Saturday, 9 September 2017

Mental Health + Relationships - with Chaotic Goddess!

I started this interview series by asking my friends on Twitter if they'd like to take part. Since then, I've had some absolutely wonderful people sharing their experiences with me. Today's interviewee, Rachel, is unique as she was someone I didn't know before she responded to my call on Twitter, but I'm so glad that this project has brought her to me. Rachel runs Chaotic Goddess, one of the most insightful and thought-provoking blogs I've read in ages. It's exactly the kind of blog I enjoy the most, and if you have an interest in mental health, you'll love it!

I found myself reading pretty much every post that is up on Chaotic Goddess so far, and I absolutely love Rachel's style of writing. She mixes her own experiences with studies and research, creating the most informative, useful and yet deeply personal posts - I particularly loved this one on the link between social media and depression. Honestly, just go have a look at her blog, she covers such a variety of topics in the most unique and entertaining style. While you're at it, catch Rachel over on Twitter, where she is a beacon of positivity in what can feel like unending drama. If you need a little help with self-care and well-being, check out Rachel's Pinterest. It's absolutely full of tips and tricks to soothe your soul, as well as some stunning artwork.

1. Introduce yourself! Tell us about your blog, tell us which post you're most proud of, and tell us about your mental health story!

Hi, my name is Rachel and I currently run the blog, Chaotic Goddess. I am a former youth social worker and behavioural specialist that has struggled with clinical depression since I was thirteen.

2. Have you discussed your MH with your loved ones? If yes, how did you start that conversation, and if not, why not?

All my friends and family know about my depression. But it's not a conversation that anyone "started", they just knew. They saw it in my behaviour and attitude. In the way I'd sleep well into the afternoon if left alone, the way that I had very few friends all throughout childhood, and in the way I was dressing. But what really brought the severity of my symptoms to light was when a school-work assignment earned me a ticket into my school psychologist's office. 

3. How have those closest to you reacted? Any particularly positive or negative feedback?

My closest family understands. Depression runs in my family so there's an innate compassion we all share. My mom has struggled with depression since adolescence and my brother goes through lower-than-average lows now and again, although he's reluctant to call it depression (as many men are).

4. How has your mental health affected your relationships (whether with a partner, friends, family)?

I think because I've had depression most of my life it's forced me to be extremely selective with whom I spend my time. I understand the difficulties of living through depression first-hand via my experience and second-hand with my mom. Because of this, I tend to gravitate towards similarly strong-spirited and like-minded people, their authenticity making up for their small numbers. As far as relationships go, it has definitely been hard. I've had a few partners who couldn't handle it and a couple that could. But it's all about fit, and so far no one has fit for me. 

5. In the reverse, how have your relationships affected your mental health?

My relationships used to be a tremendous influence on my mental health. I could easily be emotionally derailed by a missed call or a bad joke. And I think this is because of my empathy and compassion for others. I can either feel things very strongly or not feel anything at all. That's why it's extremely important for me to reserve some time every day to just be with myself. When I'm constantly surrounded by someone else, I start to lose sight of who I am. Recently, my relationships have been very positive. I have my select few I can turn to when I'm going through a bad low and who help me to grow as a person.

6. Is your mental health something you actively talk about with your loved ones, or do you prefer not to discuss it? Are there any pros or cons to your approach?

My immediate family knows and understands but for everyone else, I talk about it only when the situation calls for it. No non-mental health sufferer wants to talk about mental health all the time, it can make them uncomfortable or bring them down. And those who do suffer might not enjoy the practice either - some being easily triggered or opting for quiet denial. I voice my opinions when they are relevant to the conversation, otherwise, I send them out into the void via Twitter or my writing. 

7. Is there anything you wish you could tell those closest to you or wish that they understood? What is stopping you from telling them?

All my current personal relationships are supportive and understanding of my mental health struggles.

8. What advice would you give to people who want to tell their loved ones about their mental health?

Don't apologize. You have an illness and that's not your fault. Be honest with how you're feeling and try to help them help you. Tell them what you need when you're low. Tell them your triggers so they can avoid them - or ideally, help you overcome them. And do not downplay your symptoms. If you are suicidal, they need to know so they can help keep you safe.

9. What advice would you give non-sufferers who want to support their loved one with their MH?

I'd want them to understand that it's a disease, not a decision. No one decides to get too sad to eat or shower. And no one chooses to hurt their loved ones because they just can't feel better. It's a physical ailment and sometimes the best solution is your understanding, compassion, and support. This is aimed more at society rather than my friends and family who do understand. 

10. Are there any support systems (other than loved ones) you use that you'd recommend for those who may need them?

Yogis and meditation-practitioners usually provide a great community for mental health sufferers and I would recommend seeking one or more out near you. As well as Mental Health Twitter, of course.


I full on fist-punched the air when I read Rachel's response to question 8. A perfect answer summed up in those first two words, 'don't apologize' - yeeesss! I think many of us would agree that we can feel like our mental health issues are somehow a burden on those around us, and it makes me so sad any time one of my friends feels the need to say 'sorry' for sharing their feelings with me. As Rachel correctly points out, it's not a choice! You don't need to apologise for anything that is outside of your control, including your mental health issues.

I also really loved how Rachel briefly touched on the topic of some men being reluctant to discuss their mental health or to label what they're going through as an illness. As I'm sure you are aware, suicide is the leading killer of men under 50 years old in the UK - in fact, every two hours, a man in the UK dies from suicide. Some men feel that talking about emotions or feelings is 'unmanly', and absolute cockwombles like Piers Morgan don't help when they tell their large followings to 'man up'. Mental illness is not gender specific - being male does not make you immune to having low periods of mental health or suffering from a specific illness. You categorically do not need to 'man up' if you are struggling (what does that even mean?!) Asking for help is scary but it does not make you weak. In fact, the bravest and strongest thing any person who is suffering can do is tell someone.

One last thing I want to comment on is how Rachel mentioned that her family has a history of depression, and therefore have an ability to share their experiences more openly. I think this is brilliant - that kind of compassion and caring is such a godsend when you are having difficulties. Remember that one in four people will experience mental health problems, so chances are you already know people who have gone through something similar. Taking that step to open up to other people could give you such comfort and support - and it is definitely worth doing. It sounds like Rachel has got a great supportive network around her, and you could have the same.

I'd like to send a massive thank you to Rachel for taking part in this interview, I really appreciate her taking the time to share her experiences with us.


To check out the other interviews in this collab series, click here!

If you'd like to be involved in this project, feel free to email me, chat to me on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

1 comment

  1. Thanks again for the opportunity, Bethany! I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your collab series��


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