Therapy hour with Janelle (or: ramblings with a damn-near-crazy woman)

by Janelle Hanchett

Okay, that’s it. I’m officially unmotivated. What the hell happened? I was doing just fine. Well, mostly fine.

I’m never doing THAT FINE. I’m something of a disaster, most of the time. But I DISASTER WELL.

Disastering is one of my most reliable talents.

Does that ever happen to you? You’re going along with your life and it’s pretty cool when all of a sudden BOOM. Monotony. Boredom. It all feels worn out and tired and lost and weird and possibly, at 2am, utterly meaningless?

Or maybe I feel worn out and tired. One can never be sure.


I like to feel sorry for myself. It’s my special spot I love to hate. My therapist – who my friend and I (yes we oddly have the same one) lovingly refer to as The Jedi Ninja – says I like to beat myself up mentally. Something about shame.

So, she’s given me some affirmations. I’m supposed to say them. As in, to myself.

As she sat there across from me in her immaculate office smelling vaguely of peppermint and excessively healthy houseplants, I thought to myself “No way in hell am I going to spew nice little affirmations, lady. I LIKE MY PAIN.”

I’m not Stuart Fucking Smalley.Stuart_Smalley-2


Come to think of it I’m not Jesus either.

But I started thinking about how after I yell at my kids I start a tape in my head: “Figures, Janelle. Of course you do that. You’re an asshole. And mean. A mean asshole. You’ve been that way forever. Remember when you were a kid? YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN A DICK.”

Or after I eat the 3rd cookie because I “need something to pick me up,” a new tape starts: “Fat ass! Nasty human. What the fuck is wrong with you? Remember when you were SKINNY? Remember THAT? Oh you loser. You’ll never feel that good again. You’re disgusting.”

I’m good enough and I’m smart enough and doggone it people LIKE ME!

Oh, fuck you Stuart. Nobody likes you.

When I got sober, the person most pivotal in my recovery told me something profound. And I don’t mean sort of profound. I mean like SUPER FUCKING DEEP AND LIFE CHANGING.

Sit down, and listen. It goes like this: Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Whew. Yeah. I know.
Go ahead, Take a moment if you need it.


No no. Don’t turn away. That right there is some crazy shit: We have to physically, actually DO something different if we want new things to happen in our lives. WE CAN’T JUST THINK ABOUT CHANGING.

We have to move our feet in new directions. And our arms. And even our hands. ALL THE BODY PARTS. We have to move our bodies in completely new ways to make new shit happen in our lives.

As I write this I’m realizing this information is probably obvious to every adult on the planet.

Oh well. Whatever. I got sober at 30 and that thought had never occurred to me. I truly believed that if I THOUGHT something enough times it would happen.

I believed if I thought about something, it would change.

The fact that this never worked was insufficient evidence to deter my faith in the efficacy of Thinking About Doing.


And that’s what’s up with these stupid mental tapes. I realized recently that some silly part of me seems to think that if I BEAT MYSELF UP enough times, my behavior will change under the weight of my wrath, or something.

Funny thing though: That never happens.

You know when I lost all that weight? When I started exercising and eating better. WHO WOULDA FUCKING THUNK IT?

Turns out self-hatred is a terrible calorie burner.

You know when I became a writer? When I started writing the words.

I know. I know. I’m a pile of wisdom.

Somebody build me an ashram.


Anyway, I’ve been trying the mental-bashing-routine for a few thousand years and it appears to have gotten me precisely nowhere, so I decided I’d give that old therapist a try.

So yesterday in the shower I started repeating the most ridiculous parental goodness affirmation I could think of: “I am a patient and loving and compassionate mother.”

I said it over and over again. Out loud.

I felt like a fucking moron.

Later, in the evening, I made a joke with my oldest kid. I did something nice then said “You know, I did that because I am a PATIENT and LOVING and COMPASSIONATE mother.” I exaggerated each word.

She smiled and said “I know.”

And I almost fell over. I am loving. And I am compassionate, but patience has never exactly been my um, thing. Actually no. Wait. I’m super fucking patient.

For 2 solid minutes.

TWO SOLID MINUTES folks. You can’t teach that.

It felt nice to hear my kid say that, though. It made me smile and I realized I’m probably not quite as bad as my brain would have me believe.


I don’t know. This has been a tough year. And just when I was in a bit of a groove I decided to take on a couple classes at a local university because I love this school and I love the professor who asked me but now I’m working 5 days instead of 3 and I’m no longer solely “self-employed” and I feel set back a bit, like I had a good thing going and “ruined it.”

And when I teach I have insomnia. It’s a thing. I must have a sleep-stress threshold past which my brain is all “fuck you and your desire for rest,” and apparently, teaching college crosses the threshold. And when I’m tired I lash out irrationally and lose it even more, and faster. I’m tired of Mac working out of town. I miss my baby. I’m sick of driving kids everywhere all fucking day forever into the night.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sure. Let’s affirm. I’m affirming my ass off.

Okay fine. It feels good to switch up the narrative a bit, even if I do think it’s bullshit. And I’m tired of the ridiculous brain punishment. That shit doesn’t work either. At least this is more pleasant, and vaguely amusing.

I am Stuart. Hear me roar.

Therapy hour with Janelle has come to an end. I gotta go pick my kids up from school.

With patience. Compassion. And love.
Ha. Ha. Ha.


Wait. I’m not done. My good friend told me the other day she just feels numb, like it’s all work. And I want her to know I feel the same. I feel the same sometimes, CL.

We get lost. We get found. We get bored. We get beat down until we change. We repeat the same same same until we throw our heads back and scream a new line.

Sometimes it’s “FUCK THISSSSSSSS!”

Sometimes it’s a ridiculous affirmation.

Our kid turns 10. The years seem stolen. Our oldest says she knows we’re patient and loving. We laugh cry silently.

We get a Jedi Ninja therapist we join a gym we get a kitten and name it Kimchi we pick up our kids we blast some music we miss our lifecrimepartner we make it one more day.

We write insane shit and remind ourselves “Doggonitpeoplelikeme!”

Until next time, whackos, I’m yours in the crazy.

He turned ten yesterday. She picked him out a bar of homemade soap with a rainbow on it. And she’s wearing a BIRD JUMPSUIT. Fuck it. It’s all good.

32 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | September 10, 2015
  • Joodz

    Thank you. I think you may have just kicked my ass. Not only do I think about doing stuff, I read about it and research it. Time to actually, literally do it.

    • Britney

      You and me both! 🙂

  • Cindy

    I like you.

  • Kitty

    Do you plan these out especially to get me to cry in cafes?

    Ah man, I’m right there with you. I spent the afternoon trying to work, thinking I’m missing the whole parent ride and a terrible person, loving the kids, missing them, and listening to podcasts on mindful parenting. Next in line: consider sobering up a bit more (do I really have to?), considering finding a Jedi Therapist (are there more out there?) and some affirmations.

    Also: this follow your child’s breath practice that I learned on a pod cast today to be used when I find myself saying ‘No’ and feeling irritation arise.

    Thanks Janelle:)

    • KO'B

      Do share the podcast

      • Ära lie Tschüß

        Please do share the podcast. The ones I have found are all about subsurvience on the part of the mother only………

  • Lindsay

    On week 13 of this mom’ing gig. Year two of being an addiction therapist (in training). Thanks for airing your crazy. It matches mine quite nicely and makes me feel a special kinda happy. Cheers! Here’s to hoping one day I am someone’s Jedi-Ninja 🙂

  • Marie

    I like you!I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart -and the bottom of the world, incidentally (New Zealand that is) for writing the stuff you do. You freakin ROCK, woman.

  • Alysicia

    I know the banter that happens in my head is down right crazy. I’d never let someone talk to me the way I talk to myself. I’d never let someone tear me down te way I do. The internal voice which is suppose to be the govenor is really harsh. And when I’ve had enough, I go numb. Not that I wish the same on anyone else, but it’s nice to know I’m not alone in the feeling. Thanks for the therapy hour.

  • Joy

    This was exactly what I needed to read today. EXACTLY!!!!! I just found out I have a frozen shoulder. I wanted to sit and enjoy my pain. I don’t want to ever move my shoulder again. But if I don’t? I won’t have an arm. And I sort of like having two. So, write the stuff that flows, please. We need you. We need your wisdom shot straight from the hip. Move it or lose it sisters! LOVE!

    • Leah Noble

      “Write the stuff that flows, please.” I’m going to write this on a piece of paper and tack it to the wall above my desk.

  • Alison

    Wow…I can’t believe the timing of this! I’m relatively new to this therapy malarkey (say, three months in) and can’t see where any of it is heading, but then my psych said something offhand last week which blew me away… I can’t even remember the exact words because I was in a state of shock, so I paraphrase it as: “If you want things to change you’ve got to change things”. That’s right…I’m 41yo and I didn’t realise that “Nothing changes if nothing changes”!! Thank you for spreading this message…it has really helped me to turn a corner (even if the road ahead is hellishly steep)…

  • Ellen

    Lovng you janelle, thank you.

  • Jenny

    I’m with the “I like you” and “Loving you” comments!! Thank you once again.

  • Rachel

    Tears. I’ve read your blog for a while now, but never commented. I rarely comment on blogs. But this…this. Today. Of all the days. The day when I had to go shut myself in the closet until I stopped crying, so I don’t scare my babes. The week I’ve worn out everyone…sister…best friend…with my misery, my pain, my guilt at feeling misery and pain when I know I have it better than many, maybe better than most. But the damn tape in my head that plays over and over and over…the fact that I’m alone, confirming over and over again my worst suspicions about myself. The two jobs I work, when I know my boy (almost exactly the same age as your boy), would be better off homeschooled. The two jobs, and still scared, still chasing security and relief. As a single mom, I have no choice. I don’t know when, if, it will get better. I don’t know how to fix it. I know a better, smarter, thinner prettier, more charismatic, more capable mom would do it better. But they are stuck with me, me who loves them more than I could ever say, or show, but still. And then this, today. And I feel heard and understood and less alone. You can’t imagine the relief, the affirmation, the validation. Thank you. Thank you. And in the morning, I too will whisper in the shower ‘I am a loving, compassionate, patient mom. And doggonit, people like me.’

  • Constance

    Powerful post! What Ava said- oh my heart – what a treasure!

  • kathys

    Every day
    In every way
    I’m getting better and better…
    Every day
    In every way
    blah blah blah

  • Christina

    I just had a *moment* because of you. A glimpse of clarity, peace, and strength in myself that I forgot I had. Right here on my front porch in the dark where I’m sneaking a rare cigarette after a long-ass week, hoping my kids don’t wake up and “catch” me. Reading your latest blog as a much-needed “treat” that I saved until just now. I’m so grateful I did so I could focus completely on your words.
    So many things you wrote hit me so powerfly I had to stop reading, close my eyes, and just absorb the wisdom you shared and the breakthrough I felt in my own journey of…whatever it is we are here to learn! Something about your message made so many things my own therapist has told me GEL. Just now!
    I have been a longtime fan–yours is the only blog I follow!–and admirer. Many of your posts have moved me, enlightened me, and made me laugh. They all have made me feel less alone. At the risk of gushing (let’s face it, that train already left the station!) you truly have a gift for helping people by sharing your experiences and insights the way you do. Thanks, mama.

  • Jessie

    It’s all good. Even when it’s not.
    I read to do something that scares you every day. I bet that would address the numb feeling. But I haven’t done it yet either.

  • Cassey

    Such a great reminder. And you know, I’ve started changing things and it feelings great.

  • Bodil

    I’m so happy I signed up for these (from all over here in Sweden) !!!!!!!!!
    Im in the “FUCK THISSSSSSSSSS!” place right now. And no one could be more surprised than me.
    Looking forward to catching up on my reading on past posts.

  • Michaela

    I really, really like you! thank you for taking the time and the heart and the courage to write as you do.

  • Nadine

    I remember another brilliant ninja-like therapist who told me (during a bout with an eating disorder)… Would you ever repeat the things you say to yourself to you as a child? Or to your own child? Mind.blown. We can be downright cruel to ourselves and would probably kick the crap out of anyone we overheard speaking that way to someone else. So yeah. That. Thanks Janelle, for your words, and for sharing. Your blog is therapy for me… I feel like all my stuff, is just that stuff. Everyone if going through something. xo

  • Daddy Scratches

    All that shit you just said? I concur.
    Well done.

  • Emily Donahue

    I have always referred to my self as a high functioning basket case. This was a great piece at a good time. I’ve forced myself to change many times..Now I’m as stuck as one can be..
    As always, rock

  • Shena

    That was so real and so what I deal with that it was almost painful to read. I am that sensitive too. Sometimes things are just overwhelming. You absolutely must listen to yourself. You say you are taking on too much. So listen to yourself again and do something about it. Go back to 3 days teaching, and if that still keeps you awake, quit.
    Love your work.

  • Travis

    You are right, you are nowhere near as bad as your mind would have you believe. I feel it is true for a great many of us. You rock! Because your real!

  • Renia Carsillo

    My silly affirmations are programmed into my iphone as alarms. Some days when the phone dings I roll my eyes, some days I smile, and some days it’s a good reminder.

    This one made me laugh out loud. Great stuff!

  • denise

    And I just squeeze my eyes close and cry.
    thank you.

  • Jade

    I really needed to read this today. Thank you!

  • Andrea

    I love this and your blog, all of it and all of you. I’m not even a mother but I relate to so many things. And this is what I’ve learned from affirmations, because everyone cares what I think. (Last statement also happens to be my affirmation for today.) (Not serious.)

    I use affirmations as a sort of target of what I would actually like to be. Nothing changes if nothing changes (love this) and you can’t change unless you have a direction (I apologize for being a master of the obvious). So, even when affirmations felt insincere and awkward to say over and over and over again, it gave my brain a direction. Or awareness of a way of being that I secretly craved. And I changed, eventually, because I knew what I wanted. That’s my story and I hope it helps and if some one else already mentioned this I’m both sorry and compelled to say shut it because I didn’t have time to read all of the comments.

  • Yasmin

    Thank you. I’m not