Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with Chinae Alexander

Chinae Alexander headshot quote

Throughout Mental Health Month, we focused on ways to empower individuals to “light their way” to better mental health, happiness, and improved well-being. As part of this celebration, we profiled “Mental Health Warriors,” individuals who have been outspoken in their advocacy and support for mental health issues. We caught up with lifestyle and fitness expert Chinae Alexander.

Talkspace: Society imposes some pretty impossible standards around female beauty. Did you absorb this message as a child or was it something you became more aware of later on in life?

Chinae Alexander: I think it was a little easier for us growing up, those pressures were certainly there, but with the onslaught of social media, etc, I can’t imagine what it’s like being a young girl now. I also grew up with a mom who always reminded me of my beauty. It’s amazing how shaping that has been and I’m glad I had that foundation to help me navigate the current age.

TS: You’ve been a champion for promoting self-worth and confidence to women through your Instagram posts, but sometimes advocating for yourself is “easier said than done.” How did you reach a place where you were able to cultivate these qualities within yourself?

CA: You’re right, it is so much easier said than done, but when the work of self love is done in little bits every day, it’s a lot easier. One thing that really helped me was making minute choices about how I was going to think about myself. For example, I have stretch marks from a long journey with weight loss. I saw them as scars and unfair reminders of who I once was. Like, as hard as I had worked, I would always still have some stigma about my body. But over time, I chose to see them as daily reminders of my perseverance and strength. It’s incredible what intentional thinking can do. Another key to finding your worth is surrounding yourself with people who help you cultivate the best of who you are, and who reiterate those things when you don’t believe them about yourself.

TS: If you’re ever having a dark day, how do you pull yourself out?

CA: I spend time around people. I think we get selfish in our struggles, and we want to believe we are alone in our darkness because it’s somehow comforting. But spending time surrounded by even just one person helps pull me out of it.

TS: Do you feel more pressure surrounding your body now than before you lost the weight? How do you cope with that?

CA: I actually wrote an entire article on that in Well + Good that you can see HERE. To sum it up, I was really quite happy at my highest weight, and then hit a low point when I was at my thinnest. I’m currently somewhere in the middle…happy, content, and inspired to help people find their best selves.

TS: Which has changed more: the way the world sees you or how you see yourself?

CA: The only one that matters is the latter. Who gives a shit about if people think you’re cool or have your life together…if you don’t view yourself as magnificent, the rest is irrelevant!

TS: Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self?

CA: I would tell my younger self to keep pushing the envelope, to keep speaking out in class, to be OK with being the perpetual new kid because one day it’ll teach you to make friends, to let your weirdness out, and to forgive yourself when you’re not perfect. Perfect could possibly be the most boring version of a person.

TS: What’s your personal mental health story?

CA: On a warm summer night after a Kayne West show, my friends and I went to a McDonald’s to use the bathroom. As I stood at the register ordering a bottle of water, I remember hearing a faraway voice say, “Ma’am you forgot your water,” as my face SMASHED into the cold, greasy tiled floor. It was my third time fainting from panic disorder (at the time, undiagnosed).

Shortly after that, Lexapro and Klonapin became the drugs of choice prescribed by my psychiatrist, mixed with weekly sessions with my talk therapist. The anxiety and panic attacks began back in 2013, due to a romantic relationship that was, perhaps, not so healthy (for either of us).

I resisted medication for as long as I could, but it became pretty frightening to be fainting in public places, so to the doctor I went…pride in shambles. I was not the anxious, helpless girl. {CUE STIGMA } I went to therapy for years and found it to be one of my favorite parts of my week. I was on medication for six months in total. Three months in, the relationship ended and I started to heal internally. My panic never came back.

Due to the change in circumstances, with my doctor’s help I weaned off my anxiety meds. I don’t deal with panic disorder or anxiety anymore, it was about a year total that I struggled through that battle.

Even someone that you may or may not view as strong and “together” works through these sorts of things. You are not alone. You are not broken. Isolation and deep loneliness is frequently a symptom (and sometimes a cause) of mental health struggles…feeling like no one understands your thoughts is a terrible fucking feeling. Which is why the more we can come together and share our stories, the better. If our sharing can help one person feel like they are understood, freeing them to seek help, then we did something really fucking good today.

Published by

JoAnna Di Tullio

Social Media Manager at Talkspace