'You WILL survive... and thrive'

You WILL survive... and thrive

Jill Nystul fell prey to depression and addiction, sought therapy, pursued her passion and, finally, came back from the edge. In her new avatar, having mastered the art of reinvention, the blogger, author, entrepreneur and DIY diva shares her story


Sushmita Bose

Published: Fri 19 Aug 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 15 Jan 2017, 10:22 AM

Serendipity. That's how I came across Jill Nystul. On a lazy Saturday, I was looking for a 'home-made' face mask (the back story: I had an avocado festering in the fridge and was wondering if something other than guacamole could be thrashed out of it). That's when I chanced upon Jill's all-things-DIY blog 'One Good Thing by Jillee'. Her face mask recipes were brilliant, but I was more intrigued by her bio (that popped up helpfully on the screen). It said, matter-of-factly, how, at one point, Jill had been besieged by depression and addiction - even though, as she pointed out later, she had no real reason to be spiralling out of control back then.
Clearly, she wasn't ashamed to talk about the rough and tumble of life. A random message I left on her 'Contact Us' tab developed into a candid conversation, across time zones (Jill lives in Utah, in the US). 'Bad things', she later told me, like the ones that dealt a body blow to her, can happen to ANYONE. You never know why, or when. At times, you don't even have a reason. "But remember," she says, "you're not alone, so get help." Like she did. And, then, slowly picked up the pieces of her life.
It's perhaps only fitting Jill's blog is called One Good Thing, and her book One Good Life: My Tips, My Wisdom, My Story. Life is what you make of it. Let it be good.
Jill spoke to wknd. extensively about her struggles, her reinvention ('re-birth'), her triumphs, her blog, her business, her book, and even shared some DIY tips.
Excerpts from an interview with a rather remarkable woman.
Today, you are a full-time blogger and run a beauty/lifestyle website that offers amazing DIY solutions. You also have a legion of fans and followers. But the back-story - of your addiction, and your beating it - stands out as a life lesson. When - and why - did you succumb to it?
About 10 years ago, my fairly smooth life's path suddenly turned frighteningly bumpy. I started going through what I can only describe as a midlife crisis. Contributing factors included the culture shock of moving from a large metropolitan area to a small town, postpartum depression, my son's Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis and so on. Basically, it boiled down to the fact that I was married with four wonderful kids and had everything I thought I ever wanted - and I was miserable. I wanted "more" than the life I had carved out for myself. That in itself might not have been such a bad thing, but unfortunately the choices I made led me down a dark and perilous path. If there's one thing I hope to convey to everyone who reads this, it's none of us know our propensity to become addicted! It can happen to ANYONE!.
I started drinking socially at first (which in itself was shocking because I had never been drinker.) Then, it turned ugly. Soon, I started drinking to numb the pain, which only multiplied the pain I would feel later. And on and on it went for about a year and a half when my life was finally spinning out of control. I was creating chaos in the lives of my four children and my husband. I often say, "I should be dead or in jail", and I don't say that for the shock value because that very well could have been the outcome of my very bad decisions at that time.
On Thanksgiving 2008, I finally reached what we addicts refer to as our "rock bottom." I spent the entire holiday "missing in action" in and out of an alcoholic blackout while my family didn't know if I were dead or alive.
That's when my family found me the help I couldn't seem to find for myself and I agreed to go into a residential abuse programme; 78 days later I graduated on my birthday. which is now also my RE-birthday.

How do you think you had the strength to put together the pieces?
Rehab was one of the hardest and one of the best things I've ever done in my life. Making the decision to get help was agonising. I wasn't in a great place to make the decision for myself, but the bottom line was I owed it to my loved ones if nothing else. And once I was thinking more clearly I was able to see I owed it to myself too.
It helped immensely that I had a support group around me that sought out the help I didn't know I needed. Once I was in a safe place with other people who were going through the same thing, I was able to forgive myself enough to start the healing and recovery process.

Today, what would you tell somebody who feels he/she is likely to go down the same path you embarked upon once?
The absolute FIRST thing I would tell them is they are not alone. Intellectually, it's easy to see that many, many people suffer from life challenges. but when you are in that dark place, you tell yourself you are the only one feeling like this, or doing these self-destructive things. Once I got into a group therapy setting, I was shocked and relieved to see there were people just like me going through the exact same thing - and in some cases, much worse.
SECOND, seek help. There is no shame in admitting that something you're going through is bigger than you and that you can't beat it back alone. Being able to process everything I was going through with others going through the same thing was truly a revelation to me and the best "medicine" I could have ever been prescribed.
THIRD: Trying to ease the pain through self-destructive behaviour may mask the pain for a moment, but overall makes it
so much worse. "Drowning your sorrow" is a cliché because it is, in fact, a fact.
FOURTH: Find your passion and pursue it! In rehab I received the most important advice of my life. My counsellors told me I needed to "pursue my passion" or I would end up right where I'd started. They didn't just say it was a good idea; they said it was mandatory. I'd spent a lot of time in destructive behaviour trying to escape my pain; I needed to replace that with something positive.
Doing what I was passionate about not only kept me out of trouble, but I was finally doing what I loved, and loving what I do! And because I loved what I was doing, I worked hard at it! I spent many late nights working on my laptop cranking out content for my blog and, a year and a half later, my counsellor's advice began to pay off. I was able to quit my day job and work on the blog full time. Five years later, I have 4 full-time employees and my website receives between 90-100K visitors a day and 3-4 million page views a month.
FIFTH: You will get through your trials and not only survive but THRIVE! If someone had told me 10 years ago that today I would be earning a six-figure income and be the CEO of a successful business, I would have laughed. Yet, here I am, happier and more successful that I could ever have imagined.
How important is a support network? I'm asking because a lot of expats in Dubai (it's a city where 87 per cent of the population comprise of expats) live alone, away from families. How can one cope with anything that could be linked to depression - while staying away from home and a support base?
Even if you are away from home and family, you can always find a support group. When my son was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes I felt completely lost and alone. I went online to learn everything I could about the disease and ended up finding a "parents of children with diabetes" support group that became my lifeline. I met people from all over the world who were going through the same thing I was and still remain dear friends years later.
If you can't find an established support group, make your own. One well-placed, heartfelt Tweet or Facebook post asking people, who are going through a challenge similar to yours, to share could make all the difference. We all need each other to make it through this thing called 'Life' and I've been amazed at how much people are willing to share in order to help others and themselves.

What's One Good Life about?
A few years ago, I was approached by a literary agent who encouraged me to think about writing a book about my journey through addiction and recovery and the subsequent success of the blog. Last May, One Good Life was published by Putnam Books and hit the bookstores. The book is a memoir but also contains lots of tips and advice like those found on the blog.
One of the reasons (well TWO actually) I'm so happy with the opportunity to write the book are:
#1 I wanted anyone who was on the same path I was (or dealing with another equally difficult challenge) to know they were not alone. Even if just ONE person is helped by what they read in my book, it will have all been worth it.

#2 I wanted to share some of the things that helped me get through it all. Namely the "little things" that made a difference as I took life "one day at a time". Tips and advice for making every day life a little easier may not seem like life-changing stuff, but you'd be surprised. It all adds up to each of us being able to create our own "one good life."

Tell us about your website onegoodthing. Why did you call it One Good Thing? What inspired you? Were you always interested in DIY and homemade?
I wanted to reach out to others who were possibly going through their own challenges and offer them something "good" each day. Since our family had their own financial struggles, I wanted to talk about ways to save money. This includes everything from recipes, cleaning, to DIY health and beauty products. People were hungry for those things. And since I'm a parent and want what's best for my kids, I often address family and parenting issues as well. A lot of the topics I address on my blog are things we all deal with in home and work life.
The tremendous popularity of these posts indicated to me what people were interested in and so I did more of them. I believe that is one of the biggest reasons for the success of the blog.

Take 5 with Jill

One book that inspires you any time, any day...

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.
I thought I was a "positive person" until I read this book. It opened my eyes to the self-limiting ways of thinking that were holding me back. My favourite part was the chapter on gratitude. The more thankful I have become, the more my attitude and thinking have changed. I give this book to people who are going through a tough time in life and I also like to re-read it when I need a boost. It's a good reminder of how I think the world works. what you put out there comes back to you.

One movie you can watch over and over again...

This is a very hard question! I love going to the movies. The pure escape, the way you can lose yourself in the dark, looking at that
big screen that completely fills your vision. Plus, popcorn is one of my favourite foods!  But if I absolutely had to pick ONE movie that I literally could watch over and over again I think I would have to choose E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It's heart-breaking and uplifting at the same time. It's a story about friendship, loyalty, and family, but ultimately it's about the power of love.

Your favourite holiday destination...

I grew up in Southern California and now live in the mountains of Utah so, whenever I can, I go to the beach. Any beach really. I just need the sun, the sand, and the water to recharge my soul. If I had to choose one particular beach destination I would choose Hawaii.
If you are at home, cooking for a special someone, what would it be?

Cooking for a special someone is about choosing the best, freshest ingredients and preparing it in the simplest way. I would make a good ribeye or fillet steak on the grill, along with fresh vegetables, preferably in season. This time of year, I would make Mexican corn as a side dish and a recipe using fresh berries of some sort for dessert.
Your role model/life hero
(Alive) Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook. She is articulate, driven, and successful in a male-dominated business; and she has shown amazing grace and intelligence while going through a very personal tragedy.

Eleanor Roosevelt, "co-President of the US" from 1933-1945. While she had a lot of challenges in her life - an unhappy childhood, betrayal in her marriage, a controlling mother-in-law, gripping depression - she stayed true to her passion for social justice and had a no-nonsense approach to life that speaks to me. One of my very favourite quotes of all-time comes from her: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
We all know the UAE, and Dubai in particular, is very, very beauty conscious. Jill Nystul gives us 3 of her favourite DIY beauty solutions - her very own personal picks, that she's 'invented'. "One of the things I really love about making my own health and beauty products (besides knowing exactly what is going into them) is how SIMPLE they are to make!" she says
This DIY beauty recipe is SO easy. Two ingredients.no measuring needed!

Sweet almond oil
Aloe vera gel

Method: Combine equal parts almond oil and aloe vera gel in a small flip-top bottle. Shake to combine. (You will need to shake it before each use because it will separate.)

Why it's good for you:
Almond oil is loaded with essential vitamins, including vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps keep the skin hydrated and fights free radicals. It's also rich in fatty acids, which are great for your skin, and acts as both an emollient and a humectant because it softens skin, and then prevents moisture loss. Works wonders for people with dry and itchy skin!
I have tried quite a few different hair serums, and they all have their flaws. I came up with this recipe for a homemade hair serum that naturally leaves my hair soft and silky without weighing it down.

1 tbsp avocado oil
1 tbsp castor oil
1.5 ounce flaxseed oil
25 drops essential oil of your choice
(A few essential oil options:
Use myrrh or peppermint for dry hair.
Lavender or rose oil for fine hair to normal hair.
Add lemon or chamomile for golden highlights.)

Method: Pour the avocado and castor oil in a 2-ounce dark glass bottle (sunlight damages the oils). Then, fill the rest of the bottle with flaxseed oil, and top with your essential oil of choice. Store
the serum in the fridge, give it a good shake before each use,
and apply a small amount (just a squirt or two) to damp hair
before blow drying.
You can also add a small amount to dry hair for a little extra shine and moisture.

Why it's good for you:
Avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, Vitamin D, E, minerals, protein, lecithin and fatty acids. It's the perfect hair moisturiser! Castor oil is rich in fatty acids, is soothing and lubricating. It smoothes cuticles and softens coarse hair. Flaxseed oil actually promotes hair growth and is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids. These oils all penetrate and condition the scalp, helping with dandruff and other flaky issues.
Every once in a while, your face needs a good exfoliating scrub. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells, leaving the new skin clean and glowing. Exfoliating keeps skin issues at bay while creating a smoother surface that leaves your skin more receptive to moisturisers, lotions, and makeup. A weekly treatment will maintain smooth skin and a beautiful glow.

3 tbsp baking soda
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
3 to 4 teaspoons milk

Method: Mix all the ingredients in a small container and apply to face (this is enough for one thickly-applied face mask). Gently work the mixture into your skin in a circular motion, then allow the mask to dry for 10 to 15 minutes.
Rinse off with water, again using
a circular motion for more exfoliating action.

Why it's good for you:
The baking soda in this recipe provides the exfoliation as it gently scrubs away dead skin. The honey naturally hydrates the skin and is rich in antioxidants. Vitamin E protects and repairs your skin. Cinnamon has a warming effect on the skin; it brings oxygen-rich blood to the surface to kill bacteria and detoxify the skin.

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