When I first discovered Wear Your Label, I was in love. Two individuals with their own mental health struggles came together to design a clothing line to create conversations about mental health. They exist to encourage individuals to take ownership over their mental health, rather than fear the labels that so often define us. They've been making international headlines and inspire me every day with their work. Naturally, I was thrilled and honoured when they asked me to be a 'Role Model'.
Wear Your Label: Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was always (and let’s be honest, still am) the over-achiever with a megawatt smile plastered on my face. So it wasn’t easy for me to realize in 2009 that I struggled with my mental health. For a number of reasons, some I probably still don’t even know, I developed depression and binge eating disorder. But I never let them define me. I continued to work hard at going above-and-beyond in my work, though it wasn’t always easy and often detriment to my wellbeing. It was a rocky journey, but I wouldn’t change anything about it - it’s been a positive factor to shaping who I am. I began the Vibrant Lives Foundation in 2013, and in 2014 I launched my brand In A Sequoia. These two pieces of my life are a beautiful blend of my passions, my philosophies and my heart. Vibrant Lives engages youth to end the stigma through a variety of ever-growing programs. In A Sequoia is a lifestyle brand focused on intentional, mindful living with boho flair.
WYL: What's your connection to mental illness? Why is it important for you to share your story?
I first noticed the eating disorder. I’m not certain how long it had been going on for, but around half-way through my first year of university I realized something wasn’t right with my relationship to food. The depression symptoms made themselves evident not long after. Each counsellor I’ve seen has a theory as to what came first - it’s a real chicken or egg scenario - but ultimately, what does it matter? I have both. I need to treat both. I face the stigma for both. Every day assumptions like ‘you don’t look like you have an eating disorder, you just lack willpower’ or ‘why don’t you just snap out of it?’ used to bother me. It took me a long time to become comfortable with who I am and the signs I have to look out for in order to keep myself healthy. As I became comfortable with myself I realized we don’t talk about mental health nearly enough, yet it’s something everyone needs to take care of. It’s this lack of dialogue that is the root of the stigma. So we need to talk about it - I think it’s the most important step to ending the stigma and providing proper mental health care.
WYL: How have you overcome your struggles?
I think it’s the activist in me that has always been core to keeping me going. This drive I feel to make a difference and be a part of change. The Vibrant Lives Foundation is a key motivator to getting me out of bed on really hard days. But that’s what gets me moving. Once I found what drove me to keep moving day-to-day, I found what allows me to truly enjoy life and to live, not just survive. My friends and family top that list for sure. Spending time outside and in nature rejuvenates my soul. Finding adventure in the every day. Those little moments in life, they’re what really make a difference.
WYL: How do you help others overcome a mental health challenge they might be facing?
Because I am so open and honest in sharing my mental health struggles, people have felt comfortable confiding in me with their own experience and I think that has been one of the most incredible aspects of this journey. The people I get to meet and talk with in a radically honest way. Seeing how much comfort the realization of not being alone in their journey brings them fuels my fire to keep the conversations going. Then, through the Vibrant Lives Foundation, I engage youth to work to end the stigma in a variety of ways. The main project we’re working on right now has been a scholarship program. We’ll be awarding our very first scholarship to a graduate this year. In order to properly apply, students had to provide a creative writing piece on the topic of mental health and their submissions blew me away. Selecting our winner wasn’t easy, but when we get to share the piece, you’ll see why this program is so vital.
WYL: If you could describe your mental health struggle in one word what would it be?
WYL: Why is ending the stigma important to you?
We all live with mental health. We all need to care for our mental health. So why do we feel a need to stigmatize mental health? It just makes no sense to me. And I don’t want future generations to feel any shame in their mental health.
Check out my pieces from Wear Your Label below, featuring the Mood Disorders Awareness Necklace and the Eating Disorders Bracelet from The Bracelet Project. Get your own piece to create conversations around mental health at wearyourlabel.com
Top: Macy's (I think!)
Shorts: Forever 21 Plus (two or three seasons old)
Jewelry: Wear Your Label
Location: The Cabin on Cloudburst Mountain Farm, Squamish, BC
Photographer: Megan te Boekhorst
Camera: Canon 60D
Post supported by Wear Your Label