Let your behavior decide your feelings — I had a great therapist who taught me that I could change how I feel by acting a different way. Even choosing to laugh out loud at nothing, or smile, changes the physical make up of your body. So on the days where I was feeling too low to do anything, I would commit to doing just one small thing, that went against how I felt. Sometimes just doing something was enough of win.
As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Tessa Hull.
Tessa Hull is a Success Coach and Business Strategist, helping burnt out business owners step into their own weird and wonderfulness to make more money and enjoy their work again.
She is a graduate of the University of Sheffield, with more than ten years in leadership and sales roles, recently working alongside high end brands including LVMH, Breitling, Hublot and LeVian. She now runs her own coaching business, Messy and Successy, and is passionate about helping others find their own working style, embracing individuality and destigmatising mental health.
She is based in Sicily, where she stays for the cheese and good coffee, but occasionally returns to her hometown of Manchester, UK where she stays for the cheese and good tea.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
Absolutely! I was born in London in the UK and grew up in the North of England with my two younger brothers. I had a pretty uneventful and privileged upbringing until my mother had a brain haemorrhage when I was just 16 years old, which was when I took my first hit to my mental health! I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Bachelors in Medical Science, but redirected my career into hospitality and sales, before starting my own business Messy and Successy.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?
I set up my coaching business Messy and Successy with the aim of empowering others to embrace their own individuality, experiences and working style, no matter how “unconventional” or “messy” they might feel. I want to spread the message that mental health issues may shape you but they never define you, and that we should be speaking as freely about them as we do our physical health or everyday feelings!
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
I spent so much of my twenties bouncing around jobs, feeling like I didn’t belong, and not fitting in — essentially feeling like I was just wasting my time, my potential and my life. That feeling of failure got to be so overwhelming that I attempted to take my own life, on more than one occasion. Now, I am working hard to both coach and support others who are struggling to be themselves in life or in business, and to destigmatize mental health. I am living proof that you can have mental health issues and still be successful, and that’s where my business name came from…I want to let people know that they can be both Messy and Successy.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
Four years, ago I was sat on my father’s sofa, crying into a cup of tea because once again I was “back here” in this place of hopelessness. I had a great job, that I was very good at. I had wonderful friends and family. I had a home. I had money. I had everything I needed “on paper” and yet I was still feeling miserable and like I would never truly ever feel “normal”.
It was then that I truly stepped into the world of self-development. I was always feeling like I had dark thoughts for no reason, but rarely so bad that I wanted to see a medical professional. Self development gave me the tools I needed to take more control of my feelings, which made me realise I can live alongside my depression, instead of trying to hide that part of me. It was from that moment that I became determined to show others that they can also choose to live alongside their issues, instead of hiding them. After all, they are a part of you. Just not all of you.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I was lucky enough to be noticed by Selena Soo, a New York publicity and media strategist, who loved my mental health message so much that I won a competition to travel to New York and meet her. Covid has put pause to that at the moment, but through this I have been connected to so many fantastic business owners and entrepreneurs who are all on a mission to change the world with their message.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
The first person that comes to mind is my Dad. He has stood by me through my darkest moments and my most hopeless moods, with a firm resilience that I will come through it. It cannot be easy to be a father listening to his child say that she had no reason to live, and yet he never lost his temper with me. He left the house at 1am in the morning when I called sobbing, asking him to pick me up from a train station without any explanation. He has answered the phone and listened when I have been too upset to make sense. He has taken me to doctors’ appointments, given me space to grow, and has been a solid presence throughout all of my ups and downs. His unwavering patience is without a doubt a reason I am so passionate about ensuring others receive support too.
According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
I think that people remain scared of being branded “crazy” if they admit to having mental health issues. After all, it really isn’t so long ago that people were hospitalized for the strangest of reasons, and treated with methods that are outlawed now. Words used to describe those with mental health issues are often derogatory, and often individuals with mental health issues are portrayed in the media as dangerous or violent, whether fictional or real.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
My number one tip would be to listen, and accept that you may not understand. Someone else’s mental illness does not need to make sense to you — in fact, sometimes it is unlikely it makes sense to them. Dismissing the feelings of someone with mental health issues is a sure fire way to make them feel even more isolated. Have real conversations, ask real questions, and listen without judgement.
As for the government, better mental health support within the health service before emergency level would reduce the number of people struggling to speak up until it becomes “too late”. Education, in schools and in businesses, to help improve knowledge of mental health issues, to reduce the stigma, and to implement measures to support those struggling would also help. Simply put, if you open up communication about mental health, good or bad, you allow those having issues the space to seek help.
What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Self care — I know that my mental health is more important than anything else. I cannot pour from an empty cup, so I ensure I have enough sleep, I drink enough water, and I set aside time to do things that I enjoy.
- Boundaries — it really helps to understand where my limits are. Setting boundaries such as how much time I spend with people who make me feel bad, or how much energy I spend on things I don’t enjoy, allows me to manage my own behavior in a way that benefits my health
- Exercise — moving my body helps me in many ways. The hormone and energy boost I receive is one, but also, exercise encourages me to stay healthy, to take pride in my body and my strength, and at my most depressive point was the only reason I would take a shower!!
- Know who your people are — I have what I call my 2am friends. The ones who I know I could call at 2am, and they would answer. When I feel my mental health starting to slip, I talk to them.
- Accept the bad days — I learnt very early on in my mental health journey that trying to fight against my mood all the time was exhausting and tended to make things worse. So instead, I learnt to accept that sometimes, I will have bad days. The key is to make sure a bad day doesn’t lead to a a bad week because you beat yourself up over it.
- Let your behavior decide your feelings — I had a great therapist who taught me that I could change how I feel by acting a different way. Even choosing to laugh out loud at nothing, or smile, changes the physical make up of your body. So on the days where I was feeling too low to do anything, I would commit to doing just one small thing, that went against how I felt. Sometimes just doing something was enough of win.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
There are many great people I follow on Instagram, but one who stands out for me is Hannah Blum (@hannahdblum) who draws beautiful artwork and works hard as a mental health advocate.
The book “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig is wonderful, and he is fantastic for speaking openly and honesty about mental health. I love the app “headspace” for helping stay mindful and grounded and there are too many podcasts to list!
If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
In 2012 I was considering going home to end my life, while laid on my back in a yoga studio, in the dark, with tears rolling down my face. The stranger next to me reached over and squeezed my hand and said “I would like to see you here next week”. She is the only reason I survived that day.
Do not underestimate the power of letting someone know that you care.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me on Instagram at @messyandsuccessy or head to my website at www.messyandsuccessy.com
I would love to hear from you!!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!