The Road to Enlightenment
It took a rough road, a pilgrimage and a 9-year-old’s fondness for chocolate milk to show Ashley Jansen the way out of depression. Now she’s here to tell you that every day is a special occasion.
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For weeks, it had been Ashley Jansen and the music of Shawn Colvin in that Nissan Pathfinder. Shawn had done all the talking—and for hours at a time. “I didn’t have a voice,” Jansen says.
The two previous years had delivered enough stress to silence anyone. Therapy. Medication. Hospitals. Depression. Jansen was a doctoral dissertation wrapped in a Psychology Today case study covered in potato chips. So as she drove toward the Menninger Clinic, a psychiatric center in Topeka, Jansen thought, “Life is not going to turn out like you planned.”
Then something happened. It started quietly. “I started mouthing the lyrics to the songs,” Jansen says. Then—magic. “I sang a note. I heard it.”
On the scale of human achievement, harmonizing to “Steady On” doesn’t match Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, but for Jansen, it was a miracle—the new beginning she had wanted.
It wasn’t long before she left Menninger—diagnosis of bipolar disorder in hand—for San Francisco, where the journey had taken her a couple years earlier. As she climbed the stairs to her apartment, Jansen knew things were right.
“I felt I was a different person,” no longer the woman who looked in the mirror but didn’t recognize the stranger staring back. She could see her place in a society that had been so hard for her to enter. She called her old boyfriend, Rob, the one she had pushed back to Los Angeles because she couldn’t understand why he was in the relationship for the bad times as well as the good. “I didn’t love myself that much,” she says. But when she opened the door, Rob was sitting on the couch, smiling.
“I knew I was home,” Jansen says. “Not in a sweeping, romantic way, but clean and simple. This was what it was all about. It was where I belonged.”
Within a year, Jansen and Rob were engaged. They married on October 23, 1999. They now live in Centreville with their two children.
“Being ‘bipolar’ is not how I describe myself,” Jansen says now. But she does describe herself. It takes about 75 minutes because she holds nothing back. “Sometimes it’s light. Sometimes it’s intense,” she says. But it’s always real.
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