On Getting Help

So, it’s mental health day again. I’ve seen a lot of great posts floating around on the internet – poems and blog posts about what it’s like to have a mental illness, ones intended to inspire and uplift those who are feeling down, and a lot of statuses advising people to reach out and get help if they need it. Which is all great.

Except, what does reaching out and getting help entail, exactly?

While I was at university, I had what I now describe as a breakdown. At the time, I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know who I was, what I was doing, or how to stop hurting. Needless to say, it was terrifying.

I had a decent sized social circle, so a lot of people knew I was having problems. Some knew more than others, of course. But no one really knew the full ins and outs of it – how could they, when I didn’t understand it myself?

In a lot of ways, I was crying out for help. And many of them tried to help, but only a few actually did.

Now, I’m not laying blame here. There were a million reasons why people didn’t and couldn’t help me – legit reasons. But that’s the simple truth of it: I needed help and, despite everything, couldn’t find it.

I phoned a helpline and, to be honest, found it unhelpful. They wanted to talk, but I wanted to stop drowning.

I asked them something along the lines of, ‘Can you get me an appointment to see someone, or have someone diagnose me, or do anything other than listen to me?’ and they said no, and I hung up.

Don’t get me wrong, having someone to listen to you is important. For some people, it’s all they want or need. And it was part of what I needed but, down in the dark where I was, I needed more.

I tried counselling to mixed success. I went to my GP, and googled ways to find help (and googled, and googled, until I could google no more).

Nothing was working. Nothing was enough.

For a long while, I would have actually been relieved to have been sectioned. Then people would realize how bad I was, and come to me with help rather than me having to be the one to go out and find it.

In the end, I can’t actually tell you what stopped the downward cycle. It probably was a mix of friends, counselling, GP appointments, Google, and helplines.

All I know is, one day I didn’t hurt quite so badly. I came out of a big period of depression and was able to see clearly enough to chart my way back to health. For the most part, anyway. (I still have bad days, of course, but nothing like my last year in Lincoln.)

Maybe that particular bout of depression shifted all on its own, the same way it had come of its own accord. Maybe if I hadn’t left Lincoln, I’d still be under it. I don’t know. Answers still aren’t easy.

Telling someone to ask for help is easy. What’s harder is the listening, and the searching for solutions on someone else’s behalf.

This is not a blog post for those who are drowning, but those on shore wondering whether they should phone the coast guard or not.

Here is my advice to you: regularly ask the people around you how they are – like, really ask them, and don’t accept simple answers. They may be great, having the time of their life. Talking to them might reveal that they actually have a lot of possitive things going on behind the scenes that you had no idea about. Talking to them might help you realize that, actually, you have stuff going on in your own background you weren’t even aware of.

You can’t (and shouldn’t!) ever force help on someone, but don’t assume that if your friends are hurting they will come to you. And don’t get upset if you hear, after the fact, that they were struggling and didn’t reach out. I can’t emphasize this point enough but, DON’T MAKE IT ABOUT YOU.

Don’t content yourself with passive pleasantries. Actively look out for people who need you, and try asking them what they need. Like me, they may not know what they need. That’s fine. Don’t pressure them for answers, for god’s sake. Reassure them you’ll search for answers together, staying beside them all the way. And then STAY BESIDE THEM.

A number of people who say, ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do’ and then vanish away into the ether is insane (and, yeah, I use that word with all it’s stigma and implications).

In conclusion, realizing you need help and asking for it is monumental, but it’s only one side of the equation. Realize that people ask for help in thousands of different ways, and listen out for them.

Do not go alone.

Ellie Rose Recommends: Blasty

Ever since I first heard about my books being offered (or supposedly offered) for free across the internet, I’ve been looking for an effective way to deal with piracy.

I issued an official takedown request to a website, once, but it went ignored. Now, I use Blasty.

Blasty doesn’t delete offending web pages from the internet, but it does alert Google, who then stops linking to them which essentially has the same outcome.

As tasks go, looking through all the offending links and ‘blasting’ them is annoying but important. Something you have to keep on top of.

I’m not being paid to promote the app, but I do have an invite link that will allow you to access it without having to wait.

It’s in beta testing at the moment (and therefore free, for the time being).

Addendum

Things I Wish I'd Known About Self PublishingIt’s just over four years since I published the first ever edition of Still Dreaming, and I’ve learnt a lot since then.

At the time, I boasted about how I could do everything myself – editing, proofreading, cover design, etc. – and, as such, that I was saving so much money.

Older me knows better.

Twenty-seven-year-old me knows, for example, that you can read over the same document three hundred times and still miss a typo that a different person, with a fresh pair of eyes, can pick up in moments.

Proofreaders and editors are worth their weight in gold, and if you want your book to be the best, it’s a good idea to invest in hiring one (or both).

Editing and proofreading are skills that I now offer other people (having now learnt the skills, myself), but I no longer rely solely on myself to do it for my own books (as per the reason mentioned above).

I’ve also learnt a fair bit about formatting and cover design since two-thousand-twelve.

Still Dreaming (and all the rest of my books) have been updated a few times since then, and I’m a little bit embarrassed about the earlier versions, truth be told, but I’d probably do it all again, if given the chance.

I mean, sure, if I was doing it again I’d do it differently, but the only reason I know what changes to make is because I went out there and tried. I made mistakes, I learnt from it, and now I’m better at what I do. I’m even able to help other people, which is great.

As for the money thing: I couldn’t have afforded to hire an editor back in 2012 even if I wanted to, but I have paid the literal price since, ordering new proof copies each time I updated anything (which was often).

If I’d been more patient and less arrogant, I’d probably have waited until I could have afforded to work with professionals, but then, as I say, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I’m very happy with where I now find myself.

I guess the main thing to take away from this is to be wary of advice from newbies – especially if that newbie is yourself.

10 Ways to Deal with Being Doxed!

Dealing with DoxingIf you find out you’ve been doxed (had your private information acquired and shared online), you have my genuine sympathies. I’m not suggesting you follow all of the steps below (beyond numbers six, seven, and nine), this is just how I reacted…

  1. Be Shocked
  2. Be Scared
  3. Panic a Bit
  4. Wonder if You’re Over-Reacting
  5. Go Through a Few More Cycles of Shock and Fear
  6. Take Screenshots of the Harassment (as evidence, in case the person deletes and denies it)
  7. Find out How People Got Your Details, and Just What Information is Actually Online About You (HINT: It’s probably a lot)
  8. Despair at Humanity
  9. Block and Report the Trolls
  10. Write an Angry Blog Post

There are a few ways I could start this blog post – this is not the blog post I had planned to be writing; I was actually feeling really productive and had planned to get shit done when someone ruined my night; I’ve recently been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and I don’t need any of this stress right now – but all of that boils down to this: last night, some guy I have never met, decided it was appropriate to share part of my address on Twitter because I’m taking part in an event and his partner isn’t.

Yup. For real.

I’ve considered naming and shaming, but have ultimately decided not to give any more details about the situation – at least not right now – beyond saying the person did it to more than just myself, and that he’s been reported to Twitter for it.

Tomorrow, I will be promoting the event as I had originally planned, in a separate post not connected to this negative crap. I don’t want to risk bringing a really positive movement down any further. I just really needed to vent.

This is so far from okay, but I will not be scared into silence. Not over something so stupid.

Having that anxiety disorder I mentioned, and after watching my friend go through a much worse case of doxing just before Christmas, I’d been worried something like this might happen to me, and I recently bought extra security for this site – insuring that my personal details aren’t on who.is, as a result.

The take-away message is that people can still get your details easily enough. I recommend doing some searches to see what’s floating around online about you (start with Google, but also look at pipl.com), and adjusting your privacy settings accordingly.

Books on the Business of Writing

How to Make a Living with Your Writing Book CoverPreviously, I wrote about how being a full time writer is very much about being an entrepreneur, but not the same kind of business person as found in other industries. I said that, when I started out, I had to do a lot on a trial-and-error basis, because I couldn’t find a lot of advice specific to what I was doing. There are an abundance of books on writing, and an immeasurable amount of books on business, but not many on the business of writing. Well, I’ve since found a series of books by Joanna Penn.

I’ve read them, and am happy to recommend:

Book One: How To Market A Book

Book Two: How To Make A Living With Your Writing (currently free on Kindle!)

Book Three: Business for Authors


Related Article: The ‘Business’ of Writing, by Rachel McGrath.

Writing as a Business

Laptop and PrinterWhen I decided to go full time self-employed, I completed the Exploring Enterprise Program run by Prince’s Trust, and following that I attended various business seminars and meetings. A lot of the things talked about at these events applied to me, but a lot didn’t, as well.

Setting myself up as a freelance writer has not followed the standard business model (if there even is such a thing) and because of that there’s a lot I’ve had to find out for myself, by simply going out there and doing it.

Many mentors I’ve come across did not have advice directly applicable to my field, and there’s a wealth of guidance all over the internet to do with the actual writing process (not all good, mind you), but I found very little information to do with the background work to having your writing as a business, and even less about the balance between that background work and the actual writing. In light of that, I’m filling that ‘gap in the market’ and writing this post about it.

Being a writer, or artist, photographer, or designer, is different from running a warehouse, or a restaurant. You’re not only emotionally attached to your work but, in a very real sense, you are your work, and that complicates things.

Often I find that what’s best for my writing career in the long run is not what’s best for me business wise, and I have to find a way to reconcile those two things.

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Current Ploy for Productivity

I watched a TED talk once (I love TED talks!) in which some scientist or doctor or something said that people most likely to reach their goals A. actually outline their goals (rather than keep them as vague ideas just in their heads) and B. don’t necessarily have more self control than those people who fail but, rather, put things in place to take them out of the path of temptation, so they don’t need to fight themselves in the first place.

Well, I like setting myself goals, and I’m not particularly good at sticking to them, but this new thinking resonated with me. As such, I have a new ploy to stop myself from getting distracted on the internet when I should be writing, which is (drumroll please!): disconnecting the internet before I go to bed.

Genius, right? Okay, well, to some people that may sound daft, or obvious, and certainly not worthy of a blog post, but hear me out.

Turning off the Internet before bed means that you’ve already got a good chance of success before you even begin your day. Going offline is so much harder half way through the day, when you’re already lost in a sea of cat GIFs on Tumblr.

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