“I eventually became exhausted, uninspired, stuck and broke as fuck.”
Over the last two decades I’ve performed in front of thousands of people and spent over ten thousand hours practicing.
I also became a Wellness Professional over a decade ago and have led hundreds of yoga, fitness and meditation classes.
There’s no way of counting how many songs I’ve written- literally a lifetime supply.
I’ve worked with Grammy Award winning producers, released 15 singles to date in various genres, and coached some of the best athletes in the NHL, NASCAR & Olympics.
As “fearcely” as I live my life, I’m also a flawed human being who has spent a lot more time than an Instagram feed would have you believe- in fear.
For over half of both my music and wellness careers I struggled in secret with overwhelming anxiety.
Yes. That was me acting out a version of my past realities in the video above.
I’ve been praised, ridiculed, put on a pedestal and knocked on my ass.
I’ve been signed, independent, rich, poor, up, down and everything in between.
Heartbreak. Failure. Loss. Suicidal thoughts.
I’ve encountered many shit storms and upon facing some of my deepest, darkest fears, I was able to create perhaps my greatest win yet: Fearce Academy.
I’m Janey. And this is my story…
Before I was verbal I was musical.
Before I could walk I would dance.
FACT: At age 7 I was performing solo acts to the full “Lion King” soundtrack for my family… 2x a day.
FACT: By age 8 I was using the front porch of my childhood home in the 1000 Islands as a stage for my entire neighbourhood to watch on their lawn chairs.
FACT: By sage 10 I was performing 40+ shows a summer with the Saint Lawrence Stage Company for my whole city.
Every spring and summer beyond that point, I spent my days in rehearsal halls, crowded dressing rooms and under the big bright lights on stage.
This was the norm for me. This was home for me.
I lived for and loved every second of this place where I felt deeply connected.
In the beginning, I was fearless…. unstoppable and completely liberated from the troubles of my life onstage.
By the time I hit my first year of high school, the combination of bullies, bad skin, body issues and beginning to perform solo more often triggered the start my stage fright.
At that time, every flaw and fear I had was amplified.
My strict rehearsal schedule and eccentric lifestyle only contributed to me feeling like an outcast among my peers.
I was misunderstood and lonely.
It wouldn’t always manifest this way, but at it’s worst my cycle of stage fright looked something like this:
I would get daily anxiety sometimes up to a month before a new performance, which would grow in intensity the closer it came to showtime.
24-48 hours before the performance I just all around wouldn’t eat.
I’d get to the venue the night of the show - usually late because it’s almost impossible for people dealing with anxiety and depression to be organized- find a bathroom stall and have a complete meltdown.
Unsanitary maybe, but bathroom stalls always provided the sanctuary I needed to fall apart.
I felt broken beyond repair, but the phrase “The Show Must Go On” was too deeply ingrained in me to make me quit.
This was a blessing because I always got back up- it’s the reason I’m still here today sharing my story.
It was also a curse, because I would always get back up at all expense of my physical, emotional and mental health.
So I’d dry my eyes, re-apply my makeup and walk onstage.
In those musical moments under the bright lights, my anguish would be put on pause and the audience would wildly applaud.
Then, I’d walk offstage and go back to feeling like a fraud; I was never good enough.
I’d be so hungry from not eating and so disappointed in myself for what a failure I thought I was, that I’d go home, eat all the food I could find and vomit.
I struggled with a variety of unhealthy coping mechanisms and negative cycles like this one for years and not a damn person knew.
Not my parents, coaches, friends or my cast members.I was too ashamed to reveal who I was once the curtains closed.
The first and last time I tried to tell someone I was struggling with crippling fear, I was met with
“You should get off stage then. We don’t have fear in the Performance Arts.”
Another time I told someone I was bulimic.
First came laughter, then this response: “How do you think it makes me feel about my body if you feel that what about yours? You’re so skinny- if you don’t want your body I’ll take it!”
It was clear to me I was just being “dramatic” and ungrateful and needed to suck it up.
So outwardly I was this “star” that lived to entertain everyone. Inwardly I was scared, alone and felt entirely unlovable.
The problem was that I had no idea how to love myself without my talents, so I thought I needed to be perfect in my talents to be loved; being perfect onstage was the ultimate defence against being rejected off stage, where I felt so disconnected.
The reality is that striving for perfection is the perfect path to self-destruction.
I left home at age 17, enrolled in the Music Theatre Performance Program at St. Lawrence College, dropped out after a year and moved to Toronto to pursue my solo singing career.
The Universe became my University… and I studied day and night.
I had to learn how to do everything myself (recording, managing, styling, booking, marketing, business), including fending off the many shady characters that looked at a small town 18 year old girl the way lawyers look at lamb chops: FRESH MEAT.
In the process of finding myself as an artist I went through a slew of identity phases:
“Janey B” the r&b singer
“Marella Jane” the aggressive front woman of an industrial rock band
“Janey Brown” the EDM feature artist, pop diva and corporate events singer
“@janeybworld” the Performance Veteran, Mindset Coach, Speaker, Fearce Academy Founder, Film Producer…
“Janey” the woman forever learning.
Life was fast paced with travelling, recording, stages, photoshoots, music videos, yoga studios and clients.
whether onstage or at the front of a fitness class, Constantly being in the spotlight was the only place I could love myself.
However, regardless of how much my careers in music and wellness were taking off, I never felt like I was truly living in my purpose because I wasn’t being honest about the degree of fear and pain I had inside of me.
I eventually became exhausted, uninspired, stuck and broke as fuck.
My anxiety peaked and eventually compromised my immune system, my vocal ability and mental health.
It wasn’t until I lost my voice for close to a year that I had to part company with the Grammy Award winning producer I was working with and file a release from my U.S. recording contract.
I immediately had to stop teaching all of my classes and stop singing.
I was instructed to type or write messages to people sitting next to me instead of speak. “Don’t cough too hard and try to hold back your laughter… limit the use of our voice in every way.” Said the doctors.
I honestly didn’t know if I was ever going to sing again. It was hell.
After two years of speech pathology, I learned that what I really needed was to take up psychotherapy and heal an unrecognized trauma which occurred in my past.
The voice is an extension of your WHOLE being and everything that you’ve been though, it’s not this separate instrument that you can just “fix” like a guitar.
So I of course did the exact opposite and as soon as my voice started working again I went back to work full throttle.
I became a professional at getting lost in late nights of rehearsals and recording, and in full days of teaching and leading to keep my mind off of how deeply flawed I felt.
My lack of ability to manage my mental health prevented me from forming healthy attachments and building community.
I limited my connection with others, convinced I’d end up even lonelier if people knew the real, offstage version of “ Janeybworld.”
And so, this undiagnosed and untreated, overwhelming fear rooted in trauma was not only damaging my health and performance abilities… it was also ruining personal life.
The breaking point was the biggest shit storm of all.
The same week I launched Fearce Academy in April 2017, was also the same week my friend’s storage room became my new home due to the crash and burn of an intimate relationship, was also the same week I learned I had a roughly 16cm tumour growing inside my pelvis.
At this time I was all shit stormed out.
I felt I had nothing left.
I didn’t WANT
The fucking ‘show’
To go on.
To put it bluntly: I was having suicidal thoughts.
In a state of deep depression like I was in, the chemistry of one’s brain changes.
It becomes irrational and misguided.
That was the brain which was convincing me that I was an unloveable, ungrateful burden.
That no one would believe me if I told them the truth.
That I would look weak.
That was the brain which believed my life had lived out it’s purpose.
Ultimately, I don’t have an explanation as to why I made it out alive.
I could speculate I had “just enough” positive lifestyle habits to assist in the revival of my mental health and change my brain before these beliefs manifested into a plan of action.
The fact that movement, music and meditation were always part of my life no matter what terrible state I was in, or how much partying I was doing helped me self regulate just enough.
I had just enough support from the few people I did let into my life.
My psychotherapy treatments were just consistent enough.
The responsibility I had to my Fearce students anchored me in just enough purpose.
I can’t say with conviction that “everything happens for a reason.”
I still don’t know the reason I was so low for so long.
I still don’t know the reason that friends similar to me died by suicide and I didn’t.
There are still so many question marks, but one thing I can say for sure is the only thing more resilient than both my will to “succeed” at all cost or stop the show from going on, was life’s intention to make me heal.
Life’s hardships weren’t a punishment. Nor a test.
The shit storms were simply there to make me S H I F T.
Out of suffering and into a place where I can both achieve my goals and maintain my health.
After applying consistent, repetitive resilience strategies to build positive lifestyle habits, my darkness became my diamond.
The self awareness I gained by being forced to slow down, go to psychotherapy 2x a week and deepen my mindfulness and meditation practises, allowed me to dance with my demons, shine light on my shame and become whole.
I learned to find acceptance for ALL parts of who I am; not just the Janey who only knows a world of performance, applause and bright lights, but the Janey who has flaws, a history of trauma and is human.
I learned that emotional honesty, authenticity, vulnerability and courage are synonymous; all imperative to experience, love, connection, belonging and joy.
I learned that I will only ever be as happy as I am healthy and so it will forever more be my number one priority.
I learned that we never “arrive” and so this is the beginning of the rest of my life.
FEAR is not a WEAKNESS meant to be extinguished.
It’s a CATALYST for COURAGE and CONQUEST.
After years of the same losing battle with my fears, I finally see now the path to becoming fearless…
Is not to fight your fear…it will just fight you back.
It’s not to strive to be fearless; that will only make you more afraid.
It’s not to run and hide from your fear, because you’ll be running and hiding for life.
The answer is not to try and entomb, eradicate or negate fear.
It’s to befriend it and turn it into fuel.
Bravery and fear are not binary.
Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Thus, we need our fears to be fierce.
FEAR + FIERCE = FEARCE