A year ago tomorrow I sat down in front of an empty computer screen and scratched out a post I titled “Why I Am here” in which I expressed some doubt about my ability to actually maintain an active blog, and in which I declared my desire to share my own experience fighting the demons in the dark corners of my mind. I had recently come to understand that there was strength in sharing and important things to learn from the experience of others. I had been reading a couple different mental health blogs and while I couldn’t always relate to the specifics of a person’s experience I still felt a kinship with many of these writers and realized that despite the differences there are still things we talk about that only others who have tread down the same dark paths will ever be able to understand.
As it turns out I have had a very active year in terms of mental health. Topics have ranged from reflections on the darkest days of my life back when this all started many years ago, to my current struggles. In between readers have been blessed with some attempts at humor and creative writng, my taste in music, observations on the impact of entertainment on mental health, weight loss, and one long political rant. The most important posts for me came shortly after this blog was started when last December I was pushed into a very difficult position and made the decision to discontinue use of the benzodiazepine Klonopin. I had been using the drug daily for ten years and for a couple months this space focused on little more than me surviving benzodiazepine withdrawal. Nearly a year later I am still getting used life without this chemical buffer, and trying to get some balance back.
I would like to sincerely thank all those that have stopped in to read this blog, and in particular those that have taken the time to comment or “like” my posts. Without your support I would likely have stopped writing here many months ago. Knowing people are reading and care has been a wonderful experience. When I started this I didn’t realize I was stumbling into such a supportive mental health community. That has been the single most pleasant surprise of this experiment.
In the event some are curious I will share a few behind the scenes details. My blog is pretty modest by most standards. Less than 100 posts to this point, less than 100 folks following, and not quite 3,000 page views. I have been very surprised by one stat in particular. My most viewed post has nothing to do with the topic of this blog. Back in the spring I wrote a couple snarky posts about trying to get a decent coffee out here in the sticks. In the spirit of those posts a put up a couple funny coffee related photos. That photo post has three times the individual views of the next closest post on this blog. It also has very few “likes” and no comments. It makes very little sense to me. The post with the most “likes” happens to be my very last post, a poem about insomnia. Be careful folks… too much encouragement and you may be subject to more poetry of questionable quality.
I have two posts that I would call my favorites. The first is actually the least viewed post on this blog. I may have titled it badly, but Downeaster Alexa includes a brief reflection of the impact of the sea on my life. It isn’t the most profound thing I have ever written, but the subject matter is near and dear to my heart. The second post is a piece I wrote on men and depression. It sparked a pretty good conversation in the comments section when it was written, and the ideas put forth are still things I feel strongly about.
In the future I plan to keep going as I have been, mostly writing about my day to day life with the occasional offbeat submission. I have really begun to appreciate music as a powerful medium for expressing emotion and I may increase the amount of music I share here. I added a page to the blog called the Tiptoe Soundtrack that will display all the music I share in individual posts in a central location.
I would like to offer on last thank you to all those that have supported this project and I look forward to seeing you here in the coming months!
Back in the spring some folks may remember I made a brief detour into some lighter writing. I chronicled my budding love affair with the Mocha Latte and bemoaned the difficulties of getting a good one when you live in the middle of nowhere. It was a short lived experiment that got side tracked by my personal need to get back on topic, and the general time demands of my summertime commitments. Now as summer winds down my thoughts have again wandered towards creating a new web space that allows me to show a different, and preferably less serious, side. Part of my motivation with the coffee stories was to show that I am much more than a mental problem. Most of us live much deeper lives than we show in these blogs, and I wanted to prove that there was more to me than Klonopin withdrawal and anxiety attacks. I would still like to drop the occasional post here that shows the larger “me”, and I would endeavor to make them less serious than this morning political rant, but I also want a different space to try something new.
There are many aspects of my life that I could use, but I don’t know if they would be interesting to share. I used to like the idea of a commentary on current events, I even started a short lived blog on this vein, but something like this requires an unbelievable amount of research and time. I think I need something that I can write from the heart. Something that may have the occasional researched piece, but that mostly comes from my own experience. I have tossed around a couple ideas, but I seem to be settling around one. About a year and a half ago I took over the meal preparation duties. I surprised myself by really enjoying it, but a lot of the experimentation and fun have been ruined by a new focus on weight loss. Weight loss and my traditional home cooking didn’t work out very well. I hope to begin experimenting with some healthier alternatives this fall, and have been wondering if a cooking Dad trying to find healthier alternatives might make for interesting reading. A bigger question is whether I could stick with it or see it evolve over time. I guess the point of this post is to ask for input. What do you think?
Two weeks ago I used the anonymous platform of this blog to rebel against one of my own long entrenched self defense mechanisms. I am sure to any readers that came across my post it didn’t seem like it was that big a deal. The truth is it didn’t seem like that big a deal to me either. I had heard a song that I really liked and I wanted to tell someone. I wrote at the time that music was something that I was never comfortable expressing my views about. I was afraid of the judgments of my peers, but I had realized that nobody in the blogosphere has any idea who I am so it felt safe. Too my surprise the post was well received and relative to my very small readership appeared fairly popular. After the first post I was feeling encouraged so last week I posted another song, and again folks seemed to like it. Tonight I graduated from my anonymous blog and posted something in a more public forum. It wasn’t music and it wasn’t controversial in any way, but I clipped a yahoo news article and linked it to my Facebook account. I have never done this before. On FB I have always been a lurker. I comment on very little for the same reason that I never tell anybody what music I like.
So did timidly putting my toe in the water on this blog cure my social anxieties and self confidence issues? No. Did it help? Absolutely. I commented a couple weeks back that I have noticed that with the medications all leaving my system a little bit of my old attitude seems to be returning. People used to comment before the depression and anxiety took over my life that I could always be counted on for an honest opinion. I didn’t really varnish the truth, but at the same time I was afraid to tell you what my favorite song was because I didn’t want to be judged. What a strange combination of personality traits.
I can say with certainty that this blog and those that read and comment on it have been unexpectedly therapeutic. I never expected this little digital space to have any real impact on my life, but as the weeks and months pass I am beginning to see connections between the issues I address here, and my ability to cope with those same issues in the real world. For this I am grateful.
I have been giving some thought to the direction I want to take this blog. The addition of the music posts has been both personally helpful and fun. Last week I posted some lifestlyle stuff that I also enjoyed writing. I imagine that I will air all that out on here in the future, but for now in the spirit of music, healing, and strength through adversity I leave you with this music video sent to me by an amazing 19 year old man and leukemia survivor. (I posted this to my Facebook also).
Vodpod videos no longer available.