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Karyn Inder of The Model Tongue Podcast On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Jason Sheppard

Work on self worth: If you don’t build yourself up and respect yourself, you will keep going in circles. The only way to break this cycle is to know who you are. Own yourself, own your experiences, own your pain. You are incredible and a force to be reckoned with. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karyn Inder. Karyn Inder is a Model, Mental Health Coach and host of The Model Tongue Podcast. Karyn has been advocating for Mental Health since 2012. Her advocacy aims to change perceptions, fight stigmas and empower those living with mental illness. She is a Model, Public Speaker and Podcast Host who focuses on topics surrounding body image, mental health, anti-bullying, self-worth and more. She has spoken at various schools across the GTA, including Ryerson University and Guelph University.

She is a Board Member of The All Womxn Project where she oversees the Mental Health Initiatives and has collaborated with Jack.org & The Made Of Millions Foundation. Karyn launched her podcast, The Model Tongue, in March of 2020 in order to create a safe and inclusive platform to help others find their voice and empower communities through the art of storytelling.

Karyn has always struggled with her mental health. She was first diagnosed at 14 years old as having Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. At 23 years old, she was also diagnosed with PTSD and Generalized Anxiety. She uses her experiences to connect with others who are going through difficult times and believes that a life with mental illness is still a life worth living.

It is important that people living with mental illness feel empowered to advocate for themselves within all aspects of life. She wants people to have access to the same opportunities that are available for others, despite any diagnosed disorders. Her mission is to empower those living with mental illness, helping them build a life that is set up for success. She believes in crisis prevention and facing mental health from a proactive perspective.

Karyn is SAFETalk Certified and has her Mental Health Crisis Response Training & Mental Health First Aid Certificate.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I am originally from Newfoundland & Labrador. I moved around a lot after graduating from Memorial University and before finding home in Toronto. Ever since I was 9 years old, I wanted to be a Model. My first experience with Modeling was when my Mom entered us in a

Mother-Daughter fashion show that took place in a hockey stadium in Grand Falls-Windsor. I immediately fell in love with it and dedicated every second from that moment on to making my dream a reality. The biggest obstacle for me however was my mental health. I started showing signs of Bipolar Disorder at 8 years old, I was officially diagnosed at 14 however, would go untreated until age 23. This created a lot of pain and difficulty in my life. I had numerous sucide attempts, and fought to maintain the will to live. I missed out on a lot. I was bullied relentlessly throughout school, found myself in abusive relationships. I have a history of self harm. I started to deteriorate in 2009 and by 2011, I ended up in hospital for the third time. I was admitted into long-term psychiatric care at a facility called Homewood in Guelph, Ontario. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was here, from September — November 2011 where I was given a second chance at life. Despite it all, I never lost sight of my dream of becoming a Model. After I was discharged, I worked so hard at building my life back up again. Eventually, I was able to save up some money and I bought a plane ticket to Toronto where I was signed by an agency.

In May of 2014, I would move to Toronto to pursue Modeling with nothing but 2 suitcases and my cat. I have since been signed internationally, worked for top clients in Canada, have been featured in Campaigns and even walked New York Fashion Week. I use my experiences as a ‘Plus Size’ Model to advocate for Body Positivity in addition to Mental Health. I fought tooth and nail to get here and my dream was the one thing that pulled me through it all. I just couldn’t give up on it, and I’m glad I didn’t.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I’ve been through so much and one thing that I’ve realized is that endings are always beginnings. I was devastated when I ended up in hospital the second and third time, I felt like I had thrown away my chances of being a Model. At the time, I believed that sometimes you only get one shot at something, and if you mess that up, maybe you won’t get a second opportunity. This in itself was very traumatic for me. But what’s interesting is, when I was in treatment and given a treatment plan, I gained a lot of weight. It was because of this weight that I was able to get signed as a ‘Plus Size’ Model. Life can be funny sometimes and I am so grateful for everything I have done and accomplished, to me, it doesn’t matter how I got there, to the finish line in a sense because I’m just so happy to have been given a second chance at life. Another thing I always found interesting is that, as a Model, you know, someone who is visible and promotes physical, tangible things, is an advocate for an invisible illness. I have always found that very interesting and it has also been difficult for me. I believe in the power of vulnerability. I believe in the power of being able to relate to others and how therapeutic that can be and the healing aspect of that. But it was scary, because no one talks about it. I was told I would lose clients. I was told no one would date me. It got to a point where not talking about it was causing me more stress because I believed my story could help others. I believed that my experiences could provide the support I wish I had as a teenager. I learned that authenticity is one of the secret ingredients to living a life of quality and accepting yourself. That it’s always best to do what’s right over ‘getting likes’.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As a Mental Health Coach, there are a couple things that make me stand out. I have twenty-five years of experience with mental illness, five years of coaching experience, numerous certifications, I have my SAFETalk Certification, my Mental Health First Aid, Crisis Response Training and First Aid in Self Care & Caring for Others. I help individuals directly and indirectly affected by symptoms of mental health disorders curate short and long term plans that will help them achieve a life of quality. I help people who have been diagnosed for the first time at thirty-five years old. I help parents of children who experience symptoms, as well as partners, husbands, or wives. I think that’s a powerful thing. I’ve been doing this for a long time and my phone would just be ringing at 11pm at night by someone’s mother calling me because they just dropped their daughter off at the hospital in the psychiatric ward, and they’re scared, they don’t know what’s happening. I’ve had people calling during a crisis and I’ve helped them through that. I have gone to people’s homes, talked to them and their partner about their options, what help is available to them. But a huge part of it which I didn’t expect was the like, de-stigmatization and normalization of mental health treatment. You never know how these conversations are going to go. I want to help someone with their individual unique needs, but the biggest takeaway from it is the amount of questions that are asked about hospitalization, about medication, about living with mental illness. And I think that speaks volumes about how much stigma and judgment and harmful stereotypes exist within society. That part of the main reason for people to be so reluctant to accept help is because of these components. The most interesting thing about creating this resource was how much the stigma in society, within our families, workplaces, medical community, affects people’s ability to accept and have acceptance of help.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I always say that I would not be here doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for the kindness of others. I think about all the moves I’ve made, everything I’ve been through and the random people, at times complete strangers, that have made the biggest difference. Sometimes the act was so small, I don’t even remember their names, but it’s the impact someone has on you at the moment. For example, when I was living in Montreal and hitting rock bottom, my co-worker brought me to the hospital and I don’t even remember it but I know she did and if she didn’t, I don’t know what would have happened. I don’t remember her name but she made an enormous difference in that small action. I think about when I moved to Toronto from a small town, Newfoundland, it was just so intimidating. My landlord, who I’d never met, picked me up at the airport, which might not seem like a big thing, but to me it was a lot, showing so much kindness and picking up a stranger that she didn’t even know. I think about all those people because sometimes it’s the little things. It’s important to recognize the little things that people can do, the small acts of kindness that you don’t even think twice about, but to someone else, it can make the biggest difference. The person on the subway in New York City who offered me their seat because I was having a panic attack. The cab driver in Montreal who gave me the mango slices his wife had packed for his lunch because I hadn’t eaten and felt sick. The people who stepped-in backstage at Fashion Week to help tape my breasts because I had forgotten my bra and didn’t want to get in trouble. It’s these small acts of kindness that some people wouldn’t think twice about that keep my heart warm. If we’re talking about big things, I have a lot of respect and gratitude to my first agent because when I came up to Toronto to get signed, I was not in a good place. I was still trying to figure life-after-treatment out, trying to get my health back and just figure out what life is like being medicated and living with multiple diagnoses. She gave me a chance, and that’s what a lot of us need in life, especially if you struggle or have symptoms of mental health disorders. You just need someone to believe in you and to give you a chance. She saw potential and if it weren’t for her, giving me that chance, I never would have moved to Toronto and I never would have built this life for myself that I’m so proud of and it led me to meeting my now husband, Nick, who of course provides so much support. He constantly reminds me that I am more than my disorders, never guilts me for needing rest and never holds anything against me. Who believes in me, who is gentle with me and who gives 90% when I can only give 10%. Lastly, someone who comes to mind is my first Psychiatrist in Newfoundland, Dr. Luscombe. He saw me at 14 years old and again at 23, who’s care ultimately led me to the life I have today. If it weren’t for him, his recommendation and care, I don’t think I would be here today.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I think resiliency is learning to respect yourself enough to know that you are growing. It’s to know that you are validated, but I know from experience it’s difficult to feel validated. It’s a choice you have to make every minute of every day, to choose to be resilient. Some days it’s easier than others. For me, when I think of the word resilient, the common theme and core of it is about making the decision every day to choose you over anything else. But, when you are resilient, you change, because your definition of what it is and means to be resilient changes all the time. I thought I was so resilient as a teenager and in my early ’20s but as my situation changed, as my needs changed, as my wants changed and as I became more educated and empowered with learning about what I’m up against, my obstacles, what I deal with, it all changed and therefore so did what it meant to be resilient. So I think it’s about being flexible, embracing change and being accepting of the different phases you go through. I believe it’s deeply tied to survival, at least from my personal experiences. It also means something different for everyone, and that should be respected.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

The first thing that comes to mind are people who are experiencing abuse. The amount of strength and resilience it takes to survive abuse and the physical / mental effects afterwards is indescribable. You really don’t know, until you know. When I think of individual people, one person I will always think of, who holds a very important place in my heart is Chanel Miller. She wrote a book, ‘Know My Name’ and I believe everyone should read it. When I think of her story and I read her book, to me it screams peak-resilience. We can learn a lot from Chanel, and learn a lot about ourselves from her story. Having to stand up for yourself and having the strength in your heart, mind, soul and spirit to do so is the most inspiring thing to me. I admire her and respect her so much.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

Perhaps it takes a lot of courage to be resilient. It’s interesting because it’s about perception, maybe even about life experiences. I can be honest and say, if someone told me they were resilient, my first thought wouldn’t be “oh you are so courageous”. I would feel sad and my heart would break because I feel you have to go through ‘something’ in order to become resilient. You are resilient… but for a reason. Oftentimes for a very BIG reason. And sometimes that’s a really shitty thing. I don’t believe in ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. Courage to me comes across as something that is short-term and temporary, you can ‘be courageous’ in a moment or in reaction to something. To be resilient however, sticks with you and is for life. I think you can choose to be courageous, but it’s harder to consciously choose to be resilient because resiliency is so embedded in survival.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Oh my goodness, yes, everything. I was constantly bullied as a kid in school. I think it started around grade six and never stopped. I have always felt ‘othered’ and ‘not good enough’. I was told I wasn’t a good volleyball player, even though I was. I was told I’d never Model and now I’m represented by an agency in Canada, Germany and Spain. I’ve had people tell me ‘no one will ever love you’ and I found someone who does. Society’s stigmatization and harmful perceptions of Mental Illness / Bipolar Disorder… I get asked often if my “husband knew I was Bipolar before marrying me”, somehow insinuating that there’s no way he would have known because he wouldn’t have married me. Also, from a mental health perspective, when you’re leaving treatment, it can be frustrating because no one has answers. For the most part, it’s theories, hypotheses and studies. I would ask my doctors when I was getting discharged: “when can I have an apartment by myself?” And they didn’t know. I would ask questions such as “can I go back to school?”, “Will I be able to have a relationship?”, “Will I be able to have a family?”, and no one could give me any answers. Of course, I just did it all anyway. I had to learn to figure things out on my own and by myself and experiment, but I’m glad I did. For me, living with chronic pain and disability, there are a lot of unknowns.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Oh yes, big time. After I graduated University with a Business Degree, I moved to Montreal to officially pursue my dream of becoming a Model. I found a job at Forever21, enrolled in Fashion School, found an apartment and got my pictures ready to approach agencies. I was literally living my life, living my dream and I felt on top of the world… only I was severely depressed and battling an addiction. Unbeknownst to me, my body and mind had carried me as far as it could. I was 22 years old living untreated with severe mental health disorders.

I crashed and burned.

I was so depressed I didn’t recognize myself. I was calling suicide hotlines every day. I was having a really hard time making friends. I made plans a couple times with people from work but they stood me up. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t sleeping. One day at work, I was a zombie. My co-worker (who I mentioned earlier) approached me and I don’t even remember what I said but it resulted in her bringing me to the hospital, where I was admitted for the second time in my life. I was heartbroken because I could feel my dream slipping away from me, I just couldn’t do it… why couldn’t I do it? I had worked so hard to get here, and now I was ruining everything. I blew my one chance at living my dream, unless you have personally experienced this, you have no idea what that feels like. It was traumatizing. I had no reason to live.

My things were packed up immediately and shipped back to Newfoundland. Looking at the boxes when they arrived, I thought I was at the end of my life. I didn’t know how I was going to go ‘up’ from here. I didn’t know how I was going to survive this.

One day, while sitting across from Dr. Luscombe in his office, I was given an opportunity. He told me about a treatment center in Ontario and how he felt this would be the best option for me, to help me regain control of my life. He asked me if I would accept treatment, and the only question I had to ask myself was “Do I want to Die?” I didn’t want to die, so I would accept treatment.

I worked so hard for my health during those months, I went to every class. I implemented every lifestyle change. I took my medications. But the work didn’t stop there, the work only got harder after being discharged, because I was on my own in real life. I worked my strength back up, built my tolerance. Learned about my disorders and medications. Meticulously curated medical support teams that truly supported me. I took baby steps. I took giant leaps of faith. I figured it out. I cried. I went 5 steps back and 6 steps forward. I regressed. I found progress. I was hit with curveballs and pure luck. I stumbled and got back up.

The hardest part of living with symptoms of mental health disorders is that you are fighting the strongest version of yourself every. single. day. It’s tiring to have to constantly show up for yourself like that. It’s resiliency.

Because of this hospitalization, I was given a second chance at life. I was back at square one and I was okay with that. I started working again. Then I found better jobs. I saved more money. This time, I flew to Toronto and met with agencies. I got signed. I flew back home and saved up money for a year, and didn’t spend a dollar that wasn’t rent, food or medications. I sold everything I owned. Everything. I packed two suitcases and my cat and we moved to Toronto. I had nothing in my apartment, not even a hanger to hang my clothes. I hustled, I skipped meals, I made it happen. I never let my heart harden. I met someone and we got married in 2019. Now we have a beautiful home together, my health is the best it’s ever been, I am happy, I am stable.

I did it.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Well, it’s funny because I’m here thinking…. is resiliency a choice? It wasn’t a choice for me. But if resiliency is ever forced upon you, here are 5 steps to protect yourself and nurture it:

Practice self awareness: Resiliency is exhausting. Know your limits and when you need to self care. This will go a long way in self preservation.

Have self acceptance: You have to accept what happened to you. You don’t have to accept it in a way where you like it, you don’t have to like it, you just have to learn to accept what happened. It helps with healing and recovery.

Find a community that you identify with: Vulnerability and relatability go a long way with healing. Being able to relate to others is extremely therapeutic and under-appreciated. Nurture a space that is safe for you.

Work on self worth: If you don’t build yourself up and respect yourself, you will keep going in circles. The only way to break this cycle is to know who you are. Own yourself, own your experiences, own your pain. You are incredible and a force to be reckoned with. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

Know what you deserve: If you don’t know what you deserve in life, you’ll never get there. What do you want, what do you deserve. Ask yourself these questions and then act accordingly.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Humaneness and empathy. I think, oh my God, the world lacks it. If you look at some of the world, it’s communities and societies ‘biggest issues’, if I could just go ‘boom, a movement’ it would be to promote empathy. That would make the biggest difference in every single world problem we have. We need a higher quality of compassion and consideration for others.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)

There are so many people, but obviously Chanel Miller comes to mind. I would just want to meet her and thank her for what she did and all that she does. I think it’s a beautiful thing, to take what happened to you and then pay it forward. Michelle Obama of course, and Meghan Markle. I would love to work with Meghan Markle on her mental health initiatives.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My Instagram is @karyninderr and my website, https://beacons.ai/karyninder is where everything is.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About the interviewer: Jason Sheppard is a freelance entertainment journalist working in Newfoundland, Canada whose passions are film, music, reading and sharing other people’s stories with the world. His writing has appeared in The Newfoundland Herald, CBC, Saltwire and Cashbox Canada.

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Authority Magazine is devoted to sharing in-depth interviews, featuring people who are authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech

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