Works For Me Wednesday: Blogging For Mental Health

You can't have been reading here for long without noticing that I talk about mental health a lot - but if you're new here, you may not realize why.

You'll likely know by now that I'm a single mom, especially since this month I've been teamed up with David Elliott (from the Single Dad's Guide to Life) to work through BLOGuary from a single parent perspective. He's been writing from the viewpoint of a single dad, and I've been (obviously) writing as a single mom; we've covered tons of different topics, and I can't say enough how cool it has been to have someone to bounce ideas off of in this way.

But, while you'll know I'm a single mom (I mention it pretty much in every post because my kids are my life), you may not realize that I live with C-PTSD, PMDD, Depression, and Anxiety. These illnesses are invisible for the most part, but they are no less valid - I have kids and I'm raising them alone, so I pretty much have to get out of bed every day, no matter how much I don't want to. Someone has to drive them to school, and there's no one else to take up the slack. There's no one to make the dinner when I'm locked in the bathroom overwhelmed, overstimulated, and panicking. There's no one to console me when my own needs have gone neglected for too long because I'm seeing to the needs of my kids as much as possible - there's no one to keep me from breaking down.

I would have my diagnoses even if I didn't have my kids - my issues are from a long history of repeated trauma experiences having very little to do with my role as a mother. My childhood was extremely dysfunctional, my romantic relationships have often been unhealthy or even outright toxic, and I've been guilty of staying in toxic friendships far too long in the past.

I've shared stories here many times - even sharing the actual stories of some of my more traumatic memories - but mostly, I share those stories for three reasons:
  1. to offer companionship to other women like me. I spent a lot of years looking back on the traumatic aspects of my life and thinking, "How did I even make it out alive?" Even now, when I share stories with people, they often don't know what to do with how they feel about my life, and I've actually had people tell me that when I talk about my childhood (or certain other things) it makes them sad because they can't deal with what I lived through. This has always left me feeling very alone, and if sharing my story here lets someone else know they aren't alone, then it's worth the trouble.
  2. to share the coping mechanisms I've tried and whether they've helped me or not. Some things work well - others don't. Don't get me wrong though - I'm not sharing my strategies because I think every thing should work for every person. I do it because maybe something I'm doing will give someone else an idea of what could work for them. Whether it's using the Pomodoro Technique or Habit Stacking to battle a lack of focus, crafting or purposeful fidgeting to stay busy, making a point to practice better self care, or simply learning more about what you're dealing with so that you understand yourself better, there are a ton of great tips buried in this blog that would be helpful for anyone struggling to better their mental wellness.
  3. while I am hoping to build an income with this blog that will help support my writing and my family, the truth of the matter is that I would blog even if it had no income potential at all - because blogging is my best and most effective mental wellness technique.

I recently had a conversation that made me rethink my blogging format and techniques. Usually, I take a basic idea or concept and just sit down and run with it. There's no extensive planning, no bullet list of talking points, no strict rules (other than to include images readers can pin if they want to) at all. For me, it's free-writing - I just sit down and let the words come until they aren't coming anymore, then I'm done.

When I'm feeling super ambitious, then I go back and reread what I've written, making sure it's as smooth and polished as it can be in the moment, trying to catch and repair errors, typos, and other mistakes.

I don't always do that..

This blog, despite the fact that I do believe it has great potential as an income source, is truly intended to be an outlet for me. When I first started it, it helped me even though no one was reading it - but as it has grown and a small community of readers has developed, I've found it to be so much more enriching. It is a resource for others, yes, but it's also one for me - a written log of my experience, what works for me and what doesn't, and a place to express myself in a way that doesn't exist outside of this moment when I'm sitting here when my fingers on the keyboard and the words appearing on the screen like magic, simply because I will them to be there.

Sure, I could keep a diary or more private journal - and sometimes I do, when I'm struggling with things I feel I can't share here, or when I'm just too negative to be able to come here and be helpful to my readers. But mostly, this is the place where I'm leaving a record of who I am and where I've been ... as a mother, as a woman, as an author ... as a human who existed and for a time, survived.

Journaling has long been used as a therapeutic technique for those struggling with mental illness - and with the more recent change in focus on mental health and ending the stigma of mental illness, journaling publicly has become increasingly more popular. There are mental health bloggers everywhere, even on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (click the links for my favorite mental health pages on these platforms), and it's becoming easier and easier for public mental health blogging to create communities of like-minded strugglers working their way through their troubles.

That's why, when I had two someones recently suggest that maybe I'm blogging too much or writing posts that are too long, I thought about it, turned it over in my mind, acknowledged the possibility of truth in the claim - and then discarded it as mostly not useful to me. Yes, I do blog often (although not usually as often as in January, where I blog daily except for Sundays). And yes, I am a long-form blogger (though my posts are actually pretty well-attuned to today's average, which is around 2000 words). There is some truth in what was said, and in taking that truth to heart, 2018 will be about being more concise. Not only will I be focused on building momentum in this new year, but I'll also be building that momentum in two different directions.

I'll still be blogging regularly - but instead of blogging every three days (like I was doing for most of 2017), I'll be blogging every four days. This is for two reasons:
  1. My readers will have more time to read and process what I'm sharing at their own pace, and more time to (hopefully) interact with and share my posts before I've moved onto the next).
  2. I'll have somewhat more energy to focus on building equal momentum with my fiction writing, which means I'll be able to be much more focused this year on growing and promoting my backlist, as well as writing new books for my fiction readers to enjoy. 

But this? This space?

I'm going to keep holding it, and I'm going to keep using it freely, sharing my stories and the stories of other women like me. Because it matters. Because it makes a difference. Because for me, it's effective enough to be a substitute for the medication I sometimes need but can't ever seem to get my hands on. Because I'm blogging for fun even as I'm building a platform.

And because this blog, this outlet, this space that is sometimes the only place in the world that I truly feel is mine ... is part of how I survive my struggle to stay Undaunted.

What do you do to maintain (or improve) your mental health, and where did you find the technique that best works for you? What other things have you tried that maybe didn't work as well, and what other things have you wanted to try but haven't yet? I'd love for you to share in the comments below!

Don't forget, this BLOGuary is a writing partnership! David Elliott from the Single Dad's Guide to Life has been partnering with me this month to balance my single mom perspective with the single dad side of everything from fitness to travel to music and movies. Make sure you check out David's blog for his answer to today's post - a list of things he's learned from life as a blogger.

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And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.