“Sometimes people with the issue don’t know they have the issue, so how are you supposed to get somebody help who doesn’t think they need it?” – Great insight from Jeanne, the daughter in this mother-daughter special episode of my podcast. Jenny, her mom, is one of my first friends in life. We met back in grammar school. We’ve seen one another at our best and at our worst. This single mom and recent college graduate daughter are in many ways polar opposites. Lucky for us, they openly share their struggles, their triumphs, and their approaches to navigating this crazy thing we call life (and love). This mother daughter relationship is as unique from others as it is the same as others. I think you all will relate to what they have to say and how they say it. I want to thank Jenny and Jeanne both for letting us eavesdrop on their conversation about being in love with crazy — Their story helps us to better ourselves.
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Hi, and welcome to Madness To Magic, and my podcast, I’m with Crazy: A Love Story. I’m your host, Paolina Milana, author of “The S Word”.
This show is for those of us who find ourselves surrounded by madness and wanting to find the magic within. We’re going to come together here as caregivers to those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Maybe it’s someone in the family we’ve been born into. Maybe it’s someone we love. Maybe it’s someone we work with. Maybe, even, it’s ourselves. Whether we’ve been thrust into this caregiver role or taken it on by choice, this podcast is where we’re going to share our stories and learn to realize the magic in all the madness we may have been experiencing. I promise you, it can be done. So let’s get to it.
Paolina M.: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us again today. Today’s podcast, we’re sort of going to be eavesdropping on a mother/daughter duo, Jenny and Jeanne. Jean, who’s been diagnosed with a mental illness, hits the nail on the head when she says this quote:
Jeanne: Sometimes people with the issue don’t know they have the issue, so how are you supposed to get someone help that doesn’t think they need help?
Paolina M.: This single mom and recent college graduate daughter are polar opposites. Lucky for us, during this podcast, they are so open about their struggles, their triumphs, and how much they love and admire one another, and they’re learning to adapt each other’s strengths to become even better themselves. As they said it, if they were to combine their personalities into one person, they’d be perfect. Let’s listen in.
Jenny: My name is Jenny [Vice 00:02:03], and I’m here with my daughter, Jeanne.
Jeanne: My name’s Jeanne. I’m sitting next to my mother, Jenny, and I am a recent graduate from nursing school. I graduated last May, or in May.
Paolina M.: Last May.
Jenny: Two weeks ago.
Jeanne: Two weeks ago.
Paolina M.: Wow. Congratulations. That’s very, very cool.
Jeanne: Thank you.
Paolina M.: So how many years have you been her daughter?
Jeanne: I’m 25 years old, going to be 26 in a few weeks, so 25 years and 300 days.
Paolina M.: Very cool. Jen, can you maybe just give us kind of the Reader’s Digest version of when you found out you were going to have Jeanne and Jeanne’s first moments on this earth, what you felt like?
Jenny: I always tell the story, “I didn’t get pregnant the first month,” because everything in my life is pretty well-planned. I didn’t get pregnant the first month, so I was ready to go see a specialist. I wanted a child in June, but I got pregnant the next month, so I thought I was going to have a July baby, but as it turned out, I ended up having a June baby because I had a C-section and the doctor asked when I would like that date to be set, and I said, “Can we do June 30th?” So I got my June baby after all, even though she wasn’t due until July 6th.
Jeanne: She picked my birthday.
Jenny: So I got to pick her birthday, and I got my June baby.
Jenny: The first few months I thought were fine. I thought I was doing a good job. I stayed home for three months with her. She was quite a crabby baby, and was very worried to take her to daycare. Handed her kind of to the daycare lady and said, “I’m sorry she’s kind of a crabby baby.” Came home that first day and the caregiver’s like, “She is the best baby.” So I learned through osmosis that I think I was more stressed than I realized I was as a new mom for the first time, and I think her going to daycare and me going to back to my routine-
Jeanne: And you were doing it alone.
Jenny: Yeah, after six months I was doing it alone. Yeah.
Jeanne: Which probably added to your stress.
Jenny: Yeah, I guess. Again, stress, I’m not sure honestly what that means. You know, I have to do what I have to do to get by and survive, and put a roof over our heads. I didn’t consider my life really stressful, to be honest. It was what it was, and we made it through.
Paolina M.: So a couple questions. So you have this lens that’s from a different perspective, right, of-
Paolina M.: [inaudible 00:05:08]. So while Mom, you just kind of opened the door that she had to do it on her own, what’s your memory of that? Was it always on her own? Is that the only memory you have? What was that like?
Jeanne: Yeah. My only memories are just us two. Everything was super scheduled, super rigid because it had to be. It was only her taking me places, picking me up. I was in every single sport, so we were constantly always moving back and forth doing things. It was just like a constant always going, always going. So obviously I wasn’t stressed, but it seemed to me like she was stressed always trying to be on this tight schedule, always trying to make it work for her and for me. So that’s kind of what my view was on it. Even when she had to go to work, I went to daycare and she picked me up, and she would have to make her meals on Sunday so that when we got home, meals were already made. It was already planned out every week. So it was great for me and it was great for my structure, and it was great for growing up, but yeah. Definitely a different perspective on how she was handling things, I guess, and a different perspective also because I was little.
Paolina M.: As a child, did you try to take care of Mom because she was alone? I mean obviously you’re the caregiver, right, the primary caregiver, but was there a reciprocal kind of caregiving …?
Jeanne: I mean, like I said, I’m so young. There’s only so much you can do, but I think in my head, I felt like I was doing what I could to help. I’m a caring person, I think, by nature. Obviously I could’ve made her life probably a lot easier, but yeah. I don’t know if I was consciously … trying to help or not.
Paolina M.: How could you have made her life easier? You were saying, “There’s ways I could’ve made her life easier.”
Jeanne: Yeah, by doing what I was told, not talking back, doing things before being asked, or not being such a brat.
Paolina M.: Would you [inaudible 00:07:41] that, Jen?
Jenny: Yes. I didn’t ask a lot of her, though, I don’t think. I felt like I needed to do most of everything myself, but that was because, and she’ll say this, and I’m like my mother, there was a right way to do things and it was just easier to do it myself when I wanted it done how it should be done. I don’t think I put a lot of pressure on Jeanne to do things … chores or anything. I don’t think I really did that. Hindsight, I wish I would have; that would’ve been more structure for her, but again, she was a child, and I think I’ve learned as I’ve grown up, that’s how I compensated maybe for being a single mom. I think people try to say, “Oh, you were a Superwoman,” and I never, ever, again, thought of myself as something like that. I did what I had to do, and that’s all it was. It’s funny she thinks I felt stressed. I don’t feel stressed, to be honest. I always had people to help me when I needed help. I always had family to rely on as she was sick. My dad would come, the babysitter would take her and put her up in her room.
Jenny: It may have been stressful for an hour or two trying to figure out who was going to watch her, was I going to stay home, but it was a very short stress period for me. So yeah, again, I don’t think I was that stressed, but maybe-
Paolina M.: In talking about-
Jenny: That’s how I …
Paolina M.: Yeah.
Jenny: Maybe I was stressed, but I didn’t see it that way.
Paolina M.: Yeah. So, you were married, if I can ask, right-
Jenny: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).
Paolina M.: And six months in, ended it, right? Six months into her being born, right?
Paolina M.: So take me back to the actual birth. First off, I am curious: why were you adamant on a June baby? What’s up with that?
Jenny: I don’t know. Just because I love the month of June. I got married in June. It’d be cool to have a baby in June. I’m a summer person; I love the summer months. So yeah, it was just, again, my strict “this is what I like, this is what I want.”
Paolina M.: And you’re going to make it happen.
Jenny: When I can, when I can, which is not very often, but those were the things that were kind of in my control, to some extent, [crosstalk 00:10:18] when I get married and tried to have a child.
Paolina M.: [inaudible 00:10:22].
Jenny: No, I like control. I’ll admit it: I’m a control freak. I get it, I get it.
Paolina M.: Is the control freak something you are opposed to? Like you’ve gone to the opposite end or-
Jeanne: Literally have gone the exact opposite.
Paolina M.: On purpose.
Jeanne: I think some of it was subconscious and then it was like, “Whoa, I kind of like this. I like this more laid back, not so regimented ‘go with the flow'” kind of thing. Then when I could start making my own decisions and doing more things for myself, I think I consciously chose to kind of be more laissez-faire.
Paolina M.: So in terms of mental health, right, I would love from both of your perspectives, what is the healthier state of mind? The “let me try and control everything” or “hey, just going to go the opposite,” although you have said you kind of just go with the flow as well, right? You don’t think about it. Talk to me a little bit about your thoughts on what is the best state of mental health that you both have experienced, and what has not been the best in each other? Do you know what I’m saying? So-
Paolina M.: Yeah.
Jenny: I think somewhere in-between. I’m one extreme and Jeanne’s the other extreme. There has to be a healthy in-between, because she says that I’m very controlling and she’s extremely laid back.
Jeanne: Yeah, I agree. I would say somewhere in the middle is like that mental healthy zone, but it’s just like anything; it’s like a teeter-totter. If you go one way, you fall. If you go the other way, you fall. When you’re in the middle, you’re good. Obviously you can’t be too laid back, and I’ve found myself in situations where I’m late to things, I’m getting in trouble because I’m not on time, or stuff like that, and that’s detrimental. If I had just left the house ten minutes earlier or I woke up ten minutes earlier, or I took a shower the day before and planned things out, maybe I wouldn’t have been late, but then again, to me … it’s more about “I’ll be there eventually and I’ll be there fully, but I might not be there right on time” kind of thing.
Paolina M.: Unusual that you would choose to be a nurse for peds.
Jeanne: Yeah. So that’s where my personal life and my job is different. Like I go to class, I’ll be late to class. I show up in my pajamas. I probably smell and I don’t have coffee, but when I go to the hospital, I’m there early, I’m in scrubs. I look professional. I’ve got my coffee, because that’s my profession. That’s my identity, but truly, is that who I am on an everyday basis? No. It’s kind of like a façade, you know? You’re a nurse. People look up to you, people trust you. You don’t want a nurse that’s late. You don’t want a nurse that’s tired. You don’t want a nurse that smells bad. That’s why I try, at least for that, to be more conscious of being more … on time and stuff like that. Then again, I see the other side, being super rigid, regimented, and controlling. It’s like you’re constrained to time, and it’s all about time like, “We have to go here, here, and here, and it all has to be done before 4:30.” It doesn’t matter what we’re doing in between, but it’s about the time. “We got to do it here and now, and exactly like that,” where I would rather be, “This is three things that we’re going to be doing: we’re going to be doing A, B, and C. Whatever time we end, that’s when we end.”
Jeanne: For me, I’d rather be present than looking at the clock.
Paolina M.: What do you think about what she just said?
Jenny: I wish life was like that.
Paolina M.: What do you mean by that?
Jenny: That you start when you want, you end when you want. I don’t have a career like that. I don’t have a lifestyle like that as a single mother. I have to be at work at a certain time.
Paolina M.: Weren’t you also an event planner? Like you had to-
Jenny: Well right, yeah. It just interests me how Jeanne is so different from me when I raised her.
Paolina M.: How do you think that happened-
Jenny: But I guess, like I’m learning she didn’t like the regimented lifestyle we lived, and she’s gone the complete extreme opposite lifestyle of what she was brought up in. The complete opposite, which makes it very hard for us to get along.
Paolina M.: Well, when you had Jeanne, and she comes out, we didn’t talk about the feelings, the emotions. What did you-
Jenny: Like we discussed before, every time it’s asked what was the best day of my life, it was the day I had Jeanne.
Paolina M.: Did you know that?
Jenny: Did you assume that?
Jeanne: Yeah, I guess I assumed that. It’s nice to hear, though. Thanks, Mom.
Jenny: No, but it’s true. I mean, I had a C-section, so I knew driving to the hospital that morning that I was going to be a mom in a few hours. It’s a very surreal thing to know, “Right now, I’m not. This belly, this baby is going to be part of this world in just a couple hours.” It’s a very surreal feeling.
Paolina M.: Did you have, at that moment or even before then, the thoughts of what she was going to grow up to be like and what life was going to be like with her?
Jenny: Mm-mmm (negative).
Paolina M.: Nothing?
Jenny: Nothing. I don’t think I had any expectations.
Paolina M.: So for somebody who plans and controls, that you did not-
Jenny: I mean, I had her daycare provider picked out months before she was born. I mean I had-
Paolina M.: You had the logistics handled.
Jenny: That in place. I had all the logistics handled. She stayed with my sister my first week back at work so I could transition. “Yeah, I’m away from her, but she’s with my sister, not a stranger.” So everything I do has a reason. Almost everything I do. I’m finding the older I get, I’m trying to be a little less rigid, but I didn’t have expectations of “I want her to grow up to be the president” and “I want her to grow up to be Miss America.” “I want her to grow up and take care …” I didn’t put expectations-
Jeanne: You didn’t have any expectations? Like, “I want her to grow up and be a good person,” or like …?
Jenny: I made assumptions-
Jeanne: That it just would happen?
Jenny: Right. Why would you not-
Paolina M.: Did you feel as if there was an expectation put on you?
Jeanne: No, not really. I mean like day-to-day things, but I never felt forced. I feel like some people feel like they’re forced into the professions of their parents sometimes, or forced into, you know. “My dad’s a doctor and now I have to be a doctor,” even if it’s just a kid doing it to themself. I never felt like that at all. You always said, “I want you to do whatever you want to do, whatever makes you happy,” so yeah. I never felt pushed to do something that he wanted me to do.
Paolina M.: Was there the expectation, though, that you would go to college and finish college? Was that one of the things? Because you didn’t, right?
Paolina M.: Was it something that you wanted her to do because you didn’t, or …?
Jenny: I think in this day and age, kids have to have a college degree, but no. Vicariously, I was going to kind of live through Jeanne going to college. She went away, almost a thousand miles away, something like that. A lot of my friends were like, “You’re letting your only child go that far away to school?” “If that’s where she’s going to be happy, that’s where I want her to go.”
Paolina M.: Were you happy there?
Jeanne: Yeah, I was happy there for a while. I was having fun.
Paolina M.: Is that why you chose to go so far away from home? Get a break of-
Jeanne: Oh yeah. I had in my head probably like junior year at least that I was going away, and that I was going to go far. I don’t even think I applied to any schools in Illinois. So that never scared me. I wanted to get out. I wanted to go away. I wanted a change of scenery. I wanted to experience it. If I was going to college, do it big. Do it right, so that’s kind of what I was thinking.
Paolina M.: What’s one of the lessons that you learned from being away?
Jeanne: The lesson I learned is that you miss your friends and family a lot more than you think you will.
Paolina M.: Did you expect her to say that?
Paolina M.: What did you expect her to say as one of the lessons she learned?
Jenny: Hindsight now, that she was there for a certain, you know-
Jeanne: Well yeah, obviously. I have many thoughts on it. It’s not just that, but that probably was the biggest one.
Jenny: The schooling part went astray.
Paolina M.: What do you mean by that?
Jenny: She was on the honor roll the first year. A thousand miles away, she was on the honor roll. Then she moved off-campus the second year. Again, I didn’t go to college. I don’t understand all this stuff, but she moved off-campus, and I think that may have been a bad choice, leaving that structure. In the Carolinas, the complexes there have pools. They have volleyball courts. I mean, because it’s so hot outside that I went there, when I took her there, I called my sister to say, “You need to fly down here. This is like Club Med down here. I can’t believe my kid is going to school here.” Things just went astray when she left, I guess, the structure of the campus.
Paolina M.: Is that what you think happened?
Jenny: I mean, that’s my thought. I don’t know that she thinks that, but …
Jeanne: 100%. I was farther from campus. I had more freedom. Yeah, there were just so many more distractions too. I couldn’t walk to class anymore; I had to take a bus, so there was a lot of things that made going to class more difficult.
Paolina M.: So then, you decide to come back home.
Jeanne: Yeah, I basically flunked out.
Paolina M.: Oh. Yay.
Jenny: I think you left before-
Jeanne: I did leave before, yeah, they kicked me out, but yeah.
Paolina M.: If you had to do it over again, would you do it the same way? Because you turned out okay.
Jeanne: I mean ask me when my loans start kicking in, but I would do it the same. I never stopped going to school. I went to North Carolina for two years. That didn’t work out. I knew if I stopped going altogether that going back might not happen, so I never wanted to stop. Even when I came home, I don’t even think I took a break for, maybe a semester at the max, but I went to the community college. I started taking classes there. I got my associate’s from there eventually, only taking like two classes at a time, and then I finally went to North Park and then got my bachelor’s in nursing.
Paolina M.: Did you have this confidence that, “No matter what, she’s going to succeed?” What were you thinking during this entire period?
Jenny: I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was thrilled she stayed in school because a lot of people would be like, “Is Jeanne in school?” I’m like, same thing, “She was never out of school, people.” She was always in school. I-
Jeanne: I was just taking my time.
Jenny: I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Again, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
Paolina M.: But you were sure?
Jenny: She went back into nursing, then decided maybe she was going to go, real estate I think? I don’t know what class you were taking, like anatomy. Probably some hard class and thinking she just was going to chuck it and sell real estate or something, which I think I was like, “Okay. I’d rather you stay in the medical field only because there’s always going to be jobs.” It was just my observation. “It’d be really good to stay in the medical, but you need to get a degree and you need to get a job and make money, and be self-sufficient.” Like she said, I don’t think I ever pushed nursing on her, but was I always sure she was going to finish? I was never sure. Again, my half empty glass. It was easier to think of it half full if she succeeded. Super. If she didn’t, I think it was kind of in the back of my head that maybe it won’t happen. Maybe I waned it more for her than she wanted for herself. I’ve always told her I didn’t want her to struggle. If you want to say I struggled, I did. I want her to be able to be self-sufficient and be able to do for herself. If you meet Mr. Right, that’s great, but to know that she doesn’t need to have somebody in her life, that she can do it on her own if she has to.
Jenny: No, I will be honest: I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure this graduation was ever going to happen, and I think she knows it. I don’t think that’s something that surprises her.
Paolina M.: What about you and watching your mom live out her life? Were there points where you were kind of like opposite ends, right? She wasn’t so sure what you were doing with your career. Were you looking at her and, “What’s going on with you as well?”, or no?
Jeanne: I knew that everything that I was doing was affecting her. For me, I always knew that I would graduate, but I also was the one in control. She was just like the bystander, watching.
Paolina M.: Explain that. What do you mean you “were the one in control?”
Jeanne: Because it’s on me to go to class, to do my work, to do well on exams, and to pass, and to keep going. So I knew I was not going to stop. To me, I always knew I was going to be a nurse.
Jenny: You weren’t going to stop, but you put a lot of obstacles in your way.
Jeanne: Oh yeah.
Jenny: You could’ve …
Jeanne: I mean yeah, I didn’t have to be in school for eight years-
Jenny: [crosstalk 00:26:23] forced you to stop. Your bad choices could have derailed your career.
Paolina M.: What do you mean by the “obstacles” and the “bad choices?” What were-
Jenny: I don’t know if she wants to talk about all that.
Paolina M.: Oh.
Jenny: But …
Paolina M.: In your opinion, were they bad choices or were they just living life? How do you view them?
Jeanne: No, I mean doesn’t everyone make bad choices and bad decisions? That’s life-
Paolina M.: Do you think your mom has made bad choices and bad decisions?
Jeanne: I mean, I don’t think she would deny that.
Jenny: I know I made two, for sure.
Jeanne: Well I’ve made more than two, for sure, but I mean you try to learn from the mistakes you make and go forward, and that’s all I can do.
Paolina M.: So from the mistakes you made or perceived mistakes, right, what have you learned to move forward? I’m going to ask you the same question on the mistakes you’ve made.
Jeanne: Just to not be so naïve and, I don’t know, to be more responsible and kind of teaching me to not be so carefree. Like there are rules, there are regulations. It’s not just a free for all, and you can’t always do what you want. You have to think before you act, and I think that was the major takeaway.
Paolina M.: That’s an awesome takeaway. Most people don’t catch that one until their forties or fifties, you know? So kudos to you.
Paolina M.: I’m super impressed. Clearly, you did something right, as much you maybe did stuff that wasn’t right, but for you, all the mistakes, life lessons learned …?
Jenny: I think I’m starting to be more like her, more carefree, less controlling, I think. I think Jeanne’s-
Jeanne: I agree.
Jenny: You agree?
Jeanne: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jenny: I’m trying, but maybe because I’m in a place in my life where I feel everything doesn’t have to be quite as regimented as I thought it needed to be in the past. I think that’s a life lesson, that I was very stringent, but I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I wasn’t.
Paolina M.: What’s happening now that’s making it possible-
Jenny: I don’t know. I just feel, Jeanne’s going to be on her own soon.
Paolina M.: You are? Are you moving out or something?
Jeanne: Yeah. I mean, that’s the goal-
Jenny: Well, but she’s going to have a job. She’s going to be off my insurance in another month, and she’s on my phone plan. All those things, it’s going to give me a little more freedom when she can do those things on her own. I’m not going to do it to her if she can’t; I know it may take some time, but I just feel like life is getting shorter too. I’m getting older, and I’m still in good health. I have two sisters who’ve battled and won cancer, but it could happen to me any day. So no, am I jumping off cliffs or going-
Jeanne: Going to India?
Jenny: Going to naked retreats and stuff? Will I ever do those things? Probably not, but I’m a little bit more out of my control phase. Yeah, so what if I’m up a little late? So what I have to be up at the crack of dawn? It’s fine. I’m enjoying what I’m doing that day or that night. I’m living more in the moment than I used to.
Jenny: I really did live in moments. It was what I was going to do next, always. Today was over, I was already planning tomorrow and the next day. I still do it, but not to the same extent. I can turn the corner easier than I used to. It used to have to be a straight line, and yeah, there’s a little curve. Yeah, I’m going to enjoy and forget about the routine that I’ve typically had for 50-something years.
Jeanne: That makes me happy. Life is better that way.
Jenny: I do: I feel life is better for me, especially now that she’s graduated. That was a big hurdle for me as a mom.
Paolina M.: So let’s talk about this graduation. So there’s like a party planned, right?
Paolina M.: Why are you laughing?
Jeanne: It’s the party of the year.
Jenny: It’s a party we’ve talked about for seven years.
Paolina M.: Have you really?
Jenny: Oh yeah.
Jenny: Maybe not seven-
Jeanne: Not the whole time, but like three at least.
Jenny: Into three and the fourth. “You know Jeanne, you finish, we will have a big party.”
Jeanne: “You promised fireworks. I’m expecting fireworks.”
Jenny: I think it’s supposed to rain.
Paolina M.: She’s no longer in control, remember? She’s just living in the moment-
Jeanne: Well she’s a party planner.
Paolina M.: That was the old Mom.
Jeanne: She’s got to plan my party first, and then you can go with the flow.
Paolina M.: Then she can be off the hook, right?
Jenny: Oh, okay, okay. Thanks, thanks.
Paolina M.: So if you guys were to kind of look back at your, really, growing up together, right? I mean you were learning to be a kid, be an adult, right, and all of this with a single mom. You were learning to be a single mom and care for a kid on your own and be self-sufficient, right? So in your entire journey together, what moments do you recall that were your most joyous, your most funny together, and what moments were really your worst together?
Jenny: What was it, like two years ago or something? Jeanne came to me when I was walking Ella one morning, which Jeanne doesn’t do, and she wanted me to look at something on her phone. What town did it say? I thought it was Germany or something. Where were we going? What was the name of the town?
Jeanne: Oh, yeah. It was Frankfurt.
Jeanne: That’s why.
Jenny: Frankfurt, and I’m like, “You’re going to Frankfurt? You don’t even have a passport. When are you going to Frankfurt?” She’s like, “Mom, read it more closely. You’re booked for Frankfurt, Michigan.” I’m like, “Holy cow. God, you don’t even have a passport,” because I was still controlling back then. It’s Frankfurt, Michigan. She had booked us in a tiny house for three or four, but again, the mom thing, “I got to see if I can get off work,” “Did you already pay for this?”, blah, blah. That was an awesome trip. We had problems before we left. We had a great time there, and our problems all came back as soon as we pulled in probably, but the time we were away, we had a really fun time together.
Paolina M.: So describe some of that fun. What made it so awesome? Why were those days so-
Jenny: I don’t know. We rented a car.
Jeanne: It was random. It was a random trip.
Jenny: Right. Most of my vacations are planned six months in advance. This was only a month-
Jeanne: And I planned everything.
Jenny: That’s right, she did. You planned everything.
Paolina M.: Why did you do that? Was this a birthday present? Was it just a …?
Jeanne: I don’t …
Jenny: No, because it was August or something like that.
Jeanne: I just wanted to take a trip with my mom.
Jenny: Yeah, yeah. I don’t know if it was necessarily with me, to be honest, that you wanted to do it … I don’t know. I shouldn’t put words in your mouth, but whatever.
Jeanne: I mean, I wouldn’t have gone to a tiny house with a ton of my friends.
Jenny: Well you couldn’t fit in a tiny house with a bunch of your friends. We barely fit in a tiny house.
Jeanne: Right, yeah. It was, yeah.
Jenny: I think because there was no structure, because it was up to Jeanne. I had no idea where we were going. I’d never been. I didn’t have the book [Fodders 00:34:52] from the library, so I didn’t-
Paolina M.: What the heck is in Frankfurt, Michigan anyway?
Jeanne: There’s dunes, there’s beach. We went tubing.
Jenny: Yeah, tubing-
Jeanne: The lazy river. There was-
Jenny: It was near Traverse City, Michigan.
Jeanne: Oh, we went to Traverse City-
Jenny: Which I had never been to. If you’ve never been there and you like wine, it’s beautiful. If I would’ve known Traverse City was only six hours away, I would’ve been there a lot sooner. It is beautiful country. Absolutely beautiful country.
Jeanne: It’s like being in California. It’s like wine country, and it looks like it. There’s mountains, well not mountains. Yeah, there’s mountains in Michigan-
Jenny: There’s mountains in Michigan.
Jeanne: No, like the wineries are up on hills-
Jenny: Lake Michigan’s there, [crosstalk 00:35:46] around Lake Michigan.
Jeanne: Yeah, and there’s a whole road that you just drive up and you hit all the wineries on your way up. There’s lighthouses, there’s boats-
Paolina M.: I had no idea.
Jenny: Walking paths.
Paolina M.: How did you know about this?
Jeanne: I don’t really think I knew that much. I heard of Traverse City. It was like when Air B&B started getting big, and I saw the tiny house. I personally have always wanted to live in a tiny house, so I’m like, “Oh my gosh, we’re doing this,” and then I looked up Frankfurt, and it’s just a small town. A lot of trees and nature. Then I was looking around at activities to do, and there was just so much to do around there. I’m like, “This is perfect.” So yeah, I agree. I think that was probably one of my favorite memories too. I feel like we have a lot of good memories together. Even just the Cubs going to the World Series. I was like, how old was I? 12? But I remember I was jumping up and down-
Jenny: No, no. They weren’t in the World Series.
Jeanne: They were going to the championship.
Jenny: Oh here we go again, that I failed my daughter. She doesn’t know enough about baseball or the Cubs.
Jeanne: Anyways, that’s not the point.
Jenny: I think they were going to the playoffs.
Jeanne: That’s not the point.
Jenny: I know, but it’s just kind of funny that, you weren’t 12 because they just won a couple years ago when you were 25. Whatever the case, yes. No, I remember that day jumping up and down in our old house. “We’re going to the champion,” whatever. Yeah, that was a fun trip. That was a fun time. Family vacations were always fun. All her sporting events. We always had fun with volleyball and soccer.
Paolina M.: What about-
Jenny: Basic stuff. Basic mom/sister stuff.
Paolina M.: Not so fun stuff?
Jenny: A lot of that, too, but I don’t know, again, how much … There’ve been a lot of holes that she’s fallen into-
Paolina M.: What do you mean by “holes?”
Jenny: That I’ve had to pull her out of.
Paolina M.: Would you agree with that?
Jeanne: Talk about it.
Jeanne: Talk about it.
Jenny: Well …
Jenny: Well, the drinking that played into why things went downhill in ECU, why you failed there.
Paolina M.: Would you agree with that? Was that-
Jenny: And I think her mental health wasn’t good then. Several nights I’d get calls at 3 AM, 2 AM, walking her off a ledge because I wasn’t sure what she was going to do to herself. I wasn’t sure. Maybe it wasn’t that extreme, but being that far away was very difficult. I didn’t want to lose my only child because she was stressed out. Trying to get her to see counselors there to go get meds, it was very hard. I wanted her to be able to stay there and succeed, and it just wasn’t going to happen. Then you were kicked out of North Park. We don’t have to discuss why, but she got kicked out. Tried to rescue her from that, but he broke the rules. That couldn’t be fixed. Jeanne’s had a couple of arrests that I’ve had to go to … places to pick her up a couple times.
Jenny: So we’ve had some low, low times. I get it: I’m her mom. I’m the one she should call, but for as many times have been made good choices and [inaudible 00:39:43], a lot of nights, I didn’t know where she was. There’ve been a lot of low points, and that people don’t see because Jeanne is a very vivacious person, which I love, but people don’t know what goes on. Like a marriage or any relationship, what goes on behind closed doors, that raising her has not been, and I’m not blaming her. It hasn’t been easy for either of us. That’s why I said “this party,” and maybe it’s selfish, it’s as much for me as it is for her because if Jeanne realizes, and I plan to say something at the party, because it takes a village, or it took a village to get Jeanne through. She did the work, don’t get me wrong. She did the work, but there were a lot of people backing her up and picking her up along the way.
Paolina M.: Jeanne, can I ask you, how did you pull yourself out of such a hole a few times? Because it wouldn’t have mattered what she did or anybody else did if you yourself hadn’t pulled yourself out, right?
Jenny: That’s true.
Paolina M.: Right? For you, you can do everything for a person, everything, and it still could make no difference. So you, what was it in you that you pulled yourself out of there?
Jeanne: I mean, I think it’s just taking one day at a time. When something goes wrong, you have to regroup and look at it from a different view. Maybe that wasn’t your original plan of how things were, but you can’t get stuck on what has happened. You have to look at, “How am I going to move from here? Because I’m not just stopping.” So I kind of had that mindset, I think. Like I said, I knew that I was in somewhat of control, and I knew that it was on me, so I knew that obviously other people, they can tell me what to do or how to do it, or it can be suggestions, but nothing’s going to change unless I change. So that’s kind of how I think I’ve … I don’t know if I’ve handled things all the way yet, but that’s how I got through some of those times.
Paolina M.: The profession you chose, right, is to help other people. Do you think to yourself that maybe all of these experiences that you have had, there’s a bigger purpose for that down the road perhaps?
Jeanne: 100%. I think all of your life and your perspectives, they affect how you view other people. If you have a broader perspective and are more understanding about more things, the better you’ll be able to care for more patients. The harder things that I have to deal with, I know that I’m going to meet a patient that has gone through the same thing, if not worse. Being a nurse is being able to relate to someone and to have empathy. To have empathy, you have to put yourself in their shoes. If I have already been there and done that and felt that, and went through that, it makes being empathetic that much easier.
Jenny: Then can you be a mom soon so you can have some empathy for a mother? I’m glad you’re going to have empathy for your patients, but I’d really like you to have some for your mother someday.
Paolina M.: Do you think she doesn’t have empathy for you? Do you have empathy for her? What’s the-
Jeanne: Yeah, obviously. She’s my mom.
Paolina M.: You think not? I mean seriously, do you really not?
Jenny: No, mm-mmm (negative).
Paolina M.: What would empathy look like?
Jenny: A little bit more caring.
Paolina M.: What does that mean?
Jenny: A little more honesty, a little more help around here. It’s kind of just the same thing that she said earlier. You know, done things without being asked and …
Paolina M.: So, are the expectations too high or is it just not something you …?
Jeanne: Yeah, I think she’s my mom and you treat the people closest to you crappier than others, I think.
Paolina M.: I was wondering something. Your mom called you “vivacious,” and other people have called you “charming,” which I find you delightful. I will take you home with me any time you want to come. Not your mom. No, I’m just kidding. Yeah right.
Jenny: [crosstalk 00:44:57] right back.
Paolina M.: But I am curious. When it comes to people who are struggling, right, with a mental health issue, an addiction, whatever it is, right, an emotional something, there often is this outside vivacious, charming layer that’s hiding inside a wounded child, stigma, shame, right? Is that anything that plays into Jeanne, either past, present, or …?
Jeanne: Yeah, I feel like with anyone that has mental illness, you have to et through the day so you have to put on this face of “I’m okay,” and you don’t want other people to know that you’re not okay. I don’t know if I overdo it sometimes to counterbalance how you feel sometimes. I think that could play into it. I also just am an outgoing person and I’ll talk to a wall if it talked back to me, but yeah. I mean, I have anxiety. You wouldn’t probably be able to tell because I’m so outgoing, but it’s an internal thing. You can’t see mental illness. So, just because someone’s acting happy doesn’t mean that they’re not depressed.
Paolina M.: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So what would you wish people would say, you know what I mean? Or, how do you help somebody? How do you even notice it?
Jeanne: Yeah. I think it’s really hard to notice probably. It’s probably subtle changes, changes in personality, behavior, like if someone’s becoming more extreme, more outgoing, more talkative, or the complete opposite: if they’re retreating, they’re becoming more quiet, they want to stay in bed, they don’t want to see their friends. So minute changes like that, or their eating habits, or their sleeping habits. It’s small things like that. Most likely someone that’s dealing with depression, especially in the earlier stages, they’re probably not going to be able to identify it a that, so it is the people around them that have to be aware and pick up on these small ques. As someone that is looking for health … I mean, it stinks because sometimes you have to ask for help to people to notice, but to help somebody with mental illness, honestly, I don’t even think you have to say anything sometimes. Just being with that person or a physical hug, those are big things because a lot of times, people with mental illness just want to be heard and want to be understood, and want to have someone that they knew cares about them. So just being there and holding their hand, or like I said, like a physical hug, to someone that hasn’t touched in three years, that’s a big thing.
Paolina M.: Do you give yourself a round of applause? Do you ever give yourself an A+ for anything? Do you ever acknowledge what you have overcome and accomplished?
Jeanne: I mean, I don’t know. In my head, I think I’m proud of myself. Maybe once I take my test and graduate, well I already graduated. Take my test and actually be a nurse. Then I’ll feel accomplished, but no, not really.
Paolina M.: You should, you should.
Paolina M.: I know that they say, “Never do the should’ve/would’ve/could’ve,” but I think that every morning, looking at yourself because you are vivacious, charming, beautiful. You’re smart. You are articulate. You’ve pulled yourself out of things, I don’t even know all the things but it sounds like some pretty serious things that other people wouldn’t have, right? Look at what you have become. This is all going to be a story of trials to triumph. I mean you are a perfect person and example for this entire series, and one thing too, if you go downtown just to check places out, there is an incredible coffee bar. I want to say it’s in the Lincoln Park area, maybe it’s not but it’s somewhere around there, called Sip of Hope. Have you ever heard of this?
Paolina M.: So this guy started this coffee shop, and then some; it has more things to it, where all the proceeds to go mental health. Everybody who’s there, like the entire motif is “it’s okay not to be okay.”
Jeanne: “Not to be okay,” yeah.
Paolina M.: Right. So, really nice people, awesome people, but it’s kind of cool just to hang out, and who knows if one day, you being there, you can actually offer them, I don’t know, some program, some something that you could do, especially with being a nurse, right? And-
Jeanne: It’s called Sip of Hope?
Paolina M.: Sip of Hope.
Jeanne: Sip of Hope. That’s cute.
Jenny: That’s cute.
Paolina M.: Yeah, it is cute, isn’t it?
Jenny: [crosstalk 00:51:10].
Paolina M.: You honestly, do you ever stop and give yourself a minute of, “Holy shit, look at what I’ve helped,” you know what I mean? Not saying anything you did was perfect, but, “Look at what I really to grow and to give to this world.” This is a pretty awesome kid, and you did it on your own. Do you ever stop and-
Jenny: No, I know she’s an awesome person.
Paolina M.: But what about for yourself? Do you ever, Jenny, look in the mirror and be like, “I’ve had some shit thrown my way, and yet here I am. I still am standing. I’m a good time out. I can live in at little house with my daughter and we actually have a good time.” I kind of wonder even for the two of you, you’re still here and you don’t know how long that’s going to go; maybe it’ll be a long time, maybe not. Why don’t you put something in place where every morning before you guys head out the door, each of you has to say to the other how much you deserve an A and pick something on why you deserve an A? If you can’t do it for yourself, you do feel it for her.
Paolina M.: You feel it for her.
Jeanne: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Paolina M.: Why not do that and go out the door with, “Hey, one person in this planet, this moment thinks I fucking rock,” right? I mean …
Jeanne: Yeah. I think we should doit for ourselves too.
Paolina M.: Yes.
Jenny: Yeah. That’s probably, because there’s reasons we couldn’t do that.
Paolina M.: So my cheap labor cameraman here, producer, director, whatever we’re calling him-
Jenny: PJ, PJ.
Paolina M.: PJ. We decided to call him-
Joe: Producer Joe.
Paolina M.: Producer Joe.
Paolina M.: PBJ. So we-
Joe: What’s the “B” stand for? “Badass?”
Paolina M.: “Badass,” there you go. Yes, we’ll have it be “Badass.”
Jenny: That’s two words.
Paolina M.: Well we were going to the Y, right, every morning at 5:30. Every morning, we made sure that we told each other three things that we were grateful for. We haven’t done it in a while because we’ve gotten busy, we’ve done other things. I miss that, and now when we go on walks, we hit that, and it changes your perspective. What’s fascinating about the two of you, as much as you’re kind of polar opposites, you each have influenced the other, right, with the best bits of it. If you were like one person, you’d be perfect-
Jeanne: Right. We’re slowly both coming to the middle.
Paolina M.: Slowly coming together, right, and yet you still don’t give yourselves any credit for anything, it seems, that you have accomplished, which is pretty fucking amazing. What’s wrong with the two of you? Now let’s get to the real meat. What’s wrong with the two of you? No. Right?
Paolina M.: So I am curious: one thing that you think rocks about your kid?
Jenny: I think the fact, how outgoing and vivacious, and she will talk, I’d like to think she’d talk to a tennis ball if it talked back to her, because she does. I was never like that at her age. I’m more like that now. I was a wallflower. If you remember or not-
Paolina M.: Yeah, I do.
Jenny: I was a wallflower. I’d just blend into the wall, so I’m very happy that Jeanne’s the way, I think waitressing helped a lot though with that, which is very cool. I think she opened up in that kind of a role, so yeah. I love that she’s outgoing. I do, I love it. Does she need to hone it back sometimes? But it’s an awesome quality for sure, for sure.
Paolina M.: And about your mom?
Jenny: And she’s very empathetic with others, she is. I will give her that. She is. I give her that, I agree.
Paolina M.: That’s the mother/daughter thing, right? You’re allowed to, and for you? One awesome thing about your mom?
Jenny: Just one, just one. Can you narrow it down?
Jeanne: That she was able to take care of both of us and [inaudible 00:55:45] go to work today and keep a roof over our head, even though it was hard. I still don’t have the work ethic that she does, and I don’t think I ever will, so that-
Paolina M.: Is there anything wrong with that?
Jeanne: For me?
Paolina M.: Do you have to have that kind of a work ethic?
Jeanne: That’s just one thing that I admire about her, is how determined. Even on the crappiest day, she’s still up and out. No, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s a bad thing if it interferes with your life and you’re not happy because of it, but like I said earlier, there is a time and a place to be on time, be regimented, and do what you have to do.
Paolina M.: You know, one thing that’s interesting about you, Jen, because obviously I’ve known you before-
Jenny: Only one? Here we go.
Paolina M.: Well I was thinking to myself, well maybe she does. I don’t know, but she wouldn’t have like a picture of who you were before you were a mom, right? Like all of that, right?
Paolina M.: You just self-described as “wallflower,” and I do remember you being kind of reserved and shy, et cetera. What is fascinating to me is, if I remember correctly, your first husband, Jeanne’s dad, was very outgoing, vivacious, right?
Jenny: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative).
Paolina M.: You were drawn to that, right?
Paolina M.: I guess my question is, have you now realized that you yourself inside, like I see your Facebook posts. I see how you go out and you have a good time, and you’re always kind of laughing. You yourself inside have the vivaciousness and the charm as well. You don’t need it from somebody else [inaudible 00:57:44]. Have you thought about that?
Jenny: No, no. I mean, I grew up thinking, right? That was just the age we grew up in. I didn’t do it because, you know, but again, my “control my little world,” those were the processes you went through, but after two failed marriages and knowing a lot of people in unhappy marriages, it’s much easier being by myself doing what I want when I want. My mantra these days is “work hard, play hard.” She just said I do. I work my ass off, but somebody’s paying me. They’re paying me, but come the weekends or the evenings, I have a good time.
Jeanne: Yeah, but I think she is vivacious and I think she is outgoing.
Jenny: But I wasn’t. I wasn’t, but life is more enjoyable now.
Paolina M.: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. Maybe that’s-
Jenny: Well it was never awful. It wasn’t. It was never awful.
Paolina M.: How would you describe it? Because that’s sort of like-
Jeanne: You said it wasn’t stressful.
Jenny: It was more lonely, I think, than anything else. Even though I had husbands, it was still lonely.
Paolina M.: So if you have a magic genie and she’s going to give you one wish, what would it be moving forward? I’m going to ask you too-
Jeanne: Oh, okay.
Paolina M.: I’m coming after you in a minute.
Jenny: This sounds corny and tacky, but right now, it’d just be to have my health. I was literally going to say money, some money. Not a billionaire, but get the mortgage off of me and let me be able to get a new car and some new carpet, you know? So not to be a millionaire, but to live a little bit more comfortably and not have to watch pretty much every penny I spend, but I think really, my health because I can’t control it. If I had a genie, that would be, “Keep me healthy so I can retire and enjoy 20 years of health and do some of the things that I’ve wanted to do.” It sounds like an old lady, but that’s really how I feel, is if the genie could keep me healthy for the next 40 years. I’ll work the next ten and then let me enjoy the next 20.
Paolina M.: What’s the first thing on the bucket list? Like you said, “Let me do the things I want to do.”
Jenny: Traveling. Well, I’ve been to Mexico, but I haven’t left the country other than that-
Paolina M.: Well we were supposed to do the Italy trip. I know. I knew it was coming up.
Jeanne: I knew it was coming.
Paolina M.: I knew it was coming up.
Jenny: I was going to get it in there somehow.
Paolina M.: We will, we will. I promise you.
Jenny: The pope is still waiting for me. Still waiting for me. That’s my biggest, is to travel. I really want to travel.
Paolina M.: We went to Flint, what was it called? Flint …
Jenny: No, Frankfurt. Frankfurt.
Jeanne: Yeah, you had a nice [crosstalk 01:01:08]-
Paolina M.: You know really, that was a travel. No.
Jeanne: We went to the nice town of Detroit.
Jenny: Detroit. Motor City. We went to Motor City.
Paolina M.: What about you, Jeanne? Magic genie, one wish.
Jeanne: World peace.
Paolina M.: Really? Come on, now.
Jeanne: Just kidding.
Jenny: I was going to say, “Oh God, help me.”
Jeanne: No, I would just … What would my wish be? For me to be happy and healthy, and for everyone I know to be happy and healthy.
Paolina M.: What does that look like for you, happy and healthy?
Jeanne: Happy and healthy as in mentally, physically, emotionally. Just being genuinely happy.
Paolina M.: So you tear up when you say stuff like that. What’s going on inside. What’s …?
Jeanne: I just see a lot of people and know a lot of people with mental illness, and I just want … everyone to be happy.
Paolina M.: Because you know what it’s like to feel that way.
Jenny: I just want to know, you worry about others with mental illness. Do you worry about yourself? Do you think you have any mental illness?
Jeanne: Yeah, Mom. I’ve been diagnosed.
Jenny: Okay. I feel like you’re always talking about others, and I just needed to make sure.
Jeanne: Yeah, because I take care of others.
Paolina M.: Jeanne, can I ask you what your diagnosis is?
Jeanne: Yeah, anxiety.
Paolina M.: It is anxiety?
Jeanne: [crosstalk 01:02:56] anxiety, yeah.
Paolina M.: What have they said you should do, or what did they give you?
Jeanne: Yeah, so I was on-
Paolina M.: Klonopin?
Paolina M.: Oh, okay.
Jeanne: So Zoloft. I was on Zoloft for like seven years. Yeah, just a SSRI. Sometimes after a few years, those will wear off, so my anxiety will get really bad at that point and I’ll need Klonopin or Xanax until they can get me on a new SSRI, for that to kick in, but yeah.
Paolina M.: Does something bring it on, or it’s just out of the blue?
Jeanne: It seems out of the blue, but I’m finding that there are actually triggers. Yeah.
Paolina M.: Is this triggering you?
Paolina M.: Okay. I’m like, “Oh my God.” Wouldn’t that be terrible?
Jeanne: No, no.
Paolina M.: We have a report at the end of our podcast.
Jeanne: No, no.
Paolina M.: Okay, so-
Jeanne: I get emotional talking about my mom, too.
Paolina M.: Because she has a mental illness? You think she has a mental illness?
Jeanne: I mean-
Jenny: No, I think she thinks I have a mental illness.
Jenny: I think she told me-
Paolina M.: Do you think she has? Really?
Jenny: She called me bipolar. I don’t know if she meant that, but I’m like-
Jeanne: Okay, not actually. No, I think she has anxiety and depression.
Paolina M.: That she has anxiety and depression? What makes you say that?
Jeanne: [crosstalk 01:04:23] maybe. I don’t know. It’s just what I’ve seen growing up, like her talking about the loneliness, the isolation. That’s signs of depression to me, and anxiety, the rigidness, the control. Those are things that you do when you have anxiety too, avoid anxiety.
Paolina M.: Interesting, interesting. You went into nursing for peds. You didn’t go into nursing for mental health or [crosstalk 01:04:56]-
Jeanne: Yeah, no.
Paolina M.: What were you thinking, that you want to catch a baby when they first come out and before anybody tells them there’s something wrong with them? Or before they-
Paolina M.: Yeah.
Jeanne: Right, like they’re so innocent. Yeah. No, I like working with babies and moms because you get to do both. You get the best of both. You get the newborn and you get the mom, so you get the adult and the baby. No matter what field of nursing or medicine that you go into, you’re going to have a patient with mental illness and you’re going to probably have one every single shift, no matter what unit you’re on. You don’t have to be on a psych unit-
Paolina M.: I didn’t know that.
Jeanne: To work with someone with mental health.
Paolina M.: Interesting. You’ll be perfect, you know what I mean? Seriously.
Paolina M.: I think that it almost should be like a requirement, right, that you yourself have experienced some of this because you can’t know.
Jenny: Right, right.
Paolina M.: It’s funny; we were talking about a post that we saw today for something that I kind of work on, and this person is in a mental health field with a major university, and what they posted was basically, “You don’t need a coach to lose weight.” That’s what it was that we were looking at. “It’s a ridiculous spend of money. Just buy the book and have self-discipline.” This was from a mental health professional, right? That surprised me, and if that kind of an attitude is out there with the people you’re supposed to go to for help, right?
Jenny: Right, yes.
Paolina M.: That’s a problem, right? Makes you not want to even go because nobody’s going to understand you.
Jeanne: Well, and like you said, I went into nursing because I kind of knew what it was like. A lot of people that go into mental health care know what it’s like because they have these issues themselves. So could that be part of it? Maybe. Yeah, I mean if someone in the field can’t even understand, that’s bad.
Paolina M.: Right.
Jeanne: That just shows you how messed up our healthcare system is about mental health, but that’s another podcast.
Paolina M.: Ding, ding. Yes. That’s another podcast.
Jenny: That’s a whole nother [crosstalk 01:07:12], because I agree-
Paolina M.: And it’s an awesome tie-up. Yeah, really. Oh, you were born to do this, seriously. She’s like, “Wrap it up, guys. Let’s go.” No, this was awesome. Is there anything that you wish I would’ve asked or that you really wanted to get out? Any other last parting thoughts?
Jeanne: I think it was …
Jenny: I feel like we were just in a therapy session.
Jeanne: Yeah, honestly.
Paolina M.: Thanks so much for listening to Madness to Magic and my podcast I’m With Crazy: A Love Story. I believe we’re all here for a purpose, and I know that this is part of mine. Please share this with anyone you think might benefit or might even have a story of their own to share. You also can visit me at madnesstomagic.com, or check out more of my stories, including info on my book, The S-Word, at paolinamilanawrites.com. I hope to hear from you and to join forces with what I consider a unique caregiver tribe as we all learn to embrace all of ourselves, to have compassion for others, and to come into our full power by the grace that is both madness and magic. Until we meet again, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite mantras: be bold, and mighty forces shall come to your aid. Thank you.