CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Wife, mother, and author Jennifer Lohr can now easily admit that the anger and anxiety inside her, combined with a lack of coping strategies, were major factors in her emotional breakdown.
She was out of control on the inside, but wearing a mask of normality on the outside. Something had to change to give her any chance of a future.
To save herself from a future filled with more bleakness, Lohr began a personal journey to rebuild who she was and is, emotionally and psychologically. She built herself back up by building down.
Now that she has had time to reflect on that process and is better for it, she has put that journey into book form for all to see.
“Deranged, weak, and helpless I had an emotional breakdown,” she says in a self-made video. “I had a choice to make, I could continue life as a broken, defeated mess or rebuild myself from the wreckage. I chose to rebuild.”
Lohr’s journey downward to an emotional breakdown and her resurrection to wellness is documented in her book, “Building Downward: A Inward Journey.” In conversation, she adds the words “Recovery” and “Re-Build” whenever discussing the title. This highly personal book comes after writing and publishing three children’s books and a novel.
Seated in a cushioned chair in the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library Lohr presents the image of a comfortably fashionable, self-confident woman, yet she spoke effortlessly about a number of highly personal events that went to the core of her breakdown.
“There were a lot of ups and downs,” she said of her childhood and youth. “There was a lot of trauma. Trauma in my family, my school, my life. There’s a history of mental illness in my family and I was raped in high school. That caused a lot of guilt. That’s one reason I never pursued legal action.”
After nearly hitting rock bottom emotionally in her mid-30s, Lohr said she started to rebuild her life herself. It was there that she realized a major problem to be overcome was her lack of coping strategies for life’s ups and downs.
“I realized that over the years I had erected this building that was top heavy. There was no way to relieve the stress, so it collapsed,” she said. “I wrote the book because I don’t ever want to feel like a victim. I want to be a survivor. I want to be pro-active, not reactive.”
She admits the book is “pretty unconventional”, almost a log of her journey.
The trauma in her family began early in her life when Lohr’s parents slowly grew apart due to her father’s strong religious convictions. When the couple separated, she became an object to be used by one against the other. At times she was forced into the role of family referee.
When they eventually split for good, Lohr moved from her Long Island home to the West Coast with her mother, where she was prevented from seeing her biological father. When she was later allowed to go back with him, Lohr’s mother emotionally refused to have anything to do with her.
During her latter high school years, in New Jersey, Lohr said the rape she suffered from a teen boy she knew and the subsequent denigration from classmates pushed her into the wrong crowd, heavy drinking, and eventually a suicide attempt.
“I felt very defective,” she said. “I realize now I was getting myself in bad situations. That was followed by bad behavior because I hated myself for getting into that situation [the rape]. It almost felt like I had to fake it to be normal.”
The emotional baggage Lohr had collected in her youth coupled with being a wife and a mother to four children finally crumbled the tower she had built in adulthood. She had an emotional breakdown in late 2016.
At her lowest point, as she struggled to keep up appearances that things were fine, the anger inside her burst forth in a loud argument with a family member. Saratoga County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the house. After refusing to calm down as instructed, Lohr was arrested.
“There was so much anger in me,” she said. “The martyr in me came out. Getting arrested was a healthy dose of humility. It was very sobering.”
After doing several sessions with Wellspring at her lawyer’s suggestion, Lohr refused to go back. She admits now that her ego wouldn’t let her.
“I wasn’t ready. I was angry, emotional, and reactive and it was getting worse,” she said. “I hid it well and that’s dangerous. I couldn’t function, but I knew I had to because I have four kids.”
Eventually, Lohr said she decided to search for an answer herself. It led to reading about guided meditation. That led her to forgiveness. It was her, a-ha moment.
“I released the guilt and the shame, admitted I needed to not judge myself or other people, to accept myself and other people, and learn to be proactive,” she said. “I did it because my kids need a mom and I needed to do it now.”
The book is about the process she went through to overcome the anger, guilt, and anxiety that drove her to an emotional breakdown. The first chapter is fittingly titled "Forgiveness".
“It was like driving a car. I had control. I was finally taking control of my mind and forgiving myself. Now I feel like a different person in my skin, a functioning person. Forgiveness was the key,” she said.
Through forgiveness, Lohr said the journey inward began with her taking a hard look at whether she wanted to help herself or hurt herself.
“I was living in a state where there were only extreme emotions,” she said. “I had this expectation of who I was. I think we have a war within ourselves as to how we want people to be. It can lead to a lot of unhappiness; at least it did for me.”
Now, Lohr says, she has no guilt within her and is happy with that situation.
“You have to be ready to accept the tools that are out there and accept yourself. I learned I had to drop my expectations and that was hard,” she said. “These are the coping strategies I had to develop in order to manage my anxieties. I had to acknowledge my pain, acknowledge my fear. When we’re ready, we all have the ability to heal ourselves.”
“Building Down: An Inward Journey” is available as a paperback from Amazon for $12.50