Home / Wellness / Mental Health Champions: “Our society has become so obsessed with our looks and material things, that it’s contributed to an increase in anxiety, depression and body dysmorphic disorder” With Natasha Peters
Mental Health Champions: “Our society has become so obsessed with our looks and material things, that it's contributed to an increase in anxiety, depression and body dysmorphic disorder” With Natasha Peters

Mental Health Champions: “Our society has become so obsessed with our looks and material things, that it’s contributed to an increase in anxiety, depression and body dysmorphic disorder” With Natasha Peters

In
my experience, individuals should do their best to stop the stigmatic
shaming cycle by talking more about their mental wellness and less about
things that don’t matter. Society ne to educate us on our abilities
to be free from mental chains and live a normal life. Our society has
become so obsessed with our looks and material things, that it’s
contributed to an increase in anxiety, depression and body dysmorphic
disorder. We are being taught to focus on things in life that, at the
end of the day, doesn’t support a healthy, happy mind. Our government
ne to jump on the same band wagon and make mental health accessible
to everyone. We need programs that teach CBT and other vital life
skills. Now is the time to give the future of our country more hope than
ever. It’s time to encourage people to take responsibility for their
mental wellness, while offering long term solutions for a healthy life.

I
had the pleasure of interviewing Natasha Peters. Natasha was born and
raised in southern California. She now lives in San Diego with her
husband and two children. Natasha had a very difficult childhood. Her
father was a heroin addict whom eventually overdosed when she was 11
years old. Because of the traumas she experienced, she always had the
heart to help other people. It wasn’t until a few years after Natasha
had a major mental health emergency, that she realized her purpose in
life. Natasha is now helping other people suffering with mental
illnesses by writing about her personal struggles and facilitates a
support group for mothers with mental illnesses.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

At
age 26, I suddenly began to have horrific intrusive thoughts. These
thoughts haunted me day and night. I had no idea what was happening to
my mind! I was scared, lonely and didn’t know what to do. This turmoil
went on for 4 years before I was diagnosed with a less common form of
OCD known as Pure O. In 2014, the intrusive violent, sexual, fear based
thoughts got the best of me. I wanted to end my life. At the time, my
children were 2 and 3 years old, and I did not want them growing up with
a sick mother. I know what it’s like to have a mentally unstable
parent, and I’m still dealing with scars my father left behind. On
August 31, 2014, I could no longer fight the monster in my mind, so I
told my husband that I was either going to cut my wrists or admit myself
to a psychiatric hospital. I knew I would risk my rights as a parent,
but I also knew my kids needed me healthy. So, the scariest day of my
life happened. My husband and younger brother escorted me to the
hospital.

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?

Unfortunately,
there’s still a stigma about mental health and mental illnesses. The
best answer I can come up with to explain this ignorance, is fear.
People are afraid to talk about how they feel, in fear they will be
outcasted or shamed. This lack of ability to communicate, only allows
the stigmatic cycle to continue, and it’s not fair. I also believe there
is a lack of education and resources available to us. It’s more
important for our young children to learn math than to learn how to deal
with their emotions in a healthy way, let alone know where to go if you
need help. Mental health education should start in kindergarten, and be
apart of the curriculum through high school.

Can you tell our readers about how you are helping to de-stigmatize the focus on mental wellness?

In
an effort to de-stigmatize the focus on mental health, I decided to
start sharing my story. I’m currently writing a book about my personal
journey with OCD. My goal for this book, is to help other silent
sufferers gain the courage to get the help they need. My own ability to
manage my mental health began when I read about someone with a similar
story to mine, and my life hasn’t been the same since. I’ve also started
writing blogs and have published a few on Medium. Along with my
therapist, I started and facilitate a support group for mothers with
mental health issues. I can’t express the benefits of empathy, but I can
tell you, it’s the reason I’m alive and well today.

Was there a story behind why you decided to launch this initiative?

Now
that I’m in remission, I still struggle with OCD from time to time.
It’s very important that I continue to educate myself, and stay ahead of
my OCD. I’ve come so far, and am now ready to share my journey, my
trials and successes with others. Not only can I help them, they will
also help me. Compassion and empathy is the foundation of a healthy
mind. We need to have compassion for ourselves and others.

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

In
my experience, individuals should do their best to stop the stigmatic
shaming cycle by talking more about their mental wellness and less about
things that don’t matter. Society ne to educate us on our abilities
to be free from mental chains and live a normal life. Our society has
become so obsessed with our looks and material things, that it’s
contributed to increase in anxiety, depression and body dysmorphic
disorder. We are being taught to focus on things in life that, at the
end of the day, doesn’t support a healthy, happy mind. Our government
ne to jump on the same band wagon and make mental health accessible
to everyone. We need programs that teach CBT and other vital life
skills. Now is the time to give the future of our country more hope than
ever. It’s time to encourage people to take responsibility for their
mental wellness, while offering long term solutions for a healthy life.

What
are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental
wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

The
most effective strategies I use to maintain my own wellbeing are talk
therapy, writing, educating myself on OCD, anxiety and coping
mechanisms, learning new ways to help others, exercise and practicing
mindfulness. Talk therapy with my therapist is brutal. My OCD is still
around, and when I’m uncertain how to handle it, she’s right there to
guide me with her rational wisdom. I’ve learned that in order to
maintain my mental health, I need a support system that reminds me of
how far I’ve come and what I’m truly capable of.

In
terms of educating myself and fighting this debilitating disease,
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. When I learned to differentiate myself from my
illness, my road to recovery became much brighter. Fortunately, we have
professional mental health therapists that have dedicated their career
to discover new ways to help people manage their mental health, and I
enjoy reading their discoveries and practices.

I
started a support group not only to help others, but to also help
myself. Without a purpose, OCD will eat me alive, and helping other
people ignites my purpose and not only gives me hope for an amazing
future, it gives reason for what I went through.

Exercising
has become my anxiety reducer! I can literally feel the tension leave
my body as I lift weights, do cardio and yoga. I’m grateful to my body
for allowing me to naturally calm itself.

Mindfulness
has allowed me to live again. I was so sick, that I lost my identity.
OCD does not define me, and being present allows me to be the best
version of myself.

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

The
book that opened my eyes to the endless benefits of mindfullness is
“You are here”, written by Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich’s words of wisdom and
love allowed me to believe that a healthier version of myself was
totally possible. I’m forever grateful for his teachings. There is an
OCD therapist that writes about issues I personally struggle with, his
name is John Hershfield. John’s book (co-authored with Shala Nicely),
“Everyday Mindfulness for OCD: Tips, Tricks, and Skills for Living
Joyfully”, has taught me new ways to manage my OCD anxiety.
Because of their insight and experience with OCD, I’m thriving in ways I
couldn’t before. Every OCD blog I’ve ever read, has been helpful. As I
mentioned, knowing I’m not alone in this, makes it possible to defeat
and progress. Together we can all thrive.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!