celebrating half a million readers: HALF A MILLION READERS!!! | LESSONS LEARNT, ADVICE & MORE! | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)) – but with the number of readers growing so rapidly so quickly, it’s probably worth saying it again… Another inpatient of the psychiatric ward I was on when I created, I’m NOT Disordered who had a blog, asked me why I cared so much about ‘the numbers.’ Now, rather than this being a genuinely curious question, knowing the girl; I recognised it was a bit of a dig and an accusation or nod towards thinking that I was being somewhat superficial. In all honesty though, in seeing/knowing that the girl’s blog had a good few thousand readers less than mine, and it had been going for a good few years already by that point, I wondered if some of the spite in that question was born out of jealousy or competitiveness.
Either way though, whilst it was upsetting at the time, I’m actually now so grateful for it because it did honestly leave me questioning my own motives for blogging. And that left me recognising that there was a very real possibility that I would be asked it again by someone else, and so I felt encouraged to think more about it and to really establish a genuine, honest, and thoughtful answer.
So, the first of my two main reasons to celebrate my read statistics is the notion that each number represents a person, and each of those people represent a whole new opportunity for me/my content to actually help someone. And after this one instance with a reader getting in touch to say how much I’m NOT Disordered had changed her life, I really appreciate and feel truly grateful and honoured to have the ability to do this (which is why my first post to celebrate the 100,000 reader milestone was focused completely on my gratitude for this opportunity to help others: Thank You for 100k | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)).
If you’re wondering, the reader had actually gotten in touch a few years ago when I published a post about how to get through reporting abuse to the Police and she told me that it had turned out to be the encouragement and support she had needed to report her own experience of abuse as a child. She told me that after doing so, the perpetrator had been arrested and then subsequently sentenced to jail time. Immediately, I got goosebumps at the realisation that words – my words – can be that powerful and influential! And recognising this has really helped me to consider my content more thoroughly and to ensure it’s really giving the message that I want it to and to prepare myself for the possible outcomes of that because I don’t want to end up regretting a blog post due to the response it receives (on one reader milestone, I was actually able to pick 50 of my favourite blog posts with some based on the response they received: 50 OF MY FAVOURITE I’M NOT DISORDERED BLOG POSTS | CELEBRATING 850,000 READERS!! | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk))!
Becoming aware of the incredible impact my words/content have on readers wasn’t exactly a completely good and helpful thing to have rolling around in my head every time I sat down to write a blog post. It was a huge pressure – but I feel massively hopeful that people don’t think that I’m ungrateful when I talk about this negative side to having so many readers… I imagine there’ll be other bloggers out there who might be striving to reach the size/level of readership I’m NOT Disordered has, so I don’t want this honesty to look as though I’m whining about a blessing that I should be honoured to have. I just feel that – especially being a mental health blogger – it’s so important that people feel a sense of security and confidence in being able to speak honestly and openly online without fear of misinterpretation or sheer spitefulness. But that’s pretty dreamy logic or fairytale-thinking! In being honest and open, it’s equally important that you recognise the realistic potential response you might receive from your content. Some might say, you’re asking for it by putting out as much of your life as you choose to on social media, a blog, or just online in any other way.
So, with all of that being said; let’s just be honest, shall we? Knowing that so many people all across the world read my blog posts is a huge amount of pressure and a lot of that probably stems from the basic fact that it means an enormous lack of control on my part – an element of life that I often struggle with outside of my blogging career. I think that one thing that makes it difficult to talk about this is the knowledge that people can – quite rightly – be saying “you’re choosing to do this!” But my honest response to this is that there has actually been a number of times since starting I’m NOT Disordered over ten years ago, where I’ve come across extremely off-putting consequences to blogging and have had to take it as an opportunity to actually weigh up the pros and cons to doing it. And yes, whilst we’re being honest, there has been a few occasions where the balance has almost overthrown to encouraging me to quit – in fact, in 2014, I actually did find the cons to be the most powerful and I stopped blogging for a short (though it felt like forever) amount of time – I talked about this in the blog post celebrating three quarters of a million readers: THREE QUARTERS OF A MILLION READERS!!! | EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A BLOGGER | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)).
Over the years though, the benefits to I’m NOT Disordered have become so strong and important that any negative experiences have been completely belittled by all the positivity…
My second motivation to celebrate my readers, is in my acknowledgement that in the blogging industry, statistics are so, so, so important! When I first decided that I wanted to start working with others in partnerships and collaborations for I’m NOT Disordered, I would send an email or a DM to one of their social media accounts and tell them how much working together would mean to me. I didn’t put it as a more structured, proper pitch and detail the benefits of my idea – but that largest detail I missed out was sharing my blog’s statistics. And I think that a lot of the reason why I didn’t do that was because blogging wasn’t yet something which I took really seriously. I mean, I obviously enjoyed it and it was – and obviously still is – so therapeutic for me; but in the first two years, I really struggled to even deem myself to be a ‘Blogger’ (I actually even wrote a post about my thought process on that confused and uncertain stage back in 2015: Am I a 'Blogger' now? | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk) and then I wrote a post in celebration of a reader milestone about utilising those doubt: HOW TO TURN DOUBT INTO SUCCESS | CELEBRATING 700,000 READERS!! | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)).
It’s so strange to look back at that and to compare it to now where – if someone asks what I do as a job – I feel very comfortable and confident telling them I have a blog (obviously now I also add in my role as Head of Marketing and Communications for Time To Inspire!). I think that it hasn’t just been about my hesitations though; the blog and digital industry in general has massively evolved, grown, and developed over the years and ‘bloggers’ and ‘influencers’ are held in a much more important and beneficial position when it comes to collaborating with an organisation, charity, or brand. Those companies recognise that these days, those individuals with tons of followers can actually be more persuasive and influential than a TV advert! Through this change in the communications and marketing industry (which I also talked about in my blog post celebrating 800,000 readers), the years of being committed to I’m NOT Disordered, and the growing passion for blogging that built up inside of me, I found myself starting to develop a more formal and determined plan for making pitches to others when I’ve had ideas for collaborating. This has included creating my Media Kit (which you can see here) and utilising it and other documents to tell/show prospective partners the statistics of my blog – especially those which could be harnessed to benefit each partner in whichever way is relevant to them e.g. rise in donations, increase in sales, and followers etc.
Now, I was talking to someone a while ago about the recognition that telling people the gravity of, I’m NOT Disordered’s following can actually be something that’s often quite difficult to come to terms with… On the one hand, it can fill you with the notion that these people and organisations only find your readers useful – that they only care about the numbers a person can attract and not who the actual person is that they’ll be working with. For me, having a better idea of a person, their attitude, their thoughts, and feelings; should be deemed as way more important than just the attention they could attract. And so, when an organisation doesn’t display that mindset, it’s hard for me to feel that they’re genuinely committed and passionate about a collaboration – they see it more as a business deal or advertorial opportunity.
The way I’ve managed to get around this thought process is by recognising that my blog wouldn’t have as many readers as it does if I’d been creating useless content of a terrible quality! So, you know, I must have played some sort of influential and credit-worthy role in all of this! And having that belief and improved sense of confidence, has honestly been fundamental in actually allowing me to fully engage in and really truly enjoy the amazing opportunities I’ve been afforded as a direct result of the success and popularity of I’m NOT Disordered. In doing this, I’ve found them to be huge learning curves that I’ve been able to use to establish my real passions and priorities in blogging and in my life on a whole. So, in 2017 – in my blog post celebrating a quarter of a million readers: A QUARTER OF A MILLION READERS!!! | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk) – I actually listed my five favourite moments with I’m NOT Disordered since I started blogging and then in 2021, in the blog post marking 900,000 readers, I listed 9 favourite moments: 9 SPECIAL BLOGGING MOMENTS FOR 900,000 READERS | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk); since it’s now five years later and I’m celebrating a much higher milestone in readers statistics, I think it’s only right that I write an updated list (in no particular order) …
1. The cover reveal for my upcoming book set to publish November 2023; You’re NOT Disordered: The Ultimate Wellbeing Guide for Bloggers has probably been the largest milestone this year so far, and it’s meant so much to receive so many amazing emails and DM’s etc full of positive opinions and feedback of the cover design which was created via Canva: WHY I CARE WHAT YOU THINK | YOU’RE NOT DISORDERED COVER REVEAL!!! | IN COLLABORATION WITH DINKY DESIGNS FROM ETSY UK & INCLUDING A DISCOUNT CODE!!! | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)
2. Becoming Head of Marketing and Communications for the brand new company; Time To Inspire as a result of the skills, knowledge, passion, dedication, and experience that I’ve gained in this industry through I’m NOT Disordered: 5 THOUGHTS IN MY NEW JOB | I’M NOW HEAD OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS FOR TIME TO INSPIRE!!! | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)
3. The one million readers party in January 2022 and in particular, when one of my best-friends had the brilliant idea of taking a photo of me standing with the ‘1’ and ‘M’ balloons as guests on either side of me pulled party poppers (that photo is actually in this blog post too!): A GUIDE TO EVENTS | MY ONE MILLION READERS PARTY!!! | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)
4. Celebrating I’m NOT Disordered’s 10th Birthday with a party where the attendees were some of the most amazingly supportive, inspirational, and influential people in my life. It genuinely made me quite emotional to see all these special and important people interact with each other and bond over their mutual support of me and my blog: EVERYTHING ALL OF YOU MEAN TO ME | I’M NOT DISORDERED’S 10TH BIRTHDAY PARTY | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)
5. My first collaboration with Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – a Trust I’ve strived to work with for so many years since their Intensive Care team saved me from a suicide attempt that left me on life support in one of their Hospitals – because it gave me such a hugely satisfying, accomplished feeling: FROM INTENSIVE CARE TO COLLABORATIONS | IN COLLABORATION WITH NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST TO MARK THEIR BRAND-NEW MENTAL HEALTH STRATEGY | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)
I will never forget reaching my first one thousand readers… I was still a sectioned inpatient in the specialist psychiatric hospital where I’d created, I’m NOT Disordered in 2013 and the girl I was really good friends with had been helping me with the design and layout of the blog because I thought it involved so many advanced, technical skills that I just had no knowledge or understanding of. Having her by my side in those early months was hugely comforting and reassuring because doing something new is always a bit nerve-wracking so it felt good to not be doing that alone. And I think the feeling was mutual because one night, I refreshed my statistics and saw I’d reached over 1,000 and just as I flung my bedroom door open to go to hers two doors down, she came racing out of her room (and I love that this meant we were both checking the numbers at the same time!) and we just screamed and cried and hugged in the middle of the corridor! I mean, we screamed so loud and were so emotional that the staff came tearing out of their office thinking that we were ‘kicking off!’
I’m all about recognising people’s input and efforts and not taking full glory for something that I’m not 100% responsible for, so reaching that first milestone felt like a joint effort and a win for both of us. As the Doctors began discussing her discharge from hospital a whole lot sooner than mine though, I was almost forced to learn how to do all the design work myself because I didn’t want to be messaging my friend when she was back at home and relying on her to do things on my blog for me. Seeing I’m NOT Disordered begin to ‘take off,’ I felt a sense of passion and purpose that led me to experiencing the urge to be more dedicated and responsible for it. And I think that the fact I remember this moment – as well as the evening that I actually created my blog (which I talk about in my blog post discussing all my thoughts leading up to reaching one million readers: “IT FEELS SO SURREAL” | EVERYTHING I’M THINKING ABOUT ON THE WAY TO ONE MILION READERS!!! | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)) – has really enhanced my ability to stay grounded in my blogging career.
In all honesty, being grounded and humble is a quality I really appreciate and admire in others, so it’s quite important to me that I try to exhibit these myself. I also recognise how difficult it is to find a blogger who has these aspects to them – and it’s not even so much about or because of the person, but because of the industry in itself. Because blogging can almost naturally become competitive. Because the industry really does thrive on people constantly trying to better their content – and themselves! And let’s face it; how exactly can you possibly be expected to continue to live the life exactly how you were living it before you found yourself having millions of followers or readers? How do you stay that same person when there’s been such a hugely monumental achievement or milestone? It’s like when someone gets a promotion at work… Would they take any steps backward from that? If they wanted to move on and work somewhere else, would they apply for a job that was a step below in terms of organisational hierarchy? And could you expect someone who did get a promotion to stay the complete same person as they were prior to it? I mean, everyone hopes that success doesn’t go to a person’s head, but realistically, it must have some understandable level of impact upon their behaviour and/or their attitude. Even if you just consider that they will very obviously have new responsibilities, so how could they keep an attitude or behaviour that they’d had when they had completely different tasks to complete? Surely it gets more stressful (and stress can have so many effects on people)? Surely there’s a level of pressure to perform to a higher standard now? Surely there’s a sense of expectation that they’re capable of so much more?
I think that having been diagnosed with a mental illness and then blogging in the mental health industry, has meant I’m probably more aware and conscious around even the most insignificant and minor changes to my thoughts, feelings, and behaviours because I recognise, that they can be a precursor or warning for a massive change in my mood and/or a deterioration in my safety levels. This has meant that I’m more proactive on finding healthy coping skills at the slightest sign of struggling and so; here’s my two favourite and most effective tips on coping with the pressure in blogging:
1. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to your best-friend: I heard an online influencer say this the other day on her Instagram reel; she said that before you think or say something about yourself, take your phone out and write it into a message to your best-friend. Would you send it? Would you say that to them? Would you tell them that they’re useless and aren’t worthy of any success? No? Then why should you be any different?
2. Find a safe and healthy outlet: When I was in the psychiatric hospital and created, I’m NOT Disordered and started blogging, one huge benefit I discovered from it (which I hadn’t thought of or expected) was that it provided me with a place to rant. A place where my ranting wouldn’t cause a massive drama or an argument with other inpatients or staff. With the hospital specialising in Personality Disorders – and one key ‘symptom’ being experiencing intense and uncontrollable anger – it meant the ward was pretty volatile 24/7 and it was so challenging to just keep my head down and stay quiet. But being able to write/type out all my thoughts and feelings was so much more therapeutic than it would be had I said it out loud and caused a confrontation.
Another difficulty in staying humble and grounded whilst gaining so many followers, is that the size of my blog’s audience means so much to me – for all the reasons I talked about earlier – and so reaching milestones like 1.2 million readers, it’s incredibly hard not to see it as a huge achievement that really is worth celebrating. And I know I’m not the only blogger or influencer to feel that way because I’ve seen so many others – particularly those who mostly film and have the majority of their followers on YouTube – mark their own milestones with giant balloons (as I did at my one million readers party(!): A GUIDE TO EVENTS | MY ONE MILLION READERS PARTY!!! | I'm NOT Disordered (imnotdisordered.co.uk)), by creating special content, and a whole ton of other celebratory actions.
I think that the challenging aspect to celebrating your reader milestones, is that others might perceive it as attention-seeking and self-centred… For so many years, I lacked confidence in my skills, talents, and abilities – particularly in my writing – and so it’s taken a long time for me to realise and accept that actually, it can be really healthy to recognise these positive qualities in/about you. I was never one to even ‘blow my own trumpet(!)’ and – growing up – it made me really uncomfortable when people would compliment; even though it was just my family members talking about my imaginative short stories that usually centred around horses (because I used to have horse-riding lessons)! And so, just the fact that I’m now proud of my writing and all that it has achieved is actually, kind of an achievement in itself and so trying to squander that improvement and productive change in my confidence, would be pretty self-sabotaging. It’s reminiscent of the advice on talking to yourself the way you’d speak with a friend because I have a best-friend who’s also a blogger (Martin Baker from www.gumonmyshoe.com) and whenever he’s talked about the statistics of his own blog, (I’d like to think that) I’ve been very proud, supportive, and excited for him.
Through my mental illness, I was convinced that my purpose in life was to commit suicide to highlight the failings and errors of mental health services. Not long after starting to blog though, I found myself filled with the relieving and incredible sensation that this was my purpose – writing and helping both myself and others through doing so. And so, the notion of achieving something within that purpose? Why the heck wouldn’t you throw a party?! And, with my first party to celebrate 100,000 readers (you can read about it and see the photos here) being The Greatest Night of My Life for so long, really enforced the positive impact that recognising your achievements can have for yourself and, especially, for your mental health.
In hosting parties and creating celebratory content on my blog and social media channels, it might seem contradictory to claim to still be grounded, but I think that a hugely helpful tool in evidencing that I really am, is the fact that I so vividly recall all those first milestones. It means that I will never stop being grateful because I remember where I started – I remember how it feels to just be starting out and to achieve that first 1,000 readers. And this has meant that with my best-friend’s milestones – whilst they are ones I may have reached a while ago – I still recall the excitement and pride I felt in those moments and so it makes me incredibly happy to know one of my best-friend’s is experiencing that now too. Having Martin in my life also means that I have no real sense of competition in my blogging career; I’m a very passionate believer that we need to look to other bloggers as inspiration and not someone to resent or be jealous of in any way. There’s already so many spiteful people online that you don’t need it from your peers. You need support and you need to stay grounded and humble in recognising the importance of every achievement someone else has.
I talked earlier – in this extremely long blog post(!) – about having gratitude and not wanting to appear ungrateful in any way or to look as though I’m taking things for granted; and this becomes relevant again here… In real life, I’ve actually said quite often that people assume that being a blogger and having so many readers must mean that I’m good with technology. That I know the complications of it and have skills and talent in managing it and utilising its features in a larger, more professional sense than is typical for someone who purely uses technology in a much smaller way in terms of how significant it is for their life/career. However, we all know that whilst it’s incredibly easy – and in some instances – natural to make assumptions, we shouldn’t because they can be so wrong and can leave a person feeling a bit of a failure that they can’t do something others believe they should. And I say this because I’m actually not really educated or knowledgeable when it comes to technology.
When I first created, I’m NOT Disordered in 2013, I honestly gave no time in thinking of the idea that I might need some sort of education or training regarding technology and all the tools within it that I would need to run a blog. Which is why, initially, the other inpatient took on the design and layout aspect of the blog; because I knew how I would like it to look, I just didn’t know how to get it there. I didn’t know how to change the colour scheme, add a logo, and edit the way the blog was laid out in terms of its pages, the posts, and having special features like having a live Twitter or Instagram feed. And whilst I very obviously really appreciated having someone who was able to make all the changes and improvements that I wanted for my blog; I found it a bit frustrating because it meant I wasn’t really in control – and we all know what a control freak I am!
I really disliked having to ask her if she could do something for me… I felt like it wasn’t fair that I had thought to do this huge, new commitment but then I was asking her to do some of the work for me! It was also really awkward when she would do something I had asked for, but then I wasn’t 100% happy with the way she had put my idea into real life… It wasn’t quite what I meant, or it wasn’t the right shade of a colour I had tried to describe… It was so difficult to have to turn around and say something to her and so half the time I would just let it go and plod on unhappy with my blog’s appearance. And whilst I had a massive panic when she was being discharged from the psychiatric hospital before me and I realised I would need to do everything for myself now, I’m obviously so grateful for that now! Now that I can honestly say I’m fully responsible for I’m NOT Disordered and that I’m completely happy with the design and general appearance of it!
A few years ago, I found myself looking at the layout and features of my favourite blogs – particularly www.inthefrow.com – and wanting to figure out how to do these things to my own blog, but eventually, I recognised that maybe I still needed some sort of help with the technology behind all of these ideas and so, I used www.pipdig.com to create the template and things for I’m NOT Disordered and have found myself the most satisfied and content with my blog’s appearance than I’ve ever been in the entire ten years it has been running. Pipdig was surprisingly easy to use – this isn’t an ad for them by the way! – and I only had to make a couple of changes to the colours because the layout I chose was as pretty perfectly suited to my content as I had thought it would be!
So, I hope that if anyone is reading this who is considering creating a blog and is put off by the idea and assumption that you’ll need a lot of knowledge on technology and the IT world; it provides you with some hope and reassurance that you actually don’t. And there are a number of ways to get around or to get help with any challenging technical problems you might come across because of course, in any use of any source of technology – a phone, a kindle, iPad, Xbox – there’s always the possibility that something (that’s not even in your own doing), will go wrong. With that in mind, surely, it's totally understandable to occasionally completely lose my temper with technology? I think that your temper and response when there’s a technology error can largely be influenced by the level of importance you hold your blog to in your life.
When my mental health was at its most poorly in 2009 – 2012, I was very easily influenced by other psychiatric service users or inpatients, and I found others who were poorly to also be that way. I mean, for me, I was just desperate for some level of guidance or firm structure to rely upon because the hallucinations I was experiencing felt like the most real, stable thing in my life yet so many people were saying they weren’t even real… So, what did I have to rely on? What could I lean on for reassurance or as a means to lead the way for me? I needed something or someone who could actually provide me with a level of comforting advice, and I was so desperate for this that it meant I would follow even the most unhealthy and unsafe guidance.
I honestly believe that the fact I’m still alive after doing everything I’ve done, is born a lot out of sheer luck. I mean, there have been many instances that I really shouldn’t have gotten through, and where I genuinely didn’t even want to! And so, for a long time, I didn’t feel capable of giving advice and/or recommendations because I didn’t feel that I’d really… done anything worth publicising. I felt I had no real recognition where I could say “because I did this, that has happened.” However, when I was admitted to the specialist psychiatric hospital and began Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) I found myself developing a better realisation that I had actively taken steps to improve my mental health and reduce my levels of risk from the self-harm and suicide attempts I had been engaging in during the three years before being admitted.
Lacking in confidence when it came to talking about any skills I may or may not have, meant that I did still struggle in even just talking about the importance and impact DBT had on teaching me better and safer coping mechanisms and methods to changing my thoughts processes and minimise distress, erratic moods, and unstable relationships. To overcome this, I recognised that talking about the ways in which I had finally – after two and a half years in the psychiatric hospital – entered recovery might encourage others to seek help and advice. And having self-harmed and attempted suicide before, it meant that I knew full well just how dangerous it could be to not speak to someone and engage in therapy, cooperate with taking medication, or agree to any other professionally recommended interventions.
Experiencing the benefits to providing others with advice meant that I didn’t struggle too much when it came to blogging advice. I think it’s fair to say that typically, a blogger – regardless of why they started blogging – can end up with the goal of gaining followers or readers. I mean, I created I’m NOT Disordered with some very genuine, wholesome motivations that centred around my mental health and the therapeutic value that writing/blogging held for me. However, as I watched the reader count climb and recognised what it meant – that each person was a new opportunity to help someone and that the higher the numbers rose, the higher the chance was that I would be granted or offered an incredible opportunity – I found myself striving to accomplish more and more reader milestones. And so, I would’ve gladly taken any advice I was offered from bloggers with the sorts of numbers I was aiming to reach. So, I totally understand how meaningful such thoughts and opinions can be for someone who is looking for direction in their blogging career.
I think my largest difficulty in giving advice was mostly linked to the panic that I would give someone the wrong advice. That I’d recommend doing something and it would be the worst thing for someone else… I’ve tried to focus on how beneficial blogging has been for me and my mental health though, and so I’m prioritizing the positive impact my advice on gaining readers could have for someone…
Finally, here are a few advice posts that have come out in posts that were primarily around reader milestones: