Anxiety, depression, and eating disorders…these issues affect so many and yet conversations about these issues are often discouraged. Full-time creator Hana Brannigan (@thishanabee) uses her platform to create authentic conversations about mental health and shares methods for pursuing health & wholeness.
The Start: Searching for Support
In the beginning, Hana’s social platform was a tool for her own healing, as she wrestled with disordered eating, anxiety, and depression. But through social media platforms, she found community and support from others who shared the same struggles.
“It’s really my goal to help people. But it didn’t start out like that — I was desperate for help. It’s no secret now that I struggled with eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. But when I was going through the worst of it, I didn’t know who to turn to for advice or help. I kept it a secret from family and friends because I was scared, ashamed, and not really ready to open up yet. But then I discovered the online community! When I joined Instagram, I found people who were going through what I was going through, and so I decided to make my own account to connect with these people. And also to get a little inspired to try and recover myself.”
Passion Project to Full-Time Career
Having suffered with anorexia, Hana initially turned to food to help heal her relationship with eating. Becoming a food photographer and content creator wasn’t exactly her mission at the time, but her healing hobby turned into a business.
“I actually didn’t plan to be a ‘content creator.’ I started out posting photos of food so that I could encourage myself to eat and share the struggles I was going through.” Hana continued to connect with her followers one-on-one, and much to her surprise, her profile began to grow exponentially. “I wanted to get more creative so I started baking and food styling, which then eventually led to what my Instagram is today!”
Hana credits her inspiration for helping others online to a nutritionist who helped her work through her eating disorder. More than a nutritionist, she was someone who actually cared. “She was just so genuine… and I never really felt more comfortable with a ‘stranger’ than her.” Hana’s nutritionist became a model for who she wanted to be in life and online.
Embracing Authenticity, Finding Community
For Hana, the highest high is being able to connect and empathize with others. “I know first-hand how isolating mental disorders can be. I’ve done one-on-one therapy, intensive outpatient group therapy, dabbled in a bit of medication, some meditation, and spoken at several conferences. I’ve found through all of these experiences, quite a bit of people out there actually go through similar experiences, but don’t talk about it enough. So I want to be a source of support and encouragement. I want people to just recognize how much good can come out of life and how much potential they have in themselves.”
Downs and Ups!
As with any career, the creator job comes with it’s own ups and downs. But the ups, can be significant and full of beauty.
“A passion is great and it makes the hard work worth it. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s still so much competition out there.” Working on a platform that is constantly being saturated with content, Hana couldn’t help but compare herself to others. “The cons are definitely battling the numbers, the likes, comments, views, etc. There’s also competition against algorithms. YouTube, Google, Instagram… you name it. The online world is run by algorithms and it can get really frustrating.”
Hana’s undeniable “up” of being a full-time influencer is being able to work when she wants. Currently, Hana is taking time to herself to travel and clear her mind. “I’ve always loved traveling because it’s so healing and eye-opening. But now I finally got the chance to pack-up my bags, get rid of a lot of stuff, and travel longer-term. Right now, I’m exploring Mexico and it’s beautiful. I am trying to refocus on my passions, enhance my knowledge, and figure out how I can help more people on a bigger scale.”
More Than Just a Number.
Hana is making her mark by starting her own brand, You’ll Bee Okay. “I created [You’ll Bee Okay] because I wanted to do more to be proactive in the eating disorder community rather than just being on social media. Right now, there’s one product in the store — a pin. 100% of proceeds from this pin is going to the National Eating Disorder Association. This pin says “More Than A Number” — a mantra I used to tell myself (and still tell myself) all the time to help overcome the overwhelming thoughts of attaching myself to a number.
I defined myself by the number on the scale, the number of calories I consumed, the minutes of exercise I forced myself to do, etc. Repeating this mantra helped me recognize my worth outside of those analytics. My boyfriend and I made [the pin] simple enough where people can wear it as a simple reminder, without yelling to the world what they’re struggling with.”
Build Your Expertise
“Find a niche you’re passionate about and keep working hard at it! A niche is so important because you’ll be recognized as a figure and expert in this area. It’ll force you to learn a ton about your passion (which, because it’s your passion, is so fun!). You’ll also find an audience you truly connect with, and even though it’s tough work, it’s always rewarding.”
“It’s really hard to break through the algorithms and get found, but The Plug makes it easily accessible for content creators to find brands to work with, and vice versa. I only work with brands that align with what my page is all about, so it’s been great to find campaigns that I feel satisfied doing and promoting to my viewers.”
Ten years from now, Hana plans to be a spokesperson for mental wellness, using her platform to raise awareness and funds to support a healthier world.