Moving Forward

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“Are you present in the moment, right here, right now? Or are you remembering what you didn’t do yesterday, thinking about what you have to do tomorrow, regretting what you did last week. If you are not here now, it means you could be missing the love, joy, peace and brand-new ideas that are here right now.” -Dr. Iyanla Vanzant

Lately, I have been feeling disconnected and not quite myself. Yes, I had a wonderful vacation with my loved ones and enjoyed myself quite a bit. Yet, as soon as I returned on a flight home, I was hit with the realities of life. I began to immediately worry about bills, work, and the chaos that is happening in our nation. Since returning home, my anxiety has been high and I have been having an on going battle with depression. I feel like I cannot concentrate, my mind is constantly racing, I’m tired mentally, physically, and extremely emotional. I just want to sleep because my body has not wanted to do much because it aches from head to toe. I have been avoiding social media, not returning phone calls and text messages right away, bottom line, is no matter how upbeat, positive, and uplifting I try to be, I STILL STRUGGLE.

It wasn’t until last night/this morning did I finally begin breaking through. I came across the quote above from miss Iyanla and repeated it to myself. As I repeated the quote back to myself, I began to cry and pray. It had struck a cord so deep and it was amazing to me that of all things that I had come across, this quote came at the exact time that I needed it. As much as I have talked about letting go of the past especially, I tend to forget that the phrase “Let it Go” includes EVERYTHING.

Often times in our lives, we tend to want to control most of what happens. Yet, we must remember, your path is already already written. Yes, it is true, what you choose along the way may alter or shape some things, but the total outcome only the most high knows. Letting go means allowing things to be without worry, fear, or regret. Letting go of the “What Ifs? Why’s? How’s?” and replacing them with, “I understand. I accept. I will. I am”. Now, don’t get me wrong, we all must still do our work to better our lives and better others, but we need to have more faith in ourselves and the most high. Faith and confidence plays a huge roll in promoting good mental health. You must have faith and believe/know that whatever negativity WILL PASS in your life. God has already chosen a path for you, yet it is up to you on how you choose to follow or get there. We must also understand that our path is our own, no one else’s. Instead of trying to control things, especially your future, do what you can TODAY. Be present, take everything in, be a light and stay positive, As you do that, know that you must keep moving forward. Life will continue to move forward with or without you. All you can do is take things one day at a time and take in all  that life has to offer.

This is something that I am trying to refocus and do. Each day is a new day and each day is getting better.  I have asked God to order my steps, keep me close, and continue to guide me. I must keep in mind that I have a lot of work and healing that I must do for self. I must keep being a vessel, I must continue to uplift and inspire not only others, but myself.

If you don’t continue to move forward, you will be stuck looking back.

Be Blessed,

Essence

 

 

 

 

 

It Starts with You

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In this crazy unpredictable world we live in, it is very easy for us to buy into fear, anger, and other negative emotions. Whether its due to something we see on TV, social media, or right in front of us, most of us tend to react based off of emotion. Regardless on what may happen in everyday life, we must do better at keeping ourselves in check. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “For every action is a reaction”,  right? Often, we react now and either ask questions later or don’t ask at all. We need to understand that it is ok, to take a pause and create your own calm within because ultimately the outcome starts with you based on your reaction. Here are a few things that you should keep in mind when dealing with negative energy, thoughts, and/or situations:

Take A Pause: Try to think things through, take in all facts and considerations before providing a response and/or action. Remember, if you respond to negativity with negativity, you are manifesting that negativity and not really resolving the problem. Take a breathe, think, then if you must formulate a response.

If It Does Not Serve You and Your Spirit, Let It Go: Often, we allow the little things to get to us, not understanding what that does to our spirit and mental well being. If it is not making you or breaking you, what is the point of taking it on or thinking about it? There is no purpose in holding on or responding to something that does not serve you.

Get Out Of Your Feelings- Sometimes, we tend to get emotional over things that have nothing to do with us or we take things personal and as a result, we react or respond. When this happens, we need to stop a reflect on why we may be feeling some type of way. Figure out what and why certain things are triggers for you. When you can narrow down where the emotion(s) are coming from, its easier for you to keep yourself in check.

You Are In Control of only You- You cannot control what others do but you can control how and what you respond to. You set the stage and the tone of some situations. You control what you walk away from and what you respond to. You have to understand that everything does not have to be justified or dignified with a response.

Lastly, when it comes to things that are happening in our world and our communities, understand that you have an influence on that as well. We can sit and complain about things that are or that are not happening or get out there and do your part. Do some community service, help others that are in need, support local businesses, artist, and events. Be the best that you can be. Remember, it starts with you.

 

Be Well,

Essence

 

 

 

2017

14642198_10206118066184333_8029256824147832361_nWe made it, a New Year!!! People are beginning their New Years resolutions, eating healthy, working out, being financially fit. Yet, there are some who feel its just another year and not much will change. Here are a few things I wish for you all  in 2017:

Self Care-Whether its being optimistic or going with the flow, try your best to take care of yourself FIRST. Do for self, give yourself nourishment and rest when you need it. Be still, quiet your mind, and keep positivity around you at all times. If something or someone tries to dim your light, recognize it and don’t allow it.

Push Through- The obstacle with the New Year is that people tend to start off hopeful and ready for a challenge. As the days, weeks, and months go back, we tend to fall back into old habits. As a person who has done that in the past, I encourage you that no matter what the challenge is, keep going, you can do it, you got this. Find those cheerleaders in your life that is going to motivate you and inspire you. It will not be easy but think of how rewarding it will be.

JUST LIVE- Life is too short to dwell on the past or worry about the future, live it the moment. Technology is great to have, you can share photos, video, even go live as something is happening. Yet, the things that stick with you are the things that cannot be photographed or recorded and sometimes, if you take a pause to do so, you may miss a life changing moment. Unplug, be present, and take it all in.

LOVE-  In the words of Actor Liam Neeson which hold so much truth “Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality, love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again. Love is the only thing in this world that does not hurt”. Don’t be afraid to not only love but be loved. Real love heals, real love conquers all. When you recognize it, don’t  shy a way from it, yet know when its real. Also keep in mind that forgiveness is love. Even if someone hurts you, love anyway.

Be A Light-  If there is one thing I have learned is that life can be difficult but it will continue to move with or without you. Try your best to allow your light to shine, step into your purpose, and own it. Meaning, when life tries to get the best of you, stay positive, smile, and go against all odds. Also, there is no greater feeling that doing something for someone else. Whether its donating your time, money, knowledge, or work, make a difference and leave your mark. Support, uplift, be present.

Know That You Will Be Fine- Whenever you are having a bad day, Anxiety or Depression tries to rear its ugly head, try to create calm and embrace that you will be fine. Whether its through mediation, talking with someone, or speaking/writing positive affirmations. You are not defined by anxiety, stress, anger, or fear. You are strong, you are confident, you are amazing!!

Thank you all for your continuous support and love. There will much more coming from Protect Your Crown, stay tuned.

Be Well,

Essence

 

 

 

2016

If I had to describe the year 2016 in one word it would be “REALLY?”  This year has been a very turbulent, interesting, scary, and emotional year. All years have highlights and low moments, yet I can honestly say that this is the first time in my lifetime were I have gone through a plethora of emotions, low moments and had to face anxiety and depression more than ever. From losing a cousin to suicide, another to gun violence, losing an aunt to kidney/liver failure, and losing one of the most influential people in my life and a world icon within a 4 month time frame, the sense of loss definitely tried to take its toll on my life. I guess you can say I wasn’t so optimistic going into 2016 in the first place. I was going into a new year broken and confused about who I was and what I wanted to stand for. I was overthinking and worrying about things and people that I should have not invested so much time and energy into. I was a complete mess so it is no surprise that the majority of the year was a mess as well.

Yet, all of 2016 wasn’t lost, I have gotten closer with my extended family, rekindled a love with my love that I didn’t know existed or I deserved. Began checking things off of my vision board/life to do list. I have developed great friendships and partnerships where the common goal is giving back and helping others. Of course, in 2016 brought the birth of Protect Your Crown: An Insight into Mental Health, which definitely put the wind back in my sails and helped me understand the importance of taking care of self.

The biggest accomplishment in 2016 for me is finding me again. All the tears, anger, sadness, the feeling of defeat at times, all was apart of Gods plan to build me back up. It has been said, God has to shake things up in your life in order to get you to move and have things fall into place. See, I was getting too comfortable with a lot of things. I was ok with not loving me, yet I was trying so hard to be there for others and being what I thought others wanted me to be. I was allowing things to come into my life and overstaying their welcome when I knew good and well that it had been time for them to go long ago. I also wasn’t holding myself accountable for the part I played in my self destruction. I did not know my worth or what I deserved. You mix all that with a person who suffers from mental illness, that is a awful combination and toxic. It almost destroyed my family, friendships, and most important.. me. It took a lot of breakdown, building up, patience, forgiveness, self love, and support for me to be where I am and to become who I am.

I am definitely looking forward what the New Year holds. Yes I know, some ask “How do we know next year will be different?”, which is a valid question. My response is that there is no guarantee that it will be, however, its about how well equipped you are going into it. The New Year may not change things, but you as a person have an influence on how you live it, how you will respond to it, and how you will carry yourself going into it. You must prepare yourself mind, body, and spirit for all stages of life for time will continue to move forward with or without you. Just always remember, life is what you make it. Its scary but you will never know what living is like if you don’t do it.

Goals and resolutions for 2017 for Essence and PYC?!?! Well, You will have to wait for the next post 🙂

 

Be Well,

Essence

 

 

Thank You!

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4 months ago, I started my journey in healing by telling on how mental illness has affected my life and the importance of self-care/mental health awareness in communities, especially communities of color. At first I was afraid to be transparent and let others know what I had gone through and there were many in my life that never knew. Yet, I was determined to make sure that others had a safe outlet that included resources, personal stories, and events where were people can come together and speak of healing, knowledge, and growth. Protect Your Crown: An Insight Into Mental Illness has blossomed from a simple idea of blogging to a wonderful movement. I am truly humbled and grateful for all that have encouraged me, inspired me, collaborated with me, believed in me and my vision. 2016 was just the beginning and I am so looking forward to what the next year holds. We will continue to heal, we will continue to uplift, we will the conversation so we no longer have to struggle and suffer in silence. Be Well, Be Blessed.

Love and Light,

Essence

I Am The Greatest

Often times, I tend to downplay myself and what it is that I’m doing that is positive. For example, when someone gives me a compliment, I laugh with that nervous, passive laugh that most Minnesotans tend to when we feel uncomfortable. Or if someone tells me that I am doing a great job, I kind of deflect and incorporate others for the credit. I didn’t know how often I was doing it until someone pointed it out.

I think apart of it has been because it is difficult for me to be comfortable in my own skin at times. Being told that I was not good enough or not doing enough over the years followed by one disappointment after another, I started to buy into it. When you “buy what they are selling”, you feel dissatisfied. You judge and reject yourself in whole or in part.  At least to some extent you  believe, “I’m not (important, smart, good looking, talented, rich) enough” to be worthy of love and acceptance. According to holisticmindbodyhealing.com:

 Low self worth creates an undercurrent of stress that makes physical and mental healing difficult. There is a scientific reason for this. Negativity is discouraging and stressful. You can be sure the message makes its way to your cells. The chemical changes created by stress reduce cell repairing DHEA levels and elevate cortisol.

Mental and spiritual well-being also suffer. Lack of love and freedom to honor your core being along with a barrage of judgment cause untold strain and unhappiness. All this chronic distress is the antithesis of wellness.

 

As a person living with depression and anxiety, self-love and self care is a uphill battle. You have voices and doubts in the back of your mind that hinders you from feeling positive and confident about yourself. I have constant conversations with myself or mediate in order to stay a float. If I don’t find ways to do that, I feel hopeless and defeat, not to mention I am not as productive as I know I can be.

Unconditional self acceptance opens you to your true nature. It frees up energy for healing and puts you in tune with inner guidance and intuition.  When you love and accept yourself unconditionally, you are naturally motivated to take good care of yourself. Your decisions and goals will align with what is in your best interest. And it certainly feels better than beating yourself up with negativity.

I am realizing everyday the importance of stepping into your purpose and owning it. Looking at where I was and how I was a few years ago and looking at my life now, I am a different person in a lot of aspects. Its not to say that I don’t fall back into my old habits, but I am a little more vocal about who I am. When I dream, I dream big, my ideas may not always the best but they’re mine. I am learning that I have a light within that no one can dim and I cannot adjust it to make others feel comfortable. To be proud of what I accomplished so far, be hopeful and confident in the future and know that I am beautiful inside and out. I am recognizing that words are powerful, if I speak positivity and what I want to accomplish, so it will be.  I’m learning to be ok with saying in the words of The Great Mohammad Ali, “I AM THE GREATEST“……and not take it back.

 

Be Well,

Essence

Happiness

15267871_10154948140977867_4344940599242617213_nWhat does it mean to be happy? For many people, being happy means different things. Some may think that love, money, and success brings happiness. I decided to do some research, first I went to the dictionary in which it defined happy as “delighted, pleased, glad, as over a particular thing: to be happy to see a person. 2. Characterized by ….  pleasure, contentment, or joy.” In other words, happiness is different for different people. Its not a “one size fits all” for everyone. Recently, I was talking to someone about love and relationships and I have mentioned to them when it comes to my friends and love ones that I just want them to be happy. Yet, I really had to check myself after the conversation because the way I may envision happiness and what I believe brings one happiness may be totally different from someone else’s view.

Here’s what I learned – being happy is both easier and harder than we think.  It’s easier because it’s up to us – and it’s harder because it’s up to us. I remember while traveling to LA on vacation at the beginning of the year watch an episode of TEDX Talks about happiness. The presenter happened to be a Happiness Expect (please forgive me for not remembering his name and I was surprised to learn there was such a expert). He mentioned that  if we know what you have, we can only predict about 10% of your happiness level.  90% of your happiness depends on how you process the world. He also talked about how to “get to happy” in 21 days: Write down gratitudes, Journal and try to stay focused on something positive, exercise, mediate, and perform an act of kindness. He mentioned by doing these 5 steps, you can preprogram your brain to stay positive in turn produces happiness.

One thing that I am learning everyday is that you can do anything but not everything. What others have going on is not your concern, focus on your life and energy, for you cannot control others or others situations. When you get involved in others situations or in other words “business” as my mother would say, you can sometimes do more harm then good. Even if your intentions were good and you were coming from a good place, you are taking on negative energy in some form or fashion. Also, we must understand that their circumstance and truth is their own, and you are the odd man out so it will be difficult for you to understand what the other person may be going through or see it through their perspective. The best thing you can do is first, do for self and make sure your needs are being met. Second, if the opinion or help wasn’t asked, don’t offer. Pray for them and support them in the best way you can and sometimes that involves knowing when you close your mouth. At the end of the day, happiness starts within ourselves. A positive mind, positive living results in happiness and from there, happiness spreads to others. Find and keep your happy 🙂

 

Be Well,

Essence

 

 

Worry

img_0015One of the things that contributes to my anxiety is stress and worry. In my world, one usually doesn’t exist without the other. Sometimes, I even worry about things and for the life of me I cannot figure out why. Most of us worry without any conscious control, almost on auto mode. After yesterday, I finally had to breakdown and had to figure out why I worry. I mediated and prayed on it, did a bit of research including thinking back to my past, and when/where I picked up this trait that often causes me sleepless nights, overthinking periods, and sometimes tears. Here is what I came up with:

  • Fear of the unknown; Not knowing the outcome of something or what the future holds.
  • The mind sometimes is programmed to think it cannot rest and it needs to be doing something.
  • Its becomes a habit or pattern like all the others, it becomes so repetitive that we sometimes don’t recognize it.
  •  We often do not have control over situations therefore we do not have control over the outcome which causes us to analyze, overthink, and freak out.

Most of these points are common sense but often times we don’t think rationally about these things or often we are reactive. Yet, what I have learned, especially over this past weekend is that by stressing and worrying about everything in my life, I am causing havoc on my mind, body, and spirit. Because I worry, I don’t take care of my body by not working out, not eating right or enough, I cause so much stress on my brain that it causes headaches.  My spirit feels defeated and not strong enough to carrying on. I’m distracted from the things at are important or the things that do bring joy to my life. Sleep is very limited or nonexistent so then I’m tired and crabby the next day and its hard to be productive as I know I can be.

So with everything that I received during my “A-HA” moment, I had to really dig down deep within myself and realize that things must change. I thought back to the women and mental health discussion that PYC hosted this past Friday. There were some takeaways that stayed with me and that I promised myself that I am going to apply to my life:

Other peoples situation is not my crisis: I can no longer carry other peoples “stuff” and I have no control over it. Let grown folks be grown folks.

Bask in your light as well as others: When people, especially other woman, are doing something magical and amazing, uplift them, congratulate them, be inspired by them. Also, don’t downplay your fabulousness or dim your light (which I found out I did from a close friend). Give yourself props, know how magical you are, own it, and be proud!

Mediate: Often, we think mediation is suppose to look a certain way and last a certain amount of time which is a myth. Mediation is about quieting your mind, finding your center, and attracting positive energy. In a nutshell, recharging you mental, spiritual sometime physical battery. Whether you mediate at home, at your desk at work, in your car, wherever you can find a quiet place will work. A close friend of mine who is also a Psychotherapist mention that if it is difficult for you to concentrate or focus, use Guided Imaginary. Guided Imagery meditation is a gentle but powerful technique that focuses and directs the imagination in proactive, positive ways.

Live in the moment: Time is not also on our side and its about the here and now that counts. Make memories, focus on love, enjoy the people and times that mean the most. The past cannot be changed and tomorrow is not promised. The only moment which is under the influence of your control is the present moment. Rest in the now and see how beautiful life is.

You are not in control so stop it!: People who deeply realize this truth of life, live in surrender to what is. They don’t try to predict the future, they just make some practical plans and leave the rest to destiny. The more you try to control, the more you will suffer. Worrying serves no purpose at all except to make you feel ill and uneasy. Let it be.

Don’t Pray and Worry: You cannot ask the most high to do something and then be inpatient and not allow it to be done. Pray over it and allow it to be worked on. It may not happen in your timeframe but it will happen on time.

This is definitely going to be a uphill battle at times for I am a work in progress but I am up for the challenge.

Be Well,

Essence

 

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