One positive thing to come out of spending time in lockdown is that it has given many of us the chance to take up new hobbies and projects. Sophie Pollard, a second year English Literature student here at the University of Exeter, has used her newfound spare time to create Sophie Brain Scribbles (@sophiebrainscribbles), an Instagram page aimed at sharing her experiences and top tips for dealing with mental health challenges. In the short space of a month, Sophie has managed to build her following considerably; Nightline were keen to chat with her and hear about what goes on behind-the-scenes.
Nightline: Hi Sophie! Thank you for taking the time to speak to us. What inspired you to set up Sophie Brain Scribbles?
Sophie: No problem, thank you for thinking of me! After many years of facing my own mental health struggles, I have built up a big kit of tips and tricks for dealing with them. I felt as though I wanted to share these with other people and try to help them. I’m not trying to take the place of a professional, but sometimes it can be difficult to access professional mental health services, so I wanted to try and provide some support in the meantime. I was also keen to show that you can be a really “normal” person and still have awful feelings; many people that meet me are shocked when they hear about my mental illnesses.
Nightline: Where do your ideas for each post that you make come from?
Sophie: Usually they just come from what’s in my head, or following a conversation that I’ve had with a friend. I have tried to create posts that will spread awareness, as people can be well-intentioned but say ignorant things, for example there is still a lot of stigma around taking medication for your mental health. Another thing I hope to convey through the page is that people don’t need to suffer unnecessarily; there is this idea that suffering in silence is a sign of strength, but I want to show through my posts that getting help and opening up conversation is what will truly make you stronger.
Nightline: What has been the best thing about setting up and running the page?
Sophie: I really enjoy the act of making the posts themselves! It is so gratifying to do some art and then get something out of it, it feels like you’ve achieved something. I just use felt tips to create my posts, and I love how haphazard and scribbly the overall look of the page is; a certain “aesthetic” should not be a barrier to talking about your experiences, and I feel as though in this way I’ve been able to put across my messages in my own words.
It’s also validating when people say to me that my posts have helped them. People have gotten in touch with me that I had no idea were facing similar struggles, so it is good to know that I have helped people. My following isn’t massive, but it makes me happy to know that I’ve helped just one person.
Nightline: How would you like to see your page develop in the future?
Sophie: I would like to keep growing my following so that my messages of breaking down stigma can reach an even bigger audience and I can continue helping people. I would also love to do some kind of podcast – I can chat for England!
Nightline: And finally, what advice would you give to people reading this that are facing their own mental health challenges?
Sophie: Don’t beat yourself up for having mental health struggles – anyone can have them, they don’t discriminate. They aren’t a sign of weakness. Just like you can’t help having a chronic physical illness, you can’t help having a chronic mental illness either. It’s cliched but it’s true when people say hang in there, because it does get better!
I like to think about recovery as similar to building a wall; if you drop one brick, that doesn’t mean you knock down the wall and start all over again. Similarly, if you have a bad day, week, or year in your recovery, that doesn’t mean that you are back to the start. Recovery isn’t a forward trajectory, it can be up and down. Plus, it’s completely okay if you don’t feel like you’re on a path to recovery; it is more than good enough just to be managing on a day-to-day basis and improving your ability to manage your challenges.
Make sure to give Sophie a follow @sophiebrainscribbles - if you know anyone who you think we should interview (or maybe we should interview you!) then drop us a message on facebook!
Written by Izzie Dyer