Friday, November 1, 2013

Depression + Pregnancy Brain + Culture Shock Does Not a Creative Mind Make

Where to start? I want to get personal with you. I want to pour my heart out a little. I want to connect. This is going to be the longest blog post ever written – and no pictures either. I’ve never been one to apologize for not blogging enough. I like to write when I can. I do have an editorial calendar that I try to stick with but over the last several months I’m afraid no schedule could have kept me writing.

I put an exorbitant amount of pressure on myself to make everything in my life just so. So much pressure that in the past I’ve stunted my own growth and creative process. But recently, that has started to change and I think with dramatic personal results.

Like you, I scan through hundreds of images a day of beautifully curated blogs and magazines with professional looking photo shoots of fashion and food, and perfect families and smiling models people. While it is nice to escape to fantasyland now and then thought the rabbit hole that is the Internet, it also gives me an even greater sense of never quite being enough. It’s hard to keep up with the Jones online because you don’t even know the Jones. You don’t get to hear the neighborhood gossip about the Jones, you only see what they want you to see. Though the images are lovely, its hard not to get jealous of others’ success or wonder why when you take a picture it doesn’t quite look like what you had in mind. But that’s the (sometimes glorious) thing about photography, you don’t see reality, you see what the artist sees through their lens. You can crop out the things you don’t want and make the lighting just so.

When I first started writing my blog I didn’t tell very many people I was writing it. I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to say and voids I wanted to fill. I spend all of my spare time researching, writing, and teaching myself Photoshop, basic Internet coding, and photography. I wanted to be able to see what was in my head come to fruition. But then, a year into it I started wondering what other people thought of my little venture. The more I reached out the more vulnerable I felt. Not to sum up two years of my life in one sentence but – I went from feeling very fulfilled to feeling like I couldn’t measure up, no matter how many positive and reassuring comments I received. I lost my direction and I was petrified of moving forward.

Then one day in July, it all came to a head. I realized I was pregnant the same week movers were coming to haul my life away to the Middle East. Though this was happy news, it was also the straw that broke the camel’s back. I felt like a week before jumping on an airplane my life violently exploded and I was just floating in little pieces out in the ether of outer space. I felt like I wasn’t present in my own body, just watching it go about daily tasks.

Once in Kuwait I became sicker and sicker with first trimester nausea and exhaustion. I slipped into depression. I’d like to share something I wrote on August 25th in my journal:

"Since my arrival to Kuwait I’ve felt sick. I’ve been so sick I haven’t left the house much. At any given moment I’m starving. But I also have that feeling you have right before you vomit. The one where you say to yourself, “oh G*d. This is it.” and you hope you make it to the toilet in time. Except I don’t puke and the only solution is to eat. So I go against my natural feeling and gag down saltine crackers. The sickness is followed by extreme fatigue and mild depression. 

Last night I finally gave in and took a sleeping pill. I slept for 11 hours almost straight without moving. I woke up feeling better than I’ve felt in weeks. For a few hours this morning I didn’t feel nauseated. I ate breakfast, read, listened to music, and then before I could catch myself I passed out on the couch for four hours this afternoon. I was dreaming that I was sleeping there on the couch and that the sun was so bright I couldn’t open my eyes. Gman came home and cradled my head but when I tried to move to touch his arm, I woke up and realized I was alone. It was my dream. It was like when you have two mirrors facing each other and your reflection goes on for eternity. I had to wake up twice. 

I’ve heard stories of women dying of fatigue in Victorian times. I wonder when that went out of fashion, or maybe we call it something else now. 

We are living in a beautiful 3 bedroom 2 and a half bathroom apartment over looking the Gulf of Kuwait. All day long I sit and look out the window at the traditional fishing boats, pleasure craft, and Jet Ski disturbing the peaceful ocean life. Brave individuals walk the 4 mile long Cornish that runs along the water. It is usually 115 degrees outside, after all. The heat drains what little energy I do have. Should I decide to venture out, it sucks me dry before I return to the safety of the air-conditioned apartment. Not to mention, I don’t want to leave the comfort of the many bathrooms should I actually vomit. 

As such, I’ve had lots of time. Normally I would fill this time with busying myself. When in DC I would read the news in the morning, read and research for my blog, travels, and magazine, and then I would work on the magazine and blog. I would schedule lunch dates and squeeze in a run or a P90X video. I would call my family or girlfriends and chat away the afternoon. Then I would barely have enough time to greet Gman and have dinner before heading out to meet friends for happy hour. But now I’m alone. I have myself to contend with. 

You always hope that revelations can come without pain. You hope that you can plan a trip, get away, travel, see new places, and it will open your mind and solve your problems. You hope that by seeing new things you will see your own life with new light- that you will be able to gain enough perspective to get through the hardship. Sometimes that has helped me. Sometimes a trip is just the ticket for snapping myself out of it. But now, now has been the most humbling experience in all of my life." 

I’m feeling much better since writing that. A revelation came over me during that time. Sadness and change are just part of life. It’s part of a natural cycle of emotion. Sometimes you have a good day; sometimes you have a bad one. And that’s ok. It’s just life. It’s not negative, it just is. Pain is awful but it passes. It passes just as quickly as pleasure. Time stands still for no one and feeling sorry for oneself only weakens the precious moments we have. Being that sick also took all of my body’s recourses to cope. I did not have a creative thought in my head. I had all these aspirations to finish issue two of my magazine and spend all that down time researching Islamic art and checking out as many local restaurants as possible. But I couldn’t do anything. And since I was my worst in the evenings, making friends was nearly impossible.

On top of that, I have pregnancy brain (yeah, it’s a real thing.) I forget what I’m doing as I’m doing it. My mind isn’t quite all there. I can’t keep a train of thought going for more than 60 seconds. I’ll just stop as if my brain was a printer and ran out of ink. I don’t think for long periods of time. No thoughts at all. It’s very hard to be creative. Just sitting down to edit a photograph in Photoshop comes with new challenges. Even if I write it down, I’ll forget about a task for days at a time. I have to do things as I think of them, otherwise it will never happen.

Coping with the extreme changes in my life has been more challenging that I was prepared for. As I adjust to new normals and to culture shock, everyday tasks take up most of the day. For example, meal planning. Although I still have no appetite, I have to eat something and I don’t want Gman to have to fend for himself. If I find a few recipes and get the courage to go to the grocery store, likely I’ll find only 80% of what I needed on my list and it takes twice the amount of time I expected to find everything. I have to come up with substitutes for the missing items or scratch what I’ve already collected and just go home. Things like organic, low-sodium liquid chicken stock not existing here has driven me to tears.

I no longer wish to keep up with the Internet Jones. I want my blog to be personal and not a brand or a business. I want to share stories. I want to somehow capture people living through my living. I want to show you the culture I’m experiencing and lessons I’m learning. I want to connect. I want to grow. I want to laugh about it.

As time goes on, and a visit from my mother, I’ve started feeling better. I know the streets around my apartment (there's a Zara and Starbucks within steps. I mean seriously). I generally know where things are at the grocery store (and what they are likely to have - I found frozen organic chickens to make my own stock). I have been able to venture out and make friends. Gman and I are settled into our new home and its beginning to feel quite cozy. The weather has cooled and I spend the mornings reading in the breeze on our balcony. I can see my belly growing and feel the baby kicking. I have the energy to plan my maternity wardrobe, explore Kuwait, and perhaps even start working again. I’ve decided to go home to Tampa to have our little baby boy, where I look forward to sharing such a lovely and life-changing time with family and friends.
I will be finishing issue two of the magazine in the coming weeks, Inshallah (G*d willing). Going forward it will be published twice yearly and online. I wish I had the time and money to print it quarterly, but for now it’s just me and I am stretched too thin. For those of you who ordered a subscription, I will be reaching out to refund your money in the coming weeks. 

I can’t thank you enough for believing in me. Please stick around and see what great things are to come!


  1. I am moved to tears of pride and admiration. You are an extraordinary woman and a great writer - ! love you.

  2. Beautifully written Jamie! I hear many people talk about how difficult it is being a creative, but what I don't hear anything about is how difficult it is just being. Life is amazing, and even during the bad times I am grateful for the consciousness to feel those bad times. Still, there is a pressure to keep the negative under wraps, lest we taint our brand. So as we struggle to find our voices, we for the most part tackle that journey alone, save for the happy hours b!tch sessions with the girls where we try to sum up all of our fears and anxieties before last call. Worse still, we are inundated with photos and stories and frankly distractions that keep us from defining who we are and who we wish to be. I wonder how many blogs Leonardo da Vinci read... or the Bronte Sisters... or Richard Avedon... or heck, even Dr. Seuss (what was that brand about?!). However did they manage to find their voices without creeping around the perimeter of the Jones' home? In short, know that you are allowed to feel crazy, cry, throw up, break a glass, then step on a shard of said glass cause you didn't clean it all up, cry again... Its all part of the journey. I love blogs, not for the inspiration, but because it makes me happy to see all of the interesting things people come up with. When I stop feeling happy, and start feeling jealous or start questioning who I am, that's when its time to unplug, pick up a good book or watch an old black and white. Recharge. LONG comment short... I still love your brand and as I've told you before, I love your writing. You paint a beautiful picture with your words, no Photoshop needed. Have a wonderful day!

  3. Jamie, I have to tell you, I love and admire you so deeply. This is such a brave post. It's hard to bare yourself in this way, but I'm so glad you did. You were so encouraging to me when I lived in Alabama and I hated my life and was miserable every day; I looked up to you because you'd lived in New York and then moved to DC, and you started this wonderful blog and doing what you loved just because you could. I don't know what being pregnant feels like, but I do know that moving to a strange place--as exciting as it is!--can also be alienating. You have so much time with yourself that you start to see things you didn't see before.

    So I just wanted to share how I see you: You're a beautiful, incredibly kind, compassionate woman with an amazing creative mind and a great sense of humor. I feel so fortunate that I can call you a friend.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this post, Jamie! I really admire your strength. Don't ever hesitate to reach out if you need a friend to talk to! Miss you! xo Kara

  5. This is awesome. I have been talking with so many friends lately from all walks of life and with all sorts of jobs, relationships, issues, etc., and we are all echoing your comments about trying not to get caught up in other people's curated lives. Everyone does it and it is so unhealthy.

    I think the only solution is to do exactly as you said: "I want to show you the culture I’m experiencing and lessons I’m learning. I want to connect. I want to grow. I want to laugh about it." Well done!

  6. Jamie- Thanks for sharing this with the world. It's amazing how strong we can become when we're put through the ringer, and you're no exception. I'm very proud of you and thinking of you and your family. Always an email away if you ever want to chat. Miss you! xo

  7. Thank you my dear friends for your kind words! I can't express how touched I am by your support. Its reassuring to know I'm never alone in my journey!


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