The feeling of isolation that comes with trying to hide a mental illness is one of the most difficult challenges a person can face.
Because of the stigma that surrounds mental health, many feel ashamed or scared to openly talk about what they’re going through. Most feel more comfortable admitting to physical as opposed to mental ailments, often using a physical affliction as a sort of excuse to cover up what they’re actually experiencing.
Yasaman Gheidi, known as “lilmoonchildd” on Instagram, knows the struggle.
Last December, the 27-year-old X-ray technician experienced an anxiety attack while at a holiday work party. She chose to disappear quietly, not wanting to draw attention to herself, and spent the rest of the evening crying in the arms of her partner while trying to get through the attack.
The following day, she worried her coworkers would question her disappearance, and wasn’t sure what she would tell them. When her partner suggested she say she had a headache, she agreed, but immediately questioned her decision.
“Why did I have to be ashamed and lie about my anxiety attack? So many wonderful and amazing people suffer daily from the same mental illnesses that I do. Why can’t we just talk about it openly?” she thought.
And so, at that point, Yasaman decided she would no longer hide.
In addition to being an x-ray tech, the Iranian-born “queer feminist” is also a self-taught makeup artist with a considerable following on social media. Inspired by Disney Pixar’s 2015 animated feature Inside Out, she decided to use her skills and her platform to spark an open conversation about mental illness, and created the #InsideOutChallenge, asking participants to use makeup to outwardly express what they are feeling on the inside. It was the perfect way to “take her broken heart, and turn it into art,” as Carrie Fisher once told Meryl Streep.
“I was so tired of having to hide [my mental illness],” Gheidi, who has been suffering from depression and anxiety since she was a teen, tells The Prevail Project. “I knew I had an illness that I was actively working on treating, but why did I have to hide it when any other physical illness isn’t stigmatized? I knew that one of the first steps to helping others speak about mental illness was to first reduce the stigma around it.”
Yasaman’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect; she launched the challenge on YouTube and Instagram January 9th — just a few weeks before Bell’s annual #BellLetsTalk day. It quickly turned into a global movement, gaining recognition by international press.
“The response has been so amazing! I have had an incredible amount of very courageous and beautiful individuals participate,” she says. “Many of these people have used this challenge as an opportunity to share their own struggles with mental illness with their friends and family. It’s really been the start of a conversation that will continue long after the Inside Out Challenge.”
While art in general has proven to be therapeutic for Yasaman, she says talking about her mental illness has been one of her most successful coping mechanisms to date.
“It’s lifted this weight off my chest and I no longer feel as though I have a secret to hide,” she explains. “It has allowed [me] to connect with others who have also dealt with and/or are dealing with depression and/or anxiety. Understanding that I am not alone, and that others are working to provide more resources to help those with mental illness has really helped.”
Moving forward, Gheidi hopes she can continue to use her voice to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.
“I will continue advocating for mental health as well as self-love through my own social media platforms, but I would love opportunities to take this further,” she says. “I believe that the fashion and beauty industries have a great opportunity to help influence this space with so many people, both young and adult, looking to them for advice and inspiration.”