Like most journalists these days, I met with Hannah over Zoom. I was sweaty and full of nerves, but I got on early and tried to calm myself down. Hannah hopped on a few minutes later. She was instantly welcoming, and the nerves melted away within the first minute of talking with her. If you are like me, you are lucky enough to have already found Hannah’s work. When you come across her Instagram page, you can’t help but admire the aesthetically pleasing line art and perfectly formatted quotes. But what you soon realize is that this page is special. Hannah wraps you up in her words and leaves you with her voice in your head reassuring you that you are going to be okay. I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with her about writing her debut book, living with mental illness, and self love. I left that interview feeling lighter and reinspired, and I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.
- On Sharing Her Story
In 2016, Hannah opened up about her diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and created her blog Halfway 2 Hannah to empower others living with mental illness. When it came to activism on a larger scale, she saw Instagram as a place where she could reach more people with her story. Her page now has about 130,000 followers. When I asked her what the inspiration was behind sharing her story, she said, “I felt it in me”. We all have that voice inside of us that we try to ignore, but Hannah is proof of what can happen when you listen to it. With a successful Instagram page, and now her first book, “The Truth About Broken: The Unfixed Version of Self-love”, I asked her how to listen to that voice of yours.
“A lot of the time, we get nervous or scared and we don’t listen to ourselves. If you feel you have a message, go for it. Don’t wait," she responded.
You heard it here first, it is time to listen to your calling.
- On Self Doubt
Self doubt will always be with you, but I’ve struggled with it getting in the way of sharing my own story. It comforted me to know that Hannah has felt the same way.
In her own words, “You just have to speak out loud. Step outside of yourself, realize you are telling yourself lies, and keep going.”
She reminded me that we are our own biggest rivals, but we all have to learn how to be our own role models.
- On Self Love
Hannah’s debut book is titled “The Truth About Broken - The Unfixed Version of Self Love.” I was curious to know if the definition of self love has changed for her over the years, and how she defines it now. It took her years to redefine what self love means. It used to be something that she would eventually attain. If she got to point a or b, then she would be happy. Now, it means to love the broken parts of herself, and to love the parts of herself that she’s been told not to. When we try to attain self love, we believe that it is a reward for looking a certain way, or acting a certain way. It is rooted in believing you aren’t good enough as you are now. Chasing a perfect version of yourself is exhausting and unattainable, and in Hannah’s words, you will spend your life trying to fix yourself instead of loving yourself. As she said earlier, we need to learn how to be our own role models, and that begins with learning to love every part of who you are.
- On Depiction of Mental Illness in Hollywood
The media you consume aids in the shaping of your world view. But how conscious are you of the narratives you have been fed? When I think of mental illness depictions in Hollywood, the images of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” come up for me - straight jackets, and torturous devices. Whether you are aware of it or not, these images are perpetuating the idea that people who live with mental illness are inherently dangerous and need to be restrained. I asked Hannah if a director was reading this, what would she want to tell them about this negative depiction of mental illness.
She quickly responded, “What they [Directors] don’t know, is that they are taking lives”.
She went on to explain that the main reason why people don’t come forward with their struggles with mental illness is because of shame. This depiction perpetuates that cycle of people being convinced that there is something wrong with them, further discouraging them from coming forward. It is safe to say that Hollywood has a long way to go in terms of educated depictions of mental illness.
- On the Future
As soon as you finish this article, go follow Hannah on Instagram, because she is only just getting started. Her plans for the future include writing a second book of her poems and quotes, creating a series of videos on the history of mental illness, psych wards, and the social justice issues in the community of mental health activism, and stepping up as an activist to get laws passed. Hannah has dedicated her work to ensure that no one feels alone, and she’s made it clear that she’s not done anytime soon.
Hannah, thank you for sitting down and talking with me. You inspire me, and so many other people to speak up, and speak out loud.