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!!

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! 

2019, I’m Ready For You

2018 wasn’t my finest year, and for the past few months I had been constantly thinking to myself “God, I can’t wait for this year to be over”. My year consisted of struggling financially, working at a job that I hated, and having a hard time mentally and emotionally. I was so ready to put this bad year behind me, and never look back.

A few days ago, while drinking my morning coffee, I started wondering if trying to forget everything that happened this year was helpful or even sensible. I also questioned what would make 2019 such a better year than 2018. I realized that instead of trying to erase 2018 from my memory, I could take some time to really reflect on what happened. Instead of just waiting around for the new year, I could be actively planning for an amazing 2019. 

I reflected on my trials and tribulations and in doing so, I couldn’t help but to feel grateful and determined. I felt grateful because not only did I make it through some hard times, but I learned some very valuable lessons along the way. I felt determined because I realized that I am in control of my life and I can manifest the things that I desire. I thought long and hard about things that I wanted and why. I went on to write down my goals for 2019, and made plans for how I would achieve them. 

After much self-reflection, and goal setting I decided that there were a few more things to do in order to get ready for the new year…

Deep clean

Deep cleaning my apartment always makes me feel like my life is together. In fact, when my place is messy, that can be a sign that I’m not in a good place mentally or emotionally. I put on some loud music and thoroughly cleaned each room of my apartment. 

Declutter

I felt that by decluttering I was making room for happiness, peace, freedom, and creativity in my life. Basically I got rid of anything that was useless and unnecessary. I went through my filing boxes, drawers, closets, cabinets, fridge, computer files, and emails. 

Burn some sage

Sage is known for purifying and creating a positive environment. Seeing as though it was my first time, I had to watch some youtube videos but it’s pretty simple to do. I lit one end on fire, blew it out, and then walked around my entire apartment.

I’ve never felt so excited and ready for the new year. 

2018, thank-you for all your lessons and opportunities for growth. 2019, I’m coming for everything that’s mine.