Every month, we introduce a new Guest Editor to share his or her musings on wellness, beauty, lifestyle, and beyond. This month, we invited Too Damn Young founder Vivian Nuñez to take part.
Vivian Nuñez is a champion of mental health and grieving. While those two topics may sound emotionally taxing – and they can be – nothing makes the lifelong New Yorker prouder than getting her message across and continuing the conversation with like-minded individuals, people who experienced loss at a young age. After losing her mom at 10 years old and her grandma 11 years later, Nuñez launched Too Damn Young, an online community for teens and young adults who are grieving. Since founding the org, Nuñez has spoken on countless panels, presented at the United Nations, and collaborated with Instagram x AFSP, among other achievements.
Get to know the entrepreneur as she opens up about her calling to make grief and healing more mainstream, why she’s so open about her mental health, and how she makes time for self-care. Keep an eye out for her two blog posts on Lively later this week.
Lively: Briefly tell us about your career path. Why did you start Too Damn Young?
Vivian Nunez: The summer after I graduated from college in 2014, I knew two things to be true — I wasn’t going to get a 9-5 job and I wanted to create change in the mental health space. My in to this conversation happened through my own personal experiences with grief. I lost my mom when I was 10 years old and then experienced my second loss when I was 21 years old and my grandma, who had raised me since my mom’s death, passed away. I’d grown up with a deep understanding that grief is meant to be processed and a reality we have to learn to live alongside. After my grandmother’s passing, I hit a wall because there was a lack of empathy, dialogue, or spaces where I felt I could effectively start processing my loss, so I started my own. Toodamnyoung.com was born out of a need to create a space where young adults felt encouraged to process their losses.
Since its creation, I’ve built out a community on my personal Instagram page that speaks to mental health in general and where I use my own writing to push forward a more inclusive, accepting narrative around mental health and grief.
L: You're very open about mental health on Instagram. Why is this an important topic for you to tackle?
VN: I know what it’s like to feel alone in the heaviness that life has to offer. When I was my grandmother’s primary caregiver during her last few months of life, I felt so alone in navigating her health, the healthcare system, and my own life. Since then, I’ve been actively trying to learn how to best manage my own mental health and slowly realized that Instagram was a platform that helped me do that. Through my captions I’m able to share what I’ve learned about myself, how I’m navigating the ins and outs of anxiety, and how I’m looking to hold myself accountable. The more I posted, the more I realized that there was a larger community I belonged to that liked speaking openly about mental health or that found it comforting that someone else did even if they couldn’t themselves just then. IG has become a tool for facilitating harder conversations in a really casual, productive way.
L: What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?
VN: Give yourself permission to learn to love yourself. Things get figured out the older you get, you’ll learn to love (and defend) the parts of you that you thought made you so different when you were a teenager. Learning to love them now will set you up for so much happiness.
L: Talking and writing about grief and mental health must get heavy. What do you do to take care of yourself in those moments?
VN: I love the chance I get to connect with so many people either through my stories or theirs, but it does get overwhelming and overstimulating. I try to get up and walk around my office space or go outside for a walk at least once every couple of hours and at the end of the day I also try to do something fun that’s just for me for a few minutes before heading home or meeting up with my partner. I’ve also recently made it a point to communicate better with my partner when I’m overwhelmed or have too much on my plate because it’s when I could use his help the most.
L: Is there a mantra or quote you turn to when the going gets tough?
VN: Assume we’re all trying our best. I stick to this mantra even on the toughest day because it’s a gentle reminder that we’re all human and just trying our best to navigate work, relationships, and life.
L: We have to ask: What's your favorite Vital Proteins product?
VN: I have so much love for the Vanilla Collagen Peptides and the sleep drink Sleep Collagen Shot. They both make such a huge difference in my daily routine. I add the Vanilla Collagen Peptides to my smoothies (which I try my best to make on the daily) and the Sleep Collagen Shots help set me up for a good night of sleep even if I’ve had a harder mental health day or a long work day.
L: How do you “Uncap Your Potential”?
VN: I constantly check in with my friends for encouragement when I know that my head is hitting the ceiling, but I’m still having trouble breaking through long enough to make it my floor. It’s scary constantly reaching for more or bigger dreams, but there’s so much fun that comes at the end of uncapping your potential.