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Just Keep Swimming

 As look back over the years of my life, I must say I have come a long way. I have been told what I cannot do and what will not work throughout my life. I have been shamed by being told I was not good enough or pretty enough. I’ve been told I was getting “big” or “chubby” and struggling to try to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I have been told my ideas are just that…ideas and will not amount to much. It took me a long time to be comfortable in my own skin and realizing who I was not only as a woman but as a person. People have certain expectations and perceptions of you and that is when fear, anxiety, and defeat can set in.

It has been said that when it comes to anxiety and fear, it is developed when we are trying to live for other people. It wasn’t until I got much older and had gone through a few obstacles in my life until I realized that that I cannot live for anyone else but myself. I had to understand that people, whether it be friends, family or doubters, do not know your truth and cannot live or run your life. The scars that you bare, you carry with you everyday, the outcomes, good, bad or indifferent, are your own. Lately, I have been treating life and some of the people in it as a challenge, the more you tell me I cannot do something or I’m not good at something, I strive to prove them wrong. No matter the situation I find myself in, I keep pressing on, believing in a cause, a cause to succeed and get the most out of life.

Just the other day, I found myself watching “Finding Dory” with my son, and by the end of it, I had tears in my eyes. Not because of the movie itself, but the messages. One of them was that in life, there is no plan on how to live, you just live it. As we know, life never goes according to plan and it seems like the most magic happens when its not. Another things is when someone tells you that something cannot be done, there is always another way. In other words, don’t allow fear, self doubt, or things others my say, get in the way of what you want to accomplish. Lastly, when fear tries to take over, say to your self  “No matter what the obstacle, just keep swimming”.   Keep going , push though, you will be amazed on how far you’ve come and what you can accomplish next. Always celebrate your successes in life, whether it be big or small, because you did it and you did it your way.

Be Well,

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Essence

 

Return Guest Writer -Bianca Rhodes

I am honored to welcome back a talented, beautiful person.  She is a Emmy Award Winner, a Photographer, a Producer, a Writer, and videographer. She is an inspiration and a rock for many people, including myself. My best friend and sister, Bianca Rhodes. Thank you my sister!!

Why I Smile

A lot of people are shocked at my optimism and the consistent smile on my face. My optimism comes from a lot of things. I come from a Mother that always stays on the bright side of the road. She is a Principal at a middle school. I don’t know if you remember how Middle School was, it definitely was a tough time. I had a mouth full of braces and an oblong body, mostly legs, wore a lot of boys clothes, because that was what fit, girls’ pants weren’t long enough. Every day, she has to look into the eyes of Youth who may have all kinds of problems at home, and give them hope. She also has an infectious smile, so that helps too. My Grandmother Bertha Lee Fondren, also, was a woman full of laughter and smiles. She always said, if I wasn’t laughing I would be crying. I later found out there was a lot of pain behind all of that, but she knew she had to be hopeful for her family. It was hope that got her to Minnesota and she knew that being Black came with so much. Therefore, give them light despite all the darkness. That is what she was, God rest her soul.

Another part of my smile is from when I almost lost my life to my Epilepsy. For those who don’t quite know, Epilepsy is a seizure disorder. I was diagnosed when I was in college. I had two grand mal seizures, which is when your entire body shakes and your brain shuts down. All of your muscles become very weak after, all of them. It feels like you ran a full sprint, for hours. But that wasn’t the worse part, I had, what is called a Steven’s Johnson reaction to a medication called Dilantin. Steven’s Johnson is when your immune system becomes very weak, your gums, virtually melt, you have hives all over your body, and your throat almost closes. I had to be put on a steroid to keep my throat open while I slept. I remember the nurse saying, “If you feel your mouth filling up with saliva, you need to wake up and swallow.” Really? Okay. A lot of Doctors hadn’t seen the reaction before, so residency Doctors would come in and look down my throat. I felt like an experiment. It had caused temporary blindness while I was trying to go back to college. I was on a bus and my vision became foggy, then looked like a piece of opaque glass. I had to count the stops so I knew when to get off. And at the same time, not panic in front a bus full or people. I quickly had to be taken off Dilantin and try a few different drugs to keep me from having seizures. Every week for a month or so, I would have to come to North Memorial to be poked, to check the levels of the medication in my blood. My Mother’s smile dimmed, I lost friends, some family were even mad that I was sick. I was always one of the strong, and the strong cannot get sick. My boyfriend of 7 years, at the time, told me he was going into the military…so I felt abandoned at the most vulnerable time in my life. It was a whole lot, but here is what it taught me. Honey, do you know how far you came???

Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind, working, dealing with stress, fighting depression and anxiety, just to make it through…we forget our most vulnerable moments. My smile is my armor, not necessarily as a defense, but to show the world that I am still here! The cruel world tried to dim my spirit and take my life, yet I smile. It is a sign of my resiliency. It is something that my beautiful Ancestors gave me. There’s this picture of my Grandma and my Grandfather and she is smiling as big and as happy as ever. Put that into perspective, she was smiling during Jim Crow, she was smiling during the time of the Civil Rights Moment. She was smiling when it was so hard to even think of what it is like to be Black and free. Always remember how far you came. Use it as fuel to push you past your current pain and hurt. Sometimes a smile isn’t a mask, but a sword against sadness.  

Bianca Rhodes-Crown Lens Media Group/LeMae Photography/Saint Paul Neighborhood Network

Giving Thanks

 

On behalf of Protect Your Crown: An Insight into Mental Health and Crown Lens Media Group we would like to say thank you who have always supported us and what it is that we do. We would be nothing without your love and support. Please take the holiday weekend to reflect and give thanks for the important things in your life. Unplug and live in the moment, have great food and conversation, or give to those that may be less fortunate. Most of all make sure you love yourself first and give love to others.  

Be Well,

Essence

Happy Monday

wp-1479745298562.jpgWow, we are almost at the end of 2016 and what a year it has been. You see, normally you have some positive highlights and a few lows throughout the year. Yet, this year was a doozy for many of us. I don’t remember a year (in my lifetime at least) where there has been more lows than highs. A lot of loved ones and public figures that have shaped our society, music, pop culture, and our lives are no longer with us. Relationships have been diminished and tarnished between people, especially between communities of color and law enforcement. Social media seems to have taken the place of people interacting and has put a bit of a ripple into how we communicate and live our lives. And of course, we mustn’t leave out the election that has altered the history of the country. From what I have seen this year, there are more and more people who are stressed, depressed and worried about what this year has shown and fear of what is to come.

With all of the obstacles that has been put in our path as individuals and as people, there is one thing we must never forget, to trust in the plan and have faith. Now, I know its easier said then done, for there have been times where things have happened in my life that I thought this is just too much to bare. Yet, I had to keep in mind that you cannot change what has been done and time is always going to move forward whether you like it or not. Understand that you have two realms, your circle of influence and your circle of control. Influence what you can and allow it to be, because your circle of control is as small as the size of a pea. All the good and not so good things, is and have shaped you into the person that you are today. If you take in, learn, and grow from the things that do happen, it can help shape you into the person you long to be.

Yesterday, I took the time to reflect on a few things and hopefully this will encourage others to do the same.

  • Carry your own burden. You are not responsible for grown behind people
  • Cherish, nurture, and grow healthy relationships. You have to be able to step outside your bubble and be there for others. Empathy goes a long way
  • Social media is not your life. If you are spending majority of your life with your phone in your face, you are not living. Get off the phone, FB live, Instagram, and Twitter and live in the damn moment. I’m sure your brain and phone battery will thank you.
  • Always be the light in darkness-In these times, it’s important that we always try to lift each other up and do what we can to make each other better. Even if you can touch one person, you are doing your part.
  • Find Beauty in everything that you see and/or do. Sometimes its the simple things that can bring much joy and happiness.

As we move towards the new year, my hope is that people find clarity and peace, especially within themselves. This is something that I am striving to do everyday.

 

Be Well,

Essence

 

 

“I understand”

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I think one of the things that bother me at times when reaching out in speaking to my friends and sometime family, is when they say “I understand”, which is something that I tell the participants in my classes to refrain from saying it to patients when I teach my class. Reason being is, although people can see and sense something may be going on, until they have actually been through what the person has been through, one cannot understand. For example, I suffer from clinical depression and anxiety, with duties of being a wife and mother. My stress tolerance may vary depending on the circumstances. Most of my friends are not married and do not have children. This is not to downplay and say that they do not understand struggles, however, everyone struggle is different, and you cannot totally understand mine, especially if your you have not walked down a similar path . As I have stated before, some things are not meant to be understood and what may work for one person may not work for the other. Yet, the biggest thing that a person can do that loves and cares for a person who deals with a mental illness  or who is simply going through struggles in their life is just support. Support by lending an ear, support by taking focus off the struggles (doing a activity, joking, etc.). The biggest thing is to let them know is that you are there no matter what and that you have their back. Turn your “should do’s” and “what you have to do’s” to positive affirmations or “what do you think will help?” or “What can I do to help?” Will it work all the time? No, but its a start.

The last few days have been difficult for me. Although I have a good job, great family, and enjoy helping others especially through Protect Your Crown, I still struggle. Yet, what I am learning everyday is in order for you to understand the blessings God has in store for you, you have to go through the struggle. The more I trust in myself and trust in the plan for me, the easier my struggles get and the struggle become lessons.

 

Be Well,

Essence

 

Barbershop Conversations: Men and Mental Health

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Protect Your Crown held its first event in getting the conversation started about the importance of taking care of our mental health and mental well being but from a male perspective at the H. White Men’s Room Barbershop in Minneapolis this past Sunday. Many men from around the Twin Cities from all walks of life, came together to be a part of this much needed conversation. Hosted by Comedian/Yoga Guru Bruce Leroy Williams, opened up the discussion with the definition of mental health and the importance of understanding of how to stay mentally fit. Bruce touched on topics should as the myth of someone being “crazy” or “touched” and helping others understand that there as many different mental illnesses and disorders that have many different symptoms and effect people in different ways.

As the discussion continued, it led into of the myth of man, specifically men of color. Crown Lens Media Group Co-creator/Photographer Aaron Price, discussed how many people in today’s society rely on men to be strong and be the caretakers and for many men, they do not discuss their emotions, thoughts or feelings because it may be view as a weakness. Yet, another young man stated that men communicate in different ways. One of the examples that he gave was that in woman relationships, woman do not have a problem with venting and speaking about their experiences, emotions, and feelings with others and are very vocal about it. With men, however, when they are willing to share, its usually face to face and when they feel the most comfortable and in their own time. Most need time to think instead of discussing things right then and there.

The most powerful moment of the discussion is when the men spoke about stepping into your purpose and being accountable for the actions that you choose to take. With many young men being apart of the discussion, it was wonderful seeing the elders pass along knowledge to the next generation for they all have been in their shoes. Understanding that many go through life, have setback, but its about what you do to move forward, how you inspire others in the process. A lot of people fall through the cracks, but its about what you do to push through. Its also about knowing when to ask for help and understanding that its ok to not be ok. Another individual talked about knowing your triggers and knowing/understanding what could take you to an dark place. By knowing what your triggers are, it may be easier for you to recognize and avoid certain situations and scenarios that may not be good for you mentally. Social media was a topic that was touched on as well and how people may use that as a mask of who they are and is also used as a way to bully. Aaron Price mentioned that although social media is a great resource for many things, it should not be a huge part of your life. In younger generation, social media seems to be a means of escape from reality. Yet, we much understand that life cannot be lived through technology and it is what you are doing for yourself and others that is going to make the most impacted. “You are the Future!” Price stated.

I know that this discussion is just start of many and there will be many more to come. We are honored and thankful  for those that were a part of this event and there will be more pictures and videos coming very soon!!

 

Special Thanks to: Aaron Price-CLMG, Eliana Reyes-CLMG, Bianca Rhodes-CLMG, Houston White-HWMR, Bruce Leroy Williams, and Mike Jones Jr.-MJ Catering

Comforting Words After The Political Storm

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In the aftermath of our presidential election for 2017, I know there is a lot of emotion and a lot of tension that is sky rocketing around our country. Some are in shock and disbelief, some are confused. Others are happy, and some are indifferent. Regardless of the feeling, we need to keep our heads. Worrying, stressing out, being angry does nothing for the body, soul, and especially mind. Its not to say we should not have those feelings but you can not allow it to consume your mind and your energy.  Today would be the day to disconnect and focus on the importance of life. As much as we may think it does, the world is not made nor changed in a day. Take time for yourselves, nourish your bodies, focus on love.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do understand that this election and what it stood for has brought out the worse in people. People who I thought looked at me as a good human being now look at me differently, they look at my color first. People who I thought treated others equally regardless of race, color, creed, sexual orientation, and/or religion, don’t. We have to call a thing a thing, we are a divided country. I know it has been that way for quite sometime, however, before it poked it’s head out and went back into hiding. Now, the divide is very visible, for all to see. I have never witness an election where people burned historic churches, vandalized property, showed violence towards their fellow man due to the support of presidential candidate, now president -elect. It’s not about Democrat, it’s not about Republican, it’s about being a decent person and having morals and values. It’s about wanting to secure the future for the children in this country so they don’t have to deal with the nonsense that has happened in the past. It’s about holding each other accountable, yet supporting each other and lifting each other up. It’s about representing our country with class and dignity and knowing that ONE person can not do it alone. It seems that the motto we stood for during 9/11 “United we stand, divided we fall” has gone out the window, and others countries are sitting and laughing about us.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I pray that ALL people can live in a time and place where they feel secure, feel love and understanding for one another. We all don’t have to get along, but we do have to look at the bigger picture and work towards the greater good. Out of all of the countries, America is one of the greatest countries in the world. Land of opportunity, change, and hopes for a better life. We the people made it that way, not a president, congress, or any other entity of the government.  In order for that to continue moving forward, even in the unknown which may cause us to be fearful, we really need to think about the future are leaving for our kids long after this election, long after the president inauguration, and long after we’re gone. Talk to each other, talk with your kids, have a real conversation even if parties don’t agree. Do your part in your community, support group or develop groups that focus on making better solutions. We MUST get it together, TOGETHER!

Be Well,

Essence

A Letter To My Younger Self

wp-image-1620056748jpg.jpgLove,

First off, let me start off by saying what an amazing young woman you are blossoming into though you may not be told enough or shown enough so it is hard for you to believe. You have had some hardships, you have been talked about and sometimes treated very unkind.

I’m not going to lie to you, what you will realize is as you get older, the world will continue to get crazy and people will continue to be unkind but you have to be strong and live your life to the fullest. You have the potential to change things and people. It will not be easy, you will go through heartbreak, you will lose loved ones,  you will have your good days and bad, even days were you want to disappear.  Yet, when you have your bad days, do not allow it to dull your light, keep going, keep fighting. Your mind will play tricks on you, you will have people in your life that you feel will not understand you or your struggles and that is ok. Some things people are not meant to understand, but as long as you understand your struggles are temporary, you will get back up and continue to do your work for your life. There will be help along the way but it will be up to you to seek it out. There is so much in store for your life and all though there will be times you feel as you don’t have what you want, you will always have what you need and it will always be on time.

With you becoming an adult, there are a few tools I need to share with you to put into your toolbox of life:

First, keep God close and put him first. There will be times where your faith will be tested, you will question your life and Gods plan that he has for it. Yet, you must trust in the process, you must have faith that things happen the way that they are suppose to. It is already written and you have no control. Stay near the cross.

Second, always love yourself. There are going to be people that come into your life that will genuinely love you and there will be people that will come into your life that will hurt you to the core. By you loving yourself, it will be easier to know the difference. You will not allow nonsense in your life and you will set a standard for anyone who wants to become a part of it.  No one can love you the way that you do, period. You are good enough and no one can replace you.

Third, be aware of your actions, you are going to make some good decision and some times very bad ones. Understand and know that when a bad decision is made, own it, learn from it and move on so you do not create a pattern of making the same types of mistakes. If you do not, you will have a hard time with getting through life mind, body, and spirit. Grow through what you go through.

Fourth, no one owes you anything so forgive and move on. You are going to encounter people that are going to make promises over and over again. Yet, the reality is that sometimes promises are meant to be broken. A part of that is the fact that you have no control over the situation and what others do or don’t do. You have to do the work for yourself in order to have a say in your destiny. Forgiveness takes time but its something you must do. To hold on to negative feelings, thoughts and energy, you are creating a negative life for yourself. You sitting there bitter, angry, and sad while the person you are upset with is living their life without a care in the world. Even if you don’t get the chance to tell that person all is forgive, it is the action of the heart that counts. You don’t need to forgive for their sake but you do for yours.

Lastly, take your place in the world. Don’t be afraid to step out on faith and become a doer. Nothing wrong with dreamers but doers get things done and accomplishes those dreams. Make sure that what ever you do, it has a positive purpose and impact behind it. Your legacy will be beautiful and will be passed on to your children and your children’s children. What you do effects those around you and even if you can change one person’s life in what you chose to do and what you stand for, that is amazing.

I hope that these words will inspire you and help you continue to be great. It is your life, you only get one, live it wisely.

Love you more than anyone else will,

Essence 

 

 

Returning Guest Writer: Aaron Price-CLMG

I have the opportunity and honor to have my friend and collaborator Aaron Price back on protect your crown for a third time. I thank you for you transparency and openness about things that may be difficult to talk about. I support you my friend.

Save Yourself

Ever since I could remember, I’ve had extreme anxiety. I care too much about those I love, my family, my friends, but never put myself first. Anxiety causes an unhealthy increase in worrisome emotions, in which nothing seems to be going correctly. I always believe nothing is going correctly. The most toxic thoughts run through my mind every day, but yet I fight to dispel those mental barriers, like my life depends on it because it does. As I write this passage, I feel the massive amount of tears falling from my face because my anxiety has taken hold of me. It does not want me to express my feelings due to the expectations that this will not meet anyone’s expectations for what is deemed a good read. At this point, I do not care anymore.

Listen, I work for the Federal Government for my day job, I’m also co-founder of Crown Lens Media Group, co-founder of Sickzdozen Multimedia, an access producer for SPNN, executive producer/writer of the show, “Candy Fresh”, the same for the podcast/TV show, as well as, co-host of “Crowned Sound”, an independent videographer/photographer, videographer/photographer/model for Zubaz United, and a college student. I do not know what a “day-off” means. I work hard every single day as if someone is working hard to take it all away from me. Yet I have this mental disease called “Anxiety” and I have heart disease. You wonder why some consider me laid back, because I have to, my life depends on it. Anger, being overly emotional, stress, depression, and sadness literally kills me in more than one way.

You ask yourselves, why? Why put all of this on your plate if you know that it’s killing you both physically, mentally, and emotionally? I do this because I love unconditionally. I love all of my people whether you know me or not. We all deserve to be loved by someone. One of the problems with our community, let alone the world is we take love for granted. We feel more comfortable hating one another than expressing love, knowing love will set you free. I love without bounds, my mother taught me that.

I’m humble because I know what it means to build from ashes. I know what it feels like to have everyone against you because they do not know you. I know what it feels like to always be the “underdog”. I have had family and friends disrespect me, and some still do because of jealousy; envy, but I do not understand why. I do not throw anything I’ve ever done in anyone’s face, yet I welcome you to join me. I welcome you to collaborate with me for the greater good of people; of life. Once again, my life depends on it.

I was born and raised in North Minneapolis; I’ve seen a lot since 1983. I know what destruction looks like, but I also know what unity looks like, what love looks like. Hate me or love me, I live for my people of all races, creeds, religions, beliefs, genders, preferences, as long as it’s in the name of LOVE. I work hard for you all because you deserve someone who works tirelessly for you, who loves you unconditionally, who trusts in the process that we will all unite in power to create the next generation of great innovators, educators, entrepreneurs, etc.. You do not have to follow me, but merely understanding is all I ask for.

Look in the mirror, realize your power, and realize your strength, JUST REALIZE THAT YOU HAVE WORTH THAT EXCEEDS ALL THE RICHES IN THIS WORLD. I may not live long enough to see you all succeed, but just know that I love you and that you deserve all the blessings coming to you. I chose my destiny and my path is clearer than ever. My life belongs to the world, belongs to the Twin Cities, and belongs to Minneapolis, to my family, to my loved ones, to my GOD. I’m merely a vessel to open your eyes to the power, strength, magic, intelligence, love, respect that you all possess. I do not need you to save me, save yourselves because your WORTH it.

 

Aaron Price-CLMG, Writer, Photographer, Videographer

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Wednesday Reflection

wp-1477490520422.jpgOften times when discussing our feelings, thoughts and experiences with friends or loved ones, the responses can vary.  When it comes to dealing with mental illness, there is no exception to the rule, however, it is more brushed off or ignored than most topics of discussions.

When telling people close to me that I have suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my adult life, a lot of people were shocked. I always wore a mask when being around people, always tried to keep a smile on my face and try to be the life of the party. Yet, when I finally decided to tell those closest to me what was going on, I was a bit taken back by the responses. Responses like, “You’ve just been doing too much, you’re fine”, and ex of mine long before I married responded that “I just wanted attention, and nothing was wrong with me.” The most annoying response was “It can’t be that bad, people are dying, don’t have families or a place to live. Trust me, it could be worse”.

People need to understand, having a mental illness is NOT A CHOICE. It’s not like you wake up one day and decide that you want to battle with yourself. Also, there are many different mental illness that have many different stages and layers to it. For example, when it comes to depression, one does not have to be sad all the time and go through an emotional rollercoaster, sometimes a person can function and do a daily routine. Sometimes, one has really great days and some days not so much. There is not a  certain way to be when living with a mental illness.

I’ve said it once before and I will say it again, until people can get clear and separate the person from the mental illness, people will lack understanding. People need to listen without passing heat or judgment. People need to understand the way that one may handle their struggles are different from others.  An the most important thing that people need to understand that everyone has their own story and for one to have an opinion on another’s story is not a good look. No one can tell the other how they should feel, how they should think and conduct a comparison of other things and people. Everyone has struggles, hardships and breaking points and all are not the same. My truth is validate, my story is valid, the things I may go through in MY life is valid, my struggles with mental illness is valid, My road and ways of healing is valid. No one can tell me or make me feel any different.

 

Be Blessed,

Essence