Meet our guides: Jessica Hjert Flod
“Writing about the most difficult aspects of life – sharing about my anxiety as well as my diagnoses – helps me feel better, and I know that my writing helps others as well’, says writer and Write Your Self Guide, Jessica Hjert Flod.
“As humans, we all deal with the same emotions. We’re not alone.”
Jessica has a degree in behavioural science and the purpose of her work within the criminal care system is to reduce relapse into crime and to motivate and support people to seek change. She writes reports to the courts, and leads addiction treatment programmes as well as group programmes for men who abuse women. Jessica meets people in deep crisis on a daily basis. Her professional experience, coupled with a thorough university education, has led to a deep interest in the workings of the human psyche. So has her own personal experience of mental health issues.
Being open is a positive thing
Five years ago, during a rough period in her life, Jessica started a blog.
“The purpose of it was to write about my life – openly, honestly, without pretence – and I noticed that it made me feel better. That I also received a lot of support from readers who recognised themselves in what I wrote was an unexpected bonus”, Jessica says.
The blog became widely read and shared. Jessica received neither hate nor bullying, only love. Still, sometimes people ask her if she regrets being so open; if it has complicated her professional role, for example.
“Sure. Sometimes I’ve wondered what people know about me if they’ve read what I’ve written, and so on. But I’ve never seen my openness as something negative, on the contrary. I work with people in vulnerable circumstances and I think my openness can be helpful when I meet them. Because of my diagnoses, I can’t function as the majority of people, and I think that has made me humble in the face of other people’s trouble.”
The diagnoses explained a lot
Jessica wants us to learn more and speak more openly about mental health issues. She believes in breaking taboos, because it can save lives and change the world.
Alongside her work, she also runs a publishing business, Nestor Förlag, with the purpose of talking about all the things we don’t talk about. She made her debut as a writer with the book Does Everyone have to be so Happy All the Time?, where she discusses the difficult aspects of life as a mother of small children, and questions the norm that as a mother one should always be happy.
At age 32, Jessica was diagnosed with ADHD and GAD (generalised anxiety disorder).
“I’ve struggled with depression all my life but I thought that ADHD only applied to hyperactive boys. I’ve since learned that eating disorders, self-harming behaviours, and depression in women can be signs of underlying ADHD. This finally gave me an explanation for the way I had been feeling”, she says.
Jessica juggles a lot in her life – she works full-time, runs a publishing business on the side, and does a lot of public speaking. She ascribes her energy and drive to the ADHD – it can sometimes be a superpower. But there are downsides as well. Jessica sometimes works too hard, and finds it difficult to notice when boundaries are crossed. She also struggles with time perception and short-term memory. The GAD diagnosis adds a strong sense of worry about everyday life situations. This was magnified when she had her first baby.
The Write Your Self training opened doors
Writing has always been a therapeutic tool for Jessica, and for a long time she looked for a way to offer this tool to other people. When Write Your Self announced the training, Jessica was one of the first to sign up.
What was it like for you?
“It was as if something I’ve always known was confirmed through this training. It also made me realise how many people could potentially be helped by writing. After the training, I studied the research behind it and then went on to do another training at the Therapeutic Writing Institute. I find myself more and more interested in the possibilities of therapeutic writing.”
Today, Jessica offers courses and workshops based on the Write Your Self methodology, but she also adds her own personal and therapeutic experience to her teachings, as well as what she’s learned from other trainings.
Do you use writing in your work in the criminal care system?
“Many who are incarcerated feel lonely and isolated, and they turn to writing by themselves. Sometimes I give my clients homework in the form of writing exercises, and some find this very helpful. I constantly see proof of all the ways pen and paper can help people. I wish that everyone in the social care system may receive knowledge about therapeutic writing.”