Mental Health Blogging is Cool

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I have been blogging here for eight years now. I have written a lot of posts I am proud of and some that are so-so like the medical research ones.  I say the are so-so because they are kind of fillers for the times I was taking a break from writing anything of personal substance because I became super paranoid that people in my real life were reading my blog and I didn’t feel like I could be as candid as a result.

My two most popular posts year after year are How to Deal With Complex PTSD Triggers and Are People with Bipolar Disorder Lazy?

My highest traffic years brought over 11,000 views and 9,200 unique visitors, which I know many people see in a month’s time, but for me this was good.

My subscriber count is just shy of 800 people. I have super slacked off on reaching out to other bloggers over the last few years and I took a year off from Facebook which hurt my page engagement, of course.

I’ve been back on Facebook for about six months now and things are finally starting to pick back up. It’s nice to finally know my messages of encouragement and hope are reaching more people again.

I’m fairly active on Twitter where people are really encouraging and friendly. I always enjoy sharing there.

I hope you find my blog useful and share its posts on social media and say, hi, and follow me on social media, too. I love to connect with other people and share ideas and thoughts.

Am I My Illness?

I’ve started this place on my phone where I keep blog post ideas and rough drafts because I have so many bits and pieces of information flying through my head at one time that I get completely overwhelmed at the thought of sitting down and writing something out.

I attribute these rapid thoughts to my anxiety disorder or to possible depressive symptoms such as the inability to focus or concentrate long enough to organize disjointed ideas into a single theme.

Then I get to thinking, is this it? Is everything always because of my mental illnesses? Is my difficulty writing or remembering or socializing or driving or losing weight or parenting or making friends all due to mental illness? How do I distinguish that which is part of my personality from that which is my illness? Are they one in the same?

I’m not going to pretend to have the answer and quite honestly this is not a rhetorical question. I would love for some feedback here because I have read on numerous occasions well-meaning memes that state “you are not your illness” when I think sometimes maybe I am.

Bipolar and Perseverance

board-928392_960_720Perseverance is defined as “steady persistence in a course of action…especially in spite of difficulties (or) obstacles.” The fluctuating moods of bipolar disorder often hinder one’s ability to persevere through various tasks in life.

Take this blog, for example. I haven’t posted in over four months for various reasons, but one has to do with lack of perseverance. There have been great difficulties in my life and other obstacles that have kept me from steadily posting, and I don’t particularly appreciate that. I like posting. I miss posting. Bipolar gets in the way sometimes.

The medications I take for my bipolar disorder slow down my thinking processes. This makes it difficult for me to write blog posts. This is one of the reasons I took to reporting on research articles more than writing essays. It is one of my strategies for persevering in spite of my bipolar disorder.

There are many other areas in my life where perseverance is an issue due to my bipolar disorder. I have half finished projects all around my house: Artwork started and then forgotten; shelves that I am in the process of repainting that should take a few days to do, might get finished in a month if I am lucky; exercise routines initiated and within a week abandoned; writing projects started and left to collect dust, and the list goes on and on.

There is a lot of research on impulsivity and distractibility in bipolar disorder. I think these play a role in the lack of perseverance some with bipolar might notice in their life. Starting projects on a whim then not being able to stay focused, both of which are common occurrences during hypomania and mania, would definitely lead people to abandon their goals. Starting projects while stable then becoming depressed would yield the same results.

So, you can see that lack of perseverance in people with bipolar disorder is not necessarily a character flaw or laziness. It is often times merely a symptom of their disorder.

How to Use Media to Improve Your Mental Health

If you are like me, watching too much news can wreak havoc on your mood. I begin to think our world is nothing but an evil, horrible, negative, cesspool of a place to live. I lose hope in humanity quickly as I hear story after story of war, murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping, and abuse. I become cynical, despondent, and downright depressed. Therefore, I limit my exposure to the news.

I noticed that my local news stations post the more horrific stories on their Facebook news feed than they broadcast on television, so I stopped following their pages. This has helped my mental health tremendously since I check in on Facebook multiple times throughout the day versus watching a televised newscast only once per day.

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5 Types of Media That Have a Positive Affect on My Mental Health

1.  Blogs that offer hope

I enjoy reading mental health blogs written by those who have struggled or are struggling, and are trying to get better. It is uplifting to read stories of perseverance, effort, compassion, and faith.

There are many bloggers out there who write only of their destructive ways; who are stuck in their illnesses and show no signs or interest in wanting to get better. They do not seem to have the insight or awareness into the things that they can change, and that is ok. They aren’t there yet, and I am not judging them for that. However, their negativity and anger is something I have to steer clear of for my own mental well-being, just as I have to with people in real life as well.

2.  Google Images

Sometimes when I am feeling down or just bored I will search positive keywords on Google and browse through the images that come up. I often add the word “quotes” to my keyword and then many photos of positive affirmations and sayings appear. For example, this one is from searching the words “friendship quotes”:

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And of course, you can find just regular photos of anything you can think of that makes you happy, including all the puppy and kitten pictures you could want!

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3.  Pinterest

I use Pinterest because it is a great way to save all of those images you find. That way you can come back to them again and again to boost your spirits whenever you need to. Plus, on Pinterest you have the advantage of having a million other people’s search results at your finger tips on the same topic you are interested in.

4.  YouTube Music and Photo Videos

Listening to your favorite music on any media device can help improve your mood.  You can find many songs on YouTube as well.  What I like to use YouTube for is to find non-mainstream type music that helps my mood, such as relaxation or meditative music.  Music that I wouldn’t necessarily buy, but that I might want to listen to every once in a while to help calm my nerves on a particularly stressful day.

I also like searching for photo-music slide shows.  They can be very soothing.  If you would enjoy photos of wooded areas, this one is nice.

5.  Twitter

If you search the hashtag “#affirmation” on Twitter, you can read all kinds of positive messages that will help lift your mood.  I know it helps me stay in a good frame of mind.

Do you know of any other ways to use media to improve your mental health?  Please share them in the comments below.

Mental Health Writer’s Block – a poem

The feeling comes on like words
on the tip of my tongue;
like standing at the edge of a cliff,
toes hanging over, watching the surf
crash into the reef 200 feet down.

Push just a little further.
It is right there.
Something important,
exciting, significant,
just out of reach.

What is it?

I feel the brush of its fingertips
on my out stretched hand
as I fall forward through the air,

descending,
descending;

hoping to wake up
before I hit the rocks below.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Mental Health Blogging

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The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) news reports that over 50 research studies worldwide have found that the type of news coverage on suicides makes a difference in the influence it has on the suicide rates of its viewers who are at risk for it.

The longer and the greater the coverage of a suicide story, the more likely vulnerable individuals may commit suicide themselves. Explicitly describing the suicide method and using dramatic headlines are big no-no’s as well.

However, “careful” reporting on suicides can change public misperceptions and dispel myths, thereby encouraging those at risk to seek help.

What does this mean for us mental health bloggers?

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While our audience may not be in the millions like network television stations or hundreds of thousands like those of major newspapers and internet news sites, I think we should still be responsible in how we describe our own struggles with mental illness and our own thoughts on self-harm and suicide.

I have seen bloggers on either end of the spectrum here. On one hand, some are overly cautious and post “trigger warnings” on most everything they write or vlog about. Trigger warnings are little blurbs that say, “Hey, I am getting ready to write or talk about something that could trigger negative symptoms in you, so continue reading/listening at your own risk.”

I like trigger warnings because sometimes I am in a bad space with my own mental illness symptoms to where listening to someone talk about their self-abuse habits or their detailed thoughts of suicide may cause me some sleepless nights at best, and at worst, may tempt me to entertain such ideas myself.

I have also come across bloggers who write about or post vlogs about the details of their childhood abuse, which is a huge negative trigger for me. For those of you who put trigger warnings on this type of stuff, I thank you, because I will skip those parts entirely. Maybe some people want to read about it; maybe it helps others, but for me it triggers panic attacks. In my opinion the details of such events are best dealt with in therapy or within your own private journal.

Now, I am not proposing we don’t mention the fact that the abuse happened at all. If it did, it is important to validate the horrifying affect it had on us. I am merely suggesting that the minute details of the specific acts themselves be kept out of public posts. To me, the negative effects on the reader far outweigh any positive ones.

Another hot topic in the mental health blogosphere is self-harm behaviors. Some bloggers not only name the behavior, which is acceptable in my opinion, but go on to detail why they do it, what it feels like and looks like, and the thrill or release or whatever “positive” thing they are getting out of it. I understand it works for many people (I used to be one of those individuals; I get it!) However, sensationalizing it, as the NIMH states, only encourages others to do it, and that is not what we want.

Based on NIMH’s suggestions, I propose that we bloggers:

  • Help reduce the risk of contagion by including posts or links to treatment services, warning signs and suicide hotlines.
  • Include stories of hope and recovery; information on how to overcome self-harm behaviors and cope with suicidal thinking.
  • Focus on solutions rather than just the problems.

What suggestions would you have for mental health bloggers?  Share them in the comment section below.

For a side-bar list of suicide warning signs you can include in your posts visit http://reportingonsuicide.org/warning-signs-of-suicide/

If you or someone you love is suicidal you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24/7 service that can provide support, information and local resources. For those outside the U.S., visit http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html to find suicide hotlines in your country.