Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

mental health

Stuck and afraid

You guys. I think I’m afraid of success. 

I think it’s why I intentionally or unintentionally sabotage many of my efforts. It’s why I do almost nothing to improve or promote my blog. It’s most likely why I haven’t finished my fiction book or my nonfiction book. It’s probably why I haven’t done much to launch my author coaching business or let people know that I work as an acquisitions editor for a publishing company. It’s why I’m still struggling to lose weight. 

And it’s not so much because I’m afraid of the work that goes into doing all of that. I like work. I’m happier when I’m working and my schedule is full. My time management is better, my depression is at bay, and I’m just a general better person when I’m productive and working. But deep down, in the places I don’t talk about at parties, I’m terrified of what that hard work will produce. 

What am I terrified of, exactly? Here’s a sample:

  • Higher expectations placed on me by both myself and others
  • Haters. It’s not that I care what people think of me, per se, it’s more that I don’t have a thick enough skin or am Teflon enough not to take terrible comments personally. I’m already my own bully. I don’t need strangers doing it, too.
  • Fame. Not so much in the Beyonce sense but any sort of notoriety scares the shit out of me (you can see this post for why I don’t want to be famous)
  • Money. The thought of having excess money makes me nervous. Not 100% sure why.
  • The idea of success and having to define what success actually looks like. 
  • Thinking about myself differently because I’ve achieved some arbitrary goal. Who am I if not someone who fails? Having to redefine my whole identity freaks me the fuck out. 

I realize that my self-esteem and self-confidence issues factor into this fucked up way of thinking in big, big ways. But if I don’t accept it and continue to deny both the fact that I have those issues and that they’re impeding my ability to succeed at whatever goals I have then I’ll never make any progress. 

At the same time, I can’t keep using them as a crutch or fall back to justify or support why I’m not succeeding at things. 

It’s a big fucking mess. And the hardest part is wanting to fix it but not knowing how. 

So I’m asking you guys for help. 

If you’ve had similar thought patterns to me, how have you overcome them? If you feel like I do, what gets you through on the really bad days? How do you put your shit aside and just get it done? How did you stop being afraid? 

Because right now I’m stuck. And being stuck is even worse than my fear of success.

 

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P.S. Last Friday was the one year anniversary of my miscarriage. I wrote a post for Ever Upward and if you guys would be so kind to check it out, I’d appreciate it. 

On depression and infertility

So, you guys are probably expecting a recap of my Boston/Massachusetts trip because that’s what all good bloggers do when they get back from vacation. They share pictures of family and sights and food and give all kinds of tips for travelling to wherever just returned from. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I’m a shitty blogger and I have no recap for you. Instead, I want to address two topics close to my heart that of course popped up while I was away. Warning: this a long post, filled with two very emotional topics. I won’t be mad if you don’t read the whole thing. 

The first is Wentworth Miller’s post about the meme mocking him for his post-Prison Break weight gain. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you can read Buzzfeed’s summary here (I realize it’s Buzzfeed but it’ll do to help me make my point). Make sure you watch the video. I’ve watched it about 6 times since 2013 and each time it gets more powerful. 

Now, it’s no secret around these parts how I feel about Wentworth Miller (I love him. LOVE. HIM. Seriously, if you go to the search bar and type in his name, about a dozen posts will come up. I think I’ve mentioned him more than Matt Damon). When he came out a few years ago and he talked about how he attempted suicide because of wrestling with who he is, it gutted me. To hear that someone so intelligent, talented, successful and let’s face it, hot, tried to kill himself because of a mental illness that he couldn’t control, circumstances he couldn’t control, and choices he felt he had to make to protect himself and his career, destroys me. And I’m glad his attempts failed because if he’d succeeded, the world would be worse off. (And so we’re clear, anytime I hear someone, not just a famous person, attempts or commits suicide, it guts me. But that’s a post for another time, and a topic that I once addressed).http---janasays.com

Because what he’s doing now, speaking out with his stories, sharing his tales of lows and survivals, is inspiring. Not just to people like me, who are suffering from depression, but to people who need to understand depression. To get a glimpse into what goes through the mind of someone living with it. To see it can happen to anyone regardless of looks, money, or fame. To realize depression isn’t just sadness but something so much bigger. To understand that surviving depression isn’t as easy as just “choosing happy” and that for many of us, surviving means assigning meaning to it by speaking out and sharing our stories and letting others enduring it know that they truly aren’t alone. 

But beyond that, what I love the most about what he said (and can we pause to say what a beautiful writer he is?) is that he was able to take what should have been a low point in his life and make it positive. That he sees beyond what the paparazzi wanted us to see. That he sees and feels absolute no shame in an unflattering picture because what it represents to him is so much more than what the rest of us see. That he’s using it as a source of strength and recovery and fortitude rather than a reason to hide. 

It’s something I know I need to work on. When I find a picture of myself smiling, really smiling, no matter how bad I look in the picture, rather than looking at how fat or ugly I look in the picture, I need to look at from a different lens. I need to see someone who’s survived a whole lot of shit over the last 5 years and the fact that I can still put a genuine smile on my face and enjoy life means more than the fact that I have weight to lose. I need to see those pictures as something to treasure rather than delete. It doesn’t mean forgetting everything; it just means accepting it as part of my story and moving on from it. 

 

Which is a semi-decent segway into the next topic. 

April 15 marks the one year anniversary of my miscarriage (you can read about that here if you’d like). I still can’t fully write about it without crying but I’m going to try because my friend Justine, an infertility blogger and amazing person, has launched a campaign, We are More Than 1 in 8, that I want to share with you guys (1 in 8 is the statistic for people suffering from infertility). The campaign is dedicated to sharing what life looks like as a result of infertility. To show that not every infertility story has a happy ending (the happy ending being the baby) but that you can redefine your happy ending. The campaign has a mission to bring faces to infertility and to bring together a community of people who, like those suffering from depression, need to feel less alone. 

Infertility is a very isolating thing. When you’re dealing with it, you feel like there’s something wrong with you, like you’re being punished for something you did or didn’t do and the punishment is no baby for you. You don’t want to bring it up because you feel like no one can relate and you don’t want to be the one to make someone feel awkward or uncomfortable, even though you know that talking about it is exactly what you need to do. 

And then there’s this. No one wants to talk about it because how do you talk about it? How do you explain to someone who has one or 5 or 10 kids that you just can’t have them? That when someone says to you “why didn’t you have more” or “why don’t you have any”, it’s hard not to punch them in the face or snap back with something expletive laden. How do you make someone who’s never had a miscarriage or experienced infertility just how much it hurts and that when you can’t be around a baby, they need to not take it personally? 

As for me, my story has a different turn. I had my daughter and then the infertility happened. It’s called secondary infertility and it hurts just as much. Having one child does not eliminate the pain of a miscarriage or seven years of trying for that second child or the failed infertility treatments. Secondary infertility means that my family will never feel complete and that something will always be missing. Adoption isn’t an option for my family for reasons we don’t need to talk about and also, the solution to infertility isn’t always adoption (like suicide, this another post for another time). 

This past year has been one of the worst of my life. Do I have a greater appreciation for what I’ve been given in the child department? Yes. Has it helped ease the unbearable pain of losing a pregnancy? No. Has it been the fight of my life to not sink into a paralyzing depression? You bet your ass it has. 

I still mark each day by where I would be if I’d had the baby. I still can’t walk down the baby aisles in stores, can’t hold babies, and still struggle with looking at pictures of healthy babies and pregnancies. I still can’t refer to the baby by the name he would have had (although we never got to find out the sex, we’re all confident it was a boy). I wrestle with the months my period is late because I still have hope yet I never want to experience the pain of a miscarriage ever again. 

But it’s easier today than it was yesterday. And each day it gets easier. It’s a heartbreak that will never go away but now it’s manageable. I’m learning to live my life with this as part of it, just like my depression. 

Depression will most likely be my most constant companion, like a long distance friend who I don’t hear from for awhile and then shows up on my doorstep. I don’t know when she’ll come calling again but I know I can’t run from her or hide from her. I won’t want to let her in but I know she’ll sneak in through a window or something because she’s an asshole like that. And I’ll deal with her in the best way I can or know how, whatever that looks like. And maybe she’ll win one battle and I’ll win the next, and I know it’ll always be a fight, but in the end, she won’t defeat me. 

Some days I wonder why I have to deal with so much fucking shit. It seems cruel and unfair. I’m sure there’s a purpose or reason for it and right now, I’m struggling to figure out what that is. But along with that struggle, I’m learning to appreciate all that is good because I’ve survived. I’m still here. 

I will continue to survive. 

That needs to mean something. 

 

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A big shift

As the year is starting to wind down and we’re seeing the best of lists and all that stuff, I know that lots of us are taking time for reflection. How we did on our goals, our successes and failures, our relationships, and what we want to see for the new year. How we can improve, trips we want to take, items on our bucket lists to check off. You know. The usual. 

For me, though, the reflection has been a bit different than in years past. Yes, I’m doing everything that I listed above but there’s something else I’m doing. This year, I’m looking at how the words I use have made the biggest impact on me and my goals and how I can use that for next year as well. words

If you know me, you know the way I speak to myself isn’t exactly what you’d call nice. I’d never speak to another person the way I talk to myself and it’s something I’m actively working on. Lest you think I’m perfect or have mastered this particular skill, let me assure you, I am not. In fact, just last night, I referred to myself as fatass. But the number of times I do that has substantially decreased since I decided to actively work on this. And that’s what it is. It’s a product of work and effort. 

The other way I’m using language to “fix” myself is to no longer say things like “I want to be someone who writes a book” or “I want to be someone who’s healthy”. Now I say “I AM someone who’s writing a book” (quick update on that: about 10000 words to go before the rough draft is done and the first pass of editing can start. Plus I have an idea that will significantly improve the quality of the story) and “I AM someone who’s healthy” and “I AM someone who can achieve the goals she sets for herself”. 

Changing the words from ones of aspirations and wishful thinking to ones of affirmation and declaration has been a powerful change for me, as well as a huge shift in my self-confidence. Again, I have a long way to go but it’s exponentially better than it was. In fact, it was the reason I was able to make it through the Whole30. During Thanksgiving. 

If you’re struggling with achieving your goals, any goals, or have problems with self-esteem and self-confidence, I definitely suggest changing your word choices. It’ll feel weird and awkward at first, and you’ll find yourself asking if you really are the kind of person you’re declaring you are, but I’ll tell you that yes. Yes, you are. You truly are anything you think you are. unicorn2

For someone who loves books and believes in the power of song lyrics, it’s amazing that it’s taken me so long to come to the conclusion that a simple change in my choice of words makes a substantial impact.

How about you guys? What are your tricks for staying focused or empowering yourself to achieve your goals?

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Sometimes I get…

Sometimes I get:

Frustrated at always being on a budget

Disgusted with my wardrobe

Jealous of people who can travel anywhere, anytime, free from obligations, money worries, or any other constraint

Annoyed that my house is never as clean as I’d like it to be

Angry that I had a miscarriage and even angrier that it’s so damn hard for me to get pregnant

Overwhelmed at all the adulting I need to do every day

Tired of making choices and decisions

Hangry

Sad about past hurts and angry at how they’ve changed me

Irked with myself for not having enough hustle and discipline

Wistful for all the books I’ll never get around to reading and the places I’ll never get around to visiting no matter how hard I try

Disappointed with myself 

Unnecessarily irritated by bad grammar, poor manners, and terrible driving

Caught up in comparing myself to other people

Embarrassed to have people in my home

Homesick for New York even though it’s been almost 20 years since I lived there

Lonely

Discouraged with blogging and writing

Irrationally enraged at small things like chipped nail polish, zippers that won’t close properly, stains that appear on my clothes after they’ve gone through the wash, and pens with light ink

Distracted from what’s important

I don’t deny myself feeling any of these. I think it’s normal to feel any or all of these at some point and if you say you don’t ever feel any of them, or something not so wonderful that’s not on the list, I don’t know that I believe you. No one feels 100% happy and perfect all the time. If you do, you need to share your secrets. Honestly. You can make 80 billion dollars off of that.

It’s important to me to own my emotions, whatever they might be, and deal with them. And after I deal with them, it makes me realize that my life isn’t really that bad and I get over myself and move on (except being appalled by poor grammar, bad manners, and terrible driving. And laundry stains. Seriously. Why are stains appearing on my clothes after they’ve been washed?)

Because while I’m spending time and energy focusing on all the things that are wrong, it’s time and energy I’m taking away from focusing on what’s right. adding

 

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#shareyourugly

I hadn’t planned on writing this post today but after my conversation during a 2+ hour lunch with Steph yesterday, I decided it’s necessary. It might get convoluted and circular, and I apologize in advance for that.

I am not okay.

In fact, I am the exact opposite of okay. I’m a disaster. A mess. 

I have unpaid bills. My house is decidedly less than clean. I have errands to run, emails to answer, calls to make, jobs to apply for, a gray streak in my hair I need to dye, blogs I need to catch up on, and plans that I desperately want to cancel yet I do none of it. I want to smile and mean it, laugh and feel better, and understand that it is okay to ask for help. But it takes all my strength to get out of bed and brush my teeth each morning and there’s not much left over for anything else. I sleep like shit when I actually do fall asleep. I have no motivation to do anything except sit on the couch and play endless games of Rummikub on my iPad or read books. I’m still grieving my miscarriage. I’m still unemployed. My depression is at an all time high (low?).

I feel like an epic failure.

I tell you all this not for sympathy or pity or anything other than I want to share the fact that, despite the humor you might read in a post or a cute picture you might see on Instagram, there’s more going on behind the scenes. My life is not a beautiful, staged on a white background array of sunshine and rainbows. My life, at times, is ugly and awful and not at all enviable. And I tell you that because I know that someone, somewhere, feels like she (or he) is the only one with ugliness in her life. And I want that person to know she’s not. 

We all have darkness. We all have moments when everything feels like it’s falling apart and will never be put back together. We all have moments of shame and sadness and messiness and absolute wretchedness.

Bloggers don’t often do a good job of conveying that, although some are spectacular at it (think The Bloggess, Allie Brosh, and a couple of others I follow with quasi-regularity). But there’s more who hide the ugly than share. And I think that needs to stop. Bloggers have a reach that other people don’t, and you never know how your words can affect someone. Which is why, bloggers (and nonbloggers), I’m encouraging you to share your ugly. Whether it’s a picture or post or tweet or whatever, share something with your readers that isn’t shiny and perfect. I’m not talking a picture of you sweaty after a 10 mile run or epic leg day at the gym. No one looks good after that. I’m talking about showing about a failure in the kitchen. A stain on the rug that you hide with a piece of furniture. A huge zit you cover up with makeup. Something, anything that strips away, even for one small minute, any delusions of perfection your readers and followers may see. 

Our words and images are powerful. We never know who we’re reaching or who’s touched or impacted by what we say. It’s a hard thing, reading blogs and only ever seeing perfection. If that’s what people are using as a basis for comparison, it’s an impossible standard to achieve and can do more harm than good. 

So tell your story.

Divulge your scars.

Discuss your battles. 

Show your ugly. 

 

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