A Blog? I Never Would Have Imagined!

In February 2014, Robin and I were suddenly immersed in an on-line course on how to write a book.  We got through the first few assignments which were all about getting the concept for the book focused.  We had a title, back cover copy, and had clarified the audience for the book and a promise to the readers.  The next step of the on-line course was to create a detailed outline for the book.  We were able to do that relatively easily.  I am a huge fan of Bill O’Hanlon’s course, as I am quite sure Robin and I would have floundered for many months trying to get as focused and clear as we were able to be in about two weeks as a result of doing the course assignments.  After that, a surprise turn of events took place.

Once we had our book structured and outlined, the next assignments revolved around how to stay motivated while actually writing the book.  Much discussion took place about how people tend to get bogged down in the writing process and lose motivation.  There were lots of class participants posting comments on the course website about their own barriers, strategies, and suggestions.  For Robin and I, motivation was not an issue.  We had both felt clear for a long time that the book needed to be written.  We were very anxious to get started.  But, we completed the course assignments as dutiful students.

I was a little baffled by one of the suggestions, which was to use a blog to write the book.  Wait a minute!  What?  Why would someone put their book out to the world and then try to get it published?  It didn’t make sense to me.  I think I even brought up that question on one of the weekly conference calls with Bill O’Hanlon that happened as part of the course.  Other students were also concerned about putting their work out there, and having others steal their ideas.  Bill gave clear arguments about why he thought blogging one’s book was a good strategy.  He convinced us to give it a try.

I never in a million years imagined I would join the blog world.  It had never even been on my radar!  I had never read a blog post before, other than the ones that show up on the internet when I am surfing.  The whole concept was foreign to me.  It was a complete leap of faith that caused Robin I to decide to take Bill’s suggestion and create a blog in order to start the process of writing our book.

The biggest issue, not surprisingly, was that we had to decide we were ready to go public with the fact that we were writing about Robin’s treatment and our work together.  Those who have read Robin’s story on the blog so far, know that in 2003 she was not even comfortable letting her parents know she was in the hospital.  For her to put the intimate details of her mental illness out to the world in a blog was a huge step which required an enormous amount of courage.  I was astonished and touched by Robin’s clarity.  There was very little hesitation on her part.  She felt strongly that she was ready to tell her story.

I think I agonized a bit more than Robin.  As I explained in “A Note About Boundaries,” my biggest fear was that I would be judged negatively by my peers for writing a book with a former client.  But, I was actually motivated and reassured by Robin’s steadfast determination to move forward.  If she was ready to blast her story to the world, I felt clear that I needed to support her in doing so.  It actually never occurred to us to write the blog anonymously.  After all, the end goal was always a book.  If we were writing a book, we needed to say who we were.

So “Despair to Deliverance,” the blog version, was created and the telling of the story began in February 2014.  Once we made the decision to go forward, we became excited and told our family and friends what we were doing.  Robin surprised me further by making the decision to put a post on her Facebook page, letting all her people know about the blog.  It was overwhelming to her the response she got.  People came out of the woodwork to support her.  Family, friends, and people she did not expect to hear from applauded her courage in putting herself out there.  I have to say, any doubts I had about the whole idea of going public and using a blog to tell the story disappeared.  At that point, anything that could ever come from the writing of the book didn’t matter.  Robin had completely “outed” herself about her mental illness.  This was the same person who, in 2003, had never been open with anyone about her symptoms, including the therapist who had seen her for ten years (me)!  Not only had she been willing to make herself completely vulnerable, but she had gotten nothing but positive, supportive responses from her people.  I knew, at that moment, that we were doing exactly the right thing.

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About Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D.

Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D. completed her doctoral degree in clinical psychology at Purdue University. She spent ten years doing full-time clinical practice at a community mental health center with primarily adults. She then spent eight years working as an administrator at that same community mental health center while continuing to maintain a small caseload of therapy clients. She now provides clinical services in long-term care facilities in addition to writing and spending as much time as possible with the people she loves.
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3 Responses to A Blog? I Never Would Have Imagined!

  1. Dawn D says:

    I’m finally coming round to your blog.
    My coming upon the blogging world was very different, and obviously, I am not ready to lose the anonymity 😉
    You could have kept yours, one or both of you, but I guess you were ready to face the world. I applaud you for that. I am pretty sure there aer still a few people in my life who don’t know I suffered from depression and was hospitalised.
    But I totally understand this as part of the healing process. After my stay in psychiatric hospital, I could have kept it quiet. It would have been made even more easy that I lived on a different continent from my family. And it happened during the summer holidays, so most expats were away. Even in my community, I would have been safe.
    But deciding whether or not to talk about it made me realise I shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
    Someone I knew had had breast cancer and told me more or less that she had a harder time than I had. I retorted that yes, I understood that her life was at stake, she could have died from the illness. But my illness was taking away my life as I was living it. Because of it, I had no actual enjoyable memory of the most important events of my life, my wedding and the birth of my children. I just had numbness.
    I don’t know which is worse. I don’t think it’s very important. I just needed people to understand that my depression was nothing light that I could just decide to let go of. It was something debilitating that prevented me from enjoying the presence of my children.
    Of course, I was a good actress and the mask was firmly in place, so people didn’t see what was actually happening. And the one person whose support I craved didn’t want to see.

    I’m glad you’re writing this book. If everyone starts to talk about mental illness, maybe we will be able to get rid of the stigma. Thank you for your bravery and selfishness.
    XO

    • So sorry it has taken me so long to reply. I appreciate you sharing some of your story here. You outline the painful issues and dilemmas associated with the stigma of mental illness, which is exactly why Robin felt clear she was ready to be open about her story. She has benefitted greatly from being open with her friends and family about what she went through. Obviously, it helps that her friends and family are supportive people who love her dearly, and welcomed knowing more about her struggles. Many people are not as fortunate to have such a good support system. I will be back to your blog soon, and will be writing my next post this week (life just gets in the way sometimes). So good to hear from you, as always!

      • Dawn D says:

        Of course I meant selflessness! Ugh! Can you edit that, please?

        Don’t worry about the delay. I understand real life getting in the way very well!
        As for me, most people around me didn’t want to see or accept the depression, because it would have meant for them to face their own. But at least, I was showing what was possible, that one can work towards healing…
        I was fortunate that I had supportive friends. It’s one of the first thing you try to achieve, creating a support network. My family, even my spouse, were much less helpful than my chosen family. So I agree, if I had been in the midst of my family, I wouldn’t have had a very good support system.
        Don’t worry about my blog. Life goes on, but the posts will stay there, so take your time!
        I’ll be looking forward to reading your next post. 🙂

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