This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in New Zealand, and for us here at Independently You, we think it’s important to have conversations about mental health and share stories that can help us feel less alone and more connected as a community. This has become especially important over COVID-19, which has highlighted how important it is for all of us to stick together and look out for the isolated.

We’d like to introduce you to Mamie Rose MacDonald; Mamie is a model, advocate and writer with All is for All who lives with Williams Syndrome; a genetic disability which gives Mamie her beautifully unique facial features, outgoing personality and sometimes makes learning a challenge. You might recognise Mamie from a Texi product shoot we did earlier in the year for Independently You - we love her infectious energy and think she is a beautiful embodiment of the Independently You values.

Mamie has taken the time to write some thoughts on how she looks after her mental health, how she used her positive outlook on life to accept her disability, and why we should embrace supports like Texi and waterproof bedding and not be ashamed of them.

Kia ora, everyone, my name is Mamie Rose MacDonald, and I would like to share how I look after my mental health and how I learned to accept my disability.

When I know that I’m feeling a bit low or worn out, I always make sure I take some time to do some self-care and a few things that will make me happy. Some of the things I do to look after my mental health include; spending quality time with my family and my cats, dancing to music, and chatting with my friends. Talking really helps me de-stress and feel calm again; it’s also a great way to help get a new perspective on my situation. We all know movement and exercise can help with stress by producing endorphins that make you happy, which is why I think dancing helps me so much. 

It can be a struggle to stay positive all the time, and some days I really struggle. It can feel like I have the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other pulling me in different directions, and I don’t know which one to listen to. It can feel overwhelming, so this is why I think taking the time each day to check in with myself and be honest about how I’m doing is important and helps keep me balanced.

What used to cause my mental health to take a dip was learning to accept my disability. When I was younger, I was determined not to let my disability run my life or to be defined by it. Because of my disability, I used to get bullied at school, which only wanted to make me hide it more. It wasn’t until I started meeting other cool disabled people that I realised maybe I could accept it as part of my identity. I was always in awe of people like Grace Stratton, who have championed disability pride, and I quickly realised that I wanted to be part of that movement. It felt so good to no longer have to hide such an essential part of who I am.

Even though I don’t use support aids myself, I know that it can sometimes be an uncomfortable topic for disabled people to talk about. Personally, I feel like everyone should be able to embrace using support aids when they need them because it can help us live an empowered and independent life, and that’s why I like Independently You because they’re actively trying to break down barriers and help people feel empowered to use support aids.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, I challenge all of you to do one thing that makes you happy, whether it’s talking to family or dancing around the room. Life’s too short, and it’s so important to get out and live your life unapologetically.

- Mamie Rose MacDonald

Photography by Becki Moss