An Interview With Tiffany Emard: Love Always
This interview is part of a series that features individuals that have been impacted by mental illness. Each individual featured on the Uncustomary Housewife’s Not Alone Series has a valuable mental health story to tell. I hope that people will read these stories, find strength in them, and realize that they are not alone.
I recently conducted an interview with Tiffany Emard: mental health advocate and blogger at Love Always, Tiffany. During our interview Tiffany shared stories about living with Major Depressive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, and Binge Eating Disorder. Continue reading for the full interview:
EB: Elizabeth Banks (Interviewer)
TE: Tiffany Emard (Interviewee)
EB: If you don’t mind, tell me about your diagnosis.
TE: In October of 2017 I was officially diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, and Binge Eating Disorder.
EB: When did you first become aware of concerns related to your mental health?
TE: In regards to depression and anxiety, I would say around age 14, or so. Looking back, I had a lot going on in my life that a typical teenage girl shouldn’t have to concern herself with; being bounced around between family members, parent in jail… I also lost my maternal grandmother around that time, which was extremely difficult (emotionally). At the time I was living with her, so I wasn’t really sure how to process everything.
EB: Binge Eating Disorder can arise at any point in a person’s life, when did you notice the presence of yours?
TE: The binge eating wasn’t an issue until about 6 years ago. I mean, I always had a sweet tooth, and I love junk food, but the bingeing didn’t start until my mid 20s.
Recently, I’ve done some mental digging, and I’ve realized that binge eating was mostly tied to unhappiness caused by my job/career situation. I had to leave culinary school due to financial issues, and I was completely lost. Culinary school was the one thing I actually started and wanted to complete, and being told I couldn’t (because of financials) was huge blow to my mental health. It was the career I wanted.
Between 2010-2014 I worked at jobs that made me miserable. To cope with that, I went through drive-thru’s on the way home everyday or went out on the weekends drinking and eating all the fried food I could get my hands on! Not surprising I gained around 30ish pounds, huh?
EB: Was there a particular event or turning point that caused you to seek help and get a diagnosis?
TE: I have been treated for depression in the past. In 2004 I was prescribed an anti-depressant and a few months later I attempted suicide. After that I tried a few different medications, none of which I remember taking for too long.
NOTE: You should discuss medications with your doctor.When stopping a medication, always work with your doctor to taper off properly. This allows brain chemicals to adjust to the change. Stopping medication suddenly can result in uncomfortable side effects.
It wasn’t until this last year (2017) that I decided it was time to take the steps necessary to get help. My depression and anxiety were keeping me on the couch for days on end, and my binge eating had caused me to gain an excessive amount of weight.
EB: Many people want to seek help, but aren’t sure how. What process did you go through to receive your diagnosis?
TE: I decided I would reach out to my primary care physician and see if I needed a referral to speak with a therapist; she gave me one. This also turned into an appointment with a psychiatrist, where we discussed medications for my anxiety and depression. During this process I continued checking in with my primary care physician, who monitored the physical symptoms of my anxiety.
The first few weeks of going to the appointments definitely made me feel more anxious. It also made me feel self-conscious of what people were going to think of me since I had to be [back] on medication.
However, that stress has lessened with time, and with speaking more openly to loved ones about what I am actually going through. Taking that first step in getting help is hard, but it is worth it!
EB: Why do you speak publicly about your mental illness and mental health?
TE: Mostly because I remember when I was at my lowest point, I felt extremely alone. I didn’t feel like I could turn to anyone, especially anyone who would understand what I was feeling (or not feeling). I don’t want anyone who is battling their demons to feel that alone.
Also, the more it is discussed openly, the less “taboo” it becomes (I hope)!
EB: What experiences have you encountered with treatment? What works for you, and what doesn’t?
TE: I have been in and out of therapy since I was 16- years old. Some therapists were very helpful and kind, others were a bit rigid and aggressive (those I only saw once, or twice).
As mentioned previously, I have been prescribed a handful of antidepressants and antianxiety medications and not all made a difference (some actually made me feel worse!).
I am currently taking 200mg of Zoloft. I’m not sold on the idea that it has helped too much: the depression seems a little better but my anxiety is worse.
Is there a cure-all? Of course not. I know different treatments work well for others that might not work for some. I think it comes down to finding the right balance of modern medicine and holistic treatments.
EB: Have you developed positive coping strategies?
TE: Not really, but I am working on it. I can say that starting my blog has helped a lot with keeping my mind busy, which really helps with the anxiety!
EB: I’m glad your blog helps with your anxiety, writing can be an important form of self-care. Self-care means something different for everyone, what does it mean to you?
TE: Although it probably sounds cliché, I feel like self-care means putting yourself first. However, not in a way that would make you disregard the feelings of others. I mean taking time to step away from whatever is going on, and focusing on what can calm your mind, and make you feel a little more at peace.
EB: Do you mind sharing some self-care routines with us?
TE: I’ll be honest, I’m a housewife with no children to care for, so I have a lot of “me time”. But that doesn’t mean my life doesn’t become overwhelming in its own way.
One thing I do is get my hair done. This may not seem relevant, but my husband and I are on one income. So, sometimes I feel guilty for spending money on something like my hair, especially because I keep my hair short (which means more trips to the salon). However, every 4-6 weeks I go to the salon and get spruced up. Afterwards, I feel less wound-up and less overwhelmed. I also started adding fun colors to my hair because that makes me happy (and I don’t wanna grow up!) It truly is the little things.
EB: Do you believe there is a negative stigma attached to mental illness?
TE: Yes, there definitely is!
EB: What causes the stigma?
TE: I think society and the media play a big role is creating, and feeding, the stigma. People with mental illness have been portrayed as “crazy people” for generations.
EB: How can people help stop the stigma?
TE: The subject of depression is something no one wants to talk about. I am not sure if that is because people can’t relate, or they don’t know what to say. This can make those struggling feel more isolated and invalidated: like their issues are “no big deal”. I think it is important to keep talking about mental health and mental illness because it pushes people to recognize that mental illness is a real thing.
EB: I recently read your blog post “I Am More Than Sad“. In that post you discuss the difference between sadness and depression. Would you mind to elaborate on this topic?
TE: Sure. The point of that blog post was to explain that there is a difference between sadness and depression. When someone you know is suffering with this mental illness, try being more mindful of what they could be experiencing. Some days we can climb out of the trenches and fight, other days we just lay down and play dead, waiting for it to be over. That’s life when you are battling depression.
As I mentioned in that post, there are times sadness can feel so debilitating that you may think you are “depressed”. Keep in mind, sadness is a completely normal human emotion that we all experience within our lives. It usually occurs when you have experienced a disappointing event, a hurtful situation, or when grieving over a loss. However, once you overcome “said event” the sadness dissipates. Depression, on the other hand, is its on demon (those who suffer from it will understand what I am referring to). Depression is a mental health disorder that effects your mood. It’s not to be confused with sadness.
EB: What challenges and/or struggles are you still facing?
TE: I definitely still struggle with all three things; depression, binge eating, and anxiety. However, I am currently trying to address these issues through changing my diet; cutting out refined sugar and overly processed foods.
EB: I’m glad to hear about your diet change. Do you feel that your diet has a direct impact on your mental health?
TE: I do! I finally (in the last few months) noticed the connection between my excessive sugar consumption and my mental health.
Aside from the obvious guilt that comes after a binge episode, I also began realizing that I would experience a high while eating, and then hit an extreme low (after the sugar passed through my system). They don’t call it a sugar rush for nothing!
Not to mention the vicious cycle of feeling bad about yourself for eating too much junk, only to comfort yourself with eating more junk…
EB: What advice do you have for individuals living with mental illness?
TE: It is okay to put yourself first! If you are working on better your mental state, and that involves cutting people off (either temporarily or permanently), that is okay. This is your life, and your journey.
And, to just not give up. It may not seem like it in your darkest moments, but the sunshine will break through one day.
EB: What advice do you have for friends and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness?
TE: Try and educate yourself on mental health and/or the specific mental illness your loved one is suffering from. As I have mentioned already, knowing that you can turn to someone who actually understands makes a world of difference! Also, be patient. There will be bad days but remember that your loved one didn’t choose to have these struggles.
EB: Is there anything else you would like to share?
TE: I’d just like to add that my door (or email) is always open. We may not know each other, we may live half a world away from each other, but I am always willing to listen (well, more like read, ha ha) and try to be there to remind you are not alone!
Blogger, and fellow housewife, Tiffany Emard is new to blogging but does not lack in passion. She believes in raising mental health awareness and advocates for suicide prevention. Aside from speaking about her struggles with mental illness, Tiffany enjoys sharing her love for food, her family, and has aspirations to one day become a [creative] writer. You can follow her blog on WordPress for her latest writings.
A huge thank you to Tiffany Emard for sharing her story with me. I really appreciate it.
Do you have a mental health story to tell? I want to help you tell it. If interested, you can contact me and/or view the Not Alone Series: Introduction and Questions page to see the next steps. You can also subscribe to my blog, and connect with me on on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.