New Year’s Refresh and Reveal: From Anonymous to the REAL Me!

I’m so excited to finally write this post. I’m not big on New Year resolutions, but this is definitely something I’ll be able to check off my list.

When I started this blog six years ago, I knew I wanted to write about mental health in general and specifically, my journey to recovery from panic disorder and agoraphobia. Like many other blogs centered on mental illness, I chose to be anonymous.

Over the years, I’ve become more open about my issues. Now I’m a mental health advocate, something I wasn’t necessarily striving for when I started my blog. But that’s what has evolved — by writing about it here and on other mental health-related websites, including NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), The Mighty, and Thrive Global. I’m also a speaker for NAMI’s in-school mental health awareness program, Ending the Silence. I talk to middle grade and high school students about the symptoms of mental illness and what to do if they notice those signs in themselves or a friend.

All of my writing in regards to mental health has been under the pseudonym Jenny Marie. I’ve always known that one day I’d change that. I just wasn’t sure when.

And now, I’m ready.

Going forward, I’ll go by my real name (drum roll)…

Jeni Driscoll

Eeks!!! It’s hard to explain, but it feels so strange (and a bit scary!) to reveal that. Plus, I’ve never posted pictures of myself!

It’s like opening the curtain, letting people get a glimpse of the real Jeni. I feel vulnerable. But it’s not like I’m a different person or haven’t been authentic in my past writing. I’ve been true to my real self through ALL of it. Every single post I’ve penned is filled with my own thoughts and experiences. My life. Just different names.

I was away from the blog for much of 2020, but am happy to be back! I’ve had fun giving my site a little update, like changing the header background to olive branches. I chose them because they symbolize peace.

As with different seasons of life, my direction pivoted this past year. Partly because of the global pandemic and partly because I chose to focus on other endeavors.

Last year I completed a manuscript for a middle grade contemporary fiction book about a girl with anxiety and panic attacks. I’m currently querying agents, hoping to find just the right one to champion my book.

Sometimes we all need fresh starts. What better time than now, after making it through the extremely difficult and challenging year of 2020.

My wish and prayer for all of us is a healthy, peaceful New Year.

Take care,

Jeni

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Make It Happen

be proud this year

I’m just now winding down from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It was great, with lots of wonderful time spent with family and friends, tons of delicious food, and so much joy.

As I wrote that — so much joy — my thoughts went to the families of the mass shooting victims killed in a country bar in my city. And those who lost their homes in the fires here. My heart aches for them, and for so many others in this world, who did not have a joyful Christmas season.

There were countless times I thought about them over the past month. It felt like it grounded me, a painful reminder of what truly is important in life.

It’s been a rough beginning to the new year. My husband came down with the flu on New Year’s Eve and it’s totally knocked him out. We’re hopeful he’ll feel better this week.

With the beginning of the new year, I’m (somewhat) refreshed and ready to tackle new projects and opportunities. Even though I don’t make New Year’s resolutions — instead, I make goals throughout the year — it’s a perfect time to reflect on what I want to continue doing and what I want to improve on.

I’m focusing on being more mindful, soaking in and cherishing all the good times and difficult times too. To really be present and savor each precious moment. And, even if it’s on a small scale, I want to make a difference in this world. Practice and use the gifts I have and share them with others. This may mean as a wife, mother, friend, or mental health advocate.

I want to make things happen.

you have the power

For instance, instead of saying to a friend, “One day we should get together/have lunch/coffee/go for a hike, a movie/etc.,” I want to initiate it, take action and DO it. Not just leave it at “we should.

Last year, I started to work on that very thing — to make an honest effort to connect more with family and friends.

My parents live close by and I see them often. My husband and I have them over for dinner most Sunday nights, and I treasure our conversations and laughter. My mom is 82 and my dad is 90.

I don’t want to regret not doing something with them that I’ve been wanting to do. I’m happy to say I took action on one of those things this past holiday season.

My dad’s mom was Polish. One of my favorite childhood memories is eating her cookies that my sisters and I called “twisters.” They’re light and airy, sprinkled with powdered sugar. The real name for them is Kruschicki. They’re also called Bow Tie Cookies or Angel Wings.

For at least the past ten years, I’ve thought of making Kruschicki at Christmastime. I wanted my dad to have another taste of his mother’s cooking and I yearned to bring a lost family tradition back to life. But I was intimidated.

I love to bake, but couldn’t imagine how Grandma made them, it always seemed complicated to me. Heck, I didn’t even remember what they were called. I only knew them by “twisters.” Grandma made her own dough, cut each cookie into a fancy shape, and fried them. It made me nervous to think about duplicating such a delicate dessert.

Until this past year. I finally did it!

It wasn’t that easy. I threw out the first batch because they were too dense. I had to go back to the store for more ingredients and watch a YouTube video to learn what I did wrong (worked the dough too much).

I worried I wouldn’t get it right. More than anything, I wanted my twisters to taste like Grandma’s. I’d settle for pretty close.

I turned the dough like the video instructed, cut and “tied” the cookies, fried them, and topped them off with a dusting of powdered sugar.

My persistence paid off.

twisters3

I’ll never forget the smile on my dad’s face when he walked in and saw the platter of special treats. He couldn’t believe it. It made me so happy to see him so happy.

The verdict from Dad? Delicious. And almost as good as Grandma’s!

When my husband and I walked my parents out to their car, Dad thanked me again for making the Kruschicki. My 90-year-old father said, “Tasting those made me feel like a little boy again.”

Wow. His sweet comment made me feel incredible. I realized I had just given him the best gift I ever could have.

So that’s what I’m striving for this year. To not wait for someday. Make things happen.

Today.

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Fourth image courtesy of here

 

Time to Connect

New Year,-1

Ah, it feels nice to sit here at my computer and write a blog post again. I took time off of social media during the holidays. The past few weeks have been filled with family, friends, food (too much, of course), and special moments.

I spent time with family I usually see just once a year because we’re scattered throughout the world. I met my 10-month-old great nephew for the first time and couldn’t get enough of him. My husband Alex and I spent lots of time with our daughters, who live away from home. It was awesome to re-connect.

But the holidays weren’t all magic and sparkle. There was anxiety too, which has a way of creeping in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I couldn’t keep track of the times I told myself to take a deep breath and relax.

To add to the stress, we started a major remodel on our business the week after Thanksgiving. I know… not great timing.

Life is calming down a bit now — sort of. It felt good to box up our holiday decorations and declutter. The house looks a little bare, but fresh.

January is a clean slate.It's a new year and a fresh start! Make 2015 be your best year yet and do things that make you happy! Live for you!! Happy New Year!

Yesterday Alex asked what my New Year’s resolutions are. I don’t like to make them, it’s too much pressure. I prefer to set goals throughout the year, instead of a long list in early January. But his question got me thinking: is there anything I’d really like to change? Some area in my life I want to improve?

Like many people, I want to eat healthy, exercise, and lose five pounds. I want to read more and carve out time to meditate, do yoga, and work on the puzzles and mindfulness coloring book my mom and dad gave me for my birthday last fall.

But there’s something else I want to work on, a different type of resolution for me.

Connections.

A few months ago, I had coffee with a friend (I’ll call her Teresa). She talked about the importance of finding and maintaining connections. I was intrigued because this is one area in my life I’d like to improve.

Life is all about connecting with others and being vulnerable enough to let them into our lives. Friends to laugh with, cry with, learn from, share experiences with, to support, to love.

I  have a close group of friends and wonderful family relationships. But I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at taking the initiative to keep in contact or arrange time to get together. Building and nurturing friendships takes effort, for both sides.

Pinning on this board...It helps me in my own journey and I hope it helps in yours. Thanks for being there, Pinterest people.

Teresa told me about author and motivational speaker, Brene Brown, Ph.D., and  suggested I read Brene’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” Alex bought it for me for Christmas and so far I’ve read the first couple of chapters.

I relate to much of what Brene talks about, and I love this quote:

“I define connections as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

It’s giving and receiving with an open heart. And despite the fear of rejection, putting yourself out there to connect on a personal or professional level. Maybe it’s asking a friend to go to lunch, joining a club, taking a class, or calling a business contact to further your career.

Connect.

So that’s my resolution: to nourish the relationships I have and create new ones, even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone.

I’m excited to see what bonds will forge this next year.

Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2018!

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