Give. Yourself. Time.

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Freedman’s Mill Park, Gwinnett County Georgia. An old Gristmill along the Alcovy River.

After two shocking celebrity suicides within one week and several not-so-famous deaths about a month or so later, I began thinking more about mental health.

Mental health is a taboo that many would rather dance around than approach it head-on.  Naturally, pointing the finger at others is easier than examining one’s own mental health.

This post sat in my “draft” box for weeks over a month.  Ongoing edits, determining if the piece is worth publishing, and sprinkled with a little fear of what you will think (of me).  While pondering and editing, I learned of yet another suicide from a close friend, so I decided to go with it.

For anyone who has never experienced depression, it is probably easy to misunderstand the complexities of a mental health disorder. I have overheard comments from others who emphatically purport that suicide is a selfish act. However, I think the statement is selfish, troublesome, and demonstrates a lack of empathy and a lack of knowledge with respect to mental health and suicide. It’s proof that that people really don’t understand the scope of the problem.

People who suffer from depression or die from suicide are worthy of empathy, compassion, and love.

My thoughts about the people who took their lives are that,

They must have been emotionally and mentally broken. They must have experienced an insurmountable amount of agony. They must have been badly hurting. They must have felt helpless. Did the person have second thoughts? They must have believed their world would be better on the other side. They must have taken a considerable amount of time to make the decision. I cannot imagine their pain.

Like you, I have many questions. An extension of empathy for anyone dealing with depression led me to think long and hard. To consider if I had ever been in such a dark place. Did I ever experience depression? My immediate response was no.  No, because the face of depression did not look like me.

However, I did recall a hectic time in my life.  I worked full-time in midlevel management, I was a college student commuting an hour away from home and from work, sometimes twice a day (before and after work).

My multiple roles as wife to a supportive husband and mother to a pre-teen daughter were relationships that I cherished.

At times, my commitment to my family, career, and education was suffocating because I never came up for air.

Unfortunately, I could not see myself drowning with self-inflicted obligations. Perhaps I overcompensated for being away from home.

No one was aware of how overwhelmed I felt because I appeared to be just another resilient and strong black woman who was present to support, help, and encourage everyone else…but myself.  I know one when I see one.  My mother was one and her mother who nurtured 13 children was one.  My grandmother raised nine strong women.

Several of my friends are that black woman too.  I am not being dismissive of white women, I just can’t speak for one that I am not but I’m certain this post will resonate with my white and brown friends too.  Anyways I wholeheartedly bought into the stereotype of the Strong Black Women.

Some of us (black women) talk and jive amongst ourselves. We bond over personal war stories like we earned medals of honor. We toot-our-horns about how we persevered through the toughest of times without the likes of Prozac and other pills.

Looking back at that time, I did not want my family to sacrifice or suffer because of my personal and professional goals.  Today I know this way of thinking is severely flawed, and harmful to my mental health and well-being. I was teaching my daughter bad habitude.  Our home would have survived just fine with dusty floors, a pile or two of dirty laundry, and dust coated coffee tables. What was I thinking? Sigh!

Although it’s been over 25 years, I recall on one occasion while driving to a workshop in Trenton. I was cruising on the Garden State Parkway passing a large body of water in Raritan, NJ. Although I don’t recall being stressed, sad, depressed or angered by any particular event, for a moment, I impulsively thought to pull the car over and jump. Yessss, I said it!  Me. The happy one. At that moment, the word suicide never came to mind. I remember feeling tired. Not sleep deprived tired but simply tired from doing it all. Tired of guiltily doing too much.

During my drives to/from the university, on at least three occasions, similar and random thoughts flashed in mind.

While driving at a high rate of speed, simply turn the wheel in the right direction and I could rest. Sigh. 😦 

I have never shared this with anyone. If you know me, you are probably surprised. I was happy. I wasn’t using drugs or drinking. My marriage was intact. My child was healthy and doing okay. Life was good, or so I thought. I was employed and liked my job. I wasn’t dealing with financial problems.  I know know,

I was just doing too damned much.

Perhaps I was unaware of the fact that I was experiencing bouts of depression. Maybe I was ignorant to the face of depression.  Maybe it wasn’t depression.  Perhaps I was just overwhelmed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports, depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life.  So what did I experience?  More importantly, what if I had acted on my sudden impulse to do the unthinkable?  What about those who did and died?  I pose a few questions but have more. What I know is this.

I didn’t talk about my torrent feelings.

As a child, I learned from adults that you don’t talk about feeling overwhelmed.

I was raised to handle my business.

Don’t complain.

Don’t Wine.

Don’t Cry.

Put your big girl panties on and handle your shit.

Why didn’t I speak up about my feelings?  Probably from fear of looking weak. What’s bad about being weak?  Nothing!  It is a state of needing help.  Weak is fatigue, exhaustion, powerless, fragile, unsteady, and unstable.  None of which one should be ashamed of.

I never saw anyone in my family and tight-knit community ask for help.  You endure.  End of discussion. We must unlearn and unteach this behavior for ourselves and for everyone around us.  It is detrimental to our health.

Ages ago, I don’t know what I thought about depression. Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, I think it was treated privately with medication and whispered about.  Depression facts, according to (WHO) :

  • Worldwide more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression 
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.
  • Depressive episodes can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe.
  • As of March 2017, the number of people suffering from depression increased 18% from 2005-2015.
  • Depression is a common mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that people normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for 14 days or longer.
  • More women are affected by depression than men.

Although I did not suffer from a classic case of depression, I now realize that I still needed and should have sought professional help. I should have taken a break from my responsibilities.  I am thankful for my network of family and friends, who supported and encouraged me to follow my dream.  Without them, I would have never earned my degree.  In retrospect, I learned much from my experience.  The number one lesson I learned–Don’t ever stretch myself that thin again. Period.  The purpose of sharing my story is to help others.

I was in a hurry.  The rush compromised my quality of life and caused me to miss out on important time with my family.  In life, we are supposed to enjoy our journey.  Recently I saw an image that illustrated a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.  The caption read, Give. Yourself. Time.

Now, I do just that.  I take my time and understand that, as long as I pace myself while working toward my goals, I will accomplish them when it’s meant to be. Romans 12:12 reminds us, Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 

Hurdles and hiccups serve a purpose and growth evolve through all struggles.  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4 ).

To prevent feeling overwhelmed, I carefully pick and choose my activities.  I think long and hard before taking on commitments, and when I do, it’s because I choose to NOT because I feel obligated to do so.  I don’t let anyone guilt me into doing anything I don’t want to do. Saying no becomes easier with frequency.  🙂  Saying yes to what you love is more fun.

The videos in this post are from a family excursion to a nearby park. The stroll through the park didn’t cost a dime but the hours spent with my husband and children were worth a million bucks.

Now I live a simpler and more purposeful life. My life isn’t perfect but it is a lot less complicated. Having large windows of downtime is wonderful.  I still have goals but the difference is, I take my time. I have quiet time.  I listen to the birds sing in the morning and the noise of the bugs at night.  My teen son participates in sports, but don’t look for me at the concession stand before, during, or after a game. I read more and stress less. Lastly, I shifted gears and have made a major career change.  I haven’t found my new career niche yet but in due time, I will.  Until that time, I am enjoying my journey and hope that you are enjoying yours.

Peace and love and remember to Give. Yourself. Time.

Smooches! 🙂

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Getting Help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-8255

Youth

LGBTQ+

WHO Mental Health Management

Mental Health

National Institute of Mental Health

Mental Health Quiz

Center for Disease Control and Prevention


Celebrating 30 Years of Pure Love!

Friendship. Dating. Relationships. Marriage. Their depth and meaning seem unrelated to when I met my husband 36 years ago.

Cell phones, smartphones, social media, dating websites, and the internet–they did not exist nor did they complicate or interfere in relationships.  Lives were more private.  Sharing too much (or any) personal information was taboo.   You only knew what others told you.  It was up to you to believe the story.

Weddings were less constructive but still intimate.  Today the process, even leading up to the big day is a professional production that costs thousands of dollars. The average cost of a wedding has skyrocketed.

To be honest with you, I often wonder who is the production for?  Is it for bragging rights and to galvanize wedding guests? Is the goal to outdo other couples?

The more important question I ask is, are the bride and groom willing to commit to the grit and tenacity needed to sustain a long-term relationship? Further discussions for the bride and groom are:

  1. What do you know about your partner/bride/groom’s family history? Have you met their family?  Do family values align? Do you like your partner’s family?
  2. What are your values? You must know know values before you can question his/hers.
  3. Do you want children?  Does your mate want children? If so, how many?
  4. Do you agree on the choice to have or not to have children and if not, are you willing to accept it?  Can you both accept opposing views on children? Note: You can’t change him/her!
  5. If you chose to have children, will they attend private school, public school, boarding school, or will the child(ren) be homeschooled?
  6. How will the children be disciplined?
  7. What do you believe about religion?
  8. Is your partner an atheist or agnostic? Do they believe in God, Allah, Buddha, or another higher power? How will the kids be raised?
  9. Where will you live? Close to family or away? City or suburbs?
  10. Will both of you work?  Who earns more money? Does it matter who’s salary is greater?
  11. Is one person’s career more important than the other?
  12. Is anyone bring debt to the relationship?  Who and how much?
  13. . Do you know your credit score? How about your son-to-be’s score?
  14. Do they have a child or children from a previous relationship?
  15. Child support?  Alimony? How much?
  16. What do you know about their health? Are there family health issues that you should know about?
  17. What are their personal and professional goals?
  18. What motivates them? What motives you?
  19. Did previous relationships/marriage fail? Why? Cheating? Adultery?
  20. What do you know about yourself and your personality type? Are you an introvert or extrovert? What about your partner?
  21. What does forgiveness mean to you?
  22. What do sex and intimacy mean to you? What does sex mean to your partner?  Do you like it? Does your partner like it? What are their sexual expectations? Do they align with yours? As my cousin says, “All sex ain’t good sex!”
  23. What are your attitudes toward money?
  24. Who will cook, clean, grocery shop, and handle finances?
  25. Will you have separate or joint bank accounts?

I have known many marriages to end over some of the above issues.

My husband and I met at ages 17 & 19.  We talked about many topics on the list but not everything and struggled with other issues.

Thanks to God, luck, maturity, and a handful smart folks around us, today we celebrate 30 years of marriage. The years were good. On a few occasions, I felt like we were drifting apart; however, before we stayed too far, we got back on track. When your mate is oblivious to trouble in paradise, you gotta let them know and visa verse.

Situations that sent me into a tirade years ago I now laugh at. No longer do I sweat the dumb shit. I’ve learned to say fuck it and move on and without the attitude.  I see my husband for whom he is not whom I want him to be.  I’ve accepted the good, bad, ugly, and the wonderful and the same for him.

Due to a health scare, nearly two weeks ago, I thought I was going to lose him forever. Our relationship passed before my eyes. Loss of our friendship and the thought of not making love to him one last time freaked me out. I had to remind myself to breathe and to think.

If have been married for any length of time, you know that marriage is a full-time job. Please feel free to comment and fill in the cracks where I missed.

If you are a newbie to the game, you might want to save this post and reread it and again and assess where you are in your marriage. If you are in a relationship and are pondering marriage, print out the list of questions and begin your work.

I can endlessly talk and write about marriage and relationships. My chatter about marriage is not to boast, because some marriages survive 30 years but demise before or after 40. You’re never safe in the marriage game. My ramblings are to help others.

Marriages are rarely given the chance. Couples give up on their marriages too soon and in some cases they give up because they never really knew the other. The fakeness of the honeymoon stage have couples trippin’ over stuff that ain’t real. In other cases, the signs are present in the person, but the partner either sees the behavior as cute or something they think they can change. Nope! The marriage takes place and ish begins to jump off.

We celebrate our 30 years by relaxing on the beach. We both enjoy the beach and never bought into what you’re “supposed” to do on specific anniversary date. We think of today and our four-day getaway as wellness days for our marriage.

Today I also give thanks to God for bringing us through teen-hood to full-fledge adulthood. Our friendship spans 36-years and for that I am grateful.

Happy Anniversary to us! 🙂


Women’s Health Week: Taking Control of Your Health

A woman’s health is her capital

-Harriet Beecher Stowe

The business of our (women’s) health is expansive and sometimes confusing.  There is no shortage of information; however, the information is frequently contradictive.  One reason the message, although factual, is confusing is that we receive it at different ages and at various stages in our life. Sometimes the information is new while other times, you feel like, you’ve been there done that. 

A 20-year-old’s conversation with her gynecologist is not the same as a 30, 50, or 60-year-old.  Questions, conversations, and needs are not the same. My chat with my MD’s aren’t even close to my 29-year-old daughter’s discussion with her doctors.

So when I learned that National Women’s Health Week was this week (May 13th – 19th), I felt the need to share the info with you.

By the time, I break down all the facts, the week will be over. Instead of doing that, I am providing the link here for you.

Make it a priority this week or weekend to visit the website of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.  Read the article, What steps can you take for better health?

Once you visit the website, select your age group and read the post to learn what you can do daily to maintain good health, conversations to have with your doctor, and a helpful list of test to ask your physician about.

An important topic to also review with your doctor is nutrition.  Most general practitioners are not nutritionists, but they should be able to refer you to one.

If you follow this blog, you know that October last year, I decided to convert to a Vegan lifestyle.

My recent blood test was mostly normal except my cholesterol was slightly high.  I am hoping the doctor, a nutritionist, and some research (on my part) will help me to make sense of this surprise.  My high cholesterol could be hereditary, my age, or perhaps a problem with my diet.  I don’t know yet.

Recently I read a blurb that suggested a possible relationship between gluten and high cholesterol, but I am not ready to jump on that bandwagon yet.  I need to do my research. Remember, anyone can publish anything on the net.  Do your research.

If you or someone you love suffer from high cholesterol, heart disease, or related, I urge you to also visit the sites below.  Doctors are trained professionals but I am also a firm believer in empowering one’s self.   The more informed you are about your health, the better you are able to communicate with your doctor, which will result in you making well-informed decisions about your health.

American Heart Association

Cardio Smart American College of Cardiology Foundation

FH Foundation (Familial hypercholesterolemia)

Mended Hearts

Women Heart Foundation

Wellness includes your physical health. Throughout our days, weeks, months, etc…, we play multiple roles.  Please don’t allow your busy schedule to validate neglecting your health.  Cross an item or two off of your to-do list and add your health to the top of your list. You matter and your health matters most.

 

 

 

 

 


Environmental Wellness: How Fit Is Your Home?

img_8951The recent purchase of a gorgeous fern got me to thinking about the environmental wellness in my home.

Environmental wellness (EW) supports and promotes healthy living. It is the quality of the habitat at home, school, the community, and pretty much every space you encounter.

The way you interact with nature and the personal environment can either create harmony with the earth and the environment or do harm to both.

Consider the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food and the beverages you consume. Environmental Wellness bolsters wellness by striving to limit our exposure to hazards that are physical, chemical, and biological in our environment.

Your home is sacred. If you have children in your home, studies and research show that your child’s development can be impacted by daily exposure to harmful elements.  Adults and children exposed to lead-based, which was banned in the U.S. in 1978 (but is still around), can result in lead poisoning. However,  it’s not limited to paint.  Lead sometimes can also be found in:

Soil. Lead particles from leaded gasoline or paint settle on soil and can last years. Lead-contaminated soil is still a major problem around highways and in some urban settings. Some soil close to walls of older houses contains lead.

Household dust. Household dust can contain lead from lead paint chips or from contaminated soil brought in from outside.

Pottery. Glazes found on some ceramics, china and porcelain can contain lead that can leach into food served or stored in the pottery.

Toys. Lead is sometimes found in toys and other products produced abroad.
Cosmetics. Tiro, an eye cosmetic from Nigeria, has been linked to lead poisoning.

Herbal or folk remedies. Lead poisoning has been linked to greta and azarcon, traditional Hispanic medicines, as well as some from India, China and other countries.

Mexican candy. Tamarind, an ingredient used in some candies made in Mexico, might contain lead.

Lead bullets. Time spent at firing ranges can lead to exposure.

Occupations. People are exposed to lead and can bring it home on their clothes when they work in auto repair, mining, pipe fitting, battery manufacturing, painting, construction and certain other fields.

Source:  Mayo Clinic

You can eat organic food, do yoga, practice meditation, manage your stress, exercise, get plenty of sleep, drink water, complete all your annual doctor visits, but the environment in your home or even work can still damage you and your family’s health.

I am not paranoid and don’t want to get you there either. I’m merely pointing out factors that you may not have considered in your home that can impact your well-being.

So.  With that said, other common environmental contaminants that can railroad your health and wellness in your home are:

*Invisible Killers!  They are tasteless, colorless, and odorless.

What’s the takeaway?

As you would do maintenance on your body, you should do the same for your home.  Here are few ideas:

  • Wood burning fireplaces – Two words: 1. wood quality 2. cleaning  Here’s a link with excellent tips. 
  • With regards to Bedbugs, personally, I NEVER sit on my bed or bedroom furniture with street clothes, but here’s an official list from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on how to protect your home from those nasty critters.
  • Invest in a carbon monoxide detector(s).  If it operates on batteries, make sure you replace the batteries yearly, as with your smoke detectors.
  • To minimize the concentration of VOC’s, try to use non-toxic products for your home such as the 27 recipes on this list.
  • Replace the air filters in your home.  Depending on variables such as pets, home location (city vs. suburban), the number of residents, smokers, non-smokers, primary home versus vacation home, etc… the vents may need to be changed more frequently.
  • Take note of where your fresh produce is coming from.  Try to buy produce grown in the U.S. To combat costs, try to tailor your use to seasonal fruit and vegetables.  You can also start your own garden, which is a great way to prevent ingesting pesticides. If space is limited, check out vertical gardens; they are very cool. Pinterest has a plethora of ideas too!
  • I once was heavily into burning incense and candles but, for the past 5 years or so, I’ve fallen in love using essential oils with a diffuser. The quality of incense varies, and the dust from them got on my nerves.  Also forgetting to blow out candles was dangerous.
    • The diffuser is cleaner (if you clean them) and is ideal for meditation, sleeping, the office, and even older kids’ rooms.  No flame. No smoke. No dust. I enjoy the flexibility of combining oils to help to relieve congestion and to relax at bedtimes.

When I purchased this fern, I was awed by its beauty and was undecided about where to place it, but I knew I wanted it.  My initial plan was to try out the fern in different areas.  The first test was the entryway foyer, where the plant sat overnight.

The next morning when I walked downstairs, I was tired and sleepy eyed but the vibrant beauty of the plant breathed life, joy, and love into my heart and soul, which brings me to the final point of this post.  Protect your wellness at home by giving thoughtful consideration to what you value.  Instead of filling your home with a lot of meaningless clutter, find a select few objects that absolutely warm your heart.

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Peace and light!

🙂