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Interview

Ryan.

Can you tell us about your most stressful experience and how you overcame it? 

Experiencing homelessness and having nowhere to call home. I overcame this by sticking to my sobriety, accessing numerous supports and successfully completing my Mental Health Court program.

How does one’s environment affect their mental well-being?

Our environment plays a huge part in our overall wellness. The people, places & things that we surround ourselves with can impact our motivation & interest to get well. 

How do you deal with your own mental health?

I see my concurrent disorders clinician &  psychiatrist on a regular basis. I use coping strategies, access family & friends, take medication & CBD and continue to be drug & alcohol free.  

Do you believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased to a notable extent in your community?

 In the Halton & Hamilton community and Ontario I believe great work has been done, but I still believe there is tremendous work that still needs to occur.   What may be the reason for this? Community groups, businesses & individuals are speaking out and offering programs to help people feel less alone.

What does mental health mean to YOU?

Mental health is unique to each individual. To me it means having an appropriate amount of sleep, eating healthy, exercising, taking my meds, accessing support, being vulnerable, doing things I enjoy along with my communication skills and setting healthy boundaries. 

What are you most proud of in your life currently?

Proud of the man I have become, openly & honestly sharing my story to help others feel less alone.

Why do you think that there is shame surrounding mental health topics?

Because it is most often seen as a sign of weakness.

Why do people refuse to talk about it?

Embarrassment, shame, guilt….to name a few. 

How do you express yourself to the world?

I share my story via social media, appear on podcasts & news interviews.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

Continue to enjoy life, set long & short term goals, manage challenges & changes in a healthy manner.

What would you want the Revive audiences to know about you?

 I love animals, photography & Sports – Raptors, Jays, TFC & Buffalo Bills fan. I have a certificate in Disability Management & Attendance Support from the University of Guelph, along with my Human Resources Management Diploma from McMaster University. I am certified in Mental Health First Aid, ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) & safeTalk (Suicide Alertness for everyone). I currently work as a HR Consultant & Account Executive for Calyx Wellness. 


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Interview

Caroline Wolff.

I see that you’re a chronic illness advocate. Could you tell us what got you interested in the subject?

As someone who was born with a very rare chronic illness (Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-Obstruction, or CIP), I’ve personally faced a lot of stigma throughout my life. CIP is an intestinal motility disorder, meaning my intestines are extremely uncoordinated due to a disconnect between my nervous system and my digestive tract. I’ve been on an all-liquid diet for my whole life and I receive all of my nutrition through two feeding tubes. After I was born, my doctors told my parents that I would likely die before turning 1 year old, but now I’m about to turn 20! They said I would never walk, and now I’m a dancer! I go to college, I have amazing friends, and I live a fulfilling and independent life despite my complications. Therefore, I want nothing more than to spread the message that chronically-ill people are entirely competent individuals who deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else.

What facts or misconceptions do you believe are important about chronic illnesses? 

There are way too many misconceptions and stigmas for me to even discuss here, but I can go over some of the ones that i found most important to address and oppose:

  • I’ve faced a lot of accusations about “faking being sick” from people who don’t know me. The reason for this is because CIP is what is called an “invisible illness”. There are no major physical signs of CIP, except for my feeding tubes which are both hidden under my clothes. There are many, many people in the world who have invisible illnesses and probably face the exact same accusations. It’s wrong to boil down chronic illness to something that can be detected by looking at someone. It’s wrong for there to even be a standard of what disabilities or chronic illnesses are “supposed to look like”. Just because someone isn’t in a wheelchair or exhibiting some other visible indicator, that doesn’t mean they aren’t chronically ill. In fact, I can guarantee you that most of us are faking being well so that we can keep up with the rapid pace of life!
  • Just because chronically-ill people do things differently or maybe might not be able to do everything you can do, that doesn’t mean we need or deserve pity! Whenever I tell people about my chronic illness, the most common reaction is deep sadness. I want people to know that just because our lives are different from yours, that doesn’t mean our lives are sad! Sure, we may have parts of life that are less than ideal, but we have plenty of good things in our lives as well.
  • Some people ask extremely invasive questions that are, quite frankly, none of their business. I want to first make it clear: I have absolutely no issue with educating people. I’m actually happy to do so! The problem when it gets taken a step too far. Some of my own personal examples are things like, “Can I see your tubes?” or “Is your CIP the reason why you’re so short?”. Instead, ask politely-framed questions that will help you become more aware of the condition, and don’t pry if the person you’re asking appears uncomfortable or asks you to stop.
  • Chronically-ill people are not fragile! We are very strong and competent people who just want to be treated like everyone else. I appreciate polite concern, of course, but people should not feel the need to hover over someone just because they are chronically-ill. Chronically-ill people do not want to be defined by their illness, but rather, they want to be given room to make their own decisions and show off their own potential.
  • It is wrong to call a chronically-ill person lazy just because they express that they are tired or struggling. In reality, chronically-ill and disabled people are the farthest thing from lazy, having to navigate a world that was not built for them. We power through major pain, fatigue, and other symptoms every day so that we can live life alongside everyone else!
  • Finally, I think it’s important to notice and call out insane double standards for chronically-ill and disabled people. For example, when we choose to express our sexuality, we are reduced to a fetish. When we are successful, it’s because we “got it handed to us”. It’s absolutely ridiculous! People with chronic illnesses and disabilities are no less of a person because of it; we work hard, we have fun, we achieve greatness, we have sex lives and friendships. We are human!!

I also learned that you are an aspiring author and poet. What are some practices you recommend doing when faced with writer’s block?

Yes! I love to write more than anything else in the world. Poetry is a huge coping mechanism for me, a way for me to take heartbreak and struggle and make it into art. Fiction writing is a way for me to create and tell stories that are not only important to me, but that I hope will resonate with others in a big way.

One of the things I love to do to get my creative juices flowing is to go out in public and just experience things. Go to a park and sit on a bench. Take note of the scenery. Look around and absorb the atmosphere. Be observant everywhere you go: school, work, the grocery store. Everywhere. I think writing what you know and writing with the senses are two really great practices, and this method combines both. I love to pull from personal experiences, whether that’s in the past or present (or hopes for the future), big or small. I also recommend bringing a notebook, tablet, computer, or something else you can use to jot down ideas with you everywhere. This way, when you get inspiration, you can just run with it without running the risk of forgetting anything!! Remember to trust the process and don’t force creativity; the best ideas come naturally.

Do you believe in reading therapy? Furthermore, has reading and/or writing helped you with your own mental health in the past? If so, why do you believe that it helped?

Yes, I do! One of my primary forms of self-care is reading for fun. Reading helps me to distance myself from my stresses and problems for a little while by joining a fictional world. Sometimes, learning can even help you learn something new about life/yourself or make you feel less alone by introducing you to a character or plot line that you relate to. Writing, as I mentioned earlier, has been crucial in maintaining my mental health. Creative writing has helped me by giving me an outlet to channel my thoughts and feelings into something beautiful, creative and long-lasting; something that I am proud of and that can be shared with the world and potentially help others.

What would you say to your younger self?

In the shortest terms, I would tell her that it gets better. I know that sounds vague, but I think that I needed to hear that more than anything. My CIP had such detrimental effects on my mental health as I grew up. I was isolated from peer groups a lot, which caused me to develop bad social anxiety. My tubes and scars altered my body shape and resulted in body dysmorphia. I also struggled with depression in middle school and early high school due to social isolation, bullying, and a belief that my life would never be “normal” or “like everyone else’s”. I felt like I would never find friends or happiness, but now, I have. 

How has the pandemic affected you mentally?

During the summer months of 2020, practically all of my mental health problems came back in full swing. I started feeling more anxious in social situations because I fell out of practice with socializing, not being able to see and talk to people at school every day. I felt extremely depressed and unmotivated most days since all I was doing was sitting at home. I also experienced a lack of physical activity because I wasn’t able to walk around and work out as much, which led to a relapse in my fixation on my body. Most of these things, thankfully, have gone by the wayside since I’ve been in school again. Bottom line: this pandemic has been so rough on everyone, and we need to remember to be kind to one another.

What are the most beautiful things about life to you?

Another difficult question, because I think there’s so many things about life that are beautiful and worthwhile. Some things that make my life worthwhile and beautiful are: poetry, books, random acts of kindness, music, art, meeting someone and having an immediate connection, deep and passionate conversations with someone you love, rainy mornings (light rain, not scary rain!), pets/animals, hugs, the feel of a warm blanket, long car rides at night, spontaneous side trips, trying new things. The short answer: all the little things and little moments… Those are always the most significant.

What does mental health mean to YOU?

To me, mental health is not about having the most perfect life. It’s about knowing how to cope and continue living life to the fullest even in the darkest of times. It’s about always knowing your worth, your beauty, and all of your good qualities even when other people (or just life in general) tries to tear you down.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell Revive’s audience?

First of all, THANK YOU for taking the time to read my story and for listening to what I have to say! It’s been a true pleasure. I also just want to remind you that you are worthy, you are loved, and you are beautiful even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. Remember to be kind and patient with others. And finally, remember that I am proud of you for being you and for getting up and living life despite all of your circumstances. I promise your struggle will be worth it in the end. Life is worth it.


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Interview

Brianne.

How do you deal with your own mental health?

I find taking breaks to be extremely helpful especially when I’m stressed or tired after school. I try my best to make time to relax and focus on my mental health. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes or something, everyday I try to take a break.  Usually, I just play guitar or work on music but sometimes a break could mean watching Netflix. 

What self-care practices would you recommend? Why do you think it is important to make time for yourself during the day?

I recommend journaling! At first, I was skeptical about it because I didn’t think it would benefit me the way it did. During quarantine, I started taking a moment out of my day to just write down my thoughts and reflect on the day. It helped me unpack my thoughts and emotions in a healthy way instead of bottling them up. 

Do you believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased to a notable extent in your community? What may be the reason for this? 

I would say that we’ve come a long way in terms of destigmatizing mental health and recognizing the mental health crisis within the Black community. Not only does society strip Black kids of their youth but also their ability to be vulnerable. Black children are taught at a young age that they have to be strong all the time because vulnerability is a weakness which isn’t true at all. Because of this, a lot of black youth suffer from undiagnosed mental illnesses and have to battle that alone. More people are speaking out and advocating for destigmatization which has allowed people to access the resources they need to take care of their mental health. 

Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important? 

The state of your mental health can affect so many things especially our behavior and our physical well-being. It’s so easy for us to not pay attention to how we’re feeling throughout the day because we might be occupied with other things. It’s crucial that we take time during the day to de-stress and take care of ourselves. 

How has the pandemic affected you mentally?

Spending time inside during quarantine actually helped me in a way. It was hard to adjust to everything, especially because so many changes were happening at once. But I had a lot of time to think and reflect and I began to learn a lot more about myself and how I react in certain situations. It was nice to finally pause and be able to really feel my emotions.  

What would you want the Revive audiences to know about you?

I would say that I’m obviously not perfect and sometimes I forget to prioritize my own mental health. But taking care of yourself is a journey that requires you to be patient. Trying to take breaks every day has helped me so much and hopefully, it will help someone else. 


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Interview

Meg.

How does one’s environment affect their mental well-being?

Environment is instrumental to our mental well-being. Environment spans so many aspects, it’s not just having a lovely bedroom, it’s also the people we are surrounded by – whether that be by choice or not. It is also understanding how different environments affect us. For example, I really struggle with lots of clutter that isn’t mine. I have ADHD and I’m very sensitive to outside stimuli. I work very hard to create a harmonious space around me. I grew up in a house with a lot of toxic energy and this had a detrimental impact on my mental health. Therefore I am so protected in my older age as to who I let into my space. I need to keep myself protected first and foremost. However I appreciate that environments fluctuate. For example, when I am depressed I tend to neglect keeping my environment clean and tidy – however I’ve learnt to not beat myself up about this. My environment will change from day to day, and putting pressure on myself to always have perfect harmony around me is actually counter-intuitive. 

How do you deal with your own mental health?

Dealing with my own mental health is a daily journey. I’m very aware as to how my day starts can have a lasting impact. When I have sleep troubles and, particularly at the moment with lockdown, when I get out of bed late it can really send me into a spin for the rest of the day. I start small with my mental health, instead of thinking of the mammoth task to tackle I see it as small acts of kindness to myself. Whether it’s making myself a cup of tea, whether it’s taking the decision to ignore social media for a day, or run myself a hot bath. It’s also changing how I speak to myself. I had anorexia and bulimia, and the lasting effect of the internal dialogue I had with myself continued long after I had been in recovery. I make a concerted effort to tell myself something kind and compassionate every day. Looking in the mirror and saying ‘I like my body’ or ‘I like myself.’ It is difficult when you start, but after time I realised just how much it helped improve my relationship with myself. Speaking for myself, my mental health is very much based on the relationship I have with myself and my inner child. My childhood trauma had a lasting impact on me, I felt worthless and that I wasn’t deserving of love. I had to break this narrative and begin to treat myself with the love and compassion I wanted as a child and felt I didn’t receive.  Not every day is perfect, I try as much as I can to take care of the current moment and have faith the other moments will then look after themselves. 

Do you believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased to a notable extent in your community? What may be the reason for this? 

I believe my immediate circle are very stigma-busting. I’m fortunate enough to have built a life with people, on and offline, who care for others and believe in mental health change. I believe social media has been a double-edged sword in this. As we find ourselves locked in our houses, many more of us are spending time online and I have found a fantastic community who are all open and have no stigma in regards to mental health. I’m a queer socialist, and people in those circles tend to be very accepting and without much judgement. However I truly believe it is easy to get caught in an echo chamber, and believe because those around you think and act in a supportive and forward thinking way that the rest of the world is like that. It’s sobering when you expand beyond your circles and realise there are still a lot of people who don’t believe in mental health support. They have stigmatising views and see mental health as something ‘dangerous’. Whilst there is more talk on public platforms about mental health, many films and media are still stigmatising of mental illnesses. 

What does mental health mean to YOU?

The million dollar question. I’m asked this a lot and never really know how to encapsulate what it means to me exactly. It’s such an overarching term. Mental health meaning in the dictionary sense is ‘a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.’ Which sums it up fairly spot-on. In the general sense. For me, we then have several subcategories of this. Mental health isn’t just being ill, or having a disorder, or a stereotype. It’s like a fingerprint. No two people are the same. Your happiness is also part of your mental health. It’s not anything shameful. It’s who we are as individuals. It builds our relationships, it gives us creativity, it makes us special. Mental health is those tangles, spirals, lumps, bumps, and swirls that make up who we are. 

Why do you think that there is shame surrounding mental health topics? Why do people refuse to talk about it?

I believe mental health has been stigmatised through the media. People with mental illness have been portrayed as stereotypes, dangerous, different and to be avoided. They have been dealt with in a sense of ‘fear.’ Horror has used mental illness in their ‘monsters.’ There is also the phrase ‘stiff upper lip’ in British culture. This notion perpetuates the idea that emotion is a sign of weakness. ‘Oh don’t be so soft’ ‘man up’ ‘suck it up’ there’s a litany of phrases banded around to force people to quell what are deemed as ‘negative’ emotions. This stunting and suppression has a lasting impact, it also bleeds the idea into society that having mental health is a lack of control, a mismanagement of emotions. It then spreads and people begin to harbour shame, and shame silences. It’s been handed down generationally and it’s time we break this stigma.

How do you express yourself to the world?

I express myself through my writing. I find it hard to speak to be people very close to me, I think many people do. We don’t want to worry people. We don’t want to ‘cause a fuss.’ I’ve found through my writing I can be vulnerable and work through my emotions, all of them. Happy and sad. Up and down. I started writing spoken word poetry. This enabled me to have a third voice. Whilst I drew on personal experiences it wasn’t me directly saying this. I then moved onto writing plays, and again this was another mouthpiece for me to share the tangles of my mind. These two mediums helped me build the confidence to start my blog and begin writing first-hand of my experiences. These are me, these are raw, these are truthful. I am now so grateful for the community I have from my blog, and it has enabled me to express myself in a more direct manner. 

What are some challenges you have faced in life and proud of how you faced it?

My mother passed away in August 2019. It was also in the middle of a really tough period of my life. I had been hospitalised several times for mental health crises and suicide attempts. I blocked out what had happened. I indulged in alcohol and drugs, I was told ‘oh you’re handling it so well’ when in reality I was suppressing it. Any time something arose I would reach for my numbing target behaviour. I have now readdressed my relationship with alcohol and drugs and have joined AA. I’ve got myself into therapy and I’m working through this grief, as well as the childhood trauma I experienced. I am proud of myself for engaging with these growth methods. However I appreciate that they are not a quick fix, and it is a battle everyday. Recovery isn’t linear but we need to engage with the tools to move forwards. 

If you change something about yourself, what would it be? And why?

I wish I could learn to stop putting so much pressure on myself. I get so easily caught up with what others are doing, how much better than me they are doing and I can spiral. I convince myself I need to be doing more, or should have achieved more. I would like to be able to pause and appreciate more often. I want to practice more gratitude and compassion. I am aware of this, and I’m trying.  Gratitude journals. Stopping the negative self talk thoughts in their tracks, and meditation are all helping. Some days are better than others. 

What are some self-care practices that you recommend?

Meditation. Top of the list for sure. I subscribe to the Calm App, and their 10 minute daily meditation is such a delightful aspect of self care to my day. Sometimes I have to fight myself to do it, other days I don’t – however the days I do it only improves my day. YouTube has lots of free meditations for 5 minutes plus. I believe how I speak to myself is self care as well. I’m learning to parent my wounded inner child. I try to consider that when I’m speaking to myself, I’m speaking to the child within me. Patience, compassion, kindness and encouragement. This is what brings the best out in a child, inner child included. 

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

I would love to write a book. I’m looking forward to the theatre industry returning in a post-COVID world and I can further my playwriting ability. I hope to reach 1 year sober. I hope to find an inner peace. Big ask I know. I’ll say I hope to continue with what I’m doing. I hope writing will enable me to meet incredible people. I hope to continue working on myself, and I really hope to help people. 

What would you want the Revive audiences to know about you?

That I’m trying to approach mental health in my own way. I make fun of myself and my illnesses because that helps me. I can’t focus on the dark and weight of it all because that doesn’t help me. I swear a lot when talking about it. I’m incredibly honest, and at some times totally blunt. It doesn’t appeal to everyone, and I’m not trying to appeal to everyone. We all need to find our medium to express ourselves, and this is mine. I don’t take it personally if my approach isn’t palatable for all. There will be someone out there who likes it. There will be someone out there who you like. Also if you see me comparing myself to others, or trying to be someone I’m not… tell me to shut the f*ck up.


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Interview

Britney Bui.

I see that you’re part of SHEDIDTHAT!, Zenerations, Ocean Location, and Her Campus. Could you tell us what got you interested in advocating for change?

After COVID-19 hit, I was stuck in my house with nothing to do. Nonetheless, this gave me an opportunity to expose myself to more organizations and platforms on social media that I have not been familiar with.

I started as the Design Director at SHEDIDTHAT!  in July 2020 with the intention of advocating for women’s rights, empowering girls to explore their true potential, and take on life-changing opportunities with tenacity. Throughout the past few months, we successfully hosted a Women in Leadership Panel, launched our sister blog called InspiHER Media, and recruited team members from all around the world. We are currently hosting our second round of fellowship applications for any girls who want to create change through the power of journalism, digital art, and social media!

In August 2020, I became a graphic designer for Zenerations and landed a role as the Director of Campaigns and Development for Ocean Location. With a platform of 64 thousand followers (and counting) on Instagram and 140 team members, Zenerations has managed to become Gen Z’s most favorited account for activism and current news updates. As a graphic designer, I am tasked with creating on-brand infographics that highlight important concepts expressed in a specific article that is published on our website. During my time in this organization, I have enjoyed creating bonds with my talented and dedicated team members. As for Ocean Location, our small team is currently working on building a foundation for the organization and will be hosting team member applications soon!

Last but not least, I am a fresh face in the Her Campus community. Her Campus is “the #1 media site for college women, written entirely by the world’s top college journalists.” I currently hold two roles in Her Campus, one of which is a graphic designer for Her Campus at Penn State. I am also a Campus Trendsetter, who collaborates with brands and businesses to promote their products and/or services through creative content. 

What is your overall goal in life? Furthermore, how is the path you’re going on right now going to lead you to your goal?

My overall goal in life is to be financially stable, live my life on my own terms, and continue advocating for communities that are not able to have a definite voice through my personal platform. Besides already being involved with activism and engagement, I am learning how to live independently and try things that are beneficial for me. As a college student studying remotely at home, it’s difficult to do things on my own (especially with traditional Asian parents), but it also gives me the opportunity to get a job, spend more time with family, and get accustomed to the college lifestyle, minus the dorming. 

You seem interested in graphic designing. What made you gain interest in graphic design?

I started graphic designing in my senior year of high school for my Leadership class and it just took off from there. As I got more familiar with graphic designing applications, I started to develop an interest in it. With more experience, I was confident enough to start displaying my work through the organizations I work with today. I sort of also consider graphic designing a way of expression. Just like art, every blank page—or should I say, canvas—is transformed into a finished product that is representative of my skill set, personality, and style. 

Who have been your biggest role-models or resources in times of unsureness, grief, and healing?

In the dark times of my life, I heavily rely on the tight-knit relationships I have with my close friends and significant other. I find it very helpful to be communicative and open about my feelings and emotions. Although, I do believe that reflecting independently and just taking time to focus on myself will better increase my overall mood. I usually like to turn to music and personal care to take my mind off things and escape reality once in a while, whether it be doing my makeup at home, drawing, or even watching Netflix. 

How has the pandemic affected you mentally?

When the pandemic hit, I was currently in the middle of my senior year of high school. With so much uncertainty, I was really disappointed and devastated about the fact that I would not be able to walk across the stage or see my favorite teachers one last time. I wouldn’t say that the pandemic really took a large toll on my mental health, but I did experience a feeling of loss for quite some time. I found it really difficult to adapt to a new way of living, especially with virtual learning. Staring at my computer for the majority of the day definitely made my eyesight a lot worse. Knowing that there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel really motivates me every day to continue to do what I do best and allow myself to learn and grow along the way.

What are the most beautiful things about life to you?

To sum it up, the most beautiful things about life to me is definitely the nature that surrounds us and the relationships we form with people in our community. These meaningful relationships that we cultivate often lead to open doors and unexpected opportunities in our lifetime. Need to mention, the success and innovations that are achieved are almost always a result of individuals who have cultivated strong connections with each other, and even themselves.

Do you believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased to a notable extent in your community? What may be the reason for this?

I feel like the stigma around mental health has greatly decreased in my community. Nowadays, schools and workplaces are emphasizing the importance of mental health, which I really appreciate. This is probably due to the large numbers of suicides and self-harm incidents our country has seen annually. However, I still do believe that certain cultures ignore the importance and role that mental health plays in our physical health.

As an Asian-American, I grew up with very traditional parents who always expected that I would excel in school. They would consistently discipline me for dishonorable actions and create a very tense environment every single time. With the pressure and restrictions that were placed upon me, I began to really struggle with my mental health. I feel like many other teenagers who grew up with traditional parents can relate to me on a personal level. For Asian parents [and maybe others], they seem to shy away from topics that they are uncomfortable to address such as mental health, dating, and even sex. 

What does mental health mean to YOU?

There are many ways to interpret the meaning of mental health. Mental health to me reflects my overall well-being. Because without a healthy mindset, I am not able to physically motivate myself to do the simplest of tasks. I consider my mental health to be sort of like the nucleus of the cell—it essentially is responsible for the DNA of my wellness and regulates the inner workings of my feelings and emotions.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell Revive’s audience?

Whatever you do, don’t do it for the satisfaction of others, truly do it for yourself. You deserve it! Thank you for sticking around and reading my Revive interview!


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Interview

Anh Nguyen.

I see that you’re the executive director of The Asian Articles. Could you tell us a little about the initiative?

The Asian Articles is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering and uplifting pan-Asian youth, primarily through writing and the arts. It’s difficult to represent the entire pan-Asian community when you’re based in the United States, because even up until now, representation in popular media has been primarily of the East Asian community. Moreover, many Asian communities are only covered in news or media because of the tragedy they experience. Our initiative as The Asian Articles is to normalize the representation of West, Central, South, and Southeast Asians in media through publications like our zine collections and articles and to ensure that the pan-Asian community is represented in a positive light rather than just tragedy. 

What is your overall goal in life? Furthermore, how is the path you’re going on right now going to lead you to your goal?

My overall goal in life would probably be to just deeply impact at least one person. I think it would be remiss of me to say that I want to change the world or something along those lines; it would be too idyllic. However, I would be content if I knew that my work positively impacted just one person, because that person can then deeply impact someone else. What I do with The Asian Articles, Dear Asian Youth Houston (as one of their cabinet members), or even in my local community has kept me on a direct path to this goal, and I’d like to think that my work has already affected one or two people in some manner. 

What would you say about mental health in the Asian community?

Mental health in the Asian community, especially the older generation, is still taboo. While the community here in America has definitely opened up more to discussions of mental health, it’s still something that many Asians can’t bring up to their parents or close relatives without receiving mixed response. I’m remembering a past conversation I had with my mother, who was raised in Vietnam until she immigrated here at around 18. She didn’t understand why mental health wasa  prevalent issue for so many youth, and it had to do with the culture she was raised in. The collectivistic values that many Asian cultures hold can raise extremely high barriers when it comes to free discussions of mental health, so I think the Asian community would benefit from adapting some of the individualistic values of Western culture.

What would you say to your younger self?

To my younger self, I would say, “Don’t be too resentful towards your parents, and don’t be afraid to make a mistake.” When I was growing up, it was difficult for me to empathize with my parents. I didn’t understand their harsh parenting, but now, as I’m older, I understand it was a result of how they were raised themselves. At times I’m even grateful because without the harsh parenting, I doubt I would be as hard-working or tenacious as I am now. With the harsh parenting came a constant expectation to be perfect, and this perfectionism has been a foible. I didn’t like making mistakes or asking for help (both things which I’ve worked on and am continuing to work on), which lead to some incidents during my childhood that could have been avoided. However, those incidents became memorable lessons for me, so I can’t say I’m not grateful for them.

Who have been your biggest role-models or resources in times of unsureness, grief, and healing? 

My older sister, by nine years, has been my shoulder to cry on and a source of stability for me during times of grief and unsureness. We’ve both experienced much, especially her, and our ability to empathize with each other has made her an invaluable person for me to go to whenever I’m uncertain, etc. As for role models, I think it’s stereotypically ARMY of me to say BTS, but I think I really can say that BTS, as people and as artists, have been a wonderful resource for me. I’ve always relied on music to get me through everything and anything, but the message of hope and reassurance that BTS brings has been even more comforting. 

How has the pandemic affected you mentally?

The continued absence of people and their physical presence in my life has made me increasingly lonely, but being a year into the pandemic has inured me to that feeling, and I’ve found ways to cope thanks to technology and the internet. It’s been difficult to stay focused and motivated at times, but in some ways, the pandemic has allowed me to improve my mental health and back away from falling into burn out.

What are the most beautiful things about life to you?

The most beautiful things about life, to me, are the moments in which I’m able to slow down and appreciate my time on Earth – whether that’s to experience good food, sights, or people. I think different interactions with people are what make life special, and while many are mundane, there are some that leave a lasting impression on you and that you’ll have for the rest of your life, which I believe is very special. 

Do you believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased to a notable extent in your community? What may be the reason for this? 

I’m not sure about notable, but I believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased somewhat within my local Asian community, as well as the general community, primarily due to Gen Z (and millennial) efforts to bring mental health to the forefront of conversation, especially in terms of stress, burnout, and more. Social media, especially Instagram with accounts like Revive and Project Lotus, has given young folx the courage to begin discussions of mental health outside of the bubble it used to always be trapped inside. This initiation is key to destigmatizing mental health.

What does mental health mean to YOU?

To me, mental health means recognizing my own boundaries when it comes to work and stress and prioritizing those boundaries. With hustle culture being so prevalent and a need for productivity driven into my Gen Z brain, it can be difficult for me to know when how much is challenging myself and how much is pushing myself too far past my limits.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell Revive’s audience?

Don’t ever be afraid to prioritize your mental health. I know that’s easier said than done, but sometimes, doing something for the sake of your mental health is better than sacrificing it for the sake of something else (like work or academics).


Check out Anh & The Asian Articles!

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Interview

Anna Everts.

Can you tell us about your most stressful experience and how you overcame it?

I think my most stressful experience was the first day of my first part-time job. I was 15 at the time (that’s a normal age for a part-time job here) and I was very nervous. Because of my autism, I always first need proper instructions when diving into a new situation. When I arrived on the job (a theme park) I was told to go to a certain place in the theme park to meet the manager, who would give me instructions. After at least half an hour of wandering, I still couldn’t find it. I was starting to panic: what if they think I’m late? What if they’re going to fire me right away? Luckily another employee noticed me and told me where to go. Turns out the place I needed to be didn’t have the name I was given on the front, so no wonder I couldn’t find it! Once there, I got told what to do and was then left to my own devices. This scared me because I was thrown into the deep end right away. I had to manage a food court by myself! I was scared and stressed, but luckily I only got 4 customers that day. But those four customers did raise my anxiety a lot. I managed to pull myself together and told myself that I just needed time to get the hang of it. During the entire season I was alone in food courts 80% of the time, so I did get the hang of it. I’m not sure if I overcame this stress right away, but it did teach me a lot of things that would be of use later in life. Every moment in life has lessons.

How does one’s environment affect their mental well-being?

A lot! Until March 2020, I was employed and worked in an office. While my colleagues were cool, I just felt myself being drained by the office. When I left the job and started freelancing, my mental well-being rapidly improved because I got to work from home all the time. I got to be in my own safe environment all the time (also because of corona..). It helped me so much that I managed to quit my antidepressants last September. I had been on them for 5 years at that point. I think if you’re constantly in an environment where you feel like you aren’t completely free to be yourself, or an environment that drains your energy in some way, it can really do a number on you in the long run.

How do you deal with your own mental health?

Because I’m autistic I’ve always been sort of forced to reflect on my actions and thoughts. Being aware that you’re different means you’re constantly hyper-aware of everything you do and say. On one hand that was bad for my mental health, but on the other hand it taught me a lot about myself. My past two psychologists told me that I’m really self-aware and seem to know myself very well. So I think getting to know yourself and your wants and needs is a very important step. I talk to myself a lot, which has been proven to be beneficial for your mental health. By talking to myself during low moments and breakdowns, I get to understand what is actually bothering me and I can think about a rational solution. 

What self-care practices would you recommend? Why do you think it is important to make time for yourself during the day?

As mentioned before, I think talking to yourself can be very helpful. Another very important thing is to protect your energy. You don’t owe anyone your time, presence and energy. If you need to recharge, give yourself room to do so. It’s important to look after yourself so you don’t get burnt out. Giving yourself time gives you space to heal and rest. One thing I learned is that when you’re tired, your feelings become distorted. Sometimes I realise that I’m not actually sad or stressed but just tired. That’s why, when my mental health gets bad, I go to bed early. If I sleep on it, I usually feel better in the morning. So getting enough sleep is an important part of self-care. 

Do you believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased to a notable extent in your community? What may be the reason for this? 

I kind of feel like on one hand there is more awareness now and people recognise how serious mental illness can be, but on the other hand this awareness makes people dismiss it. I’ve heard people say “everyone is depressed nowadays”, implying people are exaggerating. So I think there is still a lot of work to do. 

What does mental health mean to YOU?

When I read “mental health” I always associate it with mental illness. I was diagnosed with depression at age 18, but became very depressed around the age of 16. However, according to my mother, I’ve been “down” for my entire life. Even as a five-year-old I expressed my dislike for life in general. So now that I’m actually doing better for once, my focus is starting to shift. I now slowly start to associate “mental health”  with self-care. It’s important to look after your brain, because your brain determines how you feel. Now that I have noticed what self-care can do, I think mental health is one of the most important things we as humans should be aware of.

How do you express yourself?

It took me a good 21 or so years to find ways to express myself, and I’m still not sure I fully figured it out. Because of my autism I always found it hard to fit in. I figured that, if I just did what everyone else was doing, they wouldn’t notice I was different. I was ashamed of being autistic and didn’t want to accept it. But being someone you’re not is tiring and at one point I decided I had had enough. I wanted to discover the real me, and so I did. Right now I express myself through my appearance. I like wearing a lot of colour and wearing 80s/90s style clothing. My friends jokingly call me “retro clown” (partly because I sometimes wear face paint or stick felt flowers on my face). 

Who inspires you the most?

Good question! I’m honestly not sure. Is it weird to say I inspire myself? Because I’m pretty proud of what I have achieved so far. I didn’t have it easy, but I managed to build a stable life for myself. I do also get inspired by my friends, because they’re all such creative and kind people.

What are some hobbies you have?

My main hobby is creative writing, although I would love for that to be my job. One of my comics got published last year and there are more comics coming out this year. I also want to write more short stories and poems. Besides writing, I love to paint. I have a little Etsy shop where I sell some of my paintings. Writing and painting are ways for me to express myself. I’m a very creative person and I’m the happiest when I get to create new things. 

Anything else you would like Revive’s audience to know about you?

Maybe not necessarily about me, but I would like for the audiences to know that it’s okay to be selfish sometimes. It’s okay to cancel plans and take time for yourself to recover. It’s okay to put yourself first if you need to heal. Putting myself first was the best thing I’ve ever done and it has really helped me to get better. Even if today seems hopeless, know what you can always try again tomorrow. Never stop trying.


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Interview

Mae.

How does one’s environment affect their mental well-being?

One’s environment has a lot of effect on mental well-being. If you’re surrounded by people who keep on saying “just be happy” or make you feel as if your feelings are not valid, you start to believe that. This only causes further damage to someone’s well-being. If you’re surrounded by people who support you and try to understand what you’re going through, you can stop pretending your fine all the time and focus on your healing process.

How do you deal with your own mental health?

Good question. I am still struggling with this too. But I really like to read and go to bed early to watch a movie or series. Also, I cry a lot. I need to get those emotions out and crying is one of my ways to do it. 

I see you are the owner of Let’s break the shame, tell me some obstacles you faced when you first started the organization?

I think the first thing that crosses everyone’s mind when starting a business is: will people actually think this is valuable? Am I making a fool out of myself? Sometimes it’s still difficult to put myself out there, because I am afraid of what other people are gonna say. 

How did you make your organization a safe haven for people to come and share their stories?

I think what makes people most safe is the fact that everyone at LBTS has been struggling or is still struggling with their mental health. We understand them and we make them feel heard, creating a safe environment where no one judges.

Do you believe that the stigma around mental health has decreased to a notable extent in your community? What may be the reason for this? 

Well, in the LBTS community yes. Because we’re surrounded by people who understand each other. In real life, I’m not always surrounded by people who want/can/try to understand, but I’ve found my way to explain things from my point of view. I’m at that stage where I don’t let people get to me. Instead, I tell them what mental health struggles really feel like.

What are you most proud of in your organization?

My lovely team. 

Why do you think that there is shame surrounding mental health topics? Why do people refuse to talk about it?

I don’t “think” there is a shame around mental health topics; I know there is. I have experienced it myself and I’ve seen it in my own environment as well. It’s not something people refuse to talk about, but society makes them feel as if they’re not allowed to talk about it. As if they’re crazy. But they’re illnesses, just as physical ones, so why are we not allowed to talk about that? 

What would you want the Revive audiences to know?

You matter, you are beautiful & asking for help is okay.


Check out Let’s Break The Shame!

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Interview

Karina Kejriwal.

Can you tell us about your most stressful experience and how you overcame it?

The most stressful experience I went through was at the beginning of quarantine due to the uncertainty present in the world. In March/April of 2020, I was extremely anxious and longed to be near friends again. Over time, I learned to adjust to a new schedule that balanced a workload of schoolwork, extracurriculars, and then social time. Now, I have adjusted and feel comfort in this schedule and have got used to this new life. 

How does one’s environment affect their mental well-being?

I am a strong believer in the fact that every individual is a combination of the five people they spend the most time with. This includes personality, habits,  passions, and attitude. One’s environment strongly affects their mental well-being because they are, essentially, a support system. Without a strong and positive environment, it can be very difficult to have a stable mental health. 

What do you feel matters the most to you?

I consider three main things that matter the most to me: healthy well-being, happiness, and success (relative to my own definition). Firstly, healthy well-being includes self care, a positive attitude and mental health. I think it’s very important to always put health first, because without good health, everything goes downhill from there. Next, happiness includes a work/life balance and being surrounded by the people I care most about. If I can have a smile on my face, I believe I can accomplish anything. And lastly, the one most important to me, success. This includes pursuing a goal that you’re passionate about and following your dreams. In my eyes, working towards my dreams and goals is success, not wealth necessarily. 

What is a dream that you have yet to accomplish?

A dream I have yet to accomplish is having a happy and healthy family. Of course, that is long and far out, but since I was young, I have been really excited to have a family and kids! But. before this, comes working at a senior position and travelling to many countries. As someone very passionate in business, I look forward to hopefully working for a large company or owning a start-up. But, along with that, I want to travel all over the world – Europe and Australia, especially! 

What would you want the Revive audiences to know about you?

I would like the Revive audiences to know that I love meeting new people! This includes new friends and getting to know others beyond my local area. I would love to talk to anyone virtually, especially if you’re looking for a friend. I love talking about anything Taylor Swift, STEM, latest trends, room decor, and more!


Check out Karina & Cura Project!

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Interview

Cassie.

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.


Check out Cassie!