This week marks the one year anniversary of my blog. Since I began My New Frontier, I felt it was only fitting to look and back and see how far I - and you, my dear reader - have come.
Reading that inaugural blog post is strange. There are plans and projects that were completed, others abandoned either due to a change in course, or an insurmountable difficulty when it came to my trip to America.
In the cold days of January last year I was bruised, but hopeful. I started this blog for so many reasons. I love writing and dedicating myself to such a project provided a stimulant to keep me sane in long periods of mind-numbing work. I wanted to document my journey - not just my recovery from depression and the various ways mental health affected my life - but my life in it's totality. I wanted to do this, not for attention or a disposition towards narcissism (although I'm sure there are those that will disagree with that) but out of a belief that by sharing the good and bad of my life, it might encourage others to do the same.
It was not envisioned to be a mental health blog - I write about a whole range of topics - but it is a subject that continuously came up; through my own progress, that of my Mum and the day-to-day difficulties we all experience from just living through life.
Given that I expected the only readers I would get would be Mammy Gloria (who is my number one fan, naturally) and my friends, I was surprised at the speed that the blog grew in terms of readership and the radars it began appearing on.
As a result of specific posts around mental health, I was approached by The Journal to write an article about my recovery from anorexia. I would also contribute an opinion piece about the state of our national mental health services. On the back of that initial piece, I was approached by TV3 to appear on IrelandAM to speak about my recovery from my eating disorder.
Not long after, I was nominated for a blog award by Her.ie and although I didn't win (I really didn't expect to, I was up against far more established blogs whose content would be of more interest to the sites readership). But the fact I was nominated after three months of blogging, made me feel quite honoured. Plus the award ceremony at House was highly enjoyable.
But with the highs, come the lows. Blogging about my life was a process. No man is an island so in order to document my life in searing honesty, posts were going to involve other people. I did what I could to do this in the most ethical manner; I checked with the main people in my life if it was ok to mention them (namelessly, of course) in my blog. It turns out the people are fine with being talked about, once what you're saying reflects positively on them. When it came to the breakdown of some relationships in my family, with the benefit of heinzsight, I would've done things differently. Although my feelings and views were genuine expressions of where I was at, it caused upset and hurt to people which was not my intention and not the kind of person I am.
So I had to adapt how I wrote. Instead of documenting word-by-word accounts of what happened or what was going on, I tried to reign the focus onto the feelings I was experiencing and the expression of those through different themes I explored in my wrting. It's a decision that makes this process difficult at times. You see, as my post count began to rise, so did the amount of people contacting me to share their own stories and hardships. They identified in different ways with what I was writing about and because of my own frankness, they felt it was okay to be equally frank too - to me, to the people in their lives, even on their own blogs.
As I said, although this blog is not a mental health blog, it is a topic that comes up time and time again, which is only natural. We encounter things on a daily basis that affect our mental health on varying levels. One of the things I'm most proud of with this blog is that it's encouraged people to talk, to feel that they can honestly say what's going on in their mind without being judged - and as a result, strengthen their own well-being by doing so.
Although I had to change how I did it, I never considered giving up. Because I know that my struggles are not exclusive to me. While we often hear the expression that life is hard, we're still fighting to get people to talk about their tough times. The stigma that exists around mental health difficulties and mental illness boggles my mind. Nobody chooses to suffer from depression anymore than they chose to get cancer or have a heart condition. And yet we treat matters of the mind as something to be ashamed of, something to be discussed in hushed tones. Which I just think is wrong.
By sharing my life and my up's and down's, I did so with a line from an Emily Dickinson poem always ringing in my mind: If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
I hope that by sharing this on-going journey, you can learn you're not alone in you heartbreak, your torment, your hard times and dark moments. That there is a precedent for the experience of sorrow - and that escape from it will come, the light will shine again. You will shine again.
There was a time, just before I started this blog, when I felt irreparably broken. The sadness that enveloped me made me think that I could never be me again, that happiness was something that was unattainable. From that moment to now, I have learnt two very important things.
Happiness is a choice, one you make time and time again. When you find something or someone that makes you happy, chose it. Figure out what makes you happy and do it. Decide that happiness is something you deserve in your life. There is no singular definition of happiness - it changes over time, just like we do. But if you can find the thing, or the person, or whatever it is that makes you happier than anything else, that makes you better person for their existence in your life, that you don't want to imagine a scenario with their absence, hold on. Tight.
The second thing regards our spirit. There are times when we feel broken. That our very souls have been wounded beyond repair. In these hopeless moments, we wonder if we will ever recover, if we will ever be the same again. But the truth is, you're indestructible. Your shattered pieces can be put back together again. The day will come when you feel whole. It may take a while, and that's okay. But the important thing to remember is that you are never irreparably broken. No matter the grief or hurt, there is help, and you won't always feel that darkness.
So Happy 1st Birthday to me. Here's to many more.
P.S - I've included some pictures from over the last year below - V Day at The Late Late, my trip to Aras to meet the President, my first time sailing and a bunch of other happy events. Enjoy.