Achea Redd makes mental health awareness her mission—because for Achea, it’s personal. In early 2016, Achea was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Terrified and ashamed, the wife of NBA legend Michael Redd and mother of two hid her condition from the world, but she quickly realized it was only getting worse. As a form of self-expression and healing, Achea created her own blog, sharing her feelings about mental health and authenticity. Achea uses her own life experience and mental health disorder to help women find their voice and let it out—and most importantly, to let women and girls who are suffering, struggling and stressed know that they are not alone. She is the author of Be Free. Be You, Authentic You: A Girl’s Guide to Growing Up Fearless and True and the upcoming The Precipice of Mental Health: Becoming Your Own Safe Space.
“My mental health struggles do not define me. Anxiety and depression are what I have, not who I am.”
I used to repeat this, and other affirmations, to myself daily.
In 2016, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) after experiencing episodes of depression and anxiety for nearly my whole life. Getting me to the therapist to hear that diagnosis was one of the hardest fetes I have ever faced. I was so ashamed of my depressive episodes, my anxiety, my eating disorder, that I constantly hid it from the world. From the outside, you would have thought I had it all – my husband is an NBA legend and former Olympian, and I grew up the daughter of a pastor.
“Charmed,” is what most people would call a life like this.
And yet…I struggled. I struggled with overcoming my traumas. I struggled with even acknowledging they were traumas. In those days, all I wanted to do was push those experiences deep down, bury them in the dirt, and move on. I didn’t know that those traumas were incapable of staying buried, that there would be times in my life where they would resurface, and until I had therapy and tools to handle them, I would be digging holes instead of filling them in forever.
I was a people pleaser. In conversations, I’d rehearse what I would say in my head, analyzing and overanalyzing so I didn’t sound “stupid.” Then, when it was over, I’d rehearse the entire interaction against, trying to figure out what I could have said differently. These ruminations would take over and my thoughts would run rampant. I overanalyzed how other people should perceive me. I was focused on controlling my speech, my tone, my vocals, my words, everything so that no one would know how anxious, scared, or silly I felt. I tried to stay upbeat, to please everyone else even though I was dying of uncomfortability on the inside.
I was trying to fit in, like we all do, but I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. When you are used to being depressed or having anxiety, you forget what life is supposed to be like. You forget that you are allowed to show up and be your authentic self. You don’t have to change for the people around you.
That day in 2016, when I finally took the step to start therapy, was an incredibly pivotal moment in my life. I started to learn the tools, I started to talk about my past, my hurts, my heartaches. And you know what happened? They popped up less and less. I started to get more days under my belt where I didn’t even think about them.
Healing isn’t linear, as they say. It’s filled with ups and downs, wrong turns, right turns that went left instead, and running out of gas. But if you keep showing up each day, putting one small baby step in front of the next, eventually you get to a place of real healing.
In the past six years, I have created a blog where I shared my feelings on mental health and authenticity, and I wrote three books hoping to empower others on their journey. My newest one, The Precipice of Mental Health, comes out May 3, 2022. This book, this labor of love if you will, centers around healing. It is written for the individual who is struggling with their mental health and the family or friends who are trying to support them. I share my ups and downs with my own traumas and healing journey, as well as tools to help you overcome whatever you are going through.
You are not your mental health. You are not alone. You can heal. It just takes one small step.
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