This week Mia Hemstad, mental health advocate and social justice activist, joins me for a discussion about major depressive disorder, the intersection between mental health and politics, and how women can make themselves a priority by doing one small thing a day.
Mia and I had recorded this episode several months ago. I was waiting to release it for various reasons (which I share in this episode). Like many, I saw the recent interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, where Meghan shared her story of suicide ideation. During my conversation with Mia, she shared her own story of suicide ideation, as did I. Therefore, I felt it was important to share this episode now. It’s relevant and after the year we’ve experienced, an important one to discuss. I hope this episode is helpful to you.
In this episode you'll hear:
- How Mia became a mental health advocate and social justice activist out of necessity. “Mental health and politics are connected.” (6:34)
- How women can make themselves a priority by doing one small thing a day to nourish themselves. And, a reminder from Mia that, “Healing is not a checklist.” (15:56)
- Mia’s major depressive disorder and suicidal ideation story.(26:48)
- How to handle overwhelming emotions. (46:32)
One last thing, next week on the podcast, I have a bit of a follow-up to this episode. It’s a Conversation About Shit That Matters with Unqualified People with my dear friend, Amy Smith, as I talk more about my mental breakdown last year, the decade that led up to it, which brought me to intense trauma therapy and what that looked like.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Suicide Prevention National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 800-273-8255
The Writing Experience with Amy Ahlers and Andrea Owen
Follow Andrea on Instagram
Mia’s 3 part blog post about suicide ideation
Episode 355: CASTMWUP with Andrea and Liz on Aging and Mental Health
Mia Hemstad is a wife and mom of two kids (ages 2 and 4). She works full time as a social justice activist, and runs her personal company online where she talks about her daily life with PTSD and depression and the importance of doing the hard, inner work of overcoming trauma and taking care of yourself. A recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, Mia wants women to learn to take their power back by making themselves a priority. Mia’s raw and honest content about mental health and stepping into her power has earned her features in media outlets such as Romper, Parents.com, Cafe Mom, and several others. Some of Mia’s favorite pastimes include trying out new coffee shops, taking naps, watching anything about food, and buying yet another journal from the planner section at Target.
Right-click to download the .mp3
It's not about your planner. It's not your time management. It's not because you don't, you're bad at time management sister, it's because everything around you is telling you to hurry up, hustle up, get over yourself, and don't spend too much time on yourself or you're going to look like you're too big for your britches, those people telling you that are exhausted and bitter and resentful, and we need to leave that way of life behind. And we need to create a new way of life where we really honor and respect ourselves and to see the positive ripple effects that happens from that and I will never go back to the old way of doing things because my career started blossoming, my health started to improve my relationships got better the way that I mother, my children improves once you do it enough that you see the positive ripple effects, all the naysayers, all that noise just gets quieter and quieter.
This is Your Kick-Ass Life Podcast Episode Number 380. With guest Mia Hemstad. This is Your Kick-Ass Life Podcast with Andrea Owens, a no-BS guide to self-help and badassery. Because ladies, let's face it. Life's too short. And here's your host, the girl who serves it up straight with a side of crazy, Andrea Owen.
Hey, ass-kickers welcome to another episode of the podcast. I am so glad that you are here. I have three important announcements. So, if you're a skipper like I know some of you are, that's okay, I'm not mad, I just want to invite you to listen to these quick announcements. The first one is that starting tomorrow, if you listen to this podcast today that it comes out, starting on March 25th, Amy Ahlers and I are kicking off our second round of the writing experience. This is a six-week online program for anyone who, whether you're an aspiring writer, whether you're a seasoned writer, if you want to write a book and self-publish, or traditional publishing, if you want to start a blog, if you want to write poetry writers come with us. We are inviting you to join us with this program. It's going to be amazing it was last year and I have no doubt that it's going to be incredible. I am going to just let you go read about it at WritingExperienceProgram.com. And if you're listening to this, like you know the week of the 29th of March, shoot us an email if you still want to join because there's plenty of time and you didn't miss much. All right.
My second announcement is that I have a new Instagram name. I switched over and I am now @HeyAndreaOwen on Instagram and on Tik Tok. What more about that later. And on Twitter. I am just sort of streamlining everything, @HeyAndreaOwen is the new handle. And more on that a little bit later. There's some other changes happening over here as well. I cannot wait to unveil them all to you as the as the months go by here in 2021.
And I know that I had promised you here's the last announcement. I know I had promised you that this week we were going to have a coaching session that we haven't had in a long time over here that is coming. I decided to push it back a couple weeks and instead bring you an interview that I did a few months ago with Mia Hemstad. She came on and we talked about her work. And she was also generous enough to share her story around major depressive disorder and suicidal ideation. So, I wanted to give you a trigger warning about that we do dive into that topic in this particular episode. So, if that's very sensitive to you, you may want to skip it. It's one of those things where you put it off for a few months for no real reason. I just wanted to make sure I was really ready to put it out there because I go into a little bit of my own story as well. And I saw the interview like many of you probably did with Prince Harry and Megan Markel, as Megan shared her story around the same topic. And I feel like it's incredibly relevant for many of us. And I think COVID really sort of, you know, it was hard. I'll just say that, and it still is for a lot of us. So, I'm putting out this episode a little bit sooner than I had originally planned. But I am incredibly ready for it. And I hope that it is helpful to you. And next week, I have a bit of a follow-up. My best friend Amy Smith is coming on and we are having a conversation about shit that matters with unqualified people around this topic. And I'm also going to dive in and share with you and be incredibly transparent about my year of trauma therapy that I did in 2020 and a little bit in 2021. I am very, very ready to share that with you in hopes that it can inspire and perhaps motivate you to do your own therapy that you might need to do. You'll probably see some of yourself in the story that I tell. So, the conversation with Amy and me is going to be next week and now you're going to hear a conversation with Mia Hemstad. So for those of you that don't know her, let me tell you a little bit about her. Mia Hemstad is a wife and mom of two kids. She works full time as a social justice activist and runs her personal company online where she talks about her daily life with PTSD and depression and the importance of doing the hard inner work of overcoming trauma and taking care of yourself. A recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, Mia wants women to learn to take their power back by making themselves a priority. Mia’s raw and honest content about mental health and stepping into her power has earned her features in media outlets such as Romper, Parents.com, Cafe Mom, and several others. Some of his favorite pastimes include trying out new coffee shops, taking naps, watching anything about food, and buying yet another journal from the planner section at Target. So, without further ado, here is Mia.
Mia, thank you so much for being here.
Thank you for having me, Andrea, I'm so excited.
So, our mutual friend Sara Dean hooked us up and she said, I really think you would your listeners would really love Mia’s story. And I was reading your website and I was really kind of completely immersed in like devouring your mom like oh my gosh, I can't wait to talk to her and have you come on to help everyone with all of your expertise. And I'm really interested in in how you got here. Because on your website, you say that you're both a mental health advocate and social justice activist out of necessity. And I know you do your body of work goes beyond that, which we'll get into. But tell me about your journey and how you got there?
That's a great question. So, this all started in 2017, May of 2017, when I posted my first YouTube video, about my experience with anxiety and depression. I was just waking up to the fact that I could potentially be struggling with a mental illness or two or three. I was really dealing with a lot at the time that I honestly couldn't articulate. But I knew that what I was experiencing needed to be brought to the surface because I had stumbled across a YouTube video of a gal sharing what it feels like to be depressed. And I think that video quite honestly saved my life. And it really opens me up to the power of people just sharing their stories. And it kind of opened me up the to the fact that we don't need to just have people who are quote, unquote, qualified or quote-unquote, experts to only be talking about mental health. And we need everybody. And so, I come from a family that did not talk about mental health. I did not talk about mental illness, it's still super taboo. And I wanted to just be one of the first to just start breaking all of that stigma down and just opening up that space. And honestly, since then, it's just been this ride of continuing to show up as best I can, continuing to share my journey of healing with other people giving people hope, but also being honest about the hard moments, you know, as much as I wish. And I still do have days where I'm like, maybe I should wait 10 years when I've really overcome a lot of this crap, and then come back and help people. But that just feels so selfish. It feels it doesn't feel right to me, it feels very like ego preserving, like, oh, I only want to show up when everything's great. And I honestly get so many messages from people that just appreciate that I show up with whatever I have right now. And so that's kind of where it all started.
And then the more I started, to dive into the issues of postpartum depression and anxiety, and also just general, you know, mental illness struggles, like anxiety, generalized depression, and PTSD. You know, I started to really look at things from an infrastructure level. So, you know, what are the systemic issues that are perpetuating these problems? And as a black woman, there's no denying that, you know. I have dealt with racist doctors, racist pediatricians, racist OBGYN’s, you know, you know, having to fight for my life in the delivery room having to fight for bodily autonomy in the delivery room, and so many things like that. And it's like, why is that this way, and then I started to do research, and I started to learn that I wasn't the only black woman facing this that statistically thousands of us, millions of us are dying at a higher rate than white women. We are being mistreated. We are having social services called on us for no reason that black women are just facing these incredible obstacles. And so that got me started in politics, specifically in policy advocacy for paid family leave, which is a concept that a lot of people don't know about. Honestly, I didn't even know about it before I actually started in this work. But essentially, it's a public program that enables people to take time off to bond with a new child or to be a caregiver for a certain amount of time so that you can take leave from your job to do that and why that's so important and tied to mental health. First of all, there are numerous studies that have been done in other countries that have these programs that have shown that when people are able to take time off and have economic stability, they're able to preserve their mental health, they're able to preserve their relationships. If you have, if you're in a bad domestic situation, women are able to leave because of that economic stability. And so, you know, this issue of paid family leave became one of several that I hope to tackle throughout my life of how can I actually support people's mental health at the policy level at the systemic level? And it was really through policy advocacy. So that's what I do in my day-to-day job is, I talk with legislators, I educate people about their rights. I work with immigrant populations and African American populations. I'm just making sure that these women and mothers and caregivers know their rights at work, and also that I am helping to improve them. Because currently, a lot of the rights we have in the US are so limited when it comes to supporting women and mothers. It's really sad, we really have women and mothers have very little agency in the workplace. And I think that's why a lot of us get shoved out. Wow. I know, I know, it was a lot. And it's a lot. But yeah.
I love it. I mean, I don't love that all that happened to you had to go through that struggle to get where you are today to fight for the things that matter to you. But I just was sitting here like with my eyes big like this woman has just been through it in order to get to where you are. And I just want to highlight what you were saying around and I know so about half the listeners here are mothers and the other half are child free. And for those people that don't know, I was completely clueless when it came to birth and labor and, and babies and that whole business and the United States. And I know it varies from country to country. But so, I had my first child in 2007 and he was in the breech position. From what I understand that breach vaginal births are what they call a lost art in obstetrics, I will not find a doctor in the city who will allow you to birth that baby. So, I ended up having a cesarean section with him. And then when I got pregnant again, I wanted to have at least attempt to do a vaginal birth. And so, I had to educate myself. I did not realize the politics involved in that whole industry. Yep. And how, how much mothers are shamed. Yeah, for trying to listen to their own bodies. Oh, yeah, have body autonomy, and that we should we're pushed to believe and trust our doctors implicitly. Yep. And I felt like I was not listened to. I felt like I was bullied. And I am a white privileged woman. I imagine that a woman of color who did not have the class status that I did, who did not have the resources that I did, would feel backed into a corner much more than I did.
And I won't get into it, but I did end up having a successful vaginal birth. That's It's also known as a V BAC vaginal birth after cesarean. It went off without a hitch. Wow, I knew it would. I knew that my baby was fine. She was great. And I didn't want to have a second cesarean section unless it was absolutely necessary. Wow. And I point blank asked my doctor, and I'm like, am I at risk? Actually, it was my husband that asked him because I was crying? Yeah, my husband said it, “Is my wife and child at risk if she had if she tries for this natural birth?” and the OBGYN said, no. And he said I wanted I actually want to be the one to deliver her baby. Wow. That's why the main reason he wanted me to have another cesarean. Anyway, I've gone off on a tangent. Well, I just wanted to underscore that, that that is a whole separate conversation.
It really is. It really is. Yeah. And you know, it's challenging whenever I sit down for an interview, because it's like, there's really not one little like, you know, perfect package message here, because it's just like, I came into diving into my mental health. Because I had, because of becoming a mother. I think I read one of your Instagram posts that said, like, you became pregnant and realize you really needed to deal with like your struggles and your addictions and things like that. And it's just so true for me, too. It's just like motherhood became a catalyst for me to face my past to face all the other issues. But first, I had to really deal with like, the crisis of having a tragic traumatic birth, the crisis of dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety, and all of that. And also, this the crisis of waking up and realizing and what I was dealing with, just as a black woman that now became a mom, it came with a whole slew of issues, and then the policy I never would have thought I was going to be in politics like I can't tell you how much I hated it. At first and thought, I'm never going to go into that and then I just got sick and tired of telling people just hold on, it's going to be okay, because, for a lot of us people of color, it's not going to be okay. It's not, it's not and it's just garbage to sit here and say just like, you know, You know, I meditate and I do yoga, but I also sit there in hearings and tell senators and assembly members to vote for the right crap. Because it's just not enough to sit here and act like we don't need systemic change. So, you know, I think that I think that our, our laws in our country are like this invisible infrastructure impacting every area of our life. But we've been taught our whole lives to avoid politics because it's seen to be divisive. And I think that, especially for women, especially for women, and I think the people in power are so grateful that they painted that narrative because it keeps women from meddling with the people who are in power, because guess what someone's writing the laws, is it going to be you? Or is it going to be someone else who doesn't care about you? So, like, that's really what I was faced with. And I think a lot of us were faced with this in 2020. A lot of us were faced with this reality that politics and leadership are happening with or without us, and we're all now dealing with the collective consequences as we've all lived together through this pandemic, and still are and seeing kind of what happens when we don't engage. So that's like a whole other soapbox like I could get on about it. But you know, I want to be respectful of like, however, you want to take this interview. But it's just like, it's just I basically just want to make sure people understand that mental health and politics are connected. Maternal mental health and posits are connected, you know, the ability for a black woman to have a healthy and safe birth is connected to that as well. So that's how I found myself and social justice activism in addition to the work I do with mental health.
Well, let's shift gears slightly because I know that you know, another large part of your body of work is that you encourage women to make themselves a priority. And you say that doing one small thing a day to nourish themselves can be extraordinarily helpful. So, can you tell us more about your philosophy and some small thing examples?
Yeah, I love that question. So, this really came out of me trying and failing and trying and failing to figure out how to live with my mental struggles, I came into working on my mental health after having a child and then becoming a caregiver full time for my brother, and then having another child. So, I never came into this with all the space to like, go on retreats, or have a solo vacation or, you know, go to intensive therapy or anything like that. And so, I really want to address the people who are waking up to all the inner dragons that they're trying to slay every day. But they also are making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and dealing with multiple schedules and stuff. I had to find a way that was realistic. And so, I had to really let go of all the ways I was seeing to approach healing, like on Instagram and on a lot of like influencer stuff that was just very, like time-consuming and very inaccessible for me as a mom that was like breastfeeding and stuff. And so, I just decided to accept my circumstances and to work with what I had. And it started with really small things. Like making sure I took a bath at the end of a long day, and then making my bed every morning, and then finding exercise that really worked for me. And slowly but surely, these, these one-off, self-care practices became full-on sustainable self-care rituals, I like to call them because they're practices and rituals that I go to every day now to keep me afloat, because that's the thing about being in it, you know? I'm not talking to listeners from a place of ‘oh, well, that one time I went through this dark time with depression and anxiety. I currently live with it.
And so, I like to tell people and teach people through my example of how I live with it. And so, it's a variety of things. And for everybody, it's different. But for me, it's always been kind of a collection of tools, I like to say, that I have in my toolbox now that I've cultivated over the last few years. And then I started to teach it to other women. And then it started to really pick up and really resonate with people, I think, because we're all really busy. And we don't have the privilege and the luxury to just stop everything and spend all day trying to get to the bottom of what's going on. And like all of our childhood wounds and things like that. And so, it's just, it's a way of being sustainable with it. Because I think that burnout is such a common thing, not only in American culture but also especially for moms. I think there's this weird, competitive nature out there that we're all supposed to be doing the most always. And, you know, it caused me to burnout and become resentful and bitter and exhausted and just not the mom and the wife and the person I want it to be. And so that's really kind of what birthed the philosophy of doing one thing every day. But then even more than that was what comes up for me and other women when we try to do something for ourselves because it's truly a huge shift. It's truly a massive thing, an undertaking because then we're faced with ‘well, why is it so hard for me to ask for a couple of hours on a Saturday to be by myself?’. ‘Why is it so hard for me to spend an hour in the tub instead of laboring over the dishes and making sure every inch of the kitchen is clean?’.
And that's kind of where the deeper work started happening, the deeper conversations with women. Like I have a monthly group where we like, meet, and see each other face to face over zoom. And we have some really intense conversations where people are like realizing like, ‘Oh, well, I never saw my mom take a break’, or ‘I never saw my grandmother ever sit down’ like, or ‘I never night out’. Yeah, or have a girl’s night out. Or, you know, when I did go out and do something for myself, all my girlfriends were like, ‘oh, must be nice’. Where do you find the time to do that? How do you find the time to read, and people are not being encouraged? And so, I think people are realizing that it's not just about like to say it's not just it's not about your planner, it's not your time management, it's like, it's not because you don't, you're bad at time management sister. It's because everything around you is telling you to hurry up, hustle up, get over yourself, and don't spend too much time on yourself or you're going to look like you're too big for your britches. And I want you to know that those people telling you that are exhausted and bitter and resentful, and we need to leave that way of life behind. And we need to create a new way of life where we really honor and respect ourselves and to see the positive ripple effects that happen from that. And I will never go back to the old way of doing things because my career started blossoming, my health started to improve. My relationships got better the way that I mother, my children improve. And so, it's like, once you do it enough that you see the positive ripple effects, all the naysayers, all that noise just gets quieter and quieter. And you just stop listening to it. So yeah, that's kind of the philosophy behind it. It's like it's it's an evolution. It's a healing journey. It's a process. I like to say, healing is not a checklist. And when you work with me, I will not give you a checklist. It's not about and people want that. Don't get me wrong. If you're like me, I can't you just tell me exactly what I need to do. And I'm like, the things that nurture you and that heal your soul are not the things that looks different. Yeah, that's not my thing. So, you know, it's really a journey. And I just try to be a guide in that and a mentor and a supporter but not a checklist giver. I can't be a checklist giver.
I love the philosophy of small things. Because I think that we like you were saying, we can see people on social media who seem to be going on these, like really amazing vacations and having personal trainers and, and so many big things. And yeah, I really either think, either they worked up to that, or that's not that's just like a prop. It's just yeah, really what their life looks like. Yeah, but I did the same thing. You know, I started my business when my kids were one and three. And it was rough. I'm not gonna lie to anybody.
So, encouraging to hear though, because my kids, I started mine when my kids were one and three, too. And I feel like everyone I know on Instagram started their business in their 20s. And yeah, they like they grew it to six, seven figures. And then they had their first child at 30 when they had a house, and I'm like, what am I supposed to do? And I'm like, Well, I guess we're gonna figure it out.
I'm gonna figure it out. Yeah, there's I, I'm making this gallery wall in my office and there's a print that I'm it's in my shopping cart. And it says, ‘you'll figure something out. I love that. Because like, that's been my philosophy it because I just I'm like, well, I guess I'm gonna fly by the seat of my pants. I'm just gonna have to figure it out. But I won't like it was super rough. And, and I remember I had a friend over a childfree friend over and she stayed for a couple of nights. And she, I didn't even notice this. She said, “I have not seen you sit down to eat the whole time I've been here. You've been eating over the sink”. Oh, wow. Like I am. I didn't even know. Yeah, and my husband is in the room. And he said, being a parent is very opportunistic. You have to just whenever you can. Yeah. And so, I decided you know that I'm gonna sit down even if I have to as a few times. I'm going to sit my ass in the seat to eat and the small things that we don't think about and even for the people that have children. It is the small things. I love to make your bed one, yeah, and for me, it was also get dressed because especially in the, I know a lot of people haven't gone back to work yet. And they're loving being at home and getting to work in their pajamas and things like that. Even if it's just their pajama bottoms. I and if you thrive in that way. I applaud you. I personally don't.
I don't know. Yep,
I yeah, I have to get dressed and people are aghast when I tell them I wear jeans.
Oh my goodness, you know, and I have something to say to that too. Because I'm the same way and I never want to get out of my pajamas I never want to get but if I don't, I will not be productive. I will feel like crap all day. And so, a solution I had at the beginning was I bought looser, like straight leg pant jeans like not skinny jeans so they're more comfortable. And then I'm going, to be honest, I've gained weight since I've bought those jeans and so I went on target.com and I got these cute, they're called paper bag style pants, where they have like a nice drawstring tie at the top. And they're like, really loose, and they're made out of like a good fabric. So, they look I look put together, but I still feel like I'm wearing comfortable pants. So, like, I think that we, it's so interesting how so many of us live in these extremes. It's like all or nothing, right? It's like we're wearing skinny jeans and a blazer or wearing our pajamas. And it's like, I think we can find something in the middle. And that's my approach to self-care. It's not like you're going on a two-month vacation to Tibet and having a monk guide you or nothing. It's, you know, it's I, you know, truly what you mentioned about sitting down to eat. Yes, as a parent, we know how extremely meaningful that is to us, you know, to not be eating our children's leftovers. It's such an act of love to take the time, 10-15 minutes, to make your lunch and then sit down and eat it. If you can just give yourself that 20 to 30 minutes a day, one meal, to just really pay attention to yourself. It's crazy what it started to do for my self-image and the way that I respected myself. It's so self-nurturing, especially after two years of just feeling like I slog through motherhood and just was like, everyone was like, ‘oh, that's just the way it is like, you're just going to be burned out and exhausted all the time’. And I'm like, no. I really wish someone had told me that there's another way it's not all or nothing that you can find these moments where you can take care of yourself in these small ways. And it does matter. It really does matter. And it requires a little bit of planning. Like, you know, one of the things that were really self-nurturing was taking the time on the weekend to actually make a meal plan so that I'm not eating peanut butter and jelly crusts all week long for lunch do that, too. Yeah. And you know, these little things. So, I try to just make sure people understand that I'm not asking you to spend an exorbitant amount of money on self-care because self-care has become this like, almost like this luxury status thing. It's really these everyday choices that a lot of times we don't want to make, like putting on better clothes or making a meal plan but that throughout the week, it's just so self-affirming that it changes how you show up in every area of your life.
Mm-hmm. Do you have a link to those pants from Target because I want a pair?
I will have to find it for you. They are so good. And you know, I worry I was starting to feel this weight of like, ‘oh my gosh, I don't fit any of my jeans. Not comfortably anyway.
Yeah, good. Good. And I'm gonna put in the show notes. The pants I have on right now there are these high-waisted Levi's, okay, that were only like 40 bucks on Zappos.com. And I'm obsessed with them. They're so stretchy. They go over my belly. And it's amazing.
Like, I’m all for these high-waisted mom jeans?
Yes. All my jeans are high-waisted. Oh, yeah. I mean, a good pair of pants just help to make your day because then you just feel so can change your life.
Well, I want to shift over at this point. And I did chat with you about this before the show to get your permission and give you a heads up that I would like to share my experience with this too. And you are open about this. I think you have a three-part blog post series on your website. And we can definitely drop that in the show notes, too. People can read more about it if they want to. But you have experience with major depressive disorder and suicidal ideation. So, trigger a warning for anyone who might not want to listen to this part. We're going to talk about it a little bit. Can you tell us all your story on that?
Yeah, so thanks for wanting to bring this up. I very much like talking about it. Well, like is a strong word. I feel it's very important to talk about it. So yeah, I first experienced major depression in 2013. And it's kind of been an on and off journey for me but then it kind of came to a head in 2019 around Thanksgiving yeah, around Thanksgiving time it just had gotten so bad that I started dealing with what's called derealization or disassociation where your brain has had enough and you start to disconnect from reality to the point where you know when you space out and like your eyes blur over like you could do that on purpose sometimes. Like my body would do that involuntarily and I couldn't snap out of it. So, I was, I had stopped driving. I had to stop going places. I got scared to leave the house and I was kind of like this slow breaking down and then it got to the point where then suicidal ideation became a thing.
I want to stop you for a second and back up to Thanksgiving 2019. What were your depression symptoms? What did that look like on a kind of day-to-day or week-to-week basis?
For me, it was difficult to focus for sure. I can't focus on anything. Being present in my life was super overwhelming. I was constantly on my phone. That was my negative still is my negative coping. It's a habit I have to really work against that I was having chronic nightmares. So, I also have diagnosed with PTSD. Part of that is I have these chronic nightmares where they're very vivid and it feels like they're real. And so, I wasn't sleeping either. That's also a symptom of that. And then just having really no energy at all, like I truly could have laid on the floor all day and all night and not have moved. It's just you just have no energy. And yet, I was taking my kids to preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I had an infant who was just turning one and still breastfeeding, and just, man shout out to all the moms that are navigating mental illness because it's like you have to, you have to be emotionally available to your babies while you have literally no capacity. It's truly one of the hardest things I've lived through. And I'm living through, and then this utter hopelessness and self-worth issue, just feeling like there's no hope for me, I'm worthless, there's nothing I can do to contribute to the world. The thing about it about depression is it feels like all of that crap is being imposed upon you. Like, it doesn't feel like you're choosing it. It doesn't feel like you need to just repeat some positive mantras. I've read all the books that I love me some good self-help books, but none of those things were working for me anymore. That's when I was like, okay, I think I'm back in this phase again, where I really need to take this seriously. But I had had some bad therapists in the past who had dismissed those symptoms and didn't really help me. So, I was very much in denial about it, because I thought it wasn't that serious. As a previous therapist told me, I was told that unless I have an actual plan, date, and time for when I plan to take my life, then I didn't have anything really to worry about. I had had like three days straight of suicidal ideation, which means is, you have thoughts of dying, thoughts of wanting to kill yourself, thoughts of getting killed accidentally. Like you just don't want to be on this earth, and your brain is imagining so many scenarios for that to be possible. And that was really scaring me. I don't even think I told my husband because it sounds scary. And again, I did have a poor experience with one therapist. Not bashing all therapists. I honestly owe my life to some of these amazing professionals out there. But I had a therapist who told me, ‘oh, that's just attention-seeking behavior if you don't have a plan’. Yeah, it was really terrible. If you don't have a plan, it's not real. So, I was really shoving it down and I wasn't telling anyone about it. Then it just got to a point where it was just really scary. And I called, I Googled it. I Googled it and read from a psychiatrist that this is called suicidal ideation. It absolutely is serious. And it requires psychiatric help. And so, it's crazy how just hearing that outside validation that what you're going through is real can change everything. Because I don't want to have to think about what would have happened to me if I just kept ignoring what I was going through.
And keeping it secret. Yeah, exactly. Think that it mattered. It probably made it worse.
Oh, yeah, for sure. Because then you're just like using all your energy as well, to keep it to yourself. And I think another thing too, though, I don't want to say is like, even if I did tell my husband, you know, he's such an amazing guy. But he's not an expert on these matters. I think it overwhelms him just as much as it overwhelmed me. And so, when I did tell him, I called him after I did that research and was like, okay, this is a real thing. I told him, he was at work and his work at the time, that he doesn't work there anymore, but they were horrendously strict like almost would never let him leave. But I told him like you need to come home. And while he was on his way home, I call the National Suicide Prevention line for the first time in my life and just having someone on the phone was lifesaving at that moment. Like at that moment. Yeah, I was crying uncontrollably, like thank God, this was all happening. My kids are taking a nap. But I was just like at my wit's end. So, it was truly a lifesaving moment, my husband came home, and instead of asking him to be out of his depth, and to help me, I was like, “I need you to Google, how a partner can support another partner who's going through this”, because I think one of the challenges that people face, especially in relationships, is we try to make our partner our therapist, and that's not fair to them. And it's just they don't have the tools. If anyone can be your therapist, and why do therapists go to school for 4, 6, 8 years, and have to get licensed like, it's a real thing. So, you know, he did research and he read, he read about what he could do to help, and that made all the difference because it helped him feel supported and helps me feel supported. We took it seriously. We made a plan I got to psychiatrists, I got officially diagnosed with major depressive disorder and PTSD, and then from there, I just started to make so much progress. So, I'm definitely still in this battle. But like I said, I have my sustainable self-care practices. I have my tools and I've cultivated a level of self-awareness where I know what I need when I need it. And I just feel so lucky to be in this current position right now
Wow. Oh my gosh, Mia, thank you so much for sharing that story. Yeah, I'm happy to have you share it. The reason that I asked you to back up and talk about what did your symptoms look like, yeah, is because I think that there's still some misunderstanding and misconception and myths about what depression looks like as well as suicidal ideation. So, I was, I did a podcast episode. Several months ago, it might have even been over the summer of 2020, and I had Liz Applegate, who's my lead coach, come on, and we talked about, we talked about perimenopause, because we're both around the same age. And we talked about depression. And I shared it with my audience, and for those of you that missed it, I can drop that link in the show notes. But I shared that over well, it was probably around April that I was really struggling. I hired a new therapist, was diagnosed by her and my general practitioner with depression and went on an antidepressant for the first time in. Well, actually, it was an anti-anxiety medication in the early 2000s, for pretty severe anxiety disorder. But I hadn't been on any medication in a really long time and it, and it helped immensely. So, I didn't dive too much into the story because I wanted to be farther out of it yet. And I really need to think about how I wanted to share it. And it's such a great segway with you having a very similar story. Yeah. So, when COVID hit I had, I had just signed a contract to write my third book. It was a major level up. It was you know, my dream publisher with Penguin Random House, I was ecstatic. And my husband had also quit his job to stay home with our kids because it just made sense. That's huge. Huge. Yeah. And he first didn't want to and then it just completely made sense. So that way, we wouldn't have to hire someone to help us with rides. And all right. So, he put in his notice on February 28 of 2020. And then his last day was March 13, which was the day that they started canceling schools.
We’d be losing our health insurance. It all felt like it was falling apart. And I was like, oh my God, we are going to be destitute. And so, my anxiety shows up as spinning downward spinning, spiraling thoughts. And sometimes it's negative self-talk, but most of the time, it is absolute doomsday. So COVID was the perfect storm, I was convinced that this was a mass extinction. Oh, wow. Probably. I was like, maybe the entire public population is going to be wiped out by the end of 2020. I mean, that's, that's where I was, completely crying in my office. That was the world was ending. And then also, I was googling images of the Great Depression. You know, images are like those black and white photos of like the mothers that are dirty and starving and their kids on the porch with them and they're in rags, and like that's gonna be me. I was convinced that we were gonna lose everything our house everything and be completely destitute. I had no evidence for this.
I understand though, what you're talking about. I've I still struggle with that crazy, spiraling, chaotic dumpster fire at me.
Yeah, that hadn't happened to me in over a decade. happening since my first child was born. And I was convinced someone was going to steal him. And I was crying, and, like, my mom didn't know what to do or say. He was a newborn. And I was like, I was like, someone's gonna break in and steal him. I was oh, yeah. I was convinced of it. And I was almost paranoid. Yep. Yeah, I couldn't even drive like that anxiety was really bad. Yeah. So, it was feeling like that. And I was starting to get scared. And then I started to think and here's what the thoughts were like, for me. Tell me if this is a similar experience to you. I have one other friend who said that. It was sort of similar. The thoughts were, they kind of felt like they swooped in like a bird. And it didn't feel like my normal thoughts. And so, I thought to myself, well, I can always kill myself.
Oh, my goodness.
And it scared me. I almost like it. Like, was like, What was that? Yeah, it was new. And I was terrified. And I know that my next thought was, ‘is this how it starts?’. And I didn't know what to do. I was afraid to tell my husband because I'm like, he's gonna rat me out. And I'm going to have my kids taken away. My reputation as a professional is going to be ruined. It's going to be over. And then and so I was sort of having like this push-pull of you need to tell someone you trust verses don't tell anyone. You can't trust anyone. And I was just a mass in my office for several hours. And then I decided to call my best friend, Amy Smith, and she's been on the show a few times. And we both know that if we actually call each other if the phone rings. You need to answer it’s probably an emergency. Yeah. So, she answered, I Facetimed her and I was in the corner in my office so nobody would hear me and I Facetimed her and I could barely talk and I just I just unloaded everything and I told her everything. And she said, she was asking me all the right questions, you know, like, ‘do you have a plan?’. And I'm like, “no”, like, I knew I was conscious enough that if I did take my own life, there would be people who would be devastated. Like, I didn't exactly want to end my life, I wanted to end this pain and suffering.
Yes. And that's what people do not understand. It's like, it's not about creating some catastrophic event for everyone to watch. It's to end the pain and the suffering. It's like, it feels like the only way out of this hijacking of our brains that we can't control. No one likes to feel out of control. I'm just so glad that you describe suicidal ideation in that way. Because there's this crazy misconception that it's like this desire to just put on theatrics or something, again, attention-seeking, right, that horrible label. And it's like, it's because there are people who are in extreme amounts of pain, and we have no idea how to get help with it.
I found so much comfort in the term suicidal ideation versus being suicidal because I did not feel like that fit. And I told Amy, I said, “I'm not suicidal”, like, a) good news is we don't have any guns in the house. But yeah, I was thinking about it, because I thought it was gonna be like, The Walking Dead.
And, you know, I'm reading news reports that there was a break-in actually at the gun store in our town, and that people were talking about guns and ammo. And I'm like, do we, should we get some like, and so I knew that I didn't, I didn't really want to, and I didn't have a plan. And I could not – it made me emotional. To think of my family, either finding me or hearing the news of it. I couldn't be with that. And so, but the suicidal ideation and googling that, and going, ‘oh, yeah, that's what it is. And then I asked, talked to a couple of my friends. I'm like, yeah, I felt that way before and realizing that it's more common than I ever thought. Yeah, both made me sad and comforted. And a little bit, yeah, none of my friends had ever talked about this before. And I work in personal development, and I was like why isn’t this a conversation.
It's so sad that it's not and I and I would be lying if I didn't say that I have wondered how I should be sharing this because it's scary. It's scary to share this, I guess, in a sense, like, I've never really labeled myself, but some people have been saying, like referring to me as like, oh, you're like a life coach, or like a self-care coach. And I never thought of myself as a coach. But it's like, okay, I guess that's where I fit in, like kind of the world of things. But then when you look at other coaches, they're not talking about depression and anxiety, they're not talking about these very personal like inner challenges, I think, because that makes them look weak or something. And it's like, it's up to us to change that narrative, then, like, it's up to all of us to change that narrative by how what we share and how we share it. And I'm not telling everyone they need to spill their guts online. But I think just normalizing the fact that we go through this. And, you know, it is scary. And I do think that this whole idea of, it's only serious if you have a written plan or something crazy like that is such a limitation to the human experience because it completely excludes all the people who might take their life suddenly, and who might like do something completely rash that causes them to end that, causes them to die. And it's, you know, it's just, I just want people to recognize that we're always learning and all these professional fields, and like researchers, and professionals and experts, they're still learning about mental illness. It's only become a real conversation recently. And we only are discovering that the way we treated it in the past wasn't the right way. So, you know, it's just be open to the fact that we are discovering new things and like, guess what, we can't study things that we don't talk about. So, we have to talk about them.
Exactly. And I want to just circle back to something you said. I wonder I mean, I don't know. But my opinion is that other life coaches or you know, spiritual mentors or whatever, what have you, they may or may not struggle with anxiety and depression. And I’m, that's a thing, you know, yeah. But I do think that everyone, you've struggled with a broken heart, you've struggled with betrayal, with not knowing how to make a decision like these hard things in life. And when I first started blogging in 2008, I just couldn't stop talking about it. Because I'm like, you I grew up in a family where we didn't talk about these things. And so, I always kind of have joked that I was making up for lost time. And I was really pleasantly surprised how many people were on board with reading my blog and commenting and saying thank you so much. You've articulated what I've been feeling, and I've been afraid to talk to people. So, I wanted to say that I do think that maybe there are some people who aren't talking about it because they just don't struggle with it. But then the other thing I want to say too before I forget is that I want to apologize to you or anyone if I have said the wrong thing during this conversation. And I always say, you know, I'm going to step in shit when I'm having these more, not just vulnerable, but these are complicated topics. And if there's anyone out there who has lost someone to suicide or has had suicidal ideation or been actively suicidal themselves, and I have said something offensive or wrong, I deeply apologize. And you can shoot an email to email@example.com to lovingly, I hope, correct me. I just want to say that before I forget.
That's really sweet of you and thoughtful. That's another reason why so many of us like, I get worried to go on Instagram sometimes to just sharing my own experience because I am worried about, you know, getting kind of like some pushback. But I think it's so important just for anyone listening who wants to share who's also scared of that to remember that no one can tell you what your experience is. No one can tell you what you were you were supposed to feel. Yeah, we're like, label your feelings like that therapist I had so incorrectly done that day. You know, what you're feeling. And I think one of the things that I just think it's so important for women to do is to learn to trust ourselves and to honor how we feel like trust our intuition. I can't tell you how many times in my life, I've gotten into situations that were not ideal, and always because I didn't trust and respect myself. So, I think it's just one of the most important things that we can do. And whenever someone's like, Well, how do you build trust, and it's just like, well, you have to start by respecting yourself. And as silly as it sounds, that can be built by making sure you sit down while you eat a good lunch every day. It's just like, the way that you treat yourself is the way that you build trust. In the same way, when you nurture a relationship with a friend, someone that you're getting to know, you have lunch with them, you take care of them, you support them, you encourage them. And it's just like, that's also how we can build trust with ourselves too.
100%. And this is something I talk about in my book, my next book that's coming out because we are conditioned and socialized to not trust ourselves
Oh, 100%. And always looking to other people for the answer.
I also believe yeah, second-guessing ourselves seeking outside counsel. I also think that it's questioning, my friend, Elizabeth DiAlto says, ‘Is this my conditioning? Or is this my truth?’. And even just asking the question, you might not know the answer. But getting curious about it is a great way to start looking for clarity on that.
Oh, I love that so much. And I think it's so important to ask that question. Is that your conditioning? Because that's yeah, I asked myself something similar. It's like, is this my pattern? Or is this like the path and is usually the pattern and I'm like, you know, and that's why that self-awareness is so key of just getting to know all your patterns and the negative coping habits and stuff. Because it's really what blocks you from connecting with what you really feel. And it's the way that we protect ourselves, right? We don't want to feel grief, we don't want to feel sadness, we don't want to feel anger, like a lot of us really stuffed down anger because anger is was is I don't know about you. But when I was growing up, anger was not an appropriate emotion for a girl to show. It was not I was not allowed. And so, then I think you have all these women that just like are dealing with all this repressed anger. And then, it's really just we needed an outlet for all of that.
Yes, we could talk about that all day long. But I want to ask you one more question before we close up, and it's definitely on par with what we've just been talking about. So as a mental health advocate, can you talk about how to handle what some people might call their overwhelming emotions?
Yes, I have a lot of videos about this on my Instagram IGtv. It's all about, managing overwhelming emotions. I get questions about this a lot because I live with PTSD. And it's like I can deal with my brain getting hijacked at any moment. So, there's a variety of techniques that I use, and they're all grounding techniques. And the main one that works for me, is breathwork. So diaphragmatic breathing, you can Google it, it's a really great, easy way to kind of bring yourself back into your body and out of the overwhelming emotions that can be hijacking your brain. So essentially, what it is, is you inhale deeply through your nose and you allow your belly to expand. And what this does is it stimulates the vagus nerve, which is like the biggest nerve in your body that kind of touches all your vital organs and helps to calm them down. Because when our brains are being hijacked by overwhelming emotions, our stomach feels a certain way right? Our muscles contracts our you know, all of our organs are doing something that's telling us like fight or flight. And so,
I start to twitch, my body starts to twitch.
We all have something different. We all have different chronic pain that can show up when that happens. And so, it's being aware of what does your body do when your fight or flight is stimulated? Do you twitch? Does your stomach get cramped? Does your chest get tight? Does your face get hot? Does your throat close up? And so first becoming aware of the physical sensation because your body knows you're overwhelmed before you actually know in your brain. So, for me, the telltale signs are always in my body. And then I check in with myself. And I start to take a deep breath, and I do that diaphragmatic breathing. And if you're first starting out, it can be really hard because we're very conditioned chest breathers we breathe very shallow into our chest. And so, what helps us if you put your hands,
Especially since we've been wearing masks, I've noticed that.
Yeah, yeah, well, I think just going out so stressful, we don't want to take a deep breath. So being aware of that, so putting your hand on your belly to feel your belly expand or laying on your back, helps as well, and putting on a timer sometimes so that you don't have to think how I've been here long enough. How long has it been getting out of your brain and into your body? Take that deep breath. And then after you've done all that, which only takes about 60 seconds, mind you, then it's like, okay, well, what am I feeling right now? And why am I feeling it? And then you can start to question those feelings from a calmer state of mind and a calmer state of your body. So oftentimes, for me, it's like, I'm feeling really anxious. Okay, why? Well, because I have this deadline coming up. And it's like, is it the end of the world, if it doesn't get done at five? Should I ask for an extension? Should I do this, like you're able to problem-solve, rather than being in this state of I'm, I'm threatened, and I need to run
Yeah, you know, you get out of that. So, you know, I wanted to spend a lot of time on that, because that's probably one of the techniques I employ every hour of the day. To be honest, like when I'm in a particularly stressful phase of my cycle, I have to practice that breathwork a lot. But other than that, writing down how you feel, obviously, is a super undervalued tool, like breakout that paper and pen and also guided meditations are great. I have, there's a lot of great ones on Audible and also free ones on YouTube, where someone's just walking you through deep breathing and telling you some really calming affirmation. So those are some regular things that I utilize. But I also want to be clear that after I was dealing with suicidal ideation, and I was diagnosed with PTSD and depression, I went on medication for I think it was about 10 months. Like I only recently got off medication two months ago to start full-on EMDR trauma therapy. Medication is an incredible tool and gave me my life back and helped me feel more like myself. And it was actually a woman sharing her story on a podcast that helped me to make the decision to go on medication. So, I always like to make sure I share that that was a tool that I use. And then therapy as well has been a great tool, along with self-care and support groups.
Thank you. Yes, me too. I went on an antidepressant and also started when I felt better started major trauma therapy. So, thank you so much for being here. Well, I want to send people to be able to find more of you.
Well, I'm on Instagram almost every day @MiaHemstad and my website is MiaHemstad.com, and you can find links to my YouTube channel there. I do have a couple of blog posts. I do post more frequently on Instagram and YouTube though. So those are great places to find me.
Those are the two best places. Okay. Yes, MiaHemstad.com. All those links are going to be in the show notes. Thank you, listeners, for joining me. I know how valuable your time is. I appreciate you so much. And remember, it's our life's journey to make ourselves better humans and our life's responsibility to make the world a better place. Bye-bye.
Hey everyone, if you or anyone you care about is struggling with suicidal ideation or thoughts of ending their life, please know that you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is available 24 hours at 1-800-273-8255