Rest & The Future of U!Shine Vienna


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Dear U!Shine Vienna Community, Friends, and Supporters,

Let me begin by saying how deeply grateful I am for you. Whether you’re someone who follows along from abroad or online, attends all of our events or one every so often, or stumbled across our website only today - you are appreciated, for you are, exactly as you are, and I’m glad to know you however that looks for you and me today.

The easiest route for me to take is to simply state that U!Shine Vienna is going on summer break. I have no doubt that that would make sense to you, especially those in Vienna, as many of us leave in July and August for the beaches and mountains within and around Austria. The locals head out, the tourists move in, and regular life begins again in September.

But as the director and co-founder of a mental health and wellness organization, I’m convicted to tell you that the above reason is only ten percent of why U!Shine Vienna is taking a break. In all honesty, I have struggled to drum up enough courage to write or speak openly and publicly about my own mental health, which feels contradictory to what we’re trying to accomplish through U!Shine in the first place. That being: normalizing the mental health conversation and shattering the stigma that surrounds it. Stating that the conversation should be normal is one thing, carrying it out in real life is quite another.

I’ve also discovered it’s much easier to talk about my mental health seasons of the past than it is to talk about the season of the present, but today, I will attempt a “better late than never” stance and share a bit of my heart with you. Sometime in January, I felt the beginnings of what I can now say were early symptoms of burnout and depression. I didn’t ignore them, per se, but I also didn’t fully acknowledge them, either. February brought more challenges to my overall mental well-being, but as U!Shine Vienna had just launched, I threw myself into the work for what I perceived to be a positive and necessary distraction.

But not much changed through March and April, which is about when I began to withdraw from U!Shine Vienna (and stopped the weekly Heart Talks), and after the arrival of May, I couldn’t carry it all anymore and subsequently crashed from mental and emotional exhaustion. June was both incredibly difficult and surprisingly healing as it was the month I finally labeled my season of health as ‘depression’ and ‘burn-out’. Being able to name my experience led to more clarity for myself as well as for my family, co-workers, and friends.

However, it was also when I withdrew the most from my typical day-to-day joys: journaling, writing, getting coffee with others, being with my faith community, creating, working. Whenever I deal with hard things, my immediate tendency is to deal with it alone. This is, of course, never the solution, and it’s something I preach regularly in my role with U!Shine Vienna.

To quote Alice in Wonderland, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”

However, I’m ready to follow my advice now, as well as the advice given to me by others, the main message being: rest. I’m working toward health by taking what I believe to be the necessary steps to healing, and one of those steps is for U!Shine Vienna to not only take a summer break, but a mental health break as well.

Beginning this week, I will rest from the duties we normally have to come back in the fall fully present and ready for you all and whatever’s on your hearts. Some of us feel passionately about being engaged in various U!Shine tasks, so those individuals on our team will continue to keep a social platform or two going throughout the summer. But as for me, I am resting. This means if you email us over at U!Shine, you will receive a kind, resource-packed automated response from now until mid-September. The team and I will not host any events, giveaways, or promotions until we are in a healthy place to do so.

As for the other ways I’ve chosen to rest, I’m working part-time, which allows me to remain in the community without overdoing it. I have a few accountability partners who check in with me once a week to make sure I’ve written something - anything - in my journal. My faith community continues to be supportive and patient with me as I slowly tip-toe in their direction, and I am committed to not forcing that part of my life to be what it was, but rather, to be something new, stronger, and healthier. I’ve been exercising every day (forever indebted to Simon Horowitz of FitBrit Vienna), drinking less caffeine and more water, and eating better. The Headspace App has helped immensely with my sleep and I love the positive affirmations and reminders it sends me throughout the day.

And most surprisingly - any of you know BTS? For reasons beyond my comprehension, this Korean pop band has rescued me from despair. Their songs are in Korean, so I have no idea what they’re saying, but somehow also know exactly what they’re saying, and because of this paradox, their music helps me breathe and feel safe. I have done my homework and read English translations and articles on the meaning behind the vast majority of their songs, many of which have to do with mental health. It is the strangest coping mechanism I’ve ever come across, but depression does weird things, and I’m fully embracing this one. It’s kept me connected with my kids who may love their music more than I do, and it’s also brought me much closer to individuals who’ve remained at arm’s length until now. I don’t know, y’all. Life is weird, but Kim Taehyung forever, amiright?

My wish is that by sharing my heart with you, you’re able to better understand why I’ve not been present and why I, and U!Shine Vienna, need to take a break. The topic of mental health requires empathy, a character virtue I have always felt within this beautiful community, and what I hope is being shared among us today. If anyone is experiencing something similar to what I’ve described, know that I understand, you’re not alone, and we’re going to be just fine. Let’s make positive, healthy steps together. Thank you for your time, patience, and willingness to read this letter. I love you all and look forward to seeing you in the fall.

In peace and health,