The look: similar skirt from ASOS ($48.00) // similar romper (yep, that’s a romper that I have the skirt pulled over in this look!) from ShopBop ($73.50 – ON SALE!) // similar shoes from shoe.com ($79.95) // Asymmetrical Green Amethyst & Sterling Silver Necklace ($50.00) and Sterling Silver Long Drop Ripple Earrings ($26.00) from Soasa Designs // Juniper Rattan Handbag from Purse for the People ($200.00) // Maternal Mental Health CHARITY TIES™ Bracelet from Maria Shireen ($45.00) // “Storms and Sunshine” Mug from Cricket Lane Studio ($15.00) // Temporary tattoos from Soul Stamps ($10)
Everywhere you look, people are succeeding.
People you’ve been watching since you started seem to be far beyond where you thought you’d be right now.
Why not me?
What am I doing wrong?
When is it going to be my turn?
We talk about success like it’s its own entity. An individual. A stand alone goal.
But it’s not. It’s one side to a coin. On the other side is struggle.
Both get exactly 50% of the surface area and yet, we are almost 100% focused on the success. We share wins and feature triumphs to the point where people forget there’s another side. And because we don’t give a voice to the counterpart of success, a facade is created that success can be accomplished without the struggle, and that is simply not true.
The “making it” coin is made up of equal parts struggle and success where the currency, where the identifiable value comes forward, is our stories. True stories where we show people a transformation, not just the end accomplishment.
And so, to bring some sense back into what the road to success looks like, we’re welcoming a new series here at The Gem featuring real entrepreneurs who have been through real struggles and have the strength to stand up and say, “I’ve been through this, but look what I created despite of my struggle”.
This first post in the series focuses on a theme that hits so close to home for me, depression.
I spent years thinking my depression was going to hold me back from doing anything significant with my life. But now, because I haven’t ran from my story, I can stand here today with 100% certainty and tell you that my mental health battle has made me a better person.
But, because of the stigma that surrounds mental health, not enough people get to hear the message that depression doesn’t have to hold them back. So, to help shatter the shame, I want you to meet four incredible brands built by fierce entrepreneurs who have been through the depths of depression.
No matter what your story entails – depression or otherwise – there are strengths hidden within your struggles that will help guide you towards you success if you let them. Just like the four gems below have done, it’s time to stop running and start sharing.
Gear up to get inspired…
Chelsey Cordero – Crickets Lane Studio
This mug? It’s so much more than just a place to hold your morning coffee. It’s made by someone who dealt with depression and self harm in high school, Chelsey Cordero of Cricket Lane Studio. The self harm, she’s learned to manage, but occasional depression still sneaks it and her account of it is all too relatable:
“Every so often, it’s the perfect storm.. my day job gets so busy that it’s all I have time for, my creative business is slow (not like I’d have time for it to be busy while my day job is so crazy anyway, but depression isn’t one for rationality), being so busy keeps me from spending time with the three loves of my life (my husband, my dog and netflix), etc. This perfect storm that brings back feelings of depression and also leads to my old friend, anxiety. Why are things so crazy right now? Why is my creative business so slow? What am I doing wrong? Could I be doing something better at work? Or at Cricket Lane Studio? It definitely gets to be exhausting.”
But guess what? This struggle has made her a stronger entrepreneur because she’s learned this isn’t something she needs to hide from her audience. She shares, “I’ve been trying to be vulnerable and authentic and let my audience know that I’m a real human being that deals with real life issues! It’s also led me to help use my voice to bring awareness to mental health.”
The “Storms and Sunshine” Coffee Mug ($15) was created in remembrance of Chelsey’s younger cousin, Austin, who she lost to suicide. While nothing will ever be able to fill that hole in their lives that they have from missing him every day, a portion of proceeds from this design will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Austin’s name.
Robin Marie – Soasa Designs
High school was also when Robin Marie of Soasa Designs started being affected by her depression. Robin remembers, “it was incredibly isolating, and my heart hurts thinking back to that time in my life. I didn’t understand that it was just chemicals in my brain, I always felt that I was doing something wrong, that it was a character flaw”. Art became a way for Robin to lose herself in technique and process to ground her turbulent thoughts. Now, pieces from Soasa Designs, like this darling necklace (Asymmetrical Green Amethyst & Sterling Silver Necklace – $50) and earrings (Sterling Silver Long Drop Ripple Earrings – $26), are a way for Robin to share the joy found in the quiet moments spent creating each piece. Now that you know her story, can you see conduction of the calmness and tranquility that transcends into the style of her jewelry? Neat, huh?
Her depression has made her stronger too. She shared with me, “I’ve had to really get to know myself. I have to be honest with myself when I’m falling into unproductive patterns that hold me back, but also give myself some grace when I’ve over-booked or over-committed and can’t achieve what I expected to be able to. Because I spent so many years thinking I just wasn’t “trying hard enough” to be happy, I have a stubbornness and drive that have served me especially well in business, though it might sometimes be a hinderance in my personal life!”
Elizabeth Bruno – Soul Stamps
Through her experience working for a crisis and suicide hotline, Elizabeth Bruno, founder of Soul Stamps, found the way into her dream job as a Mental Health Counselor in the psychiatric unit of a hospital. It isn’t just her Masters in Addictions Counseling that gives her credibility in her field, but also her own depression and anxiety. She went from using alcohol to temporarily escape the sadness to building healthier coping habits like exercise and self care. When things got hard or felt out of her control, two simple words would help ground her down – “let go”. After getting this small but mighty phrase tattooed on her wrist, Soul Stamps was born. The entrepreneurial spirit inside of her convinced her to share with others the affirmations that had helped her through life. Elizabeth’s mission is simple, “In a world where we are constantly told what to be (and what not to be), it can be easy to forget our worth and value. These tattoos are temporary reminders of a permanent promise!” Since every set of Soul Stamps is under $12, thankfully you don’t have to choose between which kind of encouraging reminder you need. Just buy one of each so you’re prepared for anything life throws your way. 😉
By working this field, Elizabeth has learned an important moral everyone should take note of, “we all have the responsibility to be love and light to everyone we meet. You have no idea what people go through on a regular basis and how they are feeling. Whether it is your profession or not, being love to strangers is something we can all do. Working in this field has taught me to love better and see people differently.”
Shireen Thor – Maria Shireen
For Shireen Thor, founder of Maria Shireen (where you’ll find the original hair tie bracelet), an identity crisis hit when she was caught in the role of CEO of both her household with a newborn and her new company (which was beginning to really take off). It was impossible to excel in both positions, and the immediate, irreversible, and palpable changes to all of your close relationships that come with having a baby left her questioning her capability to be a human being. She shares, “a few months after giving birth I finally realized that what I was experiencing was not unique to me. I was suffering from postpartum disorder – a real, clinical mental illness caused by childbirth. I wasn’t failing, I was suffering.”
There’s always a strength in the struggle, and while being a mother altered Shireen’s frame of reference, it’s also been a source of focus to sharpen the person she had always been – “It was through this process where I learned that in order to take care of those I loved, I need to be mentally and physically healthy through giving myself the love and compassion I deserved.” The CHARITY TIES piece ($45) I’m wearing in the photos supports the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health. $10 from every bracelet sold is donated to the nonprofit. Nothing ruins an outfit quite like a hair tie (although I’m completely guilty of this), but now this bracelet gives me a stylish way to keep one handy without the unsightly dent on my wrist!
The most important part of this post it to start more open conversations about mental health, so I’ve asked each of these strong, successful entrepreneurs what they wish more people knew about mental health?
From Chelsey: Suffering from anxiety or depression doesn’t make someone “crazy”. I’m a normal person just like you! I just so happen to deal with these issues! I also wish people understood that it’s not something you can just change or fix. I’m a type 1 diabetic and people say “oh did you eat too much sugar?”. No, Type 1 diabetes is a genetic, chronic illness – I was born with this in my body! Depression and anxiety are very similar – I can’t just “fix it” or get rid of it. These things are part of my genetic makeup. That’s what makes it so important to learn to deal with depression and anxiety – they’re not just going to “go away”.
From Robin: There is such a stigma around mental health issues, but I truly believe a person cannot begin to manage their wellbeing until they can name the challenges they face. Giving my experience a name was the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. I know first hand that there is great danger in ignoring it. I don’t think we should be shy in talking about our experiences, because so much negative power resides in shame and secrecy. Once you can name it you can address it, and the more you talk about it the less power it has over you!
From Elizabeth: If you are worried that someone close to you might take their life, take it seriously! Ask them if they have a plan. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the police or your local crisis center if you feel their safety is in danger. If you don’t feel you need to get them help, make a plan with them to keep them safe. If they are alone, ask them to make plans with someone or promise you they will call you if they feel they cannot keep themselves safe. Ensuring safety first is more important than offering words of comfort and support. Let them know you are here for them but don’t let yourself get over your head. If you feel you cannot handle the conversations you are having, offer them the National Suicide Hotline where they can speak with trained mental health professionals.
From Shireen: Our society has imposed an expectation that mothers can quickly “bounce back” from childbirth, as if the experience of bringing a child into the world has little significance on their lives. At my lowest I thought I was the only mother in the world trying to climb out of my darkness and I was oblivious that postpartum depression is not uncommon. I wish that more people (both women AND men) knew that it is estimated that almost 20% of mothers will suffer from a maternal mental health complication like postpartum depression, making it the #1 complication post childbirth. But unfortunately, many women are never properly screened, diagnosed or treated for maternal mental health disorders. As a result, many women suffer in silence believing they aren’t “good” mothers, feeling ashamed that motherhood is not a “joyful” experience.
Now it’s your turn. Tell me below in the comments. What do you wish more people knew about mental health?
I’m rooting for you Gem, every step of the way. <3
Photos: Kate Stutz
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