Hmmm, interesting title. What could the post be about, I wonder? A meditation on being single? Nah, that would only work if it was a new state of affairs. Proof of the age-old truism that gay man + internet connection = clearly lying about his age? (Yes, shocking though it may seem, a lot of those ’29 year olds’ who hang out in the darker-lit corners of Gaydar are considerably nearer their 60s than they are their teens.) Well, given that I’ve repeatedly told you I’m in my mid 30s, it wouldn’t be a very convincing lie. And anyway, there are limits to what even L’Oreal Men Expert can achieve…
No, it’s an indication of the fact that I’ve achieved a significant milestone in blogging. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been boring the crap out of dazed and confused internet wanderers for 365 of your Earth days. Hooray!
Let’s start off my review of the year with some stats:
121 posts over a year works out at a roughly one post every three days. Given that my (until now) unwritten aim was for a new post every couple of days, that’s not bad going. The longest gap between posts was ten days, between 26th May and 5th June. The post that broke the gap was called Oh, what’s the bloody point?, so I think it’s perhaps not hard to work out why I hadn’t felt like blogging. May and June also hold the joint record for the fewest number of posts made in a month, with just six each. The busiest month was October, with sixteen posts, when I had taken the decision to blog more frequently as a (pathetically inadequate) self-help strategy for warding off depression.
My total word count for all 121 posts (and yes, I do keep a record of it – I’m weird, ok?) is 162,298, which works out as an average of around about 1,341 words per post. For the record, the longest post is a fairly recent one – Aelfthryth’s adventures in elderly care, from the 30th January – which weighed in at a hefty 4,427 words (and that was a heavily edited version…). The briefest post was This made me laugh, from the 2nd July, which came in at just 36 words. I am, it would seem, a very wordy person. But I think you all knew that already…
The 1,020 comments I’ve received over the last 12 months work out as an average of just under 8.5 comments per post, although that figure does include comments left by me. That seems to me to be an extraordinary number of comments, and I’m pathetically grateful for each and every one of them. It means a huge amount to me that there are people who’re prepared, not only to read what I write, but also to take the time to comment on it. When I started, I really did expect that keeping this blog would mean that I was basically shouting into the void – it’s been incredibly nice to realise that’s not the case.
Something else that’s helped me to realise that is the sheer number of readers I’ve had (I realise that not everyone feels like commenting). I’ve had about twice as many hits in my second six months as I had in my first. That suggests that my readership has been expanding fairly rapidly over the last few months, and WordPress’ graph of the month-by-month figures seems to confirm that:
My busiest ever day was 3rd December, which was the day after my blog was briefly mentioned (thanks, Mandy!) on Radio 4. I had assumed that the boost from radio listeners would be temporary (and the stats as of the end of January seemed to be bearing that out), but my stats have continued to build, with February being my busiest ever month. So, thank you for that, all of you. I’m enormously flattered that you think what I write is worth reading.
It would seem as though the post you felt was most worth reading was, by quite some margin, my one about the Personal Capability Assessment for Incapacity Benefit. The next most popular was my review of the first part of the Horizon: How Mad Are You? programme. The least popular post was my very first one, in which I introduced myself, and the next least popular was the aforementioned This made me laugh. The post which represents the median average is currently The Brit awards: Pet Shop Boys etc., although as that’s still a relatively recent post I would expect it to perhaps pick up a few more hits as time goes on.
As my blog has got more popular, so the amount of traffic I’ve picked up from search engines has increased. The most popular searches have been for variations on the theme of Aethelread the Unread, which account for about a ¼ of all the hits. The next most popular groups of searches have been for the Horizon programme and the PCA for Incapacity Benefit. A surprisingly large number of people searched for ‘depression and cognitive impairment’ within a short period of time – enough, in fact, that I wondered if the phrase had featured in an essay question set somewhere. Quite a few people have arrived after searching for Stefan Olsdal or Professor Brian Cox, and I’m very happy to have helped those people in their quest for photos of such fine figures of men.
The weirdest searches tend to disappear off the list because so few people search for them, but the two people who arrived at my blog having typed ‘how do I offer myself as a cocksucker’ into a search engine did rather stick in my mind. (Hint: this is what internet personals were invented for. Or, failing that, kneeling down in front of a guy and starting to undo his fly is a signal it’s hard to misinterpret, although do bear in mind it’s best not to do this if the guy concerned is an on-duty policeman – George Michael will tell you that this can lead to certain rather unfortunate complications…)
Although my traffic from search engines is increasing all the time, the bulk of the people who arrive here from somewhere else are sent on by other bloggers who have been nice enough to link to me. The most readers have been sent by Mental Nurse, with Mentally Interesting: The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive and Not Another Nursing Student coming 2nd and 3rd respectively. I think Mental Nurse probably tops the list because zarathustra has been kind enough to include me in his weekly round-up of the MH blogosphere, This Week in Mentalists, loads of times. A couple of days after I set up this blog I sent zarathustra an email letting him know that I was linking to Mental Nurse in the hopes that I might get a reciprocal link out of it, and maybe an inclusion in TWIM at some point in the future. I was absolutely thrilled to find that I was included the very next Saturday. I was also thrilled to be mentioned as an official runner-up in the ‘Leonard Cohen Award for Best Mood Disorder Blog’ category in the TWIM awards at the end of last year.
I should add, though, that I don’t think of it at all as a competition in terms of who sends me readers, or how many they send. I am genuinely grateful for anyone and everyone who likes what I write enough to recommend it to other people, and I’m also vain enough to be thrilled if a link from anywhere sends me even one extra reader. Basically, I’m a skanky old publicity whore.
In terms of readers I refer on to other places, I’ve sent most traffic to Not Another Nursing Student, with Teenage Misanthropy and In Search of the Mental Health Messiahs coming 2nd and 3rd respectively. I feel rather guilty about having referred fewer people onwards than have been referred inwards to me. And I also feel guilty for being so slow in updating my blogroll. I guess I’m just a better whore than I am a pimp…
Pimp or whore, the thing I do day in and day out on this blog is try and rack my brains for something interesting to say. I’m actually quite surprised how well I’ve managed to keep that up – I was confidently predicting I’d run out of things to say by about the end of my second post. When I first started, I was intending that this blog would focus more on MH issues than it actually has, but I fairly quickly found out that writing about myself (even when I’m being as carefully anonymous as I try to be in this blog) is something I find very, very difficult. I also seem to have re-discovered the basic truths that all people who try to blog about depression discover: 1) depression is pretty dull, and so it’s hard to write about in a way that doesn’t make for very dull reading and; 2) it’s very hard to persuade yourself when you write about depression that you’re not just being a self-obsessed, whingeing arsehole. (It doesn’t help, of course, that an exaggerated view of one’s own arseholeness (arseholosity…?) is one of the symptoms of depression.)
My year of blogging has coincided with some reasonably significant events in my mentalist career, including my adventures in psychoanalysis, and the recent revelation that I’m not mentally ill. (This last one continues to bother me in a big way, and I’m likely to blog about it again in the near future.) When I have managed to persuade myself to blog about more personal things, it’s often been in the context of writing about treatment, and I hope that’s been useful/ interesting for some of you.
I’d taken the decision a few months before starting this blog that I was only going to take medication as a last resort, and for the most part was just going to try and muddle through using my own resources (this was before therapy had been raised as a possibility). It wasn’t intended, but the blog has become a big part of how I muddle through, and I’m actually surprised by how prominent it is in my attempts to manage my mental health. So, for example, keeping a blog has gone some distance to counteracting my social isolation (although I do realise that there’s a difference between flesh-and-blood friends and blog buddies, and I should work on having more contact with the former). It’s also given me a reason to write about myself, and that kind of self-analysis (the rare times I’ve done it) has been broadly helpful. The main ways it’s helped, though, are in creating a kind of structure (if I post every two days, that means every day includes some blog-related activity, either writing a post, or reading and responding to comments) and in giving me a good way to distract myself from myself.
I haven’t talked about this explicitly before, but I would guess that quite a few of you have picked up on the fact that, when I’m feeling worse, I quite often tend to write about anything other than how I feel. To some extent I can’t help that – I have an irritatingly powerful set of internal barriers, and they always clang shut just at the moment when it would be most useful to try and prise them open. But the attempt to distract myself has also been deliberate.
So, for example, when I wrote not one but two long posts about the Horizon documentary, it’s safe to say that I needed a lot of distracting. The same thing could be said about my decision to give you an insight into the kind of filth I ogle on my computer desktop, or a run-down of my top 5 weird crushes, or when I use a post about Ricky Gervais saying something predictably twattish as an excuse to spend hours searching out a bunch of comfortingly familiar comedy performances. Another dead giveaway is when I write about a news story or something similar without relating it to me personally. The real danger sign (and the point at which the proverbial men in white coats should probably be put on stand-by) is when I write a post about the Pet Shop Boys – all of my posts about them seem to have come in the immediate run-up to major crises, most recently the appointment with my psychiatrist that I was dreading.
By and large, though, the reason I’ve kept up blogging isn’t so much that I find it useful as it is that I enjoy it. It gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction to be able to pootle around my blog and think to myself, ‘I did that.’ Without my blog, I’d be struggling to think of things to say that I’ve achieved since last March; with it, there’s a lot that I can say I’ve done. Of course, there are inevitably posts I’m more proud of than others.
I think I managed to capture some of my experiences of depression reasonably well here, here, and here. I think I managed to do the same with anger, and panic attacks, and what, for want of a better description, I’ve taken to calling general mental weirdness, too. Of my more analytical posts, I rather liked my one about the Daily Mail, and my one about a psychology ‘experiment’. I’ve written a fair few posts on what you might call ‘gay issues’, and I was pretty damn proud of this one (although that’s partly because I’m amazed I managed to think rationally at all at the time), and only slightly less proud of this one.
It was never my intention to use this blog as a vehicle for ‘creative’ writing (I do write ‘creatively’, but in accordance with my Solemn Undertaking, I don’t publish it here), but there have been one or two occasions when what I think of as good writing (or, at least, as good as I’m capable of) have crept onto the blog. The standout example is this (which was based on an idea and structure supplied by experimental chimp, so it’s very far from being all my own work), and it’s probably the single post I’m most proud of. And the last three paragraphs of this post are probably as close as I’ll ever come to writing poetry.
BUT, I don’t want to leave this post on a downer (it is my first birthday party, after all…) so I’m going to end up by pointing you in the direction of a couple of posts where I think I managed to be genuinely quite funny. There’s this post, which is my response to a meme, and, especially, this one – I’m sure I shouldn’t admit to anything so vain, but that post makes me laugh out loud every time I read it (which is rarely – I’m not completely self-obsessed).
Anyway, thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, and, yeah, just thanks for everything. This has been my one-hundred-and-twenty-second post, and it’s 2,540 words long – I guess I’m going to be a weird, long-winded, stats-obsessed bastard in my second year too…