My time spent connecting with moms on social media has caused me to come across some amazing women with phenomenal stories.
One such story is of Iana Frederickson. She is the founder and creator of The Frou Frou Room; an online and handmade jewelry store.
Iana is the mother of two handsome boys, one a toddler and the other a teenager, and one beautiful teenage girl. Iana has had quite the journey of overcoming her struggles with mental health.
This is her story:
“As a young child (6 or 7) I began having serious anxiety and frequent panic attacks at school. Panic attacks to the point where I was so hysterical they had to send me home. Those hysterical panic attacks usually stemmed from an upset stomach from lactose intolerance and the irrational fear of nausea.
It took a while for my mom and my pediatrician to realize I was lactose intolerant. Things got a little better once I was off dairy, but I still had constant anxiety and was afraid to go to school.
Along with this, I was also extremely shy and socially awkward (very typical for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder). Making friends was difficult and I was afraid to talk to almost anyone except people in my immediate family along with my best friend, Angela.
I was even afraid to, for the most part, talk to my Grandma who I felt safe with and close to. This caused me to feel more and more alone and isolated. As a result, I became depressed when I was 10.
The anxiety got worse when I was in 8th grade. Because of this, I refused to go to school. I was however, a very good child. I wasn’t being disobedient, I was simply terrified of school.
Along with constant anxiety, other kids would pick on me because I was an easy target (I wouldn’t fight back). There was a girl that lived in my neighbourhood that bullied me. I was often afraid of running into her at school.
I didn’t have classes with any close friends that I could depend on. My best friend had my back when I’d see her (and even confronted a few bullies on my behalf), but she’d moved to another town. So I didn’t see her often during this time.
My mom decided to take me out of school and start homeschooling me in the middle of 8th grade. The anxiety didn’t go away but it improved some.
Not only did homeschooling help me with anxiety, it helped me with learning. Despite a high IQ, I had a very difficult time keeping up in academics. If I wasn’t interested in a subject I couldn’t focus or retain the information.
This was the case for pretty much every subject in public school. I was failing every class. If it wasn’t something creative I couldn’t focus on it. However, when I went to college to learn Japanese at 18 I got a 4.0 GPA. Many of the Japanese Teaching Assistants said my accent was perfect. Similar to those that grew up in Japan. This was the result of me being interested in the Japanese language.
I began writing poetry when I was 9 and started writing songs when I was 10 (as well as drawing from the time I could pick up a pen). These were excellent creative outlets which helped me express emotions that I otherwise could not. I had and have trouble communicating verbally (I’ve gotten better with age).
It was always a passion of mine, since I was a young child, to have my own business. Home schooling allowed me the freedom to learn subjects that were applicable to this.
My mom always encouraged following my passions. When I was 16 I became very interested in Native American culture (I have a little Shawnee Indian blood on my mother’s side). I was what most would call “obsessed” with it. I began learning how to make head dresses and other Native American crafts.
This is when I stared learning to make Native American inspired jewelry and started my first real business (at age 17). I was too young to get a business license on my own so my mom and I co-owned the business. We rented a small section in a store in the local mall where we sold my creations. Part of the agreement was coming in to help supervise the store a few hours a week.
After a while of the rent far outweighing sales, we had to quit the store. We would participate in local craft fairs on occasion with little to no sales. It was incredibly discouraging.
Due to the level of anxiety I experienced, (not for a lack of trying), I wasn’t able to drive and do not have a driver’s license to this day. I suspect this is in part from a traumatic car accident I was in at age 13.
I wasn’t officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, depression, ADHD and PTSD until I was an adult. I didn’t even bring up anxiety or depression to my doctor until I went through a very rough patch when I was 20.
Another ambition I had was to become a fashion model, which I did despite naysayers. I learned to appear more “normal” by mimicking other people and reading “how to’s” on conversation and interacting. At the time I honestly didn’t know how to interact with others. This is typical for people with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder).
I soon got up the nerve to start my own modeling agency with 50+ models, ran from my own computer. This went as far as my moving to Las Vegas for more opportunities. However despite my hard work I was not enough of a shark to survive the industry.
Modeling was a creative expression that I enjoyed, but it was also another thing my anxiety took its toll on. I’m sure I would have been able to go further with it otherwise.
After this long and exhausting journey, I experienced a common condition within ASD known as sensory overload. It’s unique for each person with ASD but commonly can causes what’s called “Meltdowns” or “Shutdown”.
When I have a Shutdown I get extremely exhausted. I need quiet time alone with lots of sleep. I need to not be touched. I might cry a lot, I might become silent or I might lash out. At times it’s all of the above.
I got to the point where everything was just far too overwhelming. Although I tried I couldn’t even keep a part time job. I would become so anxious at work I would lose my appetite and couldn’t eat. I had to go on disability which isn’t easy when you have an invisible disability. This is when I started hyper-focusing on jewelry artistry again and started The Frou Frou Room. At this point I couldn’t afford a decent website on which to sell my jewelry. So even though I had a ton of beautiful jewelry, the sales were very few and far between.
In 2013 I met my husband, Jon, and despite my quirks he married me in June 2014. He’s the first significant other that has accepted me for who I am and has not tried to change me or pressure me to be “normal”. It was shortly after we married that I came off the antidepressants and felt free from depression.
It was in October 2017 that I was clinically diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (aka ASD). This was after learning my dad and my brother have Asperger’s Syndrome.
People are often saddened by a diagnosis like this, but I was elated because it explained so much! Finally, I understood why I am the way I am. Why I have all these quirks that most “normal” people don’t. (Irrational fears, the need for routines, recognizing patterns others don’t and misinterpreting simple things, among others).
I have now finally began to truly understand myself.
I don’t view Asperger’s as a disability, for me it’s simply a different wiring of the brain. It can be explained as a “normal” (or, what we call “neuro-typical”) brain using an Android operating system and an Autistic brain using an Apple operating system. Equally as good, just different.
At the same time, I think being human in general comes with difficulties no matter how the brain is wired. Neuro-typicals and Autistics alike experience anxiety, depression, ADHD, addiction, stress and so many other issues.
As someone with Asperger’s, parenting a toddler can be a bit more challenging. In many ways we don’t mature as quickly as neuro-typicals, especially emotionally and socially. I’m a very capable and responsible parent (in part because I had my baby a little later in life. I also had many years working within daycare, baby sitting and nannying).
There are however times I have to remind myself I can’t be too absorbed in the things I like to do. There’s a tiny person that needs lots of care, love and correction (he’s strong willed). It’s not always enjoyable. Sometimes I’d rather be writing a song or making pretty jewelry, but I know my little guy needs to come first.
Because I’ve got an active little child I do get Sensory Overload. I wear out pretty quickly most days. My jewelry artistry is incredibly therapeutic for this. It helps calm my nerves and brings me joy to create.
It also brings me joy knowing that my customers appreciate my work. Having an Etsy shop has made it possible to reach customers I wouldn’t have otherwise. Having a jewelry shop also gives me some sense of self worth which is incredibly important.
Right now my goals are to make it profitable enough to be able to get off Disability (government income) and grow it enough to employ other people with disabilities that might not be able to work a typical job. I am extremely passionate about empowering people with disabilities, to give them a sense of self worth and hopefully some independence as well.”
I am so encouraged by Iana’s story of overcoming setbacks and living a full life through creativity. Please show your support with a purchase from The Frou Frou Room.
CLICK HERE to shop with discount code MAMA20 for 20% off till April 15th!
(Only applicable on orders above $50)