I am so delighted to welcome Author, podcaster, 2x grammy nominated, and Dove award-winning singer/songwriter/producer, Jamie Grace!
Jamie has Anxiety, Tourette, OCD, and ADHD, and everything she creates as an independent artist is through the lens of finding joy, even when it seems impossible. In this pursuit, Jamie has written a book titled Finding Quiet: My Journey to Peace in an Anxious World and hosts an incredible podcast, The Jamie Grace Podcast, where she holds witty and wise weekly conversations on pop culture and mental health.
Today, I will be speaking with Jamie about what it means to be neurodivergent, how she manages anxiety and everything she is doing to raise awareness around the importance of mental health. Thank you Jamie for sharing your truth with us today, uplifting the topic of mental health, and embracing the important conversations necessary to continue to progress our journey as a community to wellness.
Nina Westbrook: Your book Finding Quiet: My Journey to Peace in an Anxious World shares your personal story of living with anxiety. What inspired you to share your journey with the world?
Jamie Grace: I started writing the first chapter as a journal entry. In my early 20s, I experienced the dream of a lifetime getting to be full-time in the entertainment industry but also faced everyday millennial challenges navigating dating, friendships, and unfortunately while working, racial injustice, sexual harassment, and emotional abuse. I went through a lot of therapy and was able to heal and grow in an amazing way. I journaled about it all, and shared it with my sister who happens to be my favorite writer and she looked at me and said, “This isn’t just a journal. This is the first chapter of a book.”
NW: You refer to yourself as neurodivergent. Can you explain what that means and how being neurodivergent impacts your daily life?
JG: Though not explicitly a scientific definition, “neurodivergent” is most commonly used in communities where people have ADHD or are on the Autism spectrum. My diagnosis includes ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, OCD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. There are elements of my diagnosis that cause me to crave rhythm and systems, and without them, I can become so anxious that tasks are challenging to complete. These tasks could be as simple as getting dressed for the day or as complex as planning a trip months in advance. Simultaneously, the seemingly irrational speed of my thoughts and drive to “do” pushes against the stillness. Having the constant push and pull is exhausting, and definitely gets better with a certain lifestyle and environment adjustments, but is also a part of my daily struggle.
NW: You are such a talented musician! How has music influenced or supported your journey to peace?
JG: Thank you! As I’m typing this, I’m blasting “Hamilton” in my headphones. I have both seen and heard it 239570 times yet the cadence, pace, and familiarity help me focus. Music is easily explained as something that I love and dare I say need. It’s also something that I can’t explain, but I feel. The inability to “work” or “do” is often solved or comforted when I play the piano or hear a cello. And when my hyperactivity (the H in ADHD) is causing me to feel jittery or aloof, pouring every element of my energy into the specific placement of a beat, synth line or guitar riff is a genuine remedy. When I was about 14, and in the depths of my diagnosis and subsequent depression, my grandfather gifted me a drumset. I remember every hit being both melodic and therapeutic and music is still the same for me to this day.
NW: What techniques have you found to be most helpful for managing your anxiety?
JG: Music is a significant help! I have certain timers throughout the day that help with remembering to do certain tasks and they have specific songs as well. I also love the feeling during and after a workout. It’s really hard to actually start, haha, cause Anxiety – but! I have a VR headset and a Peloton and I love them both. I also take medication, go to therapy weekly, and have an amazing support system in my husband, and with my family and close friends.
Anxiety disorders can be very complicated and difficult to understand for those who haven’t experienced anxiety. How can friends and family step in to support loved ones when they’re feeling anxious or experiencing a panic or anxiety attack? I regularly forget how much the outdoors benefit me – sometimes even during a panic attack. My husband is really good at helping me remember to take walks or even sit on the porch for a few minutes each day. We’ve been able to develop a way to communicate when I do want to sit by myself for a little while but also when I need him to push a little harder and open the blinds or help me get out of bed. One of the hardest things about having a support system is actually allowing them to help you when your Anxiety doesn’t want to be helped. But you also don’t want someone to push too hard. Right now, my husband and I check in every time I come home from therapy and it’s been incredibly helpful. Sometimes it’s a long conversation and other times it’s, “I need to make sure I have some time to myself this week” or “I want to get out and do something fun with the family this weekend.”
Additionally, when I am actually having a panic attack, it’s pretty normal for me to want to be alone. I’ve learned different techniques for calming down – thank you, therapy! – and also have learned that it’s okay to cry and pace myself through high-stress moments. Some of my close friends, my husband included, might ask, “Is there something I can do right now?” or “Do you want a hug?” as they know I personally benefit from physical touch when I am experiencing high levels of stress.
NW: Mental Health Awareness Month is here – how can our team and our readers help you raise awareness around anxiety disorders and normalize the conversation around mental health?