My favourite blogger

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

This is going to be an odd blog post for a two reasons:

a) I am going to write about my favourite blogger, I am not going to tell you her name or where you can find her blog
b) I know more about this woman than I know about most of my friends but I have never met her and don’t even know her real name

So where to start with all this?

Well I suppose it started via twitter and I came across a number of posters who also wrote really good blogs and tended to link and comment on each other. What connected them was that they all had mental health issues and for some (but not all of them) writing about their mental health was the main focus of their blog. Reading what these bloggers were writing was an experience that I had never had in any other context. I worked in mental health during my training as all nurses do and had worked in hospital and community settings and though I knew a reasonable bit about mental health. It was all seen through the lens of a professional though and so I knew about medications, diagnoses, referrals, etc but not really much about what it is actually like to live with this. Some of my friends received treatment and a few ended up as inpatients during their training but we never really talked honestly about what those experiences were like. So initially I was really taken aback by these incredibly vivid honest accounts from these bloggers.

At first I felt like this was somewhere I shouldn’t be and reading blogs I shouldn’t be reading. After all I have never had treatment for mental health problems and had a pretty big online label identifying myself as a health professional. I was also actively connecting with them through twitter and blog comments rather than just passively reading their blogs. But people were OK with this and I never tried to pretend to be something I wasn’t or (god forbid) ever try and give clinical advice or information. Mind you that is probably because my mental health clinical skills are almost non-existent these days but also they knew far more about the ins and outs of the healthcare system, medications, diagnoses, etc than I did. And also, to be honest, these weren’t blogs about being ill, they were blogs about being human and being alive. Although health issues were what drew them together in an online community, they were all just providing very raw honest accounts of their lives. Some days were all about symptoms and the failings of healthcare and socialcare professionals and other days were about wine and love and poetry and family and jobs and dreams and fears.

It was the writing more than the content that really drew me and the quality of the writing took my breath away. I am a bit of a crap writer and although I try not to let that stop me flexing my writing muscles, I am under no illusions that my writing is not my best way of communicating. On a good day with a good crowd, I can do presentations and talks that make people laugh, cry and touch people’s innermost dreams and emotions. My writing has never come close to that, but these writers did. They shared a view on their inner and outer world that they openly said they did not share with family, friends, professionals or therapists. I would follow accounts of therapy sessions where they would talk about what they did and didn’t share and discuss whether or not to let professionals know about some of the dark scary things. And yet they were sharing this with complete strangers. Although for me some of them didn’t feel like strangers because they had shared huge parts of themselves that even good friends don’t really share, albeit through a veil of pseudonyms and anonymity. One person made a suicide attempt and we all knew because of her last blog post, her abrupt ending of a twitter stream and then her post when she was finally discharged from A&E having convinced them not to section her again. What became obvious was that for many of them, this anonymised electronic network was actually their primary source of support and there was real depth to the care, emotion and support that they shared with each other. If you have never been part of an electronic community it can be hard to imagine how much support and how much affection you can have for someone you have never actually met.

And of these writers, my absolute favourite is L. Well actually I know L is a pseudonym because she has since told me her name is actually J although that could be another psuedonym. L is an outstanding writer and we would generally communicate through blog comments and twitter. A few months ago, her family discovered her blog and so she has now moved it to a password-protected hidden place and I promised never to reveal where this is or provide any clues where her family could find it again (which is what makes writing about this tricky and why I seem to referring to her in a George-Smiley-kind-of-way). For people who have never really used twitter or blogs, it may seem strange to think that you can follow someone’s live, moods, ups and downs in real-time if they are very open and transparent. I know when L is having a great day, when she is curled up under the duvet on her laptop, when she is scared, when she has had crap treatment from professionals, when she is wondering whether to eat again, when she is drinking wine, the ins and outs of her love life and when she is thinking of ending it all. There are lots of days she makes me laugh out loud, there are days she makes me worry about her and there are days she makes me desperately painfully sad. But if she was sat next to me where I am writing, I wouldn’t know how she was. L has probably helped me understand aspects of mental health I never could have understood, not as a label or diagnosis or treatment pathway, but as one aspect of a bright multi-faceted life that sometimes takes centre stage and at other times is part of who she is with no more impact than hair colour or taste in music.

I will probably never meet L or share a glass of wine with her but she has touched my life in a way that probably seems bizarre to those who treat social media as a scary impersonal technology. She has also shown me the joy of beautiful honest writing and how electronic communication can sometimes be far more human, deep and powerful than what most of us experience in face-to-face “real life” conversation.


NxJewell 6 June 2011 at 11:07  

I really enjoyed reading this post because I can think of similar bloggers who have moved me in the way you describe.

I was particularly interested in the way you describe the support community for those with mental health issues. I have been looking into caring blogs a lot recently and it seems to be one of the easiest ways to socialise and find support when a person is unable to get out of the house because they have someone dependent on them. I imagine it is a similar thing for someone who finds their mental health sometimes prevents them from being able to get out. It also brings likeminded people who are miles apart together.

DXF File 14 August 2011 at 20:15  

You are right. And this post is great! I am new on your blog and the reason that I loved your blog is that your write beautifully and your blog's font is easy to read!
Keep Posting!

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