22 year old Youtuber Maddie Bruce is taking the internet by storm. The UK based influencer only began her YouTube channel ‘themaddiebruce’ in 2013, but she’s already amassed over 9 million views, and nearly 150,000 subscribers, with these figures going up every day.
Maddie reminisces to the beginning of her YouTube career- ‘I’d started posting photos on Instagram after a really tough time mentally, just of clothes and makeup whilst also talking about my mental health, and from there people suggested I made a YouTube, so I did!’ She adds ‘I’m not sure they [my friends and family] knew quite what it was about at the beginning but they were super supportive. Once they saw it growing they were like wow!’
Now four years later, Maddie is a highly successful YouTuber. She says that she never expected to achieve such great heights with her channel that ‘just started out as a hobby, something to do whilst I had a year out of college.’ During this time period, Maddie has made hundreds of videos, many of which are fashion and lifestyle related.
‘I would say my style is classic with a twist. I love my basics but equally I love wearing statement pieces, especially around festival season! At the moment I’m obsessed with anything pink to go with my pink hair.’ However she points out that being a YouTuber isn’t as glamourous as people may think- ‘90% of the time is spent in my comfies with my dog at home. I am lucky enough to go to some amazing glamorous events but everything on social media is not how it seems.’
Maddie says that her favourite thing about her job is her online community, and that she loves nothing more than ‘being able to connect and talk to people all over the world!’ When asking what she feels her biggest achievement so far is, she says ‘that’s a hard one! I honestly don’t know- I’ve always worked closely with the charity SANE and a couple of years ago I designed some phone cases and wall prints with the brand Coconut Lane which had inspiring quotes on. A percentage of the sale of each case/print went towards SANE which was amazing.’
As well as making lifestyle content, Maddie also uses her platform to help break the stigma surrounding mental health and self-harm, inspiring her viewers and proving that you can live a full life with a mental illness.
Could you tell us a bit more about your mental health journey and your diagnosis?
So I’ve struggled with my mental health since my early teens, self-harming and feeling depressed and anxious. My mental health took huge dive around my GCSE’s as I really felt pressured to do well. My mood picked up when I began college but soon the empty feeling came back so I went on antidepressants but that didn’t seem to help much. The summer after my first year of college I had a breakdown. I became heavily suicidal very quickly and my boyfriend at the time broke up with me which sent me over the edge.
I then ended up in a psychiatric unit for a few months but then had to leave as I turned 18 so was technically not a ‘child’ anymore and there wasn’t any space in an adult hospital for me. Since then I’ve had lots of therapy and my friends and family have helped me get through and rebuild my life. When I was 21 I finally got a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder which was a relief because I knew that what I had wasn’t just anxiety and depression. I like talking about BPD on my channel as there seems to be a huge stigma around it and I want to break that.
How does your diagnosis affect you in your daily life?
I get very anxious over things like going to the supermarket, human interaction (in case I say something wrong or its awkward or I don’t know what to do) and I hate speaking on that phone. Relationships are quite tough as I struggle with feelings of abandonment and my mood is very up and down a lot.
How do you remain positive and take care of yourself when you’re having a bad spell in terms of your mental health?
If I’m having a really bad scene I take a break. Because I work for myself I’m lucky enough to be able to give myself the time of and prioritise my health. In terms of staying positive I always like to think about how lucky I am and what I’m grateful in my life and just generally balancing my work and social life, making sure I always have time to read a book or take a walk with my dog in my day. I also use a lot of coping techniques my psychiatrist has taught me which I’ve then passed on through my videos.
Was it difficult for you to share your struggles with such a large audience? Did you ever feel apprehensive to do so?
For some reason it’s just always been easy for me. I was in hospital with an amazing girl who taught me not to be ashamed of my mental health and that it makes me a stronger person. Once I knew that the best policy for mental health was honesty and when I got a positive reaction from talking about it on my social media I just carried on because my honesty seems to really help people.
You also discuss self-harm on your channel and encourage a discourse surrounding the issue. Why do you think it is that this topic is so taboo? And why is it important to break the stigma and talk about it?
I think self-harm is so important to talk about. It’s the one topic that always gets a huge response from people when I talk about it on my channel because it’s so taboo and no one really discusses it that openly. I think it’s taboo as there seems to be this perception that people only do it for attention or they don’t talk about it because they’re embarrassed of it. It’s actually such a secretive act and there are so many complex reasons why one may self-harm.
There’s this whole thing around triggering people by talking about it or showing your scars online- I used to get lots of comments saying my scars were triggering people in photos so I would edit them out but over the past year I’ve stopped doing that because I’ve realised that it’s not for me to hide my scars, they’re part of me- it’s for people to learn how to react when they see a trigger. I really try and make myself harm videos about it being possible to recover and giving all the tips and tricks I used to stop. It’s important to remember that with self-harm relapse is inevitable but you’ve just got to pick yourself up and carry on going.
Do you find that your subscribers/followers confine in you regarding their own struggles with mental health?
Yes definitely. I feel so so privileged that people feel able to open up to me and tell me their life story without even knowing me. Social media gets a bad rep but when it comes to finding others who have similar struggles to you I think it’s so so valuable in mental health recovery. I really just like to see my followers as my friends and I try and reply to all the messages in my inbox. People are always so surprised when I do!
Finally, what advice would you give to someone struggling with their mental health?
Baby steps. For me it took a long long time to rebuild my life and get to a stable(ish) place mentally, start small and work your way up. Don’t beat yourself up if you relapse, go to therapy, take medication if you need to and talk to your friends and family. Remember you are not alone in this and things will get better if you carry on fighting.