I’m Jess, and I’m a lot of things. I’m passionate, loyal, honest, caring, funny (I think), emotional, empathic, flawed, strong, resourceful, and intelligent…among many other things. I’m an ENFJ on the Myers-Briggs. I’m a true Cancer. I fight to change the world. I fight to change myself. I also fight with myself.
I am a mental health social worker who also has been diagnosed with bipolar I, anxiety disorder with panic attacks, and PTSD for well past ten years; has had a sexual assault, a brain injury, and abuse in my history; and numerous fun physical issues to go along with those other issues. Additionally, I have plenty of family members and friends with a variety of different mental illnesses. These stories of pain are usually fragmented, deep, and meaningful- and they have shaped me into the person I am today. My “fire” within smolders and sometimes the flames burst forth, leading me…somewhere.
I attended a tiny high school, which I loved for a few friends and most of all for it’s dance team, which I eventually became captain of then coached. Love coaching. I wasn’t perfect, I was in the height of my illness, but I think that team kept me going during some of my worst times. I began taking college courses at Bowling Green State University during my junior year in HS, and continued there after graduation. I had my first mental break at 19, and was voluntarily admitted for six days to an inpatient psychiatric hospital where I later worked. I had to medically withdraw from classes in the middle of the semester (I was failing most of them anyway because things had been going downhill) right before my senior year of college.
But I went back, to a different, but incredibly welcoming, group of classmates, and received my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Social Work at BGSU. I have been a Licensed Social Worker in Ohio since 2007. I have nearly ten years of work experience in medical, gerontology, substance abuse, and mental health work. I am not currently licensed in my new state of California, as CA requires a Master’s degree to obtain a SW license-which is something I do not yet have. This also contributes to me being currently unemployed, I am no longer licensed for my own resume. It’s been tough jumping into other markets, even with qualifications. But on paper, I look like a social worker. And it’s hard to change that, because maybe I still am? Just in a different way. So I decided now is the right time to take my skills, knowledge, personal and professional experience, talent, and passion and put them to good use. It was time to start My Open Flame.
Over the past few years, I have fallen so far down the rabbit hole that I don’t remember the last time I truly saw the sun. I am so good at wearing my “mask” and my fake sunglasses though, that not many people know my pain and my true thoughts or diagnoses. Now I’m coming clean. It’s time to be the real me- Step One in my Road to Recovery.
Step Two is creating www.myopenflame.com– My honest, engaging, open, sometimes dark, but usually positive, funny, real life blog about my battle with my demons- my open flame- and my new approach to self improvement. Step Three is actually doing what I will talk about on this blog—my personal approach to recovery (more on that on the “About Blog” page).
Step Four is truly pursuing my dreams and making some real impact in the lives of others. Once I’M stable, I can turn my focus to making the journey easier for others. In the future I hope to continue to expand my blog; write a book (to start!); focus on helping to teach other people the skills they need to improve their lives and start having more good and less bad; start a mental health non-profit; and make a real difference in educating the general public about mental illness, advocating for real people to stand up and tell their stories in an effort to take the sting out of stigma, and fundraise like hell for mental health research and programs!
Fun Facts? I love football and hockey. I’m a sucker for unlikely animal pairings. I have three animals, two cats and a turtle, and I really want to get a dog as an ESA, and as a pet! I don’t know how to ride a bike (like a bicycle). I cook when I’m feeling good and bake when I’m stressed. I have an unhealthy obsession with kitchen gadgets. I love the ocean and the beach-my happy place. I make a mean mixed drink, although a cold craft brew or dry white wine is fantastic too. I love planning and hosting events. I give great presents. I’m kinda like Leslie Knope, but with more depression, and my passion is mental health instead of parks. I’m a natural blonde but I change my hair color a lot—it’s currently five different shades of purples, pinks, and blue.
Schedules, lists, and now my Bullet Journal are my external brain! I sell Mary Kay part time, simply because I love their products so much. I love to travel. I get a certain satisfaction from getting my hands in the dirt while gardening. I’m a visual and sensory learner. I still love The West Wing, ER, and Homicide: Life on the Streets. I miss Jon Stewart, but love his babies Jon Oliver and Sam Bee. I used to dance, for many years of my life—from childhood through college graduation. Now I only dance for fun. I often say that I have a “soundtrack to my life.” Music can be my savior, my best friend, or my figurative dagger.
I am sick, not weak. I have survived more than you know. Each scar reminds me of a battle that I-eventually-won. If you have questions, just ask!