We talk mental health with Sarah Bailey, who shares her own successes and struggles with her blog Life In A Breakdown. Sharing and learning new ideas and coping strategies with her readers is just one of the things Sarah appreciates about being a part of the mental health blogging community – read on for her advice on protecting your own mental health during challenging times.
How did you get started with blogging about mental health?
I was going through a really bad time in my life. I had just been diagnosed with a physical disability in addition to my existing mental health issues and it felt like just as I had started to do something with my life, it had all been taken from me. So, from the start, my blog was partly mental health related, thus the name being a play on breakdown. Although I started with only talking about ‘good’ things.
In the years that have followed, I found it cathartic to write about my issues and hopefully help others going through the same situations. While offering a small amount of help in dealing with issues from a patient’s perspective.
It has, in many ways, helped me come to terms with my own diagnoses as I used to be very secretive about those that had more of a stigma, such as BPD. Now, I openly speak about it.
My blog has also opened doors for me as well. For the past few years I’ve written about anxiety and depression on the Life Effects blog also.
What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
I struggle to focus on any one thing for a long time, so I often ping between topics. One day it might be about my health, another about products, or just a general run down on how things are.
I’ve found that I’ve been able to incorporate that part of myself into my blog, rather than having to just focus on one single niche.
How did you change your approach and content during lockdown?
I found lockdown really hard to cope with. I went from posting five times a week to three. This gave me more time to rest. On a Tuesday, I team up with another blogger to host my Life in a Lockdown series, which goes into how I am coping mentally (and physically) each week.
From this, I’ve noticed a lot of people are struggling with their anxiety even if it isn’t something they normally do. I’ve personally found it interesting to read the comments in this series as it’s interesting to see how people cope. I’ve even found some new strategies from it.
What do you think the longer-term impacts of the pandemic and lockdown will be on mental health and how can people combat them?
I think anxiety is going to be a big one. Wearing masks, keeping our distance, washing hands constantly is all new for people. Talking to people about how you feel is a big help and sometimes means you can connect with people feeling the same.
Utilising online services such as Messenger and Zoom can help you feel connected with those you love. Also, if you need to remove yourself from reading the news – do it. That is another thing I’ve learned from my Life in a Lockdown series – I admitted it was something I found I had to do and a lot people agreed they either had, or should, do the same.
Are mental health issues taken seriously enough in 2020?
No. I think especially in the UK mental health teams are underfunded and while they are trying and some techniques are better some things have gotten worse. For instance, I can now access better therapy for my BPD, but the constant support of a CPN coming out to visit is no longer available.
Do initiatives like World Mental Health Day help with breaking the stigmas surrounding mental illness?
These initiatives are both good and bad. They get people talking and opening up, which is good, but they also bring on the trolls, which isn’t. It is also something we need to begin talking about all year around, not just on certain days. Mental health doesn’t disappear when people aren’t talking about it.
When you’re having a difficult time, what helps you?
It depends on how I feel at the time; sometimes being with people, sometimes just having a few minutes alone. I’m also working on things like the TIPP and ACCEPTS skills which I recently learned in DBT. It is hard working on new skills to try and get them working, but repeated use will hopefully make it easier.
I’ve also very much learnt that what works for one won’t for another and it’s OK to accept that a certain skill doesn’t work for you. At last, mental health workers seem to be coming to terms with that as well. The first time someone said ‘it’s OK that this doesn’t work for you’ rather than them looking at me like I had an extra head was such a huge relief for me.
Which books on mental health and wellness would you recommend people check out?
I honestly struggle with a lot of mental health books, many are around CBT, which doesn’t work for me.
Instead, I use things like affirmation cards to give me a short positive statement to think on at bad times, or puzzle books/colouring books as a way to self soothe.
How do you collaborate with brands, and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I collaborate with brands in a host of different ways, from reviews to sponsored posts and even writing patient views for their own websites. I love anything that gets me thinking and focusing and as I said before, I write about a host of topics as I find that works for me.
I do have a passion for small brands as I guess, as a blog, that is what I am, too.
For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
Show that you have looked at my blog, show that it interests you. So many emails are often generic and feel like they have been sent to anyone and everyone. A bit of personalisation goes a long way. After all, that’s what you would like me to do if I approached you.
What other blogs do you check out regularly?
This is a hard one, as I bounce around blogs (and vlogs) a lot like I do my own writing. I must be careful with other mental health blogs as well as they can be triggering. However, The Mental Elf, Sectioned and Life on the Borderline are some I regularly go back to.