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Mimi Zhu Is Destigmatizing Healing For The IG Generation

Mental illness is complicated, but not talking about it doesn’t make it less so. Part of our mission is to help people feel better, both physically and mentally, and while CBD can help, there are many tools you can lean on for support. Mental Health Memos is a series that delves into the importance of destigmatizing mental illness and shines a light on those who are using their voice to bring these conversations to front and center. 

Mimi Zhu is the kind of writer who’s either already won you over, or you’ve read their words —and liked them—without realizing it. And we mean “liked” in the literal sense; Mimi is an embedded fixture of Instagram culture, sitting somewhere at the intersection of confessional poet, political organizer, queer influencer, and stand-in therapist to almost 100,000 people.

And the Brooklyn-based Chinese Australian artist has written themselves an incredible story to date. There’s their much-loved newsletter, Write To Heal, which offers writing prompts and playlists along with Mimi’s own essays. There’s #ComradeBritney, a meme spawned after Britney Spears famously shared a snippet of Mimi’s writing in which they advocated for wealth redistribution and mass strikes. There’s Be Not Afraid Of Love, Mimi’s forthcoming debut book. 

And then there’s Mimi’s Instagram itself—a prolific outpouring of ideas ranging from the generative potential of conflict, to anxiety and depression under COVID, to trauma anniversaries and overcoming codependency. No wonder VICE called them a walking mental health resource.

We spoke to Mimi about writing as a mental health practice, personal testimony as political duty, and finding inspiration amid a continually taxing pandemic.

What does "healing" mean to you and how does your mental health fit into your concept of healing?

Healing for me does not mean to get to a "happy place", but it is the practice of loving myself wholly, even when I am experiencing challenges, struggles, and difficult emotions. Healing is getting to know my hardships and loving myself unconditionally while I am experiencing them.

Your newsletter is called Write To Heal. What has your own journey with writing looked like and what does it do for you to write?

I've been writing the newsletter for three years now, and I wanted it to be a free resource for queer people of color. It's been difficult but at the same time, it's brought me a lot closer to myself and the community, because I told myself that I'd write without judging/critiquing myself and instead witness and admire how my spirit talks through me. Seeing the ways that people from all over the world have resonated with my writing has been an incredibly profound and interconnecting experience. I am grateful, and Write to Heal has truly healed me in more ways than I could have imagined.

Healing does not mean to get to a "happy place", but it is the practice of loving myself wholly, even when I am experiencing challenges, struggles, and difficult emotions.
Outside of writing, what are some of your go-to practices that help in looking after yourself? 

I try to move my body every day. Because writing is such a heady practice, I sometimes forget about the tactility of my body. I am learning to treat my vessel as sacred, feed myself when I am hungry, and move when I feel restless. I also love going outside and embarking on walks without a destination. The beauty that I get to witness is always moving in so many ways.

The last 18 months have wreaked havoc on many of us in terms of mental health. How has it been for you and what has this time taught you?

It has been very painful for me, and it has also been extremely enlightening. I am learning to hold both truths. I learned how to embody sacred solitude and how to love my own company and get to know myself with joy and fervor. I also learned how to sit with a myriad of my own feelings without resorting to the toxic coping mechanisms that I used to run towards. The last 18 months have pushed me to care for my loved ones and for myself wholly. 

When you feel really "stuck" where do you turn to for inspiration?

I turn to my trees and books and hummingbirds. I sit with a flower and look at its patterns, curves, swooping details, and colors and I see life in it. I am reminded of my liveliness in each living being around me because our liveliness is all interconnected. 

You have a book coming out next year called Be Not Afraid of Love. Can I ask what that phrase means to you?

It's about the many ways that fear and love intersect, and how sometimes we mistake fear and love for each other. It is about the many ways that fear and love meet in our complex humanity and ripple through our complicated relationships. Love is the most important and illuminating force in the world, and this book is a call for us to step into its powers without fear. What we are scared of is not actually love. It is in fact heartbreak, betrayal, violence, and abandonment. How do we re-learn love and always remember to embody it? That is what my book will explore. 

Love is the most important and illuminating force in the world, and this book is a call for us to step into its powers without fear.
If you had a cosmic megaphone, what's one thing you wish everyone undergoing their own mental health journey could hear? 

You are loved wholly and all your feelings are your teachers.

Songs or artists that soothe your nervous system right now?

Erika de CasierWong Kar WaiMariah Carey, and all of my friends.

What fills you with hope for the future?

 Continuance and love.

Jerico MandyburJerico Mandybur Best-selling spiritual author, writer, and creative coach.

Likes: Thunderstorms, making playlists, my dog.
Dislikes: Litterbugs.