Today's Everyday Goddess has a story that a truly believe will change people's lives, and possibly even save it.
I met Jess through the creator of a podcast I was a guest on a few months back, Danni Pomplun. Jess describes herself as being "functional, real, and fun," and I couldn't agree more. Her humorous and raw takes on navigating life with mental illness resonated with me the moment I heard her story, and I knew I had to share them here on the blog. Not only is it a beautiful opportunity to honor her story of growth and learning, but it's a testament to the power of yoga and proof that healing is possible.
Without further ado, Jess in her own words.
"My own internal dialogue lacked compassion; I refused to acknowledge I was mentally ill."
Who are you? What is your "story?"
My name is Jessica Seid
, but I do answer to Jess. I get it, three syllables can be a lot of effort. My last name will forever be mispronounced, but it’s pronounced like the past tense word for “say” (i.e. Said). I’m 29 years old as of September 2017, and I am currently practicing and teaching yoga in San Francisco.
I was born and raised in San Diego, CA and moved to San Francisco for undergrad at SF State in 2006. I moved for a short period to Honolulu, Hawaii, after graduating SF State in 2010 to pursue a Master’s in Linguistics at UH Manoa. Despite graduating undergrad on time, I took two separate semesters off and managed to graduate within 3.5 years.
Why the semesters off? Rewind back to high school.
We can all relate to and remember those awkward teenage years, where we are trying to find our footing in life, figuring out where we each fit in to the mold. I didn’t know myself well enough, lacked the self-respect and dignity to pull away from things that were negative influences on me. Feeling lost, I turned to drugs and alcohol—all a facade to mask and quiet the internal confusion within me (an internal shit show, if you will). Triggered by the dissolution of a relationship, the rejection led me to self-harming thoughts and the desire no longer live. With an attempt at ending my life, I remember being on the phone with my mother who was overseas in Taiwan where there was nothing she could do. The police showed up at my door, and my dad and sister were shocked, distraught, and escorted me in my dad’s car with my sister next to me asking why I would want to do this to myself, all the way to the hospital.
I spent several days in the hospital, forced to answer questions I didn’t want to, and talk to medical staff I wanted nothing to do with. In order to be released, I realized I had to play the part, obey the rules, and do what was asked of me so I could be left alone. It was only a band-aid that did not heal the emotional wounds that were very deep.
Once released, I struggled to re-integrate back into my teenage life, now with the added stigma of being mentally ill. Was I crazy? Yeah, I must be, if I landed myself in a supervised mental facility. My dad didn’t understand, and felt I could snap out of it because when he grew up, mental illnesses didn’t exist. My mom went through postpartum depression, and vaguely understood but kept her distance and drove me to my psychiatric appointments. I saw therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists and had to confront the reality that my brain was not well, just like any other internal organ within my body.
My ego prevented me from moving towards the path to "normalcy." What if my friends knew I had to see a psychiatrist? What if they knew I had to be on anti-depressants? They would think I’m mentally unstable and treat me as someone who is fragile. My own internal dialogue was lacked compassion; I refused to acknowledge I was mentally ill.
I eventually connected with a psychiatrist who was both goofy, completely human (unlike the sterile, matter-of-fact medical professionals I had previously been exposed to). He made me realize that I should give as much attention and care to my brain—arguably the most important organ in my body—as any other part of me. I convinced myself to frame it as chemical imbalance, or deficiency, justifying the need for medication and continued therapy. Once I was able to accept my current situation, a switch flipped. I felt guilty for putting my family through the stress and worry that I caused and vowed to do better by them.
After graduating high school, I moved up north from San Diego to attend college. College is a huge culture shock and transition for most people, and I felt like I adjusted pretty well throughout my first year. Sophomore year, though, was a different story. I moved into a dorm where three out of the four people living in there were already friends, and grew up together. As the odd person out, I was not privy to their previous lives before then, and felt isolated. One of the girls was a bully to me, and I didn’t know how to confront her or deal with the anger I felt towards her. Instead of reaching out to someone, I internalized all that I was feeling and wasn’t able to just feel. To compound with that situation, a friend of mine had passed away and I was feeling that loss. The bully I was cohabiting with kept a passive-aggressive attitude towards me, and I didn’t understand why the other two girls weren’t seeing what was happening, or saying anything in my defense. As far as I was concerned, I was trying to share the same living space as her, respect her as a fellow student, attend my classes, and live my life.
Suicide attempt number two came up as swallowing one too many pills I shouldn’t have. College had to be paused, and my parents had to withdraw me from all of my classes. I was back to the same situation as I was in high school, but this time with a longer hospital stay.
I found myself back to the same psychiatrist I had seen earlier, who made me feel like everything would be okay. There was a newer class of antidepressants that he prescribed to me, and in conjunction with consistently seeing him, I attribute those things to saving my life from any future self-harm for good. It’s now 2017, and I have never felt more supported, more loved, more happy, and more successful.
Things I’ve learned:
- Depression and mental illnesses are just as valid of a condition as any other injury, disease, or disability. There is no reason to feel any shame for any diagnosis you may be given.
- It’s important to be compassionate to yourself and let yourself feel the emotions you may be feeling in any given day. While it’s vulnerable, it’s undoubtedly what makes us human.
- You matter. Everything you do, from waking up in the morning, to showing up to that overdue coffee date with your friend, has an impact whether you want it to or not. It is said that as individuals, we will have impacted over a quarter of a million people in our lifetime (let that sink in...that’s NUTS). So yes, you matter, and your life is worth living.
- Along those same lines, don’t underestimate the impact you have on someone else’s life. I didn’t realize how much hurt and pain I was causing my immediate family, not to mention to time and financial strain that I caused. Sometimes it can be easy to to put blinders on and only see what’s immediately in front of you, and not what’s around you.
"Depression and mental illnesses are just as valid of a condition as any other injury, disease, or disability. There is no reason to feel any shame for any diagnosis you may be given."
How did yoga fall into your life?
I couldn’t stay away from San Francisco and left Hawaii in 2014 and entered the tech world within two weeks of moving back. To deal with emotional stress and trauma from the past, I decided to take yoga seriously since a studio conveniently opened across the street from my office. I first went for the physical benefits of yoga, but it eventually morphed into an emotional and spiritual practice that has forever altered my life and outlook on life. Now I teach for a living, sharing my love of the practice and the community it fosters with everyone I cross paths with.
How has your relationship with your body changed over time?
My emotional body was detached from my physical body in my earlier years. Yoga helped me to connect the two, and I feel like a better human being that can contribute to the happiness and well-being of all living things.
What does it mean to you to be "strong?”
You can take it at face value—to be physically strong, you can be that person who can bench press their own body weight and then some. While that’s great, it’s the mental resilience and capacity to weather through whatever circumstances you might find yourself to be in that to me, shows your ability to be strong. I consider myself strong for dealing with my emotional shit, working hard to get myself to where I am, and acknowledging the people who helped get me there.
"I truly believe that my success is not my own unless I can share it with others."
Describe the fearlessly authentic you.
The fearlessly authentic Jessica does not give a fuck about whatever baggage you may have, whether the color of your skin is blue or yellow, or even if you speak the same language(s) as me. I care that you are honest, kind, communicative, respectful, and wish to have some impact in this world whether big or small. I truly believe that my success is not my own unless I can share it with others. I feel that I will forever be working on practicing patience, am always learning and absorbing new information, and love to help others. If you ever need a warm meal, hot shower, or a place to stay, I’m your girl. More simplistically, I love cats (shoutout to my two freeloaders at home), carbs, all things language, and yoga (duh).
One of my favorite quotes (well, tweets) is from John Mayer that sums up my sense of humor:
"If you’re pretty, you’re pretty; but the only way to be beautiful is to be loving. Otherwise, it’s just 'congratulations about your face.’"
Follow along with Jessica's story on Instagram and on her website.