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!!

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. 

First Time Experience: Seeing a Therapist

Since the very beginning of my graduate program, professors have suggested the students see a therapist at least once. I remember thinking “I just want to be a therapist, I don’t want to see one”.  As I became more knowledgable on the topic of mental health and wellness, I began to realize that the suggestion was not so crazy after all. Then finally came the time when my own mental well-being was in jeopardy.

Think of mental health as a continuum. On the far left you have “mental well-being” and on the far right you have “mental illness”. Well in September of 2018, I was slowly but surely sliding on over to the right. Each day I slid a little bit more until finally, I had an emotional breakdown at work (in private, Thank God). I decided “Ok, it may be time to talk to someone”.

Honestly, I wasn’t too sure if I was depressed. All I knew is that something was wrong. Crying every day, feeling unmotivated, and constant negative thoughts was not healthy.

I started my search by going to my health insurance website. I was given a list of therapists that were in my network and would take my insurance. I went through each listing and went to their website (if they even had one). I researched their education background, what disorders they specialized in, and what methods of treatment they used. It was important to me to find a therapist of color, so I looked for that as well. 

I found one that looked promising and contacted her. We spoke briefly about what was going on and scheduled an appointment for the next day. I was so nervous the night before and even thought about cancelling because what if I wasn’t even depressed? What if I was wasting her time and my time? Then my boyfriend assured me that I was making the right decision. He said something along the lines of “Therapy is like prayer, you don’t only have to use it when something is really wrong”. Amen.

I went to my first session at 9:00 AM the next morning, and from that very first session she told me that she didn’t believe me to be depressed. She did however, believe that I was having a hard time mentally and emotionally. 

So, I wasn’t clinically depressed but let me tell you the reasons I went on to see her a few more times…

I did not lie on a couch while being asked “So how does that make you feel?” every two minutes

I don’t know why therapy is portrayed that way. That is not how any of this works. 

I was able to talk freely about my issues without being judged

Sometimes friends, family, and significant others can end up being judgmental without necessarily trying to. Plus, it’s helpful to get perspective from someone other than them. 

I didn’t feel like my issues were being minimized 

Example: “Mom, I’m sad” “you ain’t got nothing to be sad about, you got a roof over your head”.

I got to talk about different aspects of my life

I went for a specific problem but I was asked about my friends, family, boyfriend, work, and school. It was helpful to address all those areas of my life as well.

I felt like I was being listened to 

We’re talking about active listening here, not everyone has that skill.

I was allowed to cry

It’s nice to cry without feeling dumb or feeling compelled to apologize for it. 

I was challenged 

Yes, therapists should be empathetic and understanding. They should also give feedback and challenge you to new ways of thinking and behaving.

I felt comfortable 

My therapist was a black woman. She was very personable. Our conversation flowed easily. Her office was really cute and felt very welcoming. 

I feel very lucky to have had a great first experience seeing a therapist. I feel that I was properly helped and still keep in mind the things that I learned. I would, without a doubt, go back should I feel I need to. In my personal opinion, everyone could benefit from talking to a professional. We are all human beings with either issues, hard times, past traumas, dysfunctional thoughts, bad habits, unhealed wounds, or toxic behaviors. Some of us battle with these things more than others. Some of us deal with these things better than others. 

Therapy is not bad. Therapy is not only for certain people. Therapy does not make you weak.