7 In Anxiety/ Depression/ Mental Health

We all have the ability, the difference is how we use it.

We all have the ability, the difference is how we use it.

I’m a huge introvert and I’ve battled depression on and off over the last 20 years.

For the longest time I’ve struggled with extreme shyness and social anxiety – often being misunderstood as rude, whereis I was secretly suffering from a panic attack and wishing I could hide or go home. At its worst, I was agoraphobic – struggling to drag myself to the shop to get a loaf of bread to feed myself. Not that that bothered me. I hated myself so much, wavering from starving myself through to over exercising and binge drinking. I didn’t treat myself well at all and was my own worst critic.

In saying that, I was also a high-performer. Even though I had no idea what I wanted to do in life – aside from travel (escape…), I excelled at whatever job I landed in, culminating in 2008 when I was awarded the highest award for excellence in project management. In hindsight, this should have been an amazing time of celebration and success, but I had burnt myself out physically and mentally. And when I started to experience bullying at work as a result of my success – from my female colleagues of all things, well, I decided enough was enough and quit.

Lost and struggling

In 2010 I found myself lost and struggling to get through every day. I had left my job as an awarded project manager burnt out and in the grips of depression again, but had landed in another job where myself and others were subjected to severe mental bullying. I was struggling to deal with the death of my beloved Nan, and to make matters worse, my social anxiety was back with a vengeance, threatening to destroy my relationship of 6 years.

Lucky for me a friend referred me to a Young Women’s Leadership Program whereby my life started to change. Over the space of 6 months it helped to pull me out of the gutter and show me that I was someone and that I could overcome anything. We were introduced to the concepts of mentoring, volunteering, social media, and were tasked with identifying our passions. When I couldn’t identify my passions, I was devastated. I mean, what was a person with no passion?  But we were encouraged to keep searching, and on my way I wrote my first blog post for an online leadership community called ‘Emergen’. I mean, if there was anything that could fire me up it would be writing? I had loved writing as a little girl.

“The same person who would never raise [their] hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice.  The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend these relationship into the real world.” – Quiet, Susan Cain 201

I still remember that evening. Sitting there about to select ‘publish’ on the computer screen, and then doing it and being so scared. It was only a little post, but I felt so exposed. I didn’t need to be though. I soon wrote another, and another. I liked it. So I decided to start my own blog – just a small, little personal blog. Nothing major. Just a way to develop a bit of a writing routine. That’s all…

Reflections from a Redhead’ was named after my hair color – something I was teased about, and something I hated up until my mid-twenties. But since I now loved it why not champion it and show others that they can rise above things too.

A catharsis of sorts

Blogging has been a cathartic journey of self-discovery, opening up a world of opportunities and giving me a way to find and develop my ‘voice’. Sure, it hasn’t been easy, and there have been many ups and downs, but 3 years later my life has transformed:

  • I am comfortable in my skin: I love my hair and I love myself;
  • I’m happier, healthier and no longer depressed;
  • I’m outgoing and confident;
  • I no longer live dominated by fear;
  • I have so many new friends;
  • I have [too many] opportunities and passions…
  • I’ve climbed the Great Wall of China;
  • I can’t stop writing;
  • I’ve volunteered for numerous organisations;
  • I’ve designed and published ebooks;
  • I’m engaged to a wonderful man who has stuck by me for 9 years;
  • I’ve succeeded in some incredibly tough environments and jobs;
  • I’m starting to get out there and speak publicly;
  • I am starting my own business;
  • I have helped, and am helping others through sharing my stories;
  • I want to live.

We all have the ability, the difference is how we use it.

Most importantly it has helped me realise that I can help others. After all, that’s what life is about, and if I can help one person, than it has all been worth it.

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  • Jenny Stamos
    November 3, 2013 at 1:54 am

    This is wonderful Janine! I’m borrowing this motto for myself. Depression, anxiety and self-hatred have kept me down for my entire life, and they also keep me from leaving my house to do such life-essential things as buying food. I’ve finally escaped my parents and hometown, but I still don’t leave my apartment. I’ve realized that agoraphobia has become part of my story as well.
    I can relate to so much of this, except that my success peaked in elementary school and depression took over! I’m still struggling with things you’ve struggled with–not knowing my passions, the loss of relationships. I think that I’ve finally started down the road to my own transformation. With everything I am, I hope that three years from now, I’ll be able to create my own list like you have.
    Thank you for always inspiring me.

  • Muriel
    November 5, 2013 at 2:46 am

    For me, it is all about action: doing something that I like is what keeps me going. I am struggling with people who keep talking about them. If there is something that bugs me, I try to do something about it. Talking is overrated, in my own experience. I think that your post clearly shows that acting is the key! Great achievements!

    • Janine Ripper
      November 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm

      Even though I’m still gripped my overwhelming fear more than I admit, I’m definitely working on moving forward!

  • Penelope James
    November 7, 2013 at 4:47 am

    A courageous “coming out” post. You are obviously the kind of person who has ultimately decided to take her life into her hands and do something with it than continue to be shy, introverted, self-hating, agoraphobic, depressed, no self-confidence – an unhappy person for whom life has no meaning. Having been there, I know how difficult it can be to get out of it and create a full life for yourself, which seems to be what you’re doing. I’m not saying your problems are gone but you have learned how to deal with them. You also serve as an example to the many out there who are still suffering from depression and other associated illnesses.

    • Janine Ripper
      November 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Oh they most definitely aren’t gone – a lot to deal with, as part of the new chapter – but that is all part of the journey. Thank you for your continual support and for being a role model.

  • The Young Women's Leadership Program
    February 26, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    […] As life goes on for those left behind, the day to day routine continued as best as it could, and then the YWLP commenced. I must admit that I wasn’t in the right state of mind to meet new people and certainly wasn’t prepared for the workshops on life analysis. So to be confronted in the first few workshops with 25 strangers, and various tasks such as questioning our personal values, dreams and goals – it was the last thing I wanted to be doing. The climax came in the workshop about discovering our ‘Passions‘, where we had to determine and discuss what we were passionate about. When I could not identify anything – I was so incredibly upset and disappointed with myself I just wanted to chuck it all in. Of course, what I realize now is that I was going through the natural grieving process, and that I was struggling with a relapse in my depression. […]

  • Justine de Jonge
    June 5, 2015 at 8:03 am

    This is an incredible post, Janine. It’s so true as well. We all have so many talents and it is sometimes a rocky road we travel along until we discover how to use them and make the most of them, then take the plunge in using them in a professional sense. You’re not only courageous, you’re inspiring and have been inspiring for me of late. Thank you so much for hitting that publish button. I love reading your posts and they’re helping me a great deal. 🙂

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