Nanea Hoffman, founder of Sweatpants & Coffee, is featured in the May 2016 issue of Women’s Health magazine, one of more than a dozen women from different walks of life and different ethnicities, in a feature called “Which of These Women Has a Mental Illness? All of Them” by Carrie Arnold. The women are writers, doctors, actors, comediennes, filmmakers, professors, students. They are mothers, sisters, friends – they represent women you know. Their struggle is real and often, silent.
In fact, the struggle is so real that Arnold almost gave up on writing about it at all. It was hard to get people to talk about mental illness, let alone be photographed for an article on it. Amy Keller Laird, Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health writes: “Another part of our original plan fell through: soliciting more volunteers from the WH staff who would want to share their own experiences living with mental illness. Doing their due diligence, our HR team alerted us to potential complicated legal issues because of any real or perceived workplace stigma staffers might face – so we dropped that idea.”
Nanea says, “People tell me I’m brave for writing about my anxiety and depression, which is very kind. I understand what they mean, and I’m so grateful when they reach out, because I know that is an act of bravery. But I am NOT brave. I don’t talk about my illness bravely. I do it with shaking hands and tears and second-guessing. In fact, only recently would I even acknowledge that it’s a legitimate illness. Diabetes? Heart disease? Real. Depression? I might be making that up. Where are the spots? Where are the x-rays? The truth is, sometimes, I have to write it out to get it out of my body for a minute. To force myself into some kind of perspective. That people connect with it and are helped by it is a wonderful thing, but it’s a side effect of the exorcism.
Sweatpants & Coffee was born from my need to get comfortable and sometimes, that means talking about the hard, weird, painful stuff. Also remember: I work for myself. I have an extremely compassionate and understanding staff, and if I call in telling them my anxiety is off the charts and I am taking a mental health day, not only do they get it – they gently but firmly escort me toward the metaphorical door. We do it for each other. Not everyone has that. But everyone should. Perhaps if we normalize this part of the human experience, we can take away the shame. That’s why I’m proud (but anxious) to be part of this feature. Women’s Health is shining a light.”
The issue is at newsstands now and will be online in May.