Monday, 5 June 2017

Mental Health + Relationships - with Charlene McElhinney!

In blogging, there are some faces that stand out and really make their mark. People that others naturally gravitate to, who really make an impact and who everyone knows. For instance, I'm sure you all know who Charlene is. She is one of those amazing people who not only blog so beautifully that everyone pays attention, but she has created her own little community that is just growing in strength and members. She's one of the friendliest faces online and has time for everyone. In fact, she's one of the first friends I made on Twitter, and I have always been so thankful for the kindness she's always shown me.

Charlene is honestly a massive inspiration to me. She is one of those rare souls who is so giving and compassionate with everyone, who makes sure to encourage and support those around her, and who is a beacon of positivity and love. She works incredibly hard at everything she does; not only does she blog, she wrote her very own poetry book about her experiences with mental health, called Melancholy Mind. She also runs Beechat, which hosts two chats a week and has its own snail mail project. She also somehow manages to fit in posting gorgeous photos on Instagram, and even her own YouTube channel. I have no idea how she keeps it all going. I was so touched that she agree to give up even more of her time to answer my questions; Charlene is a vocal mental health advocate so I was really keen to have her share her thoughts, but she's probably one of the busiest bloggers around!

1. Introduce yourself! Tell us about your blog, tell us which post you're most proud of, and tell us about your mental health story!

I'm Charlene McElhinney (known on Twitter as @blogabtnothing1). I began blogging over a year ago because I was struggling with my mental health, and I'd always kept a journal, and wanted to start speaking out publicly about how I was feeling and how I was struggling. The post I'm MOST proud of is the post about the launch of my book and also when I opened up about the loss of my Gran McElhinney (which took me months to be able to do). You can check out my blog here.

2. Have you discussed your MH with your loved ones? If yes, how did you start that conversation, and if not, why not?

I suffered in silence for well over a year. I wouldn't leave my room. I wouldn't talk to anyone. My mum suffers from severe bipolar disorder and my dad has cared for her for years and they are just the loveliest people you could ever meet; I didn't want to worry them. My best friend helped me by persuading me to see a doctor and she came with me. Now I'm very open with my parents. They do worry but they can be there for me more now that they know. They have read my book and regularly read my blog and couldn't be more supportive.

3. How have those closest to you reacted? Any particularly positive or negative feedback?

Those closest to me have been wonderful. I have only received negative feedback from people who don't understand, people I used to go to school with, and once by one of my closest friends (who needless to say is no longer my friend). I actually wrote a post about this individual - An Open Letter To An Old Friend

4. How has your mental health affected your relationships (whether with a partner, friends, family)? 

It can be hard work. Especially on my down days when I want to be alone and don't want to let anyone in. But my boyfriend, parents, best friend etc. are all so understanding and supportive so I'm very lucky.

5. In the reverse, how have your relationships affected your mental health?

Sometimes making time for people and trying to upkeep your personality when you are suffering from depression and anxiety can really affect relationships. I don't know if that makes sense. I try and be the person I once was but I can't always be and sometimes this can cause arguments, misunderstandings etc. but it's not me - it's my mental health - and usually everything is OK in the end...

6. Is your mental health something you actively talk about with your loved ones, or do you prefer not to discuss it? Are there any pros or cons to your approach?

I struggle to actually speak about it. I tend to just write about it and let them read it so they can try and understand. Or I'll send a wee text letting them know I'm having a down day. This works best for me. And it lets them know to keep an eye out for me and try and give me space or be there for me etc.

7. Is there anything you wish you could tell those closest to you or wish that they understood? What is stopping you from telling them?

Some days I have severe suicidal thoughts. This is difficult. How do you tell your parents, your partner, your best friend that you don't want to be here anymore? I just keep these thoughts to myself.

8. What advice would you give to people who want to tell their loved ones about their mental health?

Please just do it. Even if it's just a wee text letting them know you're not ok or that you're feeling down - knowing that they know you're not yourself makes a huge difference. You don't have to try and put a face on. You can take the time and space you need.

9. What advice would you give non-sufferers who want to support their loved one with their MH?

Don't try and understand. Don't ever say patronising things like "I know how you feel", "It's just a phase" or any of the stereotypical things you say to someone who is down. It doesn't help. It makes us worse. Just let us know you are there. And check up from time to time but allow us the time and space we need.

10. Are there any support systems (other than loved ones) you use that you'd recommend for those who may need them?

110%. There is SO much help out there. There is a large section in my book all about this but I'll briefly tell you guys the ones I would recommend.
  • The Samaritans are incredible. The helpline number is 116 123 and you can phone any time - it is open 24 hours. You don't need to be having suicidal thoughts to call them. Even if you are just having a down day, give them a call, they will chat to you and they are just fabulous. We are lucky to have them.
  • The gym is excellent therapy - if you can bring yourself to leave the house! It leaves you feeling x100000 better afterwards!
  • Write, write, write. Start a blog. Write your thoughts on a bit of paper then rip it up. Send a text to someone. Just write. Get all of those thoughts out of your system. It really helps!
I don't want to write too much. I recently wrote a book called Melancholy Mind and it's a collection of poetry on my mental health experience. If you want to pick up a copy you can find it on Amazon here. There's lots of help and contacts at the back of my book for you guys! And I'm always here if you need to chat. Sometimes talking to someone who understands can make all the difference.


There are a couple of points Charlene touched on that I really connected with. The first is the concept of trying to explain the darkest parts of your mental illness to people who love you. It's such a difficult thing to do - it's not only scary to open up like that, but there's always the possibility that it will make people angry. Sometimes other people don't understand that their love isn't enough to keep us mentally well; they think you're being selfish if you even consider harming yourself. But please tell someone when you're feeling this way. It doesn't have to be someone you know - as Charlene mentions, the Samaritans are an excellent resource you can reach out to at any time, for any reason.

I loved Charlene's honesty in saying that maintaining relationships when you're not well is hard work. The problem with things like anxiety is that you can't really get away with cancelling plans last minute and saying "I had a panic attack/I don't feel up to it mentally". I vividly remember once having a panic attack upon entering Murrayfield stadium to watch a rugby game. I was with my husband, and we were meeting his friend and his partner inside, in the seating area. I couldn't face walking down ten steps in front of everyone, so I just refused to go in. Instead, my poor husband had to find and sit with them alone, while I disappeared to a much quieter section to watch the game alone. I can't imagine how he explained it to them, two people I'd met a handful of times at most. I honestly hope that one day we can live in a society where we can be much more open about things, so we don't have to mask our feelings around others.

That brings me on to Charlene's suggestion of texting loved ones when you're not feeling 100%. I'm almost ashamed I'd never thought of this - it's such a good idea. I'm sure a lot of us find it really daunting to open up face to face, but perhaps this is a way that you'll find more comfortable?

A huge heartfelt thank you to Charlene, she really is absolutely wonderful and I don't know many people who are so genuine and sincere when it comes to discussing mental health. 


To check out the other interviews in this collab series, click here!

If you'd like to be involved in this project, feel free to email me, chat to me on Twitter, or leave a comment below.


  1. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this wonderful series on your blog - and for all of the lovely things you added in about me! You are one in a million.

    Charlene McElhinney

    1. You're so welcome Charlene, it really meant a lot to me to have you involved. And all those lovely things are just the truth! x

  2. I completely agree with everything you've written about Charlene, she's such a big part of the blogging community and it wouldn't be the same without her! I also really admire her honesty here, I feel exactly the same that I don't want to "trouble people" with my depressed thoughts / feelings but I would never ever want anyone else to feel like they were a burden when coming to talk to me! It's a paradox! I have loved this series, Beth - it's so insightful! Thank you for sharing!

    Abbey 👑

    1. You're so right Abbey, it's so strange the things we give ourselves such a hard time for that we wouldn't bat an eyelid at if a friend did! x


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