Jennifer Cross Johnson - F.A.P. won’t keep her down!
One of the most common complications of a chronic illness is depression.* As therapist Elvira Aletta says, ‘Our bodies have suddenly freaked out on us and we’ve lost control of the one thing we thought we could count on.” For Jennifer Cross Johnson, who struggles with her Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, depression waxes and wanes with pain and health. Like many patients, she was misdiagnosed for 14 years and has endured removal of her gall bladder, thyroid and colon.
In mid 2013, Jennifer came to the realization that she was not in a good place. ‘Moody and depressed’, she knew she had to make a change. When one of her F.A.P. friends invited her to volunteer and help others in the community, she decided to say “yes.” But what started out as encouraging others to take control of their health, became a catalyst for helping herself.
“I [decided] to use my passion for photography to help me meet my challenge. I [chose] to take inspirational type pictures and put positive inspirational quotes on them.” In this way, she wanted to combine photography with her Facebook outreach.
As it turned out, however, achieving her goal every day was not as simple as she anticipated, so she enlisted the support of her husband and children. Over the course of the 21 Day challenge, the entire family went on photography outings and worked together choosing or creating motivational quotes. Suddenly, Jennifer’s desire to be positive was supported both at home and online, through the 21 Day Challenge community. Beyond her participation in this event, Jennifer also noticed significantly more positive personal posts!
Johnson family outside of NASCAR race car driver Jimmy Johnson's paddock.
On October 19th, Jennifer began the “It Takes Guts! 21 Day Challenge.” The goal she set for herself was “to work very hard on not being negative.” Fortunately for Jennifer, she had ready access to three things to take her mind off of the day-to-day struggles: her family, her photography hobby, and participating in her F.A.P. Facebook communities.
So what is the moral? The moral is that, when you find yourself in a hole, it is a lot easier to dig a deeper hole than it is to climb out. That change takes awareness, desire, and discipline. That feeling better starts with just wanting to feel better. That when nothing makes you feel good from day to day, it is time to look inward at your personal passions, access them, and be an active participant in your happiness.
When you are experiencing a time of chronic illness, as most people with a hereditary colon cancer syndrome have or will at some point, please remember, “If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” (Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr)
Concurrently, and quite unexpectedly, self-confidence in her self-taught photography skills saw a boost, too. She started a Facebook page to post her inspirational pictures and shared them with her friends and family. Within a couple of months, strangers comprised 50% of the ‘Likes’! Prior to the event, Jennifer would do complementary photo shoots once every 4 to 8 weeks. Now… her hobby has grown into a business! Jennifer is currently doing at least one shoot per weekend and as many as three shoots per week! Growth in an activity she enjoys, the positive feedback of her passion, working closely with her family, and the self-validation that she now enjoys is doing well to keep her depression and frustration in check.
If you, or someone you love, suffers from depression or mental illness, please contact your doctor or a therapist/counselor who can help. If you have been mishandled by your physician, find a specialist near you by clicking here. And if you need help with either, please do not hesitate to contact us.
*According to WebMD, the risk of depression in patients living with a chronic illness ranges between 25 - 33%.