brick house.

It’s taken me months to gather the energy to sit up, pull out my laptop, and type. I have been going through mental gymnastics with my creativity. I have so many ideas but no energy to write. It’s not because I don’t feel inspired or motivated, it’s because some days I physically cannot sit up, or walk, or dress myself, or drive, the list goes on. Hi, my name is Ka’Lyn and I have a chronic illness that has turned my world on its ass. I wrote my friend in Spain today these words and as soon as I wrote it I said, TODAY YOU WRITE, “It’s a battle that I’m fighting but I’m aware that recovery is not all rainbows & butterflies like social media wants it to be. It’s gritting and bearing through painful moments and scary thoughts while attempting to hold on to those small moments of relief and happiness.”

 

2018 has had its share of unfortunate events. It was almost as if I was the butt of an ugly joke that wouldn’t end. Loss of jobs, friends and family passing from Cancer, and on top of it all my chronic illness takes a turn. I have been suffering from this disease for almost 9 years now and I have never experienced anything like this. The undoing of my own strength, the horror of looking at myself naked, the burning of my very being from the inside out. I have unraveled. Going from being able-bodied to disabled in a matter of months is terrifying. Not being sure what the next treatment is or if it will work. Having to rearrange your entire life, your plans, and your relationships to make room for your new normal. Wondering if anyone has realized that recovery isn’t gumdrops and cotton candy. It’s not Instagram posts and the rallying of troops. It’s the undoing of who you were and the fight to become who you are supposed to be, a survivor.

 

I have survived many things during my trips around the sun. I am aware of trauma and have danced with it unwillingly for most of my life but this is different. I am watching myself come apart at the seams unable to control my own health, unable to fix myself like I fix everything else in my life. I have no control, I have no cure, I only have wavering patience, faith that comes and goes like a cool breeze, and hope attached to a piece of floss that I hold on to daily with a smile because I know what falling feels like.

 

Recovery according to the dictionary is gaining back something you lost but I don’t agree with that definition. This process hasn’t taught me to enjoy the little moments of joy in life, I already did that. It hasn’t taught me to keep my friends and family close, that’s been my mantra since conception. Recovery, to me, is the undoing. It is the grit, the pain, the hard days, the sleepless nights, the struggle for proper care in a world where your pain isn’t recognized as pain but complaints. It is fighting a fight with an invisible demon and even when you get knocked the fuck out you come to, dust yourself off, and fight again because you know what death tastes like and you know suicide is no longer an option. You have shit to do, you have to continue to get free, you have people to love on and people who love you. Recovery is being okay with not being okay and being okay with needing help emotionally, physically, financially. Recovery is having to ask for someone to clean your body, cook your food, pray for you, bring you snacks, call you sometimes, plan a visit, make space for you.

 

I have been undoing for months. Struggling alongside my husband some days afraid that one wrong move, medication, infection, depressive episode could be it. But luckily for me, I have tasted death before, it was bitter, it didn’t bring me the relief I thought it would. I still felt like shit after. Recovery has taught me the flexibility in discipline. Sometimes you just don’t have the gusto to be visibly strong and the “how are you” texts become suffocating, the doctor appointments turn into disappointments, and all you want to do is make it to bedtime. Then there are days, like today, where you say something to someone after crying as soon as your eyes open that gives you enough energy to type. Gives you that gusto to put down what you haven’t been able to express properly. Gives you that break.

 

This is my undoing. Am I okay? Hell no. I am in pain more so than not. Am I living? Yes! I use EVERYDAY to start over. If one day is bad, I deal with that and then the next day I wake up and try again because recovery for me isn’t a choice, it’s just something that is going to happen and I have to deal with it.

 

When it rains it pours but luckily for me I live in a brick house, with bulletproof windows, and the heart that understands that there is nothing that it cannot beat.

 

 

i carried this for years.

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"You seemed very curious as a newborn Boop. It seemed as if you were absorbing EVERYTHING. You had a very intense and piercing gaze, but not in a bad way. You were a happy baby, always smiling. You were also a trick baby (not the pimp, prostitute type of trick) but the kind of baby that was so easy that it tricked you into thinking that yep, I could do it again. Lol" - Kimberly Banks (My Mom)

 

Feeling motherless had become embedded in the fabric of who I was for so long. I truly believed I was unworthy of a mother's love. I taught myself that if a mother didn't want her child then the child was not enough. I truly believed that. I spent years feeling unsafe, unloved, and neglected but something in me couldn't pull away from the hope that one day I would be able to ask my mom "When did you realize that you couldn't take care of me?". 

Asking the hard questions was something I prayed about. I wanted the courage to ask, to mend a strained relationship, to accept what the truth was even if I didn't like the way it made me feel. Through therapy and my own spiritual journey I found myself doing the unraveling of what happens to a motherless child. When I got to the core, there she was, me, 7 years old holding on to an oversize Tigger shirt and a stuffed pig that smelled like my mother. She was unsafe. unloved, and neglected and she carried that with her in those items. 

As I talked to her I found out that she didn't hate her mother, no, she loved her mother more than anything else. She had questions that needed answers and she was waiting for me to ask them. She was waiting for me to release all of the assumptions and get the facts.

Last year I got to ask my mom those questions. I asked her about her childhood, her adult life, and the question that haunted me everyday --- why couldn't you keep me? I learned that she, in her late 20s, felt helpless and lost. I could tell she had been working on herself because her responses were clear and genuine. We talked for hours.

As the conversation pressed on I realized something. I never looked at my mother as another woman -- always as this goddess like person who denied me their love. I never thought fully about her own life traumas or her own mental health battles. I was a child and the thought of going to school and having people ask where my mom was haunted me. Mother's Day made me sick and I hated holidays. As I got older I swore off all children in hopes that I wouldn't be like her. 

I was a child but now I am a woman. I am a woman who is in her late 20s dealing with things that have sent me over the edge. Things that have made me question my own existence. I can feel my mother's trauma and pain through my own. I can finally relate.

My mother, although absent for most of childhood, has always loved me. No matter how mad I get through this process of creating our own relationship --- she still loves me. She encourages me and reminds me of who I am -- every single time we speak. She makes me laugh. She makes me remember what it felt like to lie in her arms even when we are miles apart. I haven't hugged my mother or seen her in 5 years but I can remember her scent. Being able to just call her about anything has changed my entire life and I will be able to hug her again, very soon.

Family hasn't always been the kindest to me but I value the relationships I am building with them now. I am rewriting our history one relationship at a time. I am the missing piece that will complete this puzzle.

 I was told once by a good friend that I am here to break my family curses. I am here to wash away my families shame. I am here to heal and save my family and that starts with my mother.

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Come shine with me!

How I Got Over: Shauna from Her HS Story

Last month was the scariest month of my life. I had a near-death experience due to my auto-immune disorder and an infection. I had been hospitalized, temporarily disabled, and unable to work for the entire month. Not many people knew that I suffered greatly from this disease and it threw a wrench in my plans for the month of June. I wanted to dedicate last month's post to Hidradenitis Suppurativa and spread awareness about a disease that not only impacts my life daily but the lives of many. HS can cause chronic pain and disfiguration of the skin. A lot of studies show that patients with HS experience depression due to how intense the disease can be. 

Although I wasn't physically able to carry out my goal due to my HS last month I am still going to share the story of someone who has taken her diagnosis and used it to empower others. I am slowly healing and during this process, it is crucial for me to be transparent and provide resources. Shauna, who I found on Instagram a few months ago, is on a journey to encourage and educate others on HS through Her HS Story. Here is how she got over.
 

K: Who are you at this very moment?

S: This is a good question. I’d say I am a lover of many things...body-love, good food, family, friends and life.

K. Are you who you thought you’d be? Why or Why not?

S: I think growing up, we all have this idea of who we think we will become, but once we go through life experiences, we kinda just begin to form into something much deeper than we imagined. I always knew I wanted to be and remain a loving person who helped as many people as possible to overcome sadness and I feel like that hasn’t changed in many ways. Today, I enjoy inspiring others, even if it’s just one person.

K: What is your life’s mission?

S: My life’s mission is to help as many women as possible by teaching them how to love themselves unconditionally.

K: How did you get over?

S: As a child, I was sexually abused and experienced traumatic domestic abuse, inflicted upon my mother and siblings. I carried a lot of pain into my teenage years and adulthood but always had a huge smile on my face. This manifested itself into body dysmorphia and poor emotional eating habits. I only began working on my mental health and self-love just 4 short years ago. Since then, It’s been my mission to help other women overcome their food & body battles. Through helping others, I was able to heal myself and I am forever grateful for my life experiences, as they’ve shaped who I am and how I show up for my followers today.

K: Share your light (quote, song, lyric, photo, memory)

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Shauna's Light

My mother is my light. Her name is Hope...ironic right? because that’s literally what she gives me whenever I’m faced with my most challenging moments in life. She’s been through so much and has overcome all of it. My perseverance and tenacity definitely come from her.

 

K: How has HS impacted your life?

S: I was faced with an extremely painful and debilitating autoimmune disease, called Hidradenitis Suppurativa at the age of 14 and diagnosed with the name around the age of 23. It was a really challenging condition to cope with, especially through high school. Though I’ve been in remission for a while now, I’ve learned a lot about myself throughout my entire experience with HS. I learned how strong I am, and I learned how to find the silver lining in every present moment. I learned that our thoughts, beliefs and mental health truly due affect our bodies and how it manifests into physical illness. I’m still learning so much but HS has been bittersweet because it’s definitely helped shape who I am today but it also was not the most fun experience and it still pains me to see others battling with this disease.

K: What are your goals with Her HS Story?

My mom calls me the Oprah of the HS Community lol. She’s super cute but honestly, my goal for Her HS Story is to really just be a supportive shoulder to lean on within our community. Definitely not a pitty-party type of vibe but more of an empowering movement. I used to hideout about my HS because I felt ashamed. It’s not the most “glamorous” condition. It’s messy, traumatizing, painful and REAL. My goal is to help survivors break out of the closet and stop hiding. The only way we can spread awareness is by talking about our experience and braving through the initial feeling of embarrassment. I’ve helped many people confirm their HS diagnosis with their doctors, just by sharing my story publically.  I’ve also been torn down for sharing my personal experience and that's okay too. As long as I help even 1 person with my story, then I have fulfilled my purpose here.

 

1 Tip for people struggling with HS, is to work on your self-love and mental health. Do whatever you have to do to remind yourself that you are worthy of love no matter your circumstance. We tend to be so hard on ourselves about a situation that can literally impact any human being. We are human and humans get sick sometimes. It’s not our fault and we are still worthy of love and acceptance.


YOU CAN FIND SHAUNA'S WEBSITE AND SUBSCRIBE TO HER YOUTUBE CHANNEL BELOW:

Personal Website: www.shaunasincerely.com 

Her HS Story TV: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHa8UoL45ZxWbv9_eORde3Q

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HerHSStory/


 

Come shine with me!

stand by me. ft. T-Kea and Liz

As someone who is living with a severe mental illness, I have had to make those closest to me are aware of what that looks like for me in order to receive the support I need during my recovery. I am lucky enough to have a supportive husband who has been my rock during my recovery and a few friends who have offered their support in numerous ways.

T-Kea of Fireflies Unite Podcast, a mental health awareness podcast that is "Normalizing The Mental Health Conversation In Communities of Color", shared a story on her IG story about one of her close friends, Liz, who has been integral during her recovery. I was so moved by their story that I had to reach out and ask them to do a piece for the theme this month. It is the last day of Mental Health Awareness Month but the conversation doesn't stop here. It's important to ask how you can be of support to a friend battling a mental illness. It means a lot. Check out their story.

Their Story:

I can remember the day like it was yesterday. I sent a text message to my friend and said, “It would be better if I wasn’t here.” Translation, I want to die! But at that moment my friend, Liz, did not know that I took a countless number of pills and drank a bottle of wine. I was hoping that I would not wake up. Before I knew it, two policemen were breaking into my window and asking me questions. They asked me a few questions that I cannot recall, but I remember them asking if I wanted to hurt myself. I responded and said I don’t know, even though I knew I wanted to. As a result, they stated that I did not look well and was a threat to myself. They gave me two options, I could wait for the ambulance to arrive to be transported to the hospital or they would handcuff me and taken by force. I agreed to get dressed and go with the paramedics. By the time I arrived at the hospital, I was told to remove my clothing, turn in my phone, and evaluated by the psychiatrist. They told me that I could not go back home and I would be admitted to the hospital for suicide prevention.

I often think about that day and believe that if it was not for Liz making the decision of calling the police, I would not be alive today. Initially, I did not realize that Liz called the police until a week later when I was at her house sharing my experience and she looked me in my eyes and told me it was her.

Over the last three years, Liz and I have become extremely close. She is a big sister, at times a mother figure, and an amazing friend. I know that pivotal day was scary, stressful, confusing, and frustrating for her. She’s expressed how it was a lot for her to process and decide what to do. Liz said it was not an easy choice to make. Through this journey, I know that it takes a special person to do all the things she has done. Liz and her husband opened their home to me so that I could focus on my recovery and I am beyond grateful. Liz has said that she couldn’t support me if her husband didn’t support her. There are truly no words that can express my gratitude and love for them.

Shortly after moving in, Liz took the initiative to come to therapy with me and it has made our relationship stronger. We’ve gained a better understanding of one another. Through therapy, we were provided a safe space to express our concerns, thoughts, and feelings. Liz learned about my triggers and we learned ways to better communicate with each other. For Liz, she was able to share her challenges regarding our living arrangements, as it isn’t easy to adjust to each other’s lifestyles. You see Liz has a family, a husband, and 3 beautiful girls, and I’m single. Therefore, we needed to be able to discuss expectations, set boundaries, and rules.  More importantly, with the help of my therapist, Liz continues to help me develop an exit plan for my transition. She desires to see me healthy when I leave her home. She supports my dreams, is patient, and loving.

In writing this piece, Liz and I thought of a few tips to help caregivers who support those living with mental illness. These tips can also encourage a stronger relationship with each other.

Educate yourself on your loved one’s mental illness.

It is imperative that you educate yourself! Do not make assumptions and develop conclusions about a person’s mental illness based on any stigmas. Learn how their mental illness impacts them as it shows up differently for each person. Learn signs of an episode and crisis so that you can best assist them.

Learn their triggers.

Understanding a person’s triggers is one of the most important things you can do. Triggers can reignite memories of trauma and cause flashbacks to that traumatic moment. These memories and flashbacks can negatively impact a person's mood, render a person unable to interact appropriately with the environment around them, or cause them to relapse into harmful habits, according to the America Psychiatric Association.

If you are living with someone with a mental illness, identifying your expectations or “pet peeves” and being able to convey them to your loved one will aid in managing your relationship and living arrangements to avoid bitterness or negative energy.  

Communication is imperative.

Being able to communicate openly, honestly, and in a non-judgmental environment is essential. Both parties must be comfortable with sharing their likes, dislikes, concerns, and achievements. Your caregiver may appear to be strong, confident, and have it together, but don’t assume that’s true. Your loved one may have good days and bad days. We’re all human. We all have our strengths, faults, and baggage. Help each other unpack!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! For caregivers that are choosing to support their loved one, asking questions about their triggers, needs, thoughts, and feelings will help you have a better understanding of what they are going through or how they process things.

Don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand! What they may be going through, their symptoms, or how they are impacted by their illness can be confusing for others. You don’t necessarily have to understand. The important thing is that you listen, accept them, and respect their situation just as you would expect them to do for you.

Don’t be afraid to express your needs! As a caregiver, you are still an individual going through your journey of life. You can have your own ups and downs. Don’t discredit or lose focus of your voyage. Sharing yourself is essential for your own balance and for your loved one to understand your position.  

Having a better understanding and mutual respect will allow you to better care for your loved one and have a stronger relationship.

Take initiative.

Often for those individuals that are undiagnosed or newly diagnosed, they are going through a learning process themselves. They may not know what they need or what to disclose and reveal or may still be struggling with opening up and asking for help. Don’t wait for he/she to ask for help or say what they need.

When your loved one is in an episode, they are often confused and cannot think clearly. It may require you to make decisions for them using your best judgment. Go the extra mile and attend a therapy session, pick up his/her medication, invite them to eat, a movie, or for a walk, show up at their house unannounced if you’ve noticed that they’ve been distant. It could be the very thing that saves their life!

Remember, taking initiative is not one-sided. It is just as important for the individual living with a mental illness to be proactive with their caregiver. The desire to build a healthy and cohesive relationship should be valuable to each party.

Make sure you take care of yourself.

Being a caregiver for a loved one can be stressful. It is extremely important that you practice self-care and do not overextend yourself. Mental illness is not one size fits all nor does it only affect or impact those that are diagnosed.

Don’t be afraid to attend therapy for yourself, especially if you are supporting a loved one. The additional efforts can be rewarding but can be hard work to manage. Talking with a therapist can provide some extra support and assist you with navigating your role in your loved one’s life.

You’re friends/family first! Being sensitive towards your loved one’s illness is desired, but don’t be scared to be yourself. If you refrain from saying or doing things that come naturally this can cause unnecessary stress and pressure on yourself. While we expect people to exercise their filters with their words or restraint with their actions, we also believe that we are accepted and loved for who we are. There is a reason why your loved one is turning to you for support, so be yourself!

Your mental health is just as vital as your loved one living with a mental illness.

Come shine with me!

anxiety is... ft. Bennie Niles

This week I wanted to get a perspective from a man I admire. Bennie is a is a third-year PhD student at Northwestern University, where he is studying African American Studies. He created Just Tryna' Graduate to help Black students get to & through graduate school. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter. Many times students whether in graduate school, high school, or even just students of life find themselves battling anxiety to be twice as good and have to work twice as hard -- especially if you are Black. His story and his desire to help the community cannot go unnoticed. 

Bennie's Story: 

In my experience, stress and grad school go hand in hand. There's always something new to read or write. There's always a conference to apply to, or a grant to apply for. And that's not even accounting for the stress that comes with having to navigate academia's bureaucracy and/or different relationships with professors.

A few months ago, I was pretty stressed about an impending deadline. But for some reason (read: my anxiety), I couldn't even bring myself to start the assignment. And even though I still had time before it was due, days even, I just knew that my professor had sent me an email asking for the assignment (again, anxiety). I started getting pains in my chest, and I began to feel overwhelmed. So much so that I had to take a nap.

When I woke up, I was a lil groggy, but I felt better. I actually forgot all about the deadline...until I didn't. Because, you see, that's how this anxiety thing works. You're good...until you're not. Suddenly, the sharp pains returned, and I found myself grabbing at my chest all over again. I figured that in order to feel better I just needed to check my email and deal with the consequences, whatever they may be. But no email. Was I stressing for nothing? I needed affirmation, someone to let me know that I wasn't crazy. So I tweeted about the experience.

These two tweets ended up getting over 600 likes. But what struck me most about these tweets was the widespread response. Grad students (mostly Black) from all over commented "Same." or "This is me!" Hell, even a few professors joined the conversation and said that they were dealing with similar issues. On one hand, I felt supported. I mean, it's always nice to know that you're not alone, especially when it's an issue like anxiety. But on the other hand, I was pissed off because why is it that so many Black grad students feel this way?

After pondering this question, and responding to others' reflections about my tweet, I actually remembered that this wasn't the first time that I dealt with anxiety. In fact, I've been grappling with it since I began my Ph.D. program. But it was during my second year, when I was working my Master's thesis, that I really learned what anxiety is, and how it felt in my body. Here's a snapshot:

Anxiety is...already knowing that you have to finish your Master's thesis by the end of your second year of grad school. So after your first year, you print out twelve different articles about your topic to read over the summer. But you never really read them because the mere idea of writing a Master's thesis is daunting. So you just carry the articles in your backpack all summer because you know that you're gonna read them...eventually. 

Anxiety is...starting to write your Master's thesis but then stopping repeatedly because you think that this one research paper is your entry into "the field." And you're stressed because: one, you still don't know what that "field" even looks like as a second year grad student; and two, the more you read, the more you realize that you still don't know enough about the topic to write the paper. But you keep attempting to write because you know that you have to write something before the year is over, so that you won't get kicked out of your doctoral program. But you're stressed because you keep reading and stopping, and writing and stopping because the idea of YOU writing a Master's thesis is daunting.

Anxiety is...stressing because, even though your deadline is slowly getting closer, you still don't have anything substantial written aside from your name, title, and that four-sentence epigraph that you typed up to help you meet the page count. Anxiety is...still working on the paper but purposely missing that deadline because, now, you no longer have to deal with the pressure of writing with a deadline hanging over your head. Anxiety is...eventually turning in the paper and (somehow) winning the "Best Paper Award," but feeling stressed because people are telling you to submit it for publication in an academic journal...which means that this was your entry into "the field," after all.

Anxiety is...feeling your voice quiver as you present your work to an academic audience, because you just know that, at some point, maybe when you're mid-sentence, someone is going to come and tell you that they made a mistake, that the award actually belonged to someone else, which would be embarrassing as hell but also soothing because you already knew that you really weren't supposed to win the award in the first place because: one, you still don't know what the "field" looks like; and two, you still don't believe you know enough about your topic. But with the award still in hand, you eventually finish your presentation, promptly return your seat, and subtly try to massage away those sharp pains in your chest. (Anxiety is...painful.)

It's unfortunate but, in my experience, grad students often discuss issues of mental health in hushed tones. There's a reason for that, though. As grad students, we already know that, some days, getting out of the bed and doing this "work" is tough. So we try to offer each other support as best as we can. But we also know that, sometimes, there's a cost to not looking like you're able to handle your workload (i.e., condescension, stigma, pushback, and diminished opportunities). And for these reasons, many of us attempt to be productive even in the midst of our suffering.

Even as I write this, I can already hear some of my professors in my ear. And yeah, I get it. The job market. Publications. Tenure-track. I get it. But professors/advisors/mentors, what kind of scholars are you producing when you demand that your grad students "do the work" at all costs? That they learn to choose between their self-care and their academic obligations? Before we can even think about professionalization and the road ahead, we need to have a very long and very candid conversation about what the academy does to graduate students! Because if this is any sign of what lies ahead, I'll be damned if I stay in academia after I get this degree.

For I am so much more than what I produce in a seminar or academic journal.

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Come shine with me!

life ft. India Ohree

To celebrate #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth I have partnered with a few people who I think have a great story. This week we are celebrating mothers. Mothers are super important and being a caregiver to them is a very rewarding job. This week Plant Based Wellness Consultant,  Birth and Postpartum Doula, and Freelance Writer, India Ohree, gives us a look into her life as not only a Doula but also as a mother of 3. Check out her website http://indiaohree.com/ and Instagram account to see what she has to offer. 

 

India's Story: 

I am a Birth + Postpartum Doula, serving expectant parents by providing educational, emotional, and physical support. I help to create a space where people feel safe and are met with love, understanding, and gentle guidance. I meet parents where they are at emotionally, mentally, and energetically to ultimately achieve a positive labor/birth and postpartum experience. It is my responsibility to listen to and validate my clients. 

As a Birth Doula, I meet with my clients a few times throughout their pregnancy. We work together to create their birth plan so we can know what they want their laboring and birthing experience to be like, including what medical procedures they may or may not want. During the prenatal visits, I offer local resources and referrals to my clients that I feel will add to them having a positive and joyful prenatal and postpartum experience. During labor, Doulas sometimes have to guide clients through emotional blockages that may surface. It is our duty as birth workers to maintain a peaceful environment. Touch is an essential part of practicing as a Doula. We provide massage, as well as suggest positions to help ease discomfort and help naturally progress labor. I am with my clients from the start of active labor until 1-2 hours after their child(ren) enters the world.

After my client delivers, they enter into the postpartum period. Once they transition home, I visit them at their discretion to assist with light household duties, provide loving care for baby, and give the new parents a moment to rest. Nutrition is very important during this time as the body is healing and recovering from childbirth. As someone who is plant based and provides consulting services to those seeking to incorporate healthier dishes into their busy routine, I bring this knowledge with me into my doula practice. I assist my clients with meal preparation and ensure that they're eating foods that will provide nourishment and aid the production of breast milk, if they choose to breastfeed. This is a critical time to ensure that the new parents are receiving the care that they need. 

Many new parents express that the postpartum period can sometimes be an emotional roller coaster, filled with ups and downs. Many emotions are experienced; joy, fear, sadness, anxiety, even anger and doubt. These feelings are completely normal and you shouldn't feel ashamed about them. Beyond these emotions, some new parents also experience postpartum depression. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a form of severe depression after delivery that interferes with daily functioning. Some symptoms of postpartum depression include extreme sadness, emptiness, hopelessness,feeling irritated or angry often, being uninterested in your baby, feeling that life isn't worth living, and/or having thoughts of harming yourself/your baby. 

Postpartum depression is more common than one may think. As doulas are not medical professionals, I first recommend referring the client to their doctor to be screened and receive the professional care that they need. Additionally, there are a few tips I suggest to help the new parents find more peace throughout their day:

  • Taking short walks in nature to get fresh air and sun
  • Coordinating with their partner and/or doula to ensure that they can receive the adequate rest needed to care for themselves and baby
  • Consume whole foods
  • Breastfeeding, if possible, may reduce the risk of developing PPD
  • Schedule time for loved ones to come over and visit

As a mother of 3, I can completely relate to a lot of the things my clients go through because I've already had a lot of the experiences myself. I am able to speak from personal life experience when I guide new parents through this journey.  Doing birth work is very sacred and it truly is an honor to be present during these very special moments in parents' lives. The work is also very demanding, and the clients that we serve deserve a high level of care. We must give our all and our very best to the families we serve.

Sometimes life can become overwhelming in general. While being a mother and serving parents, it can bring about an added level of occasional stress. You have to be completely selfless in this line of work. When I receive a call from one of my clients informing me that they may be in labor, I have to immediately drop everything that I'm doing in that moment to be present and give them my love and care. I also need to very quickly secure child care for my children for the many hours that I'll be away. As a birth worker, you have to cultivate your village and ensure that you have a strong support system to help you stay centered and able to serve others. 

It's equally important to focus on yourself with that same level of energy so that you can be your best self and feel healthy, lively, and at peace.  I deal with anxiety at times, and I have to ensure that I am taking care of my mental health. I've tried therapy in the recent past, and I know that it's great for healing and working through inner issues; it just simply isn't affordable for me at this time. However, taking the time of day to focus on self care is incredibly therapeutic for me. I have to quiet my mind by practicing meditation, playing soothing sounds, burning incense, writing in my journal, and even drinking my favorite herbal tea helps tremendously. I do my very best to focus on the things that bring me joy, along with practicing my spiritual work. And sometimes, I honestly just need peace and quiet. In those moments, having a babysitter for even a few hours can help me recharge. While I have come to the realization that the purpose of my life is to serve and do the work that I'm passionate about, I've equally come to understand that none of it is possible unless I first honor myself.

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Come shine with me!

deactivate.

 

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month and I have deactivated my twitter account. Let me explain how it got to this point. Social media is a big influence on our lives. It is can really infiltrate your mind and spirit. I love social media and have dedicated my own academic research to it. I love to study how people use it and how it impacts the minds of those who look like me but I never realized how much it impacted my life until my therapist said something.

We all know by now that what we ingest becomes a part of us. We are not removed from absorbing the energies of others – good or bad. Everyone is inherently good and inherently bad. That’s just the reality of it all.  This applies to our social media accounts too.

For the last 3 weeks or so I have been finding myself using Twitter less and less. I have always found myself feeling anxious when certain topics are brought up. I have also felt anger, sadness, and even jealousy in the past. On the flipside, I love networking and talking to people online who have the same interests as me. What has pulled me away from Twitter is the noise. The opinions, commentary, and bickering that comes with having many different types of people on one platform and I am not equipped to handle that – at least not right now.

My friend Ashley had some posts on her IG story where she talked about curating your timeline to align with who you are at that moment. It resonated with me because I have found myself attempting to silence the noise of a timeline I created based on past interests and ties to people I’ve met.  At first, I was muting, blocking, and unfollowing people but then that became overwhelming. My therapist has worked very hard with me to stop oversharing online and to also not use social media as a diary. LIFE CHANGING, okay?! Learning to disconnect and keep my personal business – personal, has been helpful – especially when I am dealing with my own mental health. The good days can turn into bad days if I see something that is triggering or if someone is just being negative online. The way we speak about protecting our energy is so beautiful and I think that it applies to your mind and also your social media accounts.

It’s sometimes frustrating to constantly have to filter my social media accounts to make sure it aligns but the work has to be done. In order to grow and continue on my own journey, I have to be realistic about my attachment to social media and the relationship I have with it. There is NOTHING wrong with using social media but I do believe, for myself, it can be a battle of the noise vs. my own inner thoughts and ideas. I have to work on separating the two.

When manic or depressive, social media usually doesn’t help. That is when I over share the most and that is when I can put myself in situations I don’t want to be in. When I am feeling low I don’t want to see certain things but I have always had trouble REALLY disconnecting without finding myself back online.  I also have this fear that if I disconnect from Twitter that my blog will go unnoticed or I will not get some of the opportunities I have gotten in the past. My blog has it’s own Twitter but it doesn’t have as big of a following as I do on my personal account. But really, why do I care? SEE, this is why I need to take a break. I need to find out why these things matter in this way. I know what is for me is for me but I still attach that success to my online presence.

It is a big part of our lives and my life but in order to heal, I have to really set some boundaries for my damn self. So, as a Black woman who battles with her own mental health, I have found that disconnecting has helped me work on my own shit. I love the support I get online but I also don’t like the feeling of needing validation from others in order to feel good about myself. This may not be you but it has been a trend in my life at times.  For now, I am deactivating my account, in 3 weeks I may reactivate it, or I may wait the full 30 days and allow my account to be irretrievable forever.  I don’t know.

My mental health is more important to me than being on certain websites that can stunt my own growth. It is okay to say “this is becoming too much” and dip. There is nothing wrong with doing that. There is also nothing wrong with going away and coming back. Your mental health is important and in order to really grow you have to be realistic with yourself about your weaknesses and lack of self-control when it comes to certain websites that may be filling you with a lot of negativity. The noise can really alter how you grow. It can really test you and your foundation. The noise can make you revert.  In order to preserve myself, I have to remove myself from things that can make me revert or at least try my hardest to do so.

 

 

The shit just isn’t fun anymore and I am mentally exhausted. How do you disconnect when it all becomes too much? Do you disconnect at all? Comment below with your thoughts!

 

Come shine with me!

roots.

Poetry month is coming to an end and I honestly have enjoyed every moment of sharing my work with you all. I have a small following of readers and it's a blessing to know that someone is interested in my work and actually finds it helpful in some way. 

With everything that has been happening this year in my life unexpectedly, I have found that being outside and planting my feet into the grass is one of the most therapeutic things for me. I have noticed that I am more concise with my words and I am starting to find myself not interested in the things that used to occupy my mind and time. With every moment outside amongst the flowers, birds, trees, and sounds of the wind I find myself becoming more open to the possibility of putting my phone down and allowing myself to become one with the outside -- even if just for a moment. 

Being grounded is something I have always struggled with. I often found myself trying to control things that were totally out of my control. Past trauma and pain and "the struggle" are embedded in the fabric of who I am but that didn't mean that I had to be married to those emotions, that pain, and those memories. I was operating out of a place of "I have to struggle in order for my life to mean something" and sometimes I still think that way.

To combat that I force myself outside as a reminder that I do not have control of anything -- except my reactions. I can choose what to keep and what to let go. I can choose what to divorce that is no longer serving me. Being outside is a reminder that as long as I can plant my feet into the ground and allow myself to breathe for a moment that life goes on. 

I have been using Twitter less and less daily but I posted something recently that not only resonates deeply with me but seems to resonate with others. I said, 

"I am divorcing my attachment to the idea that I have to struggle all my life. I am divorcing the idea that I have to perform to be loved. I am divorcing the idea that I cannot accept myself the way that I am right now." 

I meant that with every bone and breath in my body. I am really tired of being married to the struggle and to that struggle mentality. I am not a victim anymore. My life will have ups and downs that I cannot control. The only thing I can control is how many moments I can allow myself to go outside, plant my feet into the ground, and breathe freely. 

Next month is #MentalHealthAwareness month. I will be taking a hiatus from my personal social media accounts to focus on some inner work for a few weeks. I have some great features for next month's blog from some of my favorite people. Follow the blog's Twitter and Instagram for updates! I will be using those accounts during my hiatus from my personal accounts to keep you all updated on posts. 

Poetry month has been a blessing to me. I hope it's been a blessing to you too. 

Fin.

Come shine with me!

split.

I am an advocate for mental health because it has not only impacted the lives of those I love but also my life. I rarely talk about this in my blog or in conversation but in 2015 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder ll and PTSD from childhood trauma. Dealing with my own mental health all of my life has been a struggle prior to treatment. I found myself in denial most times and blaming myself for the way I felt.

Having Bipolar Disorder has been a very difficult yet eye-opening experience for me. Each day I learn more about myself and I learn how to accept myself. I am thriving through my disorders and they are only a small part of the beautiful person I am.

Mania is the hardest part for me. I feel irritable, I spend money I shouldn't,  I can isolate myself, feel paranoid at night, not sleep, not eat or eat terribly, my speech becomes rapid, I have many ideas and I have even put myself in dangerous situations or have exhibited risky behavior.  I can be flaky and cancel things that I would normally love doing. I can make decisions that I will regret later -- this shows in my hair cutting. I used to self-harm 4 years ago during these episodes. I don't anymore. 

It used to be my depressive episodes that were the hardest. They would last longer than normal and make me feel empty inside. I would be depressed for months and months. I would be void of emotion almost. Barely crying, laughing and smiling as a way to seem normal, not feeling attached to anything or anyone. Drinking and smoking to socialize with the group or to be able to just hang out with people for long periods of time that were not in my core group of friends. 

Treatment saved my life and it made it so I could better cope and identify what was going on. I have never felt comfortable talking about my symptoms or writing poetry about it that I would like to share. Today, I am manic, yesterday, I was manic. I am okay with saying this. I am okay with this part of me.  I am thriving with a mental illness. I am high-achieving, I am witty, I am loving, caring, and a goofball. 

This is my first poem about having bipolar disorder. As an advocate for mental health, I am comfortable with being transparent in this moment. My therapist and my support system have helped me reach this point. 

Enjoy.

 

Come shine with me!

pure.

Today is a special day for me. It is the day that the love of my life was born. My husband is hands down an angel. I rarely write love poems because it is so hard for me to put into words the happiness I feel thanks to his love. My husband is so deserving of celebration because his light shines so brightly. 

Love is an action word as most of us have heard before or experienced. I never really understood what that meant until I met my husband. As cliche as it sounds, he is really an angel on Earth. He has a white aura around him which stands for purity, angelic attributes, the beginning, and the destination. 

I have learned through loving him and being loved by him that things always work out. No matter what, having faith and being hopeful always work out. He has shown me this so much in the 5 years of being in his life through how he lives his life. 

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So many blessings are given to him because he believes in himself. I think that is something that has rubbed off on me. He has taught me how to be stoic, how to be okay with not being okay, how to seek help and not be ashamed, and how to do what is in my best interest no matter what others may think.

He is a very private man and doesn't celebrate himself outwardly like I would like him to. He is content with who he is as a person and loves his solitude. That is something I have learned to not only love about him but I have also found myself enjoying those moments of solitude as well. Sitting in silence with him and reading or just enjoying the scenery in our backyard has become some of my favorite moments with him.

He is the epitome of someone who listens actively and provides sound advice when needed. I am forever grateful to have found a true love so young and to be able to grow up with him each day.

Here is a poem I wrote to celebrate him. True love exists.

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Come shine with me!

alone.

April is National Poetry Month and many of you may not know this but I began writing as a poet when I was a teen. I started performing my poems in high school and continued to perform throughout college. I studied Creative Writing in college and got my first degree in Linguistics and Poetry. Writing has always been my way of expressing the things I never had the courage to say but Poetry was and will always be my first love. 

This month I will be posting poems weekly to show not only my love for poetry but force myself to share this part of my light that I have kept hidden for almost 5 years now. Sharing these poems with you dating back to almost 10 years ago is my way of showing that I trust my readers. Your light shines so brightly on to me that it makes me want to revisit things that once brought me joy.

Every poem will have a short back-story and graphic that can be reposted on social media. If you are also a poet or want to try some different poem styles use the hashtag #scintillatingstanzas when posting so I can read them! I will also be posting some writing prompts that I loved doing. Enjoy!

 

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In 2012 I found myself in a situation where I was not looking for a relationship but using men as a way to rebuild myself. This poem is about someone who, through their actions, reminded me that I was not only lacking self-worth but also the dignity to know when to walk away. I even recorded this poem for their album in an effort to make them see how I felt. Needless to say, that didn't do a damn thing. They just thought it was a cool intro to their song. Being in a cycle of abuse and trauma made it easy for me to end up in the strangest situations with men. I never wanted to be with them but I always wanted to have a piece of them. A twisted cycle. I am so happy that I have healed from trying to fill that void. 

 

 

Have you ever been in this situation? Let me know! 

Come shine with me!

How I Got Over: Ashley from Soul Bliss

I was super honored and excited to have Ashley from Soul Bliss be the feature for this month’s installment of “How I Got Over”. She just celebrated her 1-year anniversary of her company and is working towards some amazing things for the second year! I am a part of the #SOULBLISSHIVE and I love all of her products.  I ask her the usual questions but also included some about her business. Her journey and story are so beautiful and truly an inspiration. Like I always say it’s a blessing to have friends who don’t mind shining their lights onto you so that you can shine even brighter, Ashley is a true testament of that.

 

K: Who are you at this very moment?

A:  How do I answer that? Lol I’m just here, flowing. I’m a sister, daughter, aunt to 5 amazing humans, a friend, a business owner, a healer, a part-time vegan, a sometimes yogi...I’m just me.

K: Are you who you thought you’d be? Why or Why not?

A: I’ve been in a very reflective state over the last few months - thinking about where I was 5 years ago, 3 years ago, 7 days ago even.  I’m always growing and changing and I had no clue I’d be this person.  It wasn’t my “plan” but I’m a much better me than I would’ve thought.

K: What is your life’s mission?

A: One thing that has never changed is that I’ve always known this life, for me, is about helping people.  How I have and will do that while I’m here will continue to change and evolve but it is always the foundation of what I do.

K: How did you get over?

A: I’ve been abused. I’ve used alcohol to cope with and escape life. I’ve been abandoned by my father. My older brother was murdered when I was 16 and he left behind 3 kids so I’ve stepped into roles that were far beyond my years and responsibilities.  I’ve treated myself poorly because of what I’d been through, how I grew up...the list goes on.

Losing my grandmother started me on a healthier path (she died from a brain aneurysm from high blood pressure) because she was “young” when she passed.  At 23, I’d lost my last living grandparent and I realized there wasn't anyone in my family over 70 and that that shouldn't be the norm.  I’d had enough and decided to give myself more. There was a snowball effect there - me paying attention to my salt intake and stress levels in 2013 led me to a holistic lifestyle.  

I stopped playing victim.  Those things happened but now what? Now you get into healthy eating, yoga, meditation, nature, therapy, and more.  Now you do everything you can to be happy and live well, you deserve it.

K: Share your light (quote, song, lyric, photo, memory).  

Copy of God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,Courage to change the things I can,And wisdom to know the difference..png

Ashley's Light

I call my nieces and nephew My Kids because they’re my babies and I’m not a typical aunt.  I’ve lived with some of them, I’ve gone to their parent-teacher conferences, I’ve helped with college essays, stepped in when they were bullied… They’re everything to me. They’re my light.

 

K: What was the moment when you realized that Soul Bliss was needed and had to be created?  

A: Other people saw it before me.  They’d see me making products for myself on social media, come to my house and drink tea I’d made, and I’d give them things as gifts.  They kept saying I should sell everything and one day it finally clicked that 1. I could share these things AND 2. I could get paid for doing what I love doing everyday - living my life.

It’s still wild to me because a few of my creative dreams were shot down by my dad and other family when I was growing up and I stopped dreaming. All I heard was that I should go to college and become “somebody” (whatever that even means).  Now it’s like, “what do EYE want to do, what makes ME happy? This is MY life”

 

K: What is the purpose of Soul Bliss?

A: Soul Bliss is a source for the soul & overall wellness.  We have natural and handmade body products, teas, tinctures, and other apothecary items, I do consultations and one-on-one sessions, events, custom orders, etc.  If I don’t do it, I’m able to point you in the direction of someone that does.

 

K: Now that it’s been a year, what have you learned about having your own business?

A: Pros and cons? Lol we don’t have the kind of time to list what I’ve learned BUT - you’ll learn a lot, you’ll make mistakes, you have to outsource, delegate, and ask for help, don’t overthink, don’t be too hard on yourself and take care of yourself.  It is very easy for those of us who take care of others to neglect ourselves so I schedule in time for me.  I have a morning wellness routine written in my planner and take myself on dates...I treat myself well...really well.

K: Anything new coming (that you’d like to share)?

A: We’re re-launching this Spring! New products, new packaging, and our own site lovesoulbliss.com in addition to the current etsy shop.  We’ll also have some wellness events coming up and we post everything on IG so you can follow for updates!

 

 

I AM.

When was the first time someone told you that you were not worthy?

 

Wow. It’s been almost 2 months since my last blog post and after talking to my homegirl Davia over at Redefine Enough, this question came up and we both agreed that sometimes it isn’t the first time it was said but more so the first time it was felt.

I was small, can’t remember the age, but small. I remember feeling lost and confused. Having the recent death of my beloved father and the funeral arrangements causing what seemed like chaos to me had emotions high, which was expected. Was I worthy enough to ride in the limo that took all of my dad’s kids to and from the funeral? Was I worthy enough to be accounted for in the small half dozen of children he had before he passed? I was small but I can remember that feeling of not being sure if I would be “allowed” to ride due to grown-up issues that, at that time, I did not understand.  I can confidently say that at that moment I didn’t feel worthy and that it would be a trend in the years to come of me trying to prove my worth to those around me and even to myself.

Let’s take an empirical look at the word “worth”, like what does that really mean? Not from the dictionary but what does that mean in our world. Worth is something that is talked about a lot, just like self-care, and self-love. We see these words, sometimes attached to only monetary things and then we see lists on how to gain said things or achieve them. I believe I’ve said before that the journey doesn’t end; this applies to all of the above as well.  Worth, based on experience, can go from knowing you are purposed to be here because you are here and that being ENOUGH. To depending on someone else or something else to provide that validation that you are purposed to be here. That feeling of seeing the finish line but having it pulled further away as you get closer due to your own “rules” and “guidelines” for being good enough, for being worthy.

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My worth was always contingent on accolades. It was based on my grades, extracurricular activities, my hair, my clothes, and my achievements. I believed that in order to be worthy I had to be perfect. I had to go above and beyond, always. I had to push until my arms were weak and then use other body parts to push until I was on my knees and then I would drag myself until I was skin and bones. But then and only then would I feel worthy for just a second in time, a moment of “you did it” and then back to feeling useless.

I am not going to lie to you all but I still find myself wondering if I am worthy. I “know” I am worthy simply because God, the stars, and the universe made it so but do I “believe” I am worthy? Not all the time.  It’s really a battle of the mind. A battle of that small child who remembers vividly what it FELT like to feel unworthy not when someone said that she was. I am reassured often that I am worthy but reassurance doesn’t erase the inner-work that has to be done.

I am working on giving myself my flowers, it’s a struggle but “self-praise is the best praise” and even when I give myself flowers and that “you did it” feeling arises – I sometimes can still see her, that small child, wondering if she is “worth” it.  I don’t have a profound anecdote for figuring out how to combat the feeling of unworthiness. All I have are these words, my experiences, and this affirmation  “I am worthy just because I exist and I will always be worthy just because I Am. ” I hope to say this when I want to push myself past where I should be, when my health isn’t the best and I need assistance on bad days, when I need to sleep instead of working, when I need to retreat, when I need to take a hiatus because life is hard. I am worthy. I am worthy. I am worthy just because I AM.

 

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You are worthy too, just because you are.

 

Come shine with me and welcome back! 

How I Got Over: Lauren Seahorn

I got to chat with a good friend of mine about her journey. Here is the first installment of How I Got Over, a monthly series that highlights people of Color and how they got over. I believe that we all have the ability to rise above our past pain and trauma. I am interested in seeing how others got over as an inspiration, a bit of wisdom, and comfort. 

 

KC: Okay so boom...Who are you at this very moment?

LS: I'm....figuring that out day by day. I thought I knew who I was beyond the roles I occupy, but WHEW the universe has shown me that I don't yet all the way know. i am, however, a mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, and a community builder.

KC: Totally understandable. It feels like a never-ending journey huh?

LS: Absolutely. it feels like once I've figured something out, 10 more things need to be unlearned or revisited. IT NEVER STOPS lol

KC: Are you who you thought you’d be? Why or Why not?

LS: When I look back to when I was a kid, thinking of who I'd be when I grew up.... I'd say I'm close. I knew I always wanted to be married and to be a mom, so that's worked in my favor. as a kid, I always thought I'd be a writer or a teacher, and well..............apparently I do both of those things, just not in a traditional way. I saw myself being a lot more confident in myself than I am at this moment, but that's a work in progress.

KC: Wow, you've achieved some of your goals, that's amazing. How do you teach and write? Sounds fulfilling.

LS: It's crazy, I never thought of being a mom and a wife as goals that I had, but.......I thought wrong LOL. They really were, and I know that being a family woman is part of what I was brought here to do. I look at myself as a teacher and writer in a non-traditional sense. With my forthcoming business/group Salve for Your Wound, I'm positioning myself as being a mediator of sorts...with a blog to boot. That'll give me the space to write about what I see fit as it relates to self-healing and healing collectively, and some of those blog posts will teach someone something, I'm sure. Eventually, I'd like to teach my own classes......about what, I'm not sure yet, but there's something brewing in the back of my head.

KC: Lauren, you are a true light. It's a blessing to not only know you but to hear your story. I like to think that we all rise above. Rise above past pain, trauma, and hurt through our light and darkness. So, how did you get over?

LS:  The feeling is mutual, Ka'Lyn.  I'd like to say that I just....got over, but I know that's not the truth. The negative things that shaped me the most were the sexual abuse I endured and the loss of 3 of the most important people in my life, all before the age of 16. It took until I was 30 (so just LAST YEAR) to be free of the shame and guilt that came with those things. It took a lot of turning the mirror inward...looking to see where I could and still can reclaim some of my power and take it back from those that sought to destroy me. It took the love of amazing women in my life to be safe spaces when I needed somewhere to land. It took the love of my now husband, who saw me through some of the darkest times in my life, and reminded me that I had everything I needed within myself to overcome absolutely anything life threw at me. And it took looking in my daughter's face - to know that I am leading her by my example, and she deserves to see her mother overcome and work with her darkness, rather than to pretend it doesn't exist. 

KC: PROFOUND and so real. It really warms my heart to know that you use your daughter a guide in a way. Last question or statement or whatever lol. My blog is called You Are A Light because I believe that we have the power within ourselves to shine. So, share your light (quote, song, lyric, photo, memory,etc.)
   

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,Courage to change the things I can,And wisdom to know the difference..png

Lauren's  Light:

I really do it all for my team. Us 3. And well...as soon as you asked that, the lyric "there are times...when you'll need someone...I will be by your side....there is a light, that shines...special for you and me..." popped into my head, so I'll go with that. I really do live by that with all my friends, my family, and the people in my group. I'll be there when you need me. 

 

 

Lauren's message was quite powerful. How have you gotten over? Comment below!

 

Come shine with me!

A Mindset of Discipline (Part One)

I try my hardest to be as organized as possible. I have planners galore, calendar notifications, and apps to assist me in my type a-ish ways. The issue isn’t organizing. The issue for me has always been time management. 

Time management is such a key role in really getting shit done. You can write as many to-do lists as you want but if your time management skills are lackluster you will suffer. I know I have suffered greatly. I always got things done but the quality wasn’t half as great as it should have been – in my honest opinion.

There are some things that may flourish under pressure but that type of stress and anxiety can be…team too much. In 2018 I vowed to take on a new level of discipline in my everyday life. Discipline is what helps me have a better grasp at time management. Discipline is literally the glue that holds all that shit together. Without it things can/will fall apart.

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So, we are 24 days into the New Year and I have been the most organized in my entire life and I have been really utilizing my 24 hours. My discipline has been extremely on point and I am really proud of myself.  This is all wonderful but it is not easy.

Because I have allowed myself to slack off on things in the past like work, school, self-care, even this blog….this has been a challenge. Being consistent with my discipline is an everyday process. I am constantly trying new things and seeing what works and what doesn’t work.

Here are some things that do not work for ya girl:

  1. Phone reminders
  2. Alarms
  3. Multiple Planners
  4. HELLLLLLLA Project Management Apps
  5. MULTIPLE Accountability groups
  6. Excessive social media use
  7. Imposter syndrome when trying to get shit done (we will talk about this another time)

In the past 24 days, I have realized that those 6 things literally slow me down. I find myself spending more time focused on those things rather than getting shit done. 

Here are some things that do work for ya girl:

  1. ONE planner that I spend every Sunday decorating & organizing for the week
  2.   Trello – This is a project management tool that allows you to create different boards for different projects. I have boards for my finances, classes I teach, personal projects, blogs, and ideas. There is an app for your phone as well.
  3.   Forest App - This app has a Google Chrome extension as well, it allows you to blacklist websites (on chrome) and limits phone use so that you can get things done while planting trees.
  4.   Perspective: Daily Journal App – This has helped me track my moods and journal daily about my day. It is very helpful for those with mental illnesses and any type of chronic illnesses, too. I am able to track my food intake for my autoimmune disease & mental illness, symptoms, and my pain levels.

It may not seem like much but those 4 things have literally kept me in check this month. I realized that sometimes all it takes is a few things to create a mindset of discipline.  I can see the difference in how I work day-to-day. I feel more balanced and grounded.

The feeling of discipline, so far, has provided me with so much extra time to do things like reading, writing, and even meditating more. I low-key find myself feeling like I have Beyoncé’s 24 hours daily because I get so much done without feeling super overwhelmed all the time.

This is only part one of my whole new mindset of discipline blog post. I will be coming back in a few months to talk about discipline in my spiritual practice. I am hoping that in 2018 we are all able to provide ourselves with the discipline in our lives that we deserve.

 

What are some of your favorite ways to stay on track? Do you notice that when you are not being disciplined in your days that shit goes left?

Comment below!

 

 

Come shine with me!

Friendships and Friendshits

FIRST THINGS FIRST -- HAPPY NEW YEAR! I MISSED Y'ALL!

 

I went to an event last Saturday that was an open discussion on a variety of topics. There were women from all different backgrounds there but we all shared one common thing, our Blackness. It was beautiful to be in a room full of women who looked like me, knew what my “looks” meant, and would say “girllll” in unison like a choir. One topic that we talked about that stood out to me most was friendship.

The question went something like this “How important is it to have friends? Do you need friends to live?” The faces across the room said many different things before our lips could even speak. Some said, “What does this even mean?” other faces said “Ummm yeah girl!” and then there were faces that said “What friends?”. The faces invited a very interesting conversation. The panelists all agreed that friendship is important and that we should all have a sister circle, even if it’s small. The audience had other thoughts. Some agreed, some expressed their own situations with toxic friendships, and some just remained silent.

Friendships are so interesting. The definition is not just what we see on dictionary.com , it encompasses our experiences, expectations, and aspirations. It embodies what we value and what we will not put up with. I was so surprised to see that my poll on twitter unanimously had 50+ votes that basically said that we need to have a real ass talk about healthy friendships.

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Clearly, we all have had our share of shitty friendships. So what I have done is broken down friendships into four sections. Now, these are the things I think are important in building and maintaining healthy friendships. There are so many more things to add but I am going to focus on communication, discernment, forgiveness, and  “the reality”.

Communication: Okay, so boom, we suck at communicating. It’s a fact. Everyone has their own way of expressing themselves and sometimes our communication skills cause the biggest problems in our friendships.

Passive aggressiveness hands down can take a situation from solvable with a quick talk to not speaking to someone for years OR it can lead to bottling up your emotions until you burst. That shit is not fun.

 In my own failed friendships, I have noticed that lackluster communication, not having HONEST communication, is usually why shit doesn’t work out. If there is a problem, someone either doesn’t say anything or the receiver doesn’t want to hear what they have to say. This shit is also not fun.

In order to grow in your friendships, you must tend to the garden in your friendships. Are you asking questions? Are you expressing your dislikes with grace and compassion? Are you actually listening or waiting to project your own issues onto them? Your friend is not your therapist, your punching bag, or your journal.  Your friend should be someone you can confide in for comfort and support and you should be doing the same.

Forgiveness: Often times when someone does something we don’t like we don’t always tell them and if we do we may meet them with anger, all bad. We get upset, become passive aggressive, or we shut down. That’s not only unfair to you; it’s unfair to your friend.  People can’t apologize for things they don’t know that hurt you. Your friends are also not mind readers.

When I was a preschool teacher I would always encourage my students to use their words to express how they feel. I would tell them to use “I feel ____ “ statements.  I’ve noticed, in my own friendships, that I am guilty of not always telling my friends when they hurt me. Over the years and through some failed friendships I realized that when I didn't not speak up, things couldn’t be resolved.

 Speaking up about what hurts has made it easier for me to forgive. It has also made it easier for me to discern when it’s time to let go. You can forgive a friend and end the friendship too. Forgiveness isn’t a band-aid for a shitty friendship. Forgiveness is for you, honestly. It’s saying that you have healed from the situation and you are releasing that pain. Releasing that pain may come with realizing that you must release that entire friendship or it may make the friendship even stronger but forgiveness must happen.

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Your friends are humans and humans make mistakes. Sometimes a friend may say something that triggers something in you they knew nothing about. Talk to them, tell them how you feel, forgive them and based on how that conversation goes – proceed accordingly.

Discernment:  I honestly sat on this one for days. Discernment is hands down a thing that we are always polishing and learning how to do better each day. Sometimes we ignore it. Shit, I know I have. Ignoring it is how I ended up in some toxic friendships for years and didn’t even realize it until I was drained and ready to fight everybody.  We have to listen to our gut. We have to practice discernment in our friendships daily. Earlier I talked about letting go and discernment is very helpful in making that decision.

 Being friends with someone for 15 years is nice but if that friendship involves a level of repetitive drama that literally drains you, let that shit go. Your discernment 15 years ago is not the same as it is now. Some friends you met back in 2017 need to be let go too. Friendships evolve and some dissipate. It is O K A Y. Your intuition and gut are the first red flag, listen to it.

Discernment is also a reminder to mind your business. It’s very easy to want to provide your friend with unsolicited advice, suggestions, and things they didn’t ask for. It’s our way of showing we care but sometimes being quiet, listening, and minding our business is showing we care,too. We can often project what we think would work for our friend's situation because it worked for us. I, too, am guilty of not minding my business in the past and doing too much. Luckily, I have learned to listen to my gut and to be an active listener to my friends.

“The Reality”: I hate to say this, actually I don’t, but some of us are bad friends. That is the reality, the tea, the shade, the whatever you want to call it.  The things we demand from others we are not even providing.  One thing I also remembered being told growing up was “if you have a problem with all your friends then maybe…JUST MAYBE…you are the problem”. Don’t shoot the messenger, I am just telling you what I was told.

We often forget that we can be the problem in our toxic friendships. It’s not always them, it’s you, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. If you want to have healthier friendships, start with what type of friend you are vs. the type of friend you want to have. What you want in a friendship should also be what you are bringing to the friendship. You can’t show up at the dinner table with your fork, plate, and cup but expect your friend to provide all of the food that is needed to nourish that friendship. Show up for your friends, be present, and pour into them as they pour into you. Everyone’s glass should be getting refilled at the same damn time.

It sucks to know that you may be the problem but sometimes we can be shitty friends because of our own mess. We have to turn the mirror on ourselves and really learn how to be a good friend and what being a friend means to us. You can go from being a shitty friend to being a good friend with work. Evaluate your past friendships and see if there was a common thing that went left, hold yourself accountable, and work on changing the parts of you that may be causing the toxicity in your relationships.

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Whew, okay, that was a self-drag in four parts. I have been on the good side and the shitty side of friendships. I have been a terrible friend and I have grown to become a better friend. I have let people go and have been let go. It’s never an easy process and yes it hurts terribly but it happens.

What are 4 things that you think are important to remember in a friendship?  Comment below and let me know!

 

Come shine with me!

Perform No More

This is the time of year where everyone is figuring out what they have accomplished, going over mistakes they made, and trying to figure out what’s the big goal for next year. There will be vision board parties, new year new me posts on IG, and think-pieces about what to bring into 2018 and what to leave behind in 2017. All of these have a purpose and a place. All of these have significance to someone.

Throughout the year I have tried to find ways to better myself. I have done this through many different modes -- therapy, exercise, diet, friendships, healing, writing, dancing, reading, studying, retreating, reinventing myself..all necessary. One thing I can say I haven’t done is mastered self-preservation. I have found many ways to stay afloat and to exist but I can be honest and say that I have neglected certain things about myself that I need to preserve.

Self-preservation is often tied to extreme things like death or just staying alive.Then there is the flip-side where it can be seen as a way to protect oneself from the outside world and societal/systemic schools of thought that can break a person down. Doing just enough to not end up hurt physically but what about the mind. The mind needs preservation too.

I had a good friend tell me that my “form of self-care was making sure others were doing self-care but what about me?”. Sometimes we can get into the cycles and rhythms of helping others preserve themselves and ignoring the glaring red flags in our mind that we need to preserve ourselves first.

How does this happen? I believe it stems from the need to feel needed, the desire to be wanted, the eagerness to make sure others are doing well. Nothing is wrong with this but in order to really be of service to others, we must first be of service to ourselves.

I had to ask myself the hard-hitting questions. “Are you happy?” “How do you feel physically vs mentally vs emotionally?” “When you wake up do you feel ready for the day?” Let’s just say the answers were not all “love and light” like one would expect. I spent most of my year so concerned with my presentation that I didn’t take time to work on my preservation.

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Because of this, I got sick, a lot, and none of my remedies were working as well or as quickly. My lack of mental preservation impacted my physical body. So, I had to do some digging. I had to figure out what I needed to do in order to preserve myself.

I had to first realize that my lack of care for myself was going to kill me and that I really have a lot of work to do in the “attempting to live for others and be perfect” department. Shit can be so toxic and foolish. This I know.  I had to secondly realize that the more I ignored the signs of letting go of things the more difficult it would be to really be open to my blessings. And lastly….I had to quit my job.

From here I am not sure of a lot of things but the one thing I am sure of...is my decisions. I know that in order for me to continue to shine I cannot present instead of preserving. I cannot tell others to shine their light if I continue to let my own light dim when I feel weak or scared. This isn’t an empowerment piece, it’s a redirection piece. Shit, we all have moments where we forget how to take care of ourselves. This was my moment of many.

New year new me? Nope. New year, same me, better observation of self, less presenting for others, and grave preservation of self as a WHOLE.

 

How do you plan to preserve yourself moving forward?

 

Come shine with me!

That New New

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This blog has been pushing along for almost 4 months now. I am so amazed and humbled to be able to provide content that resonates with my spirit and the spirit of others. I have been working on trying to create more content and things that will engage you and encourage you. 

The creation of this blog happened literally during a meditation session I did with myself. I found myself feeling inadequate in many ways and I  felt like I needed to ground myself and allow my heart to guide me. So I did. That guidance led me to this blog. The name You Are A Light stemmed from others reminding me that I was a light in their lives and that always made me feel so loved. I realized that I was only a light because of how brightly they shined on me. It was a reflection of their light and then a reflection of mine.

I had a great talk with someone and we brainstormed about ways to make our blogs better. She gave me so many great ideas and I am so excited to reveal what I have been working on for 2018. 

Here we gooooo

  • The Confidence Corner: Okay, so boom, I do a lot of readings, intuitive counseling, and advice giving to those I love. I value being compassionate and willing to lend an ear to those who need me and providing positive advice to those who request it of me. I have decided to start this new section of my blog so that I can be of service to anyone who needs some unbiased positive reinforcement. The Confidence Corner is an anonymous question -- answer section where I will provide advice and suggestions for our day to day problems. It's like Dear Abby but not really. My goal is to uplift and encourage. 
  • How I Got Over: Every month starting in January I will be featuring women and men who have overcome something through a means of therapy, writing, art, entrepreneurship, etc. These short interviews will allow them to tell their story but also provide wisdom for all of us who can relate to them and what they have been through.
  • Light-Mail: I am starting an email chain. Yeah, you read that right.  Every month I will choose 5 subscribers to start an email chain with me. The chain will go a little something like this: I will send an encouraging email to someone, they will send it on to the next, and so on, and so on, until the chain comes back to me. I am doing this so that we can keep the #LIGHTSHOW going by giving flowers to people we may or may not know. It is completely optional, of course. 

I am super excited to start 2018 with these new ideas and I hope that they will enhance your experience whenever you come to my blog. Do you have any ideas or things you'd like to see me do next year on here? Comment below or email me! I would LOVE to hear your ideas! This is OUR blog so I have to make sure we are alllllll benefiting from it.

 

 

Come shine with me!

DIY #SelfCareSunday

My Beautiful Light...

I hope this week has been just as beautiful as you are. To get you through the next week, here's a #SelfCareSunday tip that I like to use.

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Baths are one of my favorite free self-care things to do. They can be relaxing and calming, especially after a long day. I have always looked at baths as a way to renew myself and release my problems. I make every bathtime special by having my favorite candles, music, and maybe even a glass of wine. This week I decided to take time and create something to enhance my baths. 

 

Baths are my greatest form of self-care and where my best ideas come to light. It’s also where I lay my burdens down and release my pain. It cleanses my spirit and renews my soul. Every..single...time.

I have an auto-immune skin disease so taking baths is soothing to my skin. I usually add lavender, coconut oil, and Epsom salt. It's always soothing but I felt like there had to be a way to combine these things into a bath melt. I headed to my favorite app, Pinterest, to find out if this was indeed a thing...IT WAS. So I took to being a DIYer again and made my own. 

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I got my ingredients together (most I already had or ordered from Amazon. S/O to Prime)! It was super simple to make and has made bathtime that much easier. Pinterest had a slew of bath melt recipes and I plan on experimenting more.

Do you have any bathtime essentials? If so, comment below! I am always looking for ways to make my routine baths even better. 

It's really a  blessing how something as simple as a hot bath can relax the body,clear the mind, and calm the spirit. 

Welcome to the #LIGHTSHOW

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Compliments are my favorite gift to give. I enjoy making others smile by pointing out the things I admire about them. It can be their smile, style, resilience, intelligence and even their laugh. If I love it, more than likely, I will compliment it. I get joy from watching the light of others beam onto me and how their smiles radiate when I pay them a compliment. That genuine exchange is my favorite form of communication.

It’s so easy to find the good in others and compliment them but at times I find myself struggling to pay myself compliments. Often times we are so busy with the hustle and bustle of the day that we forget to pat ourselves on the back for our achievements. We forget to encourage ourselves and extend kindness.

I am extremely hard on myself, imposter syndrome always catches me slippin’.  I find myself doubting my worth and my work. We can be our worst critics, right? 

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This blog post is a little different, in that, it is a challenge to my readers. I want you all to give yourself the flowers.

Let me explain.

I call this the #LightShow challenge. What we are going to do will bring us so much joy, I promise. On December 1st I want you to write yourself a letter. Encourage yourself, motivate yourself, and pay yourself some damn compliments. In 30 days we will open our letters together. That day, December 31st, 2017, will be our #LightShow. We will shine our lights back onto ourselves so as we embark on 2018 we can illuminate our world. You don’t have to post your letter, you don’t have to even tell me you did it, I just think you deserve to get some flowers.

#LightShow is something that I have been testing on myself in the last 2 months. I started off with texts to myself, then I did emails, and now I, too, will be doing the letter challenge. It has made a world of difference on those days when I need a reminder of who the fuck I AM.

If you are on social media use the hashtag #LightShow when you want to give yourself some flowers. Self-Praise is the BEST praise. Word to @heyfranhey. I am so excited to radiate with you on December 31st, 2017. Let’s light this shit up and relish in our greatness, together!

Come shine with me!