Mental Health Champions: Why & How Nicole Asherah Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

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Therapy. I have been in therapy for the last 6 years and it is an integral part of maintaining my mental wellness. When I was suffering from PTSD from my sexual assault which inspired much of the pain written about in A Life Cycle, I felt really crazy for the anxiety I seemed to endlessly exist in. My therapist was able to mirror back to me the actuality of all I had been through. It allowed me to be kinder and more understanding to myself while I healed.

As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Nicole Asherah.

Nicole Asherah is the young, debut author of an inspiring and moving poetry book, A Life Cycle: A Guide to Healing and Rediscovering Your Life (Match 14, 2022). Her goal, with her words and art, is to break your heart with the raw emotion that her pieces evoke. Nicole employs this skill to help others come closer to the emotions they experience so they can name, process, and release them.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Sure, I grew up in Los Angeles, California splitting the time between my divorced parents until I was about 9 years old. Then, I decided to live full time with my mom. My mom was a psychologist and always talked very openly about mental illness. I was made very aware of real-life situations and problems ever since I can remember from all the adults in my life. I was a very easy-going and friendly child which tended to get taken advantage of by adults and friends until I learned how to set boundaries as an adult. I have always felt things very deeply and spent a lot of time being criticized for it in my childhood. It wasn’t until recently that I learned to have strength in the depth of emotion I can contain. I have been writing in some form ever since I can remember. I still have song lyrics I wrote back when I was six about a crush I had but that’s because I spent a lot of my childhood dreaming of being a singer.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?

I wrote a book, A Life Cycle: A Guide to Healing and Rediscovering Yourself, in order to provide support and guidance for people recovering from trauma, suffering from mental illness, or experiencing a time of change/confusion in their life. It is a book to help people name, process, and release feelings that are often hard for people to put into words. Overall, the goal of my book is to make people feel less alone and reignite hope, joy, and love in their hearts.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I spent a lot of my life thinking I was crazy for feeling as deeply as I did, especially deeply hurt by people’s actions. It took a lot of therapy and speaking to people about my feelings to realize how common they actually were. The problem is most people either don’t recognize these feelings, don’t know how to talk about them, or deny them. I believe opening ourselves up to these feelings and sharing them with others will not only transform each individual’s life into one filled with joy and love but will transform society and the systems we have made. When we are able to connect deeper with ourselves, we learn to connect deeper with others.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I think the “aha moment” was when I read back over my journal from 2019 and realized I had accidentally written a whole book about healing and transforming yourself. 2019 was one of the hardest years of my life but it was also when I went through the deepest amount of healing. Rereading my writing made me realize not just how much I had grown and transformed but how my words could help so many others in a way I wish I had had. I never had a dream to write a book as some people do. Because I have been a writer for 6+ years, I did imagine it would likely happen, but I wanted it to come about naturally. Once I realized I had written a book that could bring some real good to people by inspiring hope and helping them leave behind old wounds, I was determined to see this book to fruition.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Tik Tok has taught me a lot and helped me grow into myself as both a woman and an artist in the last couple of years. Since I joined I have been following this really funny and relatable Tik toker named Gabrielle better known as @Gabschase. I appreciate that even though comedy is center stage in her Tik Toks, she is all about being your authentic self and finding happiness in that. I thought she would connect with A Life Cycle but I had absolutely no way of reaching her considering she has over 3 million followers on Tik Tok. I decided to make a little Tik Tok on the off chance I could get it on to her feed. The video didn’t do very well. I thought ‘oh well, I tried’ and left it there. Well, imagine my surprise when a few days later I have a new message request on Instagram from Gabrielle saying she saw my video and was honored. She was so sweet and supportive and interested in A Life Cycle. I was so surprised and over-the-moon that someone with her kind of platform saw my little old video and took an interest in my book. It showed me that when you have good sincere intentions and passion behind your book, the right people will connect with it.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Yes, I had some amazing supporters that helped me make my book, A Life Cycle, happen. I have to give special thanks to my high school Creative Writing teacher, Joel Ronkin. He created a space that truly encouraged people to bring their creativity forward in whatever way suited them. It allowed me to both open up, find confidence in myself, and dig deeper into what I could do with words. He is the reason I realized the skill I had when it comes to crafting writing that gets to the heart of emotional experiences.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

I don’t think we operate under political, economic, or social systems that make room for mental health to be a part of our daily life. Capitalism’s primary focus is productivity but productivity does not equate to a holistically happy and fulfilling life, if anything, an intense focus on productivity leads to the opposite. I also think a big problem is we try to compare each other’s pains and hardships too much. There are always going to be people that suffer more than us but that doesn’t make our suffering any less real or impactful to us.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

  1. Individuals need to be more open-minded. We have this unfortunate belief that people all experience life the same way when it’s been shown over and over again that our environment and DNA can drastically change how we process information and make decisions. This is why I think it is important to try to meet people where there are at but also set boundaries for yourself. Being open-minded and able to sit with people’s differences does not mean you should let people take advantage of you or sacrifice your own well-being for theirs. Take care of and love yourself first so people have a model for how to do it and hope for all that will come once they do.
  2. For society, I would say take time to listen to people and be conscious of the effect your words, actions, and energy have on others. We don’t give enough of our attention to the causes of issues instead we try curing those affected.
  3. If I am being honest, I think there are a million and one things the government should do to support people suffering from mental illness. I would say the biggest is to acknowledge the imbalance in mental health support given to people of certain classes, races, genders, and sexualities. The people who suffer the most under political, economic, and social systems are often given the least support when it comes to mental health. If you would like a few quick fixes recommended, I would say mental health and holistic health information should be incorporated into schooling. We also need accessible medical treatment and mental health treatment for everyone.

What are your 5 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Therapy. I have been in therapy for the last 6 years and it is an integral part of maintaining my mental wellness. When I was suffering from PTSD from my sexual assault which inspired much of the pain written about in A Life Cycle, I felt really crazy for the anxiety I seemed to endlessly exist in. My therapist was able to mirror back to me the actuality of all I had been through. It allowed me to be kinder and more understanding to myself while I healed.
  2. Play. Another thing that is important for my mental health is setting aside time to “play”. What I mean by “play” is a time where there is no purpose for how I am spending it other than enjoying myself. Because art and creative expression is my career, most of my hobbies or downtime either are work-related or inspire work ideas. Most of the time I enjoy it, but in the last few months, as my book consumed my brain, I found it really difficult to remember why it was important to do things simply for fun. Now, I make an active effort to play and it helps me find more energy for life.
  3. Honesty. I have learned that I am happiest when I am honest with myself and others about my feelings, thoughts, and needs. Although honesty can lead to difficult conversations and relationships ending, overall it has had incredibly positive effects on my life. My brother and I didn’t really have much of a relationship throughout his teens despite living together and me always loving him dearly. While it improved some with age, there got to a point where I really needed to understand if there was anything to our relationship other than being blood-related to each other and the obligation many feels comes with that. I had a few really open and honest conversations trying to understand if he actually cared for me as a person and wanted to participate in a relationship with me. These conversations opened a dialogue for my brother and me to rebuild our relationship in a way I never imagined possible. We are now close and more active in each other’s lives.
  4. Boundaries. Setting boundaries truly transformed my life. It is so common nowadays to have unequal relationships. When you are naturally a giving person or don’t feel your needs are allowed to come first, you often end up being taken advantage of. I have learned through unreciprocated relationships that I need to take care of myself both mentally and physically, so I can show up as the best version of myself for the world. While boundaries look different for everyone, for me it looks like canceling plans when I am feeling too stressed or giving my friends a heads-up if I am having a bad mental health day. It has also looked like cutting people out of my life that were not adding to the love and joy in my life.
  5. Positive Self-Talk. It may sound silly but focusing on never letting myself say anything bad about myself has done wonders on my mental health. Even when I am feeling insecure or have made a mistake, when I frame it in a hopeful light like “I learned something new and now I will be better tomorrow”, it really helps put things in perspective.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

Women Who Run With Wolves and Braiding Sweetgrass are probably my favorite books that inspire mental wellness through holistic mindsets. They both explore what it means to be in relationship with others and ourselves. Binaural beats and affirmations are big resources of mine that I don’t believe get the recognition they deserve. I listen to them for physical and psychological ailments and am often surprised by how quickly the relief comes.

If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would say hate and negativity breed more hate and negativity just like love and kindness breed more love and kindness. I know which one I want more of in my life. If you want to have more love and kindness in your life you need to start giving to yourself and others in a mindful and sustainable way.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can check out my website or my Instagram @nicole_asherah or Tik Tok @nicoleasherah to keep up with me, my writing, and my art. My book, A Life Cycle: A Guide to Healing and Rediscovering Yourself, is available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and basically, anywhere books are sold!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Mental Health Champions: Why & How Nicole Asherah Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.