1. Tell us a bit about yourself, what you do, where you're from....
I’m a photographer based in Los Angeles, originally from Tucson, Arizona. I live with my partner of 11 years and our two dogs. I’ve always loved making art and being outdoors. Also I’m obsessed with animals (especially furry ones.) Last year, at 27, I was diagnosed with both ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which changed my life for the better.
2. What has your mental health journey been like?
In general, I’ve always been rather intuitive and sensed that something was “different” in my brain. As a child I had a terrible time in school, both academically and socially. It was difficult for me to maintain focus or keep friends. I felt awkward and inferior to those around me. I’d basically daydream all day and try to get people to like me which led to getting bullied at school. My brain made it impossible to succeed in academic or social settings which turned me into a very insecure kid.
By college I had developed emotional armor but internally I was suffering. My anxiety disorder caused me to ruminate for days or weeks on matters that were out of my control. I was convinced that my friends didn’t like me and that my boyfriend would leave me for another woman, despite there being no evidence of any of these things. I was very insecure and threatened by anything that didn’t fit my narrow narrative of how life “should” be.
In senior year of college I had the worst year of my life which caused my anxiety to spiral out of control. My parents separated, my maternal grandmother passed away, I got hit by a car and all the while my step-mom was battling stage 4 liver cancer. After about a year and half of chemotherapy my step-mom passed away. I started to think about death on a near-constant basis and was convinced that I was going to die from cancer or that my partner would. It became so intense that even having a good time would trigger my anxiety. Anything good was something I could lose, in my mind, so I would avoid that too. I drank a lot during this time, often to dangerous levels.
At some point during college I decided to see a therapist. I went to a few before finding the one I needed. She taught me about anxiety, self-compassion, setting boundaries, being good to my body and processing past trauma. I’ve gone to therapy on and off for about 9 years. It’s extremely helpful and truly changed my life. I also discovered yoga around the same time and have practiced it ever since.
The latest part of my mental health journey was being diagnosed with both Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) last year.
When I was clinically diagnosed with GAD I was relieved. Previously, I was convinced doing more yoga, meditation, journaling and therapy would alleviate my anxiety, but a diagnosis was confirmation it wasn’t something I was doing wrong. With the help of my physiatrist I decided to try taking an SSRI, which helps your brain hold onto serotonin and absorb more of it. It’s been a night and day change. I’m no longer afraid of life and truly see my own value. It sounds cheesy but being on an SSRI has allowed me to love myself and others.
Learning about ADHD has been wild and unexpected. I never thought I had ADHD but being diagnosed explains my whole life experience. People with ADHD have trouble fitting in, feel like outcasts, can have math and reading dyslexia, are impulsive with money and have extreme emotions. We take everything personally, we bite our nails and pick at our skin without even realizing it. We have difficulty perceiving time, which makes long-term planning near impossible. There’s a joke that ADHD people have two time zones: “now” and “not now”. It’s more of an inconsistency of attention issue. We’re either obsessed with something or don’t give a shit, and it changes from month to month or sometimes more frequently.
Due to the stigma around stimulants I was reluctant to try them, but once I read a few ADHD books I realized it’s actually just as dangerous not to treat ADHD. For the first time in my life I can sit down and read, I can look people in the eye when we’re talking and I can plan and do my finances. Stimulants also help me to regulate my emotions to the point that my boyfriend can tell whether I’ve taken my medication or not.
3. Do you feel like there's a big stigma around it in the fashion industry?
Not anymore than there is in the rest of society. It’s actually funny because Los Angeles and New York are the two cities with the biggest ADHD populations. Cities like these attract people who want to carve their own path, who enjoy taking risks and want a faster pace of life. I’ve found people in this industry to be interested in talking about mental health, probably because they can relate to some degree. I do sometimes fear that people will take me less seriously if I tell them about my disorders but I just remind myself that I don’t have to share if I don’t feel comfortable.
On a few occasions I’ve gotten the impression that some people think certain mental disorders aren’t real, which is unfortunate. The biggest stigma is against medication. For example, people have heard rumors that stimulants are the same thing as meth. This isn’t true at all. Chemically they are similar, but only as similar as Hydrogen Peroxide and Oxygen are. On the other end of the spectrum you have those who think the medication you take to function is a party drug.
4. What has helped you through your journey?
Therapy, medication, an incredibly understanding and patient partner, talking to others about my experience and having patience with myself.
5. List 5 things that make you happy/feel better
Spending time in nature
Limiting my time on social media
AND HERE'S SOME OF OUR FAVORITES TO FOLLOW, READ AND LISTEN TO TO FOCUS ON OUR WELL BEING.
The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos based on the psychology class she teaches at Yale
Mental - The Podcast to Destigmatise Mental Health
Help Me Be Me - an emotional toolkit for creating positive change in yourself.