Letter from the Founder
By Sarah Mattes, Founder of Deco Denim
Sarah here, Founder of Deco Denim, checking in to say hi and take the opportunity to share a little bit about me as a person. Warning: incoming overshare.
I'd like to talk about something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember- mental health.
My struggle with mental health isn't something I can just snap out of or cure with a long hike (contrary to the various articles well-intentioned people have shared with me over the years). I've developed a range of tools that I find somewhat useful in helping me recognize triggers or redirect thoughts (before they snowball and wipe me out completely), but more often those feelings & emotions are too overwhelming to manage.
I wasn't officially diagnosed with Depression until the age of fifteen, but I'd struggled with deep, dark bouts of sadness since before I can remember. Depression is insidious, and can be so convincing while you're in the thick of it; whispering all your fears over and over, telling you you're not good enough, etc. etc. etc. At the age of sixteen I was put on Prozac, and since then have tried more antidepressants than I can name.
In my thirties I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and C-PTSD, but again, anxiety was something familiar to me that'd carried since childhood. I spent so much time worrying about anything and everything that my mom and stepdad gave me the nickname "worry-wort". As is often the case, my anxiety and depression were often joined by irritability/anger, mood swings, and panic attacks. Things took a turn for the worse when I was in my twenties, and in my thirties I was finally prescribed meds aimed at curbing what had become crippling anxiety.
Another mental health milestone came last year when, at the age of 41, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Surprisingly, that diagnosis made me feel excited and more than a little relieved. It felt like a weight was lifted to give a name to something I'd struggled with for most of my life, the inattentiveness, making what felt like careless mistakes, being unable to follow through when given instructions, trouble organizing, forgetfulness, the list goes on and on. On top of that, there was also the link between undiagnosed ADHD and addiction- oh yeah, I'm also an alcoholic too in case you didn't already know that about me. Things started to fall into place in a way they hadn't before, which felt new and exciting.
I could go on and on about how my mental health and addiction has made it hard for me to maintain friendships, relationships, jobs, etc, but that's not the point and I want to get to why I'm sharing this to begin with.
It turns out, starting a company is hard. Starting a company at the tail end of a pandemic, while also trying to grapple with my mental health, has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The intense feelings of doubt, feeling like I'm a failure that should give up, feeling like I should be more successful, all of it caused me to sink into a deep depression. I didn't want to do things that usually brought me joy, I was overeating, not eating enough, crying, having erratic behavior, etc. etc. etc.
Things hit their peak in February of 2023 and I sank into the worst depression I've experienced in fifteen years. I was scared but also didn't care, everything felt simply helpless and hopeless. That was the point when I began looking into ketamine infusions. I've undergone nine treatments so far, and am now going once a month for a "booster." Some days I feel like they help a lot, and other days I feel guilty and think it's a waste of money. That's the tough thing about mental health, when something helps or hurts it's difficult to attribute it directly.
Full transparency: life is hard right now, and has been since starting Deco Denim. Some days I feel like I don't get anything done, other days I cram my schedule so full and complete so many tasks that I feel overwhelmed with accomplishment.
Sometimes I have a to-do list a mile long but can't bring myself to dig into any of it. Instead (like today), I end up going into the rabbit hole vortex of Redfin looking at houses I absolutely can not afford to buy but can't look away from (thank you hyperfixation, another ADHD gem). At 5pm today, I managed to snap out of my Redfin trance long enough to package up orders and sit down to write this. (I also showered today and attended a Zoom meeting; I have to celebrate the wins where I can).
I am trying really hard to take care of myself. That means seeing my therapist weekly, taking my meds (and adjusting them when needed), seeing a psychiatrist once a month, getting enough sleep (I'm trying very hard to get better at this), drinking plenty of water (this one's a struggle as well), exercising, and leaving the house periodically.
To be clear, I'm not looking for sympathy. I understand that to the outside observer it might appear as though I have it all. Don't get me wrong, I have so much to be grateful for, but fully embracing those things in my life is difficult (if not impossible) when it's overshadowed by the cloud of mental health stuff.
Early on in this Deco Denim journey I made the decision that I didn't just want to share the wins. It's difficult to start a company, and there are a lot of things I wish I'd known before getting started. I don't want to be the founder that only shares the personal stuff in an effort to get folks to buy things either. I want to be real because if we take the time to understand a little bit of what others are experiencing, it makes it easier to move through the world with empathy. And more empathy is never a bad thing.
How to support someone struggling with their mental health:
Even if you don't think you know anyone struggling with their mental health currently (and TBH, you most likely do), I wanted to end by sharing some tips and other resources. And lastly, if you have questions about the things I've shared here today, please feel free to reach out and let me know (with kindness please).
Do's and Don'ts
- Don't offer advice (unless someone specifically asks for it)
- Do remember that while all feelings are valid, feelings aren't facts
- Don't ask judgmental questions like "Why are you acting like this?"
- Do ask questions like "How can I support you right now?"
- Don't interrupt them while they're sharing with you
- Do choose the right time & place
- Don't pick a setting that's crowded and/or in public. They probably won't feel comfortable sharing things if it's loud, with others around who might overhear
- Do open by expressing concern in a gentle, calm tone
- Don't invalidate their experience with dismissive statements like "It's not that bad," or "You just need to choose to be happy"
- Do offer specific examples of behavior that's causing you concern
- Don't be pushy. If they're not comfortable discussing their mental health with you, respect their boundary and tell them you're available if they want to talk in the future
- Do provide support & resources. Offer to help them find professional support if they're interested, and come prepared with some websites (like the ones listed below) where they can see what's available
- Don't forget to follow-up. After the initial conversation, check in on them periodically to demonstrate your ongoing support.
Remember: There is no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone. Every individual and situation is unique, and it's crucial adapt your approach accordingly. Additionally, it's important to do your part to educate yourself about mental health issues, in order to support those around you.
With that in mind, below you'll find some of the resources I've found valuable.
- NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
- NAMI Helpline Resource Directory: This is a PDF with a ton of resources and options that was compiled by staff and volunteers at the NAMI helpline
- ADAA: Anxiety & Depression Association of America
- Mental Health First Aid
- Huberman Lab: I've been following his IG for awhile now (check that out here), because he posts a lot of good mental health content. A few weeks ago I started listening to his podcast too, which I've also been enjoying
- CHADD: I recently discovered this site, which has a lot of good articles & other resources about ADHD/ADD. They even have info on support groups all around the country
- ADDitude Magazine: Another good resource for info about ADD/ADHD
- How Ketamine Drug Helps With Depression: If you're curious about Ketamine-assisted therapy, this is a good place to start. It covers the basics in a clear way. If you do decide to pursue it though, I'd recommend finding a facility that offers talk therapy in conjunction.