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

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4 Tips for Finding Balance, Peace and Success

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Are you a “Broke Brand” struggling to find balance in your life?   Chances are you might be a BB and you are unaware of your status or are too busy immersed in your daily routine to realize it.

A self-described “former Broke Brand,” Adrienne Graham wrote an informative piece on Finding Balance, Peace and Success.  I had to share this with you and hope that it does help you in some way.

4 Tips for Finding Balance, Peace and Success.

Enjoy!


A Leap of Faith

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After eight months of working ten-hour plus shifts, six-day work weeks, attending mandatory 9:00 a.m. staff meetings on my only day off, the stress and demands of my job began to take a toll on my 28-year young body. The combination of the long hours, attending evening classes at a community college, mothering a pre-school age daughter, and maintaining my young marriage, one day, it all hit me like a ton of bricks.

Literally, I was meeting with an employee. Attempting to give her an annual performance evaluation. The day, like most, had been a busy one; customer complaints, billing account issues, and more.

I was celebrated by my staff, my peers, and my General Manager for maintaining composure during the most difficult times and known for pulling solutions out of my magic hat to solve bizarre problems. They never saw me sweat. I still believe every problem/challenge has a solution.

On this day, bricks lay on my chest. I remembered taking deep yoga like breaths, confident that the pressure on my chest would disappear and not return. Dana (not her real name), didn’t recognize my discomfort. She was most likely blinded by the anticipation of receiving her overdue evaluation.

I shifted in the chair—to the right— then to the left–but no relief. As strong as my tolerance was for pain, I sat silent… surprised and unable to maintain control through the pain. Tears trickled down my checks leaving shadow like stains through my bronze foundation. The moisture flows uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Pausing… “No. I’m in pain. The pain won’t go away…”

My doctor saw me the same day. Several tests later and a few days later, I find myself angrily sitting in the examining room with my doctor. My tests (Blood, EKG, and a few others returned negative). I’m a mess, but don’t realize it… but I was about to find out.

“Your body is responding to stress young lady. Your work schedule and daily routine is affecting your health. You need to change jobs!”

I sit quietly and listen. He goes on to say more.

At that moment I feel the verge of a nervous breakdown invading my soul. My body wants to shake, convulse, fall on the floor and cry and scream. I want to tell him to go straight to hell. “Change jobs!” I snap. “Easy for you to say, DOC….TOR!!! I’m trying to get my damn education, you’ve got yours!! Asshole!”

He tells me that I need to take some time off from work and writes me a doctor’s note, which places me on immediate medical leave.

“Is he F’n kidding! I run the front office of a hotel. August is peak season. You don’t take weeks off in August.” He tells me I don’t have a choice.

I return to work and looking for the GM/Owner. He’s nowhere to be found. I clear his desk and leave the note with a request for him to call me. He NEVER called me. His only concern was hotel revenue.

During the weeks that I stayed home, I felt battered, broken, and beyond repair. My body, my mind, and my spirit were frail. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was going to fall apart. I followed doc’s orders and rested.

During my medical leave, I applied for a Training Coordinator’s position at a casino (located right next door to the hotel where I worked). I interviewed and auditioned (in August); however,  the position was offered to an in-house employee. I was given the standard, “We will keep your application on file, blah, blah, blah..”

Two weeks later I returned to work. In my mailbox was a nasty memo from my GM/Owner,

“Due to your absence, the hotel as lost X amount of dollars in revenue….” The rest is a blur!!

After careful discussion with hubby, the next day I took a leap in faith and resigned from my position. My GM wanted to know how I could  afford to quit my job without another job and insisted I work the next two weeks straight without a day off. I refused and worked my normal six-day workweek.

We took a much-needed family vacation to Disney. After returning from Disney, I decided to take a holiday seasonal job selling cosmetics at Macy’s. I previously enjoyed selling cosmetics and thought I could have fun. Fun was the motivator NOT money.

Two days before Christmas, the store is jammed packed, wall-to-wall shoppers. A girl walks up to my counter:

Girl:  Excuse me, aren’t you the lady who applied for the Trainer position back in August at Tropicana?

Me:  Umm yeah, why?

Girl:  Someone left the department and they are looking for your paperwork, but they can’t find it. Are you still interested in the job?

Me:  Yes, I am. (I wanted to say hell yeah!)

Girl: She hands me a card, writes down a number, and tells me to call the Director.

On my break I call the Director. She tells me she’ll call me back. Later that day she calls,

“Merry Christmas, the job is yours!!!”

I started my new job on January 4, 1994! It was one of the BEST career moves in my life. The normal, 9-5 like hours, weekends and holiday off, were perfect for my family and school. Starting with my attitude, everything changed for the better. I could see the shine in the sun, every detail around me became clear. I know that I became a better mother, a better wife, and a better student. I was earning substantially less money, but I was happy; happier than I’d been in a long time.

This experience taught me that sometimes in life, the path before us is unclear. Visibility may not be at it’s best; however, if you are doing good, carefully think through situations, weigh the pros and cons, and your core instincts tell you to move forward, then by all means, do it… whatever “it” is!

“Sometimes your only available transportation is leap of faith.”

Don’t sit around and wait for an ideal situation or opportunity to come, you may end up waiting forever.

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

 


Bridging the gap: one step at a time

In high school, my addiction to running started and continued to intensify as I grew older.  Thirty some years later, I haven’t shaken the addiction, but I’ve found that the emotional high that I get from running helps in other areas of my life. Running relieves stress in a positive way. Running instantly clears my mind and always helps me to find solutions to many quandaries and other things on mind. Thankfully, running keeps me fit.

When my daughter was as young as ten or maybe younger, she gingerly rode her bike alongside me as I ran.  How far?  Five miles.   You might think that’s far, but she completed the ride with ease.  Like me, her body grew conditioned to the ride.  The ride served two purposes:  1. Instead of sitting in front of the T.V., she was outside exercising taking in lots of fresh air.  2.  Most importantly, we enjoyed quality time together.  Due to work and school, quality time was a rarity, so the five-mile ride/run gave us that time.

As she grew older, she took on swimming and decided that running wasn’t her thing.  I was cool with that because I’m not big on pushing my kids into an activity where they show no interest.  Hubby and I always let our children decide which activities they wish to take part in.  Our nine-year old wants to box now, so… we’re looking for a boxing class.  Is that my first choice, NO!    But, that’s what he wants to do so, we’ll roll with it.  Where did he get boxing from?  I have no idea.

Although my daughter is older (22), we still experience peaks and valleys in our relationship.  That’s normal and typical. I’m convinced that moms and daughters have this chip special chip in our DNA.  Lol!  The chips aren’t always in sync.  When they are in sync, everything is dreamy and fabulous. But when those chips malfunction, all hell breaks loose!  Lately the chip has been in the malfunction mode, but I have faith that the chips will soon re-sync.

For the first time, at least that I can remember, we actually ran together.  We both planned an outdoor run, but were initially unaware of the others plan.  When I realized that her plan was to run outside, I invited her to run with me.

Bundled up for a run - January 2012

The air was cool, about 36 degrees and there was a moderate breeze blowing.  We adjusted our iTunes play lists and I set my MapMyRun application on my phone.  Geez!  Years ago, I’d have no clue about how technology would impact my daily jogging routine.

As we set out, step-by-step for our run, we unknowingly left our differences behind.  We shared a common goal of enjoying the afternoon sun, opening our lungs to the crisp fresh winter air, and finishing the run with a set distance in mind.

Having a lengthy relationship with running, my body is typically ready to kick into gear.  The endorphins set in and I want to eagerly glide with the wind.  Only a conditioned runner can tell you about the days when you feel like you could literally run for hours.  Remember earlier that I said that running is an addiction!  Hehe!   However, my daughter being a novice runner worked to find her rhythm and successfully ploughed forward.

Periodically I checked to make sure that she was with me and was proud of her for not giving up.  I know that she wanted to, but she pushed herself.  Out there on the street, I forgot all about our recent challenges, differences of opinions, and the like.

It wasn’t until later that I realized something.

While running, I did not allow the gap between us to become too big!  Bingo!  Monitor our relationship the same way and minimize the gap as much as possible.

Of course, the day-to-day activity in monitoring and bridging the gap is often more challenging, but in reality, I need to apply the same principles that I do when I run 13 miles–  Take one step at a time. Translation:  One day at a time, one hour at a time, and one minute at a time.  I’m committed.