by Phoenix A. Desertsong, The Perpetual Prose Machine
"The Prose Machine Interviews” is a series where we interview AWESOME writers and share their insights about the online writing craft! Today, we’re SO EXCITED to have with us Nicole Carman of the mental health blog & product review website Navigating Darkness! Nicole has been blogging since January 2011 and her blog has transformed into the mental health focused venue that it is today!
Blogging can be an immensely difficult task, especially with those that struggle with anxiety, depression, etc. And it’s so awesome that the blogging community has really stepped up and welcomed us so warmly even when we’re dreadfully inconsistent! Mental health is definitely a huge topic that many bloggers have begun to focus on, yet it seems awareness still isn’t what it should be. So, it’s really great to have people like Nicole in the blogging community helping shed light on just what it’s like to struggle with these ailments!
Onto the interview!
The Prose Machine: Thanks bunches, Nicole, for reaching out to us and taking your time to answer our silly questions! Typically, I’d start by asking about how you started blogging and whatnot, but since your about section covers that pretty well, I’ll be asking questions more specific to your blogging journey when it comes to mental health.
Q1: Since dedicating yourself purely to mental health awareness - and the occassional product review - how have you found that you’ve grown both as a writer and a person?
Nicole: Writing about mental health awareness and the occasional product review has definitely allowed me to grow in more ways than one.
Writing about mental health has allowed me to be open and honest with myself and others about what I'm going through. I suffered in silence for over ten years and, while I was able to cope with it for a while, it caught up with me. Holding it all in will eventually catch up with everyone suffering in silence. I finally reached my breaking point. I realized that speaking up was the first and one of the most important steps to my journey in recovery and, in that way, I think it made me a stronger person.
It has also opened up the world of empathy to me. I grew up in an environment that didn't really have a trace of empathy anywhere so I never knew how to be empathetic because I didn't know what it meant or felt like. It wasn't until after I started writing about mental health and seeing what others were going through that I really learned how to genuinely empathize with others. I found that I have so much in common with many other wonderful people and I'm able to lend my ear to listen or shoulder to cry on if anyone needs it. While we sometimes feel so alone, that is far from the truth.
Prose Machine: There’s definitely growing support online for dealing with mental health, which is really needed. As you said, sometimes you’re only going to find empathy by going online, and it’s great that it’s been getting easier to find that. I’ve found some myself. And yes, you definitely are never alone, which is always good to be reminded of :)
Q2: In your time writing Navigating Darkness, how do you feel that mental health awareness has grown?
Nicole: I've been writing about mental health since March of 2018 after I received my first official diagnosis from a psychiatrist. Since I started writing about it, I've been doing my best to write about the things I've gone through and experienced so that other people can learn more about it. Many other mental health bloggers do the same and, even in the short time I've been writing about it, I can tell that it is making an impact because it's getting conversations started.
The best way to bring about awareness is to talk about it. The more I talk about it, the more comfortable I get with talking about it. This is especially important when it comes to blogging, because my true and raw feelings go into my blog posts. While it might make me feel vulnerable to say certain things, I know that there's a good chance that it is going to help at least one person. One in four people have a mental illness. Just imagine how many people we can help if we keep talking to each other. The fact that I can tell a difference on my own Twitter feed within only six months makes me so hopeful for future mental illness treatment methods.
Prose Machine: As someone who’s struggled with various mental health ailments, I’ve found it immensely difficult to bring them out into the open. But as a writer who believes that self-reflection through writing leads to eye-opening moments of self-discovery, I think it’s important that those of us that struggle with mental health chronicle our struggles. Even if we don’t always publish them, it should be just for our own well-being as a person.
Q3: For those that are looking to blog about mental health awareness, are there some important things that people should know before venturing into focusing on what can be a very complicated niche?
Nicole: If someone is interested in writing about mental health, there aren't really any guidelines or rules.
My main piece of advice is to always be honest. There is no point in spreading awareness about something that isn't true because it would be incredibly counterproductive. You can share as little or as much as you want, but honesty is the best policy.
For certain topics, a Trigger Warning (or TW's, as some abbreviate) may be advisable depending on the content of your post. While being raw and honest in your writing is fantastic, it's a great practice to give people a heads up if they're going to be reading about something that could potentially trigger someone, otherwise it could be dangerous. A Trigger Warning is especially advisable in posts that touch on subjects like self-harm and suicide.
I also recommend doing your research if you aren't certain about something. For example, if you're writing about a specific mental illness, be sure to do some research on it to be sure that any information that isn't your own personal experience(s) is accurate. It doesn't take long to do this, and it might even give you an idea of something to add to your post(s). Be sure to cite your references. :)
The Prose Machine: Research is so important! Because it turns out that if you don’t know all the facts about something, most other people won’t either. I agree about the Trigger Warnings, and although I don’t really have any, it’s important that we keep them in mind especially when writing about highly sensitive topics, as you said.
My issue with writing about mental health is that I’ve really never felt qualified. But, personal experience is really all you need because someone out there is going through some of the same things as you. Shared experiences are extremely powerful!
This is awesome stuff! Thanks so much Nicole for sharing your insights with us! :)
You can follow Nicole & Navigating Darkness at any of these Social Media venues:
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Often known by her nickname "Ami," Ms. Phoenix Amelia Desertsong has written for many online publications, often under pen names.