mindyourmind found Sarah on Twitter, tweeting on behalf of The Mighty - themighty.com - which is a website with stories that inspire people, with the goal of wanting to improve the lives of people facing disease, disability and mental illness.
Sarah Schuster is the mental health editor at The Mighty, and believes that every day should be a mental health day. We were fortunate to have a conversation with Sarah about things that are important to her, including mental health.
Follow Sarah on Twitter - @saraheliztweets
Follow The Mighty on Twitter - @TheMightySite
How did you get introduced to The Mighty?
I was lucky enough to know Meg Griffo, the editor in chief at The Mighty, because we went to the same university, although she was a few years ahead of me. I actually started out as a writer – Meg asked to republish a blog I had written about using the counseling center at my school, and I published a few more pieces after that. Writing was how I processed the mental health challenges I was facing, so I saw The Mighty as the best way to explore what I was experiencing. Then I started to work there after I graduated from school.
What is the main goal of The Mighty?
I believe the main goal of The Mighty is to give people a space to share their stories and connect with each other
In sharing your personal struggle with anxiety and depression, you’ve inspired so many people to get help. What originally gave you the courage to get help?
Thank you for saying that. To be honest, it really took a friend pushing me to get help. I'll never forget it – he actually asked me to humor him and write 10 reasons why he thought I would benefit from counseling. When the ten reasons came easily, I realized maybe it was something I should try. I always thought I wasn't "bad enough" to use the school's resources, and seeing that list staring me in the face was something I couldn't ignore. I think sometimes we need that extra push.
What are some coping strategies that help you get through tough times?
When I'm having a tough day, I usually need some yoga or some alone time. I get overwhelmed when I have too many back to back social plans, or if I forget to take enough breaks at work. Since my anxiety is so physical, yoga really helps me release all of the tension that's been building up in my body. Then when I'm alone, writing in my journal helps me process what I'm feeling, and reading helps me forget. I also find going for a hike or spending time outside really grounds me. And I love the meditation app Headspace!
Do you have any words that you live by?
My favorite quote is one by Maya Angelou: "I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back." It reminds me I don't just have to accept what I've been given, but that I can fight back.
What types of topics do you enjoy writing about most?
To be honest, I'm kind of sick of writing about anxiety. But I've always loved writing for the mental health world, and I'm really fascinated by the range of viewpoints that exist in the community. I'd love to get a chance to explore and dig deep into other issues people care about.
How do you connect with the mental health community?
The mental health community is vibrant on Twitter! I've met so many great people online, which has led me to connect with some advocates in Los Angeles. It's been great getting to know people in real life, but Twitter was a great place for me to start.
How do we work towards ending stigma?
Keep the conversation going. And listen.
What would you say to somebody who’s afraid to come out about their mental health?
I would say that "coming out" doesn't have to be some big and public thing. Although I do publish pieces about my experience, I'm actually pretty reserved about what I post on social media – especially Facebook. Because at the end of the day, your health is your health, and it's OK if you're more of a private person. But, that doesn't mean what you're going through should be a secret either. I'd redefine your expectation of "coming out." "Coming out" can be simply telling your friend you're having a bad day, or admitting to your parents you've been having bad thoughts. Talking about mental health in your smaller circles isn't less significant.
On Twitter, you said your New Year's’ resolution was to ‘show up’, what does that mean for you?
I struggle a lot with perfectionism. And, especially last year, had a very black or white, do it well or don't do it at all, mentality. Which means I actually ended up skipping out on a lot of things I enjoy, because I felt like if I didn't do it "correctly," I couldn't do it at all. So I'm trying to shut that voice up this year. To me, showing up means challenging that need for perfection -- when it comes to living your life, it's better to do things imperfectly than not at all.
Thanks so much for chatting with us Sarah !