Welcome to the latest installment of my interview series!
Who are some of your favorite bloggers? I try to follow as many as I can because they have so much wisdom to pass on. (Including bloggers like Spence!)
That’s what gave me the idea for this interview series. I wanted to glean as much knowledge as I could from those much wiser than me.
This is our tenth installment of my interview series, Meet the Blogger, all about Spence, a fellow blogger. (You can read our previous installment here: https://diffusingthetension.com/meet-the-blogger-introducing-malinda/)
Interview series questions
First of all, tell me a little about yourself.
- My name is Spence, I am a UK-based counsellor/ mental health blogger/ parent/ guitar playing film lover.
What is your connection to the blogging and/or mental health community?
I qualified as a counsellor about 11 years, and for about 10 of those I have worked with survivors of sexual abuse and rape. This has been the main focus of my work, although I have worked outside of this client group too.
Mental health fascinates me- I have studied many-a-thing over the years, but mental health is the one thing that I am passionate about.
Part of this has been because I suffer with my own mental health issues, for example, I have lived with (sometimes crippling) anxiety over the years as well as depression. I guess I am seeking to answer my own questions.
Another key area is that I feel so alive when I am helping someone. I guess technically, as a counsellor, I am helping someone help themselves, but you know what I mean. I love the authenticity and compassionate connection that can occur when sitting with another human being.
Currently, I am taking time out from one-to-one counselling, so I decided to explore ideas in the form of a blog. Amongst other things, I want to convey fundamentally to my fellow sufferers of mental health issues that they are not alone.
What is the hardest part about having a successful blog?
I’ll tell you when I get one! However, what I do find challenging is the capacity to switch off. I find that I have way more to do (editing/ creating post ideas/ writing/ social media/ reading other blogs/ learning about 1001 elements of blogging/ seo & wordpress gubbins behind the scenes) than I actually have time to do. This means, for example, that I sometimes find myself musing away on blog-related stuff when I actually need to be present for my family.
In addition, I find that this leads to me getting too wrapped up in my own personal sweatshop-esque schedule and believing the seemingly immutable deadlines that I’ve created for myself. Having a bit of wind in my sails is a good thing, but I do sometimes have to ease back and remember every mental health bloggers favourite- self-care!
What is the biggest challenge the mental health community faces currently?
A tough question to answer- so many challenges.
Cartesian Dualism (I’m pretending I know what that is! Ha ha!) What I mean by that is the concept that the mind and the body are separate. They are not- we are all just one big experiential melting pot, with our “physical health” impacting our “mental health”, and vice-versa. They are indistinguishably interconnected. If we could all acknowledge that mental health, is just simply “health” then stigma would be irradicated:
For example, the vast majority of us are born with a full set of ribs and as such we have the potential to fracture them. There is no social sense of shame associated with such an injury. However, there seems to be this pedestal (probably fear and avoidance based) that mental health/ the human mind gets placed upon by many- “that it cannot possibly fracture, especially not for me!” If we could acknowledge that it could, for any of us, then the shame could be removed for millions, and compassionate support could take its place.
Mental health has a lot of preconceived ideas and is still stigmatized in society. Although it has certainly improved over the years, there is still a long way to go. Having ourselves and our illnesses understood for what they truly are is a challenge.
What are 5 things many people do not know about you?
1. I have always loved combing beaches for pebbles. I am particularly taken with collecting pebbles that are the product of building bricks being worn down into beautifully smooth shapes. At some point, I intend to build something with these bricks.
2. Many moons ago, I randomly got a job as a waterboy at the Wimbledon Qualifying event. This meant that I was, as part of a team of other misfits, tasked with maintaining the liquid refreshment on every tennis court. This was to ensure that all of the players hoping to qualify (rather than through their ATP ranking), would be fully hydrated and up to the task.
All I remember is bumbling onto a court mid-match, being shouted at by the umpire and getting so horrendously sunburnt that I ended up peeling the skin off my entire forehead (some might say a fivehead) in one sheet. (My wife (then girlfriend) still relishes the memory!?)
3. Even more moons ago, whilst working a summer season in the French Alps I got to go to many fun and crazy parties. The majority were local fetes in the towns, villages and hamlets up and down the mountain (some so off the beaten track that I had never even been aware of them when the snow was down during the winter seasons). However, attending two very different events stick out in my mind: The first was being a party populated by millionaires in a ridiculous nightclub, the other was going to a party hosted by the local Hell’s Angels Chapter, out in the woods…..there was a hog roast (before they were fashionable)……huskies……and green beer…..
Hells Angels host a better party!
4. I eat brown/bruised/ridiculously overripe bananas not because I like them, but to instil a sense of appreciation/ respect for food and the importance of reducing food wastage in my children. They must never know the truth! Bluurgghhh! 🙂
5. One of my proudest moments was when the famous English poet Roger McGough said “nice speech” after I did my bit as best man at my friend’s wedding.
What is your favorite book and why?
I love the short story “The Machine Stops” by E.M Forster. It is a dystopian piece that set my mind alight when I first read at school when I was 12. It foretells an ominous future for the human race and I guess it really got me to think in a way I possibly hadn’t until that moment. I love a dystopian tale (very on point during these worrying days), but this one holds a very special place in my heart.
What do you do when you are having a really hard day to lift your spirits?
I would love to say that I mindfully meditate the shit out of my awful experience. However, what I actually end up doing is a few things: firstly, working out is a really important component of supporting my mental and physical health. Consequently, at the end of a bad day I ensure that I exercise whilst also watching comedy- double uplifting whammy!
After a good dose of laughter (I favour Brooklyn 99 at the moment- I love Andy Samberg!), if I am still feeling emotionally bruised and battered I’ll play a bit of Xbox to disconnect, then sleep.
What makes a person brave?
As soon as I read this question, I thought of my clients. I think that the survivors of sexual abuse that I have worked with (and those that I haven’t), in particular, those abused as children, are so courageous. Bravely facing each and every hellish day during abuse and its complex and long tailed personal aftermath. My heart swells with compassionate admiration for that degree of bravery- and I really want them to know that. To know that they themselves are not what the abuse/abuser(s) told them they are; instead they are powerfully brave shining beacons of wonder and hope.
What 3 words would you use to describe yourself and why?
Introverted, beta, compassionate
-”Introverted”- I absolutely need time to myself to recharge otherwise I am quite twitchy, feel trapped and drained.
-”Beta” (male)- I don’t do what lots of “blokes” do. I don’t follow football* (soccer), I don’t like playing team sports, I don’t feel the urge to kick or throw a ball as I see one. Also, I don’t have pub banter and I work in a field to do with feelings. *When I was about 10, my older cousin had a football match as his birthday party. While everyone else ran around etc I just walked around slowly avoiding/ignoring the ball.
-”Compassionate”- I care about the feelings of others, sometimes too much.
-Unable to count…… joke!
What is your biggest flaw?
I blame. I don’t necessarily act on it or externalise it. It only really seems to be in my personal life (not professional), but I seem to have a strong internal knee jerk reaction to begin seeking to put the responsibility of injustice on some unknown other.
What is your greatest strength?
I am prepared to explore the dark places- be it in my own world through my therapy, or with clients as a professional.
What is your best childhood memory?
Many of the Christmases. That sense of overwhelming excitement and wonder that pervaded my every waking moment for probably about 2 months each year! The pinnacle being the twinkly apprehensive joy of discovering that Father Christmas had, in fact, been.
Where do you envision your blog in 5 years?
Wow, I do not know. This ebbs and flows- when I’m at a low point I believe that it won’t be anywhere; that I’ll have binned it by then and consigned this venture to the rubbish heap. However, I feel sad about potentially losing the connections I’ve made with other bloggers and the creative outlet/ investment I’ve made.
I would like to think that in 5 years my blog will be more established in the sense of having more email subscribers (more than erm…..me, from when I was testing the wordpress plugin out) so that some more people were finding what I write about of interest and helpful. I would love to create a little passive income from this venture too. But I guess the most important element for me is being more firmly entrenched in the mental health community. I love talking about mental health- so that we all feel a little lighter afterwards.
Fundamentally, I’d also love some non-bloggers to read my work.
Where do you see the mental health community in 5 years?
The MH community will blossom further so that mental health is less of a sideline niche and more of a general, accepted part of life. I sometimes sit around dinner tables and the topic of mental health is avoided rather quickly. The more that is written, the less unknown and terrifying it becomes.
I do believe that it is the work of the mental health community that will turn the tide. The tireless devotion to reducing stigma and spreading the word. I love it.
Here are but a few of my favourites (they’re all awesome):
About the Author
Spence is the founder, writer, caretaker, first-aider and chief coffee maker over at www.themindberg.com. It is blog devoted to the mental health/ parenting/ psychology-esque musings of their radical and visionary creative director (Spence).
Endeavouring to post weekly (as long as my children let me), on thought-provoking and supportive matters that connect with other mental health sufferers aka human beings.
Spence is often found meandering around:
Thanks, Spence, for participating in my interview series, Meet the Blogger! I loved your responses, and I truly appreciate you taking the time out to answer my questions. Best wishes on all your blogging endeavors!
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