Ellen Palmer is a Mental Health Blogger over at The HappiMess Co. who has openly struggled with struggled with post-natal depression and anxiety from since she can remember.
“I’m busy trying to help those who overthink; who feed their self-doubt; who see the good in everyone but themselves; to know that they are worth it, and they are amazing.”
Ellen’s hope in supporting others and being an advocate is to help people learn to cope with their own daily struggles, and the mental negativities that we all seem to painfully endure at some point in time. We explore how Ellen is using her platform and voice to raise awareness on mental health issues and what we can do to support those who feel social exclusion because of their own mental health problems.
Hey Ellen, can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Ellen Palmer, I’m a Mental Health Blogger over at The HappiMess Co. I’m married to my hubby, Nathan, and am a mum to three little boys – Bond, Finn, and Max. Yes, we know those are secret agent names, no we didn’t mean to do it like that! They are my absolute pride and joy. I love being a mum. I’ve yet to find such a rewarding/ tiring/ stressful-yet-fulfilling job anywhere else. But I always manage to do something wrong, so learning to laugh about the mishaps and move on has definitely been an educational, and mind-freeing process, and one that I really love to share with everyone.
I’ve struggled with post-natal depression and anxiety for a while now, and because I know how horrible it feels to be depressed, I am constantly finding myself wanting to uplift the spirits of those around me. It’s become such a passion – wanting to spread the joy – that I finally decided to do something about it.
I got myself into gear and became a life coach. I’ve never felt so empowered and motivated from doing something so simple, I just knew I had to take it further. My journey has taken me through to working towards becoming a counsellor, and I share as many things as I can from what I’m learning. From coping with depression, and anxiety, right through to the day-to-day struggles that we face in our everyday lives.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
I honestly have no idea where to start with this. But I guess I’ll start with my lowest point, which was finding that I had miscarried for the second time.
I was already a mum to two little boys by this stage, and we’d had no plans at the time for baby three. I was already dealing with minor post-natal depression but finding out that I’d miscarried a baby (even though we weren’t planning for, but had still accepted was going to join us) was a bit of a tipping point.
After that miscarriage, it was a whirlwind of not just having to deal with the emotions of losing them but to also deal with the new emotions of falling pregnant again straight away (which was another unplanned one!). Drama after drama ensued, and my mental state just couldn’t cope.
We’re now just about to celebrate our third boys second birthday, and in the last two years, I’ve learned so much. The main two things that I’ve learned is that Doctor prescribed medication is the thing that has got me through the last few years. But essential oils are the thing that switched my brain my on and has helped me focus enough to be able to write and connect with people.
My journey has brought me to the understanding that there’s no one right way to treat mental health, but that there are many ways. Sometimes those different methods and techniques can be combined to work even more effectively. I mean, after all, blue and red are pretty colours, but when you mixed them you get another pretty colour don’t you?
I talk with so many people each day on social media about what is happening in their lives and how when I think I’ve learned as much as I can about one disorder there’s always something new that pops in to join the list of symptoms and remedies.
2018 is almost at an end, and with it I can say that I’m better able to cope with my depression and anxiety; I’m now on my way to getting that bit closer to becoming a Mental Health Professional; and my love for Essential Oils hasn’t just grown dramatically, but is helping so many people with their own mental health struggles. 2018 has been a tough and mind opening year, but I’m pretty chuffed with how I’m finishing it.
What is a day in the life of you like?
We’ve just hit Spring over here, so the sun is up just before 5am, and so are my boys! Weekdays means school time so I get everything sorted for school drop off in the morning, then back home with my two littlest boys and our new puppy.
During the day its the housework, kids make a lot of washing! Then nap time after lunch. This is when I catch up on messages from people from Instagram and Facebook, finish posting orders, and squeeze in some study time.
After that it’s pick up my eldest from school, get home, make dinner and wait for Shaun the Sheep to signal that it’s the boy’s bedtime!! Then it’s just more study at the moment, it’s only just the beginning of the school term for me.
Saturday’s are our nothing day. We try not to go anywhere, do any work or housework. Just sit, watch some tv and catch up as a family. Not to mention catch up on sleep! Then Sunday’s are the busy day getting ready for the week with making food to freeze and seeing what’s happening.
This is me on a good week when I’m not in my depressive episode. On a bad week, it can be hard just doing the school run let alone keep up with the washing. I’m thankful that we’re out of winter now though, sunshine has always helped me to get out of my episodes.
How did you launch your career?
It began with me just sharing other people’s quotes and pictures that I’d found on Facebook, Pinterest, and on other people Instagram pages. There wasn’t a lot of likeness between the pictures I’d put up, but the captions showed some similarity. They all seemed to convey the hope that I was trying to do better as a person, and help others as well.
Then I did my own design course, starting learning more about mental health and things sort of snowballed from there. My mother-in-law stepped in when the antidepressants started taking away my brains clarity with essential oils, and I realised that a more holistic approach could help so many other people too.
I’m currently studying to finish my degree in Counselling, so I hope to be able to really take it that step further. I’m not sure entirely what that step will be, but I know that at the heart of it will still be the desire to help people with their struggles and feel less alone.
Can you talk to us about how you are using your platform and voice to raise awareness on mental health issues?
By being honest. Being myself. The whole happy go larry country girl with a coffee and chocolate obsession, to the dark humoured, cry in a corner, a hyperventilating ball of anxiety. I still struggle being myself to people in public, my people skills are still really lacking and any time a conversation is longer than “Hi, how was your day?” I panic because I don’t have that extra time to practice my lines. By talking about everything online it’s helped me not just with reaching out to new people but helped them know that there is someone they can talk with as well.
Can you explain the common misconception of mental health issues and why some people really struggle to identify with it?
I think that the biggest misconception that still surrounds mental health is that it’s still not viewed as a disease. People are still being told to “snap out of it”, “think happy thoughts”, and just told to generally ‘lighten up.’
For example, if someone has had the worst day ever, their confidence sunk to levels that should never exist, scars cover their body, and there have been so many trips to the hospital that they’ve lost count. They lost they appetite long ago, their skin is now a dull grey, and their sunken eyes barely show a life within. Their illness has been invisible the entire time, if it weren’t for some telling signs, how would you know they were sick? Was it Cancer or depression?
Or if someone else has had the best day ever. They just celebrated a birthday with amazing friends and family, they were showered with gifts and love and laughed until their stomach hurt. They saw their favourite movie, ate their favourite food, and saw the most beautiful sunset. That night they died. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or depression?
When Cancer or a sudden fatal illness strikes and takes a life we blame the disease and know that the person fought a hard, albeit somewhat invisible illness. But when a person dies from depression we blame the person. The majority of society still refuses to see any sort of mental illness as an actual disease, that is capable of altering a person thoughts and making them take their own lives.
How do you thinking coaching has great potential to really help people in the world of mental health and well being?
Coaching has been the thing that gave me my spark back. I needed something to get a bit of myself back that I’d lost. It made me want to try new tips and tricks and see what worked and didn’t.
I feel more and more comfortable as I continue my studies as now I’ve not only learned how to help others with their struggles, but I’ve lived through a little of them too. Having the life experience to know what a person is going through even a little bit has helped people to feel more comfortable in connecting with me. I’ve been told that because I know how it feels that they won’t feel judged, laughed at, or demeaned.
Coaching is really starting to become more of a creative possibility for those who have that life experience and want to help others further. As mental health services are continually becoming more engaging in so many different aspects of life now, recovery-oriented exercises are becoming a lot more not just socially acceptable, but normal. Like self-care days. It’s becoming the norm to have those now in workplaces and some schools, and that’s just fantastic.
So while a lot of people view the degree on a person as a piece of experience, it’s becoming more realistic to view how much life experience they have with mental health. Not just by seeing it with others and helping them through it, but if they’ve actually dealt with it personally.
How can we break the conversion taboo and help those that are suffering in silence?
When a person has a cold or a broken bone we help by getting them to a doctor to get them on the mend. When a person is going through a depressive episode we can help by getting them to their therapist. Pretty simple really, Doctors are for your physical broken bones, therapists are for your emotional/ mentally broken.
The thing is so many people have a disability. Like so many, and so many of those so many have a disability that we accept as just normal. They have to use something every single day to help them with their disability. Know what that is? Not medication. Glasses, that’s what that is, and it’s seen as normal. But as soon as someone has to take oral medication it’s seen as wrong. Which is weird because medication is like glasses but for your brain.
Or like if you break a bone, and you go about hiding the fact that you’ve broken a bone. Because if someone ever found out that you’d broken a bone it would be so embarrassing and you just wouldn’t be able to live with yourself. Why would you be embarrassed about breaking a bone though? I mean so many people break bones, it’s a really common thing.
How can we break the taboo? By talking about mental health. Normalising it. Just as we talk normally about people wearing glasses and breaking bones.
Can you give us 3 tips on how we can encourage/support those who feel social exclusion because of their own mental health problems?
- Let them know that you are there. That’s the biggest one. Once the person knows that there is someone they can turn to when they have no energy left to deal with themselves, it will mean the absolute world to them.
- Listen, or talk. People always say be ready with a kind ear and heart when someone is down and depressed, and this is so true. But I also know that for myself, when I am in one of my depressive episodes the last thing I actually want to do is talk. It takes so much energy out of me to actually just sit and smile with someone. A lot of the time I prefer it when I go to see someone and they do all the talking. Sometimes it’ll be about that person’s day, what they thought of some movie they’d seen, just so many things. Sometimes I just need to hear about that person and not spend more energy on exhausting myself. So please be ready to listen yes, but please also be ready to talk about anything and everything.
- Make sure they know that seeking professional help isn’t a sign of weakness or failure. The biggest one of them all. Being an amazing friend is one thing, but taking on more than you can handle and potentially causing more harm is another. There’s a reason why there are mental health professionals, and why it takes ages to become one. It’s because they know their stuff. Encouraging your friend to see one of those professionals should be right up against the top of your list.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
Right here. Inspiring more people with the courage to keep going with their battle in bettering their mental health. The more people that get together and start normalising mental health, the better off we will all be.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally?
I’m still studying to become a mental health professional I’m not taken completely seriously. It doesn’t matter how many blog posts I’ve written, how many people I’ve connected with, how many textbooks I’ve read, therapy sessions I’ve been in, or even how many panic attacks I’ve had – that little piece of paper is everything to some people. Now that I mention the fact that hey, I am actually studying this to become a real professional, people are a little kinder.
Have you ever had any other mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
One lady that I’m pretty obsessed with at the moment and haven’t mentioned yet is Alisa Pettit. She owns a business called InSite Mind, and uses a lot of techniques that I’m learning about in my degree. Having Alisa as my mentor isn’t just giving me more knowledge on how to help people further, but she’s helping me to really better my mindset, and self in general. She’s become a big part of my weekly life, and I watch and read her trainings at least once a week.
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
My support network is amazing, and in real life consists of incredible family members and friends who openly talk with me about it. My online support group is just as amazing. The times I’ve shared about a personal struggle, or asking for advice there has always been an outpour of messages. People who struggle with mental health are just as eager to read about your advice as well as offer it, and that’s what makes it so amazing.
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date?
- Eat proper food.
- Drink water.
- Go outside and get fresh air and sunshine.
- Do some stretches or go for a walk.
- Have a nap.
If after doing each of these five things I still feel low, and can’t bring myself out of it I have to ask someone for help. Biggest and best piece of advice I’ve received to date.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
Lists are everything, everything. From shopping lists, to-do lists, things to pack in the nappy bag list. I am so forgetful so I know that if I don’t write it on my list it’s going to get forgotten. This is something that I learned from one of my best friends Bec, she has four kids and runs her own business and does it all solo. That woman can definitely teach a person a thing or two!
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
I’m still working on this! My main job is being a mum, so it has to come first over everything. But I’m not perfect so I do really neglect folding up the washing and putting dishes away.
My hubby is pretty amazing though if I need an afternoon to myself or an evening to do some extra work he helps after he comes home from the day of work. My mother-in-law is great as well, she often takes the boys for a couple of hours so I can get some work done too. My Dad and sister do as well whenever they can.
Basically, it comes down to me admitting that I need help, and my incredible family is always here to step in. I’ve been really blessed to have such a supportive family, and really would like to encourage anyone who gets overwhelmed with their work/ life balance to always ask for help.
The highlight of your career so far?
The fact that I’ve made it this far in my journey talking about mental health and helping others. I still can’t believe I have such an incredible audience of people wanting to hear about how bad I am at everyday life situations and the fact that my own mental health hasn’t caused me to collapse. It hasn’t been just a career highlight, but a personal one as well.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Getting that one message from that one person that needed to see what I’ve put up on social media. There’s always at least one person that either messages or comments on whatever has gone up for the day and just makes mine. It really is the smallest things that can make the biggest difference.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of your business?
There have those thoughts nearly every day that pop up and say “Why are you doing this? What right do you have? Who do you think you are to do this?” I’m always invalidated by my own thoughts and self-confidence, and it’s been hard to overcome those negativities that I put upon myself so I can do better not just in my business, but in my own self-growth. That saying “you’re your own worst enemy” is so very true for me.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
There’s Faith over at Radical Transformation Project. She’s always been a huge source of inspiration for me in keeping it real and talking openly about her mental health.
Jenna Kutcher is amazing too. She’s a Photographer and talks about coping with her struggles with miscarriage. It’s so raw, and because I can relate to her it makes it so much easier to listen and take on board what she’s teaching.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I loved the article by Power Of Positivity called ‘7 Behaviours That Reveal Someone Is Silently Depressed.’ It brought a lot of things that are talked about all together in the one article that made it easy to share with others. Definitely check it out!
Top 3 go-to Podcast channels?
- Faith has her own Podcast called ‘Radical Transformation Podcast.’
- ‘Goal Digger’ by Jenna Kutcher.
- My third favourite is Rachel Hollis’s ‘Rise’ podcast. I love having any one of these ladies speaking to me as I’m shuffling around the house doing some chore or other.
How do you measure your own terms of success?
I like to measure my success by how I feel at the end of the day, and seeing how my boys are by bedtime. A good day will have me feeling as though I’m on top of the important things, and my boys are relatively chill and happy for laying down and getting ready for bed. I try to write at least five things that I’m grateful for each day, and it helps me to feel as though I’m really appreciating those little things and succeeding in getting my boys to appreciate them too. Having that one message from that one person saying that I’ve helped them with their day always helps too!
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
Entrepreneur. Woman. Man. Self. Person. Just be your own whatever it is that gets you through to the next day, and then be inspired to keep going through the next lot of days. Just be your own you.
Lastly, what is next for you?
Finishing my degree is a big one and the main one at the moment! After that is all finished I’m working on doing a lot of Counselling courses for those who can’t get to therapists frequently and don’t have the budget. I’m excited to see where the next few years are going to take me.