Sophie Bickley Gets Real About Mental Health
Sophie Bickley is someone who has a mental illness. If you don't know her, she's the co-founder of Yin2MyYang, a fashion blog, and Editor-At-Large at Daily Front Row. I got a chance to interview Bickley about mental health:
Let's talk about mental health.
SB: Mental health is an extremely important topic to me and something that is a large part of my life. It’s the way how I lived and navigated the world with this illness. This was hard to accept at first but once I started to accept the reality of my mental health, I knew the only way to move forward was to accept that it’s an everyday battle for me.
With having a mental illness, that’s when you launched Yin2MyYang. Did you feel pressured after launching the blog?
SB: Once 2 years of this had gone by, my sister and I had launched our fashion blog, which eventually becomes my full-time job, and I was planning on quitting my current job at the time which I did in July 2016. After I lost the structure of working in a 9-5 office setting, I struggled with creating a structure for myself and started experiencing what I call “crippling” anxiety that led to depression. It was so bad I could not get out of bed, and this was happening for weeks; I never knew what day I would wake up feeling okay and what day I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. I was never suicidal or contemplated killing myself, but I did wish that I could just disappear into thin air, feeling like I was a waste in this world and a burden for the people I love. I started seeing a psychiatrist who I still see and developed a love/hate relationship with today. I can say after three years of this journey, I accepted the fact that there will be good and bad days for me, and that’s okay.
Do you believe social media is responsible for mental health?
SB: I do and I don’t believe social media is the reason for my mental health. As I look back on life, I feel like I have always been quite an anxious person, even an anxious child; it wasn’t until I entered the “real world” that I felt so much pressure to be this person. In terms of social media, when my sister and I first started our fashion blog, we assumed it would be a passion project, on the side of other careers. Then all of a sudden, right around the same time as our launch, Instagram blew up with so many features, and we ended up following our passion and working on the blog full time. While I share our blog page with my sister @yin2myyang, I also have my personal account @sophbicks, where I am extremely open about my struggles with mental health. I cannot tell you how many people have messaged me thanking me for being the first influencer that they’ve come across to be real about how they feel/ not just opening gifts/ taking photos of their outfits, pretending everything was perfect because it's not, it’s not for anyone. In this regard, I am so thankful for social media and the platform that I have grown so that I can share and help others feel like they are not alone. It has been one of the most amazing and rewarding things of my social media presence and I would do anything to help people struggling from this.
Have you ever experienced cyberbullying or online-trolling?
SB: In terms of the cyberbully and online trolling, I have been lucky for the most part that I have not experienced much of it/ we have not experienced it much on the blog either. When launching the blog, I was prepared for so much hate and put a wall up to prepare myself for it and have been pleasantly surprised. However, on the rare occasion that it does happen, it hurts like a knife usually, and it does affect my mental health as I'll just think about it for the rest of the day. Depending on the mood I am in, I will either respond, ignore, or block the user. At the end of the day, I remember that they are just literal trolls, miserable and jealous people. I try to not let it bother me that much. However, deciding to work in the industry that I do and put my life out there for so many people to watch and see, definitely opened the door for cyberbully, trolling, and hate, so if it is experienced, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise, it just comes with the territory.
Can you tell us a time where your mental health took a toll on your mind, body, or soul?
SB: There was one day when my anxiety just completely took over my mind, body, and soul. I had an awful panic attack, which I am not even sure what it was for, and my mind could not stop racing. It got to the point where I didn’t want to be on this earth and life was too much for me to handle. I felt truly defeated in my mind, my thoughts were intrusive, I couldn’t get rid of them, I just felt helpless. I remember sweating, shaking, sobbing, pacing around, and losing control over everything. Knowing that I have anxiety causes more anxiety and that this is a continuing cycle to live with.
Why did you want to come forward to speak on mental health?
SB: First, I believe that the stigma our society has regarding mental health is appalling, and we are so behind in removing this stigma and normalizing such a common and popular thing. Normalizing it would help so many people and since I have already been open that I struggle with it, I am not going to stop and want to bring more attention and awareness to this issue. The main reason, though, that I decided to come forward and really speak about my mental health struggles. With the platform that I have, I felt like it would be awful for me NOT to use it to speak out about mental health and make others feel like they are not alone, and also to make others realize that even if someone’s life may seem perfect or look perfect on social media, that’s most likely not the case and that person is struggling in some way.
That’s the thing about social media is that it gives people to create a perception of what they think your life is like by judging your content. You’re very confident in your personal Instagram account.
SB: I consider myself a very social person but learned you could be social and still have social anxiety. Once I saw how many followers I was helping by sharing my truth, I couldn’t stop and won’t stop and have felt extremely fulfilled by speaking my truth about it. I think everyone needs to get better about how common and normal it is for someone to struggle with mental health and it needs to stop being looked down upon in our society — some of the most successful and amazing people suffer from the worst of mental health issues, as we have seen in many cases, and society forgets this a lot. However, I’m happy to see some recent changes in this with big celebrities and figures coming forward to share their stories with mental health, making those struggling feel less alone but also proving to the rest of society that this is not something to look down upon when it's happening to the “average” person. It’s been amazing to speak openly about it. I do it for myself and others. I want to spread as much awareness and normalcy as I can. I feel like the most honest and real version of myself speaking out about it, I never want to hear someone again say “oh my gosh, I never would have thought that YOU struggled from those things,” and I think a lot more people with power and platforms who do suffer from mental health have a duty to share and spread awareness more, but I now believe this is a personal thing and could be very scary for some to speak out about.
People evaluate themselves when they compare themselves to others. What do you have to say on that topic in regards to mental illness and social media?
SB: First things first, try not to compare yourself to others, or others’ lives, such as on social media because everyone has their demons and struggles and probably more people than you know struggle with something about mental health. Not everyone understands or can relate to mental health and this could hopefully change with time.
What advice can you give to people out there that are struggling with mental health?SB: The first thing to remember is to continue to tell yourself is that you are not alone. You are not broken, there is nothing to feel ashamed or guilty about, it is not in your control. What is in your control is how you move forward with the cards you are dealt in life and try your best not to wallow in the reality of the situation. Try to live at the moment as much as you can and not worry about what is ahead, life is short. I just recently lost one of my best friends to an overdose and it has been a huge wake-up call for me that tomorrow is not guaranteed and living at the moment is necessary to reduce anxiety. If you feel comfortable, it can be very therapeutic to open up about your struggles, to your friends and/or family or whoever it may be, you will be surprised at how many other people feel the same way as you if they are honest. Try to see a therapist for tips on how to cope and to vent about life and then seek out a psychiatrist if you feel that you may need actual medication to help with whatever you are struggling with. Try to accept that this may be a struggle that will never go away but can become adaptable and one can learn how to cope and live with it.