Episode 96 – Jen Gotch, Thriving in Adversity

As we continue our special Resilience Series, we’re so pleased to welcome Jen Gotch. Jen is a truly inspiring creative, entrepreneur, and mental health advocate. As the founder of ban.do, Jen has taken an unlikely path to success that includes embracing flaws and understanding the influence of mental illness on her creativity. Today, Jessica and Jen talk about doing the hard and purposeful work of getting calm, grounded, and overcoming fear though regulation of our nervous systems. During these difficult times, this conversion gives timely advice for learning more about ourselves even in the midst of adversity.


Jessica: Hey everyone, you are listening to the Going Scared podcast, and this is your host Jessica Honegger, founder of the social impact fashion brand, Noonday Collection.

Hi. How are we holding up? I see people are counting the days they’ve been in quarantine – I can’t even handle that. I can’t do days, I’m doing weeks. I tell you, one of the most eerie things has been … thankfully, I wrote my calendar in pencil for the next three months, and taking my eraser and erasing all of the things for the next few weeks at once was really, really sad, and then also really liberating. And I think we’re feeling that right now. We’re holding these tensions. I listened to one of Brené Brown’s most recent podcast episodes all about if you are an over-functioner or an under-functioner. Over-functioners tend to be demanding, controlling, action-oriented, they’re ready to solve the problem. They do over-feel. And under-functioners tend to be deer in the headlights, paralyzed, lose some of their own competencies, and want to just be told what to do. While I can vacillate between the two, I am definitely more of a classic over-functioner: high, high adrenaline, high problem solver. And it hasn’t been until this week that I have felt actually in my body and more connected to my heart. So, I’m feeling my feelings now, which has been … it’s been really good. It’s been really good to settle in and feel the feelings. And I think a lot of what has helped with that is just getting back to my normal practices. So, I’ve done 7 AM workouts, I have gone to this tree that I usually go to after I drop my kids off at school, and I sit under this tree in my car and I do a lot of contemplative prayer, which is quiet … just saying quiet truths to myself and just being still. And then I’ve gotten dressed. I put on my Noonday earrings and jewelry every day this week. And it … I’m feeling, I don’t want to say the word, “normal,” that might be a stretch, but I’m definitely feeling like I’m in more of a rhythm.

So, this whole idea of under-functioning and over-functioning has been something I’ve thought of a lot as an over-functioner needing to get into a place of calm, and get in my body, and kind of regulate my nervous system. And I think what helped me on that path was this interview with Jen Gotch.

Jen Gotch is the founder of a brand that is so much fun, that I love, it’s called ban.do. And she’s also an advocate around mental health. She was diagnosed with bipolar II many years ago, and she has walked this journey in such vulnerability in front of so many people. And one thing that we talk about a lot is that she really let us in during her messy middle. If you back through her Instagram feed, you will see her filming herself during panic attacks and as she was having nervous breakdowns. And this conversation I had with her was so grounding because she has truly done the work in order to get calm and to get grounded and really get rid of fear in her life. So, it was a convicting conversation. We actually stayed on an hour after the call just talking. And that really helped to set me on a new path, wanting to regulate my nervous system through all of this crazy, crazy chaos.

So, Jen Gotch is an optimist who believes that bunnies have spiritual significance and longs for the day that she doesn’t care what her butt looks like in jeans. She is a visionary, a creative powerhouse, and a mental health advocate. She is ban.do’s chief creative officer and no. 1 fan, and she speaks both openly about her life, the good and the bad, on her Instagram, her podcast Jen Gotch is OK…Sometimes, but most recently, her memoir, The Upside of Being Downis out, available for purchase. It was fun, I actually interviewed her the day after she found out she became a New York Times Bestseller. And she writes this book after a lifetime of struggling with mental illness and says that she learned that it’s especially during the difficult times that are precisely the times when you have the greatest opportunities to learn about yourself, your mental health, your brain, and your body. And she truly is a teacher for what we’re all going through right now. So, it was a gift to get to interview her in the middle of it. I can’t wait to see your takeaways from this very rich and also grounding conversation with Jen Gotch.


Jen Gotch: Visionary, Creative Powerhouse, and Mental Health Advocate

Jessica: Okay, so I recently read this advice from Sheryl Sandberg and she tells us that, instead of asking people, "How are you doing?" especially when we’re going through difficulty and grief, she says to ask, "How are you doing today?" Yeah, it’s such a nuance that makes such a big difference, and we are both business owners. We are business owners of retail businesses. I own an artisan-made accessories brand based here in Austin. We’ve got about 50 employees and a warehouse. We don’t take on venture capital. Our sales have taken a really big dip. I think I’m assuming that you’re in a similar situation and we’re just holding these tensions right now.

So, on one hand, you became this New York Times best-selling author, a huge joy, a rare honor that any author dreams about, and then on the other hand, you’ve been open. You mentioned last week on Instagram that you’re having to make some heart-wrenching decisions in order to fortify the brand that you own, ban.do. So, I wanted to ask you in Sheryl Sandberg’s advice, how are you doing today?

Jen: Well, I feel good actually. I have very early on just accepted what was. I have found over many years, decades in fact, of practicing resistance, it actually doesn’t work. Eventually, you are faced with everything you’re resisting. You’re basically just perpetuating the pain of not facing it. So, I feel fine. Here’s the thing I will say: I don’t actually own ban.do. I sold it many moons ago and, although I am the chief creative officer and creative visionary for the brand, there are other people right now that are so much deeper in this mess than I am. Honestly, I don’t know that I’d be able to say I’m having a good day today if I was as in the weeds as I used to be, but my role doesn’t change the fact that ban.do, like every other business in the world, is trying to find their footing and trying to understand what the ground floor is actually going to be because I think, based on the conversation I had this morning with our CEO, no way to really know.

“I have found over many years, decades in fact, of practicing resistance, it actually doesn’t work. Eventually, you are faced with everything you’re resisting. You’re basically just perpetuating the pain of not facing it.” Jen Gotch

Jessica: It’s crazy.

Jen: No way to really know.

Jessica: And when you don’t know, you can’t forecast your inventory. If you can’t forecast your inventory, you’re kind of screwed.

Jen: Yeah. Listen, the thing is you can’t really do anything except for what feels right, and I think a lot of the conversation that we had today was the leadership team at the company … and we’re owned by a company that does licensing, so it’s basically two companies together, but they’re very grounded and I think, in and amongst all of the panic that we have all felt, they’re good at sitting on their hands for a minute to make sure that they’re not making knee-jerk reactions but also moving quickly. And I said to him today, I’m like, "Thank goodness for you and really being able to be that stable during what is certainly the most frightening time in all of our careers as businesspeople." So, I think you got to wrap your arms around something that is solid and…

Jessica: And some people are really made from these types of situations. It sounded like he probably is.

Jen: Yeah, yeah. I mean I think true entrepreneurs, especially. I’m sure you feel this way. There is that desire to want to roll up your sleeves and dig in. Honestly, the hardest part for me is that, in a way, I’m way more outside of it than even I was six months ago because I was meant to be on a six-week book tour right now. I had already been looped out of a lot of what was going on just because they didn’t want to have to rely on me when I’m bouncing from city to city. It’s even harder to be … because I’m one of those people. I want to start creative problem solving and find the upside to the challenge.

Jessica: I think I’m driving my team crazy right now.

Jen: Yeah. Well, listen, I mean we’re all doing what we’re doing but it’s been weird to be like, "Put me in, coach. Put me in, coach." That’s what I was saying to them today, I’m like that really excited person all the time. I was like, "Let me help," and they’re just like, "Stay in your zone, man. You’re doing your thing. It’s a good thing."


A Journey Toward Resilience

Jessica: You have been so smart though about owning your lane and partnering with people that have different strengths than you. I want to get more in to that. But this series that we have launched is about resilience, and you talk so much about resilience in your book. You are resilient, and I love how you talk about optimism. I mean it is crazy. Of course, it’s so unfortunate. I have friends launching books during this season, and it’s, on one hand, so heart-wrenching. At the same time, your book is such a message that people need right now in this moment and you can’t help but see that and feel that. You say that optimism … you’re talking about the ability to see the way out or at least believe that there will be a way out of difficult times to know, at a cellular level, that things will be okay. That sort of optimism is critical to resilience, and you don’t fight your way through decades of struggles with mental illness and come out on top without a boatload of resilience. So I wanted, first, for you to share with us your journey towards resilience. What are some of those key moments that have built resilience in you?

Jen: You know, what’s interesting is I think there are key moments I also think that there are almost daily occurrences that reactivate the resilience. I’m not one to be great at holding on to or even taking inventory on the things that have challenged me the most or the least. A lot of times people are like, "What are your biggest failures?" I’m like, "I don’t remember. I kind of just moved on." That’s the interesting part of this book, because obviously it was all about recounting all of those things. But I will say there were several times after college where I would hit an emotional rock-bottom based on the mental illnesses that I was struggling with, whether they were diagnosed or misdiagnosed or medicated or mis-medicated. I think that’s a very quick way to have the rug pulled out from under you.

Looking back, I think … I don’t know where that ability was to stand back up time and time again. That’s probably the biggest piece for me, was how my mental illness could sort of compromise me and, also oftentimes, out of nowhere. When I was writing it, I was like, "Man, maybe I am really strong," because I don’t know how I kept going back in. I was like, "Yeah. Okay, sure. I’ll do it again. I’ll do it again." I think those were the biggest things. I feel like professionally and with business honestly it still would be tied to a lot of mental health issues, like when I felt like I was failing or up against a lot of my biggest obstacles usually tend to coincide when I was dealing with the mental health issue, too.

Jessica: Well, you say that it was Lauren, and I love your chapter "Can I Call You Mom?" Thank you for putting into words what we’ve all wanted to say to our therapist.

Jen: I actually asked her. Her name’s Laurel, actually, but I did actually ask her at one point. And she was like, "No, you can’t." My mom didn’t like that part.

Jessica: We are just a few years apart because, in some ways, I thought, gosh, it was so surprising that it took you that long to find a therapist or to go to a therapist. But then I was thinking, actually, those of us in our 40s, this mental illness … thanks to you, you have done an incredible job advocating to take the stigma away from mental illness and truly, you’ve really created a movement and have helped so many people in that way. But in your early 20s, there weren’t a lot of people talking about that. Tell us a little more about your journey to Laurel and what were some of those lessons that you began to learn from her.

Jen: Sure. Well, like you said, there wasn’t … the awareness just was not the same. I grew up in a household with two very involved and attentive parents, so it was not like I was disregarded in any way but no one was able to identify the things that I was grappling with as a kid, as a teenager, and even after college. It wasn’t until I had this minor nervous breakdown that cracked it all open for us because there was no denying at that point that something was wrong. I went to a doctor and he said, "Sounds like depression." I mean it was a 30-minute visit with a doctor I’ve never met before. Now everything I know about mental health, I’m like, “Is that legal? That doesn’t seem legal.”

Jessica: A malpractice suit could have happened there.

Jen: It feels like it. The thing is it ended up really helping me tremendously, even if it also sort of hurt me. I think at least having a healthcare professional say, "There is something wrong. Here’s the medicine you could take for it. Let’s see how that goes," was very validating for me because, up until that point, there was no name to put to it and it was basically your personality wasn’t … it was just like, "Well, that’s just your personality. Sometimes you’re sad, sometimes you feel scared for no reason." It’s like, "Well, no." But we didn’t know that.

“I think at least having a healthcare professional say, "There is something wrong. Here’s the medicine you could take for it. Let’s see how that goes," was very validating for me because, up until that point, there was no name to put to it.” Jen Gotch

And certainly, I talk about this, too; there were times where my mom was trying to get all of us into therapy as a kid, but you certainly don’t want to listen to your mom in those times, so it was a hard no. It wasn’t until I moved to California and I fell in love with this guy. At one point, he was like, "You should see a therapist." And I’m sure I had just like overshared something with him and I was like, "Well, whatever you want.  Whatever you want, I will do that." So, I was, the next day, just on the phone with a therapist. He had written down a couple numbers for me, and so that’s who got me to Laurel.

And Laurel was just incredible because — and the reason why I wanted to call her mom — was because she really was above and beyond as a therapist. She really was a life coach to me because, at that point, I was probably 25. No real professional skills, no idea what I wanted to do, still struggling very intensely with my mental health. Financially I was being 100% supported by my parents. I wasn’t that physically healthy either. It wasn’t that I was ill, but I would get the flu a lot. I would be taken down very easily, had stomach problems, and she really just took this holistic approach to my wellness. I think because I’m always so interested in my personal growth that I must have been a very great patient for her, which I think kept her engaged. I was like, "Yeah, whatever." Once I feel something working, I’m like…

Jessica: She’s like, "Oh, I got some work to do."

Jen: Yeah. And she’s like, "But this person is listening," because I think the other thing I recognize now is that a lot of people go to therapy but they’re not really ready to receive the news about what they’re going to have them do.

Jessica: Or to even do the work.

Jen: Yeah. I’ve had close relationships with those types of people, and it’s not a good thing or a bad thing. But I think, I would imagine, as a professional, when you see someone whose eyes get really big and they’re just smiling at you as they’re telling you the work that you’re going to have to do, I feel like it was probably really not fun for her but rewarding. That’s what you want if you go into that field. She taught me how to grow up. I really just had missed that semester at school.


The Importance of Self-Awareness

Jessica: You missed growing up, but you also received so many different diagnoses around mental illness and so many prescriptions later. You read the book An Unquiet Mind, a memoir of moods and madness, and that really sent you on a search to get the right diagnosis, an accurate diagnosis, and you were eventually diagnosed with bipolar II. As I read that, it was this book that you read that helped you so much at this journey of your life, and then here you are writing a book on mental illness. It just made me curious. What were some of the hopes that you had for your reader while you were writing this book?

Jen: Well, I mean it’s not a mistake that that’s how it happened. I always held that with me. And not just in that book but in most books that I read, there’s usually a revelation whether it’s small or large, and I think ultimately I had hoped to reflect people back to themselves so that they could read something that I wrote and be like, "Huh, that sounds like me," or, "I had an experience like that." It doesn’t just have to be … mental health is the through-line through the book but obviously it talks a lot about business, and the mistakes I’ve made there, and the things that I feel like I’ve done right, and my relationship with my ex-husband. There were so many … it’s the beauty of a memoir. You’re able to touch on all of these different things, and I think my hope was ultimately so that people would have those light bulb moments and start to realize things about themselves that they really hadn’t connected with.

I talk a lot about self-awareness and the importance of that — not just in life in general, but especially when you’re dealing with your mental health and you’re dealing with mental health professionals, they really rely on you to be able to articulate how you’re feeling. It’s just such an empowering skill so I really wanted to lend that to the reader. I think lastly, I feel like it’s a way for people to feel less alone. Struggling in any way, whether it’s trying to figure out what you want to do or you’re dealing with an undiagnosed mental illness, is hard and it all feels very singular because the majority of us do not do a good job about talking about our failures. We only talk about our successes. So when things aren’t going right, you feel like you’re alone. But the reality is you’re absolutely not and I felt like in talking about it very unfiltered that hopefully that would help the reader.

“We only talk about our successes. So when things aren’t going right, you feel like you’re alone. But the reality is you’re absolutely not.” Jen Gotch

Jessica: I feel like you definitely accomplished your goals there.

Jen: Thank you.


The Birth of ban.do

Jessica: I wanted to shift the conversation a little bit. I want to hear you describe in detail your first hair accessory. You know how, when you read a book and you create in your mind what it is, and you’re like, "What did this really look like?"

Jen: Gosh, I should send you a picture. It’s still in my office.

Jessica: I would love that.

Jen: I’d have to break into the office at ban.do because our office is shut down and our key fobs don’t work. Essentially, if you just think about a … it was like a wire halo we made, and then I wrapped pink satiny sort of ribbon, like a hot pink ribbon around the whole wire, and then I had a couple of vintage flowers. I feel like maybe they were creamy and pink and just absolutely beautiful. I adhered those. And then I found some velvet leaves, which was a very common thing in vintage millinery, which is basically what we were working with, vintage millinery supplies. I hot glued some of those on there. If you look at the inside of this hair accessory, it was just like a mess of hot glue and weird knots because I don’t know how to make things like that. It’s incredible that Jamie and I, the two people that were most unprepared to manufacture, were actually making them. You know what? And then there was a little bit of pink tulle, it looked a little cloud sort of that came out the side. It was pretty eccentric at the time. It certainly got some looks, but I mean I love stuff like that.

Jessica: So, you make this hair accessory, and you post it on this photoblog. And then your friend, Jamie, walks out and she’s wearing something similar.

Jen: Yeah. We had been working together. She was assisting me on styling jobs, and we had been asked to make a daisy chain or something. I think that that must have settled into our consciousness and so I was actually…I made mine because my ex-husband and I were going to renew our vows. Spoiler alert: that didn’t pan out. She was celebrating her 30th birthday. When she saw the picture of what I made when I posted it on my blog, she was like, "Hey, I made something that looks just like that," and it sort of sparked something for both of us. We were like, "Should we make these and sell them?" And ban.do was pretty much born in that moment.

Jessica: So,you all start making these hair accessories. How long before you began to get them manufactured or were you guys still hand-making them?

Jen: It was a long time. They were one of a kind. Initially, before we understood anything about business and that, if you sell a one-of-a-kind thing once, you can never sell it again. We had not really calculated that, so lesson 1.

Jessica: Lesson 1.

Jen: If I say “manufactured,” I would put it in quotes because it was literally us just making the same thing over and over again and then eventually hiring a couple people that had better skills with needles and glue guns to make those things over and over again. And then I think it was probably in year 2 that we actually pursued actual manufacturing once we started getting some wholesale interest, but up until that point, it was just us trying to make it happen.

Jessica: You said at the beginning, you clarified, "I don’t own ban.do." I didn’t know if that meant you gave up all decision-making rights, if you owned still a small percentage of the business. Tell me a little bit more about what that business structure looked like then and what it looks like now.

Jen: Yeah! So, essentially just to go back to the origin of the sale, Jamie and her husband decided they needed to move to Texas. He had been sort of commuting back and forth for the better part of a year and he had a business there that was thriving And so she was like, "I have to move." That’s when we were like, "Let’s try and sell the business," because I knew that I was not going to be able to do it on my own and we had a small staff at that point. We were profitable but we were not making … it was maybe $200,000 in sales. This isn’t the sale of like … you were saying earlier about venture capital. This was not that. This was like we either fold or we sell it. We were not standing to make millions of dollars. We just wanted to keep this thing alive; that seemed like it could work.

Actually, we’ve always looked very buttoned up because Jamie and I really understood photography and styling and all of that, so I think a lot of people, when we put the business up for sale, were very interested larger companies. And then they would look at our numbers. They were like, "Okay, thank you." They come to the office, they’re like, "This is ban.do?" We’re like, "Yeah, this is it." It was a few goofballs and a 500-square-foot office. It was almost like the Wizard of Oz where you’re like, "This is the wizard. I don’t understand. It’s just some guy in a backroom."

But when we met Todd and Kim, I instantly liked them, and felt comfortable with them, and could see clearly that they really were looking for what we had and probably specifically what I had to offer since it was clear that Jamie was going to be leaving and that they were no way wanting to change that. They were wanting to empower it with everything that they knew. That was the only scenario in which I heard that and felt like it was actually true. Now, this was the whole concept of female founders and business moguls and all of that. This was a little bit prior to when that really exploded, and so I didn’t have really any context for how a sale should go or what the pitfalls are. I just had a singular goal, which was sell this business so we can keep it moving.

Yes, your description is correct. Literally one of the best things that’s ever happened to me in my life because, although I gave up full ownership, because I’m not a businessperson and didn’t even think that I could negotiate anything else, I was like, "Okay. Well, when you sell an apple, you’re not like, ‘I’m going to keep half the apple,’" so I just sold it.

Jessica: So, you get bought. Now you’re working with…

Jen: Yes, I can be bought.

Jessica: You can be bought. We can be bought. So, you’re working with Todd and Kim, but you’re still growing a team. You’re still in a sense having to be in this managerial operational role, which is really hard for a creative entrepreneur.

Jen: Yes. It really, really is.


Learning from Our Mistakes

Jessica: It’s tough and I love you’re so transparent. You say that leading out of fear, avoidance, and inexperience is uncomfortable and unsustainable but amid your many mistakes you will learn a lot. Tell us about that learning phase of your life.

Jen: It’s true. I was not great at that. I think I probably managed and lead with maybe too much heart for what the business world can take and just because there are always times where you’re going to have to do something that’s heart-breaking.

I think the first probably five years after we sold, it really was like business school. And, yes, there were other people helping me, but our parent company is based in Kentucky, so there still wasn’t that many people at ban.do here. I think it was several years in before I realized we need someone who’s operationally minded that has some experience on hiring, growing a team, creating an org chart, getting us all on Drive on Google. It was just a logistical nightmare with me. I think … well, not think — I had a very emotionally engaged team, which as you would know, is one of the most valuable things you can have. But, at a certain point, when you really want to grow and become more viable, it has to go beyond that.

I mean my hat was in the ring. I was definitely trying, but what I realized is that … and just like I said in the book and you read it so nicely, but the avoidance was that I still don’t really know how to hold people accountable. I would rather be understanding and try and teach them rather than say this was a miss. I’m better at it now. I’m still not perfect at it. And so I think, in doing what I thought would be protecting people from pain, inevitably they felt that pain but they felt it all at once and that was my fault because I couldn’t have those hard conversations. To me, that’s sort of the bottom line.

Also, I was struggling through a lot of that with my relationships, with my finances, with my mental health, and that certainly compromised my judgment. A lot of times, when your judgment is being compromised, you don’t realize your judgment is being compromised. Not to say that there were … I’m not singular. My role is not … I can’t really do anything that can’t … I’m not making decisions autonomously but I just think, even in my day to day or just truly how I was managing … I’m making it sound like it was awful. It was obviously really great, too. But, if we’re talking about failings, I’m going to about them. A lot of them were quiet.

I think the other thing is, when things started to go really, really well, it was like, "Well, let’s let that fall into place and do what you do when that happens," which was hire more people, really segment out jobs, and create these boundaries, a hierarchy, lots of things that were not really in line with the DNA of the company but necessary for growth. I think we just went into that very blindly and learned so much from that. It really was very trying.

Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. You say that it’s the difficult times that are precisely when you have the greatest opportunities to learn. You have a choice to do that though or not, and you have consciously,  it’s mindful. It is so mindful to make that choice to be a learner and to grow. That’s what resilience is. Resilience is being able to get back up. You fall when you live a brave life because, when you’re risking, you’re going to fall a lot and resilience has to…they have to go hand in hand.

Jen: I also think it’s taking responsibility for your part in any failure. I think because there is so much shame around failure that that’s what’s sometimes hard to do. But the getting back up is certainly paired with, like, “I had a hand in this and I’m going to be mindful of that moving forward,” because I think realizing that things aren’t happening to you and someone else isn’t the one that did it all is really important to feeling very strong and owning it.

“I also think it’s taking responsibility for your part in any failure. I think because there is so much shame around failure that that’s what’s sometimes hard to do … I think realizing that things aren’t happening to you and someone else isn’t the one that did it all is really important to feeling very strong and owning it.” Jen Gotch

Jessica: Yeah. It is so challenging, and I love how real you are about that in this book, which is why I just would love all our listeners to read it, especially those interested in entrepreneurship. I wrote a book that came out about a year and a half ago that, yeah, just being real about being completely a million dollars over our heads in inventory one year. We don’t really hear about the messy middles and you have been so … I mean we’ve all seen your transformation over the years. You’ve just led us into your messy middle.

Jen: Yeah. I’m so happy to hear you say that about the messy middle because I remember saying to our PR firm many years ago, I’m like, "No one is writing stories about this." We were in the thick of it and I feel like we were doing a good job of navigating. We weren’t winning all the time but I’m like, "No one is talking about this. They’re either talking about large companies crumbling or 30 under 30." Most of us are just in the middle and we haven’t struck gold but we’re doing better than we thought we would do and we’re having these struggles that no one is talking about publicly. I feel like that about my life, too. I feel like I’m not … that’s why a memoir seemed to work because I’m like, well, I’m not really there yet.

It’s like, for some reason, that doesn’t seem interesting to the media and, in my mind, I’m like that actually is the most interesting part because it’s achievable for one and it’s commonplace for the other. So, I was very passionate about trying to put as much of that, of my life, in there because I actually think it’s the most relatable thing, and I think these aspirational stories are wonderful that I’ve been inspired by lots of other books I’ve read about success. But I mean it also kind of makes you feel small at the same time, so I was hoping to make people feel the exact size that they are.


Self-Awareness, Mindfulness, and Growth

Jessica: Well, that’s what you do. You do that so well for all of us. We like to wrap up our podcast by asking how you are going scared right now. What we mean by that is just that we know that courage isn’t about fearlessness but it’s about feeling your fear and just moving forward any way, which I think artists do that all the time. So how are you going scared?

Jen: Here’s the thing. Because a couple years ago, I really got very serious about eradicating my anxiety and also the catastrophic thoughts that followed me everywhere every day — murder, death, fire, being run over by a car. I really started to work to manage my thoughts. So, I would say I’m probably operating with a lot less fear than most people right now. I can see that because I can see the questions I get and I’m like, "Man, I would have been asking those exact same questions if I had not changed my relationship to my thoughts." That being said, I really think the thing that scares me the most is just the health of my family. That’s the one thought that will kind of trick its way in and I know how to usher them out now. It’s actually sort of taking me back to a very familiar place where I worry about their well-being a lot, which I have for most of my life but I had sort of cut that part out. The rest of it I feel like is manageable. If someone was to take ill, I face that when I face it but that’s certainly the only thing that’s giving me true cause for concern.

Jessica: It’s so interesting because during this series when I’ve asked this question specifically with the people I’ve been interviewing … we interviewed the oldest survivor of Auschwitz and then we’ve interviewed a woman who has had a massive stroke and is now primarily paralyzed. I don’t know if you know Ruthie Lindsey who’s just chronic pain. But when I’ve gotten to this question, it stumps all of … it usually doesn’t stump people. But everyone for this series … I think it’s because you’ve had to do so much work in order to be resilient, and part of doing the work is getting rid of fear.

Jen: It really is. It is one of my top three things that really, later in my life or at least very, very hardly into midlife, completely changed me. People talk about that transformation that, as someone who was not necessarily perceived as a fearful person, was living with a lot of that every day, all day. I just really started to see it getting in the way of my life and was very passionate about pulling it out. For me, thank goodness, I did that work because to have the business struggling, to be far away from my family, to be releasing a book in the middle of it, that I had such high hopes for, and giving up whatever and having uncertainty about money, I mean all of that. And my story is certainly nowhere close to the worst. It’s not even close to the middle, but I think I would have turned to dust. I would have turned to dust.

Jessica: Absolutely. This would be the time, and I know that this is the time. This is the time for people who have bipolar II and are struggling anxiety, depression. This is the time where you go back to that place. I was even going to read … of course this is the most relatable thing for me when you write at the very beginning … and you’re just a teenager. I don’t even know if you were a teenager yet when you say to your parents like, "You don’t even know what it’s like to want a chocolate chip cookie when you know you shouldn’t have a chocolate chip cookie but you still eat the cookie but you do it over the trashcan. And you only really eat the chocolate chips and you throw the rest of the cookie away, and then you make some of what you threw away and you eat that, too. You don’t understand that." I was like, "Thank you for saying what we’re all doing right now, Jen, basically." Basically, we’re having a lot of pantry moments right now.

Jen: Yeah. I had my own the other night and I was like, "You go in and you go in hard right now. Its is okay!"

Jessica: So, I wanted to end with that almost with just some tips which your book is this beautiful work of memoir and you’re going to write another book. I can’t wait for … almost more of a manual. It’s like the grownup manual that you never got, Jen. That’s what we want from you. What are some of those just little tips, those coping mechanisms? You even said that you know what to do with those thoughts now when they start getting out of control. What are some of those practices that we could lead into?

Jen: That’s basically a huge part of mindfulness. To me, the first thing is just becoming aware. Truly what I mean by awareness of your thoughts is like, you’re not necessarily generating those thoughts. We have never been taught that. People are starting to talk very openly about that, but you don’t have to own those thoughts if you don’t want to. And they come from a mechanism in the mind that was basically there to incite fear because you were actually in danger when you were a caveman and there were lions that could eat you. You needed your mind to be like "run now." The mind doesn’t know that that is not the case anymore, so it just churns out worst case scenarios at will, and we’re convinced that that’s correct because we’re not really taught differently.

To me, understanding that and saying, "That’s not me," a lot of people will say personify that voice as someone else so that you can start to deal with it as someone else. Because, if someone came to your house and started telling you all these awful things about yourself, about the world, about your future, you would not invite them in ever again. You would be like, "I don’t like that person." That’s where you start. In paying attention to them, it already gets very interesting because, in doing that, you’re creating some distance between your thought and your physical and emotional reaction to that thought, which usually there’s no space for, especially for those of us with anxiety. Those that do not have anxiety are struggling with it now. They’re just learning what anxiety is, but it’s basically thought to reaction, and it’s an uncomfortable physical reaction and then it sort of just cycles.

“In paying attention to [those thoughts], it already gets very interesting because, in doing that, you’re creating some distance between your thought and your physical and emotional reaction to that thought, which usually there’s no space for, especially for those of us with anxiety.” Jen Gotch

To be able to start by putting a second or two and observing it rather than being, "I have to do something. This means something, and I have to do something," those things really were what helped me set me on my path. And then I think beyond that, it goes more to discounting it to thanking your thoughts. We’re ultimately trying to protect you but reminding them you’re not in any danger in this moment because most of the time … I mean all we have is the current moment. Most of the time we’re not in danger. When you’re really in danger, your mind’s not going to be thinking at all. Your body is going to take over and try and protect you. So, unless you’re that, you’re dealing with perceived danger and outcomes that you have no guarantee will happen.

So, I think when you can start to actively refute that, that’s even further. So, then you’re quieting your mind, which a lot of people told me and promised me in the books they wrote, the one-on-one conversations, eventually your very noisy mind will just quiet like a still lake and you won’t believe it. I was like, "Yeah, right." And then one day I was like, "Holy shit, it’s quiet."

Jessica: It works!

Jen: I can’t believe it works! I have a relatively quiet mind and I think, when you start to do that, it allows you the space to try and find gratitude, optimism, ultimately peace, and that feels so much more comfortable because it truly is our natural state that you start to feel very motivated to stay there. We’ve become very comfortable in the other state because anxiety has become such a communal thing that we can like, "I have it. You have it. I get that. I’m part of that." But I think the idea of sort of communing over this other thing and being like, "That’s what it should be," I’m just here to say it’s completely possible.

“I have a relatively quiet mind and I think, when you start to do that, it allows you the space to try and find gratitude, optimism, ultimately peace, and that feels so much more comfortable because it truly is our natural state that you start to feel very motivated to stay there.” Jen Gotch

If there are people listening that have followed me for a long time, they’ve seen the videos of my anxiety attacks. That was not a one-time thing. That was a very common occurrence for me. I said to a very wise woman that has helped me a lot over the last few years, I was like, "I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t know why I’m not on the floor like I was in those videos given what’s going on," and she was like, "You may never have that again."

Hopefully that is inspiring and not intimidating. It does not happen overnight, but if you don’t start, you won’t get there. We have so much time to practice that. I was able to do it because I was writing a book. You know when you’re writing a book, you don’t write all day long. You’re lucky if you can eke out a couple hours a day, so I had a lot of time with my thoughts and I practiced this.

Jessica: I told you it was going to be a rich conversation. I think for me, getting to talk with another … though she’s not a business owner, she’s a chief creative officer, I’m the chief creative officer for Noonday, and to get to talk to someone that has been a leader in a small but thriving company for 10 years was super, super helpful for me. And you know, we’re all in this together right now. We’re all being impacted by COVID-19 in so many different ways.

One thing that we’ve done at Noonday Collection is we have the opportunity for you to Gather for Good virtually. So, if you’re looking for a way to just disrupt some of your boredom, or if you are like, “I’m not bored at all. I am working from home with my children and it’s a hot mess,” but you’re still wanting to do some good. Maybe you have a hair stylist who could use her tip money right now or maybe your local food bank is running low on donations, then you can actually host a Gather for Good virtual trunk show. So, you can Gather for Good, Noonday will do it give-back to absolutely any local need in your community that you identify. We just had one ambassador do you one with her massage therapist and got to give a couple hundred dollars back from massage therapist and got to give a couple hundred dollars back to her massage therapist. But it was also just a great way for her massage therapist to get together her community virtually and connect while shopping for fine jewelry and drinking wine over a virtual happy hour.

So, if you are interested in that, you can head on over to the Noonday Collection website and click on our Host a Trunk Show or reach out to your local ambassador. Now is a really great time to get to do this.

Thank you so much for tuning in to today’s show. I am loving this series, especially right in the middle of a time when we are needing to rise strong from hardship, which is the definition of resilience. Today’s show was produced by Eddie Kaufholz. Our music today is by my good friend Ellie Holcomb. And I’m Jessica Honegger, your host. Until next week, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.