Tommy Dorfman Shares the Daily Mental Health Tools That Bring Her Serenity

The actress and budding fashion icon is entering a new decade with renewed purpose.

Tommy Dorfman Mental Health Interview
Photo: Courtesy of The Happiness Project

While the last year of any decade is, by definition, a transitional one, Tommy Dorfman might know this better than just about anyone. Last summer, Dorfman re-introduced herself to the world as a trans woman in a Time magazine profile, where she opened up about her "wild" journey with "going through puberty again" at 29. But, as she shared in her InStyle cover story at the time, it was also a year of joy and clarity. "I spent 28 years of my life suicidal and depressed and recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction. I don't think I've ever been genuinely happy until this past year," Dorfman said.

So, for those of us who have been following along on her journey, it was something of a full circle moment to oggle over her recent 30th birthday celebration — a dancy party that included celeb friends like Tessa Thompson and Zoë Kravitz, where Dorfman wore a hot pink Valentino mini dress with cut-outs. On Instagram, she shared she was "feeling grateful to round out this decade as myself, sober, in love, and surrounded by friends and family."

Now, the actress, who first rose to fame on the Selena Gomez-produced Netflix hit 13 Reasons Why, is ready to set some new goals for this fresh decade — and that involves putting her mental health above all else.

"I think for me, finding more grounding and solitude and serenity is always paramount and key to my own happiness, if you will, or contentment and success — and just taking stock of my emotional, psychological, social, physical well-being, and how are they all in competition with each other?" she says. "Something that I've been trying to practice more is just slowing down. I feel that I spent so much of my twenties, as we all do, rushing and hustling."

"I think we live in a very overworked environment and country in particular that often values work success over personal mental health. I'm trying to prioritize my mental health and well-being and sort of put the oxygen mask on myself before I go out to be of service in my work or in my personal life as well," she continues.

Tommy Dorfman Mental Health Interview
Courtesy of The Happiness Project

While she clarifies that she doesn't plan to stop hustling by any means (exhibit A: her recent Coach campaign), she does intend to do so with more intention. Part of that means working with brands whose values align with her own, like TOMS.

Dorfman, who is a TOMS ambassador, recently shot a new campaign for the brand's limited-edition Happines Project collection (an 'optimistic, co-branded offering of footwear, apparel, and accessories') that helps provide financial support for mental health organizations. A few supported by the collection include Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world; The Dinner Party, which helps grieving young adults find community; and Letters to Strangers, a youth-run nonprofit that seeks to destigmatize mental illness and increase access to treatment — all causes Dorfman feels proud to use her platform to highlight as someone "who suffers from their own mental health issues" and also has "privilege and access to mental health resources".

While Dorfman certainly sees it as her responsibility to share resources with her 1.4 million followers, she also knows that simply showing up as herself can be incredibly powerful. Sometimes — like say her 30th birthday party — "my posts are just purely aesthetic," she says. "But I also think there's a benefit of seeing a body and a person like myself publicly in the world."

"I don't necessarily feel like I should be responsible for educating people on, like, what it is to be trans. But I do think we learn a lot by example," she says of sharing her transition visually on Instagram. "Setting an example of one experience of a trans person with a larger platform is, inherently, what I'm going to be doing and I don't have, at least in this moment, shame about who I was a couple years ago. If anything, I'm just grateful that I'm still here on the ride."

Tommy Dorfman Mental Health Interview
Courtesy of The Happiness Project

When I ask Dorfman what "mental fitness" looks like to her (a term popularized by Selena Gomez's new mental health brand, Wondermind), Dorfman shares it's really "an ever-evolving quilt" of tools that inclues things like Pilates and yoga, but also "therapy and 12-step."

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"Sometimes it looks like a daily reading and a meditation and prayer and pulling tarot cards. Sometimes it's a two-mile walk in the morning, and I'll take my dog to the dog park and get coffee and I'm not checking emails or on Instagram, I'm calling my parents or listening to my horoscope... and making my bed is something that I feel really helps center me. It's like a small way of, one, being grateful that I have a bed and two, showing up for myself," she says.

"I think what's important — and we don't talk about it enough — is practicing and sharpening those tools even when things are good. In my experience, I can't bank a bunch of good mental health activities and then not do anything for three months because I feel okay. I've always crashed at the end," she shares. "My best chance for success and survival and a certain amount of stability is by consistently practicing, so that when shit hits the fan, I'm prepared."

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