At the end of July I attended the Mental Health Blog Awards, which took place at The Spice Island Inn, Portsmouth on Saturday 27th July. The event was created and hosted by Mike’s Open Journal.
I first came across the Mental Health Blog Awards on Twitter, through the #MHbloggers hashtag, one of the many #MH hashtags people use to find and communicate with each other.
Mental Health is an aspects of my life that I blog about regularly, I also enjoy reading other mental health blogs, finding out about other people’s experiences and journeys, so to have the chance to meet with these people who are doing amazing things and making a huge difference to how mental health is talked about, seemed like a great opportunity. The tickets were very reasonable so I bought a pair of tickets, tweeted about the event and that was that.
A couple of months later, to my shock, I found out that I’d been nominated for not one but two awards, the Blogger of the Year and Micro Influencer of the Year and I was absolutely over the moon to be nominated. I get quite a good response on my posts across my blog and social media, I’m always receiving lovely comments, but in the 9 months I’ve been blogging the only times people have gone out of their way to private message me about a blog post I’d written is on a Mental Health blog and the messages are incredible, saying how I’ve described how they is feeling or how I’ve helped them feel like they are less alone – those messages mean so much to me, to know my posts have reached out and helped someone, elates me with so much joy.
When the event date finally arrived I was so nervous, I can get shy and anxious meeting new people, it takes me a little while to feel comfortable and to let people really get to know me. As soon as we walked into the venue Mike was making everyone feel at ease, it was a great venue with a really relaxed atmosphere. The room had brochures on each table with a run through of the day, all the awards categories with each sponsor and a list of each nominee, a little squeal came out when I saw my name in there, twice.
I had the chance to speak to and get to know some amazing people, it was fantastic to meet the people behind each blog and it’s funny on how many occasions at these kind of events you don’t know who people are until they give you their twitter or Instagram handle.
The event was a great opportunity to meet some of the sponsors of the event, I was able to have a good long discussion with representatives of Zumos and Instant Counselling. It was interesting to find out the work they do, why they felt so passionately about sponsoring the event and why having platforms like this to discuss mental health is so important.
After a few hours of mingling it came to the awards ceremony. 50% of the voting was done ahead of the event online, the other 50% was by the attendees voting on the day, suddenly a the room felt nervous, with everyone in anticipation to find out who’d won.
Do you know that feeling when you think you could win something, your chances are slim and you know it’s not going to happen but there is that part of you that is secretly hopeful it might, whether that’s an award, the lottery, a competition on Facebook…?
I genuinely didn’t have that feeling, I was convinced I didn’t have a chance, there are so many fantastic nominees in my categories, who’d been doing it a heck of a lot longer than me, with a much bigger following – but somehow, I won! Mike called out the winner for the micro influencer award, said Nicole, I assumed it was the other Nicole who wasn’t able to make it to the event, then he said my blog handle – a twenty something lesbian… shit that’s me! I was not prepared for this at all, I was in total shock, inside I was almost having a panic attack and I wanted cry and scream with excitement all at once. I’m still processing how this happened. I’ve never won an award for anything!
I write my blog because I enjoy it, I write about things that are important to me and that happen in my life. I use this platform as a space to create awareness for Mental Health and the LGBT community but to know that people seem to care about what I write and that it’s reached out and helped in some way fills me with so much pride and makes it all worth it.
One of the things I took away from the mental health blog awards was a comment both Mike and one of the sponsor’s made, and that’s how it’s so important that mental health is something that is just seen as normal and it shouldn’t be talked about so negatively, sometimes it’s just part of life and that’s okay. Having events like the mental health blog awards are so incredibly important into doing exactly that, normalizing mental health. Platforms like blogs, Twitter and Instagram are making such a difference for letting people talk about their mental health and share their struggles, openly and honestly, because talking about how we feel is the upmost important thing, I’ve been that person that bottled everything up, I couldn’t talk to anyone not my friends, not my family and it made me miserable, but being honest with myself and admitting I’m not okay and I need help was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve been depressed in the past, I’ve struggled with low self-esteem, self-harm and even at times suicidal thoughts. But I’ve managed to overcome all of that, it took a long, long time but I got there, going to counselling and learning to be honest with myself and others has changed my life.
If you ever feel like you need to get something off your chest, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem – speak up! There are many great services out there providing help for people who just need to talk, one of which is Instant Counselling. Give them call them when you feel like you need to chat or if you have a problem, they are there to take your calls 24 hours a day.