Hi, I'm Ariella, the girl behind Eight By One.
To most, this brand is just another brand backed by just another millennial trying to make it in the world while avoiding playing the game by someone else's rules. To some extent, that is true. I love building my own empire. But on the other hand, I could argue that statement is completely false.
You see, I started this company by complete accident. I know what you're thinking, "This girl is trying to give her brand a colorful story." You'll soon come to realize, precisely by the end of reading this post, that this is no fairytale. You can't make this shit up.
Let's start from the beginning of time. Not the actual beginning of time, but the beginning of MY time. For most of my life, I never felt as if I fit in with the crowd. There was always an uncomfortable feeling inside of me. I was shy, sensitive, and always had a smile on my face. An extroverted introvert by nature, there was always a feeling I couldn't seem to shake. It was as if I had to utilize more energy than the average person just to "pretend" everything was always honky dory.
My life seemed perfect to any outsider and of course I had to agree because I was given no reason to think otherwise. I went through the motions accepting that I was an outsider and convinced myself that whatever I was feeling was somehow a gift. I can't imagine how I convinced myself of that, but I didn't know otherwise.
I made it to high school and with the stress of planning for college came an even more uncomfortable feeling. Although this time was different. This time was more than just feeling like an outsider, it was feeling like something was wrong. I kept it to myself and as always, kept the smile on my face with it. I saw a therapist a handful of times.
Stop right there. I was seeing a therapist. Nobody knew what a therapist was or what the inside of a therapist's office looked like at that age unless their parents were going through a divorce. Obviously I didn't share that I was seeing one for "no reason".
I went off to study at Northeastern University and spent my very first semester of college in London, England. Studying abroad is a big change for anyone I could imagine, but studying abroad in a place I had never even visited before with people I had met once was a HUGE change. It was a rocky couple of months, but some of the best of my life at the same time. I met who would be my very best friends for life and was able to experience something most might never experience in their lifetime.
When I returned to Boston for my second semester, things were just okay. I correlated almost all of my feelings with being "fresh meat" on campus and like always, convinced myself it was completely normal. Then the third semester of college came along and things started moving downhill very fast. I was diagnosed with Dysthymia, mild chronic depression that can last for a period of two years or longer.
And then I was diagnosed Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I was weirdly relieved to have a title for my unexplainable feelings that the three words so perfectly described. I regularly went to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and was beginning to accept the fact that I wasn't just different, there was something that was seemingly wrong with me.
And then shit really hit the fan. I experienced my first breakup and being more emotionally unstable than ever before, it became the straw that broke the camels back. More-so than being upset over being dumped, I was letting the emotions that I had let built up for my entire life before then flow out of me like white water. I just couldn't seem to get it together.
I would have to get up and leave class 5 minutes after arriving because tears would uncontrollably fall down my face. I was not even slightly interested in my social life. Homework? Forget it. This went on for a while, longer than it should have. I was overwhelmed with how I was feeling and nothing was making me feel better.
My mom came to visit me for a weekend to try and keep me company to get me out of the battle with my own mind. We did a few activities such as see a random psychic who told me to watch out for a girl named Brianna (which made absolutely no sense). I had been having thoughts of how the world would be better off without me, that I was a nuisance and nobody really cared, but I never said any of that out loud.
Until she was about to leave for the airport and I said I wanted to die. A few of my best friends got in the car and raced to get me to take me to the emergency room. I quickly after received a call from my dad, a physician, telling me not to go to the hospital that "they lock people up" when they go for the reason that I was. So we turned around and my mom met me back at the hotel. But I don't think either of my parents understood the extent of how serious what I was experiencing really was. I truly wanted to be gone.
I'm not even sure it was that I wanted to die, but that I just wanted my pain to end. I contacted my therapist at the time who recommended I try and make it through the night and if I was in the same state in the morning, to go to the ER. Plot twist - I woke up in the same state and went straight to the ER.
I didn't want to say the words out loud, so my mom quietly said something to the receptionist and they took me to a room immediately. But it wasn't your typical hospital room. It was large with glass doors so that they could see me at all times. The lowered a cage over all of the equipment in the room as I entered. For not one second did I feel comfortable, aside from when my mom brought me a chocolate bar.
The psychiatrist came in to speak with me and asked me very detailed questions regarding any plan I had. I had no plan, I really didn't. I just wanted to die. For the next 8 hours my time was spent sitting on a hospital gurney in a complete daze. At 11 pm, I was transferred by ambulance to one of the top in patient psychiatric hospitals in the country.
Around 1 am I was taken up to the unit. My mom wasn't allowed to see me off. I was alone.
I was told to sit in a chair while they collected all of my belongings from me, including the string of the hoodie I was wearing. Sitting there, terrified, I looked down at the sterile floor and not more than one foot away from me was a penny. It was heads up.
I snuck the penny into my pocket and refused to let anyone find it. The nurse walked me to my room which I would be sharing with one other person. Our names were taped on the door. Ariella, and Brianna. Yup, the name of the person the psychic told me to keep an eye out for.
Here I am, scared and alone in the middle of the night in a psychiatric hospital being shown my bed in a room with someone who's fast asleep and who's name I had been told was one I should watch out for. If I wasn't going to kill myself, I sure as hell thought she would.
I didn't last for more than 24 hours in that ward. I didn't need to be there and just like my dad said, they really do lock you up when you express any thoughts of suicide. In order to leave against medical advice, I had to be assessed by the head psychiatrist who didn't have any time for me for another week. That wasn't going to work for me, and especially not for my dad. It's corrupt the way the psychiatrist treated the entire situation. And the most corrupt part that my dad didn't tell me until last year (almost 6 years later) was that the psychiatrist charged him $1,000 to see me. Don't worry - he has since been demoted after a letter was written to the board.
I took the semester off of school and spent time recovering. I put in hard work to get better, to get my mind right. There were days that I couldn't get out of bed, let alone be bothered to put on anything other than a fresh set of sweats. It took doctors, therapists, and eventually medication to get me the help I needed. All throughout my recovery, I found pennies everywhere. I didn't look for them, they just showed up right in front of me, just like the penny in the psychiatric hospital did.
As I started to feel better, I was beginning to find ways to keep busy. I got a tattoo, a semicolon,
representing a story that is meant to be continued inspired by Project Semicolon. I decided to take one of the pennies I had found and create a Wish Bracelet. I wore it around and told every person who asked it was from a company called Heads Up For Charity. Yup, it was all made up, until it wasn't.
I started Heads Up For Charity, LLC. by selling Wish Bracelets. I wanted to make change with change. For every bracelet sold, a portion of proceeds was donated to charity. I donated over $20,000 to over 25 charities in a matter of about 10 months. I was onto something.
But I couldn't manage school, a full time job, and my mental health all at once. I put Heads Up For Charity on pause for a few years to finish up my degree and settle into life after school.
Then came Eight By One. My ultimate passion project. I know first hand how hard mental health is to speak about, especially when you struggle with it on a daily basis. It is my life's mission to end the stigma and save a life, even if it is just one because you are NEVER alone.
The Sunday Sweatshirt is a take on my favorite pieces of clothing for the days that getting dressed is the largest task I take under my belt. It is for your friend who may need comfort in knowing you are there for them even when they can't get out of bed, or for you when you're too lazy to put on real clothes. Heck, it could even be for your first cousin's girlfriends coworkers husband!
Mental health does not discriminate. Let's change the conversation around mental health, together.