blogging yourself home – part 2

in my last MentalHealthCamp post, we started talking about what the word “home” means to us. the wordle image here illustrates what some of the commenters in that post said, as well as what was mentioned during the workshop at MentalHealthCamp.

what happens when you are in this good home, and you’re going through a phase when you don’t feel so good – and that can mean anything, from the blahs to an acute psychotic episode?

i’d like to tell you a bit about what leon tan says – on twitter, his name is @hyblis – who wrote a very good case history on myspace and blogging as self therapy.

it’s a study of someone he calls “jenny”, who used blogging first to come to terms with a difficult relationship and then after the breakup, with the suicide of her ex boyfriend.

“the internet provided a sort of safehouse from where i could speak freely for the first time” so perhaps here we have the notion of the good home as a safehouse

blogging as being home – general

  • writing is our cultural medium, quoting gillie bolton (i’d like to add that for many of us, the written word itself is “home”)
  • a blog has 24/7 availability
  • a blog is a storeroom of history, just like a home is

home – community

  • blogging is part of a progressively unfolding mixed reality social ecology – what we were doing at MentalHealthCamp, where virtual contacts met face-to-face, was a good example of this
  • blogging includes personal videos, lists of personal movies, music, books, images, songs, poetry, etc. – like the things you would have in your home; and people who feel attracted to them are people you can be at home with. this is part of a promise of listening, empathy, understanding and belonging to a wider community

home – community – people you are at home with

  • people who say “i get so what you mean”
  • people with whom you can exchange understanding, validation, support, encouragement, people with whom you can rehearse new ways of communicating
  • all things you would get from a therapist but the reciprocity would be much lower
  • reciprocity is one of our deepest needs, and something that is often lacking when someone has a diagnosis of mental illness
  • substantial and longer lasting that a psychotherapeutic relationship, which ends at treatment termination

therapeutic aspects

  • it would be silly to say that blogging can completely replace face to face therapy; just like it would be silly to say that virtual friends can completely replace friends in flesh and blood
  • but blogging, and particularly blogging as writing, is a therapeutic tool that can be used very effectively
  • blogging can help a person gain or regain confidence and trust
  • blogging as writing can be a form of catharsis, a safe re-experiencing and cleansing of deep and often traumatic emotions
  • peers replaced the clinician in giving guidance and inspiration and helping choosing topics for writing

i realize that what i have been saying so far is looking at blogging through rose-coloured glasses. i don’t want to deny the fact that the blogging community can also be difficult – in fact, one of our presenters, terra, talks about that – but for the purpose of this presentation, i’d like us to focus on what we each individually and as a group can do to make our blogs and our blogging community a good home.

once we have a good home, a home that is comfortable, relaxed, safe, a home rich in history and treasures, a home in which we are anchored, then we can launch ourselves, just like jenny did.

at this point in the workshop, i said that i wanted to open this up for discussion in a short while. before we did that, however, i gave participants a moment of reflection – i think reflection is very important both for creative writing and for our mental health – and invited them to do a bit of reflective writing, or maybe we should call it imaginative writing.

so i’d like to do this here, too. write a paragraph or two about mental health. maybe you already know what you want to write, and if not, here are some ideas. you can write your reflections wherever you wish – but of course i’d be delighted if you added it as a comment or even blogged about it. here are some ideas:

  • a good home, a good community is a place where everyone is accepted, “no-one is left behind.” what does a community look like when it is free of stigma?
  • if you wrote a completely anonymous blog, what would you write about? what risks would you take?
  • if mental illness was a treasure chest not a burden, how would you describe the treasures?
  • create a friendly conversation with a mental illness – depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc.
  • if you had all the time and money in the world, how would you contribute to your community – online and/or offline?

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