“I’m a firm believer that it’s not what you’ve been through but how you respond to life experiences that’s important. It’s often the steeper climbs that lead to the better views and we all live through experiences that can make us stronger people if we have the right tools in place.”
I haven’t written much about mental illness on this platform before, mainly for wanting to keep things light hearted and easy to read, but also because I escaped from the topic for a while.
Why Mental Health
Mental Health, or mind health as I prefer to call it has been a big part of my life for years but when I left London in 2014 I aspired to put my experiences in a box and re-define myself.
Why? Well, I was afraid of being judged and people making certain perceptions that would effect my opportunities, especially when I took part in Below Deck, a TV show. However, I can say that my career in yachting and the TV show helped change my life for the better and curb me into full recovery, something that puts a big smile on my face.
I can actually think of countless forms that I’ve filled in and contracts I’ve signed when I’ve blatantly lied about my medical history. I’m not a deceptive person and I held guilt in doing so, but I believe that because of the lingering stigma, especially in certain industries – I sadly wouldn’t have managed to experience and achieve what I have done if I’d been honest, purely because I’d have been perceived differently.
This is the first reason that I decided to run this campaign. I want to help change this, to make a little mark in helping reduce the stigma and make a point that suffering from mental illness shouldn’t be a scary topic for people to talk about and it shouldn’t be something that holds you back. I almost wish that I could turn back the clock and see whether I would have been given the same chances if I’d been open about the fact that I struggled with depression and eating disorders for 7 years, spending time in and out of therapy, hospitals and clinics.
Phew, that’s out then. – (I’ve never written that for public view before).
Georgie Spurling, PT, Cofounder of Pillow Chats and recovered Eating Disorder sufferer
The Campaign …
This campaign is meant to empower and show that it’s okay to have suffered, suffer or know someone who’s suffering from a mental illness.
I also wanted to share the message that you can recover! To have been affected my a mental health disorder doesn’t make you any weaker, i’d actually say that to have lived through a mental illness and know people who have can make you a stronger person.
I always get asked why I seem so old for my age and I suppose I just have an emotional maturity, an understanding of how to deal with life in different ways and a sheer drive to live that came from reaching a point where I saw my life crumbling around me. I decided that I deserved to invest my energy in working on what life could be and from the very start of my recovery my long term intention was to be able to help those who have suffered from similar things.
I woke up this morning so unbelievably touched by the response I’ve received from this campaign and by the stories that each girl involved has managed to share. I know for myself how hard it was to open up and I witnessed first hand how these girls responded to exposing their vulnerability and having their portraits taken with such a poignant message being behind each one.
This wasn’t for a brand or even a charity. While it was collectively to share a message, to help our followings and to raise awareness on World Mental Health Day, the campaign highlighted to me how much this is also for the girls involved. Sharing their story and being open in such a way was a life experience, one that I believe we should all be able to do without the fear of judgement, rejection or exposing a weakness.
Cristina Steif, Mental Health Advocate, Depression sufferer and lover of fitness
Each girl involved is aligned with the health and fitness world on Social media (and in real life) in some way. I made this decision as I feel that this industry has such an influence, online and offline to the daily lifestyle choices and mentality of the public. The mind and body connection is so profound and with the exponential online growth of this industry over the past few years, I think that it’s the influencers that have the power to make a difference. These girls have devoted followers who take away insight and make decisions based on what they see and hear us doing. This is why I believe that it was important to share an alternative side to the “very together”, balanced lifestyles that can so easily be perceived over social media. We share what is attractive, aspirational and strong without exposing the other half of the story and I am touched that these influencers climbed on board to help do this.
It’s a big thing for each of the girls involved to have exposed their vulnerabilities and post about a personal experience. I hope that even a small percentage of our following will relate, feel moved and be empowered to believe that it’s OKAY to talk about their feelings and get help, that it’s okay to not be perfect and that we’re all on our own journey that we should be proud of!
I mentioned earlier that I have only really started talking openly about what I went through quite recently.
Doing this wasn’t easy. It was actually VERY scary and I will be honest that I tried to do a youtube post but I felt too overwhelmed after routing out my recovery files and reading back. I realised that I had actually BLOCKED a lot out and I needed to do this in stages.
I’ll touch on my story in parts but I don’t want to get majorly heavy on here,plus i’ve never properly written about my experiences.
So, when I was 13 I became slightly lost and I can’t say that it’s down to anything specific. I was a happy, healthy young girl with a loving family and a lot to live for. Somewhere along the line something went wrong and I started to lose all of my self esteem, confidence and belief that I was enough. I found it hard to cope with my feelings and I didn’t know how to ask to help, or accept it.
At this stage I was at boarding school, my parents divorced when I was 4 but I was close to them both and I have to mention how incredible they have been through my journey. They helped me fight and they never gave up on me, however unlovable I became. (I find that when you are very ill it’s hard to see the good in life around you and you end up rejecting those closest to you – a very toxic trap).
I wanted to be numb from the world and escape my feelings which I achieved through focusing on 2 things, my academia and my eating disorder. I didn’t WANT to be like this, but I felt trapped in something that I couldn’t get out of. I suffered from this for the next 6 years, coming in and out of school, hospital and not really getting anywhere aside from achieving highly academically. One tip I would like to give is to try out different sorts of therapy and therapists if you find that you haven’t bonded with one, or progressed with your treatment. It took me a challenging 6 years and 2 hospital admissions before I clicked with a therapist and worked on my willingness to tackle my subconscious mind.
I am beyond thankful for the care that I received from the NHS on my last admission as an inpatient. It is here that I was propelled into being SO UTTERLY DETERMINED to recover and live a life that I could be proud, that my parents would be proud and that would enable me to LIVE fully. I took the steps and did it – and I can safely say that the work I put in was the hardest, yet most rewarding that I have done yet.
It really is working on yourself that enables you to give the correct energy into other things and while I’m proud of my academic achievements I can say that if I had been taught more about self confidence, esteem and dealing with life when I was at school then I may have less A*s on my cards but I would have lived my teenage years properly, rather than being in and out of hospital. I personally believe that there’s too much pressure on children at school to succeed and be pushed in ways that may not be right for them.
Charlotte, Teacher, Fitness and Self Esteem
A few months ago I started spending more time in the UK again, I reconnected with old friends who’d last seen me when I was very ill and I found that the change I’d gone through was rather empowering, when it had once been scary.
I felt strong enough to start giving something back and helping others going through similar things to myself, however challenging it was going to be.
On social media I’ve dib-dabbed very lightly; touching on self esteem, confidence and a little depression. It can be tricky as it’s a sensitive platform but the positive response always shocks me and is extremely rewarding.
In the “real world” I’ve been doing private talks and mentoring. The work is incredibly touching – albeit very emotional and rather challenging. I know how much I once valued hearing recovered sufferers talk and how much hope that it gave me, so to know that I can make a little difference in that way, even to one person means so much to me.
Isa Robinson, Eating Disorder Blogger and Nutrition Student
Anyway, this World Mental Health Day I decided to organise a campaign that would raise awareness, make the words “Mental Illness” a little less scary (I personally prefer mind Health) and share a message of solidarity, acceptance and strength in speaking out and sharing. The thing is, there are so many people who live a very busy, publicly active life with a smile that can sometimes be a cover.
Social media can only tell half the story and it’s important to know that it’s never the whole picture. We’re all on our own journeys and no one is worth more than another. When people seem like they have all of their shit together, happy, confident and complete, know that this is often far from the case. Take away positivity and messages that help YOU grow as a person from social media, enable it to give you a voice and feel part of a community because the main thing is that you’re not alone and it can be used as such a worthwhile platform if it’s used in the correct way.
Check out my interview on Social Media & Mental Health with Balance Magazine HERE
Instagram handles for the girls involved:
Georgie Spurling – @georgiespurling
Indigo Hull – @indigoalicefit
Emily Hartridge @emilyhartridge
Amanda Bootes @amandabootes
Rhiannon Lambert – @rhitrition
Laura Mua – @Mangoandbliss
Charlotte Maton – @fitchar.uk
Isa Robinson – @goodnessguru
Kirsty Grant – @Kissybell_fit
Sian Ryan – @sianliftsweights
Sarah Malcolm – @sarahmalcs
Zara Williams – @zaralwilliams
Cristina Stief – @cristinastief
Domenic Pendino, Photographer : @domenicpendino
Please see below for some resources and links to help you if you would like to seek further advice, help or information:
Pillow Chats, our Youtube Chat Show : HERE
Beat : HERE
Mental Health Foundation : HERE
MQ : HERE
Rhitrition, Nutritionist specialising in Eating Disorders : HERE