Featuring HER (Women & MHA): Jabi Sibiya
Twenty-eight-year-old Jabi Sibiya relates her journey of mental health advocacy, six-part Wellness series, and using her digital platforms to promote the necessity of self-care.
Mental Health Advocacy
What inspired your journey with mental health advocacy? Did your advocacy for mental health stem from personal experiences or personal interests and if yes, how?
Mental health advocacy came from my personal experience with mental health in the past three years. I was struggling with depression in private most of my life because I did not know that it was called ‘depression’.
All I knew was that I felt awful all the time and because I did not know why and I couldn’t tell anyone about it. I purely thought I was moody. And then it got so much worse. I grew more indifferent every day and then I couldn’t have a conversation without crying.
My mother then suggested that I should find a psychologist and I started seeing her every three weeks or so since March 2019. She taught me most of what I know about mental health now. Then I started doing my own research and I just couldn’t believe that so many struggled with it.
I decided that I’m going to start advocating for it because most people think that it’s something that people make up or that it exclusively happens to other races and they have no idea how to treat it or how to assist people who suffer from it.
What does being a “Self-Care Mentor” mean to you and in what ways do you aim to encourage and advocate self-care to your audience?
Being a self-care mentor means being a listener and providing helpful tools to get someone to start prioritizing themselves and their mental health. I think what made my mental health journey hard is that it seemed as if I couldn’t stop putting others before me and carrying that self-imposed responsibility became such an invisible burden to me.
The aim of my personal social media posts and stories is to help shed light on the importance of taking care of oneself because the distractions are just so destructive. We need to lower the intake of unhealthy habits and prioritise a healthy routine of self-care.
I also co-founded Blossom & Zeal book club, where we focus on books aimed at inspiring growth, self-love and building healthy habits, personally and in business.
Photos: (Instagram) @itsjabi and @blossomandzeal_bookclub
Why did you believe it was necessary to create your Wellness series? Why did you opt for a six-part series and what are the topics you cover?
My wellness series was inspired by a really rough time I had gone through earlier this year. I was drained all the time and even getting out of bed was a mission! And only when I was able to put in some basic habits, I realised that I needed to apply crucial changes in my life to make things better. It was largely inspired by the book, ‘The Power of Habits’ by Charles Duhigg.
I think that people generally don’t take your advice about something if you haven’t gone through it yourself. The Wellness Series was created as a ‘mental health blueprint’ that I used to gain a sense of control in my mental health journey.
My hope is that it will work for someone who is starting from the bottom in their journey and wants a practical way to simplify their lives and to radically start over. It’s built to help someone focus on themselves and re-evaluate things they used to deem important but is actually trivial to their existence. Upon completion, the aim is to feel unburdened and relieved.
Self-actualization is really important to me so I decided to start with that. I think if you are depressed, it’s hard for you to find something to be happy about so I knew that I had to focus on long term goals – it gave me something to focus on every day. In this case, it was completing a six-part series on wellness and when it was done, I realised that my dedication had rolled over in other parts of my life!
Managing social circles – This task is about reassessing friendships and people whose opinions matter to you. By cutting down the number of opinions, you get to focus on your own goals and have better time management. This includes the amount of time spent on social media and the type of accounts you follow.
Self-forgiveness – This lesson is about taking responsibility for the decisions you’ve made that led to your detriment. If we constantly blame others for everything they did wrong in our lives but never point the finger at ourselves for the role we played (if there was one), we will stop living our lives waiting for someone else to come and fix us.
Changing – Measuring myself to goals I had 10 years ago was draining me. The goal of this video was to talk about how important it is to create NEW goals for your life NOW. We also need to ignore the people who still use the ‘old us’ to define the ‘current us’.
Imposter syndrome – I’ve always thought that I did not belong, which made me miss out on a lot of things that I should have gone for! Acknowledging it is the best because that allows you to work through that, rather than actually feeling like you don’t belong or your ideas are not valid.
The Habit Loop – Understanding this concept helped me rewire all my bad habits. I desperately wanted to know why I do certain things that I felt like I couldn’t change. It helped me change my routine so that I can get to the rewards I wanted.
Photo: (Instagram) @itsjabi
Being a digital creator
As a digital creator and YouTuber in South Africa, do you believe more digital creators are using their platforms to discuss topics about mental health and mental health challenges? Why was it important for you to integrate wellness, self-care and mental health into your platform?
Yes! I think that more people are starting to share about mental health. I started seeing creators talk about therapy and seeking help to deal with lingering bad thoughts and they would share their experiences as open as they could on their platforms.
When I lost joy in the things I used to love, like YouTube and what I was studying at the time and eventually got help for my anxiety and depression, I knew that I had to share as much about my experience as I possibly could. I also realised that my friends did not know how to handle my depressed state and would ask me why I did not know why I felt sad all the time, and that meant that I had to tell my story over and over. YouTube is a great way of doing it once.
In what ways has utilizing your online platform and sharing your experiences helped you to express and manage your personal mental health challenges?
I’ve come such a long way! I’ve also met the most awesome of human beings - all advocating for and sharing ideas to improve the conversation around mental health. It has also opened the door for people I don’t know to talk to me about their mental health, their inner struggles and pain that they can’t afford to show the world.
This has shown me that people just need safety for their hearts and a quiet place to catch their breath. And that’s where self-care comes in. It’s a way to stop ignoring yourself and take actual time and use actual actions to refuel so that you can face the world again. It’s definitely helped me be more open about it to my family – this was a new thing for them. I’m also able to share communication skills when engaging with family members based on my own experience.
What have you found to be the most challenging part of sharing your experiences online? And what have you found to be the most rewarding part of sharing your experiences online?
I’m 100% an introvert and I like to keep to myself so I find it hard to share my bad experiences, but I also love to create so it’s definitely a weird balance to maintain! And it’s also tricky that my audience is mostly made up of people who did not know that I secretly battled depression. I’ve also realised that the need for mental health practices has never been this urgent!
There’s a lot of people who are hurting and they can’t be open with their social circles about it – that’s a tragedy! The reward is that by sharing online, we make the conversation around mental health more mainstream so that people can see that they are not outcasts. I’ve also loved meeting new people with fascinating stories and I’m grateful for their contributions to my mental health through their experiences and discoveries.
Photos: (Youtube) On the GOOD SIDE
What does ‘self-forgiveness’ mean to you and why was this topic in particular important for you to acknowledge? In what ways do you practise self-forgiveness and what message do you aim to convey to your audience?
Self-forgiveness is mainly about regaining control over a part of your life that you willingly gave to someone else who is either no longer in your life/still there but dormant. It was important for me to talk about self-forgiveness because it came from running out of people to blame for why my life was the way it was.
I had placed so many people before me and went on a rampage to point out their faults in creating the pain I had and afterwards I still felt hurt. Then I realized that I hadn’t pointed the finger at myself for allowing certain things, wasting time on certain people and also those moments when I did not choose myself or exactly acted on my self-worth. So I knew that I had to share that because it made the biggest difference in recovering my mental health. I now practice it by owning up to my actions, making better choices & not waiting around for people to decide what my worth is.
The message in that video was to let someone see that they should stop waiting for closure or an apology and instead forgive themselves for a horrible event in their life that they had a bit of control/participation in.
What plans do you have for expanding your mental health, self-care and wellness topics on your platform, if any?
The next step in my wellness journey is definitely creating more awareness in the mental health space in South Africa for women. We fill so many roles and I’ve realised that if you neglect yourself as a woman, it affects your potential. Women need to rely on their strength and that begins with self-care.
I’m currently creating practical tools like self-care worksheets, e-books and journals. I would also love to create space for people to engage in a healthy manner with peers that will help them feel less alone/isolated.
Photo: (Instagram) @itsjabi
Advice from Jabi
"People need as many perspectives as possible so each person telling their side of the story can only be good because we’re different and we’ve had different experiences. We need to learn as much as we can so more people will only improve the conversation around mental health and that’s a step in the right direction!" - Jabi Sibaya.
fOLLOW AND sUPPORT jabi:
Book Club: @blossomandzeal_bookclub
Youtube: On the GOOD SIDE