Making Peace with Your Traumatic Mental Health History

Awhile back, I noticed a theme of having the courage to reach out and connect with others emerge. This month, I’d say that I saw a theme around being willing and ready to receive the help you’re asking for. And in order to do so, you have to understand that “help” can come in the form having to touch base with uncomfortable emotions and experiencing scary change that could and possibly would transform your life. 

I thought about a lot of “what ifs” 

What if your deep-rooted truth revealed that you are not a victim?

What if you are revealed to be more than a survivor? More than a conquer? More than the labels you’ve internalized and reflect back onto yourself?

I saw this simple, yet highly important message the other day via Bad Girl Mystic and thought, “now how do we take that concept and own the whole truth of it’?

I didn’t need to look any further than my own lived experience, and what I’ve encountered along the way.

I’m quickly approaching the month that will mark my 10 year anniversary in mental health recovery. And I’m not ashamed to admit…I still haven’t got it all figured it out. Of course I don’t! And not only am I okay with that, but it actually keeps me motivated to learn more about myself, how I process the world around me, and how I heal while simultaneously dealing with the constant paper cuts from varying degrees of microaggressions. I’ve come to understand that recovery and healing is a process. It is a process because there are many things we are told about who we “should” be and what healthy is or is not. We have to be almost detective-like in order to uncover what pathways are buried underneath the pathways we are acquainted with.

Imagine the type of healing we can experience when armored with truth. 

I believe making peace with the totality of who you are is key if you want to heal the self and the collective selves that make up a society. But you have to be ready and willing to do the work of healing. Because well, life is a ride.

I think it’s helpful to know that you’re going to encounter views contrary to what you thought was the “right” and perhaps only way to go about things. For instance, I only thought of depression one way…a standard westernized definition. Then I encountered a broader definition of the word. In her book, “Women of Color Talk” Dr. Angela Clack defines depression as…

“a disconnect from your authentic and true sense of self, i.e., it is an identity problem; it is a disconnection from one’s health thought life; a disconnection from one’s body and physical self; a disconnection from one’s power source, once’s connection with a higher power; a disconnection from family, friends, and other social supports necessary for successful recovery; and a disconnection from one’s sense of belonging in this world because of racial/gender/ethnic disparities.” 

Looking at depression in that way changes how I think about, and how I approach my therapeutic relationships.  

In my own book about mental health issues, I debunked the story that “cured” was this set, static destination. I began embracing the idea that a cured life was one that encompassed an ongoing act of care, concern, and responsibility. My recovery and healing process then took on new meaning. It changed my story and the type of hero I was willing to be in my own story. Hint: I became more open, honest, assertive and hopeful. 

Life became more beautiful to me.

Seeking after the truth of a “cure” made my life more meaningful, even as truth feels so elusive. Because as I seek it I realize so many things going on outside of my tunnel vision. When I look around and stop chasing the single concept of what I think I should look like when I’m “healed” or rather what I should have looked like if I wasn’t “ill”, I see that my journey in and of itself is just as awe-inspiring as my proverbial finish line. I see that my journey isn’t only my ugly past, my ACE score, that I still kinda suck at martial arts 😉 or that I still struggle with anxiety and/or depression. No, my journey is also that I am persistent, that I am resilient, that I’m growing and that I see my fears and I press on anyway. But even better, is that I am more than just the sum of happy days and trigger days. 

I love this combination of quotes by author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In her TED talk she says that,

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Then she goes on to say that, “Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but make it the definitive story of that person…Start the story with the arrows of the Native American, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story.”

The single story being told about Indigenous peoples of this land I’ve often heard (in a westerner context) is that of drunkenness and laziness. I’ve also heard a similar story about the people of African decent…I’m still not entirely sure if these stereotypes came about during or after the free and forced labor of my ancestors. Negative connotation is often a single story of poor people, people who immigrate to other countries, what said immigrants are told about the people who were already here but are scapegoated, people who work multiple jobs and haven’t received advanced degrees, people with advanced degrees who have overwhelming debt with no job or jobs with very little pay that have nothing to do with their schooling…I can go on. And when I was younger, I fell for the okie doke. I know better now. 

I learned that the single story stunts healing and growth.

I realized how harmful “if I did it so can you” can be. This is especially true when it’s used to justify (read blame) the attitude and treatment of others based on socio-economic position. I realize how harmful that is when it comes to mental health. And I see it all the time in mental health communities. “I’m better than you because I can function at a standard-enough level of “normal” AND be a contributing member of society even though I have *insert diagnoses*, and since you can’t, there’s something wrong, lazy, “bad” about you.” Not only is it harmful, it’s often times untrue and an incomplete story that disregards the entirety of one’s story. 

My nonprofit is built around the concept of serving people who are often times the so-called “high-functioning” and contributing members of society (business owners and entrepreneurs), but them creating jobs and circulating dollars in their communities isn’t their only story. Their story also tells the tales of substance abuse, work-alcoholism, chronic stress, dysfunctional upbringings, and suicides. If there’s two sides to their coin, why couldn’t there be two sides to the coin of the person who isn’t what society deems as “worthy”?

In order to make peace with a history, we cannot disregard any part of it, especially the parts that don’t fit into the narratives of what story we wish to tell so to soothe our egos, or lid a box we’ve decided to group a people in. Healing cannot happen in a singular story. Healing happens as we unpack and process the layers of many stories we’ve been told, told ourselves, and project onto others. 

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.

Donations welcomed and appreciated: This site is ads-free and runs on the sheer power of my love and determination. If what I share brings you fresh perspective, inspiration, new resources, and/or value of any kind, please consider becoming a patron of this blog with a monetary donation.




How Having a Morning Practice Strengthens My Mental Health







morning tea

Here we are, another new year and the hopes and wishes for a more evolved you. Since you’ve probably already been inundated with all kinds of ‘how to’s’ and ‘should’s’. I’m not going to even go there. Instead, I want to share with you how I do my best to start off on the “right foot” by developing a morning practice. I’ve found that incorporating a practice of consistent activities into my daily life has helped me find balance over the years. More importantly, I wanted to share how practice has given me a place to return to when everything else around me has become chaotic.

I’ve been trained in the art of “early bird gets the worm” since I was younger. I grew up in a household that followed the rule of, “if mom is up and at ‘em then we all are up and at ‘em”. And my mother was up before sunrise most days…I don’t remember her even sleeping in on the weekends. To this day, I don’t really sleep in unless I’m sick. I say all this to say, I’m a morning person. So I feel obligated to share that waking up early isn’t half the battle for me as it may be for others. 

Find Your Center

Because I’m a morning person, how I start my day plays a huge role in how the rest of my day goes. While I do have the ability to pivot for days that don’t start off so well,  it is much easier to ground myself and return back to my center when my day starts out with a focus on all that is good and lovely. Because all that is good and lovely will then become my go-to position in clutch time rather than panic and run, (or rather anxiety and procrastination). I don’t think I’m alone in hoping for a day where I’m not constantly putting out fires and trying to catch my breath. So, I’ve learned that when I start my day with ease, I go into the rest of my day feeling calm, cool, and collected, which makes me feel ready for the world. And the way I start my day became a practice.  

Proof is in the pudding

Science has been telling us for quite some time that having a routine alleviates stress and anxiety. But I believe even without the academic research, we can feel the difference when we do something with consistency and when we don’t. 

For instance, I like eating breakfast in the morning, it really is the most important meal of the day for me. If I don’t eat my breakfast (or any meal when I’m hungry) I get Hulk angry. But taking it a step further, studies show that, “missing meals, especially breakfast, leads to low blood sugar and this causes low mood, irritability and fatigue”. Feeling hangry is real ya’ll!

Find what works best for you

I think when you’re first starting to build habits it may be helpful to see what habits already come natural to you. You may be able to find gifts in the things you believe are a negative. Here’s a quick example: If you are a night owl and you have been trying your hardest to write in the morning because that’s what all your favorite influencers constantly say they do…you may be better off following the flow of your own body rhythm. Write at night, do your best and most creative work when you are at your optimally best. If it’s night, then it’s night. Here’s my personal example of a slower learning process to finding what works for me…

I already had a habit of reading books often. I love to read! However, I could not read myself back to physically fit. My physical health was the issue and I couldn’t read and then daydream my way into having the strong abs I used to have, and not being out of breath just climbing stairs. 

The problem was I couldn’t find the motivation to go to the gym. The strategy of giving myself a reward at the end of the week to convince myself to go didn’t fly. Going with a buddy, didn’t make it enjoyable or something to look forward to, and whenever I stepped foot in the gym everything just felt…not right. I attempted the gym many times and it just didn’t do it for me. What’s an ‘out of breath from stair climbing’ woman to do? 

Life shifts can come about in the most mundane of actions

So, I took what I did naturally, read – and I used my habit of reading to my advantage…instead of devouring my beloved fiction, I set aside time and started reading books about personality types and how to motivate yourself based on your personality. I started looking up research about the things that get in the way of achieving goals. I theorized that if I could look at my stop signs and red lights with courage, then maybe they wouldn’t be so scary anymore and I could triumph over how they affected my livelihood. I read books like The Four Tendencies and took a second look my personality tests results, (I’ve taken quite a few of them). I found great relief in reading that I may be more vested in other kinds of activities for physical fitness that I overlooked, rather than going to the gym. I experimented with suggestions.  

Surprisingly, I took a renewed interest in martial arts and nature walks. I don’t consider myself an outdoorsy or sports person, and I hate being terrible at things- especially in front of an audience…but despite that, doing these activities make me feel in touch with my body, and in turn my emotions. As a thinking personality type, this does not come easy to me. More and more I can see my fears and anxiety as if they were tangible objects. In this way, I can’t ignore them, I can’t deny them, no putting them aside with busy work, I have to face them. Journaling the morning after a rigorous martial arts practice the night before has really helped me focus my reflective writing. Throughout the day I am better able to look at situations in a different way and consciously learn ways to better cope. 

It started with a small shift. Instead of reading fiction for an hour right before falling asleep on week nights, I switched to reading nonfiction before falling asleep and everything else began to piece itself together from there. I still have a ways to go, but for starters, I’m no longer out of breath when I walk up the stairs. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a win! Which reminds me…

Celebrate the small victories

Just showing up to do the practice in and of itself is reason to pat yourself on the back. We don’t really get participation medals for making healthy choices and changes in our lives, but I don’t see why we can’t pause to acknowledge all of the mini battles we had to fight and overcome just to even get to the starting point. If you’re at, “Yay! I made the bed today!” after a major depressive episode, then go you! If someone shares how they have depression too and are able to function just fine…good for them! But this is your life that you’re fighting for…they don’t fight for it for you. Compare = despair…I don’t even want to play that game anymore. I am already my biggest critic, now, I’m learning to be my biggest cheerleader. I do that by pausing.

Pause is an important practice in my day. I am not a fan of hustle culture nor am I a fan of team no rest. I’m not interested in promoting a culture that teaches us to treat each other as if we’re robotic commodities only as useful as the sum of our good parts. Which brings me to what I consider the best part of how having a practice keeps me well…it’s there when I need it and I don’t beat myself down when I don’t follow it with perfection. I strive to not be married to the outcome of my anticipation, but rather, be open to the possibilities that intentional self-development manifests in my life. Enjoying the journey transforms practice from “just some routine” to a meaningful way to embrace the totality of my human experience in this world. The mental health benefits are a bonus or in foodie speak, icing on the cake. 

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.

Donations welcomed and appreciated: This site is ads-free and runs on the sheer power of my love and determination. If what I share brings you fresh perspective, inspiration, new resources, and/or value of any kind, please consider becoming a patron of this blog with a monetary donation.










Mental Health and Debt: A Call To Action







This blog post is part of the 3rd Annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

I remember when the hip-hop song came out called “Mo Money Mo Problems”. In my mind, that didn’t seem right. Since I had plenty of problems and no money. Where I came from, poor was an economic reality, but admittedly, it was also a state of mind. To me, it made perfect sense why “being broke” was…depressing. In a 2010 review of 115 studies that spanned 33 countries across the developed and developing worlds, nearly 80 percent of the studies showed that poverty comes with higher rates of mental illness. Among people living in poverty, those studies also found, mental illnesses were more severe, lasted longer, and had worse outcomes.

Keeping those statistics in mind, when I first started to do research for my book “Success to Die For” as much as I tried to be unbiased, I knew it was better to acknowledge my very real biases and work through them to reveal the truth as it became clear to me. I went in assuming my fellow struggling small business owners would report higher rates of depression and possibly thoughts of suicide, but I was proven wrong. Though, my investigation is a far cry from an academic study it was enough to say with a humble confidence that mental health issues don’t discriminate. And with several high-profile suicide deaths getting media attention as of late, perhaps there’s some truth to that song. Perhaps there are several reasons why the super (financially) successful get depressed.

Because there are several studies pointing to either side of the “who has it the worst”, I’d rather be more productive and talk shared humanity and solutions. I think that the one thing both sides of the equation can potentially face is the proverbial fall from grace. The roller coaster of life that has ups and downs.

Whether poverty-stricken or wealthy, losing something of value to you hurts. If you live in a developing country and you find joy in being a farmer, but suddenly experience an accident that takes away your ability to make a living, of course, you’re going to be affected by it. Likewise, if you live in a wealthier country, walk into work one day and find that your entire board voted you out of the company you founded, your best friend is sleeping with your spouse, and they wiped your account clean and sailed off into the sunset…that’s enough to drive a person mad. (That second scenario may seem unrealistic, but I actually met a man who shared the 1st part of that story with me and met others who shared the other parts.) Or how about the middle class man in his 50s who gave one job all of his years of loyalty and dedication, let the job give him an identity and a purpose in life based off of that identity tied to said job only to be let go right after he took out that 2nd mortgage on his house for a family medical emergency. I learned through fellow mental health advocate, Mettie Spiess that 70% of the suicide deaths in 2016 were middle-aged men.

If I could rewrite the song title I’d say something along the lines of “Mo Debt Mo Problems”. In each of those scenarios, there is much more going on than the loss of money, but money has become, through collective agreement, one of the most essential social constructions in our societies. It is because of money, whether the loss of it or the fear of losing it, that mental health issues are triggered for some or become a stronghold to others who already have a history of mental health issues. The treatment time for clinical depression is said to be exacerbated by up to 18 months if you also have financial issues.

And I believe, as the founders of Global Women 4 Wellbeing often say, that we can do more good together. 

So while I think awareness and end the stigma campaigns are super necessary, I’d personally love to see collective policy change. I’d love to see more entrepreneurs and business leaders support one another through our mental health and debt issues so that we can create and provide more opportunities, jobs, and resources from a place a love and wholeness. I’d also love to see more developments in technology to help people with mental health issues and debt problems. (As a starting point, I’m glad to see a report on how FinTech can support people experiencing mental health problems.)

“The walk” to back up “the talk” not only prevents suicides but also sustains our mental health and financial recovery for the long-haul as we learn to build roller coaster resilience and maybe even shape our societies to cultivate things like equanimity and equity for the total wellness of all.

Do More Good Together with us! 

Love Yourself Love Your Business in collaboration with Butterfly Love, LLC will be participating in the Out of the Darkness Philadelphia Community Walk to raise awareness and funds that allow the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss. Join our team and walk with us, or donate to the cause!

 

Resources

NAMI Suicide Prevention Month Advocacy

Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741

International Association for Suicide Prevention

Debtors Anonymous

 

Related Posts

Suicide Prevention where Money and Mental Health Issues Collide

Passive Suicidal Ideation: A Discussion About Money + Mental Health

Be The Change Series Interviews- Featuring: Emily Wu Truong

 

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.







Be The Change Series Interviews- Featuring: Karla Thut







The 2018 Be The Change Interview Series

Week 1 – Featuring: Karla Thut, Trauma Specialist and Immigrant Advocate

Here’s the direct link to the recording on YouTube: https://youtu.be/PNc4LFLItBM

About

Karla Thut was born and grew up in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She graduated from Goshen College with a BA in Social Work and Temple University with a Masters in Social Work. She has worked as a family therapist in the city of Philadelphia for 15 years primarily with co-victims of homicide and survivors of domestic violence and other violent crimes. During this time Karla trained at the Philadelphia Child and Family Training Center as a family therapist and at the Philadelphia Family and Children’s Play Therapy Training Center where she trained in Contextual and Structural Family therapy and play therapy. In addition to working as a therapist Karla teaches part time at Chestnut Hill College in the Masters in Counseling Psychology department in their trauma studies concentration and is on the board at La Puerta Abierta. La Puerta Abierta is a non-profit in Philadelphia that provides mental health services to immigrant youth and their families. Karla lives in Philadelphia with her husband and three children.

How You Can Help

Support La Puerta Abierta whose mission is “To improve access to quality, culturally and trauma-informed mental health support in the immigrant and refugee community through collaboration, training and service”.

Contact Karla to learn more about her private practice mental health care services, or healing trauma training services at: karlathut (at) gmail (dot) com

Resources mentioned

The movie I was referencing was called Inside Out

 

Related Posts

Be The Change Series Interviews- Featuring: Sarah Fader

Be The Change Series Interviews- Featuring: Emily Wu Truong

Be The Change Series Interviews- Featuring: Mia Anika

 

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.

 







Let’s Talk About Minority Mental Health With Every Day #DayInTheLife Reflections







For the month of July, I wanted to raise awareness around National Minority Mental Health Awareness month. Last year, I did an interview with my resident mental health pro,  Dr. Angela Clack. Amongst other things we discussed, she told us about the origins of the awareness month. You can watch our interview here. And check out her new book on narratives from women of color talking about trauma and depression. 

Since I will be doing interviews all next month, I decided that I wanted to do a campaign just sharing my random thoughts about mental health throughout this month. I wanted to share a day in the life of someone with lived experience, aka a peer advocate. I wanted to raise awareness about some of the ways I’ve experienced mental health prevention, treatment, and ongoing maintenance as an African American woman. I invited other POCs in my social network to join me in creating awareness by sharing their stories, experiences, resources, etc. about mental health for this particular campaign.

Why do this? Because the more people talk about mental health in our communities, the more it becomes a commonplace topic. This is how we fight the stigma. And when stigma is obliterated, people don’t feel ashamed to seek help. If more people seek help and find that there isn’t equal access to care, we come together and create demand that needs to be supplied. Ya dig?

The reason this is so important is because there are many disparities in seeking and getting mental health treatment as a minority in the U.S..  Heck, even a quick Google search led me to organizations that are NOT founded by or led by the people this awareness month was made for, when of course they exist. I’ve made plenty of complaints about the lack of minorities having a seat at the table, but I won’t go there right now, (another topic for another day). So even our own voices and wisdom aren’t being centered, but rather tokenized to fit inside a paradigm. Which further proves we still have a ways to go with dismantling a broken healthcare system. But first, we need to create awareness. And many times that awareness starts at home within our own selves, conversations amongst each other, with our family members, with our friends, our co-workers, our spiritual community leaders and members and anyone else in our network who still doesn’t get it. There are too many people who still deny that mental health disorders are very real, and we cannot afford to keep sweeping them, and how they affect our lives either directly or indirectly, under the rug. It hurts us, it tears apart our families, it breaks down and disconnects our communities.

So to offset that, we share. We share our truths, we share our resources. We encourage one another to find strength, hope, and healing.

Below you’ll find a few captured moments from several awareness campaigns this month…

My Announcement Post

 

 

 

 

From Organizations

No More Martyrs hosted their annual Minority Mental Health Awareness Summit 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry Health launched their #reclaimourstrength campaign 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From My Network

H.M. (like myself) fully appreciates Mystic Soul Project and what their existence means to their mental health. #support 

 

 

 

 

Trudean talks about issues and raises donations every year to support her local community check our her current fundraiser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen shares about two of my loves, mental health and the arts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vannessa shares about mental health in the media.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Moi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related Posts

Be The Change Series Interviews- Featuring: Dior Vargas

Be The Change Series Interviews- Featuring: Emily Wu Truong

The Necessity of Self-Care for Black Women Making History Everyday with Dr. Kesha Moore

 

Until Next Time…Peace, Love, and Wellness!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

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