Mia Fox ‘the CEO of normalising mental health’ is a popular mental health TikToker with over 38 thousand followers. Her content is centred around her everyday struggles with depression, as she documents her daily life and progress.
I have followed Mia’s TikTok since the early days and quickly found myself looking up to her. Her true and natural depiction of what it is really like to struggle with your mental health was so inspiring and brave. She has helped myself and so many others feel like we are not alone and reminds her audience that is it normal to have bad days.
I was lucky enough to interview Mia to find out more about her story.
Tell me all about your story, what have been your struggles with your mental health?
Mia: “Since a very young age, I must have been about 10 or 11, I always felt like something just wasn’t right with me. I always felt like I didn’t belong and I really struggled to focus on things and have love for things. I remember growing up my sisters would always be obsessed certain things. But I never found a love for anything. I just felt like I was born but I wasn’t meant to be.
“I didn’t belong in anything, I never felt like I belonged in school, in friendship groups, in relationships and this is when everything kind of started for me. I can’t ever really describe the feelings. I just never felt like I belonged and it felt like it was a waste of a life.
“When I then hit puberty everything got a little bit worse for me. I was 13 years old when I first ever self-harmed. Obviously, this was a very traumatising time for me, I didn’t have control over my thoughts. My head just told me to do it because maybe it was going to relieve some of the pain.
“I remember afterwards I was in complete shock and I screamed and cried to my mum. The whole family couldn’t understand why I had done it, they were mortified because I was so young so it didn’t seem to make sense. As the years went on my thoughts got worse, my depression got worse. I wasn’t ever diagnosed at this point. I just knew that there was something wrong with my brain with how I thought and felt.
“When I got to about 15/16 I got into my first relationship. But I just didn’t feel like I could love or love something long enough without feeling sad about it, I know that doesn’t really makes sense but it makes sense in my head. This went on for years and years, the constant feeling of just no longer wanting to be here. There wasn’t anything that had specifically happened, I just truly believe I was born this way.
“As I got older and began to become more self-aware of how I was feeling and what my brain was doing. I started googling what depression was, to educate myself on it. I remember reading about it on google one night at 2am in bed and realising that every single thing I had. I then started to think okay maybe I need some serious help.
“Unfortunately, when I got to about 19/20 this was probably when it was at its worse. At the time I was in a really toxic relationship, with someone who was cheating on me a lot. As well as trying to fight the mental illness in my head, I was dealing with being hurt and betrayed by someone I love.
“20 and 21 was defiantly the worst age for me. I planned to take my own life. I planned everything up to a T, I wrote letters to all my family and planned how I wanted my funeral to be. Luckily I didn’t go through with it and I am so thankful I didn’t. But I remember the day before I had planned to do it, I went to my sister’s house and really it was to say goodbye. I knew I would end up confiding in her and I told her how I felt. She has always been very brutally honest with me, she is a very honest person. She told me ‘Mia you’re a mess, you need help’.
“I remember being sat at her kitchen table in floods of tears, knowing that the next day I was meant to end my life. I just needed someone to shake me and say ‘Mia you need help you’re not right and there is help out there’. She called the GP for me and I got an appointment for the next day.
“I went to go see a mental health nurse and prescribed me some anti-depressants. I was on them for a little while, they helped in the beginning but after a while I didn’t really see any of the benefits, they made me feel so numb. I couldn’t cry when I wanted to, I couldn’t feel sad even if I wanted to, they made me so sleepy all the time, I was just like a zombie. I came off my anti depressants and decided that if I am strong enough to survive killing myself, then I am strong enough to survive this depression. I am going to teach myself on how to cure myself. I began to read up about self-help, meditation and manifestation. That’s were I went for there and now I am here.”
When/why did you decide to start making Tik Toks?
Mia: “I started making TikToks in November last year. This was because I always find the winter months hard and we had just gone into a second lockdown. I needed something to keep myself busy. I have always loved been very creative with videos and I enjoy taking Instagram pictures. So I thought why not combine both of these, tell my story on TikTok and document my day, every single day to see if get better.
I never in a million years thought that anyone would ever watch it, but we are now in January and I have 36 thousand followers. People are so invested in my journey, that I don’t feel like I could ever stop because people are fighting along with me. I didn’t start TikTok for any other reason than to just watch myself and to see the progress I am making. If you go back to my first video which is day one and look at today’s video which is 51, I’m a completely different person. The way I talk, what I do in my day, I am completely different. I think it is safe to say Tiktok and documenting my journey and being vocal about it honestly saved me.”
What do you think the biggest stigma around young people’s mental health is? Have you faced any stigma around your mental health?
Mia: “I would say the biggest stigma around mental health especially in our generation is that words like depression, anxiety, panic attack, feeling anxious, are thrown around like it’s a casual everyday feeling. If the average person says ‘aw, I feel really on edge today’. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have anxiety. But now it’s so normalised to just say ‘yeah I’m having a panic attack’ when they could have just been slightly stressed about something. I definitely feel that is the biggest stigma.
“Also people saying that someone is doing it for attention, or they just feel this way for attention. ‘You need to sort your life out’ ‘you’re lazy’. I have definitely had people say that to me in the past. The thing about depression is people often like to be alone, you sleep a lot. You don’t want to go do anything or see your friends. So people would always say I am lazy or that I just need to socialises more, or that I need to get up earlier in the morning. But sometimes that can be the hardest task and so unbearable.
“But this is why I make my videos so it can show people someone who has depression. A lot of my viewers do have depression and anxiety but also I have so many viewers say I only watch your videos because my dad has depression and now I can try and understand how he feels, or my mum does or my sister does, my cousin, aunt, uncle. I am so grateful that my videos are spreading awareness. I wish that when I was at my worst someone could just see what it was like in my head.”
What do you feel people could do to better support those struggling with their mental health?
Mia: “To truly understand why they do the things they do, learn their triggers. An example for me, is if my family are cooking a roast dinner on a Sunday. Certain smells, the dark evenings and the fire going. Makes me feel really anxious and down, I don’t understand why. But once I told people this they were like ‘well let’s not have a roast dinner, let’s have pasta instead.’ Little things like that, understanding what it is like to be in their head and just being patient is the most important thing. Sitting and talking to someone and allowing them to feel like they can open up to you.”
Depression, although common, can be one of the most dismissed mental health struggles. What do you want people to know about it?
Mia: “Going back to the word depression being thrown around so much. There is such a stigma around it, people either don’t believe you or just think you’re a bit sad and will get over it in a few years. Depression is a real illness, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. For many people it starts from something that has happened in their childhood, or as an adult it could be cause by something like financial struggles. It is an illness and if it is not treated properly it can end your life, just like any other illness, just like cancer can and just like being hit by a bus can. Its serious and people need to understand how many people in the world struggle with depression. Unfortunately, many people lose their fight with depression.
“I want people to think before they speak, to be nice always. To treat people how you would like to be treated. Do something simple like when you are walking down the street, smile at the person walking past you. I remember one time when I went on a walk by myself, when I was feeling really low. I was walking my dog at the time and this couple walked past me and said hello to my dog and said good evening to me. I remember that night feeling so grateful that someone acknowledge that I was there. Having depression can make you feel so invisible, even if you’re in a room full of people. You are just in you’re own little bubble and you don’t feel like anyone cares about you. I want people to know that.”
Do you have any advice for people struggling with their mental health at the moment? Is there anything you feel has really helped you?
Mia: “Times are tough right now we are in a national lockdown, we can’t see people who may help us feel happier. It’s harder to get prescriptions for your medication.
“I just want people to know that is does get better, this is from someone who has survived suicidal thoughts and severe depression to the point where I am not leaving my bed for weeks or eating. I promise you now it does get better and it’s all in your mind. Once you learn your triggers and have control over your thoughts, you can do everything. You are in charge of your own mind it just takes a little bit longer to learn to be in charge.
“Remember there is people out there who will listen to you, there are helplines, there is the Samaritans. I run a Facebook group called ‘Mental Matters with Mia’ which is full of help. Some people will post on the group saying ‘hey I am feeling a bit anxious today can anyone talk’ and it will be filled with comments. I have made friends for life in my Facebook group, I have actually met my best friend through making Tik Toks videos, which is so crazy. I have a group of friends from this Facebook group and we Facetime every night.
“For the first time in my life it feels like I have people around that actually care about me. Since opening up to my family they have been nothing but incredible. When you are struggling it’s so hard to say anything, you feel like people might not believe you, its embarrassing.”
How has TikTok helped you? Has it helped you at all?
Mia: “TikTok has saved my life. It’s enabled me to spread awareness on mental health. It’s allowed me to tell my story and show people that you can survive it and it does get better. You are not going to live like this for the rest of your life. Although you are in a dark horrible place now there is light at the end of the tunnel as I have experienced this myself first-hand.
“As someone who thought they were going to end their life at 21 years old, I am about to turn 23 and have achieved so much since starting in November. I am not sure if I would even still be here if I didn’t start my TikTok.
“TikTok has been incredible, it’s such a good platform. Although it comes with the good, the bad and the ugly. The positive comments just outshine the bad ones. I am actually working with my sister who works for the NHS. We are teaming up to make a mental health mask and we are giving 50% of profits to a mental health charity. I have always wanted to do mental health work for charities and now I am finally achieving my goals. I have never been so proud of myself. This has without a doubt been my biggest achievement.”
Listening to Mia and her incredible story of all she has been through has truly opened my eyes on how we are not alone in fighting our mental health battles, especially at the moment when everything seems so bleak. Mia’s videos continue to give me so much comfort everyday and also help educate me on how I can support people around me. She truly is someone I really look up to and admire. This is the refreshing real content we need to be seeing on social media right now.
Mia’s Tik Tok is @miafox_ where you can follow her journey as well as access links to her Facebook group ‘Mental Matters with Mia’. If you find yourself struggling right now, I hope Mia’s story encourages you to have the strength to keep fighting. Help is always there.