Confronting demons and kicking them out.

Confronting demons and kicking them out.

Confronting demons is hard but I do believe, in a lot of cases, it’s something you have to do to be able to move forward. Through counselling, I’ve come to realise I left a lot of things lurking when I should have dealt with them so I could let them go.

Trigger warning: this post discusses domestic violence. Please do not read this if you think it will be harmful to you to do so. With cases of domestic violence said to increase when England lose the football, it’s unfortunate to know there are women who will have experienced similar things to what I am about to discuss while I was writing this post. There are, of course, also men who are victims of abuse and it doesn’t matter who you are: there is help available. If you need help with this issue, or are concerned about a loved one, please contact National Domestic Violence Helpline, Women’s Aid, Men’s Advice Help LineRefuge or Samaritans

The other night, I took another step towards recovery by confronting a part of my past which has haunted me since the day it happened.

A few years ago, an ex of mine attacked me.

I mean, beat me until I was black and blue. Until it hurt to breathe.

We had been drinking and were both worse for wear. Yet, he seemed different. His eyes seemed to be going in different directions, he was practically incoherent and I was scared. So, he was in bed, making no sense and because I was panicking, I poured water over him to try and shock him into being sober. This wasn’t my finest idea, I’ll admit, but I was worried.

You could say it worked, I suppose. He sprung up, pinned me against a set of drawers and screamed in my face: “HOW DARE YOU?” I told him he was hurting me, which only made him push against me harder. He held my arms so tight, there were bruises in the shape of handprints the next day.

I tried to explain my thought process, but it didn’t matter. He threw me onto the bed and began punching me in the back. I was sobbing, screaming and begging him to stop. He didn’t. I really believed he was going to beat me to death, and I’ve never been more terrified in my life. Fight or flight must have kicked in, because I managed to push him away, get up and lock myself in the bathroom.

He was banging against the door, threatening to kick it down and mumbling other nonsense. I said nothing. I stayed there until there was silence. Until I knew he had either fallen asleep or realised what he’d done. I slept on the sofa. I couldn’t stand the thought of being anywhere near him.

It was one of the worst days of my life.

The following day, the atmosphere was weird. My back was very sore, but I wanted to get back to normal. I wanted to act like it never happened. I made that choice. It was the wrong one, I see that now, but what’s done is done.

You would think he would be filled with guilt and trying to make it up to me and, for the most part, he was. Until – and I don’t recall what happened to cause this – he poured his glass of Vimto all over me and said “it’s not nice, is it? How does that feel?” It was degrading, unpleasant and unnecessary.

I went away to clean myself up and cried some more. I crawled into bed, where I stayed for the rest of the night, leaving him downstairs to do whatever he wanted.

Well, I would love to tell you it stopped there; that I left or that there were no more instances of this vile behaviour. But I’d be lying. It was never that bad again, but there were other things, usually as a result of his drinking. There was a time when he pushed me against a wall and screamed in my face because I’d woken him up at 7 am. He then proceeded to tell me to “fuck off to work” and pushed me out of the bedroom, scratching my arm in the process.

I wanted to tell my family, but I could never find the words. There’s never a good time to drop that into a conversation. So, I kept my bruises hidden and the secret locked inside. People think it’s often a case of missing the signs, but I made sure there wasn’t any. Keeping things to myself is something I do a little too well.

I never told anyone because I believed it was my fault. I don’t think for a second that I deserved to be attacked, but the root cause always seemed to link back to an action I’d taken. I’d poured water on him. I’d woken him up. I’d done something wrong.

And I’d stayed.

After they happened, we never spoke about these things again. We chose to go on as normal, and I was as much a part of that decision as he was, because I was embarrassed. We even got engaged, despite all of it. This is what bothers me the most, I think – the fact I even considered making a commitment like that to somebody who could do these things to me seems so silly now. I can’t dwell on that, though. Instead, I need to focus on the fact I didn’t go through with it. Still, I find myself feeling angry I didn’t walk away and that’s the same reason I was ashamed. I knew I shouldn’t have stayed, but I did it anyway.

I always thought, if I was ever in that situation, I’d be out the door immediately.

If you’ve never been in this situation, it’s easy to blame the victim. It’s easy to say they should have left. I can only tell you how things were from my perspective. While I was finding reasons for his behaviour, I was losing sight of the fact it simply wasn’t right. As I could always link it back to me initiating some sort of trouble, he escaped some of the blame.

When I wasn’t blaming myself, I was blaming alcohol. These things only happened when he had had a drink. When he hadn’t been drinking, he still wasn’t the ideal boyfriend, but we were happy. He was caring and we could talk about anything and we had fun together. So, then, I suppose the solution should have been simple: don’t let him drink.

It’s highly likely my ex was an alcoholic. He was a grown man and I couldn’t watch over him all the time. Sometimes, I would go to bed before him, and I wouldn’t know he had been drinking until he stumbled up to bed, stinking of cider. By that point, it was usually around 4 in the morning and I’d have to get up for work at 7. Trying to argue with a person in that state at that time of morning would have been futile.

In all of it, I wasn’t blaming the person I should have been: him. Yes, I had done some things to annoy him, but none of them can justify his response. Nothing can. And, yes, I know alcohol causes people to do all sorts of things, but they have to be capable of them to begin with – I believe that. They have to have that somewhere inside of them for alcohol to unearth it.

The thing about never talking about it is you begin to question if it was real. We were the only two people there. Me and him. It has been haunting me ever since but, because we never addressed it, I started to think I made it up. Maybe I’d dreamt it, or imagined it. So, the other night, I messaged him on Facebook and forced both of us to face the reality of it.

He has been getting help for his issues, and I take comfort in that. He’s on medication and speaking to a professional. I was scared he would do it to somebody else, although maybe he wouldn’t stop that time, and I’d have to live with my guilt for never telling anyone. So, to know he’s getting the help he clearly needed puts my mind at ease.

He also apologised, but it wasn’t what I wanted. Sorry will never undo what happened. I think all I wanted was to know it was real. As horrible as it was, as much as I wish it was a dream, I wanted to know it happened. I wanted to know my turmoil wasn’t about something in my imagination. I remember it so vividly, I knew it was unlikely, but I needed confirmation.

So, we talked about it for a while before I told him I never wanted to speak to him again. I blocked him on Facebook and let a lot of the pain go with it. Do I feel better? To a certain extent, yes. I think it will take a while to make big steps, but it’s a little one I’m proud of. I feel like it’s another move towards letting go of the things which hold me down. There has been this weight inside of me for so long; a secret so unbearable that to finally face up to it is freeing.

Why share this online?

There are so many reasons I chose to write about this. First and foremost, I’m doing this for the same reason a lot of people do: so that anyone in a similar situation knows there’s never any justification for someone laying their hands on you. It’s not your fault. It has taken me a long time to be fair to myself and to understand his actions were never justified. Whatever I may have done was never going to excuse him causing me harm, because there is no excuse for it. It shouldn’t happen.

And I get it. Everyone talks about it like it’s easy to walk away, but the reality can be very different. Even me, writing this, may not be enough to change your mind, but I want you to try and have a bit of hope that there’s someone out there who would never dream of hurting you, and I want you to try and chase that, rather than settle for anything else. Please don’t do what I did and try to brush it under the carpet, or keep it inside you until it burns a hole.

Plus, I want to educate people. Some are so ignorant about the realities of domestic violence; quick to blame the victim and say what they should do. As with a lot of things in life, it’s not that black and white. No matter how much you wish it was, no matter how much you think it should be. Human beings are complex. There’s a lot which goes on beneath the surface. Their reasoning might seem completely illogical, but they’re in a situation which doesn’t make sense. Someone who is supposed to love them and care for them is hurting them. It’s hard to know how to respond to that and how to deal with it.

Talking about it and now writing about it means it can live somewhere else instead of my head. It can reside on this page of the internet but it’s taken up precious space in my mind for too long. The core value of this blog has always been to help others, and I think talking about things like this is one way I can do that.

As well as that, I want people to realise sometimes, it’s hard to go back to that place in your mind, whatever it is, but sometimes, it’s necessary. Reliving that night was difficult, but it was no different to what I’ve been doing since it happened. The only difference was I was living it out loud, confronting the person who took those actions against me. That might not be the right approach for you. I wouldn’t encourage everyone to seek out the person who did them wrong, but talk about it to someone. It becomes real, and it hurts, but then it helps. I feel like all of this is allowing me to have closure I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Most of all, know it gets better, if you let it. My ex was a flawed individual in many ways. There came a point when I realised I deserved more. I’m now with the most incredible guy I’ve ever met and that’s because I walked away. Neal is kind, caring and I know he would never lay a finger on me. He’s never even raised his voice to me. Despite the fact my mental health has taken a plummet recently, as far as relationships go, I couldn’t be happier, and I couldn’t ask for more.

My view of most things in life is that they shape you or they break you. While it was a miserable experience, I know I’ve come out of it as a stronger person. It’s not easy, it’s taken me years to even think about untangling the mess it created, but it started with the realisation that I deserved better.

You are worth so much more than somebody who doesn’t treat you right.  

Confronting demons and kicking them out

Making unfair comparisons and how it affects your life

Making unfair comparisons and how it affects your life

Making unfair comparisons is something I do a lot. I compare how I would act to what somebody else does. I compare what responses I expected from others to what I actually got. Worst of all – and I know I’m not alone in this – I compare how I look to everybody else. All of these things only ever cause me trouble.

Today, my brain is playing ball and we’re on the same page. We are rational. Anxiety is about a 3 out of 10. Tomorrow could be a different story. So, while my brain is being reasonable and not tormenting me, it seems a good opportunity to write down some logical thoughts for whenever I need them next.

What exactly do I mean by “making unfair comparisons”?

Comparing yourself is usually a recipe for disaster, but sometimes, it can drive you forward. When you see how well someone else is doing, it can motivate you and give you a desire to replicate their success.

However, there is a particular type of comparison which we all do and don’t necessarily take notice of and it’s this one which I think causes the most distress. What is it? It’s comparing ourselves to people who are not like us. The playing field is not equal. They have some sort of advantage, yet we’re still scrambling to get on their level.

For example, I regularly wander around and look at people and think how nice they look. Their hair is gorgeous and their makeup is flawless. They look great, and I feel like a bin bag in comparison.

Hold on a minute, though. I don’t wear makeup. I never have. Despite that, or maybe even because of that, my skin is (usually) in great condition. That’s something I should celebrate. But, I don’t. Instead, I tear myself apart wondering why I’m not “pretty.” How would I look if I did wear makeup? Possibly completely different, but I’d feel even stranger than I do now because it’s not me. So, how is it fair to compare me to somebody else when we’re not the same?

As far as my hair is concerned, I have other things to do with my time, so I’ll give it a quick brush and that’s as exciting as it gets. Maybe if I put a bit more effort in, I’d live up to the standard I’m striving for, but that would also probably mean getting up earlier and no, thank you.

We do this with celebrities, too. We’re envious of their lives, their style, their cars and their homes. The truth is, if we had the kind of money they do, we’d be able to have the same things. Sadly, we don’t. It doesn’t mean we never will. It does mean, though, that getting caught up in it and letting it make you feel bad about yourself is unfair.

Making unfair comparisons on social media

I have caught myself doing this lately. Scrolling through Instagram, I’ve found myself desperate for the adventures everyone else seems to be having. They’re in gorgeous locations, with beautiful blue seas and sandy beaches while I’m sat in my room, staring at a screen.

I’m not going to launch into a rant about people pretending their lives are perfect online because that’s not what this post is about. It’s about the fact I have to remind myself of two things:

  1. I’m not in a good place mentally, and travelling would be difficult under these circumstances.
  2. Due to the aforementioned poorly brain, I had to leave work so a holiday isn’t a luxury I can afford right now.

I’m not at the same place in my life as these people are. I’m sure they deserve it. Most people have to work hard to pay for their holidays! Eventually, I’ll be in a better place, both mentally and financially, and I’ll go on my own exciting trips.

Making unfair comparisons in the blogging world

Thankfully, I haven’t fallen into this trap yet. There are plenty of other bloggers who I admire and who motivate me every day. When I see people doing well, it makes me really happy, regardless of whether they’ve just started or are three years into their blogging life.

On the other hand, quite often, I get people telling me they’ve been blogging longer than I have and have not achieved the same success. They don’t seem to take into account the fact I do this full time, while they’re working full time, blogging and sometimes raising a family. Trust me, if I was trying to juggle this alongside work or parenting or anything else, I’d probably only ever update once a month. I’m the type of person who takes one thing, focuses on it and gives it my all. If you throw something else into the mix, I don’t do quite so well.

All bloggers do this and I’m sure there will come a time when I will do it, too. We either look at people who have been doing it longer than us and lust after their success or fixate on their achievements without keeping it in perspective. I have done well in two months, I’ll admit that, and I’m proud of it. But these two months have been intense. My two months of blogging full time is probably equivalent to six months of blogging alongside other things. If you think of it like that, does it still seem as crazy?

What’s the result of making unfair comparisons?

Well, a few things happen.

  1. Your relationships become strained because of jealousy. This is what unfair comparisons often bring out in you: the green-eyed monster. That little terror is only ever going to drive people away. People who I otherwise would have supported and encouraged with their blogs have attacked me about my progress, which has caused me to put them at arm’s length or block them completely.
  2. You become miserable. We’re talking wallowing in self-pity, sobbing into a tub of ice cream and wondering why life is so unfair kind of miserable. That’s the truth of it. It brings nothing to your life except unhappiness. That, in itself, should be enough to make us stop but most of us have been doing it for so long, we don’t know how. Next time you catch yourself doing it, I want you to consider the differences between you and the other person. Try to regain perspective.
  3. You stop yourself from making any progress. While you’re occupying yourself with what everyone else is doing, you’re using time which could be put into improving your own life. Some of the things people have achieved are through hard work. They made it happen, and there’s no reason you can’t do the same.

Making unfair comparisons and how it affects your life

 

What’s in my bag?

What’s in my bag?

Rosie tagged me to do a “What’s in my bag?” post and I thought it would be fun!

I’m too lazy to take pictures of every item, so I’m mostly just going to give you a list of what’s in my bag right now:

Notebook

Well, it’s no surprise, is it? I’m surprised there’s not more than one in there because I’m running out of places to keep them.

Purse

This one gets a picture because I LOVE my purse. You may have noticed I’m a big Cath Kidston fan.

What's in my bag - purse

Grape flavoured wax

In case my braces misbehave.

Chewing gum

…which I won’t be having now I have braces so I don’t know why it’s still in there.

Hairbrush

This is hanging around in my bag from when I’d take it to work. Otherwise, when I’m out and about, I don’t really use it.

Passport

Always good to have in case I suddenly decide to leave the country.

Just kidding – the real, and much less exciting reason, is I tend to give my driving license to Neal to look after if we go somewhere for drinks, but I kept forgetting to get it back. So, I’ve chucked my passport in there in case I need I.D. when we are not together.

Paracetamol

I get bad headaches sometimes which make me very grumpy so I take these everywhere to be prepared.

A Paperchase receipt

Probably for another notebook which I didn’t need but had to have.

Manicure set

I think I just keep this in my bag so I know where it is. I only ever seem to use it at home.

Two pens

A top tip from me to you: have two in case one runs out. If they both run out, that’s bad luck.

Camera battery

And yet, no camera in there…

What's in my bag

How to support the blogger in your life

How to support the blogger in your life

Ever wondered how to support the blogger in your life? You know it’s important to them, but you’re not sure where to start? Or are you a blogger who finds themselves wishing your nearest and dearest knew how to support you with your blogging endeavours?

Good news, I’ve made this post to help. So, either study it carefully so you know how to support the blogger in your life, or send it to your friends and family to point them in the right direction.

Read the posts

Unless you have been specifically told to never go near our blog, this is the very least you can do to show you care. We might get a little shifty if you mention them in person because it feels a bit strange. Don’t worry, though, we love you for it. There are days when we feel like nobody is reading what we’re writing so it’s always comforting to know you are.

Share the posts

Again, unless we’re trying to hide our content from people we know, go ahead and shout about it. Not only does this show you’re proud of what we are doing, but it also helps us to reach new people. Both my mum and dad regularly share my content on Facebook (bless them, they’re the best), and it always brings in a couple of extra views.

Take an interest

As you would with anything else, ask questions. There is nothing worse than when you’re really enthusiastic about something and the other person gives you nothing back. So, if the brilliant blogger in your life starts talking about something, try throwing a few questions out there to continue the conversation. If we pitch an idea for a post to you, be willing to discuss it and help us to develop it into something great.

Better yet, START the conversation. Questions you could ask:

  • What posts do you have lined up for the future?
  • What are your blogging goals for this month?
  • How many views did you have today?

Do the little things

The thing bloggers struggle with is time, and never having enough of it. If you can lighten the load a little, I beg of you – do it. You’ll be in the good books immediately. Perhaps you can take care of making dinner, entertain the kids or maybe take the dog out for a walk so we can squeeze in an extra 30 minutes. Whatever works!

If our heads are in our laptops, bring us a cup of tea or coffee, or a glass of water and a snack. Sometimes, we fall into “the zone” and these little things pass us by. We like to know you’ve got it covered.

Another good thing to do is if you happen to see something which could help us, send it our way! Neal regularly sends me articles with blogging tips and my dad has sent me a blogging planner printout, to name a couple of examples. It’s a simple way of showing support, but it means so much.

Accept our stationery obsession

We’re bloggers. We write. The growing pile of notebooks and increasing collection of pens are now a fact of life. Planners are essential. We need all the stationery we’re buying. They go hand in hand – it’s not our fault.

(I don’t make the rules, sorry.)

Celebrate our victories

If we are bursting with pride when we share something with you, plaster a smile across your face and get happy, too. Whether it’s a follower milestone, a new comment, a sponsored post, affiliate sale, or anything else which makes us giddy, it’s a big deal. That’s why we are so excited.

If you’re not sure why it’s so exciting, don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t just brush it off with “oh right”. This links back to taking an interest. A much better response is “that sounds great, what does it mean/involve?”

Take it seriously

Blogging is hard work. It involves so much dedication. It’s also something that is very important to the people who do it. For me, it has been life-changing. It sparked something in me which I’m not sure I would have discovered otherwise, and I’m glad every day that Neal sees and appreciates the importance.

When we have our eyes glued to the screen, it’s because we have a post to finish and share with the world. If we tell you we need to take part in Twitter chat, we need to. It’s important to help us grow. Basically, if we are putting our all into it, please don’t laugh at us. We’re heading towards a greater goal, whatever it may be, and it matters. Got it? Great!

Remind us it’s okay to take a break

If you notice we’re getting overwhelmed, it’s okay to tell us to step back and have some fun. We’re probably lost in a blogging bubble and it might not always go down well, but know we appreciate it. If we haven’t come up for air for a while, suggest going for a walk or watching something on TV. We’ll resist at first, but probably thank you later.

Be there for us

Some days, blogging is tough. Our views are low, and we feel like it’s not worth it. We start comparing ourselves to other bloggers and it seems like we have nothing to offer. If we start talking negatively about it all, we need you to be our biggest fan. Remind us why we started, or of the last success we had which made us ridiculously happy. Cheer us on because this shows you understand it matters to us and we shouldn’t let a bad day or week undo all of our hard work.

Understand the importance of the community

I have met people through blogging who I consider friends, even though we haven’t met (yet). I care very strongly about their success. This sometimes means I use my time to help them and answers their questions. Other times, it means I want to read their blogs and comment.

While sitting and socialising might not look like we are working, it comes as part of the package. So, if we start talking about blogging pals, don’t reply with “they’re just someone from the internet.” They’re a real person ON the internet who we have connected with and enjoy talking to. They’re supporting us and we want to do the same for them.

Knowing how to support the blogger in your life is vital because we all need a little help sometimes. It might look easy (although, if you’re living with a blogger, you should know it’s not by now) but it can be very demanding. Knowing we can come to you for the support we need makes all the difference. There’s a lot of comfort to be found in knowing someone is on your side.

How to support the blogger in your life

Counselling Update

Counselling Update

I thought I would give you a counselling update, as it’s been a while since I shared my counselling introduction and I wanted to let you know what’s happened since.

My appointments are on Wednesdays and they last 50 minutes per session. I have had three appointments so far and, in an hour, will be attending my fourth.

Week One – 13th June 2018

In my first week, I met my counsellor and the whole idea was to get to know each other. It was a different lady to the one who did my introduction, but she was still very nice. Before we started, she offered me a glass of water and made sure I felt comfortable.

She explained that the type of counselling they offered meant the session was ultimately led by me. So, whatever I wanted to talk about, she would work with it. I didn’t like this at first. However, I think my counsellor recognised this so she gently encouraged me with a few questions to set the ball rolling. Still, I found it difficult to talk about myself so much. It wasn’t even the nature of the conversation which I struggled with – just the fact I had to carry the conversation.

Around 20 minutes into my appointment, I became comfortable and felt the words just spilling out of my mouth. I told her everything which came to mind, including experiences which I hadn’t discussed for a long time, if at all.

Together, we identified how I had held onto a lot of negative things that people had said to me, and allowed them to shape the person I was, and how I felt about myself.

Her suggestion was to think of myself how my nieces think of me instead. I had gushed about them at several points during the appointment, and she had been quick to point out how children are not born judging others. She said they probably loved me equally in return and believed I was wonderful. Going forward, she said I should try to see myself through their eyes. I liked this, because my nieces mean so much to me. They have changed my life and I know they love me. So, it felt like something I could work with.

Week Two – 20th June 2018

I went to this appointment feeling good. I had had a good week and even after only one appointment had started to feel the benefits of counselling.

We discussed my progress. It wasn’t until this happened that I became aware of how much I had achieved during the week. My counsellor was thrilled and suggested I started to write all the things which make me feel good in a book. Given how many notebooks I have, I knew this was a task I could do. I have been doing it since, and I’ve loved it. It encourages me to stop and think about what is good in my day and my life. It reminds me of when I was younger. My mum and I used to have a thing where we would name our good thing of the day. We’d often do this when we were walking home from school, and I love those memories.

The other reason I loved this session was some of the things my counsellor told me. We discussed my strong negative feelings about myself and she told me:

Think of your life like an old-fashioned train which uses coal to run. For the past 15 years, you’ve been putting bad coal on the fire, and you’ve been moving, but not necessarily in the right direction. As you describe it, you’ve been driving yourself into a foggy place where you can’t see clearly. You are still the one in control. Now, imagine if you put good coal onto that fire and began turning the train in a new direction – a positive one. It will take you a while to turn it around, but it’s possible.

For me, this image was powerful and helped me to realise that the person thinking all of these negative thoughts all the time is me, so I’m also the one who can change them, hard as it may be.

Another way she made me see I’m the one letting the negative thoughts live inside my head was by asking “when it rains, do you get wet or do you put an umbrella up?” Naturally, I said I put an umbrella up, and she replied:

Exactly – it’s the same with negative thoughts. When they start coming in, put something up to defend yourself. Say “no, I’m not listening to you today.”

I loved this so much, I bought this print to remind me of it.

By the time I got home, I felt empowered and like I could take on the world.

Week Three – 27th June 2018

The day before this appointment, something happened in my life which upset me. I didn’t know what to do with it, and I hadn’t really had time to process it before my appointment. So, when I got there, I made use of the opportunity to discuss it, and I cried. Nobody enjoys crying but I absolutely hate doing it in front of people, especially when I don’t know them very well. It made me feel uncomfortable. Yet, it was necessary and there was no way I could have held it in.

Discussing it enabled me to make sense of why it had impacted me the way it did, though. It wasn’t that my response was illogical, but the event had hit me very hard, and it seemed disproportionate. Together, we identified the causes and I felt better. It didn’t seem like I was an emotional mess, just that there were underlying issues which had all coming flooding to the front at once.

Other than that, I had another good week, so we spent the last ten minutes discussing that. I shared some of the things I had written in my notebook and the session ended on a positive note.

Despite her efforts to get me to a better place, this was the first time I left my appointment still feeling low. Tuesday was still looming over me, and all the crying had left me drained. I met Neal for lunch and then called my parents in the evening. My sister was visiting them and I was able to speak to her, too. What I realised was, even though I didn’t feel good, I had reached out and talked about it. So, that felt like progress.

By bedtime, I felt much calmer.

I stand by my decision to attend counselling. It has forced me to face up to things I had buried, which were having a toxic effect on me, even if I didn’t realise it. This hasn’t been easy but it is, so far, proving to be worth it. I’m interested to see where the rest of the journey takes me.

Counselling update

A letter to my brain

A letter to my brain

My very lovely friend Soph (who also created my beautiful blog header) tagged me to write a letter to my brain, so I thought I’d give it a go.


Dear brain,

In April 2018, you became unwell. There were signs. You were telling me you weren’t quite right, but I ignored them. I kept pushing forward, waiting for the day I would wake up and you would be fine again. I should have known better. As a consequence, you broke down. You became clouded with a poison which caused you to believe strange things. It was a weird time, really, wasn’t it?

Your thought processes took their toll on me, regularly reducing me to tears. I mean, that whole “you’re boring and nobody cares about you” situation was not fun. Let’s not forget when you convinced me I was taking up too much space, setting the heart racing and leaving the lungs short of breath. Yet, I see now that there was a greater force at play.

If I’m being honest, you were probably slightly ill for a long time. I didn’t realise that what you were thinking wasn’t normal. It had been that way for a long time, and I didn’t know any different. That is, of course, until those thoughts were so overbearing that I knew something was wrong.

It’s okay, it’s not your fault.

Since you were diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I have gained a deeper understanding of you. Things I thought were part of my personality were actually symptoms. Not all of them, of course. We can’t let them take the fall for some of our flaws, but we can work on those when we are better. Some of your negative thoughts were caused by words of others, but I let them stay there. They took up space inside of you when I should have kicked them out.

I have had to take medication. Luckily, I experienced very few side effects and you showed immediate signs of improvement. You felt lighter in my head, instead of a ton of bricks, weighing me down every day. Thanks for letting them do their stuff and not kicking up a fuss.

I also started talking more; opening up about your condition, and seeking professional help in the form of a counsellor. I feel I must apologise – I hadn’t realised how much damage I was doing to you by forcing you to take the load. You were bursting at the seams with thoughts I’d kept inside. It’s no wonder it became too much.

The past couple of months, we have started taking steps in the right direction. I promise we are going to make you better. You are going to be stronger than you’ve ever been. I believe you are one of my greatest assets. You have helped me pass exams, you help me write these words that others seem to love, and, on the most basic level, you enable me to do day to day tasks. I let you down, but I’m going to fix it.

We’re going to get rid of these illnesses. No matter what it takes, we are going to make you happier and healthier than you’ve been in our 27 years together.

Love,
The boss.

A letter to my brain

8 ways to gain Twitter followers as a blogger

8 ways to gain Twitter followers as a blogger

One of the questions I get asked the most is “how did you get so many Twitter followers in such a short space of time?”  In two months, my twitter followers have gone from 0 to just over 3000. My immediate reaction is to say I have no idea why so many people would want to follow me and read my thoughts. In actual fact, I did – and still do – put a lot of work into gaining Twitter followers. It’s not just about the numbers, either. It’s about having Twitter followers who are engaged with my content and I’m very happy to say that’s what I’ve got. So, here are some tips for you.

1. Twitter Chats lead to Twitter followers

I have said it before, and I will say it again: Twitter chats are an AMAZING way to connect with other bloggers. This is the one thing I strongly encourage everybody to do. There are several to choose from and even participating in 1 or 2 a week can make a difference to you.

So, what is a Twitter chat? Basically, you have a host. They select questions and use a hashtag to share them. Sometimes, the topic is blogging related and other times, it’s something completely different. You reply with your answers and include the same hashtag. You, and the others involved, can use the hashtag to track the conversation. It allows you to find and interact with other bloggers and is a lot of fun. It’s like sitting down for a cup of tea and biscuits to have a natter with a bunch of awesome people.

Twitter chats are usually at the same time each week which is great because it means you can try and find a way to fit it into your schedule. It won’t suddenly be sprung on you and make you feel like you need to juggle everything to take part. You can choose one which works for you and get involved.

They can be a great way to learn new things from those more experienced than you, too. If the topic of the chat is blogging related, you will find that people share some great tips and tricks! This is particularly good if you are just starting out and feeling a bit lost. It helped me to no end during my first few weeks.

Two of my favourites are GRLPOWRCHAT (Tuesdays and Sundays at 9pm) and Bloghour (Tuesdays at 9pm). You can find others here. I haven’t been able to take part in as many chats lately as I would like to, for one reason or another, and I really miss it!

2. Give, give and give some more

Don’t expect everybody else to do the work. If you’re not engaging with others, why should they do it for you? You can’t create a Twitter account and expect everyone to come rushing to you. You need to go out there and find an audience. Use the retweet button and support others. Like their tweets. If they ask a question, try to answer it.

Be careful, though – you need to do these things in a genuine way and don’t expect anything in return. While it did help me along the way, I didn’t do these things and then get annoyed when people didn’t do them back. I did them because I felt compelled to. Don’t just like every tweet you come across it, or start retweeting everyone. Do it because you agree with them, or it made you laugh, or because it touched you in some other way.

3. Stop overthinking

Oh, if only it were that simple, right? I appreciate it’s not. However, one of the things which made a big difference to my life on Twitter was just going for it. I’d follow people first. I’d reply to them if I thought I had something to offer to the conversation. It’s natural to feel reserved about making those first moves but, 9 times out of 10, it will work out well for you. The other times don’t matter. Let them go and keep going forward.

I know I make that sound very simple but I do understand how difficult it is. Start small. Make targets you think you can achieve, even if it’s following one new person a day. For me, it was a giant leap out of my comfort zone, but I knew I needed to do it, so I pushed myself a little bit each day. Even the fact I was taking part in Twitter chats felt strange at first. That’s why I recommend those as a starting point, though – they allow you to express your thoughts and opinions in a conversational way. They also make it easier to strike up a conversation with someone. If you see something they’ve said which you agree with, let them know! It’s a starting point.

I don’t have much practical advice on this one, because I do think it’s something you need to learn yourself, and at a pace which is right for you. Just try and keep in mind that not everyone will reciprocate, but it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, or that you should stop trying.

4. View people as your friends, not your competition

I know, we are all trying to make it in the online world, be it blogging, vlogging, Instagram or other. However, there’s space for all of us. It might not feel like it all the time, but it’s true. If you come into it thinking that everyone is against you and you need to make a point, it won’t do you any favours. I know there are plenty of quotes out there about chasing your dream, but don’t step on other people along the way.

I love cheering on other bloggers and sharing their work. It makes me so happy when they tell me I’ve made their day. If you come across a blog post which you really love, share it on your social media. Don’t be afraid to shout it from the rooftops when somebody else is creating killer content. It doesn’t make yours worth any less. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with letting other people know they’ve done a great job.

5. Be yourself

This is normally a piece of advice I hate because I never find it much use, but it’s the best way I can put it. Resist the temptation to turn yourself into something you’re not for the sake of gaining support. When I started out, I was tempted to try and fit in. Then I quickly realised it would be exhausting to try and keep that up. This lead me to take a much healthier approach which was just being myself. I didn’t know how it would work out for me so to say I’m surprised by the outcome is an understatement.

You can bring something to your followers which nobody else can: you. It’s the same with the blogging community as a whole. Your thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences are yours. Of course, people may have some which are similar, but they’re not YOU.

6. A little kindness goes a long way

I think I should have the words “be kind” tattooed across my forehead because I go on about it all the time. If there’s one thing I try my best to do on Twitter, it’s keeping an eye out for anybody who isn’t having the best day. I don’t always have the right words to say, but I’ll let them know I’m sending them positive thoughts, or hoping they’ll feel better soon.

Social media can be a toxic place at times and I think people are pleasantly surprised when somebody genuinely cares. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you see somebody having a crappy day. Sometimes, a few words of encouragement can make a big difference.

7. Know it gets easier

Two things about this one. Firstly, everything I’ve said is a learning process. It’s highly unlikely you’re going to feel comfortable doing it right away but the more you do it, the easier it gets. The more you see results from it, the more it drives you to continue doing it.

Also, as your followers increase, you get seen more. I know I got to 1000 followers pretty quickly by other people’s standards, but it felt much harder to get there than it did to get to 2000. The more people who are liking your tweets, retweeting them and replying to you, the more you will pop up in other people’s timelines. You will still have to work at it, but it seems much easier.

8. Show some appreciation

I have been truly overwhelmed by the support I’ve had, and I’m not afraid to say it. Every time I reach a new milestone, I try and send out a tweet to let my followers know I am thankful for each and every single one of them. It really comes from the heart. I’m well aware that my blog would be nothing without them. I can work as hard as I like but they are the people who read it and help it to grow. There are days when I wake up to incredibly kind responses and it blows me away. It’s made my life better and I will stop at nothing to make sure the people who have done this for me know I thank my lucky stars that they’re in my life.

People have no obligation to support you so if they are doing it anyway, make sure you sing their praises once in a while. I think the second you start taking it for granted, you lose, both respect and probably followers in turn.

So, there you go, that’s how I gained my Twitter followers and I hope you’ve found some useful information to help you, too!

8 ways to gain Twitter followers as a blogger

How are you getting on on Twitter? Do you use it much, or do you prefer a different social media platform? Are you struggling to gain followers, or do you have a growing, engaged audience? Let me know!