Mecca Mozelle's Instagram is a place where those struggling with mental illness can go to feel heard, seen, less alone and maybe even a bit beautiful. Through the telling in captions and photos of her own truth as a young woman dealing with manic depressive disorder, Mecca has created a community that helps those of us living with diagnosable mental disorders or just straight up psychic pain feel a little less alone. What's perhaps most striking is her absolute candor and honesty in the way she shares.
"There is no better feeling than to find out there are others who suffer from mental illnesses just like yourself, and to know that there are others who understand exactly how you feel," Mozelle's mission statement reads. She created the hashtag #ImWithYou to make it easier for members of this community to find one another. "The mission is for women to have the experience of feeling like they belong and to know that they are never alone. "I'm with you" is to give people hope, to want to fight into a new day."
We caught up with Mecca to talk about how the online space has opened the door to new mental health conversations, her self-care routine and why finding a community can be everything.
When did mental health issues become part of your life?
I have dealt with issues surrounding mental health to some degree for as long as I can remember . I was a really sad child and I often poured my heart out into $1 notebooks that I would tape closed out of fear of someone reading them. I felt a lot of emotion, almost too intensely for my age. Mental illness is common in my family, but I honestly believe that a lot of my symptoms stemmed from my childhood circumstances and traumas.
My mental state has been an interesting journey, to say the least. I went from being diagnosed with depression, to anxiety and depression, then major depression, and ultimately manic-depressive disorder. And yes - mental health states can evolve. I feel the difference between all of them.
How and when did you decide to start bringing awareness to them?
I didn't receive attention while I was building the courage to seek help for my "emotional instabilities," and that's the reason why I decided to bring awareness to mental health. It's like either no one cared or they would just tell me that it would pass. Another reason why I felt the need to speak out about mental health is because I found that I was holding all of my traumas, fears, emotions, and sadness inside. So, all of those things would just build up and up until I would mentally crash.
Thankfully, it has been three years since my last suicide attempt and I am grateful to still be here (and as a manic depressive, at that). After learning how to manage my illness much better, in 2017 I decided to start a mental health movement called #I'mWithYou. I write articles, join panels, and have events surrounding mental health. Not only have I seen the small impact that it has made, but doing these things has also been a form of therapy for me.
What different projects are you working on?
I am currently working on a few projects, and one that I am most excited for is continuing my "Transparency is Sexy" series. This particular project involves sharing stories about people's experiences with mental health on my website. I've considered my mental illnesses to not only be a product of both trauma and not talking about the things I was going through mentally.
There is a sort of natural relief when a person sees that they aren't the only one who may be struggling with their mental health. For me personally, I experienced that relief while also being able to have some sort of a platform that I'm able to wholeheartedly express the things that myself and others are going through. I think it's important that anyone trying to spread awareness show what mental illness truly is. And the only way you can do that is hearing about it from people that experience it themselves.
What does the online space provide you in terms of community?
The online space is the most open, non-filtered world there is. People often feel more safe communicating online than they do in person. People will openly discuss their mental health issues, political views, creative content, and a lot more things pertaining to themselves online. Which creates somewhat of a cyber community because the people that comment, follow, or share posts likely are the people who feel like they relate to, are inspired by or simply enjoy online personalities in general. People message me all the time just to chat, probably because I'm so transparent via social media. That alone shows the power in connecting online, and most of my new friends now are from people I have met on Tumblr or Instagram.
Mental health has become a more and more visible topic in online spaces in particular. What do you think about this?
Honestly, I don't know. I'm very back and forth on how I feel about online spaces discussing mental health. Yes, the more people that talk about it the better. But, for example, people write about certain remedies, medications or methods to "fight" sickness when it comes to a cold. They'll discuss all the terrible symptoms that can come about, and will prepare months in advance to make sure that flu season isn't too damaging to society.
But when it comes to mental health, (not to say that a cold is anywhere near comparable to the severity of a mental illness), I feel as though people always try to keep it "cookie-cutter" and "safe." People share common remedies as opposed to realistic and innovative ways to cope with mental health. There's just a lot of gaps I think people miss when discussing mental health that I plan to fill.
#Imwithyou is a mental health movement that brings forward a wide range of information. So far, every single person that has been apart of my mental health movement has experienced a mental illness or struggled with their mental health at some point. And that sense of relatability can be very reassuring for some. (" For us, by us.")
Is there anything you'd like to see change about the way we discuss mental health?
In general, I love how consistent magazines have been with spreading awareness about mental health. It is great to see that our voices are being acknowledged and taken into consideration. I love how much attention it is receiving, and pray that when the uproar on social media dies down that these same platforms will continuously speak about the importance of mental health.
How do you practice self-care and self-healing yourself? What are some of your favorite resources?
The most beneficial self-care routine that I do daily is forcing myself into situations that lead me to face something that I struggle with, in regards to mental illness. So, a symptom that comes with manic depressive disorder is paranoia; I can become really overwhelmed if there are a lot of people around me that I do not know or understand. It sometimes develops into something that is out of my control, and I dismiss myself from the situation. As result of that, weekly, I try to surround myself with more people (like friends or family) to try to break out of the anxiousness that I get from being in situations outside of myself.
Also, I learned to put my phone down in beautiful moments — like being able to dance or walk the streets of NYC when I visit and just embrace the moment. I always find myself seeking involvement in activities that make me feel alive and present. With manic depressive disorder, I feel sad and hopeless for most of my days but I do have days that are beautiful — so I take advantage of them.
Along with many other things, I think it's essential for anyone trying to keep their mental health under control to figure out what's best for THEM. Some healing and coping mechanisms that work for others may not work for you. Like I tell my friends all the time — you have to step outside yourself to see what the problem really is and thus, what its source is. Then after that, it's a continuous journey from there on out. Overall, my top three self-healing tactics are to allow vulnerability, be conscious of the things that I do, say and feel, and also take each day a step at a time.
Photography: Rahmeik Bowen