I've always admired Bess Ophelia for her story-telling and ability to express complex emotions through short-form film. (If you haven't seen her work, you're going to love this: 'still.' - but more than anything I have found an immense amount of value in her advice series. About a year ago, when I first found this series, I had a unsympathetic person in my life who failed to recognize that what I was going through could not simply be turned off. Each day, I'd be told to, "man up" or "just stop thinking that way." Like anyone who has ever suffered knows, it is a lot more difficult than just shaking it off. So when I found Bess, who related to what I was going through and provided advice that I could relate to, it made an incredible impact on my life. And so, as I am just starting this website, I thought it would be a great idea to share Bess' story with others, in hopes that they too can learn from her and improve their lives.
What I took away from the interview with Bess, was the incredible impact sharing your personal mental health story can have. This ridiculous stigma that still exists in our world around mental health must go. Because YouTubers, like dodie, were brave enough to get on camera and share their story, it has empowered Bess to share her own. And in turn, Bess' story has helped me. So if you are struggling, please share your story. You might just change someone's life for the better.
1. When did you start your YouTube channel? What inspired you to create videos?
Bess: I started making videos when I was about 13 or 14, just random vlogs - I’ve deleted most of them because they’re extremely embarrassing. But I remember loving Meekakitty, the Vlogbrothers, and Nanalew; channels that could talk about the complexities of creativity and life in very simple, meaningful, and artistic ways. I liked videos that touched on ideas that I had always thought about but maybe never vocalized.
2. How has YouTube helped you learn more about yourself?
Bess: First and foremost, its been a creative outlet to try anything I want, especially when I was beginning to enter film school and I felt really pressured to create AMAZING or near perfect content in order to be competitive with my peers. On YouTube, I could just be silly and real and play with whatever idea I was interested in at the time. In addition to that, I saw a lot of people evolve mentally and emotionally on their channels. They moved away from clickbait content and they began talking openly about things like depression, anxiety, why growing up feels so difficult, or what they wish younger generations knew so they would feel less trapped and alone. That kind of content was important to me because it resonated with what I was going through at the time and felt like a much more meaningful dialogue to contribute to.
3. You're an exceptional storyteller. What is your process for creating a storyline?
Bess: It all comes together in editing, honestly. Sometimes I just set up a camera, record what I can, and form a coherent product out of that. People always tell me that I’m extremely good at verbalizing these complex ideas in a cohesive way and I’m just like “…really?” haha. But if it helps people, then I guess I’m doing something right.
4. Who are your inspirations on YouTube? How have these channels helped you better understand your mental health journey?
Bess: I love doddlevloggle and Tessa Violet. They are now friends and make videos about their personal struggles with art and mental health, something I can very much relate to as I also put my identity into what I make sometimes. Before I had entered into therapy, they were talking about all of these things that I had swirling around in my head that just felt insurmountable, and I felt less like there was no hope for me. Seeing other people create this open and honest dialogue where there is no shame, there is no stigma, has helped me be more verbal about mental health on and offline.
5. What is the most important piece of advice you'd share with someone who is struggling?
Bess: Talk about it. Put whatever you are feeling into words, whether that be through journaling or actually telling someone what’s going on. Verbalizing negative feelings takes their power away, at least for me.
Also, don’t be scared of going to talk to a professional. They can usually put your feelings into words, even if you can’t. And having someone else reaffirm that what you’re experiencing is valid feels so, so good.