Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Time to Care: A Curated List of Posts for Mental Health Awareness Days and Events

Trigger warning: some of the linked articles contain references to suicide and suicidal thinking.

In the second in our series of themed posts I’ve selected articles that mark various mental health awareness days and events. Scroll through or click the link to jump to the relevant section.

I’ve provided a short excerpt from each post, with a link to the original article. I will update the list as relevant posts are published in the future. For a list of other awareness days and events check out the calendar at Mental Health UK.


Time to Talk Day

Time to Talk Day is an awareness event observed each year in early February. It was launched in 2014 by Time to Change, a campaign run in England to end mental health stigma and discrimination. Time to Change closed in March 2021 but the event continues; this year’s Time to Talk Day was organised by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness in partnership with Co-Op.

Newcastle Mental Health Day 2016

Within days, I heard about an upcoming mental health awareness event in the centre of Newcastle, to coincide with Time to Change’s annual #TimeToTalk campaign. I signed up as a volunteer before the voice in my head had chance to intervene. As I wrote in my diary, “Fear of engagement has always kept me on the outside, looking in on the arena. It is time to show up for my life.”

Read the full post here.

What Does Having a Conversation about Mental Health Look Like?

Having “a conversation about mental health” might sound daunting, but it simply means allowing someone to talk openly about what’s going on for them. It might be a face-to-face conversation, a phone or video call, or a conversation by e-mail, text (SMS), or instant messaging. Whatever works for you and the other person. Whatever the channel, there are a few things that distinguish a supportive conversation from the normal everyday kind. I find the following reminders helpful.

Read the full post here.

Would You Rather? Time to Talk Day 2020

I have a confession to make. I’d never heard of, let alone played, this “popular game” until I started writing this article. Maybe I don’t get invited to the right kind of parties! To save you the trouble and embarrassment of googling it (as I had to!) the game is played by asking a series of questions of the form “Would you rather [do this] or [do that]?”

Read the full post here.

Thank You for Not Assuming I’m OK

I wrote recently about feeling flat which is something that happens from time to time. Many of my friends live with significant mental health issues and it would be easy for them to dismiss my accounts of when I am feeling low. It is a testament to them and the nature of our friendships that I feel safe sharing how I feel no matter how mild that might be compared to what are often dealing with.

My friend Aimee Wilson blogs at I’m NOT Disordered about her lived experience with serious mental health issues including borderline personality disorder, self-harm, and suicidality. My moods, issues, and problems are mostly trivial in comparison to hers but Aimee has always treated me with respect and empathy. The following exchange is a great example of this. It meant a lot that she did not assume I was okay but checked to be sure.

Read the full post here.

Talk. Listen. Change Lives. Time to Talk Day 2022

In a recent intranet post written for Brew Monday, one of the lead Mental Health First Aiders where I work remarked that starting a conversation can be a game-changer for the person needing support. I agree whole-heartedly but I’d go a step further. It can also be a game-changer for the person holding space for the conversation to take place.

Read the full post here.


World Bipolar Day

World Bipolar Day is celebrated each year on March 30, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who is thought to have lived with a bipolar condition.

The vision of World Bipolar Day is to bring world awareness to bipolar conditions and to eliminate social stigma. Through international collaboration, the goal of World Bipolar Day is to bring the world population information about bipolar conditions that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the condition.

For the past two years, Fran and I have made our books available for free for one week in March to mark World Bipolar Day.

Read the details here: World Bipolar Day 2021 | World Bipolar Day 2022


Mental Health Awareness Week

Hosted every May by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual UK event offering an opportunity to focus on achieving good mental health. There is a different theme each year; the theme for 2022 was loneliness.

Finding My Tribe

Campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week and Mental Health Month attract their share of resistance and criticism for not addressing some of the bigger issues. For me their principal value, and why I support them, is that they bring like-minded — and like-hearted — folk together. That has certainly been my experience. It is in such ways that we build connections, relationships, friendships, communities. It is in such ways that we empower ourselves and each other to address wider concerns and “make a sodding difference.”

Read the full post here.

16 Ways to Be Kind

We are sometimes called upon to provide long-term help or caregiving for friends, family members, or loved ones, but small acts of kindness are no less important and can make a huge difference to a person’s life, including ours. As individuals and as a society we have never needed kindness more than we do now, in the midst of a global pandemic. In recognition of this, the Mental Health Foundation chose kindness as the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) which runs from 18–24 May. [...] Here are sixteen ideas to bring more kindness into our lives and the lives of those around us.

Read the full post here.

It’s Not Enough: Exploring Loneliness for Mental Health Awareness Week

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness. I can’t always draw on my lived experience when discussing mental health, but loneliness is something I know first-hand. I think that’s true of everyone. We’ve all been lonely at some time in our lives, and yet each of us experiences it in our own way. Keen to elicit some different perspectives, I posted a request on social media for contributions on the theme of “what does loneliness mean to me?” I received some brilliant and heart-moving responses.

Read the full post here.


Mental Health Awareness Month

Founded in 1949 by Mental Health America (then known as the National Association for Mental Health), Mental Health Awareness Month (also referred to as Mental Health Month) has been observed in May ever since in the United States, and is also marked globally.

Here’s my bit

In 2016, Fran posted original content on Facebook every day during May for Mental Health Awareness Month. We collected her 31 contributions into three blog posts.

At the end of April I realized May would be Mental Health Month. I looked forward to seeing loving energy and attention being brought to those of us who struggle. Inside, my heart leapt. It wanted to contribute. It dawned on me that I could use my words and be vulnerable about things I deal with. I hesitated a bit because frankly that is scary and I would have to be brave.

Read the full posts here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


World Suicide Prevention Day

Established in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in conjunction with the World Health Organisation, World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is observed each year on September 10.

Selected Articles for #WorldSuicidePreventionDay

For World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 we’ve compiled a selection of relevant articles we’ve shared over the past few years.

Read the full post here.

Maybe Even Save a Life: Our Message of Hope for World Suicide Prevention Day

This is a topic very close to our hearts and never far from our thoughts. Suicidal thinking has been part of my friendship with Fran since we met ten years ago. Indeed, it’s how we met, when we each reached out to a young woman who was expressing suicidal thoughts on her social media page. For WSPD 2020, we posted a selection of relevant articles from our blog. This year, we’re sharing an excerpt from the chapter of our book High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder which deals with supporting someone when they’re feeling suicidal. In the spirit of “creating hope through action” we hope it conveys the vital message that each one of us can make a difference to those we care about.

Read the full post here.

I’m Weak and What’s Wrong With That?

This article was inspired by a friend who questioned something I’d written in an open letter to my father. Here’s what she said:

I did want to briefly comment on something you wrote in your blog post about open letters, in particular the one to your father where you wrote “You never let me see it’s okay to cry and be weak sometimes.”

I question why you put “cry” and “weak” in the same sentence, and it makes me wonder what “weak” means to you, especially since you champion the “fighting stigma” cause. It isn’t “weak” to cry, or to have feelings or emotions — in fact, it’s the opposite. I think that’s important to note, especially when the suicide rates among men are so high — you may want to address that before you send out the wrong message from the one you perhaps intended.

My immediate reaction was to go on the defensive. That’s not what I meant! How could she say that? How could she think that? Did she actually read the whole letter? But then I took a moment to breathe and allowed my instinctive ego response to pass. As it shifted I felt something else: gratitude. My friend had bestowed a valuable gift. She’d offered me the opportunity to look back at what I’d written, consider what those words meant to me at the time, and what they mean to me now.

Read the full post here.


World Mental Health Day

Organised by the World Foundation for Mental Health and observed each year on October 10, World Mental Health Day (WMHD) is an opportunity to raise awareness of mental health issues and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.

World Mental Health Day 2019

I know from personal experience how vital it can be that we feel able to ask for help if we need it, and be present for others. By doing so we contribute to a culture in which we are encouraged to share when we need to, and supported when we do. In the words of a quotation commonly attributed to Mohandas Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Read the full post here.

Attending North Tyneside World Mental Health Day Event 2019

Lara from Supporting Stars read three moving poems by local writers, after which it was time for Aimee to give her talk. Almost the entire room was quiet and focused as she shared her lived experience, the success of her blog I’m NOT Disordered, the benefits and pitfalls of social media, and how all of us can play a role in supporting those we care about. The applause Aimee received and the number of people who came to thank her afterwards says a lot about the impact someone speaking plainly and honestly can have. As I told her later, I was a very proud bestie!

Read the full post here.

Mental Health for All in an Uncertain World

Individuals and organisations will mark WMHD in their own way. Here in the UK, mental health charity Mind’s Do one thing campaign invites us to take one small step towards fostering a more inclusive and open attitude to mental health. [...] This blog post is my “one thing.” As I write I’m thinking about what mental health means to me, my role in the workplace and beyond it, the impact coronavirus has had on me and those I care about, and what the future might hold for us all. Two words characterise it all for me: uncertainty and change.

Read the full post here.

Do One Thing (A Day, a Week, a Month, a Year, Now, for You) for World Mental Health Day

This post is my invitation to you — and a reminder to myself — to do one thing to counter stigma, discrimination, and unfairness. Not just on WMHD, though. Not just occasionally, when we think about it or are reminded by some awareness campaign. But regularly, repeatedly, reliably, relentlessly; until anyone and everyone in need has access to the support and care they need.

Read the full post here.

Speaking Up, Speaking Out: Harnessing the Power of the Spoken Word for WMHD

There are few things more compelling than someone telling their story in their own voice. As Fran and I have said elsewhere, “The most important sounds we can ever share with another person are our own voices.” Speaking our truth and listening to other people doing the same counters stigma and discrimination by opening us up to lives lived differently than our own. [...] I’ll focus on my experience of speaking publically about mental health and wellbeing. I’m aware of the irony of writing about how important the spoken word can be; where possible I’ll provide links to video or audio recordings so you can hear me for yourself, if you’d like to!

Read the full post here.


International Men’s Day

Observed on November 19, International Men’s Day celebrates worldwide the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities. It aims to highlight positive role models and raise awareness of men’s well-being, including mental health.

I’m Having a Good Day: Connection and Conversation Inspired by International Men’s Day 2021

How goes it?

I’m having a good day. Was on an excellent call this morning about men’s mental health and support groups. Got my MHFA Network call this afternoon too.

Great!!

That little exchange is from a chat conversation with my friend Brynn last Thursday lunchtime. I’d been pretty low for a few days, which she knew, but when I sent those words I was feeling much better. Being able to say that to my friend was important in itself, because it reminded me there are good days as well as rubbish ones. So what had made the difference? In a word, connection.

Read the full post here.

Men and Mental Health: Resources & Heroes

In this article I’ve drawn together some key statistics on men’s mental health; crisis and support lines; organisations, books, podcasts; and awareness days. I’ve also selected a number of articles written by men which we’ve hosted here at Gum on My Shoe, and a few posts of my own where I’ve touched on my mental health. Finally, I’ve briefly profiled four men who inspire me.

Read the full post here.


Other Days and Events

A selection of articles relating to other awareness days and events.

OPENM;NDED Mental Health Event

On Wednesday April 18 I had the pleasure of attending the OPENM;NDED mental health event at The Hancock pub in Newcastle. The event was organised by OPENM;NDED in support of ReCoCo (Recovery College Collective). OPENM;NDED is a group of cross-disciplinary cultural managers, practitioners and researchers brought together through study at Northumbria University. ReCoCo is a joint venture between various organisations in the north east, “by and for service users and carers. ... a place where service users are able to make connections and develop their knowledge and skills in relation to recovery.

Read the full post here.

#LetsTalkFND An Explanation of Functional Neurological Disorder for FND Awareness Day

FND was known as conversion disorder when I was first diagnosed, which is generally labeled as a mental health condition, and usually occurs in conjunction with other mental illnesses. [...] The reality is that FND is right on the boundary between a mental health condition and a neurological one. The precise definition, cause, and treatment are still debated among professionals.

Read the full post by Alison Hayes here.


Over to You

If you have any thoughts about the articles we’ve included, or suggestions for other awareness days we might include, please let us know, either in the comments below or via our contact page.

 

Photo by 2H Media at Unsplash.

 

Saturday, 27 August 2022

Joy not jealousy

By Fran Houston

Joy not jealousy. Not so long ago being jealous was part of my repertoire. I saw people eating deliciously. I saw warm luxurious homes. I saw travels that made me ache. Mostly I just ached for simple invitations which never came. Not liking how I felt I decided to be glad for everyone in all their blessings and endeavors. When jealousy came I invited joy. I began doing things by myself, then inviting others, then planning trips. I found myself in a life I love. I found myself in joy.

 

Originally posted on Facebook Aug 12, 2016.

Photo by Preslie Hirsch at Unsplash.

 

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Feels Like Home: Four of My Happy Places

There are places you haven’t been where you already belong. (Unknown)

This article was inspired by a recent Instagram post by Rachel Kelly. Rachel is the author of five books on mental health and wellbeing. She’s also a respected public speaker, and official ambassador for mental health charities including Rethink Mental Illness and SANE. Her post included photographs of the English Lake District. “Being there,” she said, “never fails to put a smile on my face.” Rachel was in the Lake District when she wrote the foreword for our book High Tide Low Tide. I love thinking that she was in her happy place when she did so.

Where are my happy places, though? Where is my heart most at ease? Where do I feel most at home? I settled on four places: Memory Lane, Langrigg; Wateredge Inn, Ambleside; Stack Newcastle; and Costa Coffee, Kingston Park. This selection will come as no surprise to close friends and attentive readers, because I’ve talked about them on several previous occasions. In a post written in March 2021 as England began to emerge from lockdown I anticipated the loss of places and activities that had been important to me.

At some point, though, it dawned on me that things will never return to how they used to be. The impact of covid, of lockdown, of all the changes we lived through last year and are still living through, is simply too great for us to pick up where we left off. Vaccinations will allow us to move forward but right now, as England begins gradually to open up again, I can only see that many things I valued (and some I took for granted) have already gone beyond any hope of retrieval. Others may resume, but they won’t be the same. I’m not the same. We aren’t the same. How could we be, with all we have gone through?

Some were indeed lost. Others are still available to me, albeit changed by everything we’ve lived through. Rather than dwell on what’s gone, I want to explore why revisiting these four places — in person or in memory — remains so important to my sense of identity and wellbeing.

Memory Lane, Langrigg

I scarcely remember my first visit to Langrigg in Cumbria. It was certainly a long time ago. 2004, maybe. It became a favourite holiday destination, revisited many times over the years. As lovely as the cottage was, my happy place is the walk from there to the village of Great Musgrave.

Little more than a mile each way, that walk along the winding single-track road became a treasured part of my visits to Langrigg; an opportunity to check in with myself as to what had changed and not changed since I was last there. I walked almost every evening, no matter the weather. The only shelter was the bus stop in the village and a small stand of trees roughly halfway along the road. More than once, I returned to the cottage drenched to the bone. More often, though, the weather was kind. I remember Langrigg most for the glorious early evening light and wide skies.

I don’t know if the road has a local name, but to me it will always be Memory Lane. It’s been a faithful friend to me over the years, bearing witness to whatever I was going through at the time. The fields, trees, and hedgerows held space for me — literally and figuratively — to explore my thoughts and feelings, fears and joys, crippling doubts and passionate certainties. There was one gate I’d stop at almost every time to gaze across the rolling landscape; the village at the top of the hill to my left, the cottage in the middle distance to my right. I walked alone, but I’ve shared the experience many times with friends via photos, texts, chat, and voice or video calls.

My final visit was in October 2019. The trips planned for the following year were cancelled due to the pandemic and the owner decided to stop renting the cottage as holiday accommodation. It hurts physically to know I’ll never walk there again. There’s a certain irony in Memory Lane itself having passed into memory, but those memories are strong, reinforced by the many photographs I’ve taken over the years, and the fact I’ve shared so much of it with others. Revisiting as I do, in memory and conversation, is powerfully validating. It connects the now-me with then-me. Not me at a specific moment in time, but the person I was and became over decades. Not all the memories are happy or easy, but they’re all part of who I am. I’m reminded of the poem At Castle Boterel by Thomas Hardy. I used to know it by heart and I have — I’m sure — declaimed it to the sheep and cows, the fields and the wide skies of Langrigg on more than one occasion. The poem ends:

Primaeval rocks form the road’s steep border,
And much have they faced there, first and last,
Of the transitory in Earth’s long order;
But what they record in colour and cast
Is — that we two passed.

There’s a glorious recording of this and other Hardy poems read by Richard Burton.

Wateredge Inn, Ambleside

Compared to the meandering mile or more of Memory Lane, this happy place is very precisely located. It’s one of two or three tables in the corner of the garden of the Wateredge Inn, Ambleside. The water in question is Windermere, largest of the lakes in the English Lake District. From my table, less than twenty feet from the waves lapping against the pebbles of the shore, I have a perfect view south along the lake. It’s early evening and the last few ferries of the day ply their trade from the Ambleside jetty to Bowness and beyond. It’s simply, breathtakingly, beautiful. On the table is a pint of beer, my beloved brown passport-size Traveler’s Notebook, fountain pen, phone stand, and journal. On my head, my Bluetooth headset, anticipating a call. Fran and a few other close friends have shared moments with me there.

This is the most recent addition to my list of happy places. I discovered it when staying at Waterhead in July 2018 and returned the following summer. I thought of it often during lockdown, wondering if I’d ever be back. I needn’t have worried. I returned last month and although a great deal has changed in the intervening years, in my personal life and the wider world, it hasn’t lost its magic. It felt good to be back, adding new feelings and experiences to its stock of memories. I doubt I’ll be there again before next summer, but it’s part of me now.

Stack Newcastle

After a year of lockdown and social restrictions I had conflicting feelings about Stack Newcastle, which had been one of my favourite places.

STACK Newcastle, my go-to hangout until covid struck, where I’ve had so many good times hanging out with friends, or calling in on my own for a beer and a falafel wrap? The venue is set to reopen and I dare say I’ll go back at some point, but with social distancing and having to book in advance the atmosphere will never be the same. What if it never feels warm and welcoming — a Marty place — again?

Despite my doubts, I reclaimed Stack for myself once the restrictions eased. It wasn’t the same, but I added new memories and moments to the many I’d collected since its opening in August 2018. The venue closed permanently earlier this year, its city centre site due for redevelopment.

It’s hard to overestimate the significance this collection of container units held for me. It was the closest I’ve ever had to a regular pub or “watering hole.” It’s also the only place I’ve ever been able to order drinks successfully — I usually get overlooked while the bar staff serve everyone else. That’s perhaps because I’ve never felt more confident in myself and less out of my depth socially. Busy pubs and bars have never my idea of fun, but there was something about Stack which appealed to me no matter how crowded it was. Some of my fondest memories are when the place was heaving, the long benches in the main area crammed to bursting point. At such times, the route to and from the bar required careful navigation between the bodies of people talking, drinking, singing, dancing to the live music, or making their own way through the happy crowd.

And it was a happy crowd. I can’t recall any altercations, fights, or bad behaviour. I always felt safe, physically and socially. Most of the clientele would have been in their late teens or twenties, but it was common to see family groups with young children, as well as folk even older than me! It wasn’t always crowded and noisy, though. I loved arriving early when it was almost empty. I have great memories of sitting by the roaring open fire in the Tipi Bar or at the benches in the main area, catching up with my journal, capturing ideas for future blog posts, or waiting for friends. As well as local friends, I’ve shared time at Stack with Fran and others through photos, chat, and video calls.

Stack may no longer exist but I revisit in memory from time to time. It reminds me that I have a right to feel good about myself, and that it’s ok to enjoy myself socially. One of the first photos I took there remains a favourite, with its reminder that YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.

Costa Coffee, Kingston Park

Costa is the latest of my favourite writing cafés, but it’s more than that. For one thing, it’s only a ten-minute walk from my home, making it the most readily accessible of my happy places. Before covid struck, I used to call in almost every day of the week: in the morning on my way into work, on Saturday mornings before I moved on to whatever else I was doing that day, and after lunch on Sundays. That routine was disrupted by the pandemic, but I’ve pretty much returned to daily visits. Costa is once again part of the day-to-day, week-to-week, pulse of my life.

This brings up some interesting distinctions between my happy places in terms of access, accumulated experience, and memory. Stack was somewhere I could visit as often as I wanted to. Before covid I went into Newcastle town centre most Saturdays, and Stack was part of my regular routine, whether I was with friends or hanging out on my own. It wasn’t just one of my favourite places. Like Costa, it was woven into the fabric of my life. In contrast, Langrigg and Waterhead are holiday places, visited during week-long vacations once or twice a year. Langrigg carries decades of aggregated experience. Waterhead has yet to accumulate much emotional resonance, although its memories and feelings are no less strong for being relatively new. And there’s scope to add to its store. It’s not closed to me as Langrigg is.

Two places that live in memory alone. Two that are current and open. What about the future? What happy places are yet to be discovered? I chanced on a quotation the other day that fits perfectly. I’ve been unable to locate the author, but the words bring comfort and hope: There are places you haven’t been where you already belong.

Over to You

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my happy places as much as I’ve enjoyed revisiting them. What are your happy places? Where in the world makes you smile? What makes them special for you? Are they places you get to visit regularly? I’d love to hear from you, either in the comments below or via our contact page.

 

Photos by the author.

 

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

With Love: A Curated List of Open Letters

In the first of a series of themed posts, I’ve compiled a selection of my open letters, plus two letters and a poem written to me by other people. The open letter format can be useful, not merely to share what we’d like to say — or have said — to someone, but also as a novel approach for presenting other content. I’ve provided a brief introduction and quoted from each letter, but I encourage you to read them in full.


An Open Letter to My Father

My father died when I was eighteen. This open letter to him was the first time I’d written publicly about my childhood and family life. It was first published in June 2016 by The Good Men Project.

I grew up accepting disability and illness as things you put up with without making a fuss about them.

But Dad, that wasn’t enough. I didn’t learn how much it fucking hurts to live in chronic pain. I didn’t learn how someone can rail against the injustice of it all, scream at the universe — and then move past that and take the next step. You never let me see it’s okay to cry and be weak sometimes, and share how you’re feeling when life is really shitty. I have no idea how you felt about your life. Or your death.

It took fifty years and some major fuckups on my part before I started to get it. Before I stopped running away from those unable to bear their illnesses and problems as stoically as you bore yours.

Read the letter in full here.


An Open Letter to My Mother

This open letter to my mother was written in response to a writing prompt by Stigma Fighters. The brief was to write “a letter to someone who stopped talking to me.” I thought immediately of my mother who had died in a Liverpool nursing home six months earlier. The letter was published by Stigma Fighters in September 2018.

I own my share of the blame. The depth of your need terrified me and I left you to get on with it all. I wasn’t there when you needed me to be. It was easier to pretend I didn’t notice. To visit occasionally and then not at all. To phone occasionally and then not at all. To write letters, and then postcards, that said very little and needed no reply. I’ve learned a lot about being there these past years but too late for you and me. There is no going back but I would do better by you now.

Read the letter in full here.


An Open Letter to Fran

I’ve written two open letters to my best friend Fran. The first was published here on our blog in May 2016 as An Open Letter to My Bipolar Best Friend. We’d been friends for five years.

I used to sit in coffee shops wishing I had someone to meet up with. Now, this place is my social hub. With friends online and friends face to face I meet and chat and share and talk and laugh here, regardless of geographic distance. What changed? You entered my life! In the five years since we became friends I have opened up enormously. Opened to you, opened into our friendship, but also opened to let others in, opened to let myself out. Our friendship has been and is transformative for both of us. This relationship between a well one (me) and an ill one (you) has turned both our lives inside out, and its impact ripples out into the world.

Read the letter in full here.


Another Open Letter to Fran

Five years later I published It’s Not Boring! An Open Letter to My Best Friend on Our 10 Year Anniversary.

Our blog. Our two books. Our online presence on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. I’m deeply committed to them all. But they are not us. They share our story and our message of hope, but we know the stories, tips, strategies, and techniques we write about because we have lived them. Day in. Day out. Ten years. 3,653 days. (And yes, I looked it up, to be sure I had the leap years right!)

I’ve loved it all, Fran. Not always liked it or found it easy — we’ve had our share of hurt and darkness, some of it our doing, some of it not — but I’ve always loved being with you. I told you once “I never don’t want to be here,” and that’s still true, no matter what is going on for you or for me. That commitment has kept our friendship strong and endlessly reinventing itself. The dark times and the light, the low and the high, the well and the unwell; they are all part of what we’ve shared and continue to share. As I’m sure I’ve said once or twice along the way, it’s not boring, being your best friend!

Read the letter in full here.


An Open Letter to Myself

I’ve never felt moved to write a letter to my younger self, but in 2021 I wrote to myself from the perspective of a caring and concerned friend. It was an interesting experience and gave me fresh insights into different aspects of my life, character, and behaviour.

The book you wrote with Fran is about how you’re the “well one” in your friendship, with her as the “ill one.” But those terms are relative, aren’t they? “Well ones” like us struggle too. And sometimes the line between the “well ones” and the “ill ones” becomes blurred, to say the least. I’m not sure you realise how important what you’re sharing is. That “Boys Get Sad Too” piece felt like a turning point for you. Would you agree? I recognised myself in what you wrote there, for sure. It was a bit of a wake up call, to be honest.

Read the letter in full here.


An Open Letter Book Review

In 2021 I was offered the chance to review the latest novel by author Anne Goodwin. I found the book fascinating but was stuck for a way of presenting my review until I had the idea to frame it as an open letter to my friend and fellow mental health blogger Aimee Wilson. Published as Warehousing Society’s Estranged: A Review of Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home I feel the approach worked well. The author has shared my review several times on her social media, suggesting she agrees.

I’ve rambled on longer than I meant to, but before I finish I want to mention how the book explores the origins or causes of mental illness. Genetics, trauma, and the environment are all suggested as potential factors, but it’s the last of those which receives the most attention. At one point, Janice the social worker seems to think removing someone from their hospital environment into the community will restore their humanity. “Detached from the hospital,” she imagines, “her passengers were transformed from patients to people.” To me, this says more about Janice’s attitudes than the patients. They always were people, whether inside or outside the hospital and regardless of their diagnoses or how long they’ve been there. I think you would agree.

Janice’s naivety is challenged by events. It would give too much away to talk about what led to Matilda’s incarceration, but by the end of the book, “[Janice had] learned a painful lesson about environmental influence: put a woman in a madhouse and she’d behave as a madwoman, but putting her in an ordinary house wouldn’t necessarily reverse the process.” In other words, we are affected, often deeply and irrevocably, by our circumstances and by those around us.

Read the full book review here.


An Open Letter From Aimee Wilson

Early 2019 found me struggling a good deal with self-doubt in a number of areas of my life, including my role within the wider mental health community. Some of these concerns were shared in a post titled Impostor Syndrome, Self-Doubt, and Legitimacy in the Mental Health Arena. In response to that piece and others, Aimee published a letter to me on her blog I’m NOT Disordered: “I know that you’ve been feeling sort of lost recently and have been questioning your place in the mental health world so I thought that perhaps this letter might motivate you through these doubts and struggles.” Her words and support — and the support of other friends too — helped me through what was a difficult time.

I fully believe that you can’t get through a mental health illness alone; and that support can come from anyone… a professional, a family member, or a friend... The difficulty comes in allowing yourself to lean on another person or even to just admit that you need to lean on them! But people like you, make it so much easier because your support is unconditional and, whilst you’re unable to identify with some aspects of mental health, you have an unmeasurable willingness to learn and develop an understanding in order to better support a person. I love that you ask me questions when I’m struggling because it’s much more helpful than you just sitting there and nodding along, pretending to understand.

Read the letter in full here.


An Open Letter From Brynn McCann

Another close friend, Brynn McCann, wrote me an open letter in December 2021. Titled The Miracle of Light: An Open Letter to My Friend Marty, it is one of the most read posts on our blog.

We are kindred spirits and even though we’ve never met in person, we really work hard at truly seeing the other, and we succeed at that more than we fail.

I truly have learned how to be a better person because of you. I treat people better and love them more fully because you taught me and are still teaching me how to do just that.

And isn’t that what real friendship is about? Mutual respect, being present, not judging. I can tell you anything and you support me right through. That is true friendship. That is a miracle.

Read the letter in full here.


An Open Poem From Sarah Fader

The final piece I’m choosing to present is a poem, written to me in 2018 by another friend, Sarah Fader. As it’s relatively short, I’ll include it in full. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as understood and seen by anyone before. I’m glad Sarah felt that too.

Poem for Marty

Everyone has their own darkness
Mine is outside of my skin at times
Creeping slowly around
the confines of my mouth
not allowing me to speak
only telling me to feel
what I don’t want to feel.

You see my dark and
also the light even when
it’s hard to find
even when
it’s invisible to everyone around me.

That is your power
That is your gift
You sit quietly
Listening
as she talks
she cries
she needs you
and you’re not afraid
in fact you embrace the raw feelings.

I’m relieved to know that there are people
like you in the world
Thank you for loving without question
and embracing us without fear.

Don’t change who you are
Ever
And
Keep listening
It matters.

Read the original post here.


Over to You

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these open letters as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing them together. Have you written an open letter to someone before, or had one written to you? What are your thoughts about the format? I’d love to hear from you, either in the comments section below or through our contact page.

 

Photo by Calum MacAulay at Unsplash.

 

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Blogging Besties: A Joint Q&A With Aimee Wilson

Blogging isn’t rocket science. It’s about being yourself and putting what you have into it. (Anonymous)

I’m grateful to my friend and fellow mental health blogger Aimee Wilson for suggesting this collaboration. Over one hundred questions were submitted by readers and social media followers, from which Aimee compiled the twenty we’ve each answered. My answers are below. You can find Aimee’s on her blog I’m NOT Disordered.

We’d like to thank everyone who contributed, whether your question made the final list or not. They brought back a lot of great memories and did what all good questions do; they challenged us and made us think! I can imagine some serving as jumping off points for future articles.

Our blogs were founded a few months apart in 2013. Aimee’s blog I’m NOT Disordered is amongst the most popular for borderline personality disorder (BPD) and in 2022 was top UK blog for BPD at feedspot.com. Her book Everything Disordered: A Practical Guide to Blogging was published in 2021.

Martin’s Answers

1. Do you feel under pressure to keep going with your blog?

Yes, but it’s self-imposed. Fran and I started our blog in August 2013. We posted haphazardly to begin with but after a while I committed to publishing one post a week. With one exception, I’ve kept to that schedule. It’s a struggle sometimes, but the deadline keeps me focused. To be honest, I fear that if I let things slip and didn’t post for a time, I’d be unlikely to pick things up again.

2. Does your blogging ever feel like a job or is it for pleasure?

I get a lot of satisfaction from blogging, but it’s not something I do for pleasure. It’s more like something I need to do. Writing has always been a vital part of my life and has expressed itself in different ways over the years: the diary I’ve kept since I was fourteen, poetry, short stories and articles, the book I wrote with my best friend Fran Houston, and this blog. Writing, including blogging, is part of my self-care toolbox. It helps me explore whatever is going on for me but can also be a useful distraction technique. I don’t quite know who I’d be if I wasn’t writing (but that’s a topic for another post!)

3. How does negative feedback impact what you’re doing? And how do you cope with it?

I’ve had very little negative feedback about my blogging, or anything I’ve done in the mental health space. Family, friends, and colleagues have always been supportive and encouraging.

4. Do you think that you blog the same because of you both being mental health bloggers?

Aimee and I couldn’t be more different when it comes to our blogging! On numerous occasions we’ve attended the same event or blogged on similar topics, but our articles are always written from very different perspectives. I’d say I approach things in a straightforward, documentary way, whereas Aimee often finds unique approaches which draw on her creativity and lived experience. I like to think our styles complement each other well. I’ve certainly learned a lot from her.

5. What’s your favourite memory together?

It’s hard to pick just one! Fond memories include our first day out as friends at Newcastle’s Life Science Centre; our picnic in Aimee’s garden in 2021 after not seeing each other for a year because of covid; and the wonderful spread she put on for me for my birthday this year. My favourite memory though is when we were discussing a blogging idea I’d had, about how people sometimes fake how they’re feeling. At one point I realised I’d lost track of what Aimee was saying. I think she had too because she asked, “Do you know what I mean?” I hesitated. “I thought I did...” You maybe had to be there, but we found it hilarious and remind ourselves of it from time to time!

6. Favourite photo of you both?

It’s even harder to choose a photo than it was to decide on a favourite memory! I shortlisted half a dozen joint selfies (we love joint selfies!) but my favourite is the earliest, taken outside Newcastle Life Science Centre in January 2019.

7. Can either of you ever imagine ending your blog?

There are times when I wonder why I put myself through the weekly routine, or doubt that my blogging serves any real purpose. But then I’ll receive positive feedback from a reader, or something I’m writing about will spark a conversation with a friend, and I know it’s not time to stop. Blogging is also an important aspect of my friendship with Aimee. Writing can be a very lonely pursuit, and we each value having someone in our lives who understands what it takes to blog week after week, especially in the mental health space. I’m not saying we couldn’t still be friends if either of us stopped blogging — but I’d rather not test that out! Joking aside, Aimee is a huge inspiration to me and a big part of why I’m still blogging.

8. Do you think that your content and blog is helping to reduce mental health stigma?

In a modest way, yes. The book I co-authored with Fran (High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder) is on Bipolar UK’s recommended book list, and I’m proud to have been included in a Health Central article profiling people who have changed the public perception of bipolar disorder. I’ve also written for several mental health organisations including Bipolar UK, Mental Health First Aid England, and bp Magazine for Bipolar. As a Mental Health First Aider I’ve helped foster a more open culture around mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

9. How does it feel to hear positive feedback when your content has resonated with a reader?

It’s the best feeling ever! A general compliment is great, but it means even more if something I’ve written has affected someone directly, or helped them relate to what a friend or loved one is going through so they can support them better. The most recent example happened a few weeks ago. A reader messaged me and Fran to share how deeply our words and experiences had moved her. “I am at a loss for words. I have actually been hit by it very hard — in a good way.” She continued, “As you say, Fran, I am realizing I need to build my life the way I need it and want it. Thank you for the book, for your advocacy. It is too bad there are not more Martys in the world!”

10. How is your own mental health impacted when you’re putting a lot of effort into your work, but people are still slipping through the net and taking their own life? Does it make you feel like you’ve wasted your time?

Hearing that someone has found themself in such extreme pain or distress that suicide or self-harm seemed their only option is very hard, but it doesn’t Invalidate the message of hope and support we do our best to put out there. On the contrary, it reinforces how important it is to share that message, and to be there for those we care about. Every life lost to illness — that’s how I think of suicide — is a tragedy, but there’s only so much any of us can do to keep those we love safe. That’s something I learned early in my friendship with Fran. As I express it in our book, “It is not that I trust Fran never to try and harm herself, or imagine our friendship guarantees her safety. [...] But I trust her not to hide her suicidal feelings from me, and to be honest with me about them. Ultimately, I trust Fran to allow me to help her stay alive.”

11. After writing something intense, how do you wind down? What do you use as self-care?

I mostly feel a sense of release when I’ve finished a blog post, especially when it’s something that seems especially important or that I’ve put a great deal of myself into. I’ll take a day or two to unwind, but my blogging schedule dictates that I’ll soon be focused on the next post. That helps me put things behind me and move forward. I might choose a lighter or less challenging topic if my previous post was particularly intense.

12. What would you like to see happen in the future for mental health services?

Aimee is better placed to answer this one, as I don’t have first-hand experience as a service user. My three main observations, from the outside as it were, are that services are overly focused on crisis intervention rather than prevention and ongoing support; services are often not available at all for those who need them, where and when they need them; and the quality of care and support seems to vary hugely depending on where you live. I’d like to see some attempt to share best practice. I believe service users should also be more involved in shaping the services and support that are provided and rewarded financially for doing so.

13. What are your thoughts on giving someone a diagnosis?

It’s no part of my role as a friend to Fran, Aimee, or anyone else to diagnose them or encourage them to self-diagnose. Diagnosis is a responsibility reserved to doctors, psychiatrists, and other clinical professionals. More generally, I think diagnostic labels such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, or psychosis can be of value, if they help someone access appropriate treatment and support, or better understand what they’re dealing with. Labels can be problematic, though, if they’re used to stigmatise or discriminate against someone, or suggest there’s something wrong with the person themself.

14. Do you think there’s more that can be done for service users to really feel ‘heard’ by clinicians?

This is often the first question I ask when a friend has attended a clinical appointment: Do you feel you were heard? It helps to be as prepared as possible. I help Fran prepare for appointments with her psychiatrist by typing up a summary of her mental, physical, and emotional health, plus anything she specifically wants to ask. Fran sends the notes to her psychiatrist in advance of her appointment.

15. How do you feel that for some people, mental health and mental illness is only really talked about on dedicated awareness dates.

I have friends with mental health issues who find awareness days and events frustrating, dismissive, or unhelpful. I found this strange at first; surely any attempt to bring mental health to the forefront is a good thing? I’ve come to understand some of the issues and frustrations, which include the lack of professional support services and the fact that campaigns tend to avoid some of the most serious mental health conditions such as psychosis and schizophrenia. I nevertheless continue to engage with, and write for, awareness events such as Time to Talk Day (February), World Bipolar Day (March 30), Mental Health Awareness Week (May), World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), and World Mental Health Day (October 10). Despite their limitations, I believe campaigns can make a real difference. Last year an event I attended for International Men’s Day (November) prompted me to arrange my first doctor’s appointment in three decades, to rule out the possibility of prostate cancer.

16. Do you feel your blogging is supported by the people around you?

I mentioned that family, friends, and colleagues have always supported and encouraged my writing and other mental health work. That remains true, but Aimee is the person most actively engaged with my blogging because she knows what’s involved. We often discuss what we’re working on, or check in with each other for suggestions on approach, content, or illustrations.

17. How did you both meet?

I’m interested to see if Aimee remembers this the same as me! The first conversation I recall was at an outdoor event for Newcastle Mental Health Day in February 2016, though I think we were both at the orientation session for the event the week before. I was volunteering with Time to Change and Aimee was running the social media side of things.

18. What’s your favourite thing about each other?

I have huge respect for Aimee’s courage, determination, and honesty; both in her personal life and in sharing her knowledge and experience to help others. She’s always open to new opportunities and rarely seems to get knocked back and discouraged for long. She has a great sense of humour and is someone I trust to be there for me if I need it. If I had to pick one thing, it would be that she’s not afraid to challenge me if I do or say something unhelpful or that she doesn’t agree with. That’s quite rare and very important to me.

19. What do you think has been your greatest blogging achievement?

It might sound a little trite, but my greatest achievement is knowing my words have helped people, whether in their own lives or in helping them support friends and loved ones. The single most treasured endorsement anyone has ever given me and Fran was about the book, but I like to think it relates to my blogging too: “[This is] a deeply honest and detailed account of two people’s journey as friends, which reminds us that mental illness doesn’t change what friendship is all about: being there for those we love.”

20. Aside from blogging, what’s your favourite thing to do?

I enjoy time spent in good company, whether in person or online (chat or calls) with Aimee, Fran, and other friends around the world. I also enjoy creative journaling and am teaching myself Teeline shorthand.

Over to You

You can read Aimee’s answers to these same questions on her blog I'm NOT Disordered.

We both hope you’ve found these questions and answers interesting, and that they’ve shed a little light on us as people, as friends, and as bloggers. If you have any questions or comments we’d love to hear from you!

 

Photo by Martin Baker, Newcastle Life Science Centre, January 2019

 

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Write without Fear, Edit without Mercy: Eight Questions for the Honest Blogger

When I compiled my list of 21 Image Prompts for the Mental Health Blogger, one image in particular caught my attention. Taken by hannah grace, its call to write without fear and edit without mercy inspired me to draw up a short Q&A for anyone wanting to explore their honesty as a writer.

  1. Do you tailor your writing for your audience?
  2. Are there topics you’d never write about?
  3. What are you afraid of?
  4. Describe something intensely personal that you’ve blogged about. How did it feel?
  5. Do you always tell the truth in your blogging?
  6. How important is editing and proofreading to you?
  7. Describe your blogging approach or process.
  8. What makes a good blogger?

Whether you publish your answers on your blog or not (if you do, a link back to this article would be appreciated) it can be a very useful exercise to keep your writing genuine and on track. Are you up for the challenge? My answers are below.


1. Do You Tailor Your Writing for Your Audience?

The focus of our blog is mental health and supportive friendships, and I try to keep posts balanced between those two themes. I also write articles targeted at other writers and bloggers, especially those working in the mental health arena. Perhaps surprisingly, the most read article on our blog describes how to write the best acknowledgment page for your book. It was written based on our experiences writing High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder. Our book is a good example of tailoring my writing to a particular audience; specifically, people wanting to support friends who live with bipolar disorder or other mental health conditions.

2. Are There Topics You’d Never Write About?

In my list of 40 Mental Health Blog Topics From the Caring Friend’s Perspective, number three is Five things I will never blog about and why. It’s a subject that feels important, but I’ve never figured out how to address it properly. It’s hard to write about topics you’d never write about!

I’m wary of writing if I have little or no experience of the subject under discussion, unless I’m presenting the insights, opinions, and accounts of others who do. For example, I wrote about bipolar anger after asking several friends to share their experience of this particular symptom. I’ve also written about suicidal thinking, based on conversations with Fran and others who know first-hand what it’s like to be in such a place. I mostly discuss mental illness from the perspective of a supportive friend, although in the past couple of years I’ve begun sharing aspects of my mental health.

There are topics I’d like to write about but haven’t yet found a way to approach them as I’d wish to. These include my perspective as a caring friend when someone I know has taken an overdose or harmed themself. I can’t imagine ever writing about abuse, addiction, rape, or trauma. Those are too far beyond my lived experience for me to do them justice.

3. What Are You Afraid Of?

This is such a great question! Three quotations come to mind. The first is from John Powell’s book Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? Insights Into Personal Growth.

Why am I afraid to tell you who I am? I am afraid to tell you who I am, because, if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and it’s all that I have.

I would like to be completely honest, open, and genuine in everything I do and write, but honesty means admitting I’m afraid people might not like what I’ve shared, and won’t like me as a result. Who I am — who I really am, with my insights, experience, and wisdom; but also my faults, failings, and hang-ups — is all I have to offer. There are things I’ve chosen not to write about because of that fear. That fear is natural. It can also be healthy, in that it guards us against sharing too much or inappropriately. Maintaining healthy boundaries is important. We can be honest and genuine without sharing everything with everyone.

The second quotation is something I’ve come across several times on social media. I haven’t been able to trace its author but the challenge of it stops me short every time.

What would your life be if you weren’t afraid to fail?

I don’t enjoy failing but fear of failure plays little part in my writing. I’m never going to make a fortune from my books and blogging and I’m unlikely to find myself a guest on Orah. I’m happy when one of my blog posts atttracts plenty of pageviews or comments, or we receive a positive book review, but I don’t write with that kind of success in mind. My writing has the potential to change a few lives. I don’t need to change the world. What does scare me is the possibility of unlimited success. I’m reminded of the well-known passage by Marianne Williamson that begins:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

A few years ago I took a leadership course at work. One exercise involved writing a personal vision statement: an aspirational what-if-anything-were-possible snapshot of my life at some point in the future. I found the exercise exhilarating, but looking back on it a year or so later I realised I’d not achieved any portion of my goals. As I’ve written elsewhere, “I began the journey but looking back I can see that I failed to follow through. I lost faith in the vision itself. Arguably, I lost faith in myself.” It was fear of success and the changes that might bring to my life which kept me stuck where I was.

4. Describe Something Intensely Personal That You’ve Blogged About. How Did It Feel?

Fran and I shared a great deal in our book, including many of our personal conversations. Some of those related to times when we were feeling unwell, upset, stressed, or otherwise vulnerable. I felt good about sharing those details, because we wanted to show what it’s like to be in a mutually supportive friendship when one friend lives with illness. We set a few boundaries about what we would share and what we’d keep private, but it was important to us that we were honest and didn’t just present the easy or palatable bits.

It took some time for me to share my experiences, thoughts, and feelings outside of my role as a supportive friend. The first really personal article I wrote was an open letter to my father, which was published in 2016 by The Good Men Project. I later wrote an open letter to my mother in response to a call for submissions by Stigma Fighters. It’s significant that each letter expressed things I would never have told my parents when they were alive, and that I’d told to very few people, if any at all. I felt very vulnerable putting myself out there like that, but it felt important and I’m glad I did so. It made it easier to share other aspects of my life, including my mental health in such posts as BOYS GET SAD TOO, and Return to Down.

5. Do You Always Tell the Truth in Your Blogging?

I mentioned above that Fran and I agreed what we would share in our book and what we’d keep private. It was important to us that we were truthful about what we did share, and we outlined our sources and methodology in the book’s introduction. We selected conversations that best illustrated whatever point was being discussed, but aside from minor edits for clarity we published our exchanges as they happened. Anything less would have felt dishonest, and misleading to our audience. I work to the same principles when I’m blogging. I choose what I want to blog about, and what I want to share or say on that topic. There may be — and indeed are — things I choose not to write about or include, but if I write it, it’s true.

6. How Important Is Editing and Proofreading to You?

Editing and proofreading are very important aspects of my writing process. No matter the topic, forum, or audience, I want to present my work to as high a standard as possible. I tend to edit as I go along, which means that writing anything takes a lot longer than if I simply wrote and then went back to edit afterwards. I’ve tried that approach but it doesn’t work for me. Reading the words I’ve just typed, moving them around a bit, replacing this word with another (and often back again later) helps me feel my way forward as I discover what shape the piece is going to take.

Once the article is written, I’ll edit it several times from top to bottom. My first drafts are usually too wordy so I’m looking to cut redundant or repetitive sections, as well as improving how the piece flows overall. I’m also checking for consistency, spelling, typos or missing words, and punctuation. I’m a stickler for smart quotes and proper em or en dashes, so I check for those too. I do a final proofing pass just before I schedule the post for publication. Typos and other errors still get through occationally, of course. If I find one I’ll correct the post, no matter how long it’s been since it was originally published.

7. Describe Your Blogging Approach or Process.

I’ve described my blogging workflow elsewhere so I’ll keep this brief. Almost all my blog posts are drafted in Google Keep on my phone (Samsung S9) or tablet (Samsung A8). This works well as I can write pretty much anywhere at any time: at home, at work, when traveling, or in one of my favourite coffee shops. I have a Bluetooth keyboard which works with either device. I rarely use my PC at all these days. Once I have the article complete in draft, I do a couple of passes of editing in Keep and then move the text into MS Word. I find it easier there to do a final pass of editing / proofreading, also to ensure all dumb quotes are converted to smart quotes, double spaces are removed, etc. If I’ve not done so already, I search for suitable images to accompany the article. I move the completed text into Blogger and add links, images, and HTML/CSS formating (headings, lists, blockquotes etc), previewing as I go. The final step is to add keywords, and schedule the article to post.

8. What Makes a Good Blogger?

I’m in danger of embarrassing my friend and fellow mental health blogger Aimee Wilson here, but for me she exemplifies the qualities that make for a good blogger.

  • Passionate about expressing herself creatively.
  • Keen to help other people by sharing her ideas, thoughts, and lived experiece.
  • Has the courage to write with honesty no matter the subject matter.
  • Generous with encouragement and support for other bloggers.
  • Open to suggestions and advice but clear about her creative vision.
  • Keen to explore new techniques and ideas.
  • Eager to pursue opportunities for collaboration with other bloggers, individuals, and organisations.
  • Writes what she wants to write, but keeps an eye on her audience’s interests and needs.

Our blogging styles are very different, but Aimee is a great inspiration to me and I’ve learned a lot from her. I can only dream of achieving the pageviews she gets on her blog, but I’m content with the connections and feedback Fran and I receive here at Gum on My Shoe. I know we’re making a difference. Does that make me a good blogger? I’ll leave that assessment for others to make, but Aimee and other great bloggers I know keep me honest in what I’m attempting to do.

Over to You

I’ve enjoyed the challenge of answering these questions, and hope you find my answers of interest. Perhaps they will inspire you to address your own writing approach and process. If you have any questions please get in touch, either in the comments below or through our contact page.

I’ll close with one of my favourite quotations about writing, by Rachel Thompson. In just a few words, it captures a lot of what I’ve explored in this article.

My only writing advice:
1) give yourself permission to write on ANY topic (even if it ruffles feathers)
2) write what scares you.

 

Photo by hannah grace at Unsplash.