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The Joy Life Podcast: Managing the Mental Health Journey with Achea Redd

In case you missed it, Achea was recently featured on Sierra Mafield’s The Joy Life Podcast! The Joy Life Podcast is a show for women out there who are emotional, sensitive and empathetic and have a gut feeling that they’re meant for something bigger in the world. If you want to make an impact, spread kindness into the world, and learn how to completely love who you are, this is the show for you. Get ready to practice some radical self-kindness, spread light and love to others, and make a massive impact on the world.

If you’d like to listen to the full episode, click here. Otherwise, keep scrolling for the full interview below!

Sierra: Hello friends! Long time, no chat. I know I haven’t put up a new podcast episode in a hot second, but there’s been a ton going on behind the scenes as to what’s happening with the show, where I’ve been at, what’s the future of the show and I will have more information about all of that for you guys in the coming weeks. But, honestly, I don’t really want to discuss too much of that right now because I’m way too excited for this episode. Today, we’re talking all things mental health. You may remember this podcast, when it first started out, was solely a mental health podcast. But if you’ve been following the journey since it launched almost a year ago now, or I think maybe exactly a year ago—I don’t know, a year ago-ish—it has evolved a lot since then. So, you might be sitting there thinking like, “Sierra, why are we talking about mental health?”

I am still a huge mental health advocate and there’s still a ton of stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness in the world today. And I believe that by having more of the discussions like the one that you’re going to hear in this episode, we can further eliminate the stigma and bring more kindness to the people who do suffer from mental illnesses. And that’s really, really, really important to me. The other really, really awesome thing about this episode is that this is my first ever podcast interview. Like, not me being interviewed, but me interviewing someone else. I was so nervous to do this interview, honestly, but it turned out amazing and I’m so excited about it.

I brought on Achea Redd for the show today, and she is such a gem of a human being. I love her so much. She and I connected back in May of 2019 and her story just intrigued me so much that I was like, “Oh my God, I have to have you on the show.” And so, guess what? I did.

Achea is the founder of Real Girls F.A.R.T.—which, yes, you did hear that correctly. It is Real Girls F.A.R.T. Listen to the episode to hear more about why that’s the name and what that’s all about. Plus, she’s the author of the book Be Free. Be You. In early 2016, she was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and she’s been on a journey since then to not only manage her own mental health, but help other incredible people do the same. Throughout this episode, we talk about her mental health journey as a whole, going to therapy, the importance of self-discovery and dating yourself, mental health and African American and Christian cultures, and so much more.

I am so, so excited for this episode you guys. I recommend grabbing a pen and paper because there is seriously so much to learn from Achea. She’s freaking amazing, I tell you what. And without further ado, let’s just jump into this episode.

Sierra: Achea, I am so excited to have you here on the podcast today.

Achea: Well, I’m excited to be here! I’ve heard nothing but great things about you and I’ve been doing my research.

Sierra: Oh good. Yay! That has me so excited.

Achea: Yes! So, I’m excited to be here to talk to you today.

Sierra: Awesome. So, I would love for you to just share who you are and where your mental health journey really got started.

Achea: Absolutely love that. My name is Achea Redd and I’m going to go ahead and get the funny stuff out of the way. I launched a blog called Real Girls F.A.R.T. Yes, you heard it, right? Real Girls F.A.R.T. It is an acronym and it stands for fearless, authentic, rescuer and trailblazer. When I came up with that word, it was really me breaking stigmas in both ways. So, initially it wasn’t even going to be about a mental health journey for me because I was undiagnosed at that time, when I first came up with the concept seven years ago. It was more so about all of these rules and expectations that women are given that I was just like, Man, like this is annoying that we have to be perfect. So, that was seven years ago when I came up with Real Girls F.A.R.T. Well, three and a half years ago now, I had a mental health scare where I had a nervous breakdown and I had been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression. It had gone as far as it could go without me actually getting help. So, that’s when the blog and the social media platform/community for other women became more mental-health focused.

Sierra: So, what really brought you to the moment where you knew that you needed to get help for the anxiety and the depression? Were you already in counseling before you were diagnosed or were things just building and building and building until it just all, it was like a wall that broke? What really happened with that?

Achea: That’s a really good question, actually. It’s a little bit of everything you just described. So, my life was, you know, I’m African American, religious background, where, you know, my father’s a pastor, so like, you know, an African American community, we don’t talk about mental health issues and definitely in the religious community, I just prayed away. You gotta have more faith. You shouldn’t be feeling like that. God will take care of it. And so, even when I would have these, I’ll call them triggers or situations, come up where it led me to believe like Man, maybe something deeper with some anxiety or whatever is going on, I didn’t even explore it or feel the liberty to do that just because I was not taught that that was a thing. So then, you know, you fast forward to my adult life, I ended up meeting my now-husband, who’s this NBA professional athlete superstar, where that’s a whole different world of expectations and standards of perfection. And I was very insecure. So I had all of that mounting, mounting, mounting, mounting, and then on top of that, I’m like, Man, I’ve got this childhood trauma stuff and my dad, let me go to therapy. So I went to therapy. And what’s hilarious about that for me, in that moment, was—and I think a lot of people can relate to this—we go to therapy sometimes for other people, not even necessarily because we realize we have a problem. We’re going to therapy because this person has a problem, and I need to figure out how to deal with their problems.

So, that was how I landed in therapy and I actually was in therapy for three years before I actually got diagnosed. My therapist would tell me like, you know, if this doesn’t start taking a turn for the better, we probably need to talk to you about some other methods of treatment. She was talking about medication and EMDR and you know, some other things. And so, um, it was really a combination of both the things you described. I was in counseling and that breakdown where I just could not take the pressure anymore. You know, I had to get out.

Sierra: Yeah. I think that’s so unique because I think a lot of the times people view counseling as like you have this mental breakdown or, you know, the wall breaks, and then you go to counseling. I can relate to that, too. I was in counseling before I ever realized that my depression was super, super bad. So, I love that you brought that up because that’s so important for some people to realize that counseling isn’t the only option after, you know, everything hits the fan. Right?

Achea: Yeah. I just, yeah, you don’t have to wait for a crisis to get help, basically.

Sierra: Yeah. So, if you had any advice for someone that hadn’t had that mental breakdown point yet, but was still kind of maybe in the mindset of, Oh, maybe I need therapy, but they’re nervous about it because I know a lot of people get really afraid to go to therapy and counseling. What would you say to that person that’s afraid of that?

Achea: Wow, you hit me really hard. There’s a part of me that authentically would just say just jump in there and just take the chance and do it. But then there’s another part of me that says, looking back at my own story and the trajectory of my mental health journey, there were times when I would think to myself before I actually started therapy, like, Man, I really need to go talk to somebody. And then I would talk myself out of it, because of all of the things that I was told about therapy. Right? And so I had to really get to the point where like, man, I’m so tired of my own stuff. And I think when you are tired of your own stuff enough to where you’re like, Man, I’m so tired of this mulberry bush. Should I keep going around like reaping the same results in relationships and like just the same outcome? I honestly think that’s what led me to the therapist’s office. I realized the stuff with my father and growing up in the house with my parents and their relationship, how damaging that was to me and how much of an impact it was having on me raising my children. And I just say, Man, I’m tired of this. I’m tired of losing my cool all the time and just not really connecting with people. I said, I’ve got to figure this out. So, I started blaming it on everything else. Like, Oh, well I’m this way because of that. Or, little did I know, when I went in therapy, I actually found out more about Achea, and really was encouraged to get curious about myself. And learn about myself, basically date myself a little bit. Right? Like, collect data on who Achea is, and it’s not necessarily even a negative thing. It can be like, what does Achea enjoy and why does she enjoy it and what does that make me feel like? So, I think that sometimes we have to divorce ourselves of those narratives that have been painted onto us that are negative about therapy. And like, to change that perspective and say, man, I really need to get to know myself so that I can be a better partner, a better friend, a better sister, or just a better human, in general—a better person to myself. And then I think that kind of nudges us a little bit more closely to going and talking to somebody.

Sierra: I love all of that. That’s so good. And like, especially when you said, like, dating yourself and getting to know yourself, because I remember when I was on my own, like I think I was in therapy for about eight or nine months and during that time I was like, I have learned so much about myself. And like you said, it’s not all bad things. Like, it’s just a growth process. And I love everything that you said. So, my next question is, whenever it came down to the anxiety disorder and the depression diagnosis, did that play a big factor when you thought about the concept of, you know, dating yourself and loving yourself? Did you think about it as a separate entity of who you are? Did you just like combine that all into loving yourself?

Achea: Truly, when I first got the diagnosis, I’ll be honest, I was beside myself with just so much shame. Again, being a black woman, being someone who had a belief system in the church and in God, I was just so ridden was shame. And I remember like, that can’t be it. That can’t be who I am. No, no, no, he’s wrong. It has to be something else, because you know, with the emotion or with the mental breakdown, there’s stuff that happens where you start physically feeling symptoms. So, I was like, no, this has to be an illness. This cannot be something in my mind or my psyche that’s wrong, or chemicals or whatever. And so I remember saying like, Okay, I’m going to accept this. It took me probably about a week after diagnosis to say, Okay, I’m going to take medicine and I’m going to go to therapy consistently because I can’t live like this. It had gotten so bad. And so, what I discovered in the process of going through therapy and taking medication, which by the way, once you find the right medication, the combination of therapy and meds work very well together. I think it actually speeds up your therapy process a little bit, because it makes you a little bit more clear headed and you’re able to kind of get through your thoughts and you’re not so much in your head. It kind of limits the brain activity, especially from an anxious perspective. But I just remember saying, this mental illness, my mental illness, this disorder, is a part of me, but it does not define who I am. And that was, I think, what just hit me like a ton of bricks, and a light bulb came on and I was just like, Okay, so I have to now start sharing that hope with everybody else.

Sierra: I love that. I know that a lot of people, myself included at one point, it’s like you only view your illness as this terribly negative thing that is doing nothing but dragging you down. And then it’s almost, like, a lot of the times people view their mental illness as they will, you know, be happy and they’ll get better when they make their illness go away and they’re just rid of it entirely. Whereas, like you said, instead, you just have to almost accept it. It’s just a part of who you are. And I think that is really where the ability to move on really comes from.

Achea: Oh my gosh, you’re so right. I’m going to tell you, this is really cool you brought it up. So, I have tried to wean myself off of my meds—and when I say wean myself, I did it with the doctor. Please don’t ever try to wean yourself off of your meds, because that is not a good situation. But when I say wean myself, I mean I talked to my doctor and we have this process. Obviously, it depends on the drug and whatever. And so, this last time, I went through the process of, you know, weaning myself off of medicine and I was like, I’m going to try to go natural and I’m in a better space. I get the question, Why did you feel it was necessary for you to do that? Well, one, I don’t think that medication was working that well, but secondly, it was because I had the opposite mentality of what you just talked about, which was I’m going to wean off and I’m going to become a warrior, a champion where it just went away. And you know what? I am happy to say that probably a month to like probably four to five weeks after being on nothing, I was in such a dark place just recently. I mean, this was probably maybe two months ago that I went back on my meds and I had the perspective shift of, You know what? No, this is being a warrior. Noticing that I have changed and that I’m in a dark place and that I can’t function and that I need help and I need to take a pill every day so that my chemicals can be balanced in my brain. And realizing that it is a brain illness, it totally shifted. So, I’m so happy that you brought that point up. The mentality should be that we are mental health warriors because every day we fight through these things in our brains and in our minds and we still persevere, and it doesn’t make us any less of a warrior because we take medicine.

Sierra: I love that. I love that so much. Yeah, I’m no longer on my medication, but I was on medication for my anxiety and my depression for about eight months, and when I first started it, I went into it open-minded, but there was definitely a part of me that was like, Does this say something about me? Like, it was almost questioning my self-worth. And then after a while, I was like, you know what? This is just helping me function, and like you said, be a better person, be a better friend, be a better partner. And that is really where it’s at. And at the end of the day, if we’re using something like medication that helps you function, then you know, if it works for you then it works for you. And that’s really what matters.

Achea: Yes, absolutely. And I think, you know, truth be told, there are so many side effects that come with it, and it sucks sometimes. It really does. And I feel for, you know, the individuals where their bodies just don’t work with certain medications and then they go through all of this process of trying to find the right combo. And then sometimes you find that medicine is not for everybody and it’s maybe not for you. And maybe you find the things that are for you and it’s when people ask me the question, How did you get from where you were to where you are now? I’m like, Oh my gosh, how much time do you have? All of the things, right? And like, what are we still doing now every day? Because it’s a daily thing. It’s not just a one-stop shop. Listen, I can’t just take a pill and expect to be okay. I’m still in therapy. I exercise. I’m making strong hydrating. All of the things. Boundaries with crazy family members.

Sierra: Yeah. That’s so funny that you brought that up. Literally my last podcast episode as of recording this right now was all about setting boundaries because sometimes you just need them.

Achea: Listen, that is where you can love yourself and the other person simultaneously.

Sierra: Yeah. Boundaries are a form of self-care, for sure. Something that you did touch on that I want to talk about is how you said whatever solution you end up finding is not a one-stop solution. It’s like a continual process of managing your mental illness. So, do you have any advice from your experience on that? Because I think a lot of people struggle with thinking that there is a wave of a magic wand and your mental illness is gone. But it’s always a continual process. So, do you have any advice on that process?

Achea: First off, just the awareness of what you just said. It’s not going to be where you’re going to be able to just wave a magic wand. There’s going to be management. And so once you find those, I don’t know, four or five, six things that work for you, you do them continually, and it’s something that is a daily process for you. And I think the other thing is communicating with those who are in your tribe or your circle and telling them from a very vulnerable place. Like, I’m feeling off, I think I need a little bit of time to myself or I kind of need some extra hugs today or you know, whatever you’re feeling that you need. Awareness is key. Communication is key and consistency. And I think if we can operate out of those three components, I think you’ll be really successful in managing it long term.

Sierra: Another thing that you said with finding your circle and communicating with other people that you trust—I know that there are probably people listening to this episode right now who are thinking, You know what? Yeah, that’s super easy, but what if you don’t know who it is that you can trust with those things? Because those are heavy and very real, very deep conversations to have. And so, I think it’s really important to find the people who you are willing to have those conversations with. But if you had a piece of advice for the person who is struggling to find that person or doesn’t think they have that person, what would that be?

Achea: Well, I would first say the key to attracting the right people to you, first and foremost, is finding out who you are. I mean that’s going to be the first step to that. And people do this like unconsciously, we don’t even realize it, but like whatever we’re projecting, you know, out there and whoever we are, that’s what we bring to ourselves. If we want real and authentic and transparent and vulnerable relationships and meaningful connections with people, we have to become that ourselves, so that we become attractive to those types of people in those types of relationships.

And I know for me, I have some of the most meaningful connections and relationships in my life right now because of this whole process. Like it sucked. I went through hell and I’m sure anybody who has gone through or is dealing with a mental health crisis in their life right now or journeying through a diagnosis understands how dark it can be sometimes. Even if you are medicated, sometimes you just have one of those moments. I think that the one thing I would say is actually it provided this place of vulnerability for me and humility for me to be able to come and just listen. I would just bare my soul. I didn’t care. Like I was just like, this is tough for me right now.

And I looked around at the people who were still standing there and who still showed up to prove that they were there. And those were the ones that I was rolling with. And little by little, in therapy and in my own self-discovery outside of the therapist office, I would begin to be true to who I was and be authentic in that truth. And then people would be like, I like you. I like your energy. Like, we should go grab coffee. Okay, yeah, we should go grab coffee! And then those ended up being some of the best relationships that I had. And then also being okay that some of those relationships don’t turn out to really be anything, but they’re acquaintances and you’re okay with that. You’re not super bummed and it doesn’t mean that they’re bad or that you’re bad, it just means that’s not your person. But it takes self-discovery and then kind of going out and like mingling a little bit.

Sierra: That’s awesome. I love all of that and I especially love what you said about how letting go of expectations that every single person in your life has to be in your inner circle. It’s like if things don’t work out, it’s okay because there are billions of people in the world and there are other options out there. That’s really key. I think especially with such heavy conversations, people put too much weight on it. It’s like, Are you going to be the person that I can speak to? And if they’re not, they have a meltdown about it. But it’s like, No, just move on and it’s all good.

So, something else that I just took a note on that I want to circle back to is what you said about the shame that you felt from being in the culture of African American women and being raised in the church. I mean I’m obviously white, so I don’t have experience in that African American culture. And when I went through my diagnosis, I was not a Christian. And so, you know, just bringing more awareness to that for the people that are listening to this podcast. I would love for you to share more about that.

Achea: It’s really interesting because in the African American culture, according to NAMI, we’re actually 20% less likely to get treatment. And the unfortunate thing about the statistics of the people who are diagnosed with treatable mental illnesses, those are the ones that are actually going in and getting help. So, just think about the percentages of people that are out there that are undiagnosed. Really staggering. I deal more so with women on my platform. So a lot of the African American women that I have talked to about this particular topic say that they feel very marginalized and judged as soon as they walk in. They also have a hard time identifying with or relating to the therapist, because in many of our communities, there are those disparities, right? There are those underserved communities and there’s mental illness or mental health issues that come just as a result of like the lack of finances, you know, unemployment, homelessness. There are so many other factors. I don’t know if you remember when you had to write a paper in school, that old-school brainstorming thing where you would draw a circle in the middle of the paper. So, just imagine mental illness dead center in the middle of the paper. And then you have these lines, right? There’s a stigma that’s a part of that. There’s, you know, marginalization. There’s, you know, all of this stuff. But then there are so many other lines that connect from the stigma.

So, there’s poverty and there’s homelessness and there’s so many things that go into it and our community and there’s layers. And so that’s what we talk about, intersectionality, where all of these things kind of intersect and are interwoven. And so, we’re not having access to proper treatment. We’re not having access to the best professionals and the brightest minds. And a lot of us don’t even have proper insurance to get medication to treat us. And so, you know, what we do is just kind of push it to the side and try to go to our pastor to get counseling because that’s free. And those pastors, God love them, they’re trying their best, but they’re not trained. So, there are so many things I think that in our community as African Americans, and then also in particular with women, a lot of our households are single-parent led and women are taking the lead.

And of course, we’re more than capable of doing so, but you know, it’d be cool to have some hope too, you know? And so, there’s a lot of pressure in that way. And I think you also have a layer of that shame. Because for me, I come from a middle-class family. So, money wasn’t an issue. I think, for me, growing up it was more shame-based on religion and mental illness. What do you have to be worried about? You’re not homeless, you’re not this, you’re not that. So then on top of everything else, chemically, biologically, I have no control over how I’m feeling. You’re also going to put shame on me, or guilt on me, that I’m just feeling this way, because everything in my life seems to be “perfect.” So, that’s what I mean when I say that’s in our community. It’s so multilayered.

Sierra: That’s so interesting to hear because I think as someone who’s not African American, it’s like you don’t really think about those things, because you’re not a part of that culture. So, I’m so glad that you brought that up and we’re able to have this conversation on the show. So, another thing that you talked about with how so often there’s a lack of resources, whether there’s no health insurance or you can’t afford therapy or anything like that. Because that is such a huge problem. And I know that I almost went through those issues, myself, when I had my diagnosis. And so, if there was someone out there who was listening and didn’t have those resources, do you have any advice for them on how to keep going day to day without getting that help?

Achea: If I were somebody who was in a community that’s underserved or just a job situation that’s terrible right now or if you don’t have the resources, I would check out organizations like NAMI, which is the National Alliance of Mental Illness. I would check that out. I would go to their website. There are some other organizations, too. I don’t want to get in trouble and not mention some and mention others, but NAMI is one of the biggest out there right now. On their website, they have a ton of resources. And even if you don’t have the greatest insurance, it takes a little bit of work, right? But you’ve got to do a little bit of investigation. You call your insurance company and you’re going to sit on the phone. Absolutely. And it’s going to be annoying, but it’s worth it. It’s worth your mental health being better and elevated to a better place. So I would check in to see what they cover. Also, if you are employed, but your insurance may not be that great, I would check with your employer, because sometimes employers have these little clauses where they provide a certain amount of mental health days or provide a certain amount of coverage or certain services. But I think what happens is it takes a little bit of work to uncover those and to find those out.

And people are like, Oh, I don’t want to do that. Because they’re feeling like crap, quite frankly. The last thing they want to do is go research it. But I would say that it’s worth it to take that step to go in and do the research, do the work. Because you will also—and I say this very, very tenderly and compassionately—you will also take more ownership to you getting well and your path to wholeness if you take the initiative to actually do the work. You’ll actually show up to your appointments. You’ll actually do what the therapist is asking you to do, because you have actually invested not only money, but time and effort into finding that person.

Sierra: Oh, I love that because I think so often, especially in today’s world, you’d think it wouldn’t be by now, but a lot of mental health resources within employment is there, but it’s hidden under so many layers. And that’s incredibly annoying and obnoxious and it’s hard to understand why people do that. But I think what you said about almost being resourceful and just being willing to ask questions—as many as you need—to find that help is really, really, really important. So, I love that you shared that.

The next thing I want to talk about is your organization, Real Girls F.A.R.T. Because the first time I heard that, I literally was sitting at the library, and I had to hold in my laughter. I was like, that is so funny. And it was amazing. So, I would just love for you to talk more about what it is you do with that organization and what that stands for and what the acronym really means for you.

Achea: So, funny thing is, again, I told you that the idea came to me seven years ago. It was gonna be meant for a book. But then it turned out that my book was called Be Free. Be You., which is my tagline. But initially it was going to be a book, it was a joke between my husband and I. And then I thought about it a little bit more intentionally and said, Man, there are so many standards of perfection. Well, as I had the breakdown, I started blogging and called it that because I was putting the feelers out there to see if I had an intention to write a book about these kinds of things. I wonder how many people out there would actually resonate with this? So, I started the blog called Real Girls F.A.R.T. to see how many head turns I could get because of the name, number one. Number two, how many people would resonate with the messaging that I was putting out there and the content that I was sharing? So, it literally was just simply a blog of me sharing my journey from diagnosis to treatment and the stigma and all of that. And my husband and my two kids. So, this was three and a half years ago. My oldest is 12, my youngest is eight and a half. So, just count back three years. They were very young and we were in the airport on our way to our spring break vacation. And I said, okay y’all, we got an hour.

I said, I want to think of an acronym for these four letters, because I think that would be so cool to have something that these women can hold on to. Give me all the positive words for F, A, R, T, and so on and so forth. And we came up with fearless, authentic, rescue and trailblazer, because both my husband, my kids and myself resonated with those words, because that was the journey for me. It took me stepping out there being fearless and my approach to naming the platform, Real Girls F.A.R.T. I mean, you’ve got to have some serious like, you know, excuse my expression, but balls. It can go one of two ways, right? So, that was fearless and I was incredibly authentic in my transparency about my story and what I had been through.

I’d like to say that that’s one of the best qualities about me is that what you see is what you get. Who you hear right now on this podcast is me. I don’t act brand new. I’m the same person and I’ve always been like that, to a certain extent. And so, authenticity was huge in that acronym. And then the whole rescuer piece for me was used because I actually see myself as a rescuer. I took this personality test called Enneagram. I’m a protector, I’m a number eight. And so basically what that means is, for me, I’m justice-oriented. I’m going to protect and if somebody doesn’t stand up for themselves, I’m so annoyed, but I’m going to go stand up for you.

So, I’m a rescuer in that sense. And I don’t think it’s a negative thing, as long as you put on your oxygen mask first to rescue yourself. That was a pivotal part of my message. I need you to go save yourself first, then come back, save other people and then together, we all join forces and blaze the trail. So, that’s where trailblazer came into play. So, the last few years have been this whirlwind. I joke and say I went to bed a blogger, woke up an entrepreneur. Real Girls F.A.R.T. is definitely a for-profit organization. That’s where Be Free. Be You. came from and all of my speaking.

But me and my partners on my board just launched a foundation that is nonprofit and it’s called the Real Girls Foundation, and that is specifically focused on middle school girls and actually taking them through the words of the acronym and really diving in specifically to giving them the vocabulary for mental illnesses and such.

Sierra: Oh my gosh. The nonprofit that you’re starting is amazing. I love that because if I think it’s so fantastic to start spreading that awareness when they’re young, that way it’s not such a problem when they get older and turn into adults. That is incredible. I love that.

Achea: So, in my book, I talk a little bit about the battle I had with my eating disorder or disordered eating. I don’t touch as heavy on it in Be Free. Be You. as I am going to in the middle school book that’s set to come out in September of 2020. But I talk about that heavily in the book because when I was 12, that was when the eating disorder and all of the anxiety and depression that went undiagnosed for many years actually surfaced and peaked. And a lot of times we don’t understand the statistics. Even in science. A lot of mental illnesses and eating disorders actually do peak at 12 to 13 years old.

Sierra: It brings such joy to my heart, because I know that when I was in middle school, I’m sure at the time I would’ve been like what is happening right now? But looking back, I would have loved to have that because I didn’t get diagnosed with my anxiety until I was in college. And when I think back to the rest of my life, I definitely had anxiety all throughout middle school and high school and probably even late elementary school. So, thinking about that, I’m so excited about what you’re doing. That’s so awesome.

Achea: Yeah, we’ve got to get them while they’re young. We’re in such a crisis right now and mental illness and diagnoses are such at an epidemic high right now. I think early intervention is key. You know what I’m saying? And having these conversations before it becomes a thing. And then also teaching them to call a thing a thing. And setting up these safe spaces, safe havens, where they feel okay to voice their concerns about themselves and the world around them before it becomes a real big deal.

Sierra: I’m just so excited thinking about that. That’s going to change the world. That’s going to change so much.

So, one other question that I had was because you do have your book Be Free. Be You., which by the way, I’ve seen the cover of that everywhere and the cover is stunning. So, I would love to know, what brought you to creating that book outside of your blog and your organization? What was the differentiating factors between you having the book and having everything else?

Achea: You know, I wanted to leave a legacy. Honestly. Books are one of those things that will long outlive you and me. And I wanted to share that with the world and say, it doesn’t just stop at your diagnosis. You can not only survive it, but you can thrive in the midst of all of that. And let’s laugh a little bit. Let’s cry a little bit. Let’s do some work. Some self-discovery. I think that the book is a combination of all three of those things. I definitely think there are moments where I’m very descriptive in the book about the way I felt and especially the opener of the book is where I get the most feedback, because I start off by walking you through my first NBA game and all of the things that I saw in these women, and how beautiful they were and you know, sizing my own self up and just how cruel I was to myself without even knowing that that’s what I was doing to myself. And I think there are moments in the book where everybody can relate to it, and we laugh a whole lot because I like to laugh. And so I think humor is medicine. I take the readers on a journey with humor and very realness and authenticity and I thought it would be important for that to outlive me one day.

Sierra: That’s awesome. Hearing that, I obviously run my own small business, and a part of me has always wanted to write a book, but at the same time I’ve always been, like, but I have everything else. Like what do I need a book for? But you bring up that like legacy point of like, you know, after I’m dead and the business dies and everything else goes away, the book will still be there. I love that viewpoint. That’s so cool.

Achea: That’s something that no one will be able to ever take from you. And who knows? I mean, I would like to say that blogging and the internet and social media is here to stay, but who knows? You know what I mean? At some point, that all may change, but books have the test of time. So, you know that will all still be here, and your story deserves to be heard, and it deserves to be told and so many people will probably resonate with that.

Sierra: Yeah, that’s so awesome. That makes me want to shout from their rooftops, “Everybody, write your own book. Everyone, tell your story.” Because there’s probably someone who can relate to it, even if it’s 200 years from now. Oh my gosh, I love that. Okay. So, we are coming up on our scheduled time, so I do just want to end this episode by asking you for all of the listeners right now if there is one piece of advice that you could give them, what would that piece of advice be?

Achea: I would say “to thine own self, be true.” Seriously. Get to know yourself, date yourself. Don’t let anybody or any situation or circumstance define you. You get to decide. You get to choose what you’re going to do next, and you get to have the life that you want. It just all starts with you making the choice.

Sierra: I love that. That’s incredible. Achea, thank you so, so much for being on the show today.

Achea: Thank you for having me!

Real Girls F.A.R.T.

Real Girls F.A.R.T.

about the author

Real Girls F.A.R.T. is a mental health advocacy organization. It's a space to empower and equip women with the necessary tools to use their voices and become their best, most authentic selves.

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