my head hurts

Hey there. I’ve been so happy this past week writing this blog, what an outlet! It’s brought me a lot of connection to people I really care about and admire. It brought me a big hug in real life yesterday at work and that was the best! I’m loving this platform for sharing my stories with you and I’m so grateful that you’re all reading it and hopefully you’re enjoying reading it as much as I’m enjoying writing it.

Having said that, I have a huge vulnerability hangover this morning, especially from yesterday’s post. That’s the most honest I’ve ever been about my mental health challenges and it is scary. I’m scared people will judge me or think less of me. I feel like my honesty is going to lead some people to put brackets around who I am or what I can do. I guess I’ll just deal with that if it happens.

The truth is, if you’d asked me a year ago if I’d be writing such an honest blog I would have said sure and then promptly done nothing about it. I just wasn’t ready to be here. But I am now. I feel unrestricted in being this honest for the first time in my entire life. I’ve been hiding and lying about my parents and all the problems my family had for as long as I can remember. That’s what shame does to a kid, it locks them in a tower of dishonesty and fear they didn’t create. But I don’t feel ashamed anymore, because I know that what happened to me as a kid and young adult wasn’t my fault. Growing up with really dysfunctional parents is hard in lots of ways but when everyone on the outside thinks your family is amazing, that can really do a number on a person. Especially a person like me who has always been the one in my family calling everyone else on their bullshit. Even as a little kid I was that person. It makes for funny anecdotes (will tell you the NYE story from when I was 6 years old some other time), but it made me very unpopular with my parents who really resented their daughter telling them that their drinking was screwing up her life. Even then I knew. No idea how, I just knew that their behaviour was wrong. As the years went on it became harder and harder to fight the really negative effects this had on my mental and physical well-being.

So there it is, I’m a little hungover from all the sharing. But it feels good nonetheless. I’m going to blog Monday to Friday and take break on the weekends. If there’s something you’d like to know or would like me to write about, let me know! Comment below or send me a message. xo Janet

seeming normal most of the time

So here’s the thing about me that most people don’t know: it is a lot of work being me. Like, a lot of work, both physically and emotionally. I’ve learned over my life (see little miss perfect post) to hide my true feelings and anything that seems like the struggle that is being me. I’m so good at covering up how hard being me is sometimes that I often forget how hard it is, until something happens and I’m derailed emotionally or can’t sleep or cry a lot.

I came out as a lesbian in 1999 and that was a lot easier than coming out as someone with a mental illness. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2001 and I’ve been hiding it, for fear of the stigma, more or less, ever since. Some people who are close to me know that I have struggled, a lot, over the years. Meg certainly has seen the worst of it. But I finally feel, at 42, like I don’t need to hide anymore. And it’s not just about my age, I think we’re in a moment in time when a lot of people are taking about their mental health.

I am coming out of the mental health challenges closet I’ve been hiding in for the last 20 years and it feels good. I have more tools and resources to help myself now like: a great therapist, the right medications, a form of exercise I adore (come through Wheelhouse!), meditation and a lot of love and support. I also have a belief in my ability to manage my chronic illness whereas before, I wasn’t sure it was possible. I know that it is for me and I’m sure it is for you too. Come on out here into the light with me, it’s scary but feels good. xo Janet

suffering used to be my thing

Here’s the thing I know about living in chronic pain: it will ruin your life if you allow it to. In July 2015 I woke up one morning and couldn’t move. I had so much pain in my low back and left leg that getting out of bed felt like the worst thing ever. I had no idea what was happening or what I should do. So instead of going to the hospital, like a normal person, I did nothing. I suffered. I cried and wailed with pain. I took Advil and put ice on my back. And that did nothing. It would be like treating a stab wound victim with a band aid.

Two days of extreme suffering later, and the pain getting worse, I went to see my doctor. He did a quick assessment and gave me muscle relaxants believing that it was muscular. I, knowing in my heart that it was not, said nothing but gratefully accepted the muscle relaxants. I went home. I cried and cried and cried. And yet, I still did nothing. And then, because at that point I was so terrible at taking care of myself and putting what I need first, I went back to work. And I stayed at work, in terrible pain, for another 6 months. I was in so much pain that I would go home at the end of every day and cry. I could barely walk. People who knew me then would ask me what was wrong with my back because I was hunched forward in pain. I looked like I was in pain all the time, and I was.

I only got an MRI after about 9 months of this hell. The MRI showed I had a large herniation in one of the discs in my lower back. It took another two years, 2 MRIs, three cortisone injections in my spine and hundreds of hours of physiotherapy before I had surgery to repair my back in 2018.

Please, don’t be like me and make suffering your thing too. Work is work. It’s always going to be there, whether you’re there or not. Take care of yourself first or you’ll end up like me, hunched over in a stairwell crying because you can’t manage to walk up a flight of stairs to your next meeting. xo Janet

little miss perfect

Do you remember those little books when we were kids, little miss messy, little miss happy? I was little miss perfect, 42 years later and I’m still trying. I’ve been fighting perfectionism my entire life. I grew up in a family where being perfect, for me, was a coping strategy. Being perfect kept me safe, being perfect kept me out of harm’s way. If being perfect is your go-to coping mechanism for a long time, things can get, well, stressful. As a kid, I learned to control everything about myself, how I ate, talked, looked, performed, so that it met a very high and very unrealistic standard. Over time, I just couldn’t handle the pressure of that anymore and as I became an adult, it was more and more difficult for me to meet the same high standards that I now set for myself.

That’s the crazy thing about that little voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough. It’s my dad’s voice, it just sounds an awful lot like me. Over time, I’ve learned, with the help of an amazingly talented therapist, to put that voice in check, to challenge those perfectionist behaviours that come out, especially when I’m stressed or feeling anxious about something. Now I try to just breathe and remember that if things aren’t perfect and I’m not perfect that’s ok. No one is going to yell at me and tell me I’m a waste of space. I’m not and neither are you. xo Janet

the cracks are starting to show

The other morning I woke up at a ridiculously early hour and, unable to sleep, I did what a lot of borderline workaholics do, I got up and did some work. I puttered around the house quietly, writing emails I’d send later when it wasn’t inappropriately early to do so; I made breakfast and lunches for the day; I reviewed files; I surfed instagram; I watched a bit of TV. By the time it was ready for me to get ready for work, I was exhausted.

Then I hit the wall. I know, you’re thinking to yourself, she’s doing too much and is exhausted by it all. Well, yes, that’s true. But that’s not the wall I’m referring to. I’m talking about the wall of laundry in our bedroom. We have a daybed that’s just for laundry that’s clean but needs to be folded. It’s more of a giant pile that we wade through looking for clean underwear and matching socks.

The other morning I just wanted to find the one pair of black jeans I own. I looked for 20 minutes. And then I started to cry. Like not tearing up crying, like a sob. Almost uncontrollably. Sobbing over missing jeans. And then I got really mad, so mad that I stormed out of the bedroom with my other pair of the jeans, the ones I didn’t want.

This is how my day started and I can tell you that I wasn’t sobbing about my stupid black jeans. I was crying about getting only 5 hours of sleep and staring down a crazy day at work. I was crying about mother’s day and the fact that I don’t get to share any of my life with my mom. And I was crying from feeling overwhelmed by all the mundane, everyday stuff that I have to do just to get through one long ass week. I think I may need a day or two off before I totally snap.

xo Janet

happy mother’s day. I think.

It’s Mother’s Day 2019 and I’m feeling conflicted, as I always do on Mother’s Day. My mom died in 1995, when I was 18. Every year on Mother’s Day since then, until my children were born, I was an emotional mess. I would become very sad before Mother’s Day and spend most of the day feeling pretty sorry for myself. After our first daughter was born in 2011, celebrating Mother’s Day brought me joy for the first time in my adult life.

Not being able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom has always been bittersweet. My mom was a bit of an enigma to me, larger than life in many ways. But as I got into my 40s, I have started to realize some really painful truths about her as a flawed and fallible person. Seeing your parent, even posthumously, as someone who was kind of a mess, is really difficult. And it makes it harder to not be able to talk to them about it or tell them how you feel. Herein lies the rub folks. So when you’re out celebrating Mother’s Day, remember that for some of us, it’s a bit of a messy day. xo Janet

welcome

Thanks for being here with me. My name is Janet and I’m a professional public servant and mother of two. I struggle to balance a lot of competing demands, like many women my age. I’m hoping to use this website as a way of combining my passion for coaching and mentoring, particularly young women just starting out in their careers. I’m also hoping to connect with other moms who work full-time in pressure-filled jobs. How do you manage it all? What most days has to give? Hopefully not you. I’m trying to keep things together myself and not forget to put my own oxygen mask on first. Balance for most women with children, especially young children, is elusive. So let’s have a conversation about how to manage, and how not to lose ourselves in the choas. xo Janet.