Guest Post from Jenny Johnson:
When people would tell me “believing is half the battle” I used to roll my eyes. Why would just thinking a positive thought change my life? But after weathering some storms in life I now believe that thinking positively can and will change your life.
I grew up in a large family of 8 children in Utah. My first storm began when I was a freshman in high school. My father passed away of a malignant brain tumor. I was devastated. I had always thought that my Dad and I would conquer the world, but now I was alone. (Looking back, I can’t imagine how my Mom was able to hold it all together raising 8 kids on her own).
During those formative years I began a love of photography, ceramics and the creative process of art. I could see through others’ artwork similar feelings of pain and the joy I so desperately wanted. I was afraid to let anyone know about the intense pain I felt. I was able to hide my feelings from most of my friends, but I spent many years dealing with depression, seeing counselors, trying anti-depressants, etc… I struggled daily.
As time went on, I graduated from college with an art degree and married an amazing man (who somehow has had the patience to stick with me through life’s storms). I continued to have a deep blackness in me that I could never dispel and a belief that I was never “good enough.” I was never good enough to be a real artist, good enough to be a valued friend, wife, sister, etc… Whatever I did was never good enough. The perfectionist was in control and I could never live up to its standards. It was a constant struggle to just get out of bed and get through each day.
Shortly after getting married, I had another loss that nearly destroyed me. My brother, Spencer, who was 2 years younger than me, died in a hiking accident. He was 21 years old. It was two days of hell, searching for him in the mountains above Salt Lake City, only to have Search and Rescue find him dead. For 3 months I receded into my blackness. I couldn’t believe that God would take someone from me again. All I could see was what I didn’t have. I didn’t even appreciate that God had given me a great husband and life. Slowly I recovered and was able to move forward, thanks to my husband’s patience and unconditional love.
Still, I had ups and downs. I had terrible post-partum depression after my first child was born and started seeing counselors again, etc…. But the sense that I was “never enough” haunted me. I had so many dreams that I never pursued in fear that I would fail. I lived in fear. Fear of what horrible thing would happen next. Fear that I would fail. Fear that I wasn’t good enough to succeed.
I started working with an amazing psychologist who turned my life around. He helped me see and discover that I had been telling myself all these negative things in my head, over and over, all these years. And I had believed every word. After a great deal of work doing Cognitive Thought Therapy*, I learned to catch myself when I started to say these negative things, to break the habit of negative thinking. I was able to stop and not get sucked into the black spiral that so easily could consume me. I learned to see the misconceptions that I had about myself.
My world changed so dramatically. I still had the same husband, the same kids, house, life, but my world was so much better. I still had my ups and downs, but they were less often and less extreme. But, there was still one small thing; I was still living in fear. I consciously decided that I couldn’t live that way any more. I had to let go and live without that cloud over me.
This was put to the test a couple months later (in 2006), when my youngest brother, Drew, collapsed and died while jogging at age 23. His autopsy showed an undetected heart problem. We learned that it was genetic and may have been the cause of Spencer’s death, too.
When the news came I waited for the crash, for the blackness to swallow me up. I wondered if I would survive this a third time. Would my poor husband be able to hold our little family together? This time it was different. Yes, it was horrible and painful and I never want to go through it again, but I felt that I had arms wrapped around my heart, supporting me physically and emotionally. The crash didn’t come. I had found a strength that I didn’t previously know I had.
Living in fear didn’t stop the bad things from happening. Living in fear had made life’s challenges worse. I learned that no matter what life throws my way, I can overcome it. It may be hard, but I will survive.
It wasn’t much later that the idea for a new business was born (Cheeky & Swank). I had always dabbled in entrepreneurship, but never believed that I could ever really succeed at something. Failure was always looming. But this time, it’s different. I now believe that I can succeed, I am “good enough” to make something successful. It may take a lot of hard work and persistence, but I’ve learned that “believing is half the battle.”
Cheeky & Swank is a company that creates apparel, home and baby products that are fresh, modern and fun. We hand silkscreen our T-shirts with original artwork, and manufacture baby blankets, burp cloths, and bibs featuring magnetic clasps. I have a fantastic partner in Advent Creative, a design firm started by another brother. Together we make a great team.
I love that I can create new things. I can constantly find fabrics and artwork that speak to me, that express the beauty in life. I have found fulfillment in “creating” a company from the ground up. I have found that I enjoy the many different jobs that a new business owner must take on. Solving the many challenges are rewarding to me.
It’s not always easy, I’ve learned that I have to work hard at skills like time management, juggling family and work, and many other aspects, but this adventure has been more rewarding (and harder) than I ever dreamed.
Life isn’t perfect; I still struggle like everyone else. I still have to stop the negative thoughts from taking over and choose to replace them with positive thoughts. I know that I’ll be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life, but I’m okay with that. I know that whatever comes, I can make it through. I will not live in fear any more. I believe that I can succeed and that’s half the battle.
For more about Cheeky & Swank, visit us at www.cheekyandswank.com. To contact Jenny Johnson, email [email protected]
* Cognitive Therapy for Depression http://www.aafp.org/afp/20060101/83.html