*This post is the third of 4 which will be finished publishing tomorrow!*
I feel like these pieces of content demanding teamwork are hugely valuable and responsible for how far my blog has come, especially in terms of the readership count. The obvious logic behind this is that in working with other bloggers, organisations, or online influencers, you very typically receive double the publicity than you would if it were a post created solely by yourself because you’ve attracted their following too.
This has worked especially well for me, and for I’m NOT Disordered when I’ve collaborated with a person or an organisation who have a very different following and target audience to me and my blog because it has enabled me to make my blog’s content applicable and attractive to those who might not have given it the time of day without the collaboration or partnership label. And, with everyone having mental health and it just depending on how well or otherwise a person’s is, I’m NOT Disordered can end up actually being genuinely appropriate for those new readers too.
Fortunately, in choosing to begin featuring collaborations, I didn’t have any of the concerning worries that perhaps this was a sign that the content I produced wasn’t good enough in whatever way. In fact, it was quite the opposite – because of its popularity – I felt confident in my blog and its content to feel that it was good enough and therefore worthy of joining up with others who – I believed – could help me to make some special, unique, exciting, important, and meaningful content that might be able to help so many readers/followers in so many different ways. And that was the ultimate motivation for me – not the idea of how many more people would see my blog, but how many more people I could reach and then, potentially, help or benefit them in some way.
I’ve learnt so much in my collaborations with other organisations, particularly very recently when a huge organisation I’ve worked with many times, were in the news for a negative issue and I felt forced into making the decision as to whether to continue working with them. This is something that has previously happened but with my local Police force who ended up making some serious failings with someone in a mental health crisis and I made the decision to distance my blog from their name and cancelled any and all future projects with them. It ended up proving to be a really challenging, upsetting, and difficult time and so I didn’t want it to happen again with this organisation. I spoke with the staff I typically work with there and after a few conversations and emails, I made the decision to continue collaborating and partnering on some huge and exciting upcoming projects.
I made this decision based on two factors: the first was that I received information that left me feeling that I was in a good, confident position to defend my decision should anyone confront me for it. The second reason was because I came to recognise that the most important thing should be the nature of the work we do together and as long as that remains positive and useful for others, then my conscious feels clear. I also came to realise that the fact they have requested and enjoyed working with myself/I’m NOT Disordered does illustrate some sort of willing and want to improve; as well as an acknowledgement that they need to work with service users or patients in order to learn how to make those improvements.
I do think that deciding to include collaborations or guest posts on your blog is an important decision process that I believe those outside of the blogging industry would overlook or remain ignorant of just how difficult it can be. And this is just one of many examples for my motivation behind writing YND; that I want to raise awareness of the wellbeing of bloggers and highlight how it can really suffer or be challenged by blogging. We’re all aware that what you see of the lives of others on social media or on their blogs is what they choose and what they want you to see. This often means negative aspects or struggles in their lives and in their blogging, career can be missed out and therefore those outside the industry remain unaware of just how difficult blogging can be. This absence of knowledge and awareness can have a further negative impact on a blogger who may come to feel and/or believe that their loved one’s underestimate and belittle what they do.
One of the best aspects to collaborations, guest posts, and partnerships for me, has been building connections and the whole networking scene! I absolutely love it! I love meeting and getting to know people who are in a position of power in their own industry or career path – especially people who I, personally, might genuinely think of as being in a really important and respectable position. People who – when I get to know them and build a rapport with them – I end up feeling seriously privileged and honoured to be able to say when I have done so.
I believe that being determined, dedicated, and resilient are three qualities that can e absolutely essential – and the very least, really important – both in recovering from a mental illness and in creating and maintaining a blog.
Over the years, when I’ve told people how long I was sectioned for (the two-and-a-half-year long admission) they’ve almost always remarked that it’s ‘such a long time,’ and I used to agree, but then I came to recognise that since the abuse had started in 2006, and the admission wasn’t until 2012, that was six years of things both building up and exploding outwards and all over the place! So, how could anyone (including me) expect for things to improve – or to even make any sort of difference – in any less time than one third of the length of time I had been poorly for? I mean, it’s like if your laptop is playing up and stopping doing certain features, but you keep using it… Eventually it gets worse and worse, and that additional damage will likely take longer to fix than if you’d took the initial fault in to be repaired immediately.
This is where a huge passion of mine lies within the mental health industry; shedding light and weight on/to the idea of prevention and so giving added importance and priority to Children and Young People Services (CYPS) because they’re one of the best methods and opportunities to offering help and support as soon as signs and symptoms of mental illness are illustrated. One key quality or strength that can be instilled in a person by doing this is resilience, and I think that this is because if you start telling someone as soon as possible that they’re strong enough to fight against any unwanted or unsafe thoughts, and that they can get through a traumatic event or experience that might have triggered their illness, they’re more likely to believe it – or at the very least, come to agree with it.
So, for me, to go through – due to my own doing, though – years after the abuse of having the ability to repeat my abuser’s words again and again; that I was useless, that I was weak, that I was worthless and to - due to my own doing, again – have no one tell me they were all wrong; it meant it took an incredibly long and difficult time for me to learn to believe the psychiatric professionals when I was finally faced with them telling me those destabilising, self-deprecating, unhealthy, and confidence-destroying thoughts and feelings weren’t true. It was like all those negative ones were almost engrained into my brain and into my heart. As though someone would actually need to really carve them out in order to take them from me. In order to stop me from agreeing with them and from – whenever a professional ‘let me down’ – turning back to them when I felt alone or isolated as though they were some sort of comfort blanket that I’d grown up with for years and years.
I actually think that rather than the mental health professionals – particularly those in the psychiatric hospital on the long admission – be the most monumental in helping build my resilience, my blogging was! Because it was the purpose and passion in my life that left me feeling motivated to continue with life… It helped give me reason to put in as much effort as possible to working with the staff and arriving at the same conclusion – that I’m strong, brave, worthy, and clever… This really helped when it came to recognising my resilience because I felt the need to ensure that I didn’t become cold and unaffected emotionally by upsetting or difficult instances. I had to make sure that in building on the belief that I can make it through a lot of a hardship, that didn’t stop me from still reacting to those hardships with genuine thoughts and feelings.
My resilience was actually tested by my blog when I received a few horrible comments just before my planned discharge from the psychiatric hospital and whilst my resilience allowed me to safely cope with those comments, I wasn’t determined or dedicated enough to blogging to continue with it. So, on my discharge, I closed I’m NOT Disordered down and spent a short while without it in my life… But I grew to miss it. I missed having the outlet of both my creativity and my pent-up thoughts, feelings, and experiences/memories. And so, that was actually the longest period in almost eleven years that I totally didn’t blog for; but I’m glad I did it because ultimately, that helped me develop my dedication and determination to continue blogging and to make my blog into all that it is now – although some moments, opportunities, and achievements have surpassed even my dreams!
I think that the memory, understanding, insight, and knowledge of how it felt to not have my blog has really helped me to find the courage and strength to put myself – and my blog – out there in the world in building connections, handing out my business cards to anyone I think might benefit from my blog, and doing media appearances and interviews etc (which I’ll talk about next). It’s helped me to become determined to grow and develop I’m NOT Disordered to now be at the point where I honestly and seriously can’t imagine my life without it. Sometimes I used to wonder if that sounds a bit superficial to need your blog so desperately and to be so determined and dedicated to it. Ultimately, though, it’s so important and special to me that I’ve grown to be somewhat careless about others having that thought or belief of me and my blog, because I’ve developed the notion that nothing and no one can stop me now! I’ve come too far to quit now.
The first of these to happen was attending my first event in 2014 for Time To Change (who are no longer operational but were a huge campaigning organisation trying to encourage and promote a reduction in stigma and discrimination around mental health) when I volunteered to be at their stall and activities in the shopping centre local to the psychiatric hospital, I was actually still an inpatient of. I remember doing the pre-event training session with one of the hospital staff accompanying me and then she came to the event too! And whilst I felt totally appreciated by the event staff, all I really did was hand out leaflets and try to entice people to come to the pledge booth or to get involved in the drama and art activities. I feel bad saying ‘all’ because I respect and am grateful for all the volunteers who do these roles at events, it’s just that I say ‘all’ in terms of in comparison with the seniority and the responsibilities I’m given at events more recently. But I don’t want it to seem as though these roles have made me arrogant in any way…
I try to think of it as like any other 9 – 5 job or some other well-understood, typical career like medicine with their 12-hour-long shift and that similarly to those, in blogging and working at events, you can work your way ‘up’ and earn promotions. If you earn trust and work so hard that you also acquire higher expectations and confidence in your skills, that can lead to more responsibilities. And, sometimes this can actually be surreal! I mean, I was so awe-stricken when, just a few years later – after numerous collaborations with Time To Change – I was actually asked to give the closing speech at one of their huge events in London! It felt like a massive turnaround from handing out leaflets and I thought that it was a really good symbol and example of just how well I’m NOT Disordered was doing, especially in terms of both its popularity and reputation.
I think that the one, main downside of events – no matter what their cause, duration, or my responsibilities within them – has been the toll they’ve taken on my energy levels. At one point, I was travelling to London so often that I actually considered moving there (then I was at an event literally around the corner when the terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge occurred and that terrified into changing my mind!) and ended up having to tell organisations that if they wanted me to travel that sort of distance and which takes that length of time, I would need overnight stays in hotels too. I think the reason this became a huge problem though, was because that having been suicidal for so long, and now feeling better and being so proud of my blog, I wanted to grab every opportunity and event invitation that came my way! But sometimes this meant I was taking on far too much at once. I’ve learned from doing this though, and I now recognise that I actually enjoy events more and feel that I’m more helpful and useful at them, if I choose carefully between which I attend/speak at etc because it means that I’m able to dedicate 100% of my energy.
A few years after I started blogging and I saw that I’m NOT Disordered was reaching hundreds and then tens of thousands of people, I began writing emails to various local newspapers about my mental health journey and my blog’s successes, various achievements, and special collaborations. I didn’t think, for one minute, that any of my emails would actually be read or taken seriously; never mind being used in one of the major local papers; The Chronicle! It was so surreal doing the interview and then having my first ever photoshoot on the footpath and grass in front of my house and bang in the middle of the street (so all my neighbours and anyone passing could watch the photographer telling me to pull my hood up a little bit and to ‘look thoughtfully into the distance’!)! After that article was published and proved to be popular, I then had an Agent get in touch who offered to sell my story to other media outlets and see if it got any attention and so, before I knew it, I’m NOT Disordered, and I were also in Take A Break magazine!
A part of me was nervous as heck to tell my entire life story and reveal some hugely important (and potentially controversial) details about my mental health journey e.g., the number of hospitalisations (60) in the three years of 2009 – 2012 – I was so scared people would judge me for that and say I had been unworthy of the care I’d received or that I was an attention-seeker or something! But I recognised that all these worries were based on previous experiences and was it really fair to hold those against this new one? Should I let previous terrible moments hinder my future? Because I knew that being in the media was really going to help my blog to reach so many more people and that would open up the possibility of helping that increase of people too, so I felt motivated to do whatever I could to try make this work and to go ahead with the media appearances.
Funnily enough, I had submitted some press releases for the release of You’re NOT Disordered so I Googled my name in the ‘news’ section to see if anyone has published them, and it turned out I’d actually been on the sites of two other huge media outlets too – The Daily Mail in 2015 and The Mirror in 2019! I learnt whilst in a voluntary role years ago that newspapers etc can often print press releases or stories without contacting the person or organisation to tell them that they are… Now, I understand this might be based on sheer workload in that they must get so many stories to publish and how can they go about contacting every single person, but it also doesn’t make sense because if they did contact the person or organisation, they could share the article on their own social media, blog, or website too and bring it even more attention/readers etc.
One of the other negatives I experienced with doing media appearances, was when I did some interviews for a few different items on TV, and I quickly learnt just how edited your interview can be! In one piece that my local mental health Trust CNTW (Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne, and Wear NHS Foundation Trust) asked me to be a part of was for the news and I remember my interview taking about two or three hours and then on the actual report on TV, I think I said/they kept about three sentences! Initially, I was not only disappointed, but also insulted because I honestly thought that it meant that everything else, I’d said hadn’t been good enough to be featured! I mean, of course I’d heard numerous stories about how edited programmes can be – such as 24 hours in A&E and Big Brother. I had actually had someone who had featured in a mental health documentary do a guest post on my blog about how days of filming had been cut down, so I definitely had an awareness from before I began going into these types of opportunities. But unfortunately, that didn’t really prepare me for the disappointment.
Since then, however, in any further media appearances, I’ve never felt that same dismay nor the insult because I had come to accept that this is the way the media works… I still felt lucky though, for one thing, I was relieved that what I said – although edited and cut – was still kept within context and didn’t leave room for misinterpretation. I’ve learnt that can happen from not long into my blogging career when I found out a part of a blog post I’d written for I’m NOT Disordered had been taken completely out of context and used on a Facebook group that actually promoted self-harm. I was absolutely horrified and so angry and frustrated because it was a hard thing to fight... I mean, they’d literally copied and pasted what I’d written so it wasn’t like I could deny it… It was just that they’d taken it out of the issue and instance it was regarding and in doing so, had made it sound like something I would never even think, say, or write! Fortunately, the owners of the group agreed to remove the post when I messaged them.
One final thing I’d like to say about publicity opportunities, is that so many people now attempt to join the blogging world/industry with the misguided impression that you’ll just instantly or automatically get views and earn some sort of privileges and people talking about you. This isn’t – or at least it hasn’t been for me – at all true! I’ve really chosen to put myself and my blog out there to the media and press, I’ve worked hard to create so many opportunities that I’m almost at a point where I don’t often need to initiate anything anymore. I’d like to think, though, that I still don’t rest on my laurels. That I still have the drive and determination to continue to better my mental health and I’m NOT Disordered.