The local blogger works to erase the stigma associated with mental health disorders

Two years ago, Achea Redd, now 37, felt a lump in her breast. Terrified, she went to the doctor. Within 24 hours, she had a mammogram and biopsy.

Luckily, the bump was found to be benign, but the experience had a malignant effect on her mental health.

“It put such a strain on me emotionally,” said Redd in a late-May interview. “After a month of random panic attacks, they started to become more frequent. [And] I developed a tremor.”

Redd was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, and began treatment that included medication and regular therapy. She'd struggled with mental health issues for years, but was hesitant to seek help.

“Being African-American [and] being raised in a Christian home, there is a stigma,” said Redd, who recalls being taught mental health struggles were “white girl problems.”

“And then in the church, it's like, ‘Oh, just pray it away,'” she continued. “As a Christian girl, you're like, ‘Well, then I guess my faith isn't strong enough, or God just really hates me.'”

Through this process, Redd began journaling, and eventually started the lifestyle brand “Real Girls Fart,” which seeks to empower women and encourage them to overcome mental health issues, while also erasing the stigma. On realgirlsfart.com, Redd and other women share their everyday struggles, tips and more.

“It's a movement,” Redd said. “I have a strong passion for minority women because I am African-American, but … I hear stories from all over the country and from different cultures. … What I like to do with my online platform is just to get people talking.”

Now, Redd is expanding the brand to include in-person dialogue through the “Lessons in Vulnerability” summer talk series. The first event, titled “Compassion,” will take place Friday, June 1, at the Wave co-working space in Italian Village. Three others, “Courage,” “Connection & Community” and “Creativity,” will follow over the next three months.

Though Redd is not a doctor or life coach, she has an opportunity to influence others to seek help. “A lot of people will come talk to me and they won't go talk to a therapist,” she said. “But if I can tell them I've been to therapy, they're more apt to … listen to me because I'm a friend.”

Redd also wants to build a network of women who may have otherwise been hesitant to reach out to others.

“My hope is that they connect with somebody, and that we develop this tight-woven community [where] we are all sympathetic … and they begin to feel more empowered to tell their stories,” she said.