PhoenixCove - Etsy UK

Welcome to Blogmas Unboxed!!

 I honestly – I don’t even care how stereotypical this sounds – can’t believe the first week of Blogmas Unboxed and December 2023, is done! How fast did that go?! Or just me?! So, today, I’ve chosen to blog about the items from Phoenix Cove that I had made for my Mum; a lovely gift tag, and a beautiful wooden keyring with a connecting design with ‘Like Mother, Like Daughter’ featured (which you can buy here). So, in keeping with this gift, I was inspired to talk about how helpful and supportive my Mum has been throughout the entire process of creating maintaining, and publicising my blog; including in creating Blogmas Unboxed and writing and then hosting a party for my new book; titled ‘You’re NOT Disordered: The Ultimate Wellbeing Guide for Bloggers’ (which you can buy here!)…

I’m at a point now where I feel like I couldn’t possibly say anything different from all that I’ve literally ever said in talking about the gratitude, appreciation, and love I have for my amazing and inspirational Mum. Whether you’ve read I’m NOT Disordered since its creation in 2013 or have only read the most recent posts; I think it’s safe to say that you’ll know or, at the very least, not be surprised for me to say that my Mum has seriously saved my life a number of times.

There were actually so many occasions when I was struggling with hallucinations or psychotic thoughts and beliefs or memories and flashbacks of the abuse or a general low mood and suicidal thoughts, that were to such a convincing degree that they meant I actually genuinely resented my Mum on so many of those life-saving instances. And believe me, I feel so terrible for those moments, but I am utterly humbled by the fact that my Mum has done nothing but understand and appreciate that on those instances, I really wasn’t myself. I was poorly. Because ‘well, healthy, and safe Aimee’, wouldn’t have those thoughts and feelings – hence why (when I’m in a much better place) I’m so full of admiration and gratitude for her… And this, is why I talked about being at a loss of words because – if I could; if there were enough, powerful, and adequate words in the world – I would thank her literally every second all day long!

My Mum has always supported my interests that – over the years – have ranged from horse-riding to working in retail (Visual Merchandising in particular)! So, in recognising and appreciating this, when I created, I’m NOT Disordered as an inpatient in a private psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away from her; I knew that I would have her support. However, I honestly didn’t think I’d really need it… I mean, I feel like my first thoughts and intentions in creating my blog were pretty small and ultimately insignificant (though they obviously meant a lot to me!) and that meant I really didn’t have any huge expectations or goals in mind in starting to blog. I certainly didn’t – not even for a second – imagine that both my blogging in general and I’m NOT Disordered specifically, would become all that they are today! And so, I couldn’t think that there would be any really big challenges that I would need help and support to overcome…

My initial intention in terms of the blog’s content and target audience, was to publish detailed, honest, and open posts about the things that were happening in the hospital and the steps I was taking (both toward recovery and in the opposite direction) so that I felt I was better and more efficiently able to communicate my experiences across this massive distance between myself, my friends, and my family. I really wanted to experience the thought and feeling that despite being so far away from everyone I knew and loved, I still wasn’t alone. And yes, I had been in the hospital for around seven months by the time I started blogging and so I’d begun to really get to know and build relationships with the other inpatients on the ward, and had started to develop trust and bonds with some of the staff, but they really weren’t effective or meaningful enough to help to prevent me from missing the friendships I had back home.

Whilst yes, I was planning to publish deep and honest accounts of my mental health, I still had no real worries or concerns for the chance of receiving any horrible and upsetting comments or feedback due to the fact that my target audience was solely limited to my few hundred friends and family on my private Facebook account. So, I very obviously couldn’t imagine anyone who knew me saying anything spiteful or derogatory toward me nor about the content I created – at least not to my face, anyway!

In addition to my thoughts on the theme of the content and my prospective audience, another reason I felt that support wasn’t something I desperately needed in starting my blog, was that I really had no high hopes or goals in mind for it. I couldn’t, not even for one minute, imagine still blogging when I was discharged from the psychiatric hospital! In being admitted to the hospital, the ‘average length of admission’ was stated at being 12 – 18 months so I had recognised I could be that far away for quite a while; I mean, I had brought two suitcases with me… But, in all honesty, I thought I’d either not make it in that I would end up succeeding in a suicide attempt or that the staff would give up on me and discharge me even if I wasn’t better! However, recovery was feeling more likely achievable not long after I created, I’m NOT Disordered, and so, being allowed home no longer seemed impossible.

Another aspect to my thoughts on not continuing to blog after hospital was the – in my opinion – very practical notion that I had only started doing it as a means of better communicating with loved ones whilst I was all these miles away, and so; if I was back home, why would I need to do it anymore? And not just in the sense of; ‘why would I need help communicating?’ But also, why would I have anything to communicate?! I mean, if I was just living a ‘normal life’ living with my Mum and doing normal things that I was doing for the three years preceding the admission; like, going on drunken nights out, volunteering at a charity shop, and attending appointments with the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT), what would I even have to blog about? What would make my content special?

Now that the blogging industry is so oversaturated, if you really want to make something of your blog, then it’s so important and essential that your content, theme, aesthetic, or anything else be special and different to most others. You really need to have something that will set your blog apart and provide a level of motivation and attraction for people to choose to read yours over someone else’s blog that is about the same topic. Fortunately, when I created, I’m NOT Disordered on January 6th, 2013, there were really only three well-known mental health blogs and none were written by a current psychiatric hospital inpatient so without really trying, my blog had a niche… And I feel terrible to say this, but I didn’t even really recognise the importance of this at the time because I had no intentions of making my blog into ‘something.’ I wasn’t concerned with ensuring I would attract a lot of readers, so I put little to no real thought or serious consideration into my decision to start blogging. Rest assured though, obviously now that has massively changed; so, I do really appreciate having found that niche without even trying!

So, with all of that in mind, I think that I didn’t really need my Mum’s support in my blogging until 2014 when my discharge from hospital was starting to be planned, and, at the same time, I received a few horrible comments on my content. The worst (in my opinion, anyway!) was when I posted a piece marking Suicide Prevention Day and talked about my attempts, an anonymous comment wished me ‘luck’ with ‘the next one.’ I think that the one helpful element to this – the one reason why it didn’t tear me to pieces – was that I was already considering ending my blog due to the discharge and all my thoughts on whether my content would continue to be relevant or helpful in any way! However, whether it is to do with blogging or not, receiving a comment like that which is intended to encourage suicide can knock your mental health! Fortunately, the fact my discharge was being discussed meant that I was in a really good place emotionally, so I was able to cope with the comments safely. But I do still remember talking to my Mum about the whole situation and her really promoting that I do whatever felt right for me and to not listen to others because it was my life and if I spent it not doing the things I wanted to do; then there was every chance I would end up back where I had started – in Intensive Care after a suicide attempt. And she was absolutely spot on! So, believing that I wasn’t benefiting enough from it to make receiving horrible comments worthwhile, I quit blogging.

Leaving the specialist psychiatric hospital to go to the ‘rehab unit’ nearer home, I had honestly intended for that blog post on September 11th, 2014, to be the end of I’m NOT Disordered! However, by the end of October (the 29th), I was writing a blog post explaining two of the key reasons why I was resuming blogging:

1.       The first was that I had grown to recognise that having my blog in the psychiatric hospital meant that if something happened, I would feel comforted and reassured that I could go and blog about it. For me, this meant I not only had a release to vent any stress and relieve any pressure, but also that I had an opportunity to process things properly without any real consequences. I mean, the ward was such a volatile environment and I think it’d be fair to say that you could say one thing on one day and no one would blink, but then you say it on another and it causes a huge, dramatic, mess: full of arguments and hostility. So, even though I was no longer in that environment, I had grown used to having this sort of… electronic comfort blanket!

2.       The second reason to resume blogging was that over the month-and-a-bit of time that had gone by since the last post, I hadn’t been able to stop thinking of my quitting as some sort of regret in that I began deeming it to mean that the bullies had ‘won.’ That I had – in a way – given in and admitted defeat, and this led to my mindset that I had come so far in my mental health recovery that I wasn’t about to give up on something I enjoyed and which I had found helpful purely because a few completely random people had made horrible, upsetting comments. Like, if I could face the horrific memories and flashbacks of the abuse and carry on, how could I let a comment online ruin something like this?

My Mum was very supportive in me resuming I’m NOT Disordered; she really helped me to prioritise myself and what was best for me and my mental health over any worries or concerns about how others might think or feel or what they might say about I’m NOT Disordered and the content I produce on it. Thankfully, once I got back into blogging, I was away! I was filled with the notion that has really kept me going over the nine years since then; that in blogging, I have found a purpose in my life. I have found a reason why I need to stay alive. A reason why I deserved to be saved all those times I fully believed that I didn’t want to be.

Despite this sense of purpose, nine years (ten since creating I’m NOT Disordered) is a pretty long time(!) and so surely, it’s only understandable that there were other occasions when I needed my Mum’s support in my blogging career. The majority of instances where my Mum was most helpful and provided really good advice and guidance were in situations where the motto – which has now luckily and gratefully been instilled in me – “shy bairns get nowt” has been very appropriate! I honestly think that so many people who have only known me since recent years, will be surprised to hear that actually, having confidence in my blog and in my actual blogging aka creating the content, was something I genuinely really struggled with!

I’ve never been one to blow my own trumpet, so initially, I was really reluctant to talk to people about how popular and successful my blog was becoming in all of the opportunities I was securing. But, after two years of receiving so much positive feedback from so many readers stating how helpful my content had been for them, I finally found the bravery and motivation to be more open and public in talking about my blog. So, with my Mum’s “shy bairns get nowt” words ringing in my ears, I created my very first press release about my mental health journey and I’m NOT Disordered’s collaborations and statistics. Fortunately, it was picked up and I featured in my local newspaper (The Chronicle), a few news websites (The Mirror and The Daily Mail), a magazine (Take A Break), on a couple of News channels (BBC National News, ITV local news, and MADE in Tyne and Wear), and on two radio stations (BBC Radio Five and Metro Radio)! To be honest, each appearance got less and less terrifying and anxiety-provoking and when I saw how much the reader count would rise as a result, and I thought about how many more people that meant I had the potential to help? Well, it just gave me more and more motivation to continue being this way in regard to the confidence and the willing to talk about my blog publicly.

Over the years, I think that the one difficulty I’ve had in terms of my Mum and my blogging, has been our literal, polar-opposite difference in our attitude and opinions around privacy and the amount of information disclosed on social media and on my blog. Now, in my eyes, I see talking openly and honestly as sometimes being very necessary to help others because it can instil a similar attitude in those who may have previously been reluctant to talk about something they’re struggling with and where this has been detrimental to those who it has meant they have avoided or refused to ask for help and/or accept it and subsequently may have not cooperated with any treatment or therapy etc that has been recommended.  

With my Mum’s views on privacy wildly contradicting my own, initially, when I started blogging, it caused a challenge for me in so far as my blogging career in that I felt unable to post any content that mentioned my Mum in some way that she would consider personal and private. I really struggled with this because in starting I’m NOT Disordered; I had sort of just developed a really natural inclination to posting about anything and everything and it was fast becoming almost an automatic behaviour or response to anything important happening in my life. And so, it was difficult to feel I had to censor or monitor myself so that I could maintain my Mum’s thoughts, feelings, and wishes. I think it was mainly the sense of a loss of freedom and having been sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act for over two years, freedom is very obviously – and hopefully understandably – something I really truly appreciate!

I said ‘initially’ this was a problem in my blogging career because as time has gone by and due to both my blog and my mental health recovery, I’ve really learnt the importance of accepting and respecting the views of others. I mean, my Mum always taught me to treat others how you would want to be treated, but I think that when my mental health was at its most poorly, I really lost sight of that, and I think that was because I was so caught up in my anger and the resentment I held towards all the people who were trying to save my life. However, in the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) I underwent for over two years, I learnt to really acknowledge that my thoughts, feelings, and experiences were no more important than anyone else’s. I think this helped me to also stop any comparisons I would make in feeling that others had a much more challenging trauma, or their hallucinations were worse than my own. It really encouraged me to recognise the value of genuine, empathetic, and sincere, validation and the importance it can have for many people (including me!).

This was also something that I learnt through my blogging career too and through my use of social media in general. I believe it’s incredibly rare that you can log on to a social media platform and not see at least one controversial post or comment. And with me also focusing my usage of these on the mental health theme/industry; this is even more impractical! I count myself incredibly lucky to have not received any negative comments, feedback, or just general responses to my content (both on I’m NOT Disordered and on social media) since the first horrible ones over nine years ago! And the fact I find myself lucky for that, is actually incredibly saddening because I think it really just highlights and illustrates the reality of negativity online. Though my experience might be due to the fact that I really try to stay clear of controversial threads, news stories, or conversations on social media. I do this by maintaining the thought process that I won’t get involved unless I feel so passionate that I was prepared for any comeback.

Now, in terms of specifically considering You’re NOT Disordered (YND), my Mum has been so critically important in terms of motivation and encouragement because I won’t lie (I mean, I like to pride myself on being open and honest; particularly on here!) there have been so many instances in writing YND where I’ve wanted to give up and times when I could have seriously and absolutely disintegrated into purely exhausted and defeated tears!

There was one particular moment when my Mum was helpful in this way; and which was so destabilising that it really stands out from the entire process of creating the book (which took well over one year!). It actually was in the final week leading up to the Publication Party which I hosted on November 18th 2023… When I submitted the entire book and manuscript, Kindle Direct Publishing turned it down due to a fault in the cover – a fault that was around something I had literally never heard of (DPI for those who might be wondering and for those wondering what that is too; Adobe have a really helpful page here!) and so naturally, I initially had literally no idea how to fix it!

I remember talking to my Mum about it and she helped and supported me in three very amazing ways:

1.       She made some suggestions in terms of finding a resource to help.

2.       She offered to leave me be in terms of phone calls for a bit until I’d sorted it out.

3.       She helped me to stay calm by reminding me that I’ve always figured things out in the end.

The final instance that my Mum was helpful with was in the setting up/planning of the actual Publication Party! She had the brilliant idea of pushing the tables in the area I had booked in the Commissioners Quay together so that everyone was sat at one long table… That might sound like a small or unimportant input, but it honestly just made the event so much more perfect because it meant that everyone could connect and talk to each other rather than people just sitting at separate tables and only really spending time with the people they already knew. And seeing these eleven amazing, important, and incredibly special people who mean so much to me, my life, and my journey in mental health and YND, actually building bonds with each other was so heartwarming and actually genuinely left me feeling overwhelmed and emotional. It also meant that I didn’t have to separate myself and stress in making sure that I spent an equal amount of time with each table of people! So, I’m also really grateful for my Mum’s idea with this.

Finally, my Mum’s influence and support around Blogmas Unboxed! She asked a few nights ago what I was doing, and I said I was working on Blogmas, and she said something along the lines of “have you not finished that yet?” or “is that not done yet?” It made me really sit up and recognise that she might never fully understand blogging and all that I do around it, because I think it’s a career and industry that is similar to mental health in that it really demands someone with similar experiences in the field and therefore a real knowledge of it, to feel a real sense of understanding and empathy when talking about your blog with others.

In talking about me still working on Blogmas, my Mum told me about when I was little, and she would take me for us to spent Christmas Day with the rest of the family and how one family member would state that I could only bring one toy with me! And she ended up stopping going with me after a few years because she wanted me to have a real proper, child-ish Christmas in being able to play with all my new toys and gifts. So, when we started having Christmas as just us, my Mum said she didn’t like the thought of spending half the day in the kitchen cooking a massive ‘Christmas dinner’ because she wanted to be playing with me on the floor!

In telling me this, my Mum said that the fact I still absolutely adore Christmas, get excited about it, and want to do a ton of festive activities etc. makes her really happy in her decisions Christmassy decisions in my childhood. So, really, you have my Mum to thank for Blogmas Unboxed!!

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