Ep. 20: What the loss of my sister, drugs, my ex & 10 years of searching for my passion taught me

Updated: Jun 13, 2020

A highly requested episode brought to you by just me (no guest today)! 

Today's episode dives deep into my childhood, teenage years and early 20s. It's full of ups and downs as I take you through the loss of my sister, Jolene, the use of drugs, a really unhealthy relationship and finding my life's purpose after 10 years of searching. 

This journey may seem really intense and sad but it does have a happy ending. Through my life's journey, I have learned the importance of family, how I deserve to be treated by a partner and that all the school programs and jobs were worth it because it all led me here to today. To this podcast. To finding my purpose. To the Badass Moms Club.  

Buckle up because it's going to be a wild ride!

Listen to the episode above or on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play, Castbox or Stitcher (along with pretty much every other podcast app out there). Or click here to download! (basically, anywhere!)

Make sure to hit "Subscribe" so you can join us every Wednesday for the Badass Moms Club!


Jess was raised on a farm outside of a small town called Elora in Ontario. She is the third of four children. She has an older brother, Jason, who is 4 years older than Jess and an older sister who is 2 years older than her. Jess, who is 28, also had a younger sister named Jolene.

Jess did not have a typical childhood growing up. Her younger sister Jolene was born with Scoliosis, and was special needs from birth. Essentially, Jolene was a baby’s brain in a growing woman’s body. By the time Jess and her siblings were ages 5-7, Jolene was the size that she was supposed to be for her age, but was cognitively and mentally a baby. Jolene couldn’t speak, understand words, and regularly had seizures. She couldn’t feed herself and was fed formula through a tube in her belly button. She was very high needs and required most of the attention.

This made home life very busy for Jess and her family. Because her parents were running a farm and life was very much centered around Jolene, Jess and her older siblings learned at a young age how to be self-sufficient. Jess didn’t have a very normal childhood and it was really different compared to what her friends were saying about their lives at the time.

Being a kid in this type of situation was different because kids don’t really understand. Jess understood that her younger sister needed special care and was special needs, but she hated the attention given to the family when they were out in public. People would stare because Jolene was different and this made Jess wonder why her sister just couldn’t be normal and Jess often felt mad at Jolene. Jess often felt very embarrassed of her sister in public, and has felt guilty about those feelings over the years.

It was a conflicting time because Jess also loved Jolene dearly and thought she was really incredible. Although Jolene couldn’t talk or understand what anyone was saying, and the family couldn’t necessarily understand her, they all knew how much they loved each other. The love flowed from one person to another without the use or need of words. Even when language or mental capabilities are different, love can still travel across those planes.

When Jess was in grade 8 and Jolene was in grade 7, Jolene came down with pneumonia. It wasn’t uncommon for Jolene to get sick, but this time was just different. Jolene ended up passing away and it was a really hard experience for Jess and her family. The pain of losing a sibling is paramount, but now that Jess is a mom she couldn’t even imagine losing a child and what that must have been like for her mom. Losing her sister was one of the worst experiences of Jess’s life.

The High School Days

It was a really crazy time in Jess’s life and soon after she was off to high school. She attended a private Christian elementary school but went to a public high school where she hardly knew anyone.

High school for Jess was more typical than her younger years. But she actually spent so many years thinking that she was learning who she was, but the person she was becoming was actually someone that she didn’t want to be at all. Looking back at her high school years, Jess’s experienced shaped her into this person that she later had to un-shape years down the road.

By grade 10, Jess had made friends with the cool and popular kids. And because of that, she started attending parties and drinking a lot on the weekends. Jess wanted to fit in, be part of the cool crowd and get the boys. Jess isn’t proud of who she was in high school. Once she got in with the cool crowd, Jess became one of those stereotypical ‘bitchy’ popular girls. She did things she was not proud of, said things she wasn’t proud of and undermined her girlfriends. She also didn’t like her family and didn’t want to hang out with them.

Partying, Drugs, & Uncertainty

Since Jess was 7 years old, she wanted to be a lawyer and she really thought this was the route she was going to go in life. She decided to attend Humber College in Toronto for a 4-year degree program. This would give her a really good opportunity to have a job, while also leaving the door open to go to law school if she wanted to.

Jess lived in residence for her first year, which was basically a continuation of high school in terms of partying. Between her first and second year of schooling, Jess moved home and started working for her cousin’s law firm for the summer. She realized very quickly that she did not want to continue down this path of being a paralegal and she wanted to drop out. But she didn’t know what else to do with her life. At the same time, she was introduced to a drug called MDMA. Jess’s first experience with MDMA was incredible and everything you would expect from the first time doing a drug. She was hooked and became addicted to some degree. She continued that summer partying and doing MDMA every weekend.

MDMA is basically ecstasy, but slightly different. It makes you feel really good, but you are still very aware of what’s going on around you and can function. You feel things differently and feel really good, and your senses are heightened. The negative aspect is that you get these really incredible highs, but when you come off it, you have these really incredible lows. Jess’s weekends would be amazing, but during the week she found herself very depressed. She would experience these amazing highs on the weekends and regular life no longer felt as good or exciting.

It was only when a really good friend of Jess’s sent her a couple articles about the long-term effects of MDMA on the body, that Jess chose to quit cold turkey. Jess’s friend did the best thing for her with those articles. Rather than imparting her opinion on Jess, making her feel bad or pushing to influence her to stop, she simply told Jess that she was going to send her a few articles to read so that she knew more about what she was doing. It was all Jess needed to realize that this was not the outcome that she wanted for her life.

The end of August rolled around and Jess still didn’t know what she wanted to do about school, so she decided to just go back. She moved to Toronto and kept trekking along with her schooling, not really sure what she actually wanted to do with her life at that point.

The Guy

During that time, Jess met a guy at a club. She fell for him super fast and the two started to hang out a lot. He didn’t want to date Jess, and she failed to see all the signs in that moment. She kept pushing forward with him in the hopes that he would date her eventually.

He had a lot of things going on in his life and he wasn’t a very stable person. He never kept a job, thought he was above a lot of jobs, and never had any money. His mom and stepdad kicked him out and he ended up moving in with Jess. He never paid for anything and would ask for money all the time. It was a very one-sided relationship. Jess really wanted to be exclusive, but he was just using her. This went on for quite awhile, but eventually the two did start dating. They knew each other for a year and a half before dating, and then dated for a year. It was not a good relationship.

During their relationship, Jess partied, smoked a lot of weed, and ate a lot of junk food. She was living a really unhappy and unhealthy life. But the biggest thing that came out of this relationship was that this guy introduced her to the gym. For Jess, the gym changed the trajectory of her life and it saved her in a lot of ways.

After a year, the guy was selling weed for a living and not much had really changed in their relationship. But Jess still had the mindset that she could change him and if she pushed hard enough and held on, that he would figure out his life. She was so deep into it that she couldn’t let him go. Even when he broke up with Jess, they continued to hang out a bit and Jess still felt she needed him. That was until the incident – the straw that broke the camel’s back!

While he was sleeping over one night at Jess’s, he fainted twice. Jess called 911 because this had never happened before and she was panicking. He was taken to the hospital where they ran some tests. They didn’t find anything wrong with him but wanted to keep him overnight and do a psych evaluation because he was acting strange. Even though Jess tried to encourage him to stay because she also noticed him acting strange, he refused.

The next day after he was released from the hospital, he came back to Jess’s house to pick up his things. It was late in the day and he ended up sleeping over. He was acting strange once again and wanted to sleep with a knife under his pillow. Jess talked him out of it and they went to sleep. Jess awoke to him having what she thought was another seizure, but was in fact him faking it in order to wake her up.

It turns out that he knew the password to Jess’s phone and while she was sleeping had went through it and found that she was messaging other guys. He became very angry and threw her phone into the toilet. After he woke Jess up with a fake seizure, he proceeded to scream at her. Jess was very scared.

Jess told him that they were done and that she would drive him to the bus station in the morning and that would be the end of things. She laid in bed all night with her eyes open. In the morning she drove him to the bus station and as he was getting out of the car said 4 words that will stick with Jess forever, “Just remember, you’re mine.”

That was pretty much the end of that relationship. For Jess, it was one of the most impactful relationships she has ever been in. It was a bizarre, scary and crazy time in her life, but she learned a lot. She learned that she cannot change people, but also discovered her self-worth and gained more confidence. This relationship helped her become the person she is today.

Searching For Her Passion

Jess finished her paralegal program but still felt unsure about what she was going to do with her life. She decided to take a Child and Youth Program and did a couple placements where she worked with young boys with criminal charges such as murder, sexual assault or robbery. She would have loved to go further with that but the pay wasn’t good and her lifestyle just didn’t fit with that type of job.

She decided not to go forward with that after graduating, and got a job with a law firm. She spent two and a half years working in two different law firms. She was really unhappy, hated her job, and had frequent migraines. She knew she needed to do something different with her life.

At this point Jess was dating Emmanuel, who suggested she sit down and look at what she liked doing. Through talking to him she discovered that she wanted to do something fitness related. In October of 2018 she became a Holistic Nutritionist online, quit her job at the law firm and started to work at a gym as a Personal Trainer. Jess thought this was it and that she had found her thing. But as months went by, something was still not quite right and still didn’t quite fit.

In December of 2018, Jess became pregnant. She shifted her in-person training to online personal training. Jess wanted to continue down this road, working from home while she was pregnant and during maternity leave with Esme, in the hopes of not having to return to work after. This was her goal and she needed to figure something out. She started to work with clients online but the feeling of not wanting to do this and it not being a good fit was still there. Jess felt really confused and ashamed. Here she was again, lost and not knowing what to do.

Paralegal degree. Child and youth work diploma. Certified Holistic Nutritionist. Registered Personal Trainer. Four educations. Four designations.

Jess didn’t know what she was going to do with her life once again and it was a really hard realization to come to.

When Jess had Esme, she started sharing honestly and transparently about her experiences with pregnancy and motherhood. She began connecting with moms and building a community. And in February of this year, Jess started working with a life coach to help her narrow down and give her some direction about what to do with her life. And it was within that first session that everything clicked into place.

Jess realized that she was going to work with moms. She didn’t know exactly in what capacity or what it would look like, but she knew that was her passion. Fast forward to now and things have taken a positive turn and really blown up for Jess. She’s working on creating something way bigger, she has her own podcast, and finds her work exciting. She feels peace, contentment and has a sense of direction.

Lessons Learned

Through these experiences, Jess has learned that family is everything. Whether they are blood related or chosen family, they really are everything. Jess is very close with her mom and her sister and has friends who she considers family.

She learned that if a relationship is not serving you and you feel like it’s one sided, then get the hell out. It’s not worth it. We all deserve to be with a partner who loves us, respects us, and cheers us on. We deserve to be with someone who is our equal and who actually wants to be with us.

Relationships shouldn’t be hard in those ways. You shouldn’t be pushing someone to love you. You want a partner who walks alongside you, not ahead of you or behind you. And you can’t fix people and you have to take them as they are and not for who they could be. This cycle of hoping will only leave you disappointed in the end.

Jess also learned to never stop finding yourself and finding your purpose in life. Jess had conflicting thoughts and feelings based on society, which was challenging for her. But it’s the greatest moment to experience feeling that peace when you realize what your purpose is.

These three big areas of Jess’s life really led her to the point she is at in life now. They defined her as a person and shaped her in ways that she later had to reshape and relearn. But it was an incredible journey and she is grateful she walked the path that she did.

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