Episode 40: Jennifer Holmes on Mompreneurs and Mental Health

you Nov 09, 2021
Jennifer Holmes knows Mompreneurs and Mental Health

Jennifer Holmes knows about mental health first hand! As moms and mompreneurs, prioritizing our own needs can be one of the hardest things to do. Jennifer tells her story of a mental health diagnosis and how prioritizing that is actually better for our families and businesses.

Connect with Jennifer on FacebookInstagram, or her website -- you can download your own copy of When Someone Else Falls there. 

Jennifer's favorite gadget is her planner (here's one you might like)

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This is a transcript of the This Mom Knows Podcast - Episode - 40

Jennifer Uren
Jennifer Holmes is a wife, mom, speaker, and writer who also happens to have Bipolar II, and she's exploring how mental health and faith intersect. She's a mompreneur just like you using her experience teaching the Bible as well as her training and counseling to help women reconcile mental health issues with faith so you can write a new song for your life. So welcome, Jennifer. And do you work with men too or just women?

Jennifer Holmes
I have both men and women.

Jennifer Uren
Excellent. Didn't want to exclude anybody, but mostly women are listening.

Jennifer Holmes
Mostly

Jennifer Uren
So. Um, the introduction gave us a really, you know, high level view, but why don't you tell us a little bit more about yourself, where you're from, maybe a little bit about your family, things like that.

Jennifer Holmes
Yeah, so I am from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. So I'm Canadian. And you might hear that in my accent. Some people say I have an accent. And I have three children. My son is in his second year of college, and my daughter is in her last year of high school, and then I have one just going into high school. So in the latter part of the heavy mom years, although I hear you never stop worrying about them, or stop being a mom later. So sure I have many more years ahead of me, but getting through the heavy part of it, and just became a volleyball mom for the first time. So we've got volleyball taken over our life. I've been married for 20 years to my husband, Michael. And he's had several jobs in and out of ministry. We lived in the Philippines for a while. We've got we've had an exciting, adventurous life together. So...

Jennifer Uren
That's great. And are you in Calgary now? Or you live somewhere else?

Jennifer Holmes
I'm in Calgary.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, excellent. I have to brush up a little on my geography. Is that Western part of Canada?

Jennifer Holmes
Yes.

Jennifer Uren
Okay.

Jennifer Holmes
Yes.

Jennifer Uren
Let's talk about what you know, which is really this mental health and faith and the intersection of the two. So why don't you tell us a little bit about your story, and your mental health diagnosis and how that came about?

Jennifer Holmes
Yeah, so if I look back, I can see everything starting around 14. So probably going into puberty, about that age, and I can see some ups and downs. But I really thought I just struggled with depression through most of my adult years. And I kept as moms, you know, I kept writing it off to Well, I just had a baby. Well, I was just nursing. Well, I'm just trying to get pregnant. I had three miscarriages, so I would write things off to hormones from that. And I just kept thinking, well, it's just this, it's just this, it's just this. And about, probably about two years or three years after I had my youngest, I thought, okay, I can't write it off to having just had a baby anymore. And actually, my chiropractor was the one who sat me down and was like, Jen, you've, you're really struggling, you need to go talk to somebody. And so at that time, I didn't seek counseling, I just kind of started delving into the scriptures on my own, just really thinking that I could solve all my problems just by having stronger faith. And I struggled by myself for a lot of years. And then, when I hit about 35 or so, I started having major sleep issues. And I would sometimes go months with sleeping like just four or five hours a night, and it was really starting to affect my physical health. I was getting migraines, and weakness, and all of these things. And I went to my doctor and I was convinced that again, it must be hormones of some sort. And I went in and I said, I think I'm hitting some sort of really early menopause. And he's like, well describe me, to me all your symptoms. So I'm describing it all. And I said, you know, if I had to say in one sentence, it's like, I have bipolar, because I'll be so high one day, and Jen was the person who like got things done and stayed up late and had so much energy and could do all the things until I crashed and had what I thought were just bouts of depression. And through that process, he ended up diagnosing me with Bipolar II disorder.

Jennifer Uren
Interesting. So I've heard of just bipolar, but I've never heard of Bipolar II is does it have a range of spectrum? Or is it kind of like diabetes, and you know, we have, you know, onset adult onset and we have diabetes 1 where you get it in a child, you know, what, what's, what makes it Bipolar II.

Jennifer Holmes
So the simplest definition or way to explain it, is bipolar. One has very high highs, it has lows, but very high highs with psychotic breaks often and, and then Bipolar II has high highs, but not as high doesn't usually come with psychotic breaks. But the lows are lower, we struggle more with depression. So it's just those those couple of components. So when I have sleep issues, I sleep you know, maybe three, four hours a night, people with bipolar one might when they have mania, or they might not sleep for like a week at a time or something like that.

Jennifer Uren
Okay, so it's, it's still the swings, but they're just not quite as wide and you tend more to the depressed side and not as high on the the manic side is that...

Jennifer Holmes
That's right.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. Got it. That's interesting. I'd never heard. I'd never heard a distinction. So that's, that's really interesting to me. So you're already you know, in this crisis, I'll call it you've got this diagnosis, you've got an answer. But now you've actually got a label. And, you know, it's not much like what anybody else would be dealing with, with this life event of some sort, like you describe so many that you already had worked through. But when it's a mental issue, sometimes it can really come with stigma or surprising responses from people. So what was the response from you, the people around you, your family, your church, you know, the medical people that you engaged with?

Jennifer Holmes
Yeah, so the first person, I went right from my doctor, to my husband, and he was very helpful, because I was like, "Who am I now?" That was kind of my thought, like, Am I a different person now that I have this label, and he was just like you are who you were yesterday, like, this doesn't really change anything except for the fact that you now have more information. And you can now deal with things differently. The second person I went to was a counselor. And I finally realized that this was I needed help I needed to talk to somebody. Bipolar is a major mental health diagnosis. And so it comes with a very high suicide rate. And so it's really important to see a counselor and to start getting some help. And my husband and I had gone through marriage counseling at one point and so I, I booked in with my counselor online, and I showed up and the first question he asked me is like everything, okay? And I was like, What do you mean? And he's like, well you're here by yourself, and I was like, "Oh, I'm still married." That's okay. I was like, I'm here because I got diagnosed yesterday with bipolar. And then it was like, Like 20 minutes into the conversation, suddenly I looked at him, I'm like, do you do bipolar? Do you help people? And he's like, Yes, I do. I'm like, Okay, good, I'm in the right place. So he's still my counselor years later now, and I still see him regularly. But the church was it was a bit of a different story. And I had already built an email list by this point. And I serve in a fairly conservative Christian context. And I sent out an email several months later, saying that I had been diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder, and half my email list left in that one email. And so I can't speak for them why they did. But I just know that they were not. not comfortable in some regard, whether they weren't comfortable listening to me anymore, or whether they weren't comfortable with the word bipolar. Or they just thought this was going somewhere they didn't need I don't know. But, but that was really hard. And really a blow to everything I had been building at that point.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah. And what had you been building at that? Were you in sort of this mental health and faith space at that point? Or what were you doing that you had this list?

Jennifer Holmes
Yeah, I had been writing about depression for quite a while. I was a bit hesitant at that point in my life to be "that" girl, that depression girl. And so I was still in the, you know, mompreneurs know that you need to niche down a little bit, right. And I was still in the I should be for everybody kind of stage. And so I hadn't fully embraced mental health, but I was writing mostly about mental health at that point.

Jennifer Uren
Okay. And from a with the faith, so it was from a Christian perspective. So you know, these people who left your list were most likely that was that was the church responding?

Jennifer Holmes
Yes.

Jennifer Uren
What about your own..?

Jennifer Holmes
Now I have to say my own church - yeah, my own church was fantastic. But my, my pastor was very supportive. I was on staff at the time, and they were very supportive. My pastor was the one who had actually sent us to this counselor originally, so he was, you know, good with him. And my friends were amazing. So the church in a broader context was a little bit difficult for me to deal with at the time, but my own local assembly, they were, they were fantastic.

Jennifer Uren
Good. I'm really glad - that was gonna be my next question. I'm so glad to hear that. And it's one of those things that It baffles me, across the board, why the church in general can so often respond negatively, because for the most part, most denominations would not respond that way if you had cancer or, you know, a physical ailment, and yet our brain is physical and that's where so much of this comes from. And I don't understand why there's such a I don't even know the right language to use, you know, a refusal to acknowledge or are understand. When we were first married, my husband was getting his master's in counseling psychology. He's not a counselor, he doesn't have the empathy for it. So he went a different way. But we were in a church at that time, that that didn't support that at all. And so this poor guy - we're to church that is basically telling him that he's following a path, a career path that is not biblical, and it boggled my mind, honestly. So, yeah.

Jennifer Holmes
I think there's so much unknown about it. And because the term bipolar or schizophrenic, or even depressed, depression is not in the Bible, then it seems as though those might not be biblical things. But suffering is all throughout the Bible. And physical suffering is all throughout the Bible. And not every, you know, diabetes, cancer. I hope these these things are not listed in the Bible either. Right? And so I think it's just a It's a misunderstanding, because it is such an unknown field.

Jennifer Uren
Yes, yes. Because even Jesus went through mental anguish, which is a lot of these things. And so we know and he was perfect. So if he went through it, it's it's definitely not always a sin issue. But yeah, now I am curious, your website is built around the idea of a new song. So tell me more about where that comes from and why.

Jennifer Holmes
So I built my website back when it was just pictures of my kids for my family. You know, I was just gonna blog for the fun of it. But it was already a foreshadowing of everything that I wanted my business to be built around. It comes from Psalm 40. Andif it's OK with you, I'll just read a couple verses here. "I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry, he lifted me out of the slimy pit out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." And that was really how I described my depression was like a pit, like a pit of despair. And I really felt that and yet, it continues, "he put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to her God, many will see it and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him." And I wanted that new song. And I felt that God, even in the midst of my suffering, even though I was not out of the woods, or out of depression, or out of bipolar, later on, that he was still building in me a new song, and one that I could sing for others. And that's, that's really what I wanted. You know, it says, "Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him." And I wanted my experience and my knowledge of God, through that experience to become something that other people saw, and as a result, put their trust in him also.

Jennifer Uren
Oh, I love that. I love that. Because yeah, you what you want, you want your story to count for something, and when it can help and encourage other people. That's, that's redemption. And that's, I think, when Scripture says he works all things together for good. I think that's what it's talking about. Not, oh, let's, let's cause this ailment so that we could do something with it. But

Jennifer Holmes
Yes.

Jennifer Uren
but let's take this ailment and turn it around, so it doesn't win. So that's fabulous. As you've shifted into, help helping people so as you move from a website, for showing pictures to my family, to I'm going to talk about depression and be really general and broad with it, as you've niched it down into now bipolar, both as someone who's experienced it, but always is also learning how to help people through it. What in turning it into the business, what was the hardest thing that you kind of faced when it came to integrating this is not just something I write about out of hobby and curiosity, but this is something I'm building a business out of? How did it How did you integrate that with home and family so that they worked together? What was your biggest challenge when it came to doing that?

Jennifer Holmes
I think one of my my greatest fears was that I was going to embarrass my children. And that it would be really hard for them because they when I first announced my bipolar diagnosis, they were teenagers. And I didn't want them to feel the stigma that I was feeling from some people I didn't want them to, to be embarrassed of my online presence. And that, in a, in a sense, held me back for a little bit, because I was worried about talking too, too clearly

Jennifer Uren
Too bluntly,

Jennifer Holmes
Bluntly, yeah, too, being too vulnerable. Right? And, and then my son, one time he he gave me two gifts in the course of six months. And one was he went to Israel on a trip and he brought back a special pen. And he said this is because your writer mom. And then another time for Christmas, he gave me a leather bound journal, and was like this is because you're a writer and and I'm proud of you. And it was really a turning point for me to be like, no, I think they appreciate the vulnerability and they appreciate the realness and teenagers really, they really do want people to be real and vulnerable. And so I think that integrating that into the family life was really more of a mental shift for me than something that I literally did. Because I had to just sort of come to terms with the fact that my kids were gonna see things online and they follow me on Instagram and they they like all my posts and stuff. So if I talk about suicidal ideation, they know "Oh, Mom was struggling with that last week" and you know, things like that. So it's, it's, it's a choice that we had to make as a family that I talked with, with my husband, and that my kids live with but I think that they, they have come to terms with that and I have come to terms with that and it is just part of our family's calling.

Jennifer Uren
Has it strengthened relationships in your family because they see a side of you that not a lot of kids see their parents, you know, mental health or not a lot of parents just don't share their struggles with their kids.

Jennifer Holmes
Absolutely. And I think it has, it has made for a stronger relationship in that they're not afraid to talk about hard things. You know, we, we use a lot of words at our kitchen table that a lot of families don't use. And you know, and we talk freely and openly about pornography and all and temptation and sin and, and mental health and suicidal ideation. And I tell them stories of people I know and not my clients obviously but

Jennifer Uren
Right.

Jennifer Holmes
But, but you know, we we talk about things we've heard about on on socials or things like that. And it has just created more openness in our family and when my kids are struggling with their mental health, they're not afraid to, to come to me and and like you asked if I'm in Calgary, now it's because I've done a move recently, and, and they've had to do new schools and all of that. And, you know, they've they've struggled with that as, as kids do teenagers do moving in grade nine and grade 12. And, and they just are very open. coming to me, "Mom, I'm feeling anxiety today." "Mom, I was almost, I almost had a panic attack at school," you know. And, and we're, we're strengthened because of that.

Jennifer Uren
Has that sort of rippled out into their friends? Do they do their friends, talk to you about things that they're not necessarily comfortable talking to their parents about?

Jennifer Holmes
Yeah, yeah, I have several teenagers that I talk to on a regular basis.

Jennifer Uren
Hmm. That's great. Isn't that nice? Knowing that it's hard work. But isn't it nice knowing that you're, you're the safe place that, you know, they're gonna come to you and not run from you?

Jennifer Holmes
Yes, exactly.

Jennifer Uren
Oh, that's great. It is hard work, though. So well done keeping at that. Well, what is one thing that you did, as you were, as you were kind of, you know, moving this into, I'm gonna have clients, I'm gonna do these things, what was, you know, a resource you stumbled on or a practice, you implemented something that, you know, helps you keep, keep everything sort of in balance, so that the priorities of business building and the priorities of home and family, you know, were in check?

Jennifer Holmes
Yeah, I think I had to really sit down and make a list for myself of exactly what my priorities were. And I always say, for me, priorities are God first, family second. And then I put church as separate from God, I wasn't really raised that way. But I think that my personal relationship with God is the most important thing in my life. But not necessarily every church event is more important than my family. And so I kind of put them in that order. And then I had to put my mental health. And that was, that was a hard one for me, because I'm very achievement oriented, and very much want to like, I have a podcast and right now it's on hiatus, because when I moved, I could not handle putting out podcast episodes and moving at the same time, and my mental health couldn't handle that. And that, to be honest, sometimes really bothers me, it really bothers me to have inconsistencies in my business because of my mental health. But I know, deep down that that has to be the priority. I cannot sacrifice my mental health for my business. And so I really had to start like listing out where I can see it and think about it. What actually is the priority and then within the business, too, what is the priority? For me right now my one-on-one clients are my priority over over my podcast, over posting on social media, over my writing, and so I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna cancel on them. So I can make a podcast episode or so that I can. Like, I'm fine with rearranging my schedule, but I'm not going to say like, I need to quit this week because of my mental health. I'll quit the podcast instead. I won't...

Jennifer Uren
Yes, yes

Jennifer Holmes
...get that out. So just really having a very set list of priorities has and then I don't have to make that decision all the time. I can just look at it and know, where does this fall in? And, you know, a couple of weeks ago I was I was in a really rough place, and I was having some suicidal ideation and things like that. And so I just didn't post on social media for a week. And you know what? The world doesn't fall apart?

Jennifer Uren
Isn't that amazing? I mean, sometimes as moms, I mean, it's good that it doesn't but sometimes I think we wish it did because we feel like we you know, we we're so valuable. They can't do it without us. It's almost harder when they can, you know, they didn't actually need me. Oh, well, that's good that so you've built your own filter? To basically...

Jennifer Holmes
Yes.

Jennifer Uren
...work it through. And very quickly - I'm sure now it's it's much more of a habit - be able to say, yeah, I'm saying no to this, or I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna take this off my plate, because I know, it's going to be a better outcome for everybody.

Jennifer Holmes
That's right.

Jennifer Uren
That's excellent.

Jennifer Holmes
Yeah. And I want to make sure that my family has the best parts of me.

Jennifer Uren
Yes, yes. Yeah. And then it sounds like within your business, you've prioritized what gets the best parts of you, too. So that's, it's not either or, but it's, it's where do I put the best of me in both and...

Jennifer Holmes
Exactly

Jennifer Uren
...without competing or draining who you are! So yeah, so for the mompreneur listening who struggles with mental health issues, but is concerned about what people might think, what is one simple step that she could take today to get her started on the path to healing?

Jennifer Holmes
I think you need a trusted source. You need when you have mental health issues, you need one safe person. And I think you need your spouse in that if you are married. But you also, I think you need another another source, whether that is a friend who is willing to speak truth to you, my highest recommendation is a counselor if you can, because you need someone who will tell you when your priorities are off, or who will tell you when you're not following your mental health plan or check in on your self care. You know, for me, one of my biggest things is sleep, I have to go to sleep at the same time every day, otherwise, it starts getting messed up. And my counselor constantly is asking me, how are you sleeping? Are you going to bed at the right time? Are you exercising, you know, things like that. And you need that that trusted, safe person because not everyone is called to talk about their mental health diagnosis online.

Jennifer Uren
Right!

Jennifer Holmes
It's a big deal. It's a big deal to build a business around the fact that you are bipolar. You know, like that's, that's really difficult. And I don't think that most people are called to that. And so if you are a mompreneur, who is also struggling with her mental health, you need that one safe space, which is not likely online, and not likely, you know, your regular group of friends, it's probably one trusted person that can give you accountability, make sure you're taking care of yourself, make sure that you're getting the help you need.

Jennifer Uren
And just to be real clear, I mean, because you started it with one one resource, trusted resource source. I can't remember which word to use. But this is a relationship not a, I'm gonna listen to a podcast or read a book, this has got to be a person, that there is a two way communication with.

Jennifer Holmes
Yeah, a person who will ask you questions, you know, and make sure that you are on the right path, because it's so easy for us to and everybody understands this, everyone has gone into a public space and put on a smile on their face and convinced everyone in the room that everything is just fine, when it really isn't. And you don't have to have mental health issues to know how to do that. And those of us who do have mental health issues, we can get very good at hiding that from people. And when I first talked about bipolar people said, how you can't have that you don't seem like you have that. You know, and I was like, Well, I know how to hide it.

Jennifer Uren
That's right.

Jennifer Holmes
So, so it's, yeah, we can do that with other people. So you need that one person you feel safe to be who you really are and who will also challenge you.

Jennifer Uren
Yeah, and probably I'm guessing can start to recognize, uh, you've got a mask on. You're, you're you're doing that I so tell me what's really going on.

Jennifer Holmes
Yeah, my counselor the last time I went it was when I was coming out of those difficult couple of weeks. And in the first five minutes, he's like, okay, so tell me what's really wrong. You're so flat today. And I was like, I can see myself on zoom. I look happy! What are you talking about?

Jennifer Uren
That's right.

Jennifer Holmes
And I was like, smiling the whole time. I know what you're talking about. And he knew he knew right away because he's, he's built that relationship with me over years now.

Jennifer Uren
That's great. Tha, that, that is great that you know that you have that relation. Ships so so that's the first thing. Well, this is always the weird transition depending on the topic because we go from sometimes really light hearted to deep and heavy like this. And then I go "So!" One thing I ask every guest that I love, I'm a gadget girl, I love a good gadget system tool, something that's gonna make life easier. So what is your favorite time saving gadget, system, or tool?

Jennifer Holmes
Alright, so I'm super boring, I tried really hard to be interesting for this part, but I am not, but it is just a physical planner. Because I put the number one thing that I put in there is all my meal planning. And I can give you like a mental health tip here, because we have something called cognitive load. And women have this the most. And it's just the weight of all the decisions and all the thoughts that we have going on in our mind all the time and all the things that we need to remember. And it makes it very difficult to function, the heavier your load is. And so you know, we're speaking of moms here, you're not carrying just the cognitive load for you. You're carrying the cognitive load for likely several people.

Jennifer Uren
Everyone

Jennifer Holmes
Yes, and so the more you can write down, it helps to clear it from your mind. And so the more you can get a list of something somewhere like that list of priorities. If you can get a meal plan out on to your physical planner, and so I write out what is going to be going on in the evenings and then meal plan around that. Like do I need a fast dinner? Do I need an early dinner? Do I have too many carbs in a row? Do I need to add some vegetables in there, you know? And so it really just helps to not have to think about that each day. Like this morning. I just open up okay, this is what we're having for dinner and breakfast and lunch. I meal plan all three meals and then it just takes out some it leaves space for business stuff.

Jennifer Uren
Yes. And then you can go Oh, it's chicken, I got a thaw it. And you pull it out now instead of "Shoot! It's four o'clock and we're having chicken. That's not thawed." That's nice. Excellent. Well, I love that. And and the end you just made a good case for To Do List also, because now you have to try to remember what to do?

Jennifer Holmes
Absolutely. I got sticky notes everywhere.

Jennifer Uren
Yes, yes. Yes, I occasionally say wherever I can make sure I'm not the bottleneck to whatever it is the process, the information, and so so some of what I've done with those things has been with online tools, because then anyone in my family can log in and see what's for dinner, or add something to the grocery list. And yes, it's good to have those things for them written out.

Jennifer Holmes
Yes, absolutely.

Jennifer Uren
Well, Jennifer, how can people find you where they can they connect with you? And do you have any resources for them?

Jennifer Holmes
Yeah, so you can find me everywhere if you search JensNewSong. So my handle on i g which is where I'm the most active is JensNewSong. My website is JensNewSong.com. Right now I just put up a brand new free resource, and it is called when someone else falls. And so it's how to respond to when you hear you know, another leader has had an affair or someone in your church has fallen into big sin or what how do we respond with grace while looking at our own hearts? And, and what do we do, even if it's something that should be reported or something like that. So that's a free new free ebook up on the site. And I've got lots of podcast episodes for you to listen to on there. The new season is about to come out. So the podcast is called Head and Heart. But you can find it on. You can find it on iTunes or anywhere else. But the podcast episodes each are also on the website.

Jennifer Uren
Excellent. Well, thank you so much for sharing with us today and for being vulnerable. I know that alone is going to encourage someone and that fits with your whole desire of helping people have a new song with their story. So thanks.

Jennifer Holmes
Thanks for having me. This is a super fun.

Jennifer Uren
Yes, my pleasure.

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