I first published to this blog, well actually it was a different website (wearewhatwepretendtobe.com, which is now defunct) on February 24th, 2015. Not even a week later I moved to my current home and I have posted almost 250 entries, not even including news updates or little tidbits here and there.
I had purchased a computer and started setting up the website and writing essays about a month before I went live. And I only spent about two weeks before that deciding if I should do it.
Those first ten essays got me a lot of feedback, almost entirely positive. I would guess somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 people read most of those initial 10 postings. Had I known then what I know now, things about data mining, and how important Google Analytics can be, I would know exactly. But sadly, I did not get into Google game until late last summer. Before that I was using a set of metrics I thought were reliable, but in fact were not at all.
So I can tell how many people have read each individual post since I installed Google platform to my website. And surprisingly, those very first 10 essays have between 1 and 10 reads each, even being buried under hundreds of postings. It is pretty incredible.
This blog is connected to two different blogging websites that both drive about 5% of my traffic to me, which is nice. But my growth has almost entirely been word of mouth or social media sharing. A couple times a month I receive an email from someone with this disease thanking me for writing and encouraging me to keep going.
When I did first plug into the all-powerful Google, I was consistently getting 30 unique reads per post, regardless of how often I posted (excepting my Detroit Tigers posts, which have never gotten more than 10 reads). As of September that number jumped to around 50, and since January that number has risen again to around 80. These are just averages. About once a month I topple 100 clicks, and just recently I thought I would challenge 200 for the first time. It petered out long before it got there, but I got traffic and feedback like I have never seen before.
It was a bleak post, written at a low point of about three solid weeks of deep depression. Dozens of phone calls flooded in to my wife, my sister, and my father-in-law. On top of that, dozens or friends texted or called me. You might think that I do this so I can get that kind of attention, that what I really want is dozens of people checking in on me. But in reality it sort of sent me into a tailspin of anxiety and deeper depression. I didn’t sleep much for the next couple of nights and it was constantly on my mind. Why did so many people read it? Why did so many people react so strongly?
To me, it wasn’t my darkest post. I am much more dangerous to myself while I am drinking, so the handful of posts about that are up there. I wasn’t feeling suicidal when I wrote it, I never mentioned suicide in it, I was just describing the realities of depression. But it caught a nerve with a lot of people.
I think the most surprising thing since I started this blog a year ago is that the only negative feedback that has ever made its way back to me was from my family. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me, maybe they are the only ones with the courage to speak up. Or maybe they are afraid to be associated with me. I really don’t know the answer.
My wife expressed to me that a lot of the feedback aimed at her was surrounding one line I wrote about not wanting to be with my wife or my daughter. I also mentioned not wanting to go to work or eat anything. I was describing what depression feels like, as in: I don’t want to go to work I would rather stay in bed, or I don’t want to be with my wife I would rather stay in bed, I don’t want to eat I would rather stay in bed. I didn’t mean I was hoping to leave my family. I think it goes to show how little understanding about depression there is out there, even for people who read this blog. It maybe goes more to show how I need to be more careful and more expressive about my experience.
I know that my near 200 read count will not be sustainable, mostly because it got shared around Facebook by my high school classmates. But I do wish I could have that readership without seemingly upsetting every person around me. And I am hoping that a new opportunity that has turned up will help drive up my traffic. I have been accepted as a volunteer blogger by the International Bipolar Foundation. I submit my first essay tomorrow. I do not know if it will be published, shared on social media, or anything like that, but I am really hoping to further this little project of mine.
Far too many people over the last year, and especially last week, have expressed this notion that I am somehow courageous for publishing what I write. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I am simply talking about my experience in the same way that anyone would, excepting for the fact that I, for some reason, think you all want to read about it. It isn’t courageous, it is self-centered.
The first day after I posted that blog, I seriously considering talking down or at least completely changing my entire website. I had yet to hear much negative feedback, but I still wasn’t comfortable with that much positive feedback either. That is not what I am looking for. I decided over the weekend to continue with my ramblings, and here I am rambling.
I know I have helped a couple of people, and I enjoy that very much.
I want to keep doing that.