Breaking The Chains Of Mental Health with Ashley Caballero
Born and raised and living and loving in Fort Worth, Texas. I am a single almost 26 year old who loves people.
I had a traditional yet awkward upbringing that led to my passion which is mental health awareness and encouraging people to remind them why their story is important.
I run a non profit organization called Sparkle Mental Health Connection and I'm working on writing my first book which is INSANE that I have even found the courage to do that.
I have been featured on multiple podcasts as well as had an article release about my story through Voyage Dallas.
I speak at women conferences, schools, and churches.
How did you get inspired to start doing what you do as an influencer in your industry?:
My first year college was a big question mark. I didn't know who I was, what I wanted, or what I was supposed to be doing. Then again, what 18 year old does?
I flunked out my first year and went home full of shame.
Growing up my parents were sick sick - so my main role in my home starting at the ago of 12 was being a caretaker.
My Dad took his life when I was 21 - chronic pain and mental health took him away from me.
I spiraled - flunked out of school AGAIN, moved out of my parents house to an apartment that I couldn't afford and was in a really really dark place for a good season.
One day, I woke up and decided no more. I posted a video of myself crying telling the story of my Dad and my family and posted it to Facebook.
I woke up the next morning with an overwhelming amount of messages and comments saying they needed to hear what I said.
It wasn't until I received a message from someone who I had met once at a Relay for Life event who messaged me saying;
"I thought I would be doing my kids a favor, I thought they would understand if I did it then I saw your video. I was going to kill myself last night but I didn't because of you"
That's when I called my mom and told her this wasn't just going to be a video. We were going to help people and we were going to be there for them.
That's what we have done in our little community and it's the biggest blessing in the world.
We often have a book, podcast, video, or event that stands out to us and is instrumental in shifting our perspective in business. Do you have one that has been a significant impact for you moving forward? If so, can you share?
Easy and probably really generic but it changed everything.
Brene Brown | The Power of Vulnerability on Youtube, minute 3:14 - 5:06
"So where I started was with connection. Because, by the time you're a social worker for 10 years, what you realize is that connection is why we're here. It's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.
This is what it's all about. It doesn't matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice, mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection is the ability to feel connected, is -- neurobiologically that's how we're wired - it's why we're here.
So, I though, you know what, I'm going to start with connection.
Well, you know that situation where you get an evaluation from your boss, and she tells you 37 things that you do really awesome, and one "opportunity for growth"? And all you can think about is that opportunity for growth, right?
Well, apparently this is the way my work went as well, because when you ask people about love, they tell you about heart break.
When you ask people about belonging, they'll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded.
And when you ask people about CONNECTION, the stories they told me we’re about disconnection.
So very quickly -- really about six weeks into this research -- I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection, in a way that I didn't understand or had ever seen. And so I pull back out of the research and thought I need to figure out what this is, and it turned out to be shame. And shame is really understood as the fear of disconnection : is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, that I won't be worth of connection?"
- Brene Brown
What are some of your biggest lessons learned over the years and what are you applying to your business today that is working for you?
Something we all struggle with as influencers and entrepreneurs is;
"how do I stay relevant?"
When I interviewed with Voyage magazine they asked me what my "art" was and I didn't know how to not put myself into a box.
My art is storytelling and the best part about this is, isn't every artist a storyteller?
For me, I wanted Sparkle to be relevant and "cool" but then it hit me - it needs to be honest and vulnerable, that's what people need, that's what they want.
At Sparkle Mental Health Connection it’s kind of our jam to encourage other to fight hopelessness with honesty. It's kind of my jam in my life to do the same.
What has been your biggest challenge and how have you worked to overcome it?
At 21,I lost my Dad in February of 2015.
At 22 I, with the help of my Mother launched Sparkle Mental Health Connection in May of 2016.
At 23 I attempted to take my life in August of 2016 - I threw myself into Sparkle and lost control of my health completely. That has been the most challenging thing that I have ever had to work through. I had to put my life as well as Sparkle's life on hold.
I was in the hospital for 8 days followed by being in outpatient for 6 weeks. I had to find a way to own it, to own all of that pain before it announced itself to the world that it owned me.
Therapy, lots of R&R, quality time with God and my family, lots of crying and even more writing. I'm still working on overcoming it - every.single.day.
Thankfully, this is the absolute healthiest I have ever been and it feels really good. With overcoming my the shame of my suicide attempt I still struggle with the idea that my voice matters sometimes because I know my story is just a drop in a bucket of a million other powerful comebacks.
I think that's the beauty of it though, i'm just me and if my organization and I can make a difference, why shouldn't anyone else be able to? Ya know?
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Speak your truth always no matter what - when you share your story you are giving others the freedom to share theirs.
What’s your best advice for handling criticism?
I think, unfortunately, we live in a society that has conditioned us to outweigh the good with the bad.
I'll be the first person to admit that I am an expert at that but someone is always going to have something to say no matter what.
I mean let me keep it real for a second, I was at Target last week getting TAMPONS and this lady looked at me and said, "this brand is way better, that one sucks. Do yourself a favor and get this one instead" with the meanest look on her face.
I absolutely recognize how important feminine health is but what she doesn't know is that I already tried those tampons and preferred the ones I had in my hand.
My point is, someone is always going to have an opinion about your work and YOUR calling - and sometimes that criticism is delivered through a kind colleague and sometimes it's delivered very sharply in a way that caused us to be so quickly offended.
My best advice for handling ANY KIND of criticism is definitely going to have to be
-- YOU DETERMINE HOW YOU REACT.
Take what others tell you and process it, you owe yourself that much. Maybe you are doing everything right but there is ALWAYS room for growth and more magic to be let in to your art.
What do you believe your true purpose is? What value and impact do you hope serve and give to others?
I hope that anyone I come in contact with is impacted in a positive way and leaves a conversation with me feeling fueled and loved always.
I believe that loving people and sharing my truth to give other the freedom to share theirs is my true purpose - whether it's in my personal self or in my Sparkle professional/personal self.
Every person you meet, every experience you have, every place you visit - they all show true purpose in your life and there's a reason for it all.
Do not be ignorant to the fact that each of us are built up of a million little things.
How do you structure your days?
I'm a personal assistant outside of running Sparkle Mental Health Connection, my days are structured around the gym, my job, finding time to write personally for myself, and followed by being intentional and keeping Sparkle breathing and spreading love and light.
It's honestly really difficult finding the proper balance in it all though, finding time to follow my dreams and set them in motion as well resting and taking care of myself.
Something that creates structure in my life and helps me get through each day is list making. As someone diagnosed with generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder I sometimes have days where I feel like I need to get everything done.
I often get so overwhelmed by that feeling that it causes me to lay in bed and not get anything accomplished at all!
I honestly think anyone with or without a mental illness can genuinely relate.
To battle the overwhelming over achiever in me - I do a few things.
Whiteboard : I have a whiteboard hanging up first thing when you walk into my room. Written on said board is a quote and honestly it's the same quote all of the time --->
" We don't have to do it all alone. We were never meant to" from none other than my girl Brene Brown.
Below the quote that reminds me to utilize my resources constantly is a list of things I need to and could get done. Everything starred is a priority and everything else is just something that should be done eventually.
My goal is to mark one thing off the list every day.
Calendar : Everyone has a calendar for sure but when you take advantage of using it for social media it is a massive asset to being productive. Scheduling posts to scheduling content creation days.
GRACE : This one is huge and honestly the most important thing I have learned about - you don't have to be productive to be worthy. Let me repeat that for the people in the back. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE PRODUCTIVE TO BE WORTHY! We get so lost in this idea that if you aren't doing something, you're falling. If you take a day to chill out with your dog and 'How I Met Your Mother' you're lazy. Self care is not selfish, it's important and imperative to a healthy life. Have grace for yourself on those days where you just "can't adult". You deserve rest and you deserve to be healthy.
Structure for everyone looks different, if you saw my laundry pile on most days you would thing " who is this goblin that lives in this cave?
But if you saw my office, you would be like "Oh wow, a Princess works here and she has her ENTIRE life together" NOT TRUE. Not quite a goblin and not a princess - definitely strong, bold, motivated, semi messy/semi organized, sometimes structured, happy and kind young woman.
How do you find time to follow your entrepreneurial journey while juggling other life responsibilities?
I have this gold mirror in my room hanging on my wall. Pasted on it is a photo of 6 year old me with a quote that says "feel the fear and do it anyway".
When I start to get exhausted and the voices in my brain get dark and heavy - I go to my mirror and remind myself "take care of that little girl".
That's how - finding balance is so difficult in this world where we can barely keep up with the next big thing. Be intentional with your time and with your people.
Take care of your crap and take care of your heart.
What tools do you find indispensable in your day-to-day business?
The tools that are absolutely indispensable would be my home team.
The people who stand in my corner at all costs through every storm and every sunshiney day. I
t really might be a cheeseball answer but when I start to run low on gas, they remind me "rest and refuel".
When I write something I'm not sure about, I take it to them and it's heavily edited and critiqued. When I have an idea I am not sure I should bring to life or not
Social Media is such a gateway for influencer’s today. What platforms work best for you and why do you choose to use them the most?
Facebook is everything for Sparkle - I think it's really old school for some influencers and I totally get it. But I love it. A LOT.
I think all of these platforms that these amazing and genius creators have provided us with are all so different.
I have noticed that Facebook is really wonderful for group caused like Sparkle Mental Health Connection and Instagram is where I have really started putting my personal focus on for me and my writing because it's more individually focused for each user.
Social Media is, dare I even say, magical and powerful if used for good.
Instagram and Facebook are my current BFF's when it comes to the Social Media Realm.
Word of my mouth is my other best friend in my real life social realm. I think every platform we have is great whatever that may as long we utilize it properly.
What are you tips for maintaining a present influence on these platforms and how do you encouraging continued engagement with your following?
I have struggled so hard with this - even still! How do you separate everything? That's not me with rhetorical question that's me genuinely wanting to know!
If your'e like me you are starting small and organically which is extremely disheartening sometimes.
You have to Engage in order to be Engaged and give content out that is relatable and shocking!
When you start discouraged and if you are like me it's pretty often, but nothing worth having is supposed to be easy - and that doesn't just include a following, it included using your voice for the good of others.
I think sometime w get so caught up in numbers and sometimes we should but if your voice is helping 40K followers or 400followers - sorry but that's still influence.
What can people expect to see when following you?
Something I will always be is totally transparent. Keeping it real is my speciality. I hope people leave my words feeling safe and comfortable.
That's all I want for anyone who follows me.
What do you believe set's you apart from others in your same industry?
Sparkle isn't pretty and we aren't always the most organized and put together but we are always real and we are always kind. I think that's so important, especially in the mental health realm that we keep it personal and don't sugarcoat every experience any of us had ever had.
Sparkle Mental Health Connection is a small organization that is run out of my bedroom as well as local breakfast joints - we have no big office or a front desk assistant.
Between my Mom and I and a very small team we have, we run the show and I wouldn't have it any other way.
What’s next for you?
I am working on writing my first book - something that has been on my heart for a really long time but something I have just been far too nervous to start.
I didn't think what I had to say was valuable enough but then I realized I needed to do this for me and not for everyone else!
What's next for me is finding my brave and following my heart and what's right for me - doing things unapologetically without waiting for the approve of someone else? What's next for you?
Are you involved with any organizations, foundations, or clubs? If yes, please describe and let us know how we can help support.
The organization I am most involved is the organization I run from the beauty of my room and my pajamas, Sparkle Mental Health Connection.
Sparkle Mental Health Connection is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization designed to raise awareness for mental health within the community.
Sparkle provides a platform for individuals to share their mental health experience on and to be a voice in the community to help break the stigma around mental health.
Support is imperative for the success of helping others in the community - from a Facebook share to a $5 donation, every little bit helps with spreading awareness.
Sparkle has a photo series which gives those with a story and experience a chance to share it - if you wish to get involved in that and to learn more about how to become a voice in our community please visit www.sparkaconversation.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every experience matter. Every voice makes a difference.
Lastly, what legacy do you hope to leave behind and imprint do you hope to make on others?
I want to create habits in others to be overwhelmingly kind to themselves and to others. I hope to inspire someone to just want more out of life, to know they serve more out of life. Mostly, I hope to leave behind a sense of safety and encouragement in a community that can be scary and sometimes judgmental.
Where can people find you?
Instagram Handle: @theadventureofash