This week we meet spoonie advocate Kelly “Nerdzilla” Mendenhall, a recovering nonprofit professional living with chronic pain, who’s also building a business from her couch, and crushing it on her podcast. (EXPLICIT)
Oh, and she has a wicked sense of humor. Get ready for stories, swearing, and lots of laughs.
Key Takeaways From Spoonie Life with Kelly Mendenhall
- What is a Spoonie?
- Living with chronic pain
- Gaslighting from doctors
- Advocating for yourself to get great healthcare
- Conducting business from the couch
- Being a kickass podcaster on A Non-Mom Happy Hour
- Life as a woman who doesn’t have children in the working world
- Network marketing done right (so your friends don’t hate you)
Meet Kelly ‘Nerdzilla’ Mendenhall
Kelly Mendenhall is a recovering nonprofit professional living in Middle Tennessee, USA. Growing up in the post-industrial era Flint, Michigan, Kelly received her Bachelor of Science and Master in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University, determined to change the world for the better by working in the nonprofit sector.
Kelly relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, USA in 2013 in pursuit of life, liberty, and gainful employment. In 2017, Kelly was suddenly wracked with neurological and muscular issues that caused debilitating chronic pain. She became medically disabled and unable to work outside the home. It was then that she became reacquainted with her former, creative self, and dreamt again of becoming a published writer.
Kelly is a Spoonie, Author, Podcast co-host, Entrepreneur, and Self-Care Advocate living with chronic pain and invisible illness(es.) Her mission is to show the world that a medical diagnosis/diagnoses do not have to mark the end of one’s story.
Kelly is a freelance journalist, a virtual entrepreneur in network marketing with Rodan + Fields skincare, and co-host of the podcast A Non-Mom Happy Hour.
Transcript: Spoonie Life & Building a Business from the Couch
On this week’s show, we talk to Kelly Nerdzilla Mendenhall. That’s right. I said Nerdzilla. There’s a little swearing in this episode, and it’s a little longer than usual.
We’re getting real, and we’re getting down with what happens when people get burned out.
It’s almost like it was planned out to talk about burnout a little last week and then follow up with what can happen to your health.
And also, Kelly is amazeballs, so you’re going to want to listen to the whole show.
Nonprofit Pro, an Individual Who Suffers from a Chronic Illness & an Advocate
Kelly Mendenhall is a recovering nonprofit professional living in Middle Tennessee, USA. Growing up in post-industrial era Flint, Michigan, Kelly received her Bachelor of Science and Master in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University.
She was determined to change the world for the better by working in the nonprofit sector. Kelly relocated to Nashville, Tennessee in 2013 in pursuit of life, liberty, and gainful employment.
In 2017, Kelly was suddenly wracked with neurological and muscular issues that caused debilitating chronic pain.
She became medically disabled and unable to work outside the home. It was then that she became reacquainted with her former creative self and dreamt again of becoming a published writer.
Kelly is a spoonie, author, podcast co-host, entrepreneur, and self-care advocate living with chronic pain and invisible illness. Her mission is to show the world that a medical diagnosis does not have to mark the end of one’s story.
Kelly is a freelance journalist, a virtual entrepreneur in network marketing with Rodan + Fields skincare, and co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, A Non-Mom Happy Hour.
Please welcome Kelly Mendenhall to the show.
What is a Spoonie?
I just think you’re so incredible.
I mean, the whole story, and I’d never heard the term spoonie before.
That was new. So I started listening to your show, and I was like, “These guys are so cool.” And then I was doing all this reading, and I kept seeing #spoonie and I’m like, “What?” And I think you kind of talked about it a little on a show, but.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, did you find the spoon theory when you were looking around at stuff?
If I did, I can’t remember it right now.
Basically, the spoon theory is something written by Christin Miserandino, a woman with lupus.
And she was trying to come up with a way to explain to her friend what it was like to be her.
And they were sitting at a restaurant, and so she was trying to think of a metaphor. And she’s looking around, and she sees all the silverware sitting on all the tables around them.
So she gets up and she grabs a handful of spoons, like 13 spoons off the table, and she’s holding them in her hand, and she’s like, “Okay. Say we all have 13 spoons to get through a day.”
And she’s like, “So I’m going to go through a list of things that you do throughout the day, activities that pretty much we all have to do throughout the day.
And you tell me how many spoons you think that would take you to do. And at the end of the day, we’ll see how many spoons you have left.”
What’s Your Number of Spoons?
And so they did this exercise, and her able-bodied neurotypical friend had like one or two spoons left or was right at 13 spoons or something like that.
And when she did the exercise, she’s like, “Okay. You said taking a shower would be like– taking a shower and getting dressed would be like one spoon for you. For me, taking a shower and getting dressed can be like three or four spoons.”
And it kind of just took off as– this metaphor really took off, and a lot of people identified with it. And it became a way to say like– instead of saying, “I can’t do something,” and having that negative message going to your subconscious all the time– for me, if I have to bow out of a commitment or something, I’ll say, “I don’t have enough spoons for that right now,” or, “I’ve run out of spoons already today. I can’t make it to the baby shower, but I’ll bring you the gift on another day, and we can visit and have lunch.”
And I’ve had to do that a lot.
So all of us people with chronic illnesses kind of latched onto that spoon theory and started calling ourselves spoonies, so a lot of people self-identify as spoonies.
And I get that question a lot because my website says, “Author, entrepreneur, spoonie, podcast co-host.”
Refer to Any Individual as Who They Are (Not What They Can/Can’t Do)
But it’s really just a way of saying that I’m living with a lot of chronic pain and invisible illness and diagnoses that impact my day-to-day life quite a bit.
Yeah. I love that story because nobody wants to say that they can’t do something.
And a lot of us– so in my former life, I call myself a recovering nonprofit professional.
And I say that because I do feel like working in nonprofit contributed to my body kind of falling apart. But when you work in a nonprofit, you work the job of three or four people, and you get paid the salary of half or three-quarters of one person.
Oh, you worked at a good nonprofit. Okay.
I felt like a got like a quarter of what I should have been paid for it, so yeah.
Right. So I was always– I have a master’s degree in public administration. I was in fundraising and grant writing in nonprofit.
Kelly’s Journey from Nonprofits to Spoonie Life
I was always an overachiever and perfectionist, and I never took care of myself.
I was always taking care of everybody else, and I’d be like, “Well, I’ll take better care of myself after college. I’ll take better care of myself after grad school. I’ll take better care of myself when I get more financially stable.”
And I just never took care of myself.
I never addressed the things that I needed to address like the aches and pains that I had all the time. And a lot of us are very… I mean, it humbles you when you live like this.
Because so many of us are like, “We want to be able to do the things we did when we were,” quote/unquote, “normal,” and you can’t.
But you don’t want to say, I can’t do that 10 times, 20 times a day. It gets too depressing. It’s too easy to get depressed as a person with a chronic illness.
And I already had major depressive disorder and PTSD before chronic pain came into my life. So that exasperated that a lot.
And I didn’t want to get– for a while, I got stuck in a very dark place, mentally, and I don’t want to go back to that. So I have to be– I work with my therapist a lot on training my subconscious and the messages that I send my subconscious. So I try not to use the word should or can’t or supposed to because–
Please Don’t ‘Should’ All Over Yourself
Yeah. Yeah. Because the shit that we put on ourselves is so arbitrary, right?
Like, “What do you mean I should be working right now? No, I shouldn’t. My body can’t. My body needs rest. It needs care.”
So why am I telling myself I should?
Well, we live in a society that [breaths?] that like, “Everybody’s supposed to work hard, and money is supposed to be hard to earn.”
And social obligations and manners and all these different things, that’s not helpful to anybody but especially to somebody living with an invisible illness.
And so my therapist calls, should, a church word. She says it’s only meant to shame us [laughter].
I love that.
Yeah. My therapist is full of gems.
And she really works with me on not saying I’m supposed to like if I catch myself saying, “I’m 37 years old. I’m supposed to be able to work like a normal person.” Who said? My story’s different from everybody else’s story.
You Are Not Your Diagnosis: The Birth of the Business Couch
And what’s normal?
Right. Exactly. And that was kind of what– the conclusion that I came to, earlier in my journey with my health, is that I wanted to turn a mess into a message. And I wanted to demonstrate to other people that a diagnosis or a set of diagnosis don’t have to be the end of your story. We’re all the heroes of our own story. Every good business coach tells us so, right?
Everybody loves the hero.
So I just had to get creative about ways to keep myself busy, and I came up with #businesscouch.
And I talk a lot about– your listeners can’t hear us– or can’t see us right now, but y’all, I’m in my pajamas, in bed, and with my laptop and everything because I’m having a pain flare that makes it difficult to walk.
And it’s not worth putting my body and safety at risk to try and force my body to do things it’s not ready to do on any particular day.
We’re more important than our paychecks, believe it or not.
I totally believe it. We have more in common than I knew. I just thought that we were kickass women who were smartasses [laughter].
I have a master’s in public administration. I worked in non-profits.
Yeah. I was in the Peace Corps. I walked away from a job in government because it was killing me and yeah.
We do have a lot in common.
So we have a lot in common. I also have a therapist and conditions that I’m dealing with.
I think that there are so many people out there that have something going on in their lives and they spend so much time hiding it.
On Becoming a Radical Self-Care Advocate
Yeah, in fact, I just had somebody reach out to me recently on Instagram and she was like, “Thank you so much for sharing so openly and authentically about your story.”
She was like, “I lived with chronic pain and illness for a really long time, but I hid it from everyone around me and it took so much energy.”
And I don’t know why we’re so– well, I know because of what our society is like and [inaudible] values and things like that.
My sister Amber also works in a government position, in a state government position back in Michigan, and she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and cluster headaches, which both of those things are two of the most painful conditions listed in the top 10 painful conditions released by the NIH overseas this year.
And I had been out of work for about I think 8 months or so before she was diagnosed, and so I was kind of able to help her navigate like what does it mean to get intermittent FMLA versus full-on FMLA, and why we need to do that to cover your ass and protect your job.
And I call myself a radical self-care advocate, so every time somebody texts me and they’re like, “I’m in a pain flare.” or “My depressions flaring.” or whatever, I’m like, “Okay. So what’s your self-care plan? What have you set aside for yourself to do to take care of yourself today because clearly you need it.”
Our body sends us very clear signals and messages when it is unhappy and we ignore it a lot.
And I always say what happened to me had I ignored it for so long, I ignored all of the signs that my body was falling apart, that I wasn’t taking care of myself, I was giving to much of myself to other people, I was only half living my life because I was stuck in survival mode for so long because I was single and working non-profit.
And it was like God and the universe kept throwing out these little red flags and I just kept shoving through and then one day, they were like, “All right guess what? You can’t walk now.” And I couldn’t walk for 10 months. I could only shuffle my feet a couple inches at a time. I could not walk.
Tenacity and Two Years to Walk Again
The pain was other-worldly and I was having suicidal ideations every day for almost a year. And it took two years and a lot of persistence and tenacity to finally figure out what was wrong with me.
Because the doctors, and this is what my next book will be on, doctor after doctor after doctor accused me of making up symptoms, exaggerating symptoms, not wanting to work, all this.
They treat women like crap in the medical industry.
The medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment can be a joke. They equate us with hysteria.
Because the root word, to those of you who don’t know is utero which is the Greek word for hysteria. And that has clung to us since the beginning of time [laughter].Oh. It still does. Even in other ways where people say in the business realm a man will be like, “Why are you being so emotional?”
And they don’t say that to a dude. They say that to a woman. They say that to us, you know?
Medical Gaslighting Stalled the Road to Fewer Pain Flares
And I remember I listened to that podcast episode where you were talking about all of the gaslighting that you dealt with from one doctor in particular.
Thus was right before you had the surgery.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He was the worst.
He was my primary care doctor and so he was supposed to be an advocate for me and he was supposed to help get me to a specialist who could help me figure out what was going on. But he was working against me for a really long time.
And he was always questioning was I really disabled.
And he would define it like he’d be like, “Well, you drove yourself here today.” And it’s like, “Yeah, dude. I can sit upright for about three hours a day. Who’s going to hire me?”
I can sit upright for about three hours a day. On a good day, I have about three to four productive hours a day total.
And I have to take naps and take breaks in between.
I’m on medication that can cause sedation and cottonmouth and dry eyes and all these different things. The pain is a distraction from work.
So I have to work in spits and spurts when I’m doing whether it’s the podcast or my skincare business or writing and editing and working on marketing for my first book.
I can’t do it all at once which I’m still trying to train myself to accept that and not freak out when I can’t check things off the to-do list.
But it didn’t matter how hurt I was or how many things were found wrong with me. He just kept acting like nothing’s wrong.
Double Laminectomy and Spinal Fusion Surgery
Well, so it took two years but what we finally figured out is that I did have a disc that ended up rupturing in my cervical spine. I had a double laminectomy and spinal fusion of my C6 and C7 vertebrae on July 18.
I choose not to use opioids or narcotics unless it’s for a post-surgical recovery because there’s addiction on both sides of my family that runs kind of rampant.
And so I just didn’t want to add a problem on top of a problem. So first, doctors would think I was drug seeking because I’m covered in tattoos, I’m six feet tall, I’m in my 30s.
They’re like, “This bitch, she just don’t want to work. She wants to get high.” But then I would refuse the meds and they’d be like, “Well, then it must not be that bad.”
And it was like I literally can’t win, right?
So it took a lot of fighting and my background in nonprofit came in really handy.
Because I was so used to advocating for other people that I was able to do that for myself, which was a role I wasn’t quite ready to take on personally.
But in addition to the ruptured disc in my neck and the stuff that was going on up there, I have a ruptured disc at my T12, which is your thoracic spine and L1, which is the top of your lumbar spine.
So for two years, all these doctors would only look at my lumbar spine because I had pain in my left leg and my left leg was falling out from under me and these different things.
And they ran every test conceivable and they saw that I had four bulging discs and I had some nerve compression but not anything too serious and they just wouldn’t.
I asked three different doctors to give me a full MRI and they would say, “No [laughter].” They’d say, “This doesn’t have anything to do with your neck or your mid-spine. It’s your lumbar spine.”
Advocacy is Exhausting (and Totally Worth It)
So when I saw a neurologist in June of this year or May, late May of this year, he was like, “They’re all idiots, basically.” He was like, “Why did nobody order more MRIs?” And he said, “You have foot drop.” He tried to have me do a sobriety test in the office. Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t touch my nose with my eyes closed. And I couldn’t walk with one foot in front of the other without falling down.
And he was like, “There’s something seriously wrong.”
So I have another ruptured disc which has caused my spinal cord deformation in the lower part of my spine. I had a spine cord stimulator implant in December to help with the pain.
I had the spinal fusion in July. And the next step is on September 4th.
I’ll see my surgeon and he will decide if for certain he is going to do surgery in the lower part of my spine and then what type of surgery it would be.
Whether it would be another spinal fusion and laminectomy or if it would need to be a cage or what. So my life turned upside down and changed very quickly overnight.
I went from being a person who worked too hard for shit money and a lot of aches and pains until suddenly I couldn’t walk.
But it’s not the end of my story.
And so I feel kind of lucky and not like– can you imagine somebody like me 20 years ago? What would they do to stay busy, to keep their mind busy?
I don’t know.
I’ve talked about that with my doctors.
Because when they see that I have a masters degree and we talk about my education and stuff, they’re like, “This had to be really hard for you, to just sit around all time.”
Staying Mentally Sharp via Business, Writing and Podcasting
And I’m like, “Yeah. But I was really bored, so I wrote and published a book [laughter], and I started a podcast.” And they’re like, “Wait. What?” And I said, “Yeah.”
There are two things I know about myself to be [innate?], and I can’t help it; one is that I’m a writer, and two is that I’m an advocate.”
And so my days of marching and traveling to go give speeches about US foreign policy and how it impacts developing nations, all that stuff is done, but I can still be an advocate with my words.
And that’s why I share so authentically and openly about my mental health and physical health. When it comes to my skincare business, the podcast, as far as I’m concerned all of those things go together. The podcast, the skincare, being an author, being an advocate, and being a [inaudible], that all goes together, and all of those things work better because of the others.
And I guess if I had to– if there’s anyone out there who feels like they’re half living or feels like they’re running themselves into the ground, stop. It’s not worth it.
Don’t do it anymore. Figure out an escape plan. Don’t become me and suddenly not be able to walk anymore is the best advice I have.
Yeah. And also, the work that you’re doing now is incredibly important.
Yes, it is. And you might have heard me say this on my podcast.
So our podcast is a non-mom happy hour. We are the podcast that celebrates real ass, human women, whether they use their baby box or not.
And that came about because my cohost, Debbie Jo, and I met in a Facebook marketing group. We were both network marketers– marketers, sorry.
A Non-Mom Surrounded by Mompreneurs
And we met in this Facebook group and became friends, and we would commiserate a lot about how we couldn’t relate to so many of the business coaches and leaders in our companies and other people in network marketings because so much of it was focused on being like the mompreneur or whatever. And so we would be attending training or workshops, and we’d be like, “[All this can show– this is so rad?].”
And then all of a sudden, the conversation would turn and be like, “And I do all this for my kids because it’s all about my kids,” and this and that.
And you’re like, “So I guess we’ll dip out now because we’re done now. It doesn’t apply to us.”
You know what I mean?
I would feel alienated a lot. Yeah.
You look like you can relate.
I mean I have a Boston Terrier. It’s my kid.
I never wanted to have children ever, and I’ve lost friends because of that. I’ve had somebody that was like, “You don’t understand because you don’t have a family.”
And I was like, “I think we’re done here.” I mean, because it was like saying your husband isn’t enough like, “You don’t get it.” And I was like, “No. You don’t get it.”
And I didn’t fight with the person. I just was like, “Oh, so that’s how it is? Okay.” It’s like saying that I don’t exist or I don’t have a right to live my life the way I want to, and I couldn’t possibly understand anything.
Being a Non-Mom in the Working World
Yep. I’ve run into that so many times.
Or especially working in the non-profit world, if you’re the one person that doesn’t have kids, guess who they expect to do all the unpaid overtime.
And it used to make me so pissed off and bitter because I’d be working on a Saturday, running an event by myself on a two-person development team, and I’d be like “Why isn’t my boss here with me doing this?”
We’re a two-man team raising a million dollars a year. This is hard enough.
Where is she? Why is she not here? And I’d be like, “Why can’t you be here too?” And she’d be like, “Well, because my kid has a birthday party to go to.”
Bitch, I don’t give a shit about your kid’s birthday party, social obligations.
I have a dog at home that needs to be walked a certain amount of times a day and be taken care of and fed. I live by myself, single income.
I have stuff I need to do.
I could really use some groceries right now. It’s like your existence is subclassified somehow if you don’t have kids as a woman in the working world.
Or like you couldn’t possibly have anything else to do or if you do, it’s not as important, and therefore, it’s okay for you to be working.
Nonprofit Experiences Fodder for Kelly’s First Book
And I’m like, “No. It’s not.”
And I did it too. I did it too. I worked a lot.
And then you get to add to that like I’m still a woman so I’m not making as much as other people. And anybody who thinks that that shit doesn’t happen in government and non-profits, they’re fooling themselves.
Yeah. So the bra– the bra that broke the damn camel’s back [laughter]. The straw that broke the camel’s back was that this particular job that I was at that I’d been referencing where I was fundraising and writing grants and stuff was when I, for the first time, was allowed access to the entire [inaudible] budget, and so I saw salaries for the first time.
And I saw that I was making 39,000 a year and working all kinds of unpaid overtime and I had a masters degree and certification in public personnel management and non-profit administration and I was making $39,000 a year, and my boss, who was never there, and had kids, and a family, and everything else was more important, was making like 82 grand.
And we were a two-person team, and I was like, “No, I’m fucking done with that.”
And I write about it in my book. There’s a couple of chapters– my first book is called, “Skin in the Game”, and I literally write my memoir by telling the stories.
But I talk about this whole [inaudible] in the last two chapters of the book.
I talk about the altruistic intentions that I had, and I really wanted to make an impact on the world, and all the different types of that process that I went through before I finally realized there’s no such thing as a non-profit, any more than there’s no such thing as non-profit corporation.
It just looks different.
Side-Gig Turned into Spoonie Hustle
And, so, I had started my network marketing business with [inaudible] in November of 2016 as a side hustle. I was like, this will help me supplement my income some and maybe get ahead on my student loans, or whatever.
But then, six months later, I suddenly couldn’t walk.
So then it became my reason to get up every day. I mean, it literally became a reason to get out of bed because suddenly I couldn’t walk.
I literally would walk like 200 steps in a day, and that was shuffling my feet.
Because I would go from bed to the couch, to the bathroom, and then back to the couch. And Nathan, my partner Nathan, who I live with, he was having to make all of my food for me.
I couldn’t stand up long enough to make a sandwich or anything.
And so, going from being a perfectionist, overachiever, super busy, non-profit person, to all of a sudden doing nothing.
My business became my lifeline, and it gave me a reason to get out of bed.
It gave me a reason to talk to people, and socialize with people all over the country, and all over world. It led me to find a lot of support groups. I made some of my best friends in random marketing mastermind groups. Like Debby, Jo, and I, we started a podcast last July.
We didn’t meet in person for the first time until this April.
Network Marketing Birthed a Podcast
What? Oh, my God. I like it. It’s super that you’ve all been friends since, like, forever [inaudible] day, and all kinds of stuff, I mean.
Everybody says that.
Everybody is like, “No, you sound like you’ve been best friends for 20 years.”
They’re like, “No.” We had our first conversation in December of 2017. So she came into my life when I was literally at the worst time of my life. God only knows how she saw through the brain fog and the– I don’t know. I had really bad side effects from medication. I ended up hospitalized at one point.
I accidentally did that to myself once.
Did you really? Mine was because my doctor, the same one that [inaudible] me decided that it was okay to put me on two medications that weren’t supposed to be mixed.
Yeah. I had just started taking some medication. I went to an allergist.
And instead of checking– like at that point, I was still checking everything before I would take something. I was getting allergy tested.
The guy said I didn’t have any allergies even though when I left, I was like a hot mess of like congestion everywhere. Right? They had done all these skin tests, and my skin didn’t react, but there was histamine stuff happening.
So he gave Zyrtec or something, one of those allergy pills. And two hours later, I was laying in my office. I couldn’t do anything because I was having basically an attack.
Thankfully, I only took one. So I had to go home, and I was talking to my counselor who was offering to– who’s also my subscriber who was like, “I’ll take you home.”
And I had a friend take me home. And I didn’t end up in the hospital, but it was bad.
Yeah. It’s scary. And– right.
If you were in the hospital, that’s serious. I mean, that was–
Oh, yeah. I was hospitalized.
Because you could die [laughter].
Podcasting Provides an Advocacy Platform … And Friendship
Yeah. Yeah. Yes, you can die. Well, what happened was is I– and, again, I don’t know how Debbie Jo and I were able to form such a close friendship over such great distance when I was so out of it, but we did, and thank God because we balance each other really well.
And our podcast is a lot of fun, and it’s important, and it helps people, so.
But what happened with me is I woke up one morning, and my dog, Rosebud, who is deaf, had been clinging to me the night before.
She literally was asleep with her head on my chest and her paws were wrapped around my arm. And she was crying in my face. And that was not normal.
And it kind of made me feel like, “I think something’s wrong.” But I was so used to feeling so out of it that I just went to bed. And then the next morning when I woke up – this was in February, 2018 – I went to go into the kitchen, and all of a sudden, my vision went fuzzy.
And it sounded like I was underwater and I was having really bad heart palpitations, and it was just really scary.
It all happened all at once. Now, mind you, my doctor had mixed two antidepressant medications that were not supposed to be mixed. [Azoflone?] and Neurorflex medication called Gabapentin, which is now a Schedule 1 narcotic. Most people take 300 to 600 milligrams a day of Gabapentin to block nerve pain. I was on 3600 milligrams a day.
So I called the pharmacists and I said, “These are the symptoms. Am I having a reaction to my medication?” And the pharmacist was like, “You’re having serotonin syndrome. You need to get to the hospital.”
So I ended up at the hospital, and nobody wanted to believe it was what it was.
They kept me overnight for observation, and the doctor came in and was like, “Are you sure you haven’t been taking anything like synthetic marijuana, or anything else that might have done this, and I was, “Are you fucking kidding me right now?” I was so ready to fight him because, at that point, I was 12 hours in.
They should have known by just looking at the medications you were taking together.
Medical Gaslighting Takes Fatal Turn
Exactly. They should have. And then he was, “Are you sure that your doctor didn’t tell you to stop taking that one medication, and you just forgot?”
And I was, “No, dude. It was a whole [ass?] thing.” I didn’t want to take it. He talked me into it. He assured me it was safe. He doubled it twice. I was on 120 milligrams of Cymbalta a day, 40 milligrams of Prozac a day, and 3,600 milligrams of Gabapentin a day, plus muscle relaxers.
Oh, my God. You’re lucky to be alive.
How I [crosstalk]–
I mean, I took it once, because I wasn’t taking anything else.
I saw stars. I felt underwater too.
I’m calling my counselor, “What?”, and she’s, “Oh my God. No, you can’t take those two things.” And then she’s, “You just need to be under a blanket somewhere.”
Which is basically what I did. I basically went home and collapsed. But my friend had to walk me into the house. I wasn’t able-bodied at all. But my prescriber knew, immediately. Of course, she’s a woman, so maybe that’s part of it.
She gives a shit because she’s a woman.
Well, and so was the pharmacist that I talked to that day, and when I got through it all, the only way to stop serotonin syndrome is to stop taking the medications that are causing it. At that point, I trusted no one.
At first, they told me to cut my Gabapentin in half, and stop taking the Cymbalta, I think it was. I don’t know. Whatever they told me to do, it already kicked me into withdrawals, and I was already sick. Super sick, like heroin-level withdrawal.
And so I was, “You know what, I’m not going through this again. If I’m going to go through it, I’m going through it all at once.” Which is partly because I’m pig-headed, and I don’t like it when people challenge me. So I just stopped taking everything all at once.
Oh my God.
Because you’re supposed to taper that stuff? Taper it?
Well, again, I didn’t trust anybody, and when I tried to taper it, I was so sick anyway, and I was, “Fuck it. I’m just going to do it. I’m going to do it once, be done with it.”
The [ESO?] was, “Are you kidding me right now?” and I was, “No, bro. I’m serious. We’re doing this. I’m not going through this again.” So I did.
I went cold turkey off of everything all at once. And I don’t recommend it. It’s not smart. I was very, very sick for four weeks. It took four weeks. It gave me a new level of empathy for drug addicts. It really did, though. Because more than one time, I said out loud, if I didn’t know this was going to kill me, I might give up and start taking it again.
Right, because you just want it to stop.
Yeah. So I have learned–
I mean, it’s very courageous, what you did, as well.
Spoonies Need to Live Where Science Exists
Well, and then, while all this was happening, I lived in the state of Tennessee, and one of the dumb-ass redneck counties in Tennessee was, “We’re going to raid all the stores that sell CBD, because we think it’s illegal.”
So they raided and shut down 8 or 10 stores in this one county, only to find out that everything was perfectly legal.
But I was in the middle of the worst of the withdrawals when this news story broke, so I went live on Facebook, and I was, “This is what it looks like when the government and doctors dictate what we’re allowed to do for our bodies, and for our self-care and care decisions. This is what that looks like. My doctor almost killed me, and I don’t have access to anything but addictive medications. And now look at me. This is what I’m going through.”
And something like 500 or 700 people watched that video.
And I always joke, even if I ever get better enough to work, I’ve barred myself from gainful employment because of all the shit that I talk online.
Also, I’m really sorry, am I allowed to swear this much? I probably should have asked you that before we started recording.
Yeah, you’re totally allowed to swear this much.
That’s what the explicit sign is for, right?
Yes. We have it on ours too. And my Mom, when she first listened to the podcast, she was, “It’s so good, but maybe you should say the F word a little bit less often.” And I was, “Mom, people expect it.”
Ridding the World of Spammy Network Marketers
So Debbie Jo and I– the podcast started because, eventually, we started doing this weekly Facebook live series together, where we would talk about marketing, mindset, how to be a network marketer without being super gross and spammy, and making all of your friends hate you.
Trying to get rid of them stereotype network marketers.
And we would go live every week, and we’d talk for 45 minutes or an hour, and people just loved it. Loved every minute of it. And so they kept saying, “You guys should have a podcast.” So we were, “All right. Fuck it, let’s have a podcast.”
Well, and you guys don’t talk about all that on the podcast. You talk about women in history, you talk about what’s going on in your lives.
I think I came across one that’s, “Oh, this is a throwback. We’re going to go back.” And it was a different– totally different style. I mean, so it’s amazing. I used to have a co-host. That didn’t end well. And podcasts go through all these things, right? They just evolve.
Yeah. Yeah. It really is.
It’s as you go, and that’s the thing. I don’t know.
Some people will record 20 episodes and have them in the bank before they release the podcast. We didn’t. We recorded a episode and released it, and we record every week now.
We didn’t know what we were– thank God Nathan is a– he’s a audio engineer. He went to school for that. It’s not what he does by trade anymore, but that’s what he went to school for, so he’s our producer, and her boyfriend, Josh, is a musician. They both are. So they picked our audio equipment.
They picked our microphones in our faces and all that, and God love both of them because we had zero idea what we were doing.
And it has evolved a lot. And so we do– we are a safe space to talk about mental health, physical health, spoonie life, trauma, and recovery, disordered eating, sexual trauma, and survival, all these different things.
And we talk very openly about our experiences and we also have guests on at different times that we interview that talk about things.
We used to have guests every other week but it got really difficult with the scheduling because we live– her and I live in different time zones and then the guest would live in a different time zone. It just– it was complicated. And so what we decided was we’ll just do interviews whenever we find– whenever we come into contact with a badass woman that we think is particularly badass or should be on the show, we’ll have them on the show.
So that’s what we’ve been doing lately.
But we’ve had some really great women, neuroscientists and non-profit founders and women who were both sexual trauma survivors and best friends and then started a business together.
Turning Trauma into Great Stories … About Women
And I mean we’ve just had some really cool people on. But, yeah, most weeks we pick a person to tell each other about and it’s– I said to my mom the day because she sent– my mom sent me a meme on Facebook that had a poem on it that said it was from Albert Einstein, and I was like, “Hang on a second, let me give this a goog.”
So I did, and it’s misappropriated to him. He did not write it, a woman wrote it.
And it was originally written by a woman in Portuguese and it was translated from Portuguese to Spanish to English. And at some point– or no, it wasn’t Einstein, it was Charlie Chaplin. At some point, somebody innocuously gave Charlie Chaplin credit for this poem about living life as your most true self. And so I screen-shot the Snopes stuff that I found and sent it back to my mom, and I was like, “It really is a good poem but Charlie Chaplin didn’t write it.”
And she said, “Wow, I’m really glad you looked up the source on that.” And I said, “Listen if my podcast has taught me anything, it’s a woman probably did that and didn’t get any credit for it.”
Exactly. Well, I mean I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said the internet is full of shit.
Yeah, right. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
My favorite story– I have to catch up on some episodes of your show, but my favorite story that I heard was stagecoach Mary.
And I was driving my car and just– and the story just kept going and going. And I mean it was this African American woman who lived this really long, rich life and got in a fight–In the wild west.–in the wild west. And I was like, “Yeah.”
I mean the whole time I was just like, “She’s still alive.”
They’re really, really good stories, and I just really appreciate that you guys take the time to research it and figure it all out [inaudible].
Well, thank you because that’s why we’re doing it.
And it means a lot that you say that. and we actually decided, starting this last week, we’re only going to do one woman per episode because we could never fit two women [laughter] into an episode that wasn’t an hour and a half long, and we’d feel rushed or we’d feel like, “Oh, people aren’t going to want to listen because it’s so long.”
But we didn’t want to cut out the important bits of peoples’ stories like Stagecoach Mary. So this last week, I told Debbie about my badass lady, which I picked the other Toni Morrison.
Badass Historical Ladies Inspire Future Badasses
And this week, Debbie will be telling me about her badass lady. So, I mean, I don’t know who it is until we’re recording. We don’t tell each other.
Right. Right. And I believe the Mary episode were two Marys.
Yeah, it was.
And that other Mary was really rad, too. She was a scientist.
Yes. I think that was the episode– it’s hard to keep track of all the names and stuff, but we’ve had several women who were scientists that invented things that didn’t get credit for their inventions.
She did a lot of writing, as I recall, and then she was the one who was writing about her own condition until she was–
Oh, she had a brain tumor, and she was writing about her own freaking brain tumor and symptoms and stuff. Yeah.
And then, that was when I had– Well, so then, you started talking about your experience, and I was like, “Oh my gosh. She’s just like Mary. She’s writing about her experience because none of these fucking men can figure out what they’re supposed to do.” For you, it’s the doctors, but for her, it was like the guys and the so-called experts discounting her every step of the way, and she was doing the actual work and figuring shit out. And so then you’re talking about your experience and I was like–
It just shows how little we’ve come in some areas. It’s maddening.
Women’s Stories How Far We’ve Come (And Not)
I know. I always say that– we joke about it a lot, that our podcast shows us how far we’ve come but drives us crazy because it shows us how far we have left to go, too.
And what I’ve really been enjoying is now that we’re up in the over– we’re at like 19 and a half thousand downloads and stuff.
Now we’re starting to get people writing into us to say, “Hey, I know that thing you were talking about, and here’s the answer,” or, “Hey.”
We had somebody that found us on Podcoin last week, and they were like, “Hey, you guys talked about the word gypsy,” and they didn’t realize I was talking about the population of people that were– after the depression, they were often referred to as river gypsies or river rats, and I was talking about how they used to steal kids, [inaudible] in Memphis, Tennesee.
They used to steal kids, especially poor kids that lived on the river, and they would always look for the blonde hair, blue eyes, and stuff like that.
So she wrote me an email and she’s like, “I enjoyed your episode, but I felt like you needed to know more about the historical context of the term gypsy and how it’s a racist term. It’s a derogatory term for people in [inaudible].”
And I was like, “Oh snap. I definitely want to correct [inaudible] that shit and bring it up next episode.” But also there’s this information on this story that I was talking about because Georgia Tann got away with it for 30 years, stealing kids and adopting them out to rich people for really exorbitant fees and stuff.
And so it’s cool that we can educate each other. And we can have a dialogue with our listeners and not have it be like, “You white heifers don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t talk about that.” Because we try to be really respectful. We are basic white girls. I mean Debbie more so than me. I’m a punk rock kid at heart. And I grew up in a really tough place and she did not. She grew up in farmland and I grew up in Flint, Michigan.
We could not have had more opposite childhoods. But we try to be very respectful of– we recognize the fact that we’re two white chicks and we’re coming from a place of white privilege, and we try not to talk about things that we don’t feel we have the right to speak on.
And we try to honor and respect the women’s stories that we’re telling, whether they’re women of color or LGBT stories. Have you heard that episode yet where she tells the story about the first known lesbian who journaled her whole life story in code?
Telling Stories And Building Understanding About Race
No. I want to hear that one. Okay.
Oh, my gosh.
I’m going to find that one.
It’s amazing. Yeah. We talk about some awesome shit. So I’m glad that you like it. That makes me happy.
It’s great. Yeah. When I talk about equity issues it’s always from this like, “I’m a white person,” standpoint and talking about how we all make mistakes, but the important thing is that we have to own it and say, “Yes, I acknowledge that I made a mistake and how can I either make it right or how can I change for the future?” Ideally, both.
And then I just am very– and it’s awesome because now a lot people are reaching out to me. I have made a real point of the guests being diverse and now I get a lot of women of color who want to be on the show. And I’m like, “That’s awesome.”
Because that’s what I’m about.
I learned about privilege and what it was like to be the other by being in Peace Corps, but that was a very temporary situation.
And so then I’ve worked to educate myself as much as I can as this white girl from Idaho that now lives in Portland, which is also very white.
Yeah. The whitest city in America, isn’t it?
Yes. Yes. And so it’s a journey.
But I appreciate when I hear what I’ve done wrong, and I think that so many times people are so afraid to be wrong that they miss out on learning.
Yeah. We always say to people like, “Hey, if we got something wrong let us know because we want to know better. Learn better, know better and do better. So if we get something wrong let us know.” And I mean we haven’t had too many people reach out to say like, “You got it wrong.” But in the couple of instances that we have, they’ve been really cool about it and it– we had a gal on named Dr. Froswa’ Booker Drew, who is an amazing woman in a lot of different ways.
She’s written books. You can find her all over the internet.
But when we interviewed her, when we were getting ready to start recording I said, “I want to make sure I’m saying your first name right. Is it Froswa’?”
And she said, “Yes. You would be surprised at some of the things that people have said.” She goes, “I can’t believe you got it on the first try.” And I was like, “Well, what do you mean?” And she’s like, “I’ve had white people call me fly swatter.” And I was like, “What the fuck?”
Us White Folks Need to Do Better with Race
Yeah. I was like, “What?” And so immediately we start recording and I’m like, “All right. Listen white people, this is ridiculous. We need to do better.”
And we had a very frank conversation about privilege and helping bring other people to the table and helping people advance in their careers and lives and things like that.
And I think a lot of people really appreciated that interview and that conversation because it was two white women and a woman of color talking about white privilege and what white people are doing that they shouldn’t be doing and also how we can be better advocates and allies to people. And that’s one of my favorite episodes too.
Yeah. And I just so appreciate what you’re doing on multiple levels because it’s not just conversations about race.
I think it’s also conversations about illness and hidden conditions because people of color and people with hidden disabilities or hidden illnesses, these are the people that get pushed out to the fringes of society.
And the way that we can become whole is by acknowledging and learning and talking about what it’s like to be in somebody else’s shoes.
Yeah. It’s all about inclusion and we got to interview my friend [Abby Diaz?] who’s motto that she lives by and shouts from the rooftops every day is museums are for everyone.
… And We Need to Do Better with Accessibility
And she works at making museums and historical places more accessible to literally everyone. And that means having adult changing tables or adults who might be wheelchair-bound.
And need to have diaper changes at the museum, that means having [inaudible] for kids of autism. It means all these different things and she’s kind of help me realize that– we were talking about what life is like as me living in an old house, it was built in 1949.
It’s a great house. It’s built like a frickin fortress, feels very safe.
There’s some things that are inconvenient and we were talking about that and I was like, “Healthy people don’t’ understand that it hurts me, physically, to try and stand in the kitchen and because I’m six feet tall and all of my back problems and pain and everything are exacerbated when I have to hunch over the counters to [inaudible] food or cook.
People don’t realize that sometimes I have to go five days without a shower because the only working shower that we have, we only have one shower in the house.
The main floor bathroom needs to be renovated. So if I’m having really bad pain flares or if I’ve been doing my rehabilitative workout, which I do when I’m not recovering from surgery. I can’t get myself up the stairs. And then to take a shower, to get up the stairs, it’s like 20 stairs, and then take a shower.
My best friend just bought me a shower chair for my birthday because she knew that I couldn’t make myself, buy myself one and that helps a lot.
But people just don’t understand. I was explaining some of that and I was like, “They don’t get how painful this is.” And Abby goes, “And Kelly, that’s not your fault.” She was like, “One in four people now, 25% of the population has some disability of some kind.”
Our Spaces Need to Adapt to 25% of the Population with a Disability
Our society and our homes and our businesses and our museums and our public spaces need to adapt to the one-quarter of our population rather than that quarter of the population trying to adapt to everything else and everyone else when they have no control over what has happened to their body. I can’t reverse the generative disease. I can’t make [inaudible] have unruptured.
I’ve done everything I can, trust me.
And if one more person comes at me about hot yoga, I’m going to burn this shit down, let me tell you.
Sorry [laughter]. Look, I was going to mention that but I’ll back off.
Hot yoga, essential oil. One person told me to dance it out. They said, “Dance it out.”That sounds fucking dangerous. I don’t know anything about– but that sounds like the opposite of what you should be doing.
People love to share their opinions and miracle products with you on the interweb.
And I’m like, “You realize that my [inaudible] is literally falling apart. So I could paralyze myself if I move the wrong way.” That’s why I work with a rehabilitative personal trainer.
I don’t just willy nilly my workout and my rehab. I have a coach for a reason. I always say, “Find the expert.”
I’m not an expert on how to rehab my body, I’m not, so I pay for one. That’s another hot tip. Find the expert.
If you don’t know how to do something and you need to do it for the betterment of your health, your life, your profession, your business, find a coach, an expert, and pay them to learn some shit, is I’ll I’m saying.
And keep your nose out of other people’s business.
And, Keep Your Nose Out of Other People’s Business
Do not pop up into people’s DMs talking about– listen, Debby Jo, she’s recovering from an eating disorder and you will hear at least four episodes where we talk about bitches who pop up in her DMs talking about, “You’re really beautiful. I have these weight loss products, would you like to try them?”
And she was like, “Don’t be spammy and gross. No one likes that.”
Yeah. I have a whole podcast episode about that and it’s basically busting on DMs.
It’s one of the more swear-filled episodes. Talking about things like yoga pants. I have somebody who’s always trying to sell me something for an event for essential oil, yoga pants, acne cream in Spokane, Washington and I’m like, “I don’t live in Spokane, Washington. Take the time to get to know me.”
Yeah. It’s like the unsolicited dick pic of the business world.
It’s like, nobody asked you for this. I didn’t ask you for– and one girl took it so far.
She was messaging me about, and this is before I knew exactly what was happening, we didn’t have a firm diagnosis, but I was following the anti-inflammatory diet which is very hard [inaudible] sugar fiend. I try to stick to the anti-inflammatory diet and I do use supplements from a network marketing business that one of my friends, [inaudible].
They do help me with some of the issues that I have because on top of all of my chronic pain and everything, I have a laundry list of food allergens and I have to try and follow this anti-inflammatory diet. So it can be really difficult to get the balanced nutrition that I need. I have some vegan meals and some meals with chicken or whatever.
So this lady reaches out to me and tells me that she’s got just the product that can help me. And then she tells me that [inaudible] and I was like, “I’m not even using those products.
They are part of my whole healthcare regimen and wellness [inaudible]. There is no such thing as a miracle product. This is one element of a whole picture that I have.” So she was like, “Oh, that’s great. You already use [inaudible].”
So several weeks later, she reached back out to me and tried to pitch me again, and this time, it was, “I could win a trip on a cruise if you would buy from me.” and I was like, “Why the fuck do I give a shit if you go on a cruise? They ain’t got nothing to do with me. And, PS, I already told you I use [inaudible].”
So I blocked her from my personal Facebook page and messenger so that she couldn’t message me anymore because that’s super annoying.
So she went to my public figure page where I post a lot about my book marketing, and the podcast, and things like that.
And she messaged me from my public figure page so I blocked her from my public figure page. I banned her because I was like, “This is ridiculous.”
She somehow found my phone number.
And This is Why People Hate MLMs
I don’t know if she went to my consultant website for Rodan & Fields, I don’t know if it was listed as part of my public figure page.
She found my phone number and this bitch texted me.
So I start getting texts that are like, “Kelly, I really want to tell you about these products. And you can help me go on this cruise. And blah.”
And I was like, “Who is this?” And she was like, “Oh, it’s so-and-so. We talked on Facebook.”
And I was like, “Are you kidding me right now? I blocked you from my personal Facebook page and my public figure page. And now you are texting me?” My mind was boggled.
And she tried to defend it and say, “Well if you hadn’t blocked me from the Messenger, then I could have seen we had already talked and I wouldn’t have bothered you.”
And I was like, “Clearly not true. And you don’t get to make this my fault. Make this a teachable moment for yourself. And don’t fucking creep on people in their private life.”
And this is why people hate MLMs. I mean, this is why.
Because this is– and I’ve never been a part of one but it’s like, “Are they teaching this? What is this? Where does this come from?”
I don’t know. And that’s the thing.
I don’t participate in that behavior. And Debbie Jo and I are always talking about it. Well, we used to talk about it more on our marketing and mindset things when we went live on Facebook.
But we were like, “We want to be the change we want to see in the network marketing world,” right? I don’t know who trains these people but that shit is dead, y’all. That shit is dead.
No One Wants to Buy Stuff When You Spam Their Social Media DMs
No one wants to buy stuff from the pushy bitch that pops up in your DMs without being invited. No one. I don’t do it.
I’m a network marketer and I won’t buy from you if you do that shit to me.
Nobody wants that. That version of network marketing is dead if I have anything to say about it. And yes, obviously people are trained that way by really horrible trainers [laughther].
Not named Kelly [laughter].
Yes. Not Kelly Nerdzilla Mendenhall, I’ll tell you that much.
Because I don’t participate in that. I actually subscribe to personality marketing. So when you go to my website on my homepage it’s not like, “Kelly Mendenhall, self-skincare.”
The homepage is like, “Kelly Mendenhall is an author, Spoonie, podcast co-host, and entrepreneur.” And when you dig deeper into my website and it shows the different ways you can work with me, my skincare business is one way that you can work with me.
I also do professional proofreading and editing work, I do freelance journalism, I do coaching for people who– Please, if you have been coached by someone who trained you to pop up in somebody’s DM, maybe you should fill out my coaching application.
But the skincare’s just one thing. That is not my whole identity.
And I never woke up one day and thought, “Man, I really want to sell good skincare someday.”
That was not my dream. And that’s what I try and tell people, too, is like, “This was not my dream. This is a vehicle and a tool that I’m using to help me make some of my other dreams come true. Like publishing my own books.”
New Medical Gaslighting Book in the Works
And I’m really excited about book number two because it’s all about medical gaslighting, and I think it’s super important.
And I think we just need, as a society, to be talking about this stuff. But my network marketing business is a tool in my toolbox of things that I can do to make my big-picture dreams come true.
And, I mean, I used to [laughter]– Somebody laughed so hard when I told them this. This is how much I knew about skincare before I started my skincare business. I used to go to the department store and buy Philosophy.
Oh, yeah [crosstalk].
Which is a brand. Yes. I would buy the three-in-one body wash, shampoo, and face wash. Yeah. That’s how much I knew about skincare before I got in the business. So the PS, it’s a terrible idea. That’s not a thing. Don’t do that [laughter].
Oh, okay [laughter].
It’s not great for your hair or your face skin.
Face skin’s a lot different than your body skin. Or I would go buy the sensitive skin brands at the grocery store for $7 and maybe wash my face twice a week. I was not a skincare person. And I remember when I first started thinking about doing it, I was like, “People are going to think I lost my shit [laughter].”
Well, I mean, so, clearly – now that you’ve outlined the Jen [McFarlane?] skincare regime here [laughter] – I guess I won’t be selling skincare products any time soon [laughter].
Oh, that’s hilarious. I mean, that was me. And I was like, “How am I going to do this?”
Well, of course, you get provided materials so you can learn stuff. But you have to actually want to learn. It’s like any kind of training or school. Right?
It’s not going to osmosis itself into your brain.
And I’m kind of a geeky person when it comes to stats, and data, and science. So I got super into reading about all the clinical stuff and the science behind stuff.
And [inventing?] our own molecules, and all that shit. And the nerd in me just–The nerd in you is strong because you have an MPA, so I already know [laughter].
I know. I’m that [bitch?].
I was at a non-profit conference one time, and somebody was talking about databases, and stats, and stuff. And I raised my hand and I was like, “Hey, what do you recommend when you’re using SPFS?” And I [was?] talking about statistical regressions and stuff, and everyone in the room turned around and looked at me, and I was like, is that not a thing?
You all don’t–
You all don’t know what–
You don’t do SPSS here? Oh, okay. That’s just grad school, right? Okay. Good talk.
Data is How I Live My Life
Glad we had this talk. Sorry.
But yeah, I live for data.
Data is how I live my life. I have a Fitbit so I can track my steps, my heart rate, my sleeping, all of that. I have an app called Flaredown. Yeah. It’s great because you can plug in all of your different medical conditions and the different symptoms that you experience with those medical conditions, and you can basically journal everyday what was flaring up and what wasn’t.
And it syncs with the pollen report and the weather report for that day so you can start to build data on when the weather is X, Y, and Z, I feel crappy.
Or if I eat too much of this, I feel crappy, which for me is salt and sugar.
Well, that’s unfortunate.
I live my whole life like that. If you give me numbers, hard facts and numbers, I’ll be more motivated to do stuff.
Are you sure about the sugar and salt?
Oh, yeah. It’s a for sure thing.
I have a cinnamon roll addiction because there’s a local place here that makes gluten-free, corn-free, dairy-free, soy-free cinnamon rolls that are some of the most delicious things I’ve ever had in my life.
And I have loved cinnamon rolls and donuts since I was a little kid.
Managing Food Allergies and Chronic Pain
That’s been one of my jams. So I will put myself into a flare eating two cinnamon rolls in the same day. I’ve seen me do it. And then Nathan’s like, “You knew it was going to happen.” I’m like, “Shut up. I don’t want to hear your logic,” but.
Yeah. Well, I mean, sometimes it’s kind of worth it. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know how bad the flare is, but I know that I’m not supposed to be eating gluten, and when I do it means I’m going to suffer. And sometimes, I’m like, yeah. I’m going to deal with it for a few days.
My brand is suffering, I mean, it’s not too bad.
The flares aren’t as bad anymore as they used to be. [inaudible] one thing at a time. But I’m also a person who emotionally eats. So I have that. You’ve got to give yourself grace sometimes.
And sometimes it eats up my energy levels to manage everything about my life on a day to day basis, to manage taking my medications on time and in the right dosages, and making sure that I move X amount of times a day, and am I going to be able to do this one thing if I also have this thing scheduled on that day? And it takes so much damn energy.
And somedays, I just want cinnamon rolls.
Right, because you’re still human.
Right. And so it’s like, all right. It’s okay if it’s a couple times a month. Just don’t let it be every day. Just because it can become every day really easily, especially when I’m trapped.
And I’m not allowed to work out and stuff because of surgery, but–
Oh, you’re not dancing it out. Like, you–
Chronic Illness Means Two Steps Forward, One Back
I’ve been going crazy because the rehabilitative training that I was doing, I had gotten to the point where I was working out three days a week with my trainer, and then two days a week, I would just do cardio by myself.
And I was so excited because I was burning 1000 calories a workout and I was like– even though I was still in pain every day, I felt so empowered and proactive because I was I’m losing weight, and I’m, I’m building muscle and I’m making my body stronger and better for the future.
And I felt so empowered and involved in.
And it would really help with my anxiety with the complex PTSD and stuff on days when my anxiety would be really high I’d go work workout was with Jacob, my trainer, or whatever, and feel much, much better.
And then I got a call on June 3rd or something. I was finishing up a workout with Jacob, I was literally in the last 30 seconds of my workout. And I get the phone call with the MRI results.
And they’re like, “You have to stop working out right now.” And I was like, “Yeah.” They were like, “You have to stop working out right now. You have to take it easy. This is serious.”
And so ever since then, I’ve only been allowed to walk. And that’s not putting [inaudible] and it’s really hard.
Yeah. It’s really hard.
Rehabilitation is Hard (Even if It’s Totally Worth It)
That’s the hardest part about recovery is wanting so badly to move more, and not being able to and then people– and I’ve put some weight back on because I lost 50 pounds of fat last year.
And I had gotten my blood pressure under control and all these good things, many benefits, right? And then all of a sudden, I’m grounded. And I have surgery.
And they’re like, “You have to eat extra calories and extra protein to help with healing. And so then I put some way back on and now I deal with the family members who are like, “You’re starting to put some weight back on, you might want to watch what you’re eating.”
And it’s like, “Look, bitch, I have enough problems.” But it comes from a good place, and they love me, but it can be hard. It can be hard.
So there’s part of me that’s hoping that I’ll see the doctor on September 4th.
And he’ll be like, “We’re going to do the neck surgery right away in October and get it done. So we can try and get you some relief.” And there’s part of me, that is like
“Uf I don’t get a few months off, where I can exercise and not be trapped at home. Nathan hovering over me like a helicopter warrior. I’m going to lose my mind.” So it’s a lot of balance living with [inaudible]. I don’t know how I do all the stuff that I do. My friend Kelly says my next book needs to be all the things you can get done from the couch.
Oh, that’s good too.
Yeah. I was lucky. I was like, [I?] know my build. I just do it.
I mean you still have your will. That’s because you still have your mind and your will to do it.
And when I had to go through all those MRIs, they scanned my brain too and I was so scared. I was so scared because I was like, “What if it’s not in my spine? What if it’s in my brain?”
I’ve always been a person who has a lot of pride in her intelligence and loved having a sharp mind. I started writing when I was eight years old.
I got a typewriter from my mom for my birthday. And I was like, “What if something’s wrong with my brain?”
And thank God, it wasn’t my brain.
It was my spine but yeah.
I Can Help So Many More People Now (From My Couch)
People will be like, “You’re really impressive.” And I’m like, “Don’t be that impressed. Find some inspiration and I hope that I can help you in some way find courage and perseverance. But also remember that this is compulsive.”
I literally can’t stop myself [laughter] from doing something. It’s just who I am as a person. It’s what drove you to be where you are today in some ways.
And that would be something else that I would tell people is that I’ve had a lot of folks because I’m really happy and laughing a lot today.
And things are really great. But there are days when my pain is so high I’m crying. And like I said, the last few days I haven’t been able to walk very much. I tried walking thinking that might help the pain but it made it worse.
And so I try and tell people, “Yes. I have suffered a lot and this wouldn’t have been the way I probably would have chosen for my life to go but it’s been a blessing in a lot of ways.”
Because it made me stop and re-evaluate my life and what I was willing to do and not do and what I was willing to settle for and not settle for.
And it gave me an opportunity I think to fulfill my true purpose which is to be an advocate and a writer.
And I think that I experience the things that I experience because I’m strong enough to get through them and I’m supposed to use those experiences to help other people get through their shit too.
And I have said before on the podcast and stuff, I am able to help so many more people now as a podcaster and an author than I ever could killing myself on the frontlines of the nonprofit sector because I can reach a much broader audience and touch a lot of lives in a lot less time.
Less man-hours than I could in the nonprofit sector.
So to me, it’s a blessing even though I have suffered, even though it’s frustrating, even though there were times that I thought I couldn’t make it through and I had to fight with the doctors and the insurance companies and all that. I still consider it a blessing and I still believe that life happens for you and not to you.
I actually used to not believe that. I used to think that was bullshit and now [laughter] that I’ve gone through this, I believe it.
How can people reach you?
I am on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram as NerdzillaKelly.
So just at NerdzillaKelly.
And my website is NerdzillaKelly.com.
You can find my book there but you can also find it on Amazon and Apple Books and everything. And the podcast is A Non-Mom Happy Hour.
Do you have any closing thoughts?
I don’t think so. I feel like I’ve talked your ear off, so. But thank you for having me on. This is one of the most fun interviews I’ve had and I’ve been in my pajamas the whole time. So thank you for that.
Sure. Yeah. Not bad for some rando who is like, “Hey. You want to be on my show [laughter]?”
Isn’t podcastguests.com [though?] kind of cool?
Oh. I love it.
We’ve found guests that way for our podcast.
But then I was like, “But I should sign up as a guest so I can [inaudible] my book in the podcast and stuff.” It’s pretty great. You meet a lot of cool people.
Oh, girl. I was stalking you before then. Because I listened to the show and then I was like, “Oh, wait. She is on here?” I think I was editing my own profile which still– I don’t know. I got to do something to it because it doesn’t quite feel like me.
This is not what’s on there so [laughter] I got to work on that.
But I was like, “Oh, wait. She’s on here? Oh. Well, that will make stalking easier. Would you like to be on my show [laughter]?”
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Thank you. That’s flattering.
That’s very flattering.
So yeah, thank you so much for being on the show.
Hi! I’m Jen! I have over 25 years of training, teaching, and executive experience in leadership, strategic project planning, and digital marketing. Today, I am the founder of Women Conquer Business, a boutique consulting firm dedicated to helping women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community build sustainable businesses. I’m a frequent guest speaker and trainer. Get access to my free business growth accelerator and hang out with me on my weekly women in business podcast, Women Conquer Business.