My name is Kayley Reed and I’m recovering from an eating disorder.
This is how I opened the first “pitch” for Wear Your Label, in front of a room of strangers and investors. I had just graduated university and had jumped head first into the world of entrepreneurship with my co-founder, Kyle. At the time, Wear Your Label was a simple idea: clothing to create conversations around mental health. Neither of us had any clue how that idea would transform our lives – and how it would manifest to become something so much more.
Fast forward 2 years, and I’m sitting in our downtown office, working alongside our team, preparing for what 2017 will look like for our now internationally-known company. The past couple years have been a total whirlwind, and adventure, and it all started with my own mental health journey:
In university, I struggled with depression, self-harm, and an eating disorder. Yet on the outside, everything in my life was perfect: I was a straight A student, I went out with friends, I had a great boyfriend… but I was still miserable, and at times, numb. So I battled in silence, like so many people do. I was afraid to shatter the perfect illusion. I was afraid to ask for help. I was afraid to get diagnosed.
I was afraid to face the reality that I was in fact flawed
(or at least, the chemicals in my brain were).
Then, a culmination of things happened: I joined group counselling, and I started to volunteer at a mental health organization. For the first time in my life I met people who “got it”. It was the beginning of my path to recovery. 3 years later, I’m still working on it.
Mental illness is not a “one pill cures all” disease – it’s an ongoing journey that you learn to live with and better manage.
I often say that starting Wear Your Label was both the best and worst thing for my mental health. The best because it was something that I was excited and passionate about, it taught me so much about myself and about empathy, and has connected me with this amazing and supportive mental health community. It’s also been the worst, because, simply put: starting a business is hard. And no one really talks about the toll entrepreneurship takes on your mental health.
On the outside looking in, things are always much better than they seem.
This is a recurring theme in my life, both with my mental health journey, and building a startup. Wear Your Label is still a baby in business years, and I’m still learning & becoming more self-aware everyday. One thing I’ve become incredibly passionate about – beyond mental health advocacy – is promoting self-love and self-care (especially in the startup scene, where the “hustle” is glorified over your health). It’s a hot topic in mental health, but personal contentment and learning to take care of yourself is important for everyone; 1/5 live with mental illness, but 5/5 have mental health. We all get stressed out at times, feel sad, overwhelmed, nervous, and we all need to practice a little self-care if we want to be the best versions of ourselves. So here’s some of my favourite ways to practice self-care:
1. Drink water & carry a water bottle with you throughout the day. (So simple, but it’s amazing how much better you feel physically & mentally when you’re always hydrated!)
2. Make a mood board (or a Pinterest board) to visualize what inspires you. Refer to it often.
3. Keep to-do lists. Whether digital or physical. Include small tasks that will feel good when you check them off.
4. Take a bubble bath. Whether as a treat after a long day, or as a way to clear your head if you’re having trouble even getting out of bed.
5. Cook for someone else. For some reason I always have more fun making food for others than for myself. Experiment with that recipe you’ve been dying to try!
6. Eat dessert and don’t let yourself feel guilty about it.
7. Go to bed early & put your phone far away. I’m bad at this, but I always feel so good when I get a full night’s rest with no notifications or late-night screen time.
8. Set aside “self-care time” at least once a week. Whether it’s a couple hours on a Wednesday night or #SelfCareSunday
9. Get physical. Go for a walk outside. Get to the gym. Sign up for a yoga class. Even do some stretches in your living room before bed. Exercise isn’t just good for your body, but good for your brain too.
10. Get crafty. Find a DIY to work on throughout the weekend. Paint something. Even colouring books are simple – but help with those creative juices and mindfulness.