Monica, an aspiring dietitian studying Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Health, she’s had her fair share of mental illness in the form of bipolar and BPD but she also writes and is a blogger. She turned her passion of healthy eating and fitness into creating Ninja On The Run, her creative spot where she gives hope to those who think healthy eating and exercise is an impossible task.
She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to participate via email on this interview. Here’s what she had to say about her health life and journey:
A little introduction about yourself and blog?
I’m 27 and live in London. I have done since 2009 – prior to that I grew up in the rolling country side of Devon. My newest blog Ninja On The Run is about running, health and fitness. I am signed up to run the London Marathon 2018 for The Outward Bound Trust. I decided to write about running and my general life and discoveries around health and running, climbing, nutrition, well-being. It really is quite open.
How did you come up with your blog name?
My best friend, who became my partner for 8 years, and I used to call each other ninjas because we used to climb in derelict buildings or over roof tops into clubs via the smoking garden to avoid paying the door fee, or being ID’d. I like to think of myself as being so in disguise that no-one knows I’m a ninja by just looking at me. 😛
For Dear Darling Sanity, it was as if I was writing a letter to myself and my sanity. When I started that blog I was really very unwell, and the idea of living a normal sane life felt very alien and unachievable for me. I have progressed from this blog to Ninja on the Run as a natural progression in my life stages from being so unwell and absorbed in my mental illness that nothing else has space in my life to developing and living a life that I want and have created for myself in running, fitness and nutrition.
What inspired you to start blogging? And who is your target audience?
I started blogging back in the days of Open Diary. Wow, that was a long time ago. Then came the Xanga wave, then the Blogger/Blogspot wave. I had a blog on there for a few years when I had bulimia, but it was more of a diary that provided social support via the web during that period of time. I’ve had countless blogs that I start then stop – often when I’m unwell. I might start writing about something then realize when I’m more well that there’s some parts of my illness that I don’t actually want to share so publicly.
I’m not ashamed, I just don’t think the horror story episodes and behaviors need to be re-lived through the means of a blog right now. I have to be careful to take care of myself and also take responsibility for my content in the hope of not being detrimental or triggering to other people who have had or have eating disorder or have difficulties with self harm.
You document the marathons you participate in. Tell us more, how it started, why you blog about it and what are your end goals?
My end goals are limitless. I am doing the London Marathon in 2018 – and that will be my first marathon race. I am hoping it is definitely not the last. There is a marathon event by Rat Race that runs up and down Snowdon, and some based in Scotland which would be as tough a terrain as you can imagine.
Running helps me channel my experiences with mental illness whilst helping me also challenge the limitations that my mental illness makes me believe of myself. It proves me wrong time and time again – sometimes it makes me feel invincible. Who doesn’t want to feel like they can conquer anything they set themselves to? It’s the ultimate self belief and it’s a beautiful place to get to from pushing yourself past your barriers and really exposing yourself.
In 2018 I also want to do 1-2 races abroad. Make a holiday of it, why not?
I want to be someone who; someone looks to who is experiencing a tough life period, be it due to mental illness or poor circumstances, and think that it’s possible for them to believe in themselves and to dare to go out there and prove themselves wrong. I want someone to look at me and where I as in 2011-12, and see where I am in 2017-18 and say you know what, I’m going do something like that too and see how it goes. I want someone who has failed so much, just like I had to expose themselves to more failure in order to let success and self-belief grow from their roots. If I inspire one person I’m happy. If one person relates and reaches out to pushing forward instead of trying to end it all, I’m happy. Everytime someone emails me and reaches out about how my content has helped them it brings me so much joy.
Where do you get inspiration for your blog content?
It seems very egotistical but from my own experience and thinking. I’ve started looking to aggregation sites to help gain inspiration about nutrition news or running news. When I see people doing well, when I become a part of a community for a day that inspires me.
You passionately address Mental Health on your post. Tell us more? How does MH affect your day-to-day life?
I haven’t held down a full-time job since 2010. I have experienced diagnosable mental illness since I was 14/15 until now. I currently study part-time and that is still really difficult for me. I have lived at rock bottom for months at a time. I’ve been convinced I would die and tried to end my life more times than I can even remember. I have Bipolar and BPD – which is a real shit storm of moods, pseudo-psychosis, self harm, dissociation and events that I can’t even remember.
At the moment I take medication which has helped even things out so they are at least manageable. It does mean that I still struggle. I hate going to university for example because I get paranoid in the lecture hall that everyone is talking about me and collecting messages about to me to send to someone who is collecting data about my existence. Sometimes I still mess up and I might OD, but more often than not I have learned management techniques which at least keep me safe 90%o of the time.
With my illness I could’ve given up on my life and resigned to a life of just being ill – I took the decision to not do that though. So instead I utilise the support around me in my supported accommodation, my mental health team, the wellbeing team and support at uni, and I comply with my medication regime – and the crises are fewer. A lot of days are still hard but I think after a while you become accustomed to working with what you’ve got and learning to manage with what you’ve got – and for me that’s an enduring mental illness.
What are some of the challenges you face from blogging?
Keeping up with making regular content. Sometimes I’m on fire and I can write a month of posts in a weekend. Sometimes I convince myself I’ll write it later and then I’m too tired and I go to sleep – and this goes on for a few days.
Especially when I am depressed. When I am depressed my mind is like a blank magnolia wall 100% of the time. I struggle to even think of getting myself out for coffee, nevermind making content.
Apart from blogging what are some of your interests in your day-to-day life?
I’m trying to learn the Ukelele. I like playing on my play-station. I’m studying nutrition and health – so anything and everything food related. I love the outdoors, running and climbing. I love country walks and experiencing nature without my phone! It’s so liberating to not be on my phone all the time, and to take that time to just be in nature.
Reading through your blog posts; I understand you had a blog Dear Darling Sanity before Ninja On the Run. Why did you stop blogging on your old site?
It was a natural progression of where I’m at in my life. Dear Darling Sanity has started to do well and get monetary return – however I felt like focusing on Mental Illness and managing that when I’m trying to carve an identity where, yes I have my illness still, but hey look, I do all this other stuff that makes me interesting. I have more to say than just revolving my life around the fact that I have a mental illness.
Sometimes I find talking too much about my illness can hold me back in a mental way – and I want so much for it to be a smaller part of my life. Like as if I had 6 toes, yeah I have 6 toes, it’s one of those things but there’s much more to me than that. When I started Dear Darling Sanity there wasn’t anything more to my life than my illness because it overshadowed every aspect of my life including who I was. I feel like moving to Ninja on the Run is a way of further developing my own identity away from mental illness. It feels like the next step in recovery and in becoming Monica again, or maybe even for the first time in my life.
Why nutrition? What made you want to be a nutritionist?
I had eating disorders for 10 years. My partner was talking about feeling fatigued and I started telling her about how eating sugars would be affecting her and that maybe a steak might help if she’s on her period. She suggested I study nutrition because I had such an intense interest outside of only obsessing because of my eating disorder – and that actually studying to be a nutritionist might be the final step out of disordered eating into using that experience for something positive in my life. It’s like turning it around on it’s head – it was a hinderance for many years and now I’m harnessing that experience to gain more knowledge and help people with their relationships with food. Having had an ED for 10 years I think helps me have an extra dosage of empathy and understanding in how an eating disordered mind works – which can’t be bad thing when treating people or devising health promotion policies.
Have you ever struggled with ” body positivism? ” If yes, when and how are you handling it now? If no, why Is it important to you to impart body positivism to your readers?
Yes. I had an ED for 10 years. When I had anorexia I was very small and I still thought I was huge. It is only recently that I’ve been able to see how I was really, and how unwell I looked.
The turn around for me has been suing my body to do sports. Using my body to run and climb and swim. Instead of thinking, ‘my body doesn’t look good in a cropped top’ I would think, ‘my body just ran 10km. That’s pretty amazing’, and ‘my body does so much for me every day and recovers from physical illness very well, that’s pretty awesome.’ And “I’ve tried to kill my body so many times and it has just bounced back time and time again with no lasting damage, that’s pretty hard core amazing’. I think more about what my body allows me to do and experience rather than how it looks.
If I focused solely on how I look then I would still dislike my body a lot. So I don’t. I look for the silver lining in how my body does all this amazing stuff every day, and how when I train my body can send a really cool route at climbing.
Thinking about my body sexually helps too. Like, I have this nervous system that can bring me so much pleasure – how amazing is that?
Reframing how I think about my body has helped with my confidence and helped me learn to be body positive about myself after over a decade of focusing only on how I looked compared to media, magazines and models. I also don’t consume media like that anymore – and I only shop in urban outfitters or TopShop when I’m feeling particular hot on my body positivity game. I’m not immune, I just manage what I’m exposed to in a different way and reframe my thinking now.
Writing aside, what are some talents you have that your blog readers don’t know about?
I used to study Fashion Textiles. I can use the Photoshop and InDesign from 2009-2011 pretty well – but they’ve changed it a lot since then. I can sew, and have designed and made a few dresses. I’m planning on harnessing this talent to help me make things to raise money for my London Marathon fundraiser. If you have a patterns and fabric and want me to make something – just holler!
What are some of the quotes that motivate you when you are having a rough day?
It’s not about waiting for the rain to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.
- I say that to myself almost daily and I’m going to get ‘dance in the rain’ tattooed on me later this year. It’s the one phrase that has really stuck with me and got me through some of the roughest times in my life.
What advice would you give some readers who are struggling with Mental Health ?
Get help. You’re going to slip up, and that’s OK. As long as you’re trying to find new ways of managing and coping and you’re engaging with the help that is on offer then you’ll get to a place that you can be content with. Even if that means you don’t work again but you volunteer or take up a hobby and that’s all you can manage – that’s absolutely fine. People use Stephen Fry as an example of someone successful with Bipolar – ignore that. It’s shit. He’s a fantastic guy but the vast majority of us aren’t Stephen Fry. As long as you know you’re trying your best to get better in whatever way that means to you – you’re dong well.
Phone the Samaritans. Go to A&E if you need to. There’s no shame in needing help. Going into hospital isn’t the worst thing in the world. It may feel like it at first, but honestly, there will be one admission that could turn it all around and find you the right treatment. It’s not a nice place to be, but I’m only on my current medication regime and as stable as I am thanks to my last admission. It’s OK and you’re not a failure – you have an illness.
A huge thank you to Monica for being my guest on this month’s series. Don’t forget to visit her sites to see more of her work