Now, is there some way I can get somebody to play a fanfare or something? I mean, after featuring on national radio last night, I feel I should make a bit of an entrance. Nothing too fancy. Something quiet and low-key like the state opening of parliament should cover it. I shouldn’t need more than about – ooh – 30 trumpeters, anyway…
Ideas above my station? Me?
Ahem. So anyway, this blog was mentioned very briefly on the radio last night. In total, about 7 seconds was dedicated to discussing my blog. Yes, folks, you did read that right, a whole 7 seconds. I don’t care, I’m still pathetically excited…
If you want to listen to the whole programme (and I heartily recommend that you do), you can use the BBC’s listen again feature, or alternatively the discussion of blogging that made up the first part of the programme has been posted at Mentally Interesting: The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive.
I am, of course, thrilled to have been mentioned, and I want to say an especial thanks to Mandy for giving my blog an extra little plug, and for being kind enough to say she liked my blog name. I also want to say about both contributors, in the style of Bruce Forsyth, “Didn’t they do well?” It seems to me that both of them were incredibly open and honest, and gave a really eloquent account of why they blog, and why mental health blogging is such a worthwhile thing to do. I think – and I really do mean this – that they did all of us MH bloggers proud.
Other things being equal, I might have gone on to give a bit more of a detailed review, and maybe add in a few of my own thoughts, but I don’t feel I should do that on this occasion. You see, I have a bit of a revelation to make.
(A revelation? Ooh, the suspense! You’re just going to have to click on that read more thing now, aren’t you…?)
I had a certain amount of email contact with the producer of the programme, with a view to my possibly being involved in the discussion. My name had been put forward by Mandy (for which, again, I’m very grateful), but in the end I decided that I didn’t want to be directly involved (though, of course, there’s no guarantee that the producer would have thought I was worthy of taking part, even if I’d wanted to). There were two reasons why I decided not to.
The first was really just practical – I get incredibly anxious about pretty much everything at the moment, but one of the things I’m most anxious about is social contact. Obviously, there wouldn’t have been a vast amount of social contact involved – it’s not as though I was being asked to speak in front of a real-life audience – but it still seemed very likely to me that I wouldn’t have actually been able to make it into the studio. Even if I had made it into the studio, I doubt I would have been able to contribute anything more than saying “Er….” a lot. I know I can come across as quite articulate on this blog, but it’s easy to appear articulate when you’re sitting in your own front room, and you have the chance to obsessively re-write every word as many times as you want to. One of the reasons I was so impressed with Seaneen and Mandy is that they managed to be so articulate in what must have been a really nerve-wracking situation.
The second reason I decided I didn’t want to take part is because I wanted to stay anonymous. Both Seaneen and Mandy are a whole lot braver than I am, and are prepared to attach their real identities to their blogs. I don’t want to do that, partly because if people knew who I was I’d feel the need to be much more circumspect when it came to mentioning other people in my blog. Also, revealing myself in that way would make me feel very vulnerable, and feeling vulnerable is usually a trigger for my paranoia. I’ve been having quite a few problems with paranoia of late, so I decided it wouldn’t be sensible to do anything that might make it worse.
The producer was very understanding when I explained why I had changed my mind, and asked me to email her with the reasons I thought MH blogging has become so popular. I think my answers formed part of the background research for the programme, and certainly I felt that the ghosts of one or two things I’d said in my email might have formed part of a couple of the questions put by the presenter. I thought it might be interesting for you to read what I had to say, so this is the relevant part of the email I sent:
I think there are probably as many reasons for mental health blogging as there are mental health bloggers, and it would probably be a mistake to assume that everyone who blogs gets the same things out of it. That said, there are really three things that I find helpful about blogging.
Firstly, it helps to counteract social isolation. I am pretty isolated from friends and family, and blogging has given me a way of interacting with people that I can handle far more easily than face-to-face meetings. There is, for me, a real sense of community among mental health bloggers, and because we’ve all had similar experiences we can empathise more easily with each other’s problems, and also celebrate each other’s successes. The whole of the mental health blog community is really a very friendly and supportive place.
Secondly, the mental health blog community is self-originated and self-sustaining. There are one or two MH professionals who join in, but by and large it’s made up of people who have personal experience of mental health problems. That’s important because organisations and activities that are run by others on behalf of people who are mentally ill, although they’re tremendously well-intentioned, can end up feeling very worthy and rather po-faced. Most mental health bloggers take an irreverent and self-deprecating approach to their own problems, at least some of the time – given that I mainly read blogs by people who are mentally ill, it’s amazing how often I come across things that are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. That’s helpful in itself – chances to laugh about things don’t come along all that often when you’re mentally ill – but trying to write about some of my own experiences in a (hopefully) amusing way is also very useful, because it encourages me to think about things in a different way, and that helps me to avoid my usual well-worn patterns of thinking.
Finally, writing a blog gives me an opportunity to write and think about things that aren’t necessarily connected to my health. There’s a danger that people who work in mental health can sometimes think of those of us who are mentally ill as a walking collection of symptoms rather than as a person. Even conversations with friends and family usually start with ‘How have you been feeling?’, and don’t always move on from that. I find writing a blog is a very useful way of reminding myself, and maybe even a few other people as well, that although I have a mental illness, being mentally ill doesn’t entirely define me, and that I’m still a person with thoughts and feelings that are unconnected to my health.
So, there you go, that’s the sort of things I’d have been planning to say if I’d decided to take part in the programme. As I say, what I’d have been planning to say. What I would have actually said, of course, would have been a whole lot less well worked out, and I’d have been saying it in a small, frightened, shaking voice. And it’s not as though I was missed from the discussion – Mandy and Seaneen said everything that needed saying, I think, and they certainly covered all the topics I’d thought of.