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Hello, friends! I’m so excited to be here continuing my Mental Health Mondays series. Today I’ll be interviewing Lily of Kale & Caramel, a beautiful blog that’s full of delicious recipes and equally alluring words.
A few words about the smoothie before we start – this recipe is a riff on the Tropikale smoothie from Robeck’s. Even though it’s made with kale and pineapple, it tastes just like a Granny Smith apple. Don’t ask me why, it just does! Plus, it’s super easy to make, and it’s probiotic too! I hope you love it :)
Welcome to Mental Health Mondays with Well and Full! This series is intended to be an open, honest, inclusive, and respectful dialogue about mental health from people of all walks of life. Thank you so much for sharing your experience in hopes to further the conversation about mental health.
Tell me a little about yourself!
I’m a writer and photographer living in Los Angeles, California. In 2012, I created Kale & Caramel, a digital home for nourishing, vibrant recipes for the table and for self-care, as well as for storytelling about the people and happenings that matter to me most. I care a lot about grief, community, loss, sex, and relationship. My first book, Kale & Caramel: Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table came out this year! It’s organized by herb and flower, charting the narrative arc of my experience caring for my mom through her illness and healing from the loss of her death.
So, where did you mental health journey start?
I can remember feeling different from a very young age: When I was in kindergarten I tried to kiss a boy named Timmy and he ran away from me screaming, ha! You can imagine the effect that has on a young psyche—it was hard not to internalize a belief that there was something inherently wrong with me. I coped by distancing myself from my peers, allying with adults, and telling myself I was better than everyone else; I wasn’t thinking in these terms as a five year old, of course, but these foundational beliefs die hard.
I grew up in a home steeped in New Age psychospiritual philosophy—my parents studied Buddhism and advaita vedanta, the non-dualistic school of Hindu thought, and yoga and meditation were ever-present. It wasn’t until college that I began to study meditation (and, by extension, my mind) more formally. This coincided with the first time I went to therapy, actually—I was super heartbroken after my first boyfriend broke up with me and got engaged to his previous girlfriend a couple weeks thereafter (he was much older than me, but that’s a story for another day!).
After college, I went to therapy again when my mom died (I was 24). At that point, I started to recognize the power of naming and listening to the various voices that coexist in my mind. This practice (which has its roots in Buddhist meditation and mindfulness, Gestalt therapy, and an approach called Family Systems Therapy) was incredibly liberating! Finally, I was able to recognize not only that not all my thoughts are true just because they exist, but that some of them aren’t even coming from me, per se. Being able to name an anxious thought as the voice of my father or mother or boss gave me so much more control in the struggle to subsequently change that thought.
Through the guidance of other teachers, this mindfulness is a practice that’s with me constantly, now. I’m always seeking to work with my mind as harmoniously and honestly as I’m able.
What do you think is something that most people don’t realize about mental health?
That mental health is a struggle we all face, moment to moment. At the end of the day (and of life!), it’s just us and our minds. It’s my responsibility to try to make my mind a hospitable place to hang out. And that means constant vigilance, honesty, and compassion.
What are some of the ways – conventional and holistic – that you work on your mental health?
Ask for help. Asking for help, and being open to actually receive it, radically changed my relationship to myself and my mind. It made me softer, easier on myself, and less anxious. If I feel like I have to do everything—figure everything out—alone, I’m much more prone to just give up.
For me, asking for help looks like:
– reaching out and talking to trusted therapists, mentors, and friends;
– being brutally honest with myself and the people I can trust—it’s terrifying but so liberating;
– speaking up when I feel alone and asking for company, a hand to hold, a friend to talk to;
– taking time to be kind to myself when I’m feeling low—taking baths, giving myself a foot massage, getting a massage, taking a walk somewhere beautiful, listening to music that makes me feel good, baking, reading, watching a show, being mellow;
– setting sustainable goals for myself to take action that will make me feel like I’ve gained momentum towards a better future.
Have you ever received or seen any stigma about mental health?
After my mother died, I felt a lot of pressure to “get better”, to miss her less, to move forward rather than back, in memory and heartache. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. People will speak to you in platitudes about grief, how it takes different forms, how it cycles through you at different times, but grief has no predictable timeline. And so, while time did make a difference, years did ease the pain, I wish people didn’t hold any expectation about what other people’s grieving processes should look like, or how long they should take.
Also! Experiencing grief shouldn’t be looked at as a condition to fix, or a symptom of depression. I’m a believer in feeling it all and seeking help when necessary. But a balanced state of mind is exactly that—a balance, meaning that there will be ups and downs. Happiness isn’t a realistic optimal state. I’m just trying to be present, be real, be sane through happiness, grief, and whatever else life throws at me.
Any final thoughts?
Remember that you’re not alone, as weird and lonely as you may feel. Speak about it. Write about it. Make a tumblr about it. I promise you there is a soul twin out there who feels just the same way.
Thank you, Lily!
A Kale Pineapple Smoothie
- 1 Cup Frozen Pineapple
- 1 Cup Chopped Kale
- 1/3 Cup Plain Yogurt
- 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
- 1/4 Cup Water
- In a blender, combine all ingredients until the smoothie is fully incorporated and creamy. Serve in glasses and enjoy!
If you make this smoothie, tag me on Instagram @wellandfull so I can see! I love seeing your takes on these recipes :)
Lily | Kale & CaramelDecember 11, 2017 at 2:04 pm
Thank you for having me, Sarah! Such a pleasure to talk about such a stigmatized subject—loved the depth and scope of your questions. Sending hugs!
SarahDecember 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm
Thank you so much for participating, Lily! <3
Abby @ Heart of a BakerDecember 12, 2017 at 9:27 am
I loved reading this! Lily is such an amazing woman, so this just shone through in this interview! xo
SarahDecember 12, 2017 at 9:59 am
I couldn’t agree more, Abby :)
Maya | Spice & SproutDecember 19, 2017 at 10:57 pm
Such a great read! I love that you’re doing this series, Sarah <3
SarahDecember 20, 2017 at 2:59 pm
Thank you so much for your note, Maya! And thank you for reading :)
VickiJanuary 1, 2019 at 9:58 am
I love this smoothie! Do you have any nutritional information on it?
SarahJanuary 1, 2019 at 6:12 pm
Hi Vicki, I’m so glad you liked this smoothie recipe! The total recipe has 204 calories with 7g of protein :)