I see that you’re the founder of Be-YOU-tiful Disaster. Could you tell us a little about the initiative & what you hope your audience gets from it?
) I set my page up as when I’m feeling low I love nothing more than coming across an inspirational quote or post. It either lifts me up or makes me feel like I’m not going crazy, that my feelings are valid and I’m simply not alone. My page is still very much a work in progress and I’m in no way a medical or health professional. I can only go off my own personal experiences and things that I’ve learnt or that inspire me, but I’m hoping to eventually build a community of support where if you are feeling down you can come to my page and see something that gives you a little pick me up, inspiration or something that resonates with you enough to know you aren’t alone with how you feel. People appreciate honesty and realness and I hope to bring that across and show that it doesn’t matter how rich, educated, talented or famous someone is, fundementally we are all just human beings with the same worries, fears and hang ups.
What motivated you to create Be-YOU-tiful Disaster? Furthermore, what advice would you give someone who is wanting to launch their own start-up but are held back due to the fear of commitment & responsibilities?
The motivation was knowing how much similar pages have helped me and still do, and I’d love to be able to pay that forward and put a smile on someone’s face. Life in general can be overwhelming at times and can sometimes be hard to function and get through the most menial of tasks. I just want to be able to spread some positivity and share my own thoughts and feelings with the occasional bit of humour with the hope of uplifting someone else. For anyone wanting to set up their own page but are unsure I’d say just do it! I feel as long as it’s something that you feel passionate about then you do you and hopefully that will come across to others. There won’t be a problem with commitment if you believe in what you are doing.
I also learned that you are a breast cancer survivor. If comfortable, could you tell us about that experience and how it affected your mental health?
Having Breast Cancer has had a massive affect of my mental health, more so than I ever thought it would. I can’t even describe how it feels to ask a Doctor if you’re going to die and nobody can give you an answer. I’ve found life after cancer much harder than during cancer treatment. When you’re in active treatment you go in to what I can only describe as “survival mode” and for me I felt numb to what was going on and felt like a robot. Once my main treatments were finished that was when I had the time to try and process what had happened/was happening to me. At my lowest not only was I trying to recover from some treatments (whilst still undergoing other treatments), I was self conscious about my scars, my anxiety was through the roof, the fear that the cancer might return was crippling, I was still underweight and weak, I was having regular panic attacks, I was diagnosed with medical PTSD and if that wasn’t enough my then husband left completely out of the blue and it was all just too much at once. I remember thinking at the time that with all the bad happening to me then I must be a bad person and didn’t deserve to be in this world. It took me a long time to admit I was struggling. Put under the pressures of my own and others expectations to get “back to normal” once in remission, I just didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t okay. I was naive to think that once I was given the “all clear” that I would snap back to my old self but the truth is that person was gone and I was mourning her whilst trying to keep my head above water with everything else going on. I still have my good and bad days but the difference now though is that I’m not afraid to talk about it and that is half the battle.
How has the pandemic affected you mentally? What things did you learn about yourself during the course of this pandemic that you didn’t know before?
I think the pandemic has affected everyone mentally in some way. For me it’s been hard trying to stay inspired whilst feeling like its Groundhog Day and I’ve had to find different ways to help motivate myself to do the simplest of things like getting dressed in a morning. I’d love to say that the pandemic has made me look at life differently, shown how fragile we really are, shown that it’s people and making memories that are important and not material things etc but the truth is, when you’ve already stared death in the face there isn’t much else a pandemic can teach you about that. What I think has been highlighted though is that everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about and we simply need to be kinder to each other. Mental health is real, not as obvious as a physical injury but often more damaging.
What self-care practices do you recommend? Furthermore, why is it important to scope out time for yourself each day?
For self care I’d recommend doing something that you enjoy and that makes you happy to get them endorphins flowing. For me I love a long soak in the tub with a face mask, doodling on my I pad or watching a Disney film, all of which never fail to relax me and put a smile on my face. Making time for yourself is super important. You need that time to collect your thoughts and just have a bit of time to put yourself first. We’re all guilty of putting others in front of ourselves at times because I think it’s easier to try and help someone else rather than dealing with your own problems sometimes but you can’t give anything useful from an empty battery so it’s important to rest, recharge and reset yourself as and when you need it.
Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important, especially for youth?
It’s important for everyone to prioritise their mental health and I think this past year has tested our mental resolve more than ever and highlighted even more how important it is to speak up if you need some support. At the end of the day, how are you expected to help others if you aren’t even taking the time to help yourself? It’s especially important for youth as I feel as a society we can sometimes dismiss a teenagers feelings because “they’re too young” or “they don’t know what they’re talking about”. However, we now live in a world where social media has the potential to make our youth feel worthless or inadequate, whether that be from online trolling or seeing photoshopped photos of people who appear to be living their best lives whilst looking like they belong on the front of a magazine cover. Your teenage years are challenging in itself with all the usual social pressures, add to that trying to establish who you are as a person and growing in to the adult that you’re going to become all whilst thinking that you need to look or act a certain way to be accepted. Putting that all together can have a detrimental affect on our teenagers mental health and it’s important that they are seen and heard and as adults we are there to listen and make them feel valid.
Who have been your biggest role-models or resources in times of unsureness, grief, & healing?
All my fellow cancer fighters/survivors have been my role models. Unless you have had your very existence threatened I don’t think you could ever understand how hard it is to literally fight for your life physically whilst also fighting for your life mentally and come out the other side. You then have to get used to your “new normal” and readapt to life but not as you knew it. Anyone that can do that will always be my inspirations. Support wise there’s a fabulous charity called Maggie’s who offer support for anyone affected by cancer and the best thing is that the support isnt just for the person with cancer. The support is for your close friends and family too. They offer work shops including excercise and arts and crafts but also offer financial and emotional support and put you in touch with other charities that may be able to help you. If you don’t want any of that that you can simply go in for a relaxing cup of tea, they have centers up and down the country with calm spaces for you to just go in for some quiet time. I can not speak highly enough of them and they were and are invaluble support for me and thousands of others.
What does mental health mean to YOU?
To me mental health means waking up every day and feeling like you are good enough, you are worthy and you are allowed to feel sad sometimes. It sounds cliché but it really is okay not to be okay. You just need to do your best to keep moving forward, taking little steps in the right direction to help yourself grow and heal one day at a time. I’m all about self love but I’m very aware that it’s easy to love yourself when you like what you see in the mirror. True self love comes from loving yourself when you don’t like what you see. Life is fragile and you really have no idea of someones state of mind and we need to mindful of that. Most of us have reached rock bottom at some point, the darkness and negative thoughts can consume you and sometimes it’s hard to see a way out of that black hole. We need to remember that something that might seem a small problem to you can be a massive problem to someone else and we all deal with things in different ways. No matter what facade someone is deciding to show you, you just don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors and it takes no effort at all to just be kinder to each other. Let’s be honest, we’re all a little messed up… some people just hide it better. Nobody is perfect, in fact we’re perfectly imperfect, some might say a beautiful disaster.
Is there anything else you would like Revive’s audience to know?
I’ve really enjoyed doing this interview and I think if you are comfortable enough to then it’s important to share your story and use your voice. You have no idea who you may be helping or what it means to someone to be able to read something that they can relate to. I just hope that anyone reading this or who stumbles across my page finds some comfort even in a small way. No one is you and that is your super power. Do you. Be you. Love you. For you.