It’s been a while since I’ve been active on That’s Mental, whether over here on the blog or on my Youtube channel, so I thought it was time to share an honest update and writing felt like the most natural thing to do. So if you’re in the mood for a bit of a natter, read on below. This isn’t about me feeling sorry for myself or complaining, this is about being honest about my mental health which I believe is important.
Why I originally stopped blogging
Back in March I went to Tenerife for the Easter break on a much needed holiday in the sun. Whilst I was there, I realized that my mental health had really suffered during the winter lockdown. I want to caveat this entire section by saying that I’m fully aware I’ve been very fortunate in that I kept my job, I had a roof over my head, and I lived with 2 room mates so compared to many other people my experience was privileged. Not to mention, I’m in good health and that remained the case the entire time. I also realize that travelling during the pandemic was a risk (and a privilege) that many didn’t take – but it was the right thing for me to do. That being said, I think it’s fair to say that lockdown took a toll on everyone’s mental health one way or another, and I didn’t escape it.
It all started around my birthday in October 2020 where I had to cancel a party I had planned due to new restrictions. Because I was annoyed about it I literally ended up spending my birthday all alone and feeling really sorry for myself. Thereafter we were forced to stay home with nothing to do – all gyms and dance schools were closed – both of my main activities, sources of energy and joy. All bars and restaurants were also closed (obviously) and we had a curfew. My social interactions became very limited – I feel lucky as I did still see friends regularly but never more than 4 people at a time – and for someone like me who is an extrovert that’s hard.
In addition after Christmas I ended up living alone in my flat for 3-4 months and although it was enjoyable, I think I also became a bit (more) depressed and introverted as I really lost the will to leave home, exercise, get outside, see people… I was really not enjoying myself much at all. Even salsa (which we kept dancing 1:1) had lost all its joy for me. Fast forward my arrival in Tenerife and I realized just how socially deprived I had been since October, compounded with short winter days and generally poor weather as well as very reduced Christmas festivities… It had been a rubbish time.
It was around that time I stopped creating content – first off because I didn’t take my computer on holiday and decided I needed a bit of a break. Second because I had recently started a new creative project with friends – a podcast called House Life – and it’s pretty challenging to manage 2 creative side projects on top of a regular job, Dutch classes, day to day life tasks, maintaining a social life and more 😅. But that soon turned into a month, and now it’s been almost 7 months since I published a new piece of content.
Why I’m not blogging any more
Today as for most people, life has resumed FULL BLAST and let’s be honest, it’s totally overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I am so happy to see the cities and places I love full of life, people out and about enjoying themselves. It’s really heart warming to see people resume activities, not to mention I’m so happy I can finally dance again as much as I used to (I’m back to 5-6 days a week).
But as for many of us, I now have to juggle my job, with house hunting, the podcast, being an active member of the Amsterdam House Dance Community, working out, Dutch classes, coaching AND trying to plan less 😅 so I can maintain a balance for my mental health. And let me tell you, I’ve not succeeded yet. Instead I totally overloaded myself with activities, and am struggling to keep some kind of healthy routine. In the midst of all that, I’ve not yet been able to find my groove with creating content for That’s Mental. I want to and I have a lot of ideas, but I still need to find the right routine that will give me the space to do it.
The challenges of content creation
Last but not least, I’m going to be really honest here – I find content creation to be a hard and lonely process and that’s also why I temporarily put more focus on the podcast, because we were three and it was more fun to share the job of coming up with ideas, recording and promotion.
My goal with That’s Mental has always been to break down the taboo around mental health, raise awareness and make a difference for people who need it. I want people to read or watch the content and feel less alone, understand that they’re not crazy and that there’s no need to be ashamed. And I’m so happy to think that I have achieved that even just a little – through conversations I’ve had and messages I’ve received.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my perfectionism and relentless need to always be better make it hard for me to enjoy and appreciate the small wins and progress I’ve made. I often obsess over numbers (like website traffic, visitors, likes and shares of posts etc.) and I compare myself to other people (this person published a book, this other person gave a talk at an important function) so I feel like I could always be doing more and better, that I’m not successful enough… Which brings me down.
The flip side to this is that publishing blog posts or sharing videos also feels quite lonely because you’re not having a conversation with anyone. You are posting something onto the world wide web like throwing a bottle into the ocean… Someone might read it and you may or may not get a reply. At the time that’s why I switched to creating videos because it felt more interactive and like a conversation.
After several years of non stop content creation I think I got a bit of blog fatigue, and that’s another reason why I’ve allowed myself to be quiet for so long. I needed time to regain focus, passion and energy for what I do so I can continue to put out content that I’m proud of, that I know will help people and be interesting.
Mental health is a journey, not a destination
I guess what I’ve learned through this process (and am still learning) is to be kind to myself and that it’s ok to take breaks. It’s ok to listen to yourself and take a step back, that doesn’t make you lazy. It’s also ok to not be pumping out content all the time or to be reaching crazy heights of success such as book publishing. What I used to love about this project was that it was a side gig, is now something I have to learn to accept: as a side gig I will never be able to make it grow as much as if I did it full time.
I also want to show – and be honest with myself – that although I’m a mental health advocate I too face my struggles. I also experience setbacks, find it difficult to get out of a slump, and suffer from lack of motivation. With this I hope to show people that nobody’s perfect and that what you see online is only a tiny portion of a person’s life.
If you’ve been struggling too then you’re definitely not alone. If you’re experiencing discomfort or struggling with this new pace of life, it’s totally normal. Let’s continue to normalize this conversation and allow ourselves to speak up when we’re not ok. And most of all, let’s continue to look out for each other in the process.