It’s been a while since I’ve written anything substantial and I’m not sure that’s what I’m bringing you today. I’m still dealing with some creative block. I’ve had a lot going on and my day job takes a lot of brainpower, so I haven’t had a lot left over. That said, I have gained a loyal following of readers who are so supportive, encouraging, and inspiring. I’ve been thinking of you often during this lull in my writing abilities.
I missed Mental Health Month because, honestly, my mental health was suffering. And that’s okay. Because I know that there are people out there who believe in me and I know that this is my reason. So, I keep trying and one of these days I’m going to hit my stride. In the meantime, I’m going to be kind to myself. I was on leave for half of a year! I’ve been working full-time since I was 17 and I’ve never had that much time off; not even in between jobs. It’s a big adjustment.
Anyway, I think when you have a brain disorder, every month is Mental Health Month. In that vein, I started writing a post about stigma and how we can work to bust it. I might publish it still but, earlier today, inspiration struck and I decided to go in a slightly different direction. I’m going to talk about mental health blogging, why it’s unique, and what I’ve learned over the last year. The Dos and Don’ts of mental health blogging. Merely suggestions, mind you.
Mental Health Blogging Dos and Don’ts
Blogging is one of the most accessible ways to bust stigma and make your voice heard. Many free platforms are user-friendly and you can use them to make beautifully designed websites. Maybe in a future post, I’ll go more into detail about how to start mental health blogging, but right now I want to focus on the things I’ve learned along the way.
All over Al Gore’s internet, you can find a million lists of things that you should or shouldn’t do or believe when it comes to blogging. Not many of them are specific to mental health blogging; there seems to be a lack of information about that specific niche. I saw one of these lists today and it got me thinking…my journey in mental health blogging had taught me the opposite of some of these “tried and true” tips to blogging success.
So here is my list of mental health blogging advice…
Do: Make sure you are ready.
I don’t mean that you have the blog all set up or the posts written. Mental health blogging can be extremely personal. Once it’s out there, the whole world has access to it and that can feel intimidating. Mental health blogging is one of the most healing things I’ve ever done for myself, but I had to be ready for it. When I first started the blog back in May 2020, I wasn’t ready and I had to put the brakes on after just a few weeks.
How does one know when they’re ready? Well, there is no real answer to that. As I’ve mentioned before, I knew I was ready right after my diagnosis, fueled by anger and hope. If it doesn’t feel right, makes you feel bad, or gives you anxiety, take a step back. Only you will know, but don’t make yourself sick over a blog. It will always be there when you get ready and you will be ready someday.
Don’t: Force yourself to write about things you want to keep personal.
Before I started, I put off beginning a blog for years because there were parts of my story that I wasn’t ready to tell yet. When I started mental health blogging last year, part of the reason that I stopped was that I was barely scraping the surface and it was terrifying me. I couldn’t go on. Be kind to yourself. You have plenty to say without telling the stories you’d like to keep close to the cuff.
The longer I go on, the more comfortable I feel telling the stories that I wasn’t ready to tell when I first started. And you know what? The worst happened. In two instances, in the same week, someone read my blog and recognized themselves in my story; being portrayed in a negative light. It was my worst blogging fear; that I would be confronted for my writing and have to explain myself.
Great news, y’all! I survived it. Yep. That’s right. I came out fairly unscathed. The best part is? My blog is still helping people. I know I am on the right path. You’ll get there, but please don’t ever force yourself to write about the things that belong to only you. The world needs no explanation for your trauma or your pain.
This goes for disclosing diagnosis’ as well. Don’t feel pressure to ever disclose any medical information. Remember…the whole world has access to your blog; every phone, computer, and tablet.
Do: Have something to offer.
I don’t mean physically…or even digitally. Though some bloggers do, in fact, offer a plethora of amazing goods and services, your offer doesn’t have to be so literal. Help them learn something. Mental health blogging is no different from any other type of blogging when it comes to this. People are looking for useful or interesting information when they come to a blog and this is also what will keep them coming back.
Are you putting in the work in therapy and feel comfortable being open about it? Write about it. Are you having a particularly bad time mentally and you want to normalize not being okay? Write about it. Are you learning all about your disorders using every avenue possible and you want to share it with the world? Mental health blogging is where it’s at. But you have to create engaging and/or useful content.
Don’t: Worry about niching down.
I might get flack for this one, but I feel it in my bones about blogging in general, but particularly mental health blogging. It’s perfectly okay for your niche to just be “mental health.” You don’t have to pick a niche in a niche inside of micro-niche in a niche. Granted, there are some amazing blogs that are very specific. They are all needed.
ADHD and mental illness are roundly seen as two different things. I tend to agree with that and I have treated them separately in the past. The reason I include them both and refuse to niche down any further is that I have 5 different brain disorders. Each one affects me thoroughly. They permeate every aspect of my personality, my decision-making, my thought process…
Until 8 months ago, I knew nothing about 3 of them and almost completely false or incomplete information about another. The only one I was truly familiar with was my old friend, anxiety. My immediate reaction, upon diagnosis, was research and my immediate reaction to that research was, “I have to tell people. I have to tell everyone.” I wanted to talk about my experience as a whole. I have ADHD and I have mental illnesses. Don’t let something as small as micro-niching hold you back.
Do: Pick 1-2 social media platforms to focus on in the beginning.
Look…social media is hard work. I’m not just saying that because I’m old(ish). It’s a lot of graphics and cropping and learning how to take pleasing photographs. It’s being social and engaging and likable. It’s selling yourself to prospective friends and selling your ideas to prospective audiences at the same time. They all have different rules and algorithms and, frankly, it can be a huge pain in the butt.
In the beginning, I really thought I was going to conquer a brand new blog and all social media platforms, Pinterest included. Eventually, I took the pressure off. I took the two that I enjoyed the least and I decided I would leave them alone for the time being. I have no plans to go back to them anytime soon and I put no pressure on myself to do so. I focus on my chosen platforms and my growth has been steady over the lasts 6 months.
Don’t: Do it for the “money.”
Dudes. I’m going to say this loud for the people in the back, so cover your earballs…BLOGGING IS NOT QUICK, EASY MONEY. It takes YEARS for most people to start seeing a profit. Mental health blogging is even harder to monetize. Ads pay very little and are virtually useless without massive amounts of traffic that smaller or newer blogs just don’t see. There are fewer opportunities to do sponsorships or advertised posts and it’s harder to come up with useful digital content and merchandise.
This is not about the money. This is about the fight. You have to have a strong desire to help. When I started the blog, I knew two things, 1) I wanted to help people like me to learn about their brains and, 2) to help the loved ones of people like me to understand their people a little better. That is still my main drive today. Educate, advocate, create community.
I would never lie to you and tell you that I don’t want to make money. My dream in life is to be able to write full-time. To get paid to write and help people while I’m doing it? Get out of here! I couldn’t imagine it. I’ve also been very vocal about wanting to get into public speaking. If this blog leads me to those dreams, it’s because I’ve worked very hard for it. That said, money was never my reason and it shouldn’t be yours either. You will be sadly disappointed if you’re looking for a quick buck…or any buck, for that matter.
Do: Throw most of the rules out the window.
Seriously. Chuck them. They will stifle you if you try to follow them too closely. Here’s the thing…none of the rules matter if your content suffers because of them. This is a trap that I got stuck in. In the beginning, I was trying to make myself write on a schedule and to produce insane amounts of work. I was trying to follow all of these rules that I had read in my research and was feeling stifled.
Finally, after some discussion with bloggers who had been at it for longer than me, I decided that I would no longer hold myself back with rules that someone made up along the way. My writing would speak for itself. I do still have a rule or 2 that I go by, but usually, because I’ve learned some lesson along the way; not because I’m trying to blindly follow some rules I read on the internet.
Don’t: Feel bad about place ads/monetizing in any ethical way.
As I said above, we’re out here trying to put food on the table. If you can turn your mental health blog into a side hustle, there is no shame in that. Some people will try to make you feel bad about it; like your motives have to be completely altruistic. Don’t listen to that. You deserve compensation for your hard work; just make sure that you’re putting out a product that is worth it.
Do: Write about your own experiences.
When I first received my diagnosis, I didn’t find myself in the pages on the Google searches. I saw myself in other people’s stories. I found Twitter threads and blog posts written by people who had been there and could put a real face on what I was dealing with. I learned so much from online communities; always taking the information back to my therapists, “Did you know this was a thing?!”
People in our situation just want to feel seen. We want our struggles to be validated. We want to know it’s not our fault. By writing about our real experiences with brain disorders, we start to normalize them. We are just normal people, living normal lives, who happen to struggle with disorders we didn’t ask for. We should be treated with kindness, compassion, and respect. By telling our stories, we provide insight into what we go through that “normal” people don’t usually get.
Don’t: Compare your self to other bloggers.
It’s easy to do. We live in a world that feels competitive at all times. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. I have found, by and large, that other bloggers are the most supportive people that I have met on this journey, no matter the genre that they write. Truth is, even 2 writers that write about the same topic are not going to the same. They’ll have different approaches, writing styles will be different, and their experiences will be vastly different.
We each have something unique to offer this world. Other bloggers are your friends, not your foes.
Do: Read other blogs every day.
When I first started my blogging adventure, I kept reading that keeping up with other blogs was an imperative part of blogging. I felt so busy trying to build my website, do research for posts, do that actual writing and publishing, and then promoting a new post every few days. I felt like I didn’t have time to read, let alone enjoy, other people’s work. Then I decided to take action.
I started making a cup of coffee at 10 am every morning and spending one full hour reading other writer’s blogs. I loved it. Not only was I helping to support other writers in the same way that I had hoped for support, but I was getting inspiration from other people. Make sure you give them a like or a comment when you see something that you enjoy or learned from; even a direct message or an email. The feedback means the world to a person who has been pushing themselves to create great content.
Don’t: Link drop and run.
When I first got started, the idea of promoting the blog was intimidating and scary. I knew my way around social media, but strictly as a social tool…not for marketing purposes. When a new blog would publish, I would post a link to it and that was all. I had very few followers and almost no engagement or interaction. Then something great happened. I found that ADHD and writing communities and everything changed.
I started talking to people, participating in writer’s lifts, and making friends. There are people that I now interact with daily and I truly enjoy and value them. I still post my links to new blogs and I have a plugin that auto-posts old blogs, but now I engage with my readers and other writers. Again, my traffic has seen a steady increase since I started being active and engaged on my chosen social media platforms.
Do: Take constructive criticism to task and positive feedback to heart.
Criticism can be hard, even when it’s helpful. When I first started mental health blogging, I had someone reach out to me via direct message with some really helpful ideas of how to make my site faster and more appealing. For the first 30 seconds, I felt offended because I have RSD. Then, I quickly realized that they were trying to help me. For free. A stranger on the internet. How nice is that? I changed what I could (my web building capabilities are limited) and I thanked them for their advice. Recognize when someone is trying to help you and then put it into action!
On the converse side of that, devour the positive feedback that you receive. Let it be the wind beneath your wings. Remember that you are touching people, helping people in their most vulnerable times. You are fighting a good fight and it’s okay to take to heart the good things that people say about you. Nothing reaffirms my path more than when a total stranger emails me to say that I helped them, even in the small ways. It means everything…allow yourself to absorb it.
Don’t: Write long paragraphs.
I hated this “rule” in the beginning. I hated it because I was a writer of long paragraphs. I’m a long-winded person and I write just exactly how I think and I didn’t like being told that my long paragraphs might be too boring for the average person. Begrudgingly, I started using shorter paragraphs. But then I came to a realization…I hate reading long paragraphs. I get overwhelmed by their volume and it turns me off of the piece. Suddenly, I realized…it’s an accessibility issue.
People process information in different ways and it can be really difficult for neurodivergent folks, for example. So now I always make sure that the “You are using short paragraphs” item is green on my SEO checklist. I hope that shorter paragraphs make it easier to get through extremely log articles (like this one!).
Do: Pay attention to SEO.
Though SEO can be frustrating and seem arbitrary in some ways, SEO rules were designed to make posts better. They do, for the most part. But, again, don’t let it stifle your creativity. Mental health blogging should be something you enjoy doing and writing for SEO can sometimes feel like a chore. Right now, I’m worried that I haven’t used “mental health blogging” enough times in this post.
That said, it really does work. I have started getting steady traffic from several major search engines, including Google. It’s not a lot of traffic…maybe 2 or 3 views a day, but it’s every day now and that will grow all of the time. I worry more about SEO on what are called “evergreen” posts, which are posts that are written to stand the test of time; the posts that people want to find when doing a specific search. Make sure you have green checks across the board on all of these cornerstone posts.
Don’t: Pay so much attention to SEO that your writing starts to lose it’s meaning.
Perfectionist that I am when it comes to my writing, I have to turn all the checkboxes green on my SEO list or I convince myself that my posts will never do well and I should quit mental health blogging all together. Alas, this leads to me making choices I wouldn’t normally make and sometimes makes me feel…watered down or too commercial. You want to focus on SEO on your most important parts, but don’t stress yourself if all the checks aren’t green. Stay genuine and true to your style.
Not all posts are meant to be evergreen and not all posts will be profound. This is something that I fight with; oftentimes feeling like my “update” posts aren’t worthy. But they are. They are still an important part of the story for those of you who are following along. Sure, they may not make sense in 6 months when they are out of context and that’s okay. Be kind to yourself. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.
Do: HAVE FUN!!
Listen. Blogging of any type should be enjoyable. It is a lot of hard work and you have to really be committed to it, but it is so much fun. I have made great friends through blogging. I have grown my confidence and my character through blogging. It has helped me heal and filled my days with purpose. It shouldn’t ever feel like a dreaded chore. If it does, then simply take a break and come back to it when you feel refreshed.
Don’t: Get caught up in the numbers.
I’m not one to talk…I track my numbers religiously. I can’t help myself. When I find myself caring about them too much, I make myself back away. Blogging is a long haul. You will see your numbers grow over time. As long as you keep producing consistent, quality content, the readers will find you. Don’t let a bad day, or even a bad month, keep you down. It takes months of hard work and extreme promotion to get to thousands of views a month. Just keep trucking and know that it will all come out in the wash.
So that’s what was on my mind today…some true-to-life do’s and don’ts to get you started on your mental health blogging journey. Remember, my DMs and email are always open and you can book Zoom sessions with me on Buy Me A Coffee. I’ve learned a lot in the last year and it is lovely to be able to share the wealth of knowledge with you. Also, thanks for hanging in there with this long-ass post!
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Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight! 💜💜
Writing about living with ADHD and mental illness and my journey down a thriving path forward. Breaking stigmas and creating community, one post at a time.