Meet Janine, writer & mental health advocate from Perth, Australia managing Anxiety & Depression.
R: So, who are you?
J: I’m Janine Ripper – Freelance Writer, Blogger and Mentor. Corporate world drop out. I was depression & anxiety’s bitch. Spent my life searching for happiness. Found it when I stopped looking. Funny that.
R: Where do you live?
J: I live in Perth, Western Australia
R: How old are you?
J: I’m 38 years old
“I decided that an urgent change was needed in 2014 and left the corporate world to finally live the life I wanted whilst focusing on my own health and pursuing a lifelong love of writing”
R: What do you do?
J: It’s complicated.
After a 12-year career in Project Management and a number of burn outs culminating in 3 car accidents (the last in my own driveway), I decided that an urgent change was needed in 2014 and left the corporate world to finally live the life I wanted whilst focusing on my own health and pursuing a lifelong love of writing.
I’ve been running my own freelance virtual assistance business over the last 2 years specialising in writing and social media management, of which I learnt a lot, but have recently made the decision to pull back on. To be honest, managing social media full time was… exhausting… and so I’m now transitioning to working casually in a café whilst focusing on my own writing, stepping up my role as a mental health advocate, and spending more time offline living life with my family and friends.
R: Did you study?
J: I studied a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies majoring in Film and Media. I’ve also got various other certifications in Project Management and Life Coaching.
R: What does home life look like – pets / kids?
J: Home life involves my beloved fur-child, my new hubby (we married in January after 10 years together), and every now and then my 2 step kids.
R: What makes you happy?
J: Writing, my dog, my family and friends, a good movie or book, music.
– Janine by @heathwardrop80
R: When did your Anxiety begin?
J: My earliest memory of anxiety is as a little girl. I’d freak out over the smallest of things. I was also very quiet, scared, shy.
R: Has it got worse over time or better?
J: It’s gotten both worse and better. I’ve had relapses, and it’s only been over the last few years where I’ve realised the full impact anxiety has had on my life and physical health. That has been an eye opener.
– If you ever have the pleasure of meeting me face to face, please know that although I have moments on extraversion and am prevalent on social media, I am an introvert so, depending on how functional I am and how much caffeine I have ingested, I may stammer, confuse my words, and have moments of looking glazed!
R: How did Anxiety affect you as a child?
J: I was a very shy kid, and I was scared all of the time. I was also very conscious of my body from early on so would always freak out over what I looked like or had to wear to school.
“the more fatigued I am the worse my anxiety can impact on my day-to-day life. It can effect my speech – I stumble my words. I can’t think straight. I feel jumbled… Normal day to day tasks are harder.”
R: How would you describe Anxiety in your own words?
J: I seem to be at a loss for words here! Describing my depression is so much easier! All I can say is that anxiety is always there in the background.
R: How does Anxiety interfere with a normal day?
J: It really depends on how tired I am, as the more fatigued I am the worse my anxiety can impact on my day-to-day life. It can effect my speech – I stumble my words. I can’t think straight. I feel jumbled… Normal day to day tasks are harder. If it’s really bad it can stop me from leaving the house and socialising.
Oh, and if I’m in a group of 3+ people I tend to be more introverted – I guess you could call this social anxiety – although I’m a lot better at handling this then I used to be.
– Growing up as a natural redhead, I developed the belief that having red hair was a curse. I held this point of view for most of my life. What with pale (pasty?) skin, freckles, tendency to burn from a slither of sunlight or blush like a beetroot at the drop of a hat…and the fact that my blood was extremely tasty to mosquitos, well, I couldn’t quite see any benefits to being a redhead!
R: Do friends or colleagues notice you have Depression?
J: Not these days. People see me as a happy, positive person. Back in my darkest days people would see me cry at work but I’m not sure anyone ever realised the true extent of my depression.
R: Does it affect your relationship with them?
J: It has. Either because I’ve pulled away and become a recluse, or because they just haven’t understood.
“I stay on my medication since I’ve had a few relapses and just don’t want to go there again! I don’t regret having had it though as it has made me who I am today and I am now so much stronger and wiser.”
R: Have you found any positive aspects of Depression?
J: I’ve met some amazing people and made so many wonderful friends. I’ve also learnt a lot about myself and human nature.
R: Do you think your life would be different without Depression?
J: Most definitely. In so many ways. In a way my depression and anxiety has held me back from doing or completing so many things.
R: If you had the option to lose your Depression would you?
J: I believe it is mostly gone now, although I stay on my medication since I’ve had a few relapses and just don’t want to go there again! I don’t regret having had it though as it has made me who I am today and I am now so much stronger and wiser.
R: Was there a single moment / or moments, that made you drop out?
J: After I had my 3rd car accident in a row – the last being in my own drive way. That was the start of my wake up call.
Read this for more info: Stuck at a Crossroads
R: I have just read you are “closing down a large portion of your business” – what’s next?
J: Stepping up mental health advocacy as this is what is singing to me at the moment, as well as focusing on my own writing. To pay the bills I’m working casually in a café which I’m enjoying. Oh, and also focusing on life with my new husband! After that – let’s see where it all takes me!
R: How long have you been running your own business?
J: Just over 2 years.
“Taking my dog to the park or the beach – that’s the best therapy for me at the moment. Better even then meditation and yoga.”
R: How does your Anxiety & Depression interfere with your decision / working process?
J: I’ve found it challenging working from home alone. Whilst initially loving it because I’m a self professed introvert, I thought I would thrive working virtually from home. However, I’ve found it socially isolating and ended up having trouble motivating myself. The stress of chasing the next dollar, of signing up new clients, of the financial downturn and follow on effect onto clients, myself, and even my husband who was made redundant and couldn’t find a job, well, the instability and financial insecurity ended up causing a lot of stress and a resurgence in my anxiety.
R: How do you manage to stay on top of it?
J: Leaving the house! Taking my dog to the park or the beach – that’s the best therapy for me at the moment. Better even then meditation and yoga.
– Janine put together this workbook which focusses on ‘finding your why’, you know, why you tick! She calls it your WHY statement (like a mission statement but better). Download your free copy here
R: Have you been officially diagnosed by a health professional?
J: Yes (Depression). The Doctors only realised the true extent of my anxiety in 2014 after we all focused on the depression for so long.
R: What made you see a doctor?
J: Initially for my Depression I saw my University councillor as I was struggling to complete my first year at Uni, I was crying all of the time, I was struggling to show up for classes. I was a mess. It was validating being told I might have something wrong with me. To have a name for it – rather than just being emotional or ‘sensitive’. A bit later I saw a Doctor whom I am still seeing to this day.
R: Did they prescribe medication?
J: Not right away but eventually I was prescribed Zoloft.
R: Do you / Did you take medication?
J: I did. I’m not sure if I wanted too. I can’t remember. I came off of it after a year or so due to adverse side effects. These days I’m on another type which is a lot better. I’ve been on them for many years.
“Medication, positive thinking, mindfulness and gratitude. I also keep an eye on myself to watch for any early warning signs my body and mind is sending me. That’s when I know I need to practice more self care, ease back on things, say no, and so on.”
R: Have you seen a therapist?
J: Yes I’ve seen a few over the years. It certainly paid to shop around!
R: How do you best manage Anxiety? (medication, meditation, yoga, alternative medicines or ?)
J: A combination of medication, smart lifestyle choices, making sure I make time for myself, practicing mindfulness, and minimising stressful situations.
R: How do you best manage Depression? (medication, meditation, yoga, alternative medicines or ?)
J: Medication, positive thinking, mindfulness and gratitude. I also keep an eye on myself to watch for any early warning signs my body and mind is sending me. That’s when I know I need to practice more self care, ease back on things, say no, and so on.
R: Do you feel as if you’re in control now?
J: Depression – yes. Anxiety – mostly although I see it as a day by day thing.
– I named my blog Reflections from a Redhead to champion my hair colour, of which I was teased for a majority of my life. I realise now that it was mostly jealousy and an Aussie thing, and now use the jokes myself as a way to take the power back, but the fact is, naming the blog was the start to self-acceptance… using that thing I was bullied about for so many years as my beacon.
R: If you could go back and give yourself some advice on Anxiety & Depression, what would you say?
I would tell myself that depression and anxiety runs in my family, and that I will recover.
I would tell myself to learn to look after myself and to drink less booze. Oh, and that many people won’t understand it, not until around the year 2016 that is, but to know that a lot of people suffer and that you are certainly not alone.
I would also tell myself that I suffer from these things called panic attacks. These aren’t really talked about a lot – but they will be in the future and you will find people who understand you.
“not stay in shitty, stressful work situations, learn to say no a whole lot earlier in life! I’d also stick up for myself more rather than letting people walk all over me and bully me.”
Oh, and no, you’re not crazy. You’re not a freak. You are emotional for a reason. You’ve also been through a hell of a lot so you need to give yourself some credit.
Please know that it will pass. In the meantime go see a doctor and talk to a professional.
If I had the chance I would grab teenage me in one hell of a bear hug, squeeze her tight, and tell her that everything will be okay because I know that’s exactly what she wanted. She just wants someone to hold her tight and tell her that everything will be alright.
R: What would you do differently?
J: Drink less booze, not get into project management in the first place (or leave earlier), not stay in shitty, stressful work situations, learn to say no a whole lot earlier in life! I’d also stick up for myself more rather than letting people walk all over me and bully me.
R: Do you tell friends, family and colleagues that you suffer through these conditions?
J: Yes. I’ve also been publicly blogging about it for 6 years.
R: Do you know others with similar conditions?
J: Yes especially since I’ve been blogging and talking about it openly.
R: How do you educate yourself on management and resources?
J: Lot’s of reading, seeking out resources, people, blogs and sites via social media.
“Quiet – Susan Cain. Helped me realise I was introverted and that I was okay. It helped me realise why I would get anxious in social situations and to embrace my nature.”
R: Do you read specific blogs, magazines or news articles, follow YouTubers or other activists?
J: I’ve recently discovered http://themighty.com and http://www.mindful.org. I’ve also recently connected with some great activists and communities such as: @EndTheStigma_ie, @Masterstories, and @just_anxious to name a few.
R: Have you read any great books about Anxiety or Depression?
J: So many – too many to list!
– Quiet – Susan Cain. Helped me realise I was introverted and that I was okay. It helped me realise why I would get anxious in social situations and to embrace my nature.
– Anything by Brene Brown, especially her latest Rising Strong – it came at a critical time in my business and life where I felt like I had failed badly and has therefore inspired me to rise strong!
– The Miracle of Mindfulness: Thich Nhat Hanh.
– Writing Through the Darkness: Easing Your Depression with Paper and pen – Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer
R: Or seen any movies?
R: Can you recommend any therapists / doctors / specialists / coaches / mentors / clinics / foundations?
J: Mind and Movement – specifically Founder Kathryn Choules (Mindfulness consultant and facilitator, MBSR instructor, Researcher)
Kathryn has been an amazing teacher, mentor and friend over the last few years, introducing me to mindfulness. I attended her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course a few years ago at the peak of my stress and health issues, and it changed my life.
R: What’s on your horizon for 2016?
J: I’ve found a new sense of clarity since scaling back my business. After a lot of reading and soul searching, I took a job at a café to free up my mind / brain, to allow me space to focus on what I really wanted to focus on which is stepping up my efforts as a mental health advocate and ramping up my own writing. I really must also start writing my book!
“After a few years as a social media manager and living online I feel I need to unplug and get back to really living!”
On a personal note, finding financial stability, hopefully taking a honeymoon, and focusing more on family / married life and spending time with friends. After a few years as a social media manager and living online I feel I need to unplug and get back to really living!
On a health note I’m seeing a specialist and am about to undergo my 2nd sleep study to see if I suffer from a sleep disorder – this could be the final piece to my puzzle (I have suffered from fatigue for many years and this is the one thing I’ve been unable to ‘cure’).
R: What next for your Anxiety?
J: I was struggling with my anxiety at the end of 2015, so I will be continuing making changes in my life to help ease pressure on myself and find balance. This includes focusing on financial stability and spending more time offline.
R: What next for your Depression?
J: I will continue to take my medication – after a number of relapses throughout my life, the truth is I will probably stay on anti-depressants for the rest of my life.
– Denis & Janine: leaving the corporate world behind on Two Hungry Nomads
R: Thanks Janine!
Rodger Hoefel in conversation with Janine Ripper
Images from Janine’s Instagram