Phenomenal You Series: Meet Bree of Quirktastic
Bree! I’m super excited to have you grace the pages of YS.com and be a part of this series! Tell the YS.com clan a little bit about yourself!
Thank you, Yetti! Well, I am the founder of a media outlet for quirky millennials of color called Quirktastic.co (previously Quirky, Brown Love). After pursuing a career in the medical field most of my life, I recently (finally) gave myself permission to pursue my passion to help people and express myself through writing on my site. I also have a podcast with a friend called Outchea University for self-taught entrepreneurs.
Let’s get right into the hard stuff. When did you figure out that you were battling anxiety and/or depression?
I believe some time around puberty is when depression started setting in. I’ve always had self-esteem issues. I had horrible cystic acne until college (so bad that I had to get on Accutane), so I never thought that I was attractive. I also had very thin, uneven-length hair because of several bad relaxers and I was tall for my age at the time and skinny. For a while, I was a complete tomboy because I thought that it was easier to not put in the effort than to put in the effort and still not look beautiful to feminine standards. The fact that I have a small chest used to really bother me. My depression used to be centered around my self-esteem issues when it came to self-image. Sometimes I still fall down that trap, but now I guess that it is more centered around my abilities and trying to figure out if I’m making the right decisions. Sometimes it feels like sadness, but other times I just become numb and lethargic.
As for the anxiety, as an adult looking back at it, I’m pretty sure that it started around middle school. Something that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I’ve always been prone to being bullied when I went to a new school. Literally from pre-K to my freshman year of college (to I guess even now with my email recently being hacked), I’ve always had a bully in my entry year to a new school. I think because of this, I’ve always assumed that people don’t like me or may like me at first and then dislike me when they get to know me. It sucks because I’m a very nice person and have literally given people my last dollar. I’m also a very good listener when people come with problems, but no until recently have I been good at finding people who will listen back to me. I guess the combination of these things are at the root of my anxiety.
What are some of your triggers for your social anxiety?
Definitely large groups of people. Actually sometimes even small groups of people, especially if I kind of know the people, but not enough for us to be great friends. I used to be very timid, like so timid I couldn’t even call to order a pizza. I’m definitely not that way now and don’t have a problem going up and having a conversation with someone, though I always have this fear that I’m not living up to people’s expectations. I’m always afraid that the conversation will be going well but then maybe I will say something that is off-putting to the person and they will walk away and tell people how weird I am. I’m also always thinking about how the interaction will end. Like, if will we just awkwardly walk away from each other because we have ran out of things to say or what if I miss the social cue that this person no longer wants to talk to me anymore or how to walk away without making the other person feel bad. Also, big family settings, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I guess the thought of people having preconceived notions of me makes me anxious.
How do you manage to keep it under control while still embracing your quirkiness?
Oh, I don’t know if I do keep it under control! Some really helpful things have been headphones and guided meditations. I wear headphones when I’m walking around downtown, grocery shopping or any other time that I’m not up for awkward small talk because it makes me feel less rude. I also do guided meditations from the woman, BexLife on YouTube. She has a “You Have Four Minutes For Meditation” series that always calms me down.
I’m going to be honest here. Before sharing your story with us on Quirktastic, I would have never guessed you dealt with social anxiety! What made you want to share your story with your viewers?
Well, that is awesome to know! I swear that I feel like I look cracked out at least 4 days out of the week. I was honestly inspired by a personal article about anxiety that my now friend, Jacque Amadi wrote on her blog about a year or so ago. I had never related to an article so much in my life before. It was such a brave thing to do. It was then that I realized just how much personal testimony matters and I knew that I had to share mine to help others. I’m not the best at explain to people how I feel or telling my story when speaking; however thankfully, I can do it through writing.
Last year, I described my anxiety attacks as being stuck in a warm box followed by pins and needles and the inability to breathe. What does your anxiety feel/look like? Can you paint us a picture?
Oh wow, that is a very descriptive picture and I’m so sorry that you go through that, Yetti. I don’t think that I have traditional panic attacks. I do breathe heavier, which is technically hyperventilation, but it’s not as obvious as some. Most people will never see my anxiety attack, they will just randomly notice that I’m not longer there. I’ll try to describe the feeling for you.
Breathe in so that you can feel your diaphragm expand and then find the part of your upper diaphragm that expands the most. Then, take two fingers and press down on that part of your diaphragm as hard as you can when you exhale. Wiggle your fingers a little bit as you press down. That’s kind of how it feels when it first starts. Then the shortness of breath comes, followed by the feeling that all of the bacteria that comprises my microbiome are cage-fighting. After that, the situation that I am in at the moment becomes a bit of a fog (kind of like that Mr. Krabs meme) and a voice in my body yells that I need to run away now and fast. So, I listen to it.
How do you plan to continue to use your platform to encourage the conversation around mental health and self-care?
I think continuing to write “in the thick of it” will continue to be my method. I feel like my best articles about the topic, like this one are when I write while I’m experiencing the pain, as oppose to reflecting when I feel better. If I wait to write after I feel like I have conquered by emotion, I feel obligated to try to close the articles with some BS lesson that might not necessarily be the truth. When I write while experiencing the motion, I feel like the whole uncensored truth is revealed. I feel like those are the articles that help people and act as self-therapy for me.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for joining us here at YettiSays! To keep up with ya, where can we find you?
Thanks so much for having me, Yetti! I can be found at Quirktastic.co and on Twitter/Instagram at @quirktastic_co. Also, here is an article I wrote on a few articles that have been helping me with my anxiety and depression.4
It’s always so eye-opening & surprising to learn that successful, likeable, respected, creative women – women I look up to & admire & aspire to be more like – also struggle with anxiety. I don’t know if it makes me feel better or worse, haha – like, if they’re pushing through their anxiety to do great things, shouldn’t I be able to do the same?! But it’s a positive reminder than anxiety & mental illness are not the be-all, end-all deterrents I sometimes worry they will be.
Thanks for this interview! Bree seems awesome – & super likeable, for what it’s worth. Bullies always hone in on the people who seem like easy targets because they’re compassionate, kind, & thoughtful. I’d still always rather be those things than not be, though!
Kate, thanks so much for your kind words! Yetti’s interview was definitely the first that asked me to describe my anxiety in depression in such detail and in a way it was kind of like therapy lol and yeah, I’m always surprised when people I look up to are also struggling with anxiety. It kind of makes me feel more normal at least, and even more empathetic towards others. I guess you never know what someone is going through.