Like many other teenagers, I fell into the deep pit of Tumblr when I was halfway through secondary school. I didn't really understand it at first — everyone told me that this was the new-and-in form of blogging — but sharing aesthetically-pleasing photographs or reblogging hilarious, fandom-related GIFs (while admittedly, very amusing) just didn't seem to do it for me.

So in January 2015, I started my first real blog.

coffee, tea
Hannah Allaway

It's worth noting that in January 2015, my mental health was somewhere in the gutter. I'd been battling both an eating disorder and depression on my own for quite a while and I was desperately searching for an outlet. I was too scared to tell anyone about the thoughts in my head and I wouldn't have known where to begin anyway — but I knew that I couldn't keep it all bottled up.

And this is what I told my grand total of zero followers that first time that I typed out an anonymous blog post. It wasn't a pretty start — there was a lot of self hate and I remember being in tears on the train, tapping away at my school iPad but continuing anyway because I couldn't see a way that it could possibly make things any worse. If I'm honest, I didn't expect anyone to ever read that post so I was pleasantly surprised when a few likes and follows popped up out of nowhere. 

"People like what I'm writing?" I thought. 

It was a confidence boost to say the least. I was expressing myself and people were not only reading it, but giving me approval, too. And best of all, I was writing under a pseudonym — there was no worry of my friends or family finding out the dangerous things that I was thinking.

I kept posting on that blog regularly for two years — to this day, I still put the occasional thought to paper there when I don't want to burden anyone with my combustive ramblings. But in the end, the reason why I continued to keep my blog alive for so long wasn't the hundreds of followers or encouraging comments or the validation that I received day in, day out. Instead, it was the platform that I gave myself to voice the thoughts that were wreaking havoc in my head.

coffee, wine, beer
Heema Gokani

The biggest danger when it comes to mental health is that problems are easy to hide and keep to yourself. Of course, that's not helpful at all — that's why so many treatment plans include therapists or counsellors — but it's the natural, innate thing to do when you have an issue. By writing on my blog, I created my own safe space without ever having to see someone face to face. It's much easier to be honest when you don't know who you're being honest to.

The people who followed my blog knew all about my issues. They knew about the days when I didn't want to admit that I hadn't eaten anything at all. They knew about the parties where I excused myself to throw up without hesitation. They, more than my counsellor ever did, knew about the scars on my skin and the loathing way I thought about myself.

And they listened.

A year later, I became a little bolder and started up a second blog. This time, it was slightly less rambling and, instead, focused on my food issues. I became brave enough to start signing posts off with my name. I made recipes and gave reviews and even received free samples from several health food companies. I talked about my mental health and the stigmas that surrounded me; I passionately posted during Eating Disorders Awareness Week; I stopped hiding my friends behind fictional names.

And people I knew began to read.

Heema Gokani

I'm not going to lie and say that it was incredibly liberating from the start — the first time  my boyfriend actually read one of my posts I panicked a little — but I've reached a place where this blog is no longer hidden from the people around me. It is out there in the open and anyone can read it.

This is important because I talk about important topics. I may be too scared and struggle with finding the words to discuss these things in real life; but on a blog, I can tell the truth. I can explain the dangers of stereotyping within a mental health context, I can argue about the importance of awareness being spread by those who have never been ill. 

Hiding your mental illness is one of the most dangerous things you can do as it leaves it untreated and just allows it to get worse. But the stigmas surrounding mental health scare people into silence. They terrified me — and even now, despite the fact I've become so much more open about my struggles, I'm frightened of how people might react when they hear what I have to say.

But starting a blog gave me that listening ear.

Blogging was the crutch that allowed me to limp until I was brave enough to ask for a real kind of help. Blogging was the temporary painkillers, the perfectly placed pit stop that I could fall upon at any time. 

Starting a blog gave me hope.

These days, sitting inside and writing isn't really seen as cool. Partying on weekends, getting high post-exams, stuffing your face full of pizza — that's what everyone tells us we should be doing. But if you take the time to type out and make sense of the thoughts in your head, you might find it helpful, and I think that's pretty cool.

Because if starting a blog helps you half as much as it has helped me, then it's definitely worth a shot.