Where to from here?

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I shouldn’t neglect my blog, but I have in recent weeks. My followers have been steadily rising in number since I began blogging last year and I am very close to a thousand email subscribers. I had no expectations of stats like that; it amazes me, in fact. I imagined I’d get a few fellow adult children of alcoholic parents and the odd writer tagging along, because basically that’s what my blog is about.

The result of neglecting my blog, not to mention other people’s blogs, to concentrate on my fiction and my MA, has been a drop of follower numbers. Not many, but it is an alarm call.

But why should it alarm me? I never thought I’d get those numbers to begin with, so why does it matter? It matters because having people reading my meandering scribbles, and enjoying it, feels good – really good. On a day when nothing else goes right, getting a new follower or an interesting comment on my blog makes me massively happy.

I’ve watched other bloggers, self-styled power-bloggers mainly, have melt-downs over numbers. They insist on blogging a load of crap three times a day, and then wonder why their figures suffer.

I’m forced therefore, just for a moment, to remind myself why I blog, because I’m sure it’s got nothing to do with numbers, nor becoming a ‘power-blogger’.

The first time I sat down and blogged was to write some sort of online journal to chronicle my journey back to mental health. I not only didn’t expect anyone to read it, I didn’t want anyone to read it, and few did. I’ve had a lot on my plate in recent years, and it culminated in a serious breakdown. I lived in a small town rife with untruths and gossip on the other side of the world to everything I held dear. I’d emigrated, left my marriage, lost my career, lost my father, found myself in and out of a toxic relationship, and became a solo mum in the space of very few years. I tried my hand at running a small business when I was already very ill, and when it failed, I fell. I closed my curtains. I didn’t answer the phone. I put mail into a drawer unopened and read romance novels all day. I had just enough energy for my children, but that was it, none for myself. There were times when I’d suddenly realise I hadn’t showered for days, I was beginning a cycle of hoarding, and I shut myself off from anyone who had ever cared. If I wasn’t a mum, I wouldn’t have left the house. Actually, if I’m honest, if I wasn’t a mum, I wouldn’t have survived that depression.

I thought moving town was the answer. It was, but not in the way I’d expected. My breakdown wasn’t quite finished with me, but I began a Creative Writing course that changed everything. Slowly, I began to become the girl I had been before it all went to shit. I was also able to access decent mental health services that comes from living in a large town and got the help I so desperately needed.

After a few months of talk therapy with a wonderful psychiatrist, I was able to say: ‘I don’t think I need to see you anymore.’ He said ‘why?’. I replied that, in my opinion, I’m not mentally ill. He grinned and put his hand up to high-five me. ‘No. I don’t think you are,’ he said. It felt good.

I wish being signed off mental health services came with a certificate, but you’ll just have to trust me, I’m well. In fact, I’ve never been better, and I continue to think with increasing clarity and intelligence, and can figure out what’s what like never before. I’m better, in fact, than before all that shit hit the fan.

I published a few pieces while I was still seeing a shrink, but have since deleted those most private of posts and changed the name of the blog. I’m just not that person anymore.

Then my blog became a matter of maybe helping others on a similar path. Lots of my followers are recovering from addiction, whether from their own or, like me, someone else’s. And those are the blogs I most enjoy following myself. That’s why I often harp on about my childhood and teenage years in an alcoholic home with a particularly messed-up mother. I am never going to shy away from admitting that I’ve suffered depression and times of mania, because it is so important that we talk about mental illness and realise that it can happen to anyone at any time. It is NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF.

I am not ashamed of needing help; I am proud that I got help.

I am uber proud of myself for getting through difficult times and mental illness and, I’m sorry, but I think I’m fucking awesome for getting through it so successfully, and I can say today – I’m good, baby. I’m good. I’m well-balanced, I got my feet on the ground and I got through.

I want anyone reading this to know that should you go through something similar, you can get through too. Depression passes, but it’s up to you to put in the work and get the help you need to get some recovery. I read; I talked; I wrote; that’s the combination that worked for me. My blog has been a massive part of that, and I want to thank anyone who’s left a supportive message for me over the months. Seriously – Thank you.

Every so often I’ve popped a bit of fiction or poetry or a book review on here, however, as soon as you publish on a blog, you can’t submit the work elsewhere. I’m a new or ‘aspiring’ writer, so I want to get published elsewhere. As soon as I do, I’ll post links. But I’m still crafting the narratives I’ve penned in the last year or two, and send very little away.

That said, the incredibly talented Trent Lewin posts fiction on his blog, and it’s wonderful work, and it gets an audience. That’s the important thing, isn’t it? I don’t know. Maybe in the months to come I’ll follow his lead and post some more fiction on here – give those followers who so kindly take the time to read this blog something I’m really proud of.

I’ll also continue to share my journey learning to become a better writer, as I pen a collection of short stories for my MA in Creative Writing. What a rich process that is; I should be sharing more.

So, where to from here for my blog? I think I need to commit to once a week, on a particular evening, no matter what other work I have to do. Yes, I owe it to the people who clicked on ‘follow’, but I also owe it to myself. I use the tag ‘trying to be sane’ a lot. That’s what we’re all doing, isn’t it? Trying to be sane; doing the best we can; helping each other. That’s ‘where to from here’ for my blog. I’ll spend some time reading those other blogs I find so inspirational too – interact – be of some use.

Dear Reader, thank you for subscribing and thank you for reading. Thank you for your patience too. I’ll make sure there’s something next Sunday, and the next, and the next, from now on.

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