Recovery | Why Blogging Increases Your Self Awareness And Aids Your Recovery

[Disclaimer: The aim of this blog post is to tell my experience with honesty. Therefore, some content may trigger an adverse reaction. If this post is beginning to upset you, I advise that you please stop reading it immediately and talk to your support team. Content and Trigger Warning: Depression, Anxiety & Self-Harm]

This is not the first blog I have written. I have blogged for a long time; pretty much from the point where I got my first laptop when I was 12/13 years old. Before I started blogging I wrote in journals as a means to express how I was feeling and still do to this day.

Tumblr was my best friend and there are accounts out there that I can't even access anymore! Parts of my brain are just floating around on the internet immortalised in code.

I find blogging and journalling cathartic. It allows me to get what is in my head out in to the world so that I can explore it.

Sometimes I will blog because I have a lot going on and just want to brain dump or rant. Or sometimes I share things that inspire me or jot down ideas that I don't want to forget, but most often when I was younger I would blog as means of coping with depression.

There were times when I felt alone, overwhelmed, and just plain crazy. I thought that if I could get what was going on in my head out of my head I would feel better. Blogging and journalling felt like the safest places to do that.

They aren't fool proof though. There have been occasions where I know my mum read my journal, and on a public blog even if it is not shared with people you know in real life they can still find it, or complete strangers give you their unwanted opinions on your life (or just on you as a person).

After my journal was read and my blog posts were pulled apart I started blogging on private blogs. I thought this would help, and in some way it did as I was free from judgement and prying eyes, but in a lot of ways it just lead me to indulge my depressive thoughts. Giving them their own space gave them validity and strength.

It's safe to say that processing my emotions in this way had it's pros and cons. A love/hate relationship if you will. Nowadays I very rarely blog outside of this one, I'm not particularly active on social media, and though I do still journal it's for much more practical means like tracking my time and making notes for my creative job.

Overall I have blogged for a decent 15 years or so, and when you blog for that amount of time a lot of content tends to build up. Every now and again you stumble across something that you forgot about...

A blast from the past

Today I found a blog that I had made 7 years ago on the site "Ello" that I completely forgot existed. It was a site that I was introduced to when I was 22 years old at a point in my life where I was deeply struggling.

I was going through the break-up of a relationship that was the most serious relationship I had been in at that point. I genuinely believed that one day I would marry him, but I had become so deeply entangled in my depression that I don't know who this boy was really dating at the end of it.

The occasional glimpses of me underneath the paranoia, mood swings, zero-confidence and self-harm were no longer enough to make the relationship worthwhile in his eyes. These rare sightings of "Emma" had become so few and far between that I was no longer worth the fight and daily struggle that came with dating someone who was depressed.

I understand it more now than I did then. Depression is a bitch and took away so much of the real me. I was difficult to cope with and living with that reality can be incredibly draining. I get it.

At the time though I fully believed that the words my depression was whispering to me were the truth. I wasn't worth it, like he said. I couldn't differentiate between the disorder and my self. I saw them as one being and had done so for many years. This disease was part of who I was, it was what made me "me". He was rejecting me, not my depression. I believed that all the bad that came along with the disorder were just bad parts of me.

Ello is a space primarily used by creative individuals to share their works these days, but when I found it Ello was still a general blogging platform. No one I knew used this site, so I was free to write anything and not have whatever fallout would come from people I knew in real life being able to read it.

I poured my heart out into that blog in small heart-wrenching snippets or paragraphs of self-critique over the period of several months. From late November 2014 through to roughly March 2015, most posts involved me tearing myself down, relaying aspects of my eating disorder or self-harm urges, and blaming myself for what happened. I was having panic attacks at work and I felt very alone.

Gone but not forgotten

What surprised me the most was how I could feel everything that was written all over again. I remembered what I was going through and reading the words I had written took me straight back to that point in my history.

Feelings that I had moved on from, forgotten about or even worked hard on to heal were suddenly brand new. It was like I hadn't moved on at all...

But then I came across a post that put everything into perspective:

One thing I did say I would try and do this year would be to quit self-harming. I swear I make this vow every year and always fail because it's too fucking hard to resist. If I could go a whole year it would be one of the biggest achievements of my life and I have the utmost respect for any of you out there that have managed to give it up. You are so fucking strong!

This post snapped me out of what could potentially have been a very nasty spiral of thought. This post brought me back to my current reality. I am in a better place now and I knew that whilst reading those posts, but I hadn't realised just how much things had changed.

That year in December 2014 I made the New Year's Resolution to stop self-harming. Mind you I fully believed that I would probably break it but had a little bit of hope that this time I might just succeed. I was sick of feeling like shit.

Part of me wanted to prove to him that I was worth it after all; admittedly so that he might take me back if he could see that I'd improved, but mostly because I love a Pretty Woman "BIG mistake" moment. The more distance came between us the more I realised I wanted him to take me back so that I could have the honour of rejecting him in return. I really wanted to be able to say "fuck you" as he watched me from the side-lines become everything he wished I was when we were dating but never believed I could be. Only he wouldn't be there to enjoy the good days because he didn't help me get through the bad days.

Every day was a battle. Sometimes every minute of that day was a battle. In all honesty I don't entirely know what got me through those days unscathed. I remember all too well how bad those days were and yet I managed to survive, one day at a time.

Minutes turned into days and those days turned into weeks, which turned into months and eventually I got to the next New Year, and the next, and the next.

Today I am 7 years self-harm free and thanks to therapy my depression is now just a blip. It is a whiny creature in a cage in my mind begging to be set free to cause havoc but I can now shut it out most days, and also have the tools to work through any bad days when depression becomes particularly loud.

My depression and its symptoms are not me. I am me. The young woman from 7 years ago was not the bad person she believed she was, she was just lost in the fog that depression had surrounded her with.

Yet despite how lost she was, she also had hope that things would get better. Otherwise she wouldn't have made that resolution in the first place. I wish I could go back and let her know that things were indeed going to be okay. I would tell her that she would go onto to recover, no longer feel bitterness or resentment towards the boy who broke her heart and live a normal functioning life. I'd tell her she would get engaged, find a job she loves and start a mental health blog; all things that she wouldn't have dared dream of before. I would tell her to keep going, as this was just a part of her story, not the end.

I have so much more love, sympathy and compassion for the old me now that what I did. She was doing her best and did a fucking good job at it too.

Gone but not forgotten

It is only when we look back at our old selves that we can see that progress that we have made. Most of the time we don't see the progress we make on a day-to-day basis and generally don't give ourselves enough credit.

Blogging, journalling, vlogging or any creative medium that allows for self-expression is a tool for discovering more about yourself in the present and is gift to your future self as they remember where they've been (even if that can be a little embarrassing to look back at sometimes!)

It's important to self-reflect; by knowing what you have overcome and achieved you gain the confidence to be able to set goals for your future.

Most days now I don't really think about my self harm at all. What was once a daily thought is now something I only remember on bad days, and resisting the urge is so much easier now than it used to be. But because I don't really think about it, I had almost forgotten the struggle and therefore had almost forgotten the achievement that came along with it.

I'd forgotten how difficult it was for me to get through my days without it as my main coping mechanism. I'd forgotten how proud of myself I was when I reached a full year self harm free (and the tears in both mine and my mum's eyes when I told her). I'd forgotten how I used to track every single day that went by without it because every day was a struggle. Now I don't know how many days it has been and had to actually count how many years I had gone to be able to put it in this blog. That's crazy!

Progress is something that creeps up on you without you realising. What once once an unimaginable feat becomes your day-to-day and that in itself deserves celebrating. We need to look back and remember so that we don't take anything for granted. There is a past version of yourself that dreamed of getting to where you are today (even if you are still struggling and in the middle of your journey) and we owe it to them to appreciate every day.

What next?

I plan to go through more of my old journals and blogs soon and relay more lessons that I learn about myself along the way, but for now thank you for reading and I hope you all stay safe.

If you are in need of urgent help, please use the resources below Samaritans Helpline - https://www.samaritans.org/

Mental Health Foundation - https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help

NHS information regarding general mental health - https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/

NHS information regarding access to urgent help - https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/get-urgent-help-for-mental-health/

Mental health advice tailored for men - https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/get-help/

Mind Charity - https://www.mind.org.uk/need-urgent-help/

How Mental list of apps and online resources - https://www.howmental.com/resources

Rethink Mental Illness - https://www.rethink.org/aboutus/what-we-do/advice-and-information-service/get-help-now/

Turning Point - https://www.turning-point.co.uk/services/drug-and-alcohol-support.html

Alcoholics Anonymous - https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/

If you feel you are in immediate danger, please go to A&E.