Jessica Little, Clinical Director of Mood Health
While the conversation around mental health has become more commonplace, many people still find it difficult to navigate — from combatting the social stigma to even just finding the time in your schedule to take care of yourself, we know that sometimes it can feel easier to just brush mental health challenges under the rug, or think of mental well-being as a luxury.
We spoke to Jessica Little, Clinical Director of Mood Health and mom to two little boys, about her path to Mood, her own mental health story, and challenges of recognizing and getting support for mental health. We also dished about her favorite ways to unwind and her favorite spots in Irvine.
Hi there! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Jessica Little and I work at Mood Health as the director of clinical partnerships. I grew up in the suburbs of Connecticut and moved to California after I graduated college. I was lucky enough to meet my husband the first week I moved here at a super romantic bar named Sharkeez in Newport Beach (total joke, Sharkeez is not romantic at all!).
As a working mom with 2 little boys, I often feel burnt out. After that feeling comes another one, one that we all know too well…mom guilt! It’s tough to balance work, kids, husband, life and still find time to maybe have a glass of wine and watch an episode of Real Housewives! In my free time I mostly enjoy taking my kids to parks, having coffee dates with friends, and the occasional date night with my husband.
Being a mom of two little ones is tough enough, but you have two pandemic babies, is that right? What’s been the toughest part about that? Have there been any silver linings?
My son Noah was born about 3 days before we went into official lockdown. Being a mom in general is hard, but add on a pandemic on top of that and wow, it felt impossible. Not only was I scared for my little ones because I didn’t want them to get sick, but I also felt so isolated and alone, because seemingly overnight it became impossible to see friends or meet other moms. The one silver lining has been the extra family time since my husband has worked from home for the past almost two years now.
It’s so important for people to understand how being a new parent during the pandemic has affected people’s mental health. What’s your mental health story?
I come from a family who has a history of depression, anxiety, and bipolar, but even knowing the signs, I still denied it for a long time. Growing up I had mild social anxiety, but who doesn’t in high school – girls can be mean. It wasn’t until years that I realized I really did have anxiety and depression. The moment that will always stick out to me is the day my husband said to me “When was the last time you were truly happy? Because I think it was our wedding. Our wedding was 6 months ago.” That was the wake up call I needed to seek help. Ever since then, I have seen a psychiatrist and been on medication to manage my depression and anxiety and I am truly now the best version of myself.
And while I am very happy with my life right now that doesn’t mean I don’t still have hard days. I still struggle sometimes, but it doesn’t feel so heavy. My son recently was diagnosed with high functioning autism at the age of 3, and while I let this get me down, sad and in a bad place for a day or so, I didn’t let it take over my life in the way that it might have before seeking treatment. I have the tools now to know when I need to talk to someone, know when I might need to adjust my medication, know something is off with my mental health and I need help.
I also have learned the importance of true self care. As a mom, we often think of self-care as, “OMG I got to take a shower today without a little one in the bathroom with me!”, but honestly, that is not self-care, that’s survival. We’ve all been there with 3-day old hair and sweatpants on; but sometimes it’s important to truly take time for yourself. Go out and get lunch by yourself, or ask your husband to do bedtime so you can take a bath and read a book. Do something just for you that can reset your mind.
That’s great advice and a reminder that we can give ourselves permission to take care of our needs. What does your self-care look like?
At least a few times a year, I have my husband watch the kids for an entire day and I go with my mom to get massages and facials. It’s not often but I look forward to those two or three days a year so much, and I can feel the positive effects for a while afterwards.
You’re the Director of Clinical Partnerships at Mood Health. Can you tell us how you ended up in this role and what your typical days look like as a working mom?
I previously worked in pharmaceutical sales, but was let go in a downsize right before the pandemic started, which coincided with my son being born. After some much needed time off, I decided I wanted to use my same skill set, but pursue something to help more people. That’s when I came across Mood Health. Their mission and goals aligned so much with my own personal feelings it felt like the best opportunity.
A normal day for me is constantly changing (startup life!), but typically I wake up, do dishes, get the boys up and give them milk, then plop them on the couch for one TV show while I shower. Then it’s off to preschool, and when I come back home I start catching up on emails and taking calls.
Mood’s mission is to make mental health care effective and accessible, and one way that we’re working towards realizing that mission is by partnering with bigger medical provider groups across California. It’s an exciting new arm of the business, and being able to lead the charge has been both challenging and rewarding.
In the afternoon, I pick my sons up from preschool and get them down for a nap before finishing up my day with internal meetings. By the time I put them down for bed in the evening I am normally so exhausted I simply lay down on the couch, eat some chocolate and watch a TV show!
What have you learned from your own mental health journey and working at Mood Health? What do you wish people knew about seeking treatment and support for their mental and emotional health?
I want people, especially moms, to know that it’s OK to need help. It’s OK to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and you just need a break. Mom’s are true superheroes, but even heroes need to rest.
It’s OK to take medication to feel better. The world has given mental health a bad stigma which I aim to tear down everyday. Hormones are real, chemical imbalances are real, what you feel is real and can be treated if you seek the help! You’re not alone; even though you might scroll through Instagram and see everyone’s perfect highlight reel, they’re feeling the same exhaustion you are, there’s no doubt in my mind. Motherhood is hard; we stay strong for our kids, but we need to stay healthy for them too.
That’s so true, and said so beautifully. Thank you for your time, Jessica!
To wrap up, would you please share your favorite places in your local area to:
Kids store: Hide and Squeak Children’s Boutique
Date night Restaurant: Bistango (the margarita and chocolate souffle are to die for)
Kids spot: Pretend City Children’s Museum
Quick Lunch spot with a play area for kids: Sessions Deli
And of course, Mood Health!
The convenience of online mental health support can’t be beat. It’s so helpful to be able to make my appointments online and meet with my provider on the couch, in the kitchen, or sometimes even in my car!