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Interview with Kim Banwell

Meet Michaiah! Michaiah lives in New Zealand with her husband, step-son and her two fur babies.

When Michaiah isn’t with her family, she runs three businesses – Deluxe Events, Le Ball and Al Volo Pizzeria.

Michaiah shares her lived experiences with depression, suicide and bipolar, and how her mental health effects her on a personal level, her family life and being a business woman. Michaiah also shares honest and courageous insights surrounding suicide and her experiences living with the aftermath of suicide.

Being a business owner to three businesses, your time must be consumed with so much ‘busyness’ and burnout, can that be hard to differentiate with a further issue, perhaps a mental illness?

Yes absolutely I have to be careful not to burn myself out as that impacts my depression, but they are separate issues although I feel that they make each other worse in a way.

You also have lived experience with depression. Do you remember when you first noticed your symptoms and what were they?

I was always melancholy as a kid, I believe my depression is hereditary and I was born with it unfortunately. I first realised that there was definitely something wrong though at about 13 when I was quite dark and didn’t want to be around people. I went through a ‘Gothic stage’. Then when I tried to commit suicide at 15 years of age that was when I was diagnosed with Bipolar.

Did you go seek out help about the problems you were experiencing? If so, how was your experience with a doctor/counsellor/psychologist? If not, why didn’t you seek help? (i.e stigma, shame)

After I was diagnosed I chose not to go on medication. I didn’t go and see anyone at that point it wasn’t until later that I started to take it more seriously and do more work on myself. I have spent a lot of time and money on bettering myself doing various personal development courses and have spoken to therapists and counsellors over the years when I felt I needed to. It is important to seek professional help when you need it.

You’re also living the aftermath of suicide, how was this changed your life?

It changed my life completely. I knew where I was going, who I was and what I wanted prior to that happening then it just turned everything upside down, completely wiped away everything and I have spent the last 11 years learning and figuring it all out again. It’s been along hard road and whilst my life is great it’s still something that I am battling at times, the pain, the rejection, the sadness, the complete changing of my life as I knew it.

You’re a wife and a step-mother, how has your mental health affected these relationships?

It’s been hard to be honest. My husband is amazing but he doesn’t really understand mental health as he doesn’t really struggle with it himself so he has been trying to be patient with me which at times has been super hard for him. My step son is an amazing kid and as he gets older I make sure to have honest talks with him about life and the reality of these issues in the hope that he understands it somewhat and knows that life will be hard but to be strong and push through. My husband actually lost one of his best friends to suicide a few years ago and has a better understanding of how much mental health really does impact our lives after that but still doesn’t really get it or understand when someone doesn’t want to live any more.

There is so much stigma around being only at the very lowest to seek help. How important is it to reach out and seek help at the first sign of something being wrong?

Hmm that is a hard one – I feel that we need to take responsibility for what we are doing in our lives that may be causing us to feel low and change those things i.e. drinking, drugs, not enough sleep, not looking after ourselves etc., however of course it is important to talk to someone when you are feeling low whether it is a councillor or a friend, try and have someone you can go to and feel comfortable to talk to. The worst thing is to bottle it up and hold it in which I am guilty of doing too! Do not for a second think you are a burden. To get to such a low place that you end up taking your life will impact your friends and family in more ways than you can imagine and cause all sorts of ongoing issues that will impact them much more than you seeking their love and help when you are feeling low or struggling.

What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to open up about their own problems?

If you do not feel comfortable with friends or family then go to a therapist – there are community options so it doesn’t have to cost a lot and sometimes to have someone totally removed from your life is what feels the safest. It is good though if you feel you can trust one or two people in your life that you can download to when you’re having a sh*t time, just hang out with no judgement. It can be hard to find those people but I am sure there will be one or two. I always try to be a space of non-judgement and openness for any of my friends when they need that safe place, that space to be completely vulnerable and open with no fear of a negative reaction or anything just to shares their struggles and pain and know they are not on their own.

What has been the most beneficial tool or practice for your own mental health? (i.e. reading, podcasts, exercise)

For me exercise – yoga, walking, gym – is very important, earthing or grounding, being on my own (I am an introvert who recharges by being on my own) eating well (I have a plant based diet and don’t drink alcohol or do drugs) and being mindful of who I am around and invest my energy into is all very important and my little fur babies give me unconditional love.

For something different – if you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

I would be a flamingo because they are my fave animal and they are so pretty (I love the colour pink!)

What is your favourite quote or motto to live by?

I have a few!

“Each to their own, you do what is right for you so long as it’s not hurting a human or animal”

“Be the change you want to see”

“Take responsibility for your own actions and be real with yourself about what you do day to day”

“Be mindful of who you spend the most time with as you are a result of the people you have in your life the most”

“The grass is not greener on the other side, it is greener where you water it. In other words look after your garden, your lawn and water it and it will grow. Don’t look over the fence at someone else’s garden and think they are better or being elsewhere is going to be better”

Thank you so much Michaiah for sharing your amazing and courageous story and experiences.

You can find Michaiah at:


Instagram: @michaiah.s

Facebook: Michaiah Simmons-Villari

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