Tell us a little bit about you, what you do where you live?
My name is Jess. Jessica Lipman.
I grew up in London, then got moved because of my ”illnesses” to various countries; America, Mexico, back to America, ended up in Mexico and then South Africa.
I went to a treatment centre for eating disorders. But I went there more for mental health.
I am bipolar 1, and I’ve got Borderline Personality Disorder. I don’t let that define who I am. I know that they’ll be there — but they’re not me. I work at the Domestic Animal Rescue Group — well I work there but, I volunteer there — three days a week.
I’m also studying full time correspondence to become an animal behaviourist. I have a passion for dogs. I find it very therapeutic working with animals and I feel like there’s need for animals also being included, to be able to give back to humanity.
My dream is to become a Dog Therapist, an animal therapist. So take shelter dogs and train them up to a level where they can go into treatment centres, hospices, and different places where they can give people love — release serotonin — you know, help people. I’d love to do that in the future, which I’m working towards.
I now have good relationship with my family which I never thought possible. My family had to, for their own sanity, kick me out of the house and cut me off, financially, when I was eighteen. I have friends that I can call. If I feel sad or anything, and they’ll be there — no matter what.
I have a freedom inside of myself, where I don’t need to be obsessive about things anymore. I used to be obsessive about what time I’d go to sleep; what would happen the next day. Today I live just for today. Just for this moment.
And that’s what’s so important. If people are struggling I’d say if you’re struggling through a day, just live for the next minute. Be present.
I believe everything in my life happens when it’s meant to happen and because of that I have a lot less worry in my life.
I don’t need to worry about things, because it doesn’t matter about tomorrow, because I’m not in tomorrow. I’m in today. I’m living now. All that matters is that I’m right here, right now.
What was going on for you, before you developed an understanding of the mind?
Since I was a child, I always struggled. I always somehow felt insecure and not as good as other children. I grew up in quite a well-off Jewish family and struggled to fit the criteria in my mind that I thought was there.
As a consequence, I didn’t speak for two years. My mom sent me to the child psychologist to try and figure out ‘what’s wrong with my daughter’.
I lived in fear, not faith, and I was a very scared person. I was afraid of everyone and everything around me.
I developed various ways of coping that were unhealthy; I developed physical illnesses, which I now think are manifestations of what was going on for me inside.
I had an eating disorder from quite young. In the night, if I felt scared, or I felt I needed to be comforted, I would go to the kitchen into the pantry, climb up a chair, get sweets out the cupboard and just eat, so I could stuff those feelings down that were inside me.
Those feelings of fear, those feelings of just complete chaos within my mind that I didn’t know how to get rid of.
I grew up and started abusing pills. I would take overdoses of paracetamol — large overdoses. My first overdose I ended up in an NHS children’s ward; I had liver treatment.
I got interviewed by a team of psychiatrists. I said “I don’t want to go home”. I didn’t say anything else; I remember it very clearly. Just felt that terror inside of me.
I got sent to a teenage psych unit. There I got more and more scared, so I got more and more crazy. To deal with my fear, I would bang my head on a metal secure door most of the day, until they would pull me down and inject me with something so that I would stop.
I just thought “I can’t live with this, I can’t live with myself. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do”. It was despair. My parents didn’t know what to do with their once gorgeous baby. My brother wrote me a note saying; “I can’t do this anymore. I love you, and I want you to get better, but I can’t watch you kill yourself”.
I kept running out of that psych ward and taking overdoses, until it got so bad the psychiatrist put me on a section three, which means you’re not allowed to leave the psych ward for a year unless the court decides that you can.
I was put in prison, in my mind, and literally.
I got moved to a more secure ward where they sent teenage criminals and people with eating disorders who were dying. It was very traumatic.
I was far away from my family; only seventeen. And they put me on every medication.
I got every diagnosis, from schizophrenia to trichotillomania, which is when you pull out the hair. Anxiety. Depression. Everything. I got put on all different medications, which gave me really bad side effects.
I really really struggled, and I remember pacing like a caged lion … up and down and up and down … because I had nothing else to do.
There was no programme. There was no-one there for me.
I felt completely alone. I felt isolated. I felt scared. I felt like the only way out of this would be to die.
It got darker and darker to the point where I had two nurses on me, because of my suicidal attempts there. I went back to the other teenage psych ward, which was less secure. Very traumatising things happened there; I got offered cocaine, I got beaten up, amongst other things.
My parents started losing hope and I made my sisters very scared.
What changed for you?
I was in treatment. I’d had enough. I didn’t want to be in the world, I didn’t want to be around people. I didn’t like myself. I hated the way I looked. I hated the way I was. I thought I could never have a nine-to-five job, I thought I would never be able to do anything. So that was it.
What changed for me was when I realised that day, the day after I overdosed, I had this one nurse in ICU (’cause I was on liver treatment). She said to me, “God loves you, and he always will”.
I was given an ultimatum by my family; you either go back to treatment, stay clean, stay sober and get better, and we’ll support you, or that’s it. We’re really sorry. If you do anything again, we’re not paying for liver treatment. You’ll be on the streets.
I was very in-between, choosing which option, ’cause I was feeling so hopeless. But I chose treatment, because of this one nurse.
I’ve always been a spiritual person and there was always that fight in me even through the difficult times. There was always that innate health — that healthy part of me inside of me. But I just couldn’t see it. It was like someone had blindfolded me.
And now I could finally see.
This only happened for me like six months ago,
I saw that actually, I’m so resilient.
And that there was that resilience in me from when I was a baby.
I can do things. I can help people. I can help myself. I can believe in myself. I can do things in life and I can make a difference.
And that is when things started changing. I now volunteer, very often, in The Domestic Animal Rescue Group in Cape Town. I have a life now.
I have friends. I have people that love me for who I am. I believe in myself now.
Every morning I get out of bed, get on my knees and say, “Jess, you’re amazing. You deserve love. You can give love. You can do this”. That’s what I tell myself. Every time I get in my car, I say to myself, “YOU CAN DO THIS”.
What do you put your change down to?
It’s my own drive, and determination, it’s a change of thinking. Every time I think of something negative, I turn it into something positive. So if I think “oh damn, I’m exhausted”, it’s like I don’t think I can get through this day of work, I’ll be like OMG. Thank God, I have a purpose. How lucky am I to have a purpose.
I see the world as something greater, something bigger than me, that I’m a part of — universal mind. I’m connected to every single person and being and they are connected to me.
I find that so amazing.
And this week has just shown me … I got offered a good position in my volunteer job. I found foster homes for lot of the puppies and dogs that were burned in the fire.
I help run anorexics and bulimics anonymous groups, and a self-harm anonymous group. I do a lot of service in the community. And giving back has helped me learn that I can give to myself as well, which has been a huge part of my recovery.
What specific impact has understanding the universal principles of how life works made in your life?
The difference it’s made in my life is that I know I am OK, and I always will be OK, no matter what.
It doesn’t matter what happens externally. It doesn’t matter if someone throws something in my face. I’m still ok, on the inside. It doesn’t matter if someone bitches about me, because I’m actually OK. And that belief of ”I am OK, and I always will be OK” helps me everyday.
My life was torture. I lived in a living hell, in my mind. I lived in obsession over calories — of what I could eat, and couldn’t eat. I lived in obsession with what is the next way I can harm myself? what is the next way I can cause chaos?
Now, my life has changed completely.
My mother was booking my funeral at one stage. Now me and my mom ‘facetime’ at least once a day. My relationships have changed; I’ve become empowered. I’m not the victim anymore. I used to always think everything happened to me, but that isn’t the case.
Everything comes from my mind, and that belief system kept me stuck. Blaming other people kept me stuck. You know. I would blame this and blame that. Blame my parents for not bringing me up properly. Blame the school system for treating me unkindly, when actually, in essence, it was none of that.
Now I can take responsibility for my life. I can get up in the morning, and I can say OK, today is going to be a good day. And I, as Jess, am gonna be me. And if people accept me, then they do. And if they don’t — you know what?… it doesn’t matter. I’ve accepted myself, and that’s what’s changed.
I used to live in this self-centred bubble. Self-centred fear. That’s been replaced with a sense of compassion for other people and with the humility that I’m no better, nor worse, than anybody else on this planet.
What do think would be possible for the world if people understood more about how their minds work?
I think there’d be more equality. People wouldn’t be in war with each other, because they’d have a deeper understanding that, actually, we’re all the same.
I think there’d be a lot less judgmentalism in communities, around what faith you are, what colour you are, how religious you are, or what you look like, or what you wear. I think eating disorders altogether — anorexia, bulimia, overeating — would vanish, because people wouldn’t have these untrue ideas that they’ve made up in their thinking. That looking a certain way is the way you should look, you know. Who says that the right way of being, is to be skinny? God made everyone different — and that’s how we should be.
If you had to sum up the essence of your story?
”From a tortured mind to a free spirit”.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I’d just like to say thank you, to my mother especially. I think it’s through her — through both our journeys — and especially through her becoming a three principles counsellor, did I start to hear the truth.
She said to me the other night — we’ve been having quite deep conversations — she thought she had lost her daughter. And she actually can’t comprehend and believe that she’s got me back. And I learned a lot of this from my mother, who’s an Innate Health Counsellor,
And no matter how much money, no matter where you live, no matter what you do, no matter what grades you get in school, I would say to people; just remember that inside of you, there is something that is OK, and that is at peace, and will always be at peace. And it’s about tapping into that knowing that there’s something greater out there that is there for all of us. knowing — that there’s something greater out there that is there for all of us.
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