A Mild Case of the Januarys


shaley hoogendoorn -mild case of januarys-3By Shaley Hoogendoorn | Instagram:@messybeautywithshaley

TRIGGER WARNING: The following post contains topics about mental health matters and eating disorders. If you are struggling with any mental health issues, we hope you will reach out and seek professional help. To watch Shaley’s full video, click here. Below is an edited transcription. Email subscribers, please click through to the website to watch the video. 

I have the case of The Januarys. 

I am not a fan of January. January and I are not friends. I don’t like New Year’s resolutions. They make me anxious and downright grumpy. Don’t get me wrong I love planning. I have big dreams and even bigger visions on things I want to do in the year ahead. I just don’t want to plan them all in January. The world gets all loud and bossy to me in the new year. Everywhere I look I see messages to do better, look better, feel better, try harder and just BE BETTER. I am NOT okay with that.

I don’t like to be told that I have to change and I definitely don’t like being told how to do it. My sarcastic side takes over when I see social media. I get trapped and restless, and I want to do the exact opposite of everyone else. I see social media covered with exciting goals, beautiful organizers and gorgeous graphics. I pour over them and I really, truly want to be excited for everybody but it makes me feel overwhelmed and like I am kinda failing before I even start.

My thoughts are embarrassing and hard to share with Women Who Love, but if I’m honest, when I see new calendars, I want to scribble all over them. When I see the fitness posts, I want to throw dumbbells at mirrors. I envision tripping joggers in their active wear. I wear active wear when I eat snacks and talk on the phone, so it makes me feel like I’m not good enough. When I see posts about food and eating, especially with this rage about Whole 30, it makes me want to eat a WHOLE 30 cookies or a WHOLE pan of brownies.

My relationship with January is more complicated than that. When I pull back the layers of sarcasm, what I find is guilt, fear and shame. It goes much deeper than getting down because of the bleak weather or being stuck inside because it’s winter. After New Years’ in a mater of a few day, I would go from carefree laughter and dancing in December to paralyzingly depression in the matter of a week. A dark cloud comes in and lives in my brain for the next five months.

It comes on so quickly it would surprise me every single year. The world around me would go grey and I would swing between sadness and complete apathy. My mind would erase my ability to think clearly about the world around me. I could only see my broken parts.

It was at this time I would retreat into books, TV and stories about other people’s lives. I wouldn’t have to think about how I was feeling because I could think through the characters and through my friends and get lost in episode after episode of exciting adventures. I would do these things until the wee hours of the night. In the morning I would feel so tired and not want to take on the day.

It was around this time I would have a more destructive coping mechanism. By mid-January, I would get eating disorder-ish. I add the ish because it only lasted until May and it wasn’t year round. I don’t fully identify with the definition.

I would think about every morsel that went into my mouth as a way to control something, because I couldn’t control the thoughts in my head and the feelings in my heart. I would restrict and then binge, and start the cycle over again. I would think that if I could eat only 1,500 calories a day, that it would be a good day. It wouldn’t matter if I had depression because I was successful at something. It was less about being thin and more about control. I couldn’t control anything and this was something I felt  I could control. What I didn’t realize was that I would become more out of control.  

I remember every night, sitting alone, thinking about what I ate, writing it down, obsessing over every morsel, figuring out the calorie count. My day would be determined as “good” or “bad” depending on what I ate or how I exercised. If I had a bad day, I would berate myself, wake up the next day and tell myself I could only eat 500 calories and I would exercise for an hour and a half and then it would erase and I could be all equal and I could start all over again.

These thoughts took over and it made me so frustrated, because a part of me knew that it was wrong, that I’m made in God’s image and that I’m perfect the way I look. But I couldn’t stop.

I remember going to my local corner store and felt like I had to make excuses like, “It’s family movie night,” or “It’s going to be a great party!” I’m pretty sure the 15-year-old at the counter didn’t give a rip, but I thought it would be mortifying if anyone knew I was going home to stuff every last bit of junk in my face.

I had the meanest critic in my head, telling me that I was fat, ugly, alone and that I couldn’t even do the eating disorder correctly. I remember berating myself because I couldn’t be a true bulimic or a true anorexic. I didn’t even lose any weight. Every winter I would gain 10 to 15 pounds. In one of my lowest lows, one winter I gained 24 pounds in six weeks. I remember someone who I was working with in university practicum hinted that I might be expecting, which broke my heart.

Not many people knew how bad it was. I was honest to a point with close friends. I told everything to my husband, but there was nothing he could do except take me to the doctor. Unfortunately it took a very long time to diagnose me because I’m high functioning bipolar 2. When you’re high functioning, you can still do things like get a university degree. I could take care of my kids; I was a good mom. I could lead at my church and put on events. I just didn’t feel excited about them in the five months of struggle.

I don’t take the case of The Januarys lightly. Right now, I have a mild case of Januarys, even after eight years of having my diagnosis and having the most amazing medication, being stable and understanding what winters can be like without the cloud in my brain.

What happens with New Year’s resolutions and why I get snarky is because I’m terrified that I’m going to wake up one day and feel like that again. I’m terrified my meds will stop working. I fear all of those feelings. Even though I know I’m in a better place and I know I have healed a lot, I know that this is something I’m going to live with my entire life. I need to name these fears and talk about them.

If you’re someone experiencing a mild case of The Januarys or the deep case of The Januarys or if you’re stuck under the darkest cloud, I want you to know there is hope. I want you to know that you need to keep going to those appointments. I know it’s hard, I know how difficult it is to even do the easiest things. If you can’t do it for yourself, I pray you have someone in your support system who could rise for you and take you.

My wish for you this January is that you know deep in your soul that you are the daughter of the most high God. You are loved and cherished more than you ever know. I need you to know that you’re not alone. You’re not alone in this. I know you’ll find one of your sisters in mental illness.

Know you have one in me.


ShaleyAbout Shaley:

Shaley grew up in Northern BC in her family-built log home with loads of brothers. Her childhood was filled with snow, skates, hockey and huskies. Shaley has always had a small town heart with big city dreams. She is married to Rob and put down roots in PoCo with their smart and sassy tween girls. Shaley has no inner monologue, never follows a recipe and has the biggest hair in any room. Hands down.
Shaley invests her heart into her family, her community and her world. She works as an elementary school teacher and an event planner. She is fiercely passionate about helping the next generation become peacemakers and world changers. She brings beauty and order to Women’s Events and everyday life. She believes in sisterhood and women telling their stories without judgement. She follows Jesus and believes that love always ALWAYS wins.
Come follow her ramblings on Instagram at @shaley_hoogs and @messybeautywithshaley