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HOW ARE YOU FEELING TODAY :: Liz Beecroft Shares Her Story and Tips for Coping with Anxiety and Depression

HOW ARE YOU FEELING TODAY :: Liz Beecroft Shares Her Story and Tips for Coping with Anxiety and Depression

By Andy Taylor

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we have mixed feelings about it. And about everything else, too, if we’re being honest. We all do. And it’s ok.

Regardless of the image we portray publicly, we all have a wide range of emotions we deal with on a daily basis, and there’s no sense in hiding them or being ashamed of them. Everybody hurts.

Previous generations bottled up these feelings and compartmentalized, but we’re doing better these days. Society has started to embrace the fact that most of us struggle with our mental health in some form, and that we all need love and understanding. While decades ago, going to the “shrink” may have cost someone their reputation or affected how people think of them greatly, therapy has become an almost essential component of living a healthy life. We all need someone to talk to, about the big and little things.

This month, and all of the other months, we want to end the stigma of mental illness and shine a light on the important work being done in the mental health field so that current and future generations suffer far less and are able to feel more fulfilled as they move through this journey of life.

The Hundreds is a community more than anything, and community is family, and family is there for each other. We don’t ever want anyone to be hurting but that’s not realistic. Of course you’re hurting, and so are we. But there are tools we can use to combat mental illness, and we can all do little things that make our lives more enjoyable.

To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, The Hundreds teamed up with Liz Beecroft, a celebrated psychotherapist and full-blown sneakerhead, to highlight the vast array of feelings we all go through and the steps we can take to keep them all in check. If you don’t know Liz, you may be familiar with some of her kicks. Beecroft worked with Nike to design a pair of Air Max 270 Reacts called the In My Feels to “let everyone know that our feelings are valid and we don’t have to suffer alone. It’s okay to feel the feels.”

For this collaboration with The Hundreds, Bobby Hundreds and Liz wanted to capture all of the feels in a way that felt familiar, so Bobby illustrated our iconic Adam Bomb character in a full range of different emotions, much like classic cartoon posters in a doctors office asking patients how they feel. Adam Bomb’s expression rarely gets toyed around with but we felt it was important to let you know that even Adam isn’t feeling his best all of the time. And that’s alright.

I connected with Liz on Zoom ahead of the collab to discuss Mental Health Awareness Month, tools we can incorporate into our daily lives, and, duh, sneakers.

DUKE LONDON: How did you get into this field and why are you passionate about it?

LIZ BEECROFT: It’s a little bit of a long story, but I’ll give you the main points. I was an only child. And, I found out when I was in like fifth or sixth grade that I struggled with homesickness really badly. I couldn’t even go to overnight basketball camps for a weekend without having panic attacks. So, my parents ended up taking me to a therapist. And, that was my first experience with mental health, therapy, and learning what the heck was going on. And, it kind of continued on until high school. It was so bad that my mom would have to give me sleeping pills in order to go to these camps and just kind of drug me so I wouldn’t go into panic mode. I had therapy throughout that and eventually I got over it, which was great. I learned that it had to do with attachment and stuff I was dealing with being an only child and kind of growing up being sheltered. Later on, I went to college and I had a hard time adjusting. Growing up, my whole structure in life was sports, sports, go to school, sports. It was very rigid, I didn’t have much leeway. When I went to college, it was a huge adjustment being on my own. I was still playing basketball in college, but it was just a different environment I had to adjust to. So, I started experiencing it again. And then I had a really bad breakup, which put me over the edge. I overdosed. I ended up in the hospital and had to go back to therapy. I think that was the turning point for me. When I was older, I kind of understood how this was really helpful. It helped me become really confident in myself and also learn my triggers and how to deal with all I was dealing with. I actually was a Biology major when I first went into college. I wanted to be an orthodontist, I had braces like three times. I thought that was going to be my job, it was going to make a lot of money. And then I hated Chemistry, Organic Chemistry was a bitch. So, I changed my major to Psychology during my junior year and that’s kind of what led me into therapy. I wanted to be able to give back to other people because I knew how much it impacted me.

What are some coping skills or tools you’re using that other people can utilize, especially in a time like this where everyone’s kind of at home and in a weird uncomfortable place mentally?

I definitely think practicing mindfulness is crucial right now. We’re in a time with a lot of uncertanity about the future and we don't know how things are going to be when we are able to go outside and be around people again. When we’re practicing mindfulness, we’re focusing on the here and now. We’re forcing our minds to not let those thoughts about the future or the past take over. We’re just focusing on what we’re doing in that moment. It’s so important right now because we’re really getting lost in the sauce, essentially just thinking about everything. It’s normal, it’s what anxiety is. I often feel like people think meditation is the only way to practice mindfulness, and it’s not. It’s great if meditation works for you, but things like cleaning and organizing are so good because it really forces you to be present and in that moment. And, when you’re done with it, you feel great about yourself because you have a clean apartment or an organized space. Things like working out are great, because it’s going to help release those endorphins in our brain and help boost our mood and help us feel more energized overall. Journaling is really good for people who like to write, reading books. Feeling like you don’t always have to be productive. There are a lot of people out there trying to say "learn a new skill or do all this stuff" and yeah, that’s great if you have the bandwidth. But sometimes it’s okay to relax and watch Netflix and eat Oreos all day. Do what you gotta do, that’s what your body is telling you so go with it.

I find it really interesting that so many people, me included, are talking to so many people right now that I wasn’t regularly talking to before, whether it’s through Zoom or FaceTime. There’s this yearning for connection right now while we're all so isolated. Maybe it’s because everyone knows you don’t have anything to do. Is that something you’re experiencing and what do you think that looks like when we get out quarantine?

I would hope it continues, right now I’m working remotely so I’m having online sessions with my clients through Zoom or through FaceTime. I live with my boyfriend as well, I’ve been surrounded by people. I’ve been keeping in touch with my family everyday, I FaceTime my mom and dad. My friends as well, just texting them making sure they’re feeling okay. There’s certain days where I don’t want to talk to anyone, I just want to play Nintendo Switch all day and chill out. But, I hope once this is over that we all leave being better versions of ourselves. I think as people we get to be a little self absorbed and I don’t mean that in a negative way but we’re just so busy with our day to day life and what we have going on personally that we kind of forget about checking in on other people. And right now, we’re all honing in on it because we don’t have as much going on. So, I hope it carries on after this where we see what might be of value and what might be really important versus calling your friend talking to them or spending that time scrolling on social media. Not that I’m shitting on social media, I’m on there too. I think it’s important to facilitate those connections with people because it’s so healthy to have in our lives, just support in general.

What role does social media play in our evolving psyche?

We use social media to connect with other people but at the same time we’re also kind of showing the highlights of our life. We’re not really going on there and saying “yo I’m having a really shitty day today and I’m crying.” Instead, maybe I’ll post this photo from three days ago when I looked really good. And, the people viewing that don’t really see what’s actually happening behind the scenes. And, that’s totally fine but we can't let ourselves get in the trap of comparison and thinking that the grass is always greener because sometimes it’s not. I think it really comes down to how we use social media. My theory is that social media is meant to be social, I have no problem commenting things that I feel about people positively or messaging people and meeting new friends. I’ve met so many of my best friends through messaging each other and having similar interests. I think there’s so many positive things that come from it. We find other people who are in similar communities as us or have similar interests, which is amazing. It all boils down to how we use it and being mindful if we’re following accounts that inspire us or trigger us.

You said you were still working, still doing sessions remotely. How does that affect the therapy you provide?

There are pros and cons. The pros are scheduling-wise, it’s a lot easier for everyone to meet each other where you’re at because you’re just picking up a phone doing it over FaceTime or Zoom so it’s a little bit more convenient that way. It’s nice because you actually get to see people in their environment and sometimes there’s other people in the house you can kind of see how they’re interacting with other people. As a therapist you can kind of call them out and be like, "let’s take a step back here you see how you handled that situation." I think the cons are there’s never going to be that real in-person experience you get with therapy. Just being able to see people and their body language, if someone’s really upset and crying in session it’s different via Zoom. I think privacy plays a part as well, as some clients feel like they don’t have any privacy at home if they have other things going on or other people there. So, there are good and bad things about it. It’s great that we’re able to provide services this way and people aren’t left hanging, though.

I’m sure your patients are very grateful to still be able to talk to you during this time.

It’s fun, I work with a lot of teenagers and I work for a foster care organization, so I do therapy for kids and I meet with their foster families as well and sometimes their birth parents. It’s cool because I actually engage a lot of my clients through sneakers and streetwear because a lot of them are just into that. And, that’s kind of how it normalizes therapy for them and they feel a little bit more comfortable and they can open up to me because they kind of know that I get it to a certain extent. It’s funny because sometimes I’ll forget and I’ll answer my phone and my shoes are behind me and they’ll be like, “Oh Ms. Liz you have so many sneakers!” I’m just happy that they are safe and okay.

When I was younger, I was very intimidated by therapy and had a bad experience with it but I can imagine that if I knew my therapist was into some of the same things I’m into and had a Nike collab and a The Hundreds collab, I’d be like, "okay this is going to be alright." It’s a great icebreaker.

It’s cool, sometimes I get sneakers from brands and if they don’t fit, I’ll bring them in and if the kid is doing well in therapy, I’m like here’s a new pair of kicks. And, they’re like “OMG, I’m coming every week now.” It actually helps because they want to show up and they don’t actually know what’s going to happen. It’s good, I’m just glad I can make it a good experience.

How do you bring the mental health and sneaker worlds together so well?

Basketball is what got me into sneakers. I love Allen Iverson, I’m originally from Pennsylvania. So, it was always about wanting to have the best sneakers on the court. And then, as I got a little bit older, I started exploring more sneakers I could have off the court as well. And that’s kind of what expanded my mind in sneakers. Not to mention all of my best friends growing up were guys or all skaters so that’s kind of how I was even put on to The Hundreds back then. And not to talk bad about colleagues or anything but the mental health field has a really bad stigma of being stuffy and clinical. And when you think of therapists, you always think of these guys with a clipboard asking you how you feel. I want to break that mold. I don’t want people to always think of that and make that be a hindrance for them to actually get help. I was struggling with the secondary trauma of my job, it’s heavy. It’s a lot of stuff I try not to bring home with me, but I do. I started posting my sneakers on social media and I kind of got consumed in wanting to be the “hype bae” and do what all those girls were doing for a while. I never really talked about mental health or my profession online. When I went back to therapy again, my therapist was like, "you are a therapist and you love sneakers so what’s wrong with that? Be different, create your own lane." So, that’s when I started to also incorporate mental health stuff in it. People online are always trying to flex for the Gram and to me it’s like what’s really going on? Why do we feel we have to do that? Why can’t we just be real and have real conversations that are important? So that’s kind of what pushes me to really combine the two, to push the whole idea of things being meaningful and authentic and not doing things because it’s going to give you some superficial validation online.

What attracts you to a certain sneaker?

For me, it’s the storytelling. Anything that can really tie back with my childhood. For example, I just bought the Syracuse Dunks. Growing up, I was a huge fan of Gerry McNamara, he played for Syracuse basketball, he’s from Pennsylvania and so that’s what ties in for me. It makes me feel happy and it’s how I express myself and my emotions on my feet. I’m trying my best to not drain my bank account while I’m home.

We’re putting out a little guide with our collab, and I wanted to talk to you about being aware of some of these feelings and getting better about coping. How do you identify anxiety and depression?

I think that there are a lot of physical symptoms that we experience with mental illness. So, people who might be depressed could be gaining weight or they might lose weight and not be sleeping well so they might be tired and have bags under their eyes. People with anxiety may be sweating or twitching and constantly tapping your legs, or have a rapid heartbeat. Things like that that can really tell us more about our mental health even though they are physiological symptoms. But, also just learning and being okay with understanding how we feel and not trying to avoid coming to terms that we might be feeling bad that day. It’s okay we all go through days where we don’t feel our best and days where we feel really sad or nervous, whatever it may be. Being able to say, "I’m not feeling so great today, I’m going to acknowledge it and figure out how I can tackle this instead of pushing it under the rug and avoiding it, which ends up making it worse." I have this weird comparison that I use sometimes. I compare people to soda bottles, like if you have a Pepsi bottle and you’re shaking it and shaking it and you go to open it and you don’t release the seal, it’s going to explode. And, that’s how we are if we’re not using those coping skills or tools to calm ourselves down when we’re not feeling great. So, I think it’s similar to soda bottles, but we have to just constantly keep taking care of our mental health as much as our physical health.

Adam Bomb is a figure that’s very rarely been changed or manipulated in any way. You’ve managed to get more variations of Adam Bomb on one shirt than have ever existed otherwise. What was your reaction to that? And, what’s the message you think the pieces gives?

I remember being on the call and they were like, "so what are your thoughts?" And, I was like, "well… this is a thought I have, this like therapy feelings poster in my office. And I know Adam is your prized possession, I don’t want to disrespect this by any means but what do you think about a feelings chart?" And Bobby loved it. I was thinking holy shit that’s crazy, a full circle moment, because back when I was in high school, there was this sweatshirt I used to wear, it was an Adam Bomb sweatshirt. I wore it every time I’d go snowboarding. All my guy friends would say they were going to steal it from me. I think one of them actually did. And here we are. The Hundreds is one of the brands that got me into streetwear because I’m from a small town in PA. It's really cool. To me, it just really represents we do have a whole range of emotions. We all feel different things and at the end of the day it’s okay to feel whatever we’re feeling. You don’t always have to have the same game face on.

What are you working on next?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so I have a lot happening. I'm partnering with Maybelline and starting my own Twitch series throughout the month just to talk about different topics around mental health. There’s a mental health festival that’s happening online now, and I'm doing a lot of speaking series. My birthday is at the end of the month as well, so I'm going to figure out how I can see people for my birthday because I’m a Gemini and I love seeing people and it’s killing me.

What are some of the tools that you want people to come away with in May and use for the rest of the year?

I think just to be able to have conversations around mental health and to feel like you don’t have to keep things in and to feel like you can go to people and talk about these vulnerable topics. Also, to not feel ashamed to do so. At the end of the day, we all have mental health issues, good or bad, and we all have emotions. I just want people to know that it’s okay to have those conversations and also learn how to support other people. What’s the right thing to say to someone? What’s not the right thing to say? Where do I go for help? How do I find a therapist? There are a lot of obstacles in getting help, sometimes just being able to know where to start is a good tool to have.

Photos Courtesy of Colin Ridgway