By Brittany Lazarus
“I didn’t understand I was suffering from anxiety daily until I was in my early 20s, the stigma against any kind of mental illness was strong. I thought something was deeply wrong or broken within me.”
That’s Tori Press. She describes herself as “an artist, writer, therapy enthusiast and highly anxious human being”. She’s well known for her work on Instagram and Facebook as @revelatori and is admired for the way she wears her heart on her sleeve, sharing her own emotional journey while breaking down the stigma and barriers surrounding mental health. Her organic following of 226,000 is growing by the day. Press exposes the pressure the global pandemic is putting on her relationship with therapy and her mental health as well as how she is accepting and coping with everything that is being thrown her way.
When speaking with her followers, there was a resounding echo of how much they all appreciate her ‘realness’. Long-term follower Katie speaks of a difficult time where her family benefitted from the “realness and vulnerability” Press portrays through her work. She remembers the discovery of @revelatori being timely as “it was during a period of time when my then preteen daughter was having a lot of anxiety and I was feeling my efforts to help her were inadequate”.
“Tori’s account was filled with messages of hope and reminders that whatever we are going through, it won’t last forever, we both found comfort in the messages and in the reality, that there are others struggling in the same way,” Katie said.
Press feels like the purpose of her art is to make people feel normal and realise they are not alone. She empathises and engages with her audience deeply to help people feel more “comfortable in their struggles, particularly if they suffer from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues”.
The World Health Organisation identifies the negative stigma associated with mental health disorders to be a leading barrier to effective treatment. WHO has also found more than 10 per cent of the world’s population is living with a form of anxiety or depression.
Scroll through the comments on @revelatori and you hear from many people who are dealing with these disorders every day. There are many messages of hope, gratitude and the overwhelming feeling that they are not alone.
Mental health issues are a large part of Zoe Eleftheriadis’ day-to-day life. She says Press’ @revelatori has helped her deal with them.
“Her posts are stories that take you with her. They are uplifting in their honesty, and the love they express reminds me I am not my struggles and there is a community that understands me. It makes me feel human,” Eleftheriadis says.
While Press offers common ground through @revelatori for individuals suffering from mental health disorders, she recognises the importance of seeking professional help and has a very personal history with visiting a therapist. The self-proclaimed ‘therapy enthusiast’ often shares her experiences in the hope they will encourage others, not just to seek help but to keep at it and not be afraid to see someone new if something isn’t quite working out.
“The success of the therapy experience depends so much on being with the right person. You can always return to your original therapist, and their feelings won’t be hurt,” she says.
The “best piece of advice” Press offers about therapy is “not to worry too much about what goes on in any one session”. This has also been a point greatly emphasised in her recent social media posts in relation to the COVID-19 global pandemic. She believes wholeheartedly that “everything that comes out in therapy comes out for a reason”. Even if that might not always be apparent for days, weeks or months.
“I thought therapy was a sign of weakness for many years, and tried so hard to pull myself up by my bootstraps and somehow self-heal. I can tell you. from experience that if this were possible, therapists would not exist,” she says.
For Press, her art both feeds and heals her anxious mind. Hitting that post button fills her with nerves and anxious energy.
“It is a huge part of my self care and has helped me take great strides in improving my mental health, get more from therapy sessions and understand my own mind,” she says.
“To this day my heart pounds and I feel incredibly nervous as I hit the post button. Every. Single. Time. I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away. Every piece of art I make feels like putting a tender piece of my own heart into the world.”
Press is adored for this raw authenticity. Another big fan, Ellie, praises her work and explains it makes her feel “validated, connected and hopeful”.
With such an open and personal approach to her work Press constantly worries her work will be “dismissed, judged or misunderstood”, no matter how many times it is received positively by more than 226,000 individuals on Instagram alone.
“That is what it means to do creative work, that vulnerability will always be there. I try to accept it as part of the process,” she says.
It is heart-warming to see how much raw authenticity is in each line, sketch, caption. Press left her last job of more than 10 years as her heart was no longer in it. She was longing for a creative outlet. First sharing drawings with a few friends and then, after many kind words and encouragement, moving on to start @Revelatori in early 2017. Her posts have come a long way from the early days of yoga poses and single frame comics. Press’ art has evolved with her and her relationship with herself.
“I think of myself as a teller of human stories,” she says.
“I seek comfort and meaning in everyday experiences and try to share the lessons I have learned through my comics. I draw the messages I myself need to hear, in the hope they will encourage other people in the world who are having similar experiences.”
After three years of telling her stories on social media platforms, Tori has just finished writing a book I Am Probably Enough (I Think), which furthers her open conversation with new companionship, such as content along her journey from “self-loathing to self-acceptance”. It will be available early November this year. The book is a step along the path to Press’ ideal world where there is no stigma attached to mental illness and there is a big swing against stigmatised barriers.