It’s 2021, and I’m 26, but sometimes I feel like I’ve lived a couple of lifetimes. My teenage years were spent growing up quickly. I learned what it meant to grapple with your mind very early on. But as I stand in my office looking around at the company I’ve built it seems like all of those moments of darkness put me here, exactly where I am meant to be.
It was 2010, and I was 15. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I spent time in and out of treatment. I lost pieces of myself as my illness progressed. I stopped talking for the most part. I was disconnected from myself and from those in my life. And yet, the people in my life found ways to engage me. They wrote letters that were delivered to me in treatment. They sent me songs of the day to lift my spirits. They bought an UNO deck knowing it was something that drew me out of myself, even if only for just a few moments. They found these small moments of connection between us that gave me a reason to see the next day. Oftentimes, it was the love and kindness shown by my people that carried me through to see the sunrise the next morning.
It was 2020, and I had grown a lot. I was living in my dream city, Boston, and I’d come to a really beautiful place with my illness. I was speaking openly about my experiences through public speaking gigs and written pieces. My writing got featured, I was giving speeches to all different age groups, and I was working on a business concept of my own. Then COVID hit. And just like millions of people around the world, I lost my job. I chose that moment in time to take a risk, be bold, and utilize my struggles as a way to help others as I watched the rate of mental illnesses rise significantly.
On April 16th, 2020, I launched Find Your/self Boxes. This company allows people to build custom self-care boxes to send to themselves or their loved ones who are struggling with their mental health. By leveraging raw and honest storytelling, in combination with intentional and research-backed products, these boxes were created to help people start the conversation with their loved ones and create moments of connection during difficult times. Instead of tip-toeing around their loved ones unsure what to say, what to do, or how to connect, these boxes serve as a way for people to say, “I see you, I hear you, and I’m here with you in this journey.”
It’s 2021, and I’ve sold 320 boxes and counting. I spend every day feeling grateful to have lived to see a day where I’m feeling truly alive. I get to use my struggle to help others who may be in their own battle. I’ve been in my own recovery process for 10 years. I’m often asked if I could go back and change it, if I could take the mental illness away, would I do it? And honestly, the answer is no. My mental illness drove me to greater compassion and ultimately fueled my desire to stand for those whose experiences need to be met with validation and love. I’m exactly where I need to be and I cannot wait to see what else life has in store.