30 September 2011

Reflections on nine months of blogging: Meh.

by Nia

I started this blog in January 2011 as a place to capture my thinking about my decades-long depression that ended about 12 years ago. About two years ago I started getting angry about how little support I had had, how you weren't supposed to talk about it, how you weren't supposed to acknowledge how much it cost. In a blog I figured I could express my frustration and categorize my ideas neatly and make them easy to find for someone going through that same shit who needs some validation about his/her emotions. However, after a few posts I realized I was in danger of boring myself to death, so I roped in my friends Pastor Jayne and Soledad for their perspectives on their own experiences with depression. Their thoughtfulness and enthusiasm have added exponentially to Blessed Depth.

We tried to recruit four different guys to join us, to balance out the hormones, but struck out with all of them and gave up. That was an important lesson: don't bother approaching someone about contributing to your blog if they don't read blogs. They'll think you're pathetic. The blogging and non-blogging worlds are a galaxy apart. And I understand perfectly: the vast majority of the blogosphere has all the grace of a strip mall, staffed by people who don't get enough attention at home. It took me five years of ruthless culling of my RSS reader feed list before I started to think that maybe it would be cool to join these blogger people.

After a few months of regular posts I started researching how to get the blog noticed by . . . well, anyone. I read Blogging for Dummies and blogging websites and how-to-blog posts by Mommy Wants Vodka and the mega-successful Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond. Everyone said the same thing: leave comments on other blogs in your area of interest until you're blue in the face. (The second most important thing to promote a blog is to post a lot, which I just can't do.)

This was a problem. I had never read blogs about depression. Perfume, astronomy, and product design, yes. Mood disorders, no. I started going through a list of about 180 mental-health blogs from the American Psychological Association's Your Mind Your Body blog. Maybe 30 of them I'd be willing to comment on. I was hindered by several things:

  • For some people this is natural. For me it is like having teeth pulled.

  • I no longer belong to the community I'm writing for. I feel a bit like an imposter. "Mercenary, stalking creep" might be a bit strong.

  • I ignore anything written for content farms.

  • I have no tolerance for padding and fluff like inspirational quotes and lists of links. Posting a lot is REALLY overrated.

  • I find it too stressful to read about abuse, a subject of many mental-health bloggers. I have to manage my stress level carefully. I'm pretty sure that watching "The Wire" gave me PTSD. Band Back Together almost killed me. They should consider a DEFCON warning system for their posts.

  • Many bloggers use a daily journal format to ruminate about their mental state. I need more distillation of the relevant points, as it were. I just don't have that kind of time.

  • For many mood-disordered bloggers, connecting with other bloggers is not on their list of priorities. They've got bigger battles.

As I continued my exploration I became increasingly pissed-off by the tendency of almost all the so-called "experts" -- practitioners, researchers -- to discuss the different types of depression as one and the same. They should be specified, separated out: depression caused by events, by biochemistry, by other medications, by thinking habits learned while depressed, by thinking habits learned just from being alive in the 21st century -- or as Cary Tennis called them in this post, "little linguistic machines of death."

People who've had their moods swoop up and down for 20 years are looking online for help and being told to "think positive thoughts." It's like spitting on a prairie fire. We need some way to categorize and describe the different levels of depression so that people are not left in despair by experts quoting cognitive behavioral tricks that might very well help someone at a different level of mood disorder, but which for other people are no more than moronic platitudes. This disconnect also has the potential to reinforce a misconception that a lot of sufferers hear all their lives, that their depression is their fault and that they're not trying hard enough, when that might not be the speaker's intent at all.

And don't even get me started on the lack of information about the blatantly obvious nutritional link to depression. At the rate the American medical establishment is going, it'll be 50 years before nutritional therapy becomes common practice for mood disorders.

Anyway, I finally abandoned the list and instead visited umbrella organizations of bloggers and writers and designers such as BlogHer and SheWrites and Technorati. I was more successful in connecting to other bloggers, but not to other mental-health bloggers, and not to other mental-health blog readers.

At the moment we have between scores and hundreds of visitors a day, including a dozen Russian spyware sites and an odd Jakarta resident who copies every single post to his non-English-language blog.

Anyone who finds us will do so through search engines and are at the mercy of my SEO keywording and categorizing and tagging. Kind of like the buried Monolith in "2001: A Space Odyssey," Blessed Depth's signal is beeping under the static of a million thrice-a-day bloggers.

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Image: detail of still photo of Elsa Lanchester from "Bride of Frankenstein," copyright 1935, renewed 1998 by Universal Studios. And I'm guessing there's some trademark thingamajig with that Apple product photo. Remix by M. Rhea.