Chapter 25: The Glow-Up

On March 30th, this picture was taken of me. When my boyfriend handed me the phone so that I could look at it my first words were “Wow, I’m beautiful”, and then I immediately started tearing up.  Of course he didn’t understand so I explained that I hadn’t felt beautiful in awhile. Seeing this picture was like having a major epiphany about myself. My epiphany didn’t stop there though.. in this picture I saw so much more. I saw the woman that I had always known myself to be deep inside. I saw a woman that was confident in who she is and what she has to offer the world. 

Confidence is an attribute that I’ve always strongly admired in other people. I’ve always admired it because for some reason It has not always come naturally to me. I distinctly remember in Jr. high and high-school hating myself and how I looked. From the shape of my nose to my frizzy curls to my teeth…I was deeply unsatisfied. In college I distinctly remember not having confidence in my ability to lead or speak up. Throughout my college years I slowly began to develop confidence, but I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. Post-graduation, I had gained some weight, struggled in a couple different areas of my life, and slipped back into that Jr. high/high-school mindset. 

So what recently brought me to my great epiphany? I think a major part of it is doing what I’m passionate about… 

Throughout my MSW program, I’ve had the opportunity to work with women in recovery from substance abuse, as well as with children with different mental health diagnoses. I currently work with adults dealing with various mental health diagnoses in a psychiatric unit. Never in a million years did I think I would have the confidence to get up in front of such vulnerable populations and not only educate them but HELP them. I seriously get up in front of people older than me and offer guidance. I can’t explain the feeling I get when a patient or client tells me “You’re going to do great things” or “That was such a great group” or “This really helped me”. Through pursing my passion, I’ve been able to see who I am and what I’m capable of. I’m a bad-ass. 

On my birthday one of my sorority sisters said “You got you a voice!” and that is the truth. I’m no longer afraid to lead or speak-up. Realizing that I’m beautiful in my looks is one thing, but slowly becoming the woman that I’ve always dreamed of being is another. What’s crazy is, I’m only going to get better…

How Do You Cope?

Coping skills was a very big topic this last week for clients that I work with, and it got me to thinking about how I cope with things. I want to challenge my readers to think about what coping skills you use, and better yet are they healthy or unhealthy? It’s no surprise that the clients I work with tend to use a lot of unhealthy coping skills, but they are not the only ones. I believe people everywhere, inside and outside of mental health facilities, use unhealthy ways to cope with this crazy thing called life. I, myself use unhealthy ways of coping sometimes.

So what are coping skills? Simply put they are things we use to deal with uncomfortable, difficult, and stressful situations.

So what determines whether a coping skill is healthy or unhealthy? Well to give some examples..

Unhealthy; over-eating, excessive sleeping, self-harm, procrastinating, withdrawing, giving up, blaming others, drinking and drug use, excessive spending.

Healthy; journaling, exercising, listening to music, developing a gratitude attitude, yoga, deep breaths in and out, taking a hot bath or shower, talking to friends/family, seeing a therapist.

I believe a lot of unhealthy coping skills provide temporary relief, but no long-term solutions and can even be detrimental. More importantly, I believe unhealthy coping skills do not help us get to the root of the problem. It’s like when you have a cold, and you take medicine. The medicine is great and helps to relieve symptoms, but the actual cold is not cured. Unfortunately, since there is no cure for the cold, we continue to get them. 

I wanted to touch on drinking and drugs because some of you may be thinking, “Isis, some of that is legal!” Yes, I’m aware lol. I drink and I enjoy it! Marijuana is slowly becoming legalized and I think it’s great. Drugs and alcohol is a very big part of our society and again, I just want to challenge you to think. When you drink or use drugs; what is your goal? Do you set limitations for yourself? Are you trying to forget or avoid something? Are you trying to numb yourself?  Do you fail to meet obligations or handle responsibilities due to use? Are relationships in your life becoming strained due to use? You can even apply some of these questions to other coping skills to determine if they are unhealthy.

 Deep reflection about what you do and why you do it, is key. 

To end on a lighter note, I thought I would share some of my favorite healthy coping skills. “Developing a gratitude attitude” is one I use a lot.  When I’m feeling down, stressed, or really negative I like to come up with a list of things in my head that i’m grateful for. I also sing or listen to music. My go-to song to sing is “Tell him” by Lauryn Hill. Two of my personal feel-good songs are “Pop Thieves” by Childish Gambino and “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison. Cleaning my entire apartment is also something I do to cope with stress.

What are some coping skills you use? Which ones would you like to stop? What new ones would you like to try? I’d love to hear from you!!

It’s been awhile…

Wow, It’s been awhile since my last blog post. I don’t feel too too bad about it only because life has been very busy, and I’m trying my best to adjust. I do feel that writing is and can be a great coping strategy for me, so I will work on setting aside time for this blog.

Anywho…

I feel like I’m constantly on the go. Going to work (I just got a new job, yayyy) going to class… going to a meeting… going to a training… going to my internship. I’ve never really experienced this before but believe I’m handling it very well.

One thing about me is I’ve never liked feeling uncomfortable. When I say uncomfortable I mean, I’ve never liked not getting enough sleep. I’ve never liked having to drive too far for anything (example: work). I’ve never liked feeling overwhelmed. I’m sure a lot of people don’t like these things but I would go out of my way to avoid all of that. I should have known that there would eventually come a time when I would really have to “grind”. There would eventually come a time when I would be uncomfortable. I guess I’ve matured because even though I don’t get enough sleep, drive all over Tarrant County, and do a million things….I know this season won’t last forever. I know that when we are uncomfortable that’s when we learn the most and really grow.

Welcoming Emotions with Open Arms

The therapist that I intern under presented a poem in one of her groups this past week, and I wanted to share it with you all..

The Guest House 

“This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house 

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing 

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from above.”

-Rumi

We as humans, experience a wide variety of emotions. Emotions are complex. Emotions come and go constantly. Sometimes we anticipate emotions, and sometimes they come seemingly out of nowhere. Some emotions we experience are “positive”, while others are “negative”. I sometimes will tell myself “I’m not supposed to feel this way” when experiencing certain emotions. When “negative” emotions such as fear, worthlessness, jealousy, or grief show up, a lot of us rather ignore them or instantly try to make them go away. Notice that I put the word negative in quotation marks. I’m not sure who deemed some emotions good and some bad, but I think they are a natural part of the human experience. Some of the kids that I work with struggle with “anger problems” and I often tell them that feeling angry is ok, it’s about how you handle and cope with that anger. I believe the same can be said for a lot of our emotions. 

I think the poem is brilliant in that it illustrates emotions as “guests”. Instead of being so ready to get rid of guests we don’t particularly like, what if we welcomed them? What if we were patient with them? What if we could learn something from them?

Sometimes guests do overstay their welcome. We have to be willing to tell them “it’s time to go now”. I think that being accepting of our emotions is great, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t set boundaries or limits around them. Sometimes our emotions can overpower us and that’s when we experience changes in ourselves. A lot of the times these changes aren’t for the better and then perhaps it’s time to seek additional help. 

I try to accept whatever emotions come my way. If I need to, I’ll dig deep to try and understand why it is I’m feeling a way. After that, I resort to various coping strategies like journaling, singing, exercising, or deep cleaning my whole apartment. If there is ever again a time that my emotions are just too overpowering, then I’ll go back to seeing therapist. Being accepting, mindful, and proactive regarding my emotions is working very well for me so far. 

I want to know your thoughts on the poem! Feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly. I’d love to hear from you! 

My Plate Is Full and I’m The One Who Fixed It

It’s the second week of the spring semester and I already feel overwhelmed and annoyed. I thought I would have at least made it a month before these feelings showed up. In my defense I have a lot going on. I’m balancing three classes, an internship, two jobs, my blog, going to the gym, and maintaining a social life. 

Today I got home at about 4:00 PM and went straight for an unopened bottle of red wine that I had in the fridge… it’s only Wednesday. 

Alright, I’m done venting and complaining so now here comes the good stuff…

I don’t remember where I saw this quote at but it goes “I can’t complain about having a lot on my plate when the goal was to eat”. I’ve pretty much been reciting that quote over and over again to myself because it’s so incredibly true . My goals include graduating, learning more in the mental health field, advocating for mental health and wellness, inspiring my peers, losing weight, and living my best life. Everything that I’m doing is a step towards each of those goals in some way or another.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed or negative, I try really hard to replace those feelings with an attitude of gratitude. I can’t thank God enough for the opportunities that I have been given to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. I look back on last year when I was working at a job that I HATED and it’s like how could I complain??? LOOK AT WHAT GOD DID. Everything that I’m doing right now, I prayed for at an earlier time. Everything that I’m doing right now is preparing me for greatness. 

When I start to have that attitude of gratitude (and have some wine) I feel a heck of a lot better, and it’s like I’m excited about my goals all over again.

If you can relate to this post in any way I just want to say that; 

You’re amazing. 

You can do anything you put your mind to. 

Be mindful of how you’re doing mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Take care of yourself.

You got this. 

5 Things to Consider When Searching for a Therapist

So you’ve decided you’re ready to see a therapist, good for you! No seriously, that’s great. Maybe you’re still on the fence about seeing one, that’s ok too! Now comes the task of finding that perfect stranger to share your most personal thoughts and feelings to. I realize this task may sound scary and even impossible, but it can be done. I recently saw a therapist for the first time and had an amazing experience. I’ve listed exactly what I took into consideration before making my final decision, it is my hope that by sharing I can make the task a bit easier for you. 

How Can I Afford Services? 

This is the very first thing I considered in my search for a therapist. It’s the very first thing because I assumed therapy to be crazy expensive. I also didn’t think that therapists took insurance -honestly, I don’t know why. Well lucky for us, therapy can be affordable and you can use insurance. If you do have insurance, either call your insurance provider or look on your insurance website to see who is in your network. Just as a visit to your doctor, you may be required to pay a copay. I would also recommend looking to see if your workplace offers an “Employee Assistance Program” and if you’re able to utilize it. These programs usually offer short-term counseling, but it’s definitely a start. So maybe you don’t have insurance, there is always the option to pay out of pocket. Even then, I would recommend looking for therapist who offers a sliding scale fee.  A sliding scale fee simply means that you will be charged based on your income. For my college/grad students, many universities offer counseling services that are funded by your tuition.

What Am I Looking to Work On?

Depression, Anxiety, PTSD? It’s important to have some idea about what you’re seeking therapy for. Not all therapists specialize in the same mental health disorders/issues. As you go through your list of potential therapists, either call or look to see if they have a website. They will provide information as to what they specialize in and what areas they have the most expertise in. Many therapists are experienced in many different areas of mental health, a jack of all trades! This is great because you may have more than one thing to work on, at different points of your life.

Is This Therapist Licensed? 

Many people can call themselves a counselor, therapist, or life-coach. These terms can be used loosely sometimes. Being licensed means the individual has earned hours in a clinical setting as well as passed a licensing exam. You’ll usually find their credentials and licensing information on their website. There are many different professionals that offer therapy and have gone through schooling to be able to provide services. Just to name a few; Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). Students, be mindful that in a university counseling center, there may be interns offering services as a way to gain clinical hours. You have to decide if you are ok with working with someone who is not yet licensed.

What is This Therapist’s Approach to Therapy? 

This was a very important one for me. It’s helpful to know a therapists philosophy on therapy, as well as what therapies they use. You can find this information on their website or by calling. Believe it or not, no therapist is the same. They are all unique human beings with their own ways of thinking and doing things. As I was going through the website of the therapist I chose, I came across a “Common Questions” section. One question was “Do I really need therapy? I can usually handle my problems”. Her answer was, “Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you’ve faced, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you’re at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.” As soon as I read that, I was hooked. Knowing that she felt that way about therapy made me feel a lot better about wanting to talk to someone.

Who Am I Comfortable Talking To?

Again, every therapist is different. Do you need someone to show you tough love or do you need someone to gently nudge you towards change? Do you want to talk to someone that looks like you or are you open to diversity? I personally was very interested in seeing a black therapist. My reason for that was because in my graduate program, I haven’t had the opportunity of learning from and working under many therapists of color. Everyone has their own preferences and that’s perfectly fine. I say be open minded. If something or someone isn’t working, be willing to change and adapt.  

I hope that this list has or will help you in your search for a therapist. If you’re still on the fence, I hope I’ve pushed you over a little bit, lol. One very important thing I would like to point out is that you may go through a few different therapists. THAT IS PERFECTLY OK. You may not vibe or connect with the very first one, but please please please don’t be discouraged. 

If you have any questions about therapy or therapists, please leave a comment or contact me. Also, feel free to share your experiences in therapy. I’d love to hear from you!

Check out my previous post about my personal experience seeing a therapist!

https://kurlsandkonversation.com/2018/12/22/first-time-experience-seeing-a-therapist/

A special shout-out to shikaardeta for suggesting I make this kind of post. Check out her amazing blog here! 

https://shikaardeta.wordpress.com

10 Must-Haves for Natural Hair

I swear having natural hair is a full-time job. Ok maybe part-time, but either way it takes some work. It takes even more work when you don’t know what products to use. I’ve listed 10 things that I feel make life easier as well as give you great hair. These are products that I can’t go without and feel work for every curl type. I’ve also included links to specific products that I use.

Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Sulfate is a cleansing agent and it produces that lather effect. While sulfate makes your hair and scalp feel squeaky clean, it can also be harmful. Sulfate strips hair of everything, including natural oils that are needed. Sulfate also drys out hair and makes it frizzy.

https://www.sallybeauty.com/hair/hair-care/shampoo/superfoods-quench-shampoo/SBS-377036.html?list=Home%7CWhats_new

Sulfate-Free Conditioner

After you use the shampoo to cleanse your hair, you’ll need this product to restore moisture. If a brand has a shampoo then there is most likely a coordinating conditioner (though not usually sold together). I don’t typically mix and match shampoos and conditioners but that’s just a personal choice.

https://www.sallybeauty.com/hair/hair-care/conditioner/superfoods-quench-conditioner/SBS-377037.html?list=Home%7CWhats_new

Tangle Tamer

You need something that is going to detangle your hair without ripping and tearing it. A Tangle Tamer has a lot more teeth than a wide-tooth comb, so it detangles and distributes product to every single strand. I use my tangle tamer in the shower while my conditioner is in. 

https://www.sallybeauty.com/hair/brushes-and-combs/tangle-tamer-max/PLGDIN17.html?list=Search_Results#q=tangle+tamer&start=1

360 Mist Spray Bottle

Your hair needs to be moisturized often so it helps to have a water bottle handy. It’s especially helpful when you’re styling your hair and need to re-wet it. This particular water bottle is great because it sprays a fine mist of water that is evenly distributed across your hair. My favorite part about it is that it sprays a continuous mist, so no constant pumping like with a traditional spray bottle.

https://www.sallybeauty.com/salon-equipment-and-furniture/salon-accessories/spray-and-applicator-bottles/360-mist-sprayers/SLNCAR77.html?list=Search_Results#q=360&start=1

Deep Conditioner 

Deep conditioning is extremely important for us natural girls! Deep conditioners usually stay in the hair for a limited amount of time and are then rinsed out. Benefits of deep conditioning include; hydration, reduced split-ends, stronger hair, hair growth, and added shine. I deep condition once a week. 

https://www.sallybeauty.com/hair/hair-care/textured-hair/curly-hair/intensive-hydration-masque/SBS-476432.html

Deep Conditioning Cap

Yes, this is a cap that you wear while deep conditioning. It’s not the most fashionable accessory, but it helps to trap heat inside. The heat helps the conditioner to deeply penetrate your hair. 

https://www.sallybeauty.com/hair/hair-accessories/platinum-deep-conditioning-cap/SBS-543908.html?list=Search_Results#q=cap&start=1

Leave-In Conditioner 

A leave-in conditioner is a conditioner that is left in the hair, no rinsing needed. Every leave-in has its own benefits so choose one based on what you feel your hair needs. I always use a leave-in, and consider it to be like a “primer” or “base” for my styling products. 

https://www.sallybeauty.com/hair/hair-care/textured-hair/coily-hair/leave-in-conditioner/SBS-341201.html?list=Search_Results#q=as+i+am&start=1

Essential and Natural Oil(s)

An essential oil would be tea tee oil, which helps with dry, itchy scalp. A natural oil would be castor oil, which promotes hair growth. There are many different oils with different benefits so again, choose based on what your hair needs. I use coconut oil for hot oil treatments. 

https://www.sallybeauty.com/hair/hair-care/treatments/coconut-black-castor-oil/SBS-175352.html?list=Search_Results#q=jamaican+black+castor+oil&start=1

Satin Pillowcase, Scarf, or Bonnet

You must sleep with something to protect your hair, and that something should be satin. Your hair can slide across satin without snagging, tearing, or becoming frizzy. You can use a satin pillowcase, scarf, or bonnet. Use all three if you’re a wild sleeper. I usually use a scarf and bonnet.

https://www.sallybeauty.com/hair/hair-accessories/large-satin-bonnet/SBS-378140.html?list=Search_Results#q=satin+bonnet&start=1

A Stylist That Knows Natural Hair 

If you want to maintain beautiful and healthy hair this is extremely important. A stylist that knows natural hair will; use appropriate techniques for cutting, give you a good shape, use products that work well for your hair, and be knowledgeable about natural hair care. My stylist is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but feel free to check out her insta!

https://www.instagram.com/lynn.styless/

I hope you found my list helpful! If you have any questions about the products or natural hair in general, leave a comment!