Opening up about depression and anxiety does two things:
One: It allows me to tell about my journey the way I want to. I own the narrative and control what I want out there and what I don’t.
Two and most importantly: I know what it’s like to feel like you’re suffering alone. I understand seeing others online “seem” like they’re OK.
The truth is we don’t know anything unless they tell us. People’s online lives are perfectly crafted and strategically written to look a certain way.
Whether people should share their stories is up to them. For me, I feel if I have to live with this for the duration of my life I might as well help people with it by being honest.
Dealing with depression sucks, but it doesn’t mean YOU suck. Anxiety can rob you of your future, but you don’t have to let it win because you’re stronger than your worse case.
There are times you feel like giving up but don’t.
You’re worth it to keep fighting for. We’re all fighting for you.
(TW: Mental Illness and Suicide)
In 2013 I had enough. I was at my wit’s end with life.
Life was out of control with sickness and loss and I honestly couldn’t take anymore. The universe, I felt, was out to get me. With a half bottle of cheap wine, cough medicine, and sleeping pills, I drank all of them at once and went to sleep.
Around 3:00 AM I panicked and jumped in the shower, hoping the warm water would somehow undo what I’d done.
And I cried.
The guilt and shame I felt were overwhelming. “How could I be SO selfish?”
Most of my friends didn’t know what was going on. In fact, if they read this, they’ll probably be shocked that it happened. There’s nothing they could have done to stop me from feeling like this. That’s why mental illness sucks. There’s nothing anyone can do to make it better.
This wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.
It was a cool night as I sat in the living room with the only light shining in my apartment was my laptop. It was the same spot, the same amount of light I allowed myself for over a week. No shower, no food, no anything. I sat like a bump on a log wondering how I could escape this place called hell.
Moving from Texas to Connecticut was supposed to reset my life and provide an opportunity to go to NY more. Except it became a spiral into my lowest depression and anxiety.
I felt the weight of everything falling on me. I didn’t get the third job I interviewed for. I didn’t get the project I placed a bid on. My webinar was a complete embarrassment and I felt more alone than ever before.
In my current apartment, I was late on rent. I had to sell my camera to pay for my phone bill. I contemplated selling my laptop but figured I wouldn’t get enough for survival. I knew I had to move out, and not knowing where to go, I was faced with two possible options: one, move into a shelter which was a no-go because there was a waiting list, I wasn’t pregnant, not disabled, and not on drugs (right hand to God that’s what all of them told me). Two, there was the streets. Yeah…
It seemed like people were succeeding around me. I saw my bank account balance go from 50 to 20 to 10 to 0. I was in a place I have never been with little people to reach out to (I didn’t want to be a bother to the few I did know).
Going to church wasn’t helping. When I called for help there were stipulations before they’d consider helping. I was fine, I guess, with going along with it, but I would still be without a roof over my head. Hence the idea of God/spirituality becoming a sham to me. “I’m a good person. Why is this happening?”
FIVE12 wasn’t pulling in a million readers or making me a six-figure online mogul that was “so easy” to do. I wanted to be where the people were, but it wasn’t happening.
People around me were happy or seemed that way. They couldn’t care less if I were around or not (or it seemed that way). And who was I to tell them what was really going on? Why bring down their lives with my problems?
Going back home wasn’t an option for reasons outside of anyone’s control. To keep that story short, life happens things fall apart.
Everything I dreamt for myself was falling apart. Using the cheap alcohol (again) and the PM pain meds, I was hell-bent on succeeding this time.
Spoiler alert part 2: It didn’t work…again.
Angry, I woke up knowing I had to feel this feeling every day. I hoped something would happen when I walked to the coffee shop to work. Maybe getting hit by a car or a bus, but no-people had to drive safely that day.
Maybe I didn’t want to end my life as much as I wanted to get out of this one and into a new one. Almost like when your bra is too tight and you want to yank it off and burn it? Something like that.
Eventually, I started throwing things to the wind. I applied for literally any job that was available to no avail. The holiday season was coming up and I hoped I could get hired for retail, but again…nothing. It’s obvious the universe was telling me my home wasn’t there and never would be.
After talking to my landlord, I got out of my lease without financial consequences. Packing my two suitcases weighing a total of 80 lbs, I took the last bus > train > bus > plane trip to get back to Dallas shortly. I moved to Ohio then to Idaho and, as fate would have it, picked up a FIVE12 client in the process.
Things slowly picked up…but still.
Starting a new job in Dallas, I was ready to make a home. It didn’t need to be fancy, just secure and mine.
Even though I didn’t have an actual home (yet), I was able to live in a place that was familiar, close to people that I knew. It helped that I wasn’t by myself. To be honest, I thought moving would help the depression and anxiety I felt, but I just moved it with me.
October 2016 – March 2017
Shouldn’t I be happy? I have a steady paycheck and a steady group of friends. But I still didn’t have that “zest” for life. I couldn’t care less about much happening, and it was starting to impact a lot of areas in my life. I knew I had depression and anxiety, and I thought admitting this would help somehow, but it didn’t.
Certain triggers started to hit on childhood trauma I tried so hard to push down. It was silly and I needed to get over it.
Yoga, while fantastic, wasn’t enough. I remember trying to contain panic attacks in my car during restroom breaks. While I’m not an alcoholic, drinking alcohol brought out the feelings I covered up with jokes and sarcasm. The occasional, “I’d rather kill myself” wasn’t sarcasm as much as it was me thinking it wouldn’t be a terrible idea.
I was battling what to do with FIVE12. If I let it go, I let it go. “No one cares about it anyway.”
No big announcement, just me letting the site collect cobwebs.
“You’re not good enough. The dream is just a dream. You’ll never be successful.”
Oddly something kept telling me to go back. Something kept telling me I wasn’t done yet.
I was going through the growing pains of starting a business from scratch. I was trying to figure it out all on my own because I was too afraid to ask questions. The rejection was another trigger for my depression and anxiety flare-ups. To this day, I have difficulty dealing with rejection because I take it personally.
March 2017, the breaking point.
In January 2017 I dedicated myself to self-care. With debt managed and a home (apartment) built for me, it was time to take care of me. The first thing I tackled was my weight, starting an extreme program under a doctor’s supervision. Why weight? Two reasons: I went through a constant battle of trying to shape up to make myself happier. I lost 40 lbs, but surprise surprise, the anxiety, and depression were still there (at this point I started having panic attacks more frequently).
Reminder: Plus-size bloggers weren’t a thing yet so I had no example of how to love my body as is until 5 years ago (give or take).
My mom sent me info for a therapist and told me to call. She saw what I was going through and like a good mother of a hard-headed adult, let me be an adult about trying to figure it out on my own. But as a good mother, she intervened because she saw I couldn’t help myself. Side note: she didn’t (doesn’t) know about any of the attempts.
As luck had it, I had one of the worst anxiety attacks during my first session. I don’t know what happened, and I don’t know how I got home. I don’t really remember a lot from that day other than knowing I needed to make life changes. A few weeks later I was officially diagnosed with general anxiety and depression and prescribed Prozac (how cliche) along with weekly sessions. Things didn’t get better immediately, but it was the beginning of a new mental era.
July 2017: Don’t Give Up
I’m sitting on my couch in my new place in the city I was once forced to leave. I’ve taken up running even though it’s hot as hell and planting is my new thing. I’m trying to reach “welcome to the jungle status” in the living room with a long way to go.
Anxiety and depression still haunt me, but I feel more in control of admitting it than suppressing it. When flare-ups happen, I try to channel it into something positive. I run to break my personal record, not count calories. I replant it helps me focus on one thing at a time instead of the millions of things I’m worried about. I’ve started to admit my feelings instead of suppressing them. I learned how to say no. I learned how to say yes. Suicidal thoughts are non-existent right now. Four months and the depression is under control. I deal with anxiety in many ways: working out, planting, coloring, all help me calm down and focus. I also continue to take my medication and go to therapy.
It’s not to say I don’t get depressed. Today, as I edit this, I’m not feeling my best. But there’s always tomorrow (and Wednesdays are therapy days!) so I’ll deal.
I’m open about it to help other people. I’m about normalizing it so fewer people are ashamed of their diagnosis. No longer do I associate with any set religion, but I know God exists, and I lean on that belief to get me through.
And FIVE12 STUDIO presses on.
For the first time since I started, FIVE12 STUDIO has a meaning. I’ve found what voice I want to place in this online universe. It’s not about competition anymore. The people I envy are the people I root for. Those who are in the same niche as me are the ones who
Having a vision and mission statement is the most important part of your brand. Make it part of your foundation so you can go back to it when things go array.
I want people to know I’m human. In the online world, it’s easy to think people are perfect robots. The carefully planned Instagram feeds we create match what’s going on in our lives.
This is furthest from the truth.
We’re all flawed. Lives are messy and the thought of giving up is more than you think.
So I beg of you, don’t give up.
I promise you’re not the first one with a failed launch or losing out on the client you want to work with. You’re not the only one stuck with your brand as you look at other people succeeding.
You’re not the only person dealing with the negative voices that say you can’t do it.
First of all, tell them to shut up. You totally can.
You’re not alone.
And if you can remember that, please keep going. Things will get better. People are paying attention. People are cheering you on. We want you here.
If what you’re doing is in your heart, do it. Don’t listen to the naysayers. They may mean well, but they don’t understand your passion or dream and that’s OK.
Don’t give up.
A few advocates of mental health I recommend:
Footnote: To my family and friends: there’s no way you could have known what was going on. I kept this to myself because I was embarrassed, ashamed, and felt like a burden to everyone. It’s easier to laugh and make jokes about mundane things than to express real emotions. I’m working on it, and it’ll take time, but I really am working on it. Please know I love and appreciate every single one of you so very much.
I’m tearing up! I appreciate your transparency and authenticity! I’m so glad you’re ok and I’m glad that you’re here!
Thank you for love and support, Jen. It means the world to me <3
I’m really glad that you shared your story. And I’m really, really really really glad that you’re okay. You’re so brave to do this, and I hope you feel a little lighter after hitting publish.
Thank you, Amber! Not going to lie, it was a little scary, but I knew if I wanted to help people like my heart really wants to, I had to be honest. It’s feedback like yours that makes it worth it. And believe it or not, I gravitated towards your blog during those not so fun times. <3