Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York. Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time. Visit her at: www.sarahfader.com.
We decided to ask Sarah Fader 9 questions, here are her answers! 🙂
- Could you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?
Hi! I’m Sarah Fader and I am a single mom of 2 living in Portland, OR. I grew up in NYC my whole life, both in the Upper West Side of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
I have lived with mental health issues since I was a teenager. I had my first panic attack when I was 15 years old and I didn’t know what it was. It was terrifying! I thought I was going to die. At the time, I was attending a performing arts high school in New York City. It is actually known as the “FAME” high school from the classic 1980’s film!
I was a theater major and I put all of my anxiety and depression into acting. But I was still very ill. It wasn’t until I was 18 years old that I saw a psychiatrist and went on medication. It was after having debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, throwing up every day before I went to school because I couldn’t function, depression and suicidal thoughts, and untreated OCD. I finally thought, “this is what normal people feel like.”
- When did you start Stigma Fighters and why?
I started Stigma Fighters because I didn’t want anybody to feel the way that I felt: alone.
For many years I couldn’t talk about having anxiety or depression because I thought people would think I was a freak or crazy. I didn’t want anybody to experience those things. I came out of the closet, so to speak, in 2014 when I wrote my story about living with panic disorder on the Huffington Post. That is when people started reaching out to me and asking where they could share their stories. That’s why I decided to create a centralized space where people could talk about living with mental illness.
I wanted to create a place online where people could safely share their stories in 1000 words about living with mental illness.
- What were you doing before then?
Before starting Stigma Fighters I was always a writer and a blogger. I have been writing and blogging for over 10 years. Writing is like breathing to me and it will always be my passion.
I have been freelance writing for a variety of publications. I have been featured in The New York Times and on The front page of The Washington Post. I have written for The Atlantic, Psychology Today, Ravishly, and many more.
- Did you have any mentors along the way?
My mom is my biggest mentor. As a child/young adult I hated her editing my writing, but now I am so grateful to her because it landed me a great career. Thank you mom!
At first it’s hard to be edited, but a great editor can make your story go from black-and-white to technicolor. I’ve learned to appreciate some wonderful editors in my career, and I love working with people that are so talented that they make me look smarter than I actually am.
If you’re writer and you don’t like being edited you’re not alone. But remember that welcoming those edits can make you shine!
- What is the best advice you would give someone struggling with mental illness and wanting to write?
Living with mental illness is hard enough. Take some time and write what you feel. Your feelings are real because you feel them. It can be cathartic or freeing to share your experience about living with mental illness. You don’t know who you will help by revealing your story. You get to feel better and you were helping somebody else in your situation feel better. So share your truth.
- What were some of the biggest hurdles you faced starting your writing career and Stigma Fighters?
In the beginning, it was hard to get writing gigs because in order to get someone to hire you they have to know your work. So I wrote for free for a very long time. I wrote on my own blog as a way to express my feelings and I wrote guest posts for free on other people’s blogs. Eventually I networked and networked and started getting paid for writing, but for a long time it was extremely hard to break into the business.
Another thing that was tough was when I started Stigma Fighters, nobody knew what it was and I had trouble getting people to write for it. Thankfully I had some friends in the blogging community that wanted to share their stories about living with mental illness that were already open about it. But it was difficult to round people up in the beginning. I’m grateful that Stigma Fighters has become a community today and people want to share their stories on www.stigmafighters.com
- What is your favorite genre of fiction to read and why?
I like Young Adult fiction a lot. It is more gritty and real. That time of our lives is so intense and passionate. I relate to YA novels more than adult novels, in fact.
- What books, blogs and/or websites are you currently reading?
I am reading John Green’s, Turtles All the Way Down, which is about a teen with OCD.
One of my favorite bloggers and one of my best online friends is sarcastica.ca. JC Hannigan writes with passion, humor and truth.
- And finally, why are the arts, particularly writing, so important for people who have a mental illness?
Mental illness is riddled with complex emotions – confusion, intensity, anger, sadness and peace. Expressing the journey that we go through as people of mental illness through the arts can be freeing. The arts themselves are dramatic, and when you add mental illness it’s like an explosion.
If you enjoy Sarah’s work as much as we do, you can pick up her books here: https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Fader/e/B00QD4DS9W. And you can follow her on Twitter too!
By SM CADMAN/@SMCADMAN
Edited for clarity and conciseness by KJ Marshall/ @authorkjmarshall