Wednesday 29 May 2024

THIS BOY BLOGS TOO: Three Blog Posts I'm Proud of and Why

May you be proud of the work you do, the person you are, and the difference you make. (Unknown)

I’m a great believer in celebrating success, no matter how great or small it might seem in the grand scale of things. It’s healthy to take pride in our achievements, and to acknowledge those of our friends and loved ones. Those four little wordsI’m proud of you — can mean so much. With that in mind, I’d like to share three blog posts I’m especially proud of writing.

An Open Letter to My Bipolar Best Friend

Read the full post here.

This is the first piece that came to mind when I started thinking about which posts I’m most proud of. I love the open letter format, and have written several, including one to Fran to mark ten years of friendship, and letters to my late mother and father. This first one to Fran, though, is special. Written in May 2016, it captures the essence of what we’re about, our journey as friends, and my personal journey in the mental health arema. It’s one of the top five most viewed posts on our blog, but more important than the number of views are the comments people have left on the blog post itself.

Your writing is able to connect, resonate and help change lives... because you write from the heart... with compassion.

I read a wonderful post like yours and feel invigorated and I find the will to try again.

I think you and Fran are extraordinary. Your writing and insights are open and honest and making an impact on the lives of others, in both big and small ways.

Comments such as these remind me that what Fran and I are doing in sharing our ideas, insights, and experiences, makes a difference. We may not reach hundreds of thousands of people but we touch those we do reach.

Reading the letter now, I’m transported back to where and when I wrote it. I remember the caf√©, one of my all-time favourite writing places, where I spent almost every Saturday morning. I remember the day itself, because I got talking to someone who told me about the Newcastle Literary Salon. I’m proud of the fact I followed up on the suggestion, booking myself a slot at the next event before I had the chance to change my mind. The Salon became a regular haunt of mine for a while. I read from our book High Tide Low Tide several times, and it inspired blog posts including #BeReal and Like a Rootless Tree. Shoutouts to Fred for that initial heads-up, and to Juli who introduced me on my first ever live book reading at the Salon. I owe you both a great deal. Signing up to read at the Literary Salon was only the latest in a number of things I’d dared myself to do, inspired and encouraged by Fran.

It’s scary to put myself out there in person, but that is part of what I’ve learned: to dare, to challenge myself — whether it’s doing a zip-wire slide from the Tyne Bridge to raise funds for Crisis, addressing the Mental Health First Aid team at Virgin Money, volunteering at the Time to Change Mental Health Day event, or appearing live on radio! I would never have done any of this if it were not for our friendship.

It wasn’t all fun and games, though. There were times when I felt frustrated and disillusioned about my writing. Fran never dismissed my concerns, but she also invited me to recognise my achievements and move forward. I recall the following exchange vividly and with great affection.

You messaged me overnight, “Wish you were feeling less flat.. You wrote a book.. A whole fucking book.. Don’t you give yourself credit for that?” That jolted me out of my self-pity (thank you!) And you’re right! I (we) have indeed written a whole fucking book! Our book, our story. A guide to inspire and inform others who — like me — support and care for a friend with mental illness.

At the time, High Tide Low Tide was pretty much written, but we’d yet to secure a publisher. That would come a few months later. The open letter reminded me at the time, and reminds me still, of all we’ve achieved both personally and on the wider stage, and the importance of what we’re doing.

What to Do When Your Loved One with Bipolar Is Doing OK

Read the full post here.

As well as writing for our blog, I’ve contributed to many other blogs and organisations. I shared a list of these guest posts last year. The article I’ve chosen to highlight here was the first of several I contributed to bp Magazine. I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to write for such an esteemed publication, and to writer and author Julie A. Fast for the initial introduction. This first piece has been read more then 24,000 times and has attracted some great comments from readers. I’m proud of this one in particular because it touches on something that’s given little attention. Specifically, the challenges — and opportunities — that can arise when your friend or loved one is doing well.

I’m often asked how I handle things when Fran is in mania, depressed, or suicidal. Very few people ask what it’s like when she’s doing okay — but that’s not always easy either.

It’s clear from the comments that others appreciated my suggestions and the message of hope they offered. My other articles at bp Magazine include 5 Must-Read Rules to Help Your Friend with Anxiety & Bipolar Disorder, How to Spot Bipolar Red Flags, The Enchantment of Euphoric Mania, and How to Support Your Friend from Afar.

THIS BOY GETS SAD TOO

Read the full post here.

The third post I’ve selected was written in June 2021. I’m proud of it because it was the first time I’d admitted publically that I too experience mental ill health at times. Speaking of the BOYS GET SAD TOO lapel pin I’d recently bought, I wrote:

It doesn’t mean the healthy kind of sadness that arises in response to events. I feel that kind sometimes, of course. It means depression, anxiety, stress, mental ill-health of all kinds. Boys — and men — get that way too. I get that way too. The deeper, pervasive malaise I’ve felt for a while is of that kind. It’s becoming endemic. Part of my emotional landscape. Flat, arid, featureless.

In the post, I explored what this realisation meant for me, and how I might navigate my way forward. It was an important moment, not least because for once I’d focused on my own needs. It was about time.

I have a collection of mental health t-shirts and wear them proudly, even though I know that wearing t-shirts is not enough. My BGST badge is the first mental health item I’ve bought that feels like it’s for me.

I’m also proud that I didn’t post this one article about my mental health and then set the topic aside. I’ve explored the subject further in such posts as Return to Down and Anxiety and Me. I’ve also discussed aspects of my physical health, including my prostate cancer check-up and visits to my optician. Most recently, I’ve shared my experiences of alexithymia, a condition characterised by the inability to express one’s emotions in words. I’ve written about how that affects me in two blog posts: How Do I Feel? and How Do I Feel Now?. The Boys Get Sad Too brand continues to inspire me. I wear my two BGST hoodies with pride, and have written on men’s mental health and heroes, toxic masculinity, and gender identity. These are themes I’d like to explore further in the future.

Honourable Mentions

It was difficult selecting just three blog posts from the hundreds I’ve written since we launched Gum on My Shoe in 2013. Articles I’m proud of which didn’t quite make the cut include:

Fran and I would love to hear which of our blog posts you’ve most enjoyed reading, especially any you find yourself coming back to, or which left a strong impression. Drop your thoughts in the comments below or via our contact page.

 

Photo by Madalyn Cox at Unsplash.

 

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