I love to write about healthy recipes and cooking on my blog. But there is so much more to living a healthy lifestyle than food. Mental health is just as important, but often over looked or shamed. Luckily one of my friends from high school, Cassie De Almo, has started a website designed to changing that. I recently got to pick her brain about the reasoning behind Breaking the Stigmas!
1. What inspired you to start Breaking the Stigmas?
I was working at an office in New York City, and I found emails written on a work computer and work email address about me.The emails were cruel, mean and hurtful. It wasn’t so terrible until I found the one where they said that I was “too peppy and cheerful”.This crushed me and I instantly burst into tears and launched into an anxiety attack right there in the office. As some one who has suffered from anxiety and depression all her life, I pride myself on my cheerful demeanor and “peppiness”. To hear that people disliked me and were making fun of me for it was more than I could handle. A few months later I started Breaking the Stigmas. I’ve always entertained the idea of writing my story, and I found the more people I spoke to (especially in the “Millennial” age group) are also suffering from mental illness. I started it on a whim, and it took off to more than I could have hoped for!
2. How beneficial has starting this community been for you?
To be honest, it’s been both incredibly beneficial and also incredibly difficult. Reliving many of the stories and instances I write about is incredibly difficult. The piece I wrote about alcohol really brought up a lot of memories that I had stifled and put away, but it also created a wonderful conversation between me and my husband! This community has allowed me to speak truths I’ve never spoken before, and has helped me learn to support myself. I write a story, and then I am able to talk about it, and put it away- the past is the past and I am more than that story now. Hearing the outpouring of support from this mental health community is amazing. Knowing that I have helped people is amazing. I know that I have touched and helped someone who may be going what I went through. It’s like a giant hug.
3. What do you say to those who are too scared to be public about their mental health issues?
I get it. I really do. It’s absurdly hard to let your guard down, and it’s absolutely not for everyone. In no way and I trying for force everyone to be public with their struggles. All I would say to those who are scared to be public, would be to keep supporting those who are public, and to support the mental health community. The more support we have, the more stigmas and walls we can break down. You don’t have to share your mental health journey with the world, just support those who do, and know that you are a part of this community no matter what!
**If you have a story you want to share on Breaking the Stigma’s Cassie’s set it up so you can post anonymously as well!
3. Do you think there is a link between eating healthy and mental health? (feel free to say no here, be honest)
Absolutely. I am the first to admit that I have a serious sugar addiction. Like, I love my high fructose corn syrup. BUT I also know that if I eat large amounts of it, I get lethargic, tired, and depressed. My drive goes down as does my desire to do anything productive. The best way to fight your mental illness is to do just that- fight. Having large amounts of heavy sugary foods in your system doesn’t allow you to be your best. Sitting on your ass all day won’t get you anywhere in life, and certainly won’t get you anywhere for your mental health. That being said, I do enjoy a little bowl of candy a few nights a week with a movie. You still have to let yourself enjoy what you love 🙂
4. I know for me ,sometimes the biggest stress release is eating, what are some healthier stress management techniques you’ve picked up?
So for me personally, I can’t eat when I’m stressed or anxious. I’m the opposite. Which also isn’t healthy. When I was my most anxious/depressed I lost weight and got wayyyyy too low; I would stop eating lunch and just have a cookie instead. At the worst of it I was 5’6” and weighed 104lb. That being said, I’ve learned that simply leaving the house and going for a walk helps to clear my brain. It’s free, anyone can do it, and you can do it at any time! I personally also like playing video games. As silly as it may sound, I find controlling another world with my hands to be incredibly fun-in no life could I be a military space commander shooting aliens, but in Mass Effect, I totally can. Exercising is super helpful when I get to the gym. I really really really hate exercising, so actually getting myself there is incredibly difficult, but when I do it certainly helps!
5. Maybe people with Celiac disease also struggle with anxiety and depression, what would you like them to know when they’re dealing with these struggles?
BELIEVE ME I get the struggle. Anxiety and depression suck. So would, I imagine, having Celiacs Disease. Remember though, you are NOT alone. My cousin actually had Celiacs and she would complain about it, but also found new favorite foods! Anxiety and depression is anxiety and depression no matter if you have Celiacs, or are obese, or are anorexic, or have cancer, or are totally healthy. Find the outlet that works best for you to help manage it. Get medication if you need/want medication. There is no shame in getting the help you need no matter WHAT your life is like.
6. I know living the gluten free lifestyle people are constantly sharing their negative opinions, saying that it’s all made up. Do you often find the same true with mental health? What is the typical reaction you receive?
Ugh totally. One of my “favorites” was when I got into a (minor) car accident a few years ago. I was driving on the highway in traffic and looked down for a split second. When I looked back up I couldn’t stop in time and rear ended the guy in front of me. No one was hurt (except for me cause my glasses went into my forehead cause I was looking down and I had to get skin glue for the two puncture marks) because my foot wasn’t even on the gas, that’s how slow we were going. Anyways, my husband got asked if I got into the car accident because I was “switching medications”. WHAT. That one really killed me. I also get a lot, “well, why can’t you just be happy?” or “just don’t be anxious”. Oh ok, so just stop having cancer. Better yet, stop having Asthma- breathe deeper. A person who is “mental illness free” is never going to fully understand. My husband does not have a shred of mental illness in him (lucky son of a bitch), but he has empathy and an open mind, and gets that sometimes I just need to talk. Or I just need him to distract me with a story, or he takes me out of the house to go to the zoo (god I love the zoo). It’s not made up. It is a chemical imbalance in your brain. It’s science, people. If people don’t get it and aren’t at least supportive of YOU or empathetic, then they aren’t worth your time. Move on.
7. How do you deal with these people who are less than supportive of you?
Honestly? I ignore them. I’ve learned that I can’t change people. It’s bigotry, plain and simple. I can do everything in my power to change their minds, but all I’m going to be doing is wasting my time. There is a difference between people just not getting or understanding something and those who are “less than supportive”. If someone is going to go out of their way to call me “crazy” (god I hate that word), or tell me I should stop taking my meds, or that my illness is made up, I just don’t associate with them. I don’t need that toxicity in my life.
8. I love posting daily inspirational quotes on my facebook page, what are you favorite words of wisdom?
I have a few tattoos, and three of them are daily inspiration to me. Yes, all happen to be Disney related, but I find that Disney can be incredibly soothing and inspirational. The first is “Let your power shine” (from “Tangled”. If you haven’t seen it, see it). It is the first tattoo I got, and it reminds me daily to do just that. I have power, let it shine. Don’t be afraid. The second is “You can fly”. Yes I love “Peter Pan”, but that also just so true. No matter what, you CAN fly. You can do whatever you put your mind to. Soar to new heights. The third is “The lovers, the dreamers, and me”. This is a lyric from “The Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie”. You are a lover, you are a dreamer, you are you. You are part of that giant rainbow. Never forget it.
9. What advice would you give to others struggling with mental health issues?
Never give up. You are wonderful and powerful and you have complete control over your life. You are not alone and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how rough things may seem now, they will ALWAYS get better. You have so many tools and resources at your disposal- use each and every one of them. There is zero shame in getting the help you need and zero shame in cutting the toxic parts out of your life. Remember you are amazing and you deserve all the happiness in the world. People don’t get it? Screw them. Live your happiest life. 🙂
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Help us break down the stigmas surround mental health! And be sure to follow Cassie’s website to even more amazingly brave stories.