It starts with learning to love yourself
It was like I had duct tape all over my life.
For years, Jen lived two separate lives. To the outside world, she was a successful corporate IT leader, contracting with the federal government and working with top companies worldwide. To herself, she was an addict and an alcoholic, a person with an eating disorder, someone who was never good enough.
I would get blackout drunk, and I’d piece together what happened the night before. I was in and out of jails and hospitals. I had nowhere to turn. I needed help, but I was too afraid to lose my job if I said anything or took time off to get better.
In hindsight, looking back at her double life, Jen realized something surprising about her behavior.
I actually found that there was a correlation between all of my accomplishments and my level of dysfunction. The more dysfunction there was behind the scenes, the harder I worked at the things I was accomplishing. It was almost as if to say, ‘Look over here,’ and while I distracted you, I had my self-destructive behaviors happening behind the scenes. I showed the world what they wanted to see.
The struggles of living this double life led Jen to some dark places. Still, for over two decades, she made every effort to pull it together.
I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on things like neurolinguistic programming, hypnosis, and Chinese herbs. I just wanted that quick thing to try to fix me. I didn’t have the support or time to invest in myself, only money. Nothing seemed to work.
For 10 years, Jen tried to fix herself, and none of her egregious lows were enough to convince her to seek a different solution than what she was trying. Jen’s turning point came during a conversation with a man she was dating.
We sat down one day, and he said the seven words that changed my life forever. He said, ‘Jen, you need to learn to love yourself.’ It’s with those seven words that I’ve been sober ever since.
For Jen, learning to love herself involved being open about her struggles.
I presented my story on a radio show. It was the first time I ever shared my story. When I did it, there was this liberation inside of me, this feeling of ‘I’m free.’
Jen’s openness about her mental illnesses has opened new doors for her. Today, she is a life coach, public speaker, host of a podcast, and the author of two #1 best-selling books, “RESET” and “Defining Your Boundaries.” Jen has told her story on television, radio, in magazines, and on podcasts—wherever she thinks she can educate and inspire others to become the next best version of themselves.
I started looking for opportunities to share my story because I know that throughout my whole life, regardless of what I’ve dealt with, I’ve been a warrior. People have always gravitated towards me, and they feel comfortable with me. So, I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they don’t have an outlet or that they can’t speak up.
Speaking up, Jen believes, is an effective way to fight the stigma that is so often associated with mental illness.
By not saying anything, I continued to feed into the shame and stigma that exists in our world today. I don’t ever want to be a person that’s adding fuel to the fire. I reject it, and I’ve taken the power of shame and stigma away by owning and sharing my story.
Telling her story, Jen hopes, will increase understanding of mental illness, and encourage others to love themselves.
I want people to understand that the woman in the office next to you, maybe a person with a high-powered job, could be dealing with an eating disorder or an addiction or alcoholism or may just be struggling in silence. The good news is, if it’s you, you don’t have to suffer anymore. You can have a life of freedom and happiness. And it starts with learning to love yourself.