We are your people. We stand with you.
Erin Casey- Founder & President
First and foremost, I believe that light is stronger than the dark. I also believe in the healing power of narrative and storytelling. As an individual living with mental illness, and as an advocate for access to quality care and improved patient/provider relationships, these passions have launched me into spreading awareness about mental health, reducing stigma, and advocating for individuals, such as myself, who struggle to find their voice- both personally and in the institutions that surround us. Some of my favorite ways to do this are program development, public speaking, writing, working directly with people, and always learning more about human development, how communities operate, and interpersonal relationships. I received my M.A. in Healthcare Communication and Advocacy in the spring of 2016, where I was also a Graduate Assistant for the Valley Scholars program at James Madison University.
The mission of Where I Stand Inc. is to work for the prevention and intervention of mental illness through education, awareness and hope. We do this through different means and channels, but currently most of our work is though through elevating the narratives of mental illness in a society that attempts to stifle, control, rewrite, or silence them.
Our stories are not damaged, broken, or impossible. They are brave.
MOLLY HILLERY – editor & Content manager, BLOGGER & ADVOCATE
Current City: Iowa City, Iowa
Topics: Depression & Anxiety, Self-harm, Trauma & PTSD, Eating disorders, Addiction
I felt loved throughout my childhood, but still seemed to consistently struggle through life. I was too sensitive, too perfectionist, and too concerned with what other people thought of me. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety as an adolescent and used self-harm to cope with the overwhelming thoughts and emotions that I felt constantly. I was sexually assaulted in high school and became addicted to drugs and alcohol soon after. When I entered college, I was still dealing with a lot of residual trauma and ended up entering treatment for substance abuse when I was 20 years old. I graduated college two years later, happy and healthy, with a degree in Elementary Education.
I had a difficult time coping with the transition to “the real world,” and the lack of structure in my schedule. The safety of being a student was over and in one year I had graduated, moved in with my boyfriend, became financially independent, and landed my first salary-paid teaching job. The pressure I put on myself was tremendous- I worked constantly and wouldn’t let myself relax. The changes, combined with dealing with PTSD as a sober person proved too difficult for me to cope with alone, and I was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 22. I was in and out of treatment in several different states for several years in order to manage my symptoms. I hit my lowest point in my journey when I attempted suicide and nearly lost my life at the age of 24.
Today I am proud to say that I have hope. I teach preschool, am married to a wonderful man, and am a proud Mom to an american bulldog/pitbull mix named Pearl. Recovery has never been a straight line for me, and I practice vulnerability by sharing that in my writing for Where I Stand.
Why Where I Stand? My entire life, I have wanted to be a good example for others. As a natural leader, I thought that being a “good example” meant having a seemingly perfect life. I thought if I could look good, achieve more, and do it all with a smile on my face, that I was succeeding in life. Through my struggles I have learned that setting a good example for others is not pretending to have it all together, rather it is speaking honestly about where I am in the present moment. I’ve been in recovery, relapse, and every stage in between. I have a passion for writing, and using my voice to put words to my struggle has brought so much joy to my life. To me, it makes the struggle all worth it. I believe we all have something important to say, and the braver we are, the more rewards we reap from it in the end.
Molly’s Interests: I basically spend my free time writing, both for Where I Stand and other blogs. I love to engage in anything crafty or art-oriented. I’m obsessed with animals and love taking my dog Pearl on long walks. My husband and I are Netflix addicts! (I have TONS of recommendations if you ever need them!)
JESSICA ROSS- COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR, BLOGGER & ADVOCATE
Current City: Long Island, New York
Topics: Eating Disorders, Depression & Anxiety, OCD, Recovery Topics
Born and raised on Long Island, New York, I have been beyond fortunate to live the wonderful, (though at times, stressful and scary), beautiful life that I have. Regardless of the fact that a big chunk of my childhood was spent feeling unloved and unseen in the eyes of a parent, I look back on the sad memories with nothing more than sympathy and understanding for both my younger self and my father as well. It has taken four years of therapy to be able to finally get to this place, but I am finally here and for the first time in my life I can honestly say that what happened wasn’t fair, but I am okay. Being okay in itself is the greatest feeling for someone who has spent years in a whirlwind of depression and an eating disorder.
For the past 12 years, I have both silently and outwardly struggled with mental illness. I am currently 24 years old and though I am still struggling, I am passionate about becoming the kind of person I admire; the kind of person that gives to others and lends out a helping hand to those in need. I am excited to allow myself the freedom to be myself and I am hopeful for my future. This summer I am going back to school to study psychology so that I can help others who also struggle with mental illness.
Why Where I Stand? Simply because Where I Stand has always been a place where I find comfort in the words of others who relate to me. Writing is my favorite outlet and always has been. I hope I can help even just one person- just as so many others have helped me.
DAWN BLAIN- LIFELINES PROGRAM MANAGER, Blogger & Advocate
Current City: Tillamook, Oregon
Topics: Eating Disorders, Body Image, Addiction, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Recovery Topics
I grew up on the beach of Southern California with two younger siblings. My parents loved us and did everything they could for us, but there were problems on the horizon, and it was felt in the home. At a young age, I developed a love for dance- the only problem was that I was much bigger than the other dancers. That was the beginning of my disease. It started with restricting my food intake and later turned into bulimia. I had such an unhealthy relationship with food that my eating disorder just became a way of life. I was depressed and constantly anxious; I would pray that I would just go to sleep and never wake up. As a teenager my mother looked for help for me but at that point I was afraid to say what really was going on and I was a master of disguises- No one really ever knew how sick I truly was.This went on for years, and along the way I picked up other destructive behaviors. I became an addict and alcoholic in my thirties and lost everything: I was going through a divorce and was only allowed to see my younger children on the weekends and holidays. I had given up and felt as if I couldn’t fight anymore. In January of 2011, my stepsister died due to complications with her eating disorder and addictions. This sent me further on a path of destruction and by the end I had isolated myself completely. One day I woke up and decided that I had had enough- I needed help. Today I am here to share my story of recovery and to let others know that I have been there, and that there is hope.
Why Where I Stand? Together we are strong. Where I Stand has brought me so much comfort- Knowing that there are others like me out there has helped my recovery and now I want to help others who may be feeling lost and alone. Our stories are powerful and inspiring- We should be proud of who we are, because we are enough. Society needs to be educated about mental health. These diseases need to be talked about and not ignored, and there shouldn’t be guilt and shame associated with them. We should be able to talk about them freely without the negative stigma; I am passionate about spreading hope and being a voice for us.
Dawn’s Interests: I love to paint, draw, and be artsy. I love to dance my heart out when no one is looking. I love the smell and sounds of the ocean. I love music. I love to write and learn. I love my children. I am currently living in Oregon with my boyfriend Shane and doing volunteer work and art to pass my time. I am hoping to go back to school at some point to finish working on my degree in Social Services Mental Health.
KRISTY CLOETINGH – BLOGGER & ADVOCATE
Current City: New York, New York
Topics: Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorders, Recovery Topics, Coping Strategies
I was born and raised in a small suburb outside of Philadelphia and was lucky enough to have a privileged life, where I felt supported and loved. Throughout my entire life I have been a perfectionist, and though I prided myself on “not caring what other people thought,” in the back of my mind I guess it really did matter. As I got older, my anxious personality and perfectionism persisted. I was overworked and tired but driven by this undeniable force to go go go. When I studied abroad in London my junior year of college, it all snowballed into an eating disorder that would soon take over my life.
I was fortunate enough to have people around me who were supportive. Soon after my return to the United States, I started seeing a therapist, and a few months later entered residential treatment for my eating disorder. I cycled through all of the treatment levels, some multiple times, and fought my way tooth and nail to where I am now–very very close to being totally recovered. And I will not stop until I get there.
Why Where I Stand? Mental illness is so misunderstood in society, especially eating disorders, that it has become somewhat of a joke. I want to be able to reach out to those who are suffering from mental illness and reassure them that what they are experiencing is very real, and that they are not alone in this fight against their own minds. I want to be the voice that tells them to keep going and keep fighting, and be the one to reassure them that it does, in fact, get better.
Kristy’s Interests: Crocheting, coloring, dancing, singing, kickboxing, writing, snuggle sessions, baby animals and baking!
DENISE ANN – blogger & advocate
I am blessed. Born in 1974 in Trumbull, Connecticut to a mother who retired from teaching to raise her children and a father who was an electrical engineer, I was constantly surrounded with love and affection from both my parents, as well as my older brother. My childhood and teenage years were filled with memories of spending time with my family. I loved going to dance class, playing catch, going for walks, and exploring the woods behind my house. I loved baking with my mother, going over to my Gramma and Grampa’s house and watching Wheel of Fortune, and reading comic books with my brother. I was, and am, loved.
Later, I attended the University of Connecticut and graduated in 1997 with a Bachelors and Masters degree in Elementary Education- I then embarked on a meaningful career as a teacher and reading specialist. Upon graduating, I met a man who I entrusted with my love and my dreams. Several years later, we married and everything changed; that’s when my eating disorder surfaced, as well as the anxiety. After years of not fitting in at school because I always looked different, I was desperate for his acceptance. In order to fit his mold of the perfect wife, I lost my “self,” my self-worth, my identity, my spirit…I lost friends and distanced myself from everyone and everything I cared about. I did not fight his ideal or his demands- I just wanted his love. For years I believed he loved me and that I loved him; friends and family thought the same. 8 years later, I ended the marriage…I had to. My eating disorder and anxiety had flourished alongside his eating disorder. I had to leave because my life depended on it. It was my only chance of achieving recovery that constantly eluded me.
Today I see myself as a strong, independent woman who is on a journey…to live the life I deserve: A life that is filled with meaningful relationships, unconditional love, self-acceptance, and recovery.
Why Where I Stand? While in my marriage, my eating disorder and anxiety were hidden. After all, what perfect wife had anxiety? This led me to feel as though I was damaged and crazy. It took therapy and education for me to learn that mental illness is not a choice and it is no different from someone who suffers from a physical illness. I have found it liberating to share my journey and struggles. As I talk freely, I boost my chances of recovery. When I speak to others, I help them. I educate, I inform, and I help erase a stigma that exists towards mental illness. The stigmas associated with eating disorders and other mental illnesses occur because people are misinformed, ignorant, and in need of truth and knowledge. There is no better way to do this then to share my journey first-hand, so that people can see that I am no different from them and they are no different from me. Anyone– the man sitting next to them, their sister, their friend, or their mother, might be faced with the same struggle and the same experiences. Speaking about mental health allows me to play an integral part in reducing misconceptions, prejudices, and helps those who face similar challenges to feel less shame and less lonely. For me, being a part of Where I Stand represents hope: The hope that people will understand mental illness and recognize that people who have a mental illness are individuals; the hope that people will no longer be defined by their illnesses; the hope that with raised awareness they will see there is nothing to fear, and most of all, for them to see how they can love and support their friends and family. Where I Stand represents hope for my future, for me, and for all of us.
Denise’s Interests: I love to create things in order to find out who I really am. I love surprising myself with what I can do by painting, reading, spending time with friends and family, working as a literacy coach, coloring, being an aunt, and decorating pottery.
LIZZIE E. – BLOGGER & ADVOCATE
Topics: Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorders, PTSD, Trauma, Abuse, Recovery Topics, Coping Strategies
I was born and raised in Virginia. Though I came from a privileged, loving family, I also learned many of life’s difficult lessons from a very young age. These circumstances gave me a huge heart for those who struggle with abuse, addiction, and mental illness. I hope to use my experiences to someday help others. I graduated from the University of Virginia in 2011 with a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Ethics. After taking a few years off to focus on myself, I returned to graduate school in the fall of 2014 at Virginia Commonwealth University to study Social Work. I hope to one day be a therapist working with individuals suffering from mental illness.
Why Where I Stand? Stigma is perpetuated by silence. I have known far too many people who have suffered from mental illnesses without receiving help, primarily because they were embarrassed. The reality that individuals with psychological problems face such oppression from society is a tragedy. That’s why Where I Stand has inspired me so much, and why I am proud to be a part of it. Speaking up about mental illness is crucial in tearing down walls and creating change. Mental illnesses are diseases; they are very real, and nothing to be ashamed of.
Lizzie’s Interests: Writing, shopping, hearing about other people, mental health issues, games, and playing with her puppy, Sophie.
Brittany foster- Blogger & Advocate
Current City: Cranston, Rhode Island
Topics: Eating Disorders, Trauma and PTSD, Anxiety, Body Image, Chronic Health Conditions
I was born and raised in Cranston, Rhode Island. From birth I faced many health scares and difficulties. I was born with an assortment of chronic health conditions including congenital heart disease and Currarino Triad Syndrome, which has had some affect on my lower back and spine as well as my reproductive system and led to infertility at age 18. Growing up, I never let these conditions get in the way of my daily life. I pushed through surgeries, tests, and procedures. To the outside world I was “handling it very well.” Although I appeared to have it all together, nobody knew that I was pushing myself past the point of exhaustion and fighting a constant battle of reliving traumatic hospital experiences and going through intense emotional stress.
My attempts at controlling my health and dedicating myself to living a healthy lifestyle (in an effort to rid myself of my chronic conditions) led me to develop an eating disorder at age 17. What was portrayed as a “lifestyle change,” was actually an obsession with control. Until I entered treatment, I didn’t realize the severity of my illness. I didn’t realize how much space the negative thoughts and actions took up. In an attempt to control everything, I ironically had lost it all.
Recovery from trauma, an eating disorder, and figuring out how to truly live with health conditions is not an easy task. At the end of the day, it’s always going to be work and is always going to take patience. Recovery will always demand your best effort. Today I am five years into recovery from my eating disorder, have accepted the fact that my chronic conditions aren’t going anywhere, and have been learning to adjust my lifestyle in order to truly feel like I’m living my life (despite obstacles that come along with health conditions). I listen to my body, EVEN on the days when I hate it and to me, that is a HUGE WIN.
Why Where I Stand? I have found that through each struggle I have faced, the biggest help is hearing about others who have gone through something similar. It is rare to have people be open about mental illness because there is still so much stigma around these topics. Where I Stand is a community of individuals who have gone through similar struggles and know first-hand what it is like. Having that connection with someone makes all the difference. The truth is, we NEED to talk about it. We NEED to make people realize that it’s okay to be honest about feelings and emotions. Being vulnerable is extremely difficult, but it is also very freeing.
Hannah hensel- BLOGGER & ADVOCATE
Topics: Anxiety, Depression, Psychosis, Eating Disorders, Trauma, Recovery Topics, Coping Strategies, Spirituality, Addiction
I was raised in a small town in North Carolina with my older brother. We had a nice, privileged upbringing, but it turned into poverty and struggle as soon as I was just old enough to understand these things. My struggle with mental illness, trauma, and my eating disorder has been long and difficult, but through it I have learned so much about my values, my personality, and the world around me. Right now, I’m focused on my recovery and learning new things while living with my dog Pansy. I hope to become an author, social worker, and public speaker in the future.
Why Where I Stand? I happened upon Where I Stand on Facebook, and had heard about it previously through friends. I was looking through the posts and decided to take a chance to put my own voice towards such a positive movement. There are too many people that don’t have a voice or the opportunity to find recovery-focused content to relate to in their own struggles on the internet. Where I Stand is the type of place where hope and education are allowed to grow outside of shame and stigmas, and I can get behind that.
Hannah’s Interests: Painting, soft blankets, learning new things, reading, listening to music (and writing it), writing in general, and snuggling with my puppy, Pansy.
Charlotte S.- BLOGGER & ADVOCATE
Current City: Troy, Michigan
Topics: Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorders, OCD, Health Anxiety/Hypochondria, Psychotherapy, Addiction, Social Justice, Advocacy, Faith and Mental Illness, Complex PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder
I am a Michigander born and raised, and while I grew up in an upper-middle class “white picket fence” environment, there was a lot bubbling beneath the surface, and I didn’t know until decades later. I developed an eating disorder at 13 and finally received treatment when I was 18. Until I took my Psychology 101 class at college, I had no idea that there was another realm beneath what can be seen. I knew then that I wanted to devote my life to understanding and helping others with mental illness. I have an undergraduate degree in psychology and biblical studies from Calvin College, an M.A. in clinical psychology from Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, and an M.S.W. from the University of Michigan. At my day job, I provide clinical and administrative services to a mental health nonprofit organization. I have always loved writing, and I want to share my story with people because it is healing for others, as well as myself.
Why Where I Stand? As soon as I interacted with this community, I got the warmest welcoming, and I knew I had found something special. Where I Stand is an inspiring community for people with all sorts of mental health challenges. In my life, the biggest barriers to self-worth and vulnerability have been shame and silence. I love how Where I Stand works to combat that.
Charlotte’s Interests: Writing, her dog Cece, friends, family, warm weather, the beach, church
Megan saunders- BLOGGER & ADVOCATE
Current City: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Topics: Eating Disorders, Self-harm, Depression, Anxiety, Coping skills, Spirituality
As a young girl, my head was adorned in bouncy blonde curls, and my heart always opened to whatever creature crossed my path. During this era, I recall my dad taking the training wheels off of my bike. I fell, like we all do. He asked if I wanted to try again. I turned to him with determination in my spirit and said, “Dad, I’m not a giver-uper.” Somewhere along my journey from the little girl aforementioned to a teenager, life’s pain hit me like a block of lead. By the time I reached high school, I began to battle depression. To cope, I self-harmed and engaged in eating disorder behaviors. I always wanted to be, appear, and perform perfectly. When I began college, I completely spiraled out of control. For several years, I was in and out of inpatient and residential facilities more times than I’d ever care to number. I was hurting, and I didn’t know how to cope or move forward to live in a world full of such tremendous struggle. At several points, I seriously considered suicide. Looking back, I see where it is only by God’s grace that I’m alive today. If it weren’t for my treatment team, loved ones, and faith, I wouldn’t have found the life I now live, nor would I have learned to embrace the sensitive and tenacious aspects of myself. It’s not rainbows and butterflies, and I’m still not perfect, and that’s more than okay.
Why Where I Stand? Along my journey of recovery, I’ve met some truly beautiful souls. It absolutely breaks my heart when I hear the pain stigma has caused them, or that one of them has lost their life to a mental illness. For this, I’m passionate about alleviating this stigma that surrounds those who daily, with such courage, fight a mental illness. Even more so, I desire to honor those who have died fighting these demons by sharing my story and offering them hope. It is my earnest aspiration that in being vulnerable, I help one person. In helping someone, my struggles have all been worthwhile.
Megan’s Interests: When I’m not walking my precious terrier, Phoebe, you can find me writing or pursuing some other creative outlet. I am a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, studying Psychology and English. Most of the time, you can find me in a local coffee shop studying or reading. I love to read books about theology and mental health.
Callie henningsen- BLOGGER & ADVOCATE
Current City: Los Angeles, CA
Topics: Eating Disorders, Trauma, Self-Harm, Grief
Born Callie Grace in June 1991, I grew up on a little farm outside of Portland, Oregon, where I was raised with a mixture of hippie values and country music. From an early age, I remember internalizing stress from my environment over expressing it. As a result, I eventually seemed to be stuck in a permanent state of outer-calm. I am still not sure if this is one of my greatest strengths or one of my greatest weaknesses, but we usually find the greatest of both in the ways we survive. I all too quickly discovered solace in restricting my food intake. My eating disorder alluringly provided the promise of control and structure I so desperately ached for. As a result, most of my young adult life has been spent in and out of treatment centers; spending silent Thanksgivings with portioned-out potatoes, Christmas under makeshift trees, and ringing in each new year praying that the next one I would be out in the world wearing a sparkly dress and toasting to having made it to the other side.
While I have since learned there is no such dividing line, re-channeling the personality traits that (so to speak) fed my eating disorder was a breakthrough in my recovery. Today, I do my best to put my traits of perfectionism, endurance, and determination towards my experiences, ideas, and challenges. Life is happening, and I don’t want to miss any more of it. I believe some things happen for a reason, but there are a lot of things that don’t and we will never know why. Life is beautiful and awful and extraordinary and cruel and makes sense about half as often as it makes no sense at all. I want to do my best to believe I am capable and enough even if I am having a difficult time believing it.
Why Where I Stand? Now a graduate student studying Marriage & Family Therapy and Art Therapy, I am so grateful for the opportunity to creatively write– particularly for a mental health/recovery platform. I could not imagine a more inspiring team than Where I Stand with which to be blogger and advocate.
Callie’s Interests: Studying, painting, cursive, poetry, Frozen. Callie lives with her partner and their elderly dog, Morrie in Pasadena, California.