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Sharing Our Stories

Brain Fork

If you are reading this post and your first instinct is to cringe or feel embarrassed for me, don’t. That reaction says more about you than it does about me, and you may want to ask yourself why you feel those things. Feel how you want to feel—it’s your right—but know that I am not ashamed.

There is no shame in admitting that you have or struggle with mental health issues. There are no good mental health issues or bad mental health issues, there is just mental health. Some of us, like me, deal with depression and anxiety. Some of us look like we struggle with mental health issues (whatever that looks like), and some of us look normal (whatever that looks like). We all have good days, and we all have bad days. We all cope in our own ways. Some of us choose to keep our stories to ourselves, and some of us choose to share our stories with others.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

Brené Brown

I am not ashamed to talk about my struggles with mental health. I talk about them so that if there is someone out there who needs to know that they are not alone, they know that I am here. I talk about my struggles so that someone reading or hearing about my life may begin to feel less shame about their own struggles. I talk about my struggles so that if you are someone who suspects that someone you care about may be struggling, that you may feel empowered to reach out.

If you are struggling, talk to someone you trust. Ask for help. Schedule that therapy appointment if you are able to. If you encounter an obstacle like a doctor who doesn’t acknowledge the validity of therapy or one who is quick to prescribe medications without evaluating your needs first, go elsewhere. There are hotlines, websites, chats, and even apps. Talk to someone, anyone, even if it is just to say that you are not okay. If someone asks you if you’re okay, answer them honestly.

If you think that someone you know or care about is struggling, let them know that you are there for them, no questions asked. Let them know that you’ll help however you are able to help.

Do not invalidate them by telling them that they seem fine or that things could be worse.

Do not tell them about that time you “went through the same thing.” It is not a competition.

Do not tell them to “get over it.” If you wouldn’t say it to a person with [insert physical illness here], don’t say it to a person struggling with mental health issues.

Do not tell them that they just need to exercise, use essential oils, or go [insert exclusionary diet here]. Do not tell them that they should be happy, smile more, or be positive. Do not tell them that they need to pray, meditate, or lighten up. Trust me, WE HAVE TRIED.

Listen. Be kind. Don’t judge. Ask them what they need. Ask how you can help.


This post has been shared in honor of World Mental Health Day.

Not OK

An edited version of this post appeared on The Mighty on September 29, 2016.

Anxiety is an asshole

Yesterday on our way to work, I told Ryan that my therapist asked how I was dealing with the possibility of his death. I hadn’t intended to broach that subject with him; it’s morbid and pessimistic. He, however, brings it up regularly. I’m the optimist, he’s the pessimist.

If you follow me on social media, or if you caught the last post here, you know that Ryan needs a kidney transplant. At first the timeline for his transplant seemed like it would be in a year or two. That timeline soon became six months and now it needs to happen as soon as possible. It’s a lot to try to comprehend and prepare for.

Ryan asked why my therapist had brought up that topic and if she was concerned about him. I laughed and emphasized that she’s concerned about me. She’s concerned about how I will handle it and about how I’ll deal with it on top of everything else that’s going on in my life. She wants me to be prepared for the possibility. She also knows that I’m worried that I’ll get to the point that I somewhat jokingly call “losing my shit.” That is the point where I know that everything has become too much and that I need to ask for more help in the form of medications or in-patient programs. Those are the things that I am trying so, so hard to avoid.

Anxiety is an asshole, or, more precisely, panic disorder with agoraphobia, is an asshole.

Ryan looked at me and said reassuringly, “You’re fine. You’re doing OK. You haven’t lost your shit.”

I paused, then said, “No, actually, I am not OK.” He said it again, confirming what he thought to be true. I replied, “No, I’m not, and your saying that I am isn’t helping. Saying that I’m OK doesn’t actually make me OK. It doesn’t make it better.”

He looked at me, puzzled, and said, “But you seem OK. You seem fine. You’re … you.”

That’s what I do. I can compartmentalize with the best of them. I can be outwardly OK while my inner monologue is a mix of primal screams and a repeating chorus of how not enough I think I am. Some days I am certain that I’m going to be found out, that someone is going to notice that my crazy is showing. Someone is going to tell me that I am, in fact, not capable of handling this or anything, that I possess a character flaw that guarantees that I will lose my shit at any moment. I am equally worried that someone will judge me for not being not-OK enough, for not falling apart as much or as quickly as I should be.

I can even fail at having enough anxiety. What the actual fuck, anxiety? GTFO.

So, when you ask me if I’m OK, I might say that I am. And, for that moment and for that interaction, I am. It’s not a lie, but it’s not the entire truth.

If you ask me if I’m OK, and I say that I’m not, know that I trust you enough to know that about me. Know that I trust you enough to understand that while I might not be OK, I’m OKish. Know that I trust you enough to not judge me for my not-OK-ness. Know that I trust you to not judge my problems as “not real problems” or to not tell me that “things could be worse.” (Fuck you, judgment police.) Know that I don’t need your pity but that I do need you to know that I’m doing the best that I can every single day.* Know that I’m doing my best even when my best is watching 10 episodes of Veronica Mars in a row because that’s all I can handle.

And that? That is absolutely enough. That is definitely OK.

*For the record, when I wrote that line about doing my best, I cried. Hard. Sometimes even I forget that I’m trying, and I judge myself harshly for it.

Thirty-Three (Acts of Kindness)

Birthday Wish

Today is my thirty-third birthday.

I have made it to 33, and I’m better for it. If that’s not something to celebrate, what is?

And I want YOU to help me celebrate.

I don’t normally use this space to ask people for anything, and I’m really not in the habit of asking for things. Today, however, I am asking for something that requires a bit more effort than your standard Facebook birthday wish. Don’t get me wrong, I totally appreciate the Facebook posts, but I would rather you focus your energy toward something even better. It may make you a little uncomfortable, but I promise that it’s worth the effort. Do you think you are up for it?

Let me begin with a little background information that may shed some light on why I’m starting this new birthday tradition.

I doubt that when people think about me that the first thought that comes to mind is how kind I am. Most people probably think that I’m antisocial or rude. That’s really not true. I am shy so people often mistake that for my being antisocial or rude. Really, I am just trying to avoid being the center of attention as much as possible, or I am waiting until I have really thought out what I’m going to say. I wait until I have something to say before I speak.

You may hear me say, “I hate people,” when I’m having a rough day where I have had to deal with a lot of unfriendly people, but the truth is that I honestly love people. Yes, I said it. I don’t like to be around them all the time because it is exhausting for me as an introvert, but I love people. I like learning what makes them tick and what lights them up. One of my absolute favorite things to do is to have a conversation with someone about something that they’re passionate about. You learn so much more about someone when you can get them talking about what they love. Seriously, try it.

I believe that there is good in most people, and, if you respect them and show them kindness, you will have a chance to see it. I try to show people (and animals) kindness whenever and however I can, and I try my best to leave things a bit better than I found them. I truly believe that the best way to make someone’s day a little bit better is to be kind to them without expecting anything in return.

This week, I want to make the world a little bit better and a little bit kinder, and, in order to do that, I need your help. For my birthday, I want to see if, together, we can perform at least 33 different random acts of kindness.

This is something that I do regularly, but I rarely share the details. I don’t need praise from anyone for doing these things, and, to be clear, that is not why I’m writing this. I will continue to do this whether or not anyone reads this or participates. I do these things without expecting anything in return other than the personal satisfaction that I tried to make someone’s day a little bit better. I’m hoping that maybe this will inspire you to do the same.

Here are a few of the acts of kindness that are a regular part of my routine:

  • Adding an extra item or two to my Sam’s Club order to donate where it is needed: paper products, feminine hygiene products, soap, shampoo, etc. for the local women’s shelter or pet food and cat litter for the local animal shelters.
  • Buying the order for the next car in line at the drive through – especially if it is a veteran or an elderly person.
  • Returning carts to the cart return for elderly customers or parents with children tagging along.
  • Offering to take group photos for strangers or suggesting to a parent that I can take their photo for them so that they can actually be in the photo with their kids.
  • Always, always, always waving back to a child that waves to me or says hello.
  • Asking someone that looks like they need help if they actually do need help – they look lost, they can’t reach an item on a high shelf, etc. Most people won’t ask for help but really appreciate it if you offer it.
  • Acknowledging others: say hello, say thank you, congratulate people for everyday accomplishments.

These are small things, but small things can make a big difference for someone. You can never be sure what someone is going through. You could save someone’s life by showing them kindness. Your kindness matters. Think about that.

So, what do you think? Will you help me make the world a little bit kinder by performing one act of kindness to help me celebrate my birthday this year?

It isn’t a huge commitment, I promise. You can do something small. Every little bit of kindness counts. Go out of your way to be extra kind today for kindness’ sake.

Be kind. Always.


If you do choose to participate, and I really hope that you do, please let me know how you are sharing kindness by commenting here or sharing your random acts of kindness on social media by tagging me and/or using the hashtag #BirthdayBeKind.

If you’re interested in participating, but you’re at a loss for what you can do, here are some places to find inspiration:

Running Is My Church

Running is my church.

I’m not a religious person, but, if I had to describe myself, I would say that I am a spiritual person. I believe that there is something out there that is nudging us in the right direction. I’m not sure what it is, but my gut tells me that it’s there. I don’t need to go to a church every Sunday to know that it’s there. I don’t need to pray to it to thank it for the life that I’m living. That’s not what I need, and it understands.

Becoming an adult is hard. If you’re lucky, you made it through your childhood in one piece and with a sense of what your future holds. Then you’re on your own as an adult. You have to take care of yourself and nothing is what you expected it to be. Even if life seems fine, without warning, you can feel completely lost and overwhelmed.

Before I started running, I was in a lonely, uncertain place. My life seemed OK on the surface, but I was not happy. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I knew that I needed to figure out what was happening to make me feel that way and where I was heading. I was asking myself what I was doing with my life and why was I doing it. I felt lost.

It took me awhile to find running, but, when I found it, I found my answers and myself. Running didn’t (and doesn’t) come easily to me. When I started, I hadn’t run since high school. I had to start from scratch. I had to focus on every movement, every breath. It hurt. It sucked. And I loved it.

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.

— Tom Bodett

Running helps me to understand who I am and why I am here. Running helps me to connect with the world in an unplugged way, and, for that, I am grateful. With each step, I build confidence: I am doing this. With each new distance achieved, I reinforce that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to do. With each run, I get faster and stronger and better. I am doing this.

Running allows me to let go of whatever is bothering me. It allows me to focus on where I fit in the Universe. When I run, I am in the moment and everything seems clear. When I start to feel lost again, I remind myself that I need to reconnect, I need to run.

Most days, I struggle with admitting that I am a real runner. I feel like I don’t run frequently or fast enough to be considered a runner, but, of course, if you run, you are a runner. No other qualifications are needed.

Running will forgive me for turning away from it, and it will welcome me back when I’m ready to hit the road again. It will remind me why I am here. It will remind me of the person that I am and the one that I am becoming. It will remind me that life is good and great things are on the horizon waiting for me. I just need to be patient and take it one step at a time.

It is time to go back to church.