I’ve been having a conversation the other day with some blogger/author buddies about mental health, parents fucking us over (unintentionally) and other stuff, which got me thinking. And made me speak out myself. Since I’m out of blogging materials at the moment I decided it was time to write a “classic” blog post, now that I’ve been in this business for 5 months. This one won’t be about books or music, however. This is going to be the most personal thing I’ve ever written for the internet to see. And I used to write poems in high school, publishing them online. I guess things can’t get more embarrassing than that. Anyway, my life got a 180 degree turn since I started my blog and I wanted to reflect on what exactly changed. Me most of all.
To understand the change, and my situation, let’s go back to the beginning. I’m not trying to sell some kind of sob story, I just want you to see the significance of some of the things I’ll mention later. I was born with a genetic disease called Russell-Silver Syndrome. Unlike most of the others who have this disease, I came out of it lucky. I don’t have deformities, I’m just shorter and skinnier than I should be (I’ve been gaining weight in the last few years and it indeed did some good to me). By short I mean I’m 4′ 11″. I’m somewhere between wearing children’s clothes and small women clothes. I’m wearing children’s shoes… unless I have them custom-made and since I love to wear shoes with heels (actually I can’t stand wearing flat shoes), I don’t have much options. Add to this that I am extremely picky and have a distinct taste. Yeah, I’m not an easy case. But I always managed, found a way to get my personality shown through my appearance. Or at least I did in the last few years after I decided I had enough feeling ashamed and being worried about people staring at me wherever I went. I said, fuck it, if they want to stare, let’s give them something to look at. I’ve been treated by people as some kind of poor thing, someone they pitied and dismissed. Which is funny, because I had more intelligence than most of them. I was always distinguished as the small one if there was someone around with the same name. Hell, I’m halfway being 31 and I still feel like people treat me as a child instinctively. I don’t blame them, I would to the same in their place, but when you want people to see you as a grown up, kick ass woman who is not afraid to show off her personality through her clothing, well, that sucks. Anyway, I resented people and closed myself up, not letting anyone in, or just a really few ones. Being different – both in appearance and thinking apparently doesn’t make it easy to make friends. I had a few, but I always felt like an outsider wherever I went. I felt anxious around people, and it just got worse with time. Until I found myself totally isolated and no one to turn to when I just wanted some mindless chat or to hang out in a moment’s notice. Mostly I just gave up trying and initiate conversations with people who clearly weren’t interested in me. If I’m the one who always reaches out to you and sends you a message asking what’s up, then I take it you don’t care about me. I stopped forcing relationships, because what’s the point if its one-sided? Well, this didn’t change much, and I’m still a bit desperate to have more friends, but things improved nonetheless.
And this brings me to the reason I babbled so much above. Back in March I decided to start a blog, mainly because I wanted to support some indie authors I got in contact with during my Before Blog life. I didn’t really expect to be succesful or even popular. I thought of it as something to play with in my free time and occupy myself with so I wouldn’t think about how boring my life is. Instead, things got crazy pretty quickly, and here I am, 5 months later, reflecting on how much I’ve changed.
I’ve got friends
Funny how you find one of your best friends when you absolutely don’t expect it. I was 1 week into blogging when I shared one of my reviews in a group where I wasn’t sure I could. Someone assured me it was fine. I recognised his name because he befriended me on Goodreads a few weeks back, thought it was time to be bold and sent him a friend request on Facebook. I figured one more or less doesn’t count, he already had like 1.000 friends anyway. Besides, I was a new blogger, I needed to start to build connections (which gave me anxiety, because I had to reach out to people, and eeek). I’ve had no idea who he was – I never followed blogs before, I didn’t know anyone except a few indie authors, actually I was clueless about everything, how the hell did I end up with a book blog?? – and didn’t expect anything. Definitely not ending up best friends in the course of a few months. And believe me, I don’t use the term “friend” lightly. We hit it off from the start and I was always myself from our very first conversation. You’ve no idea how awesome it is for me that I can be who I am, without being judged, that I can say whatever is in my mind without weirding out people, to give and get absolute honesty without worrying to hurt the other’s feelings. I did worry for a long time and was panicking that I screwed things up when I was in a bad mood and whined and bitched a lot. I was worried sick I’ll end up making the same mistakes when I try to make friends: I absolutely have no idea where the lines are and I am just so damn excited about finding someone I like and want to make friends with that I end up forcing myself on them. I can’t help it. So if I’m annoying to you, please bear with me, I get over this phase in a few weeks and I’m cool after that. I promise. I also try to keep myself in check and not be too pushy. This usually also sets people off, and I don’t blame them. I know I can be annoying. But back to my friend. Although we have different situations, our friendship works against all odds. I think he was one of the best things that happened to me with this blog, and if nothing else, this absolutely made it worth. I never knew how it felt to be supported before, and man, it’s awesome. He drives me crazy sometimes and wears me down with some of his things, but I also came to care about him a lot. Because he deserves it. Hell, everyone deserves to have a friend who cares about them and be reminded of that fact. I made sure from the start that I didn’t use his name or advertised our friendship, because I didn’t want people to think I got to where I am today thanks to him. Even though he did help me a lot, with advice and listening to my bitching and being patient while I ran my ideas by him. He did open 1 or 2 doors for me but in the end it was up to me what I made of those opportunities. I wanted people to respect me for my values, my personality and my work, not because of my connections. And my work indeed paid off: my reviews improved, I’ve built connections, and made new friends. I found a community where I can belong, where I don’t feel so out (well, except when I’m having a bad day and hold a pity party in my head and think no one cares about me), and where people think I kick ass :). People actually like me and that feels good. Even if I keep my anxiety and doubts to myself.
I’ve got confidence
Which brings me to the next thing: confidence. As I started to build connections with authors and bloggers alike, and started to get really good responses for my reviews, it also made me more confident. Well, just look at this post: I’m addressing my issues which I never did before. Not publicly anyway. When I get to know someone, sooner or later my disease topic comes up, but I was always kind of ashamed of it. Which is stupid, because it’s not my fault, I can’t do anything about it, and besides I’m indeed lucky that I didn’t get the worst of it. And the doctors were worried I’ll have some kind of brain damage. Hah, look at me, screw docs. So, confidence. A few months ago I would never have considered to get in touch with an author or someone I didn’t know, or even speak up and ask for an opportunity out front. I was horrified of that thought. Now, I don’t mind much. Well, okay, I worry about it for a while then just decide, fuck it, I can do this. I accept it’s part of being a blogger and authors need us as much as we need them. It’s a mutual thing and I have nothing to be ashamed of – except maybe my english speaking skills, but I can worry about that once I’m heading to Bristol. And that they are just normal people like everyone else. I know my weaknesses and strengths, I know I have a sense of humor and I can be charming if I put my mind to it. And it’s easy for me to be myself online more than in real life. I need to work on that one, and Bristol will be a good test to see if I can be that self I show on the internet. That’s the closest one to the real me. Anyway, I’m on a good way and learned to worry less about how people will react to me.
I’ve learned about mental health
I’m pretty sure I have anxiety issues, and I’m debating to go and see a professional about it, but I never did think much of this. Mental health and mental issues were never something I had to face. I have a friend who came out to me last december and revealed she has mental issues and that sucks. I mean her situation is kind of fucked up and I can’t even start to comprehend what she is going through. Being online friends and not having daily contact didn’t help me understand better. I’m worried about her but it is something out of my reach, something I don’t have to deal with and so my ignorant bubble held. It had weakened, but held. Then came the last 5 months and I suddenly found myself running into several kind of mental issues: depression and anxiety being the main ones, but some other pretty nasty stuff too. It kind of shocks me how many people in the book world fights with some kind of mental health related problem – some mild, some worse. It puts my own issues into a perspective and I realised how lucky I am indeed. I’ve had a pretty normal childhood, parents who loved me (made mistakes regarding handling my situation but which parent is perfect?). I might have been lonely and misunderstood most of the time, but I learned to get over some stuff. I got far in the last few years and I hope things will improve further. Some people however are not that lucky. I opened my eyes and I would like to give a shout out to everyone who struggles with mental health issues and if any one of you needs a pair of ears to listen, I’m here. If you are an author, please know, that you can take your time with writing and I won’t harass you about your next book – except in a friendly way and only if I’m sure I won’t hurt any feelings – and that there are people out there supporting you, no matter what. We want you to be happy and healthy above everything else, and we can be patient for you, while you get back on track. I won’t pretend to know what you guys are going through – except anxiety, I totally get anxiety -, but I care.
I’ve learned to be less selfish
Well, okay, I’m still learning this, but having friends who go through some serious shit from time to time, you have no choice but to put aside your need to talk about something which is probably only important to you anyway. Sometimes you have to let things go and focus on being there, to listen, to be a pillar your friend needs you to be at the time. Or whatever they need you to be, really. A better person maybe. Or a stronger one. Or just one who is there and they can rely on and be themselves and share whatever is on their mind no matter how weird it is. Sometimes it’s scary as shit, sometimes it’s hard. Mostly because I’ve no idea how to be helpful and what to do in some situations, and I worry I just make things worse. I’ve held self-pity parties in my head for too long and was concerned about myself too much. Maybe that’s why the world went by me and I missed a lot of things. I try to learn to be a better person than I am today. And now I have friends to help me along the way.
I’m trying to learn how to keep my growing anxiety at bay
As well as to keep my anxiety in check. Which just got worse since I’m blogging. Besides all the positive things I’ve got from this community it also has some down sides. I keep checking my social media accounts and stats religiously, I worry about how will people receive my actual posts, if my current review is any good (usually they aren’t), if I missed something while I slept, if people would remember me if I went away one day, if there is anybody at all who cares about me and my blog and if I would be missed. Or if people are genuinely interested in me as a person or only as a blogger. Am I interesting at all? Probably not, hence I never could keep friends for long. As much as I changed for good, new worries and thoughts are haunting me. I also feel the need to keep up with my posts and deliver quality material, and jump the hurdle I set for myself – and I always have too high standards. I always think about how could I be better, what can I do to make my reviews reach more people – not because of stats, but because I want people to share my love for books, and music, I want to have conversation about them, I want to engage people, I want to be someone people look up at, to be accepted. I look at stats as the result of my hard work. Because it is hard work. I spend more time maintaining my blog than I spend with actual work. I also got very organised, I have my posts planned a month in advance and I manage to keep myself to it more or less. There is always something unexpected… But I think ultimately I want attention, acceptance and approval. Which I never really got and I feel like blogging can give me that in a way. Every thanks, and share and like and words of encouragement gives me a boost and confidence. I shouldn’t be dependent on that but it helps me get through the shit days. And makes me feel, well, not important but at least significant and not invisible for a day or two. And shuts my doubts up for a while. So thanks for everyone who ever supported me in any way. It means a lot and helps me to go on.