Raven K. Jackson has been heavy on my heart. Scrolling through her Instagram feed you would see a beautiful young lady with stunning curves and a killer personality. She promoted fitness quite a bit on her page, even creating her own workout clothing line called Go cRAEzy Fitness, letting everyone know that fitness is for everyone no matter who you are. You truly never know what people are going through; the silent battles that are masked with smiles and laughter. She killed herself earlier this week; we have lost yet another light.
Her departure happened during Suicide Prevention Week, something that honestly deserves more than a week. Actually, maybe not even a month; preventing suicide is constant. As a mental health counseling student, I know that I may counsel those that are experiencing suicidal ideation, and of course I am going to do my best to help them see their worth and value. However, that’s really all I can do. Yes, I can lend an ear and listen to their problems and offer solutions, even point them in the direction of certain resources, but I can’t change the way the world is and that’s what bothers me. Mental health is a multi-layered issue, it isn’t something that can just be fixed with a therapy session or two, although it can surely help. What if the person can’t find stable housing? Or they can’t pay their bills? Once they leave my session, they are immersed into their trauma once again.
Suicide isn’t an easy issue to tackle, if it was, no one would be catapulting themselves off buildings and overdosing on opioids. Suicide prevention isn’t just talking about your problems, although that helps tremendously. Suicide prevention is giving people access to healthcare. Suicide prevention is the legal system taking sexual assault matters and domestic battery more seriously. Suicide prevention is paying people fair wages. Suicide prevention is affordable housing and so on and so forth; it’s a multi-layered issue. There is so much more that can be done.
If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts or harming yourself/themselves or others, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
So…the Supreme Court decided to repeal the landmark case Roe v. Wade…not shocking in my opinion. Those who have uteruses are basically under attack; the right to a healthy abortion has been desecrated. Since Roe v. Wade is considered an umbrella law (not sure if that is the right term), so abortion is not the only thing that is affected here. If you wanted access to birth control or any other contraceptive, you can kiss that goodbye because that’s no longer an option. Perhaps you suffered a miscarriage and require extensive aftercare. Well, if they don’t arrest you first, you are probably going to be denied help. Maybe you want to get pregnant, as being a parent has been a dream of yours since you were a child, however, you have fibroids or ovarian cysts, which results in every pregnancy test revealing only one line instead of two. Well, maybe research some old school remedies, because IVF is not going to be on the table for you. Anything that was protected under this law can be eradicated. You’re pregnant, and you think everything is going well until your fourth doctors appointment. There are so many developmental problems present and you don’t know what to do. Well, hope for the best, because you’re delivering…even if it kills you. What’s next? Obergefell v. Hodges? Loving v. Virginia? Don’t think they aren’t considering it. There are already politicians in certain states wishing to bring back segregation. I might not be the most well versed in politics, but I’ll give Trump this…he said he was going to take America back to his so-called definition of “great” and that’s exactly what he is doing even from outside the Oval Office. I wish I could say that this was a shocking turn of events for America; how dare they infringe upon basic human rights…this surely has never happened before here, right? Unfortunately, when the draft of the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade was released, I knew that it was only a matter of time until it manifested itself into reality.
This is bad…REALLY bad, and the Supreme Court knows it, and to be quite honest, pro-lifers do too. You may see Twitter rants about how this is a good thing for the American people and YouTube videos of people with signs of bloody fetuses crying and leaping for joy over the news, but they know that things are going to get pretty dreary pretty quickly. People are going to find ways to get rid of their unwanted fetuses; whether that be botched, back alley abortions, mixing up a medical cocktail and guzzling it down like Sprite, or committing suicide, it’s going to happen. There will be babies left on doorsteps, found in dumpsters, thrown into rivers…abandoned and neglected. More children will be put into abusive and traumatizing home situations. Foster care, they retort, put them into foster care, but have you seen America’s foster care system? Have you heard the stories that have come from those who were victims of said system? That isn’t a solution! These are all things that we have been told before! You know this has nothing to do about preserving life, right? If that was the case, I would be able to purchase a reasonably priced apartment in a safe neighborhood without having to prove I make three to four times the rent. If pro-life was really a thing, people would have access to free healthcare. If pro-life was really a thing, those who have given birth would be given paid maternity leave…at minimum. Those who are against abortion and the Roe v. Wade law know that overturning it will affect black and brown people the most, which means more minorities to exploit. This is all calculated, long game racism and white supremacy. You protested wearing masks into Krogers but having bodily autonomy now is a foreign concept…give me a break.
“Not all cops are bad.” I think I’ve seen this comment underneath every Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter post calling out the police for their mistreatment of black people. While some may see it as a reminder that there are actually allies on the force, I kind of see it as a way to deter the conversation that we are really trying to focus on; the unjust treatment of black people within the African Diaspora. Once you contribute to a system that was founded on corruption and continuously uses barbaric and brutal force to enforce the law, which too many times results in death…yeah, hate to tell you, but it’s kind of hard to distinguish a so called good cop from the roster of officers that are deemed unfit to serve. A profession that was put in place to ensure the well being of their citizens isn’t doing such a great job, huh? I see peaceful protests in countless cities turn into a potential bloodbath when the police begin to grow agitated. Tear gas is being thrown at the people with no justice, and in turn, resulting in a lack of peace. Rubber bullets are ricocheting off of people’s body parts, leaving scars and bruises as a reminder of the side of history they were on. The people, the ones that are labeled as these dangerous animalistic delinquents, are fighting back against the system that tells society that black people are replaceable and expendable. What do the police expect? Disturb the peace…and you’ll get what you’re asking for. Having your authority challenged doesn’t feel too good, does it officers? You’re not as invincible as you think. You’re no better than anybody else. A badge is not a personality trait, but beating a young woman with a baton when her only weapon is a piece of cardboard is; says a lot about yourself. What are they so afraid of? Is your quota really that important? Do you need more money for your donut fund? Okay, now I’m getting off topic, but honestly! You know exerting an inexplicable amount of force upon an unarmed person, or any person for that matter, is wrong. You know battering and bruising people until their choking on their own blood and spitting out teeth is wrong. You obviously know that murder is wrong…yet, you do it anyways, and are filmed doing it…and you don’t care! I want to strangle the people that insist that this isn’t a race issue. There were predominantly white people protesting the rules put in place on what you can and cannot do during COVID-19 a few weeks ago. A pandemic was being protested! What did you think you all would do…scare the virus away? “Oh, you want a haircut. Well I’m so sorry young white man, let me just magically disappear and stop infecting people. You won.” You’re smart, you already know why nothing happened to them during their protests…you know.
Anyways, it always made me wonder why the police think they are so much better than everyone else; black people to be more specific. The black cops within police precincts probably think that these white cops are their brothers, but little do they know how they really feel about them. Or even worse! They know that their counterparts think little of them, and they play bystander, or think they are superior because of the position of power that they have. Hmmm…position of power, let’s think about this for a second. It makes sense, right? Black people and other minorities don’t have much say, hence the events that are taking place currently. Due to that, cops take advantage of the so called power they have over minorities. The law enforcement privilege is one thing, but if you’re white on top of that, that’s two privileges in one. When placed in this position, your true colors begin to bleed through. Those whose voices are muffled, what will you do exemplify them? So many officers abuse the power that they have, why? Why do people tend to misuse what is given to them?
The Stanford Prison Experiment was a six day long social psychology experiment that began August 14, 1971, and ended…well, six days later on August 20, 1971. The experiment was led by Stanford University Professor Philip Zimbardo. Zimbardo had an idea to examine and expose the source of abusive behavior in the prison system. He converted a basement within the Stanford University psychology building into a mock prison and put out an advertisement asking for volunteers to participate in his plan. Around 75 people responded. These people were then examined through personality testing and diagnostic interviews, and through a careful process of elimination, 24 young men were chosen. These men were considered the most mentally sane and stable…if only they knew what they were getting themselves into. Eventually, a few dropped out of the experiment before it started, leaving 21 participants to be assigned guard or prisoner roles at random. There were ten prisoners, and eleven guards in total. Let the experiment begin. The men assigned as prisoners were hit with a rude awakening on the first day of the experiment. They were forced out of their houses, arrested, taken to an actual police station, fingerprinted, and charged. Blindfolds were put over their eyes as they were transported like cattle to the mock prison Zimbardo and his team designed. They were stripped naked, hosed down, had their personal belongings taken from then, and were locked away in their makeshift cells. They were dressed in prison uniforms, having chains wrapped around their ankles, and only referred to as a number and not their names. Imagine how dehumanizing that is…you’re not Brett, or Ashley, or Imani…you’re Number 34, 56, and 8. Guards however were treated like kings compared to the prisoners. They were given nice, ironed out, clean khaki clothes to wear, and were supplied with whistles, hand cuffs, and billy clubs. They slid sunglasses over their eyes so they would come of even more cold and distant; you can’t look them directly in the eye. Dave Eshelman, one of the guards in the experiment years later in an interview stated that it was like a mask; allowing a person to behave in ways that you wouldn’t if your identity was more apparent. Although no physical violence was allowed, the guards could do whatever they saw fit to the prisoners in terms of punishment.
As soon as the experiment begins, the guards had no problem assimilating into their new roles. They were targeting and harassing the prisoners, taunting them and waking them up out of their sleep; blowing whistles in their ears and screaming obscenities from the top of their lungs. Sounds familiar right? Where have we heard and or seen that before? Anyways, this traumatized the prisoners, and soon they began to mold into the roles that were placed upon them too…but that didn’t last long. They took the rules of the prison quite seriously in the beginning. Some of them even turned their backs on some of the other prisoners if they seemed like they weren’t following instruction. Because the guards had the power to do so, they made the prisoners their own personal puppets. They would give them these asinine tasks to do like marching in place or jumping jacks just because. The power imbalance was apparent, and the guards made no effort to make it even. Let’s compare this to the countless police brutality incidents that we have seen in our communities and on social media, as well as the cases that have not been exposed. These police officer know that no matter what they do, they will be protected, especially if they are white. So what if they abuse their power, no one is going to do anything, right? Well…so they think.
By the second day, the prisoners were already tired of being seen and treated like they weren’t human beings. They rebelled! They ripped off the numbers on their uniforms and pushed their beds against the door, locking themselves in. They were fed up after a day, think about being fed up after 400 years. The guards were stunned by the revolts, so they brought in back up to restrain the cranky prisoners. The guards then started retaliating. They unleashed chilling carbon dioxide of their fire extinguishers, breaking into the prisoners’ cells. They stripped them naked, tormented them, and removed their beds. The most rebellious prisoners was placed in solitary confinement to try and disrupt their solidarity. Some of the more obedient prisoners were granted special privileges, well, as special as special can get in prison. They were able to eat special meals, while the rest of the inmates didn’t even get a chance to eat; they lost that right. The prisoners solely relied on the guards for everything, and the more dependent the inmates became, the more the guards abused their privilege.
Prisoner 8612 was the first person to suffer a mental breakdown, demanding to be freed from the experiment. Eshelman stated that he didn’t think that him and the rest of the guards had that type of authority to make others react in a way like Prisoner 8612; he thought they were faking it or weak. Moving into the third and fourth day, things began to escalate even more. Guards would make prisoners clean toilets with their bare hands. They would mercilessly taunt them, degrade them in front of one another, it was very unusual; the punishments even grew sexual. Through the minds of the guards, they knew that many men had some insecurities when it came to sex, so they wanted to play on those fears. More prisoners began to break down as the experiment progressed; the next victim being Prisoner 819. After breaking down, crying uncontrollably and going into hysterics, the other prisoners were instructed to chant about how bad of a prisoner he was and how because of his actions, everyone else had to suffer. Prisoner 819 could hear all of this, and when psychologists tried to get him to leave he refused because he didn’t want to be labeled as a worse prisoner than he already was considered. Philip Zimbardo had enough, and he could see that the other participants did too. A two week long experiment turned into six days. The guards removed their khakis, their sunglasses, and returned their billy clubs, while the prisoners were able to be human again.
The experiment wasn’t just a means of torture, it was a lesson. Zimbardo in an interview stated that him and his psychologists begged the question of what happens when you take seemingly normal people and put them in a negative place. Does the goodness of humanity overcome the bad place, or does the bad situation influence the people and their thinking? We as human beings can be fickle. When people are given a position of authority, they act in a way that they normally wouldn’t. Why? Because they can! What were the underprivileged going to do? What could they do? In America, black people and people of color are seen just like these prisoners. They aren’t treated like people, but instead of referring to them as a number, they are their skin color, their features, their socioeconomic status, and so many other factors that shouldn’t evoke judgement. The justice system dehumanizes them as soon as they look at them. They aren’t friends, family members, neighbors, teachers, students, mentors, athletes…they’re criminals, thugs, nuisances, and targets. The guards worked together to psychologically humiliate the prisoners because they all had the same privilege, and they didn’t want the prisoners deviating from their role. Those cops do the same thing. When they see others with their uniforms and their badges, they immediately follow a code; they have the upper hand. Zimbardo, acting somewhat as the prison warden, could have stopped the experiment at any given time, but he watched the turmoil go on for six days…he allowed the guards to abuse the prisoners. In a way, Zimbardo was somewhat like the government. We are being treated like degenerates by people with higher authority, and the government is just watching. When the prisoners lashed out and fought back against the experiment and Zimbardo, he let them leave. That’s what we are doing now…we are trying to leave. We are trying to leave a system that was founded on racism and white supremacy. We are trying to leave oppression. We are trying to leave police brutality. We are trying to leave it behind; leave it behind and never return to it. We are trying to leave black women and men dying before their time because they were doing something as innocent as walking down the street at the wrong place at the wrong time…behind. We’ve got to make our voices heard, if not by physically opening up our mouths and speaking, by donating, by signing petitions, by being supportive, by listening, voting people out who perpetuate the system…by being apart of something greater. Opening up my news feed and seeing people coming together, no matter what race, religion, or gender is inspiring; it’s what we need to progress. If we keep going…who knows? We may actually get a chance to see justice prevail.
In August 2019, singer/songwriter Summer Walker, announced that she was going on tour. Me, a relatively big fan, freaked out over this news. Now, I can’t say that I knew about Summer before “Girls Need Love Too” hit the radio waves, but if you look at my Apple Music, I guarantee Summer Walker is always an artist that I have recently been listening to. I think I’ve listen to her latest album Over It a million times…no, a million and two times. When I first heard the song, I was greeted with sultry and soulful tones; her voice reminds me of old school rhythm and blues. I was sold. Since then, me, and many other music lovers, have followed Summer’s career, and when she announced that she was going on tour, I immediately tried to gather my coins together and go see my girl sing “Playing Games” in person. The name of the tour, however, was a little interesting. The First and Last Tour…well, it’s pretty self explanatory. It sort of reminded me of The Eagles Hell Freezes Over Tour. After fourteen years, the band came together after they claimed that they would perform together…when hell freezes over. So I was assuming that by her title, this would most likely be the only tour that she will have for a while. Maybe she doesn’t like touring. Michael Jackson, although he did it, he hated it. Maybe she just thought it was tiring. Touring is exhausting, but it isn’t just physically exhausting for Summer, psychologically, it takes a toll on her.
During Summer Walker’s Tiny Desk Concert debut, people noticed that Summer didn’t seem to be acting “like herself.” She seemed nervous and she looked annoyed; singing stiffly into the microphone placed in front of her. To me, she looked tired, but her voice overpowered that. You can’t deny that her voice is three steps towards angelic, but she did look uncomfortable. I wasn’t the only one to notice this. There were so many news publications, people on Instagram, Twitter, and Instagram, and YouTube talking about how Summer Walker didn’t want to be there and how ungrateful she was acting, when it was actually a much deeper underlying condition.
Summer Walker has spoken out a numerous amount of times about her social anxiety. Social anxiety is the fear of situations where a person has to interact with others. Social phobia is the third largest mental health care problem in the world. Social anxiety effects around 7 percent of the population. This condition is chronic so it can’t just go away, however, there are definitely ways to manage it; medication, meditation, therapy, and etc. A lot of the time, people may confuse social anxiety with shyness or aloofness, but many people who have social anxiety are very friendly, open, and relatively happy people, they just can’t act that way freely due to their disorder. Once I learned about Summer’s dilemma, I could see some symptoms manifest. In a few of the videos that I’ve seen from her tour, you can see Summer standing there almost like a deer in headlights or sitting down very still. Even if you didn’t have social anxiety, picturing what’s going on through her eyes sounds a tad bit terrifying to me. You’re standing in front of a crowd of thousands; people yelling and screaming at you. There are bright flashing lights around, the music booming through the surrounding speakers and you can feel the vibrations of the bass through your feet and up your body. Wouldn’t that trigger some nerves? I get nervous when I go to arcades for that very reason. People are running around, people are loud; talking over each other, pushing, and shoving. It’s typically dark, and there are bright flashing lights from the games that are around. I can empathize with Summer, although my anxiousness is not as severe as hers is.
Recently, Summer Walker has cancelled most of her remaining tour dates due to her social anxiety, and it has a lot of people talking. For those who do not have anxiety, it may be difficult to understand. Many people on the internet are claiming that Summer is acting and that her social anxiety is not that bad; exaggerating her condition for…ugh I hate this word…clout. I didn’t know Summer was a stripper prior to singing, and that’s a big reason as to why people are claiming that she is lying. I do not personally know Summer (I wish I did though); I cannot read her mind, but it is kind of disheartening that so many people are shaming Summer. It’s not the weirdest thing in the world to be a person in that type of industry and have an anxiety disorder. Just think about how many people know her and how popular she is and how many instances she is confronted with having to surround herself with people now; the anxiety factor might have gone up a notch. After accepting her award at the Soul Train Music Awards, the topic of discussion came up once again with people dragging Summer through the mud. Summer has come out defending herself. In an Instagram post, she says…
One of the reasons I started this blog is to shed some light on mental health in the black community…and this kind of solidifies how desperately we as a community need to educate ourselves. Summer is stating some good points with her Instagram caption. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and all of the mental health disorders that are in between can affect anyone…that’s right…even you! And it will really hinder a person if they show signs of something, and they are told to ignore those signs; thinking that they will go away or that it can just be suppressed. It seems like we never take black people seriously; especially black women. If we have anxiety or exhibit any emotion that isn’t pure joy and happiness, we are seen as bitches or God forbid angry. We are told that we are faking it. And what’s sad is that it’s other black people that are trying to regress the black mental health discussion. A lot of it has to do with just not knowing and being ignorant to the fact, but there are literally people out there that think that black people just don’t suffer from mental health conditions. I will say, when you have a condition, it is your responsibility to get the help that you need if you are of legal age. My anxiety is…anxiety. I used to feel like someone else was controlling me when I would get into these little mental fits; sometimes I still do. I’ll give myself some credit; I am at a much better place mentally. That came with a lot of self reflection, hard work, more reflection, getting out of my comfort zone, more reflection, a great support system…did I say reflection? If you have done the same and can see some progress, no matter how little, you should pat yourself on the back. Seriously, I hope you’re doing it right now. I think with Summer Walker speaking more candidly about her condition, she can not only start a discussion about anxiety and other mental health conditions in the black community but she can set limits for what she can and cannot do, as well as pinpoint certain methods of healing that may work for herself.
I feel like when people are famous, their fans expect them to be somewhat superhuman. What we forget is that they too are human beings as well. They can get social anxiety; they aren’t immune to these things. There are so many people who look at their friends and family member’s social anxiety, depression, panic disorders, and so on and don’t see it for what it is. They tell them to get over it or to suck it up; not knowing that what they are doing is more harmful than helpful. Anxiety isn’t a little bout of nervousness, it can really affect a person and what they deem to be reality. Instead of pointing fingers and stating that other people’s (emphasis on other people’s) mental health conditions are exaggerated or fake, maybe we can educate ourselves a little better on what some of our peers may be going through. Okay? Thanks.
We have now made it towards the end of the year. We watched the weather heat up during the month of May, letting us walk around through out the spring and summer season with our arms bare and our skin glowing with the sun’s rays. Then we transitioned into the fall. The leaves on the trees changed their mood; showcasing red, orange, yellow, and brown hues as they fell to the ground. We saw families put pumpkins in front of their windows, getting ready for the night when ghosts and goblins walk from house to house collecting their sugary loot. With the shift in seasons, the air shifts in tune as well; with the weather calling for jackets and gloves. At the moment, it is about fifteen or sixteen degrees; a stark contrast from the seventy degree weather us Chicagoans were still getting in the middle of September. We were practically begging for the weather to get colder. Well now it’s here, and while some of us are embracing the slightly bitter cold with our Ugg boots on our feet and plaid scarves wrapped around our necks, others are struggling to grasp Mother Nature’s changes. Sometimes, it can psychologically bring us down. There’s a reason for that, and it has a name.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a type of depression that occurs due to the changes in seasons. Typically, it begins to set in at around late fall to early winter, but by spring and summer it usually goes away. Now, that does not mean that episodes can not take place during seasons with warmer climates…it just isn’t as common. There are a few tell-tale signs that may indicate that you may be experiencing bouts of seasonal depression, some may include:
if your depression persists nearly every day for most of the day
there’s a loss in the activities that you once enjoyed
insomnia or difficulties sleeping
hypersomnia or irregular sleep pattern
increase or decrease in weight
a drastic change in appetite and abnormal cravings
feeling rather sluggish or fatigued
having a hard time focusing
Remember, just because you exhibit one of the symptoms on this list, it doesn’t mean that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, if the symptom you exhibit is disrupting your way of life and your mental health, you may want to seek some professional mental help. There may be some other factors that may increase your chances of having SAD. For instance, if you’re a woman, it is four times more likely that you will be diagnosed with it than men. If you live further from the equator, then there is a higher chance that you may get it, or if you have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder. Also, age plays a factor too. Younger adults are more affected by SAD. Children and adolescents shouldn’t be overlooked either, they too can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder as well.
Christmas time and holiday cheer may be a positive point during the winter, as well as the whims fall brings, the growth spring attracts, and the warmth of summer, but people with SAD don’t get a chance to experience all of that, and it isn’t that they don’t want to, their brains have a hard time letting them. People with SAD may have difficulty regulating their serotonin. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes a person’s mood. This is a pretty important hormone; it practically controls your entire body. Serotonin helps brain cells and other nervous system cells communicate with each other. It is found in your stomach as well as your intestines; aiding eating, sleeping, and digestion. It even helps heal your wounds, triggering tiny arteries to narrow, forming blood clots. Serotonin is great, but there can always be too much of a good thing. Too much serotonin can lead to depression and excessive nerve cell activity. It may also lower your arousal. Low levels of serotonin can be associated with emotional and behavioral disorders such as suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and OCD. Having high levels of serotonin can lead to osteoporosis; making your bones weaker. Some symptoms of increased serotonin are shivering, high blood pressure, diarrhea, twitching muscles, high fever unconsciousness, seizures, and irregular heartbeat.
Seasonal Affective Disorder may make you feel heavy during the holidays, but there are plenty of ways to manage it.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s can be given to people who are dealing with SAD. Some take certain antidepressants like bupropion, which can also be taken to help people stop smoking. It may take a while to find the right medicine for you; all of them do not affect each person the same. Some of these medications may cause some pretty severe side effects. This article by the National Institute of Mental Health helps you understand some of your medications just a little better (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml).
I hadn’t heard of this one before, but apparently it has been used to treat SAD since the 1980’s. This is typically used during the months that contain shorter days and colder weather. The whole idea is to mimic and replace the diminished sunlight of the fall and winter months. This helps the patient get a higher dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate your immune system and nervous system, and of course the brain. It also helps combat some of the symptoms that come with having too much serotonin, like weak bones and teeth. Some people are told to sit in a well lit area to soak up the sun or a light box for about 20 to 60 minutes. A light box blocks out ultraviolet rays. Ultraviolet rays can damage your skin creating premature wrinkles and in more serious cases skin cancer. A light box exposes a person to at least 10,000 lux, an SI unit of illuminance that’s equal to one lumen per square meter. It is more than twenty times the amount of light you would get by being indoors. You would do this first thing in the morning between late fall and early spring.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a widely used method; they even have a specific method for SAD called CBT-SAD. It identifies negative thoughts while trying to switch them with positive thoughts using a technique called behavioral action. Remembering and doing the things that make the person happy may be a positive way to let the person cope during their episodes.
It was talked about a little in the Light Therapy section, but Vitamin D is good for your body. The sun is the most natural source, but you can also buy supplements at your local grocery store.
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or where you are, people show a wide array of emotions every single day. However, for some of us, some of those emotions aren’t so jovial, and it can be a lot harder to overcome, especially during certain times of the year. It may seem difficult, but there are many ways to combat seasonal depression and manage it, you just have to find the right method for you.
I’m just a small blog. Not many people read my writing, which is alright; I am not complaining. I enjoy writing; always have and I always will. I hope to one day help others through my writing, inform them or make them think about things a little differently than they originally did. I’m hoping I can do that with this post today, as my peer circle has been talking about it quite a bit for the last few days.
This is Rodney Reed. He is 51 years old and is currently on death row for a murder he most likely did not commit.
On April 23rd, 1996, nineteen year old Stacey Stites of Giddings, Texas fails to show up for work at the H.E.B grocery store in Bathrop. At around five in the morning, almost two hours after she was scheduled to come in for her shift, she still was not there. Her fiance’s truck that she typically would take to work was found in a high school parking lot by a police officer. Everyone begins to worry, but soon, they would find out where she was. Later on in the afternoon, Stacey’s body is found on a dirt road in a heavily wooded area. She is partially clothed with her arms above her head, with ligature marks on her neck, indicating that she was strangled to death. There was also an unknown male’s DNA inside her body, and the sample wasn’t matched until almost a year later.
This is where Rodney Reed comes in. That DNA that they tested…it matched Reed. At first when he is questioned, he denies knowing Stites, but he later changes his story, letting law officials know that he and Stacey were having an affair. They had sex about a day before she was murdered; that’s why his DNA was able to be detected on her body. Of course this was not a good look for Reed, but I can understand why he would be hesitant to come forward with that information. He is a black man and she is a white woman. There was a bit of an age difference, and she was already in a relationship. Also, this happened in the South, so I’m pretty sure not everyone would be accepting of the secret relationship not only because cheating was involved, but because Rodney was a black man.
This is where we introduce Jimmy Fennell. Stacey was engaged to be married to this former police officer during the time of her death. He originally was the prime suspect, but of course, the DNA didn’t match. However, when taking a polygraph test, he failed it. So he took it again, and the police got the same result. Failing both polygraph tests can be kind of telling don’t you think? Fennell claims that he was at home with Stites the day before she was murdered. He says he was up watching television when Stites went to sleep at around nine at night. Hmmm…well when we dig a little deeper into the evidence, there seems to be some dilemmas. When examining the sperm sample collected from Stites’s body, the three intact spermatozoa had been there no more than about 24 hours prior to her death. Didn’t Fennell say that he was with Stites the night before she was murdered? The timeline for Stites’s murder was just all over the place. If she was to have sex within the 24 hours of her murder, that means that she would have been on her way to work when that happened. Also the murder would have taken place during the time Fennell says that he was with Stites.
It was said that Fennell already knew that Stites was having an affair with Reed. Charles Wayne Fletcher, a former Bastrop County police officer stated in an affidavit filed in October that Fennell told him that he thought she was sleeping with a black man behind his back. Years later in 2008, Fennell was charged and plead guilty to kidnapping and improper sexual activity with a person in custody when he was a police officer in Georgetown, Texas. He was sentenced to ten years. While he was in jail, he told an inmate that he had to kill his ”n-word” loving fiancee. Smart Jimmy, really smart. Here is an article that explains the situation a little better:
With all the information that has accumulated over the years that possibly proves Mr. Reed’s innocence, why is he about to be executed on November 20th? It is possible that an innocent man is going to be killed, and there isn’t much time to help him out. The more the word has been spreading, the more hope he has at being taken off the death row list. He could be saved. There’s only eleven more days left. People such as Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, LL Cool J, Gigi Hadid and others are trying advocating for this man’s innocence. Below is a petition that can help Rodney Reed from getting executed.
Today is not just some normal Thursday, today is much more important than you may think. Today is World Mental Health Day! As a mental health blogger, this is a very important day for me. I cannot stress enough how imperative it is for one to protect their mental health. Everyone goes through something, and no matter how small or severe, it is valid and deserves to be attended to and healed.
I can’t understand why people don’t make their mental health a priority. I mean, it’s your brain for God sakes…you know? The thing that helps you make daily decisions? The thing that is the reason why you decided to read this today? It is the control room for the body. It receives signals from sensory organs, and then sends that information to your muscles. The brain is probably the most important part of the body besides the heart; the two go hand in hand. The brain stores our memories; when we lost our first tooth, when we got our first kiss, when we got married, the brain holds all of that! Why do we just treat it in any old way?
As much as the brain is important, the brain is also quite complex. It actually is the most complex organ in a vertebrate’s body. Your brain consists of over 80 billion neurons. Neurons are specially designed to transfer information throughout the body. The brain has four lobes; the frontal lobe, the occipital lobe, the parietal lobe, and the temporal lobe. The frontal lobe is located in the…well, guess. This part of the brain is involved with voluntary movement, thinking, personality, emotion, memory, sustained attention, and intentionality. The occipital lobe is placed in the back of the brain. This controls your visual perception. The temporal lobe has an active role in hearing, language processing, and memory; it’s located at the bottom of the brain. Lastly, the parietal lobe is an important factor in registering spatial location, maintaining attention, and administering motor control. It may just all seem like a bunch of words, but your brain does all of that! That’s insane that the body is capable of doing so much.
Within those parts of the brain we have the parts that control our emotions like the limbic cortex, the hypothalamus, the amygdala, and so on and so forth. The limbic cortex impacts your mood, motivation, and judgement through two structures, the cingulate gyrus and the parahippocampal gyrus. While the limbic system is doing its thing, the hippocampus is making sure that you remember the things that you are supposed to. The hippocampus helps retrieve certain memories. It also helps out with recognizing space in your environment. The hypothalamus controls emotional and sexual responses, while the cute little amygdala helps coordinate responses that are in your environment, more importantly the ones that elicit an emotional response. Fear and anger are also ruled a lot by the amygdala. That’s quite a bit right? So what happens when these functions don’t function the way that they are supposed to? What causes it?
Having a mental illness may feel as if you are not in control of your own body. You may experience a certain emotion more than average, or maybe they experience an emotion on a lesser basis than average…some might not experience emotions at all. Professionals have been saying that chemical imbalances in the brain are the main culprit of mental illness since the late 1950s. What causes these imbalances?
Heredity and other biological factors:
Sometimes it’s all in your genes. If a loved one has a mental illness, there’s a chance that it may run in the family. However, it doesn’t always mean that you will inherit the condition. Sometimes due to injury the brain can change. Other times it’s due to prenatal damage, or just being born with abnormal functions in the brain.
Enduring a large amount of trauma can mentally affect someone for sure, especially when the trauma is endured at a young age. Our brains don’t finish developing until around the age of 25, so experiencing a certain act at an early age can damage the growth to crucial parts of the brain. Hell, experiencing trauma at any age can disrupt crucial parts of the brain. Some people over exert themselves to the brink of a breakdown. Sometimes the situations that we are in can cause us too much stress, which can create some psychological turmoil.
Certain types of drugs like psychoactive drugs can create manic episodes or psychosis and damage different parts of the brain. Narcotics such as cocaine and LSD can trigger paranoid behaviors.
Other factors may include poor diet, exposure to lead or other dangerous chemicals and etc.
How do people treat mental health? There isn’t just one way. One method may not work for everyone. I go to counseling with my therapist in a private and intimate setting; within the session, it’s just me and her. However, some people like to be around others in a group therapy session because they like to know that they aren’t alone. A support group is a great way to express your feelings and your grievances, It’s good to know that you aren’t the only person that is going through what you’re going through, and maybe you can get some extra help from someone who has been in your shoes before. I found a few support groups for different issues on PsychologyToday.com. You can also find therapists, psychiatrists, and treatment centers on there as well. I like the one on one setting personally because I feel like I’m not wasting time with the things I feel I need to get off my chest. Every session I talk about something different, but each session is working towards the end goal. I have done something called cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT helps treat the problem by boosting happiness through modifying dysfunctional moods, behaviors, and thoughts. That’s a form of psychotherapy. In some cases, medication can be administered. Remember! This does not cure the illness, but it can improve the person’s way of living. Case management can help the person seeking services find different resources that may be able to help the person live in a happier and healthier way. Many people like to turn down the holistic path. Meditation and deep breathing exercises can increase gray matter concentration, decrease stress hormones, and help combat depression…just to name a few benefits. If it is really serious, hospitalization may need to occur. It’s okay. Whatever needs to be done should have no shame behind it. This is your life, do what you need to do to stay healthy.
Some seem to think that people with mental illness are just these all ’round crazy individuals. People who experience mental health problems may fear that they will face rejection, bullying or discrimination. There are so many people who could be treated, but because of the stigma that is behind mental health, they are afraid of opening up about their situation. This can lead to the worsening of someone’s mental illness, greater destruction, and even death. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, around one million people commit suicide per year. In the States, one in five people go through mental illness. In 2017, 970 million people were reported to have a mental or substance disorder. Do you see how many people that is!? And that’s just estimated, there is probably way more. Anyone out there who is going through something mentally, trust me, it may feel like you are the only one trying to stay strong…but trust me, you aren’t. It’s a battle that a lot of people face.
Maybe you play into the stigma? Can you break it? Yes! There is hope. It never hurts to educate yourself on mental illness and mental health. Remember that the person is still a person, not their condition. Try not to be judgmental and attempt to come from an understanding place. And lastly, try to take action. If you know someone that may be going through some things, don’t be afraid to lend an ear. Sometimes that’s the best thing you can do. Support goes a really long way.
Even though World Mental Health Day is only one day, you can still promote better mental health everyday! Know your limits; take time to yourself if you need it. Don’t be afraid or ashamed when you need to ask for help. There are hotlines out there who are willing to listen to whatever you are going through. Here’s a link to a few good ones here:
Don’t listen to people who tell you that mental illness isn’t real. Don’t listen to people who tell you to just push it to the side and forget about it. Don’t listen to people who discourage you from trying to be the best version of yourself. Do what you need to do when it comes to your life. Everything will be just fine.
Santrock, John W. Child Development: Fourteenth Edition. 2013, June 18th. McGraw-Hill Education.
I have been following Tracee Ellis Ross on Instagram for quite a while. In my head, she’s an old friend of mine. I grew up on Girlfriends; watching the reruns while my Mother was asleep laughing at the chaos and lessons that ensued with each episode. I am Joan Clayton to the tee! With a little bit of Toni (I loved her character too). I admired Joan, a hard working attorney and entrepreneur who knew how to make things happen. I wanted (and still want) to be that…I wanted to be her! Tracee portrayed that character so well, probably because she encompasses a lot of those go-getter and slightly quirky traits (traits that I would like to say I possess as well).
She is the embodiment of the rich auntie that kind of does whatever she wants, and that is a major mood. I have come to the conclusion that this lifestyle will probably be my life; traveling around the world on my own dime, wearing designer clothes, and sending expensive gifts from Paris to my nieces and nephews…a girl can dream. Anyways, people have kind of looked to her for lifestyle advice, even if they didn’t ask her directly. Tracee seems to be living her best life. People (including myself) may ask, well how is she thriving so? What’s her secret? Tracee does exude this youthful energy, what makes her stay so young? Physically and mentally, at 46-years-young, she is as lively and as vibrant as ever! Well, Tracee decided to go into detail and bless us with the information on how she does it, and I think these actions can really improve ones way of life. Let’s dive in!
Laughter is the best medicine, I can attest to that one. Laughter is a complex response and reaction. It is our physiological reaction to humor according to the popular website How Stuff Works. It all contains a set of gestures and the production of sound. Laughter is created through many regions of the brain like the sensory processing area of the occipital lobe (the back of the brain). If any of these parts are damaged, this can actually disrupt laughter and what one person may deem humorous. The higher function in the left brain hemisphere decode words and syntactical structures in a very analytical way, the right brain hemisphere understands the humor. The center of our brain creates an image of the funny idea or statement in our heads, while our limbic system releases the chemicals that promote a better mood. Laughter releases a substance called endorphins into your blood stream. Endorphins are a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides which activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect. The endorphins go through your veins, traveling through your body and eventually ending up in your brain. This gives you a more relaxed, positive, and happy feeling. Laughing gives your diaphragm a pretty good work out! Not only the diaphragm, but your legs, faces, abdominal muscles and back. According to Organic Facts, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can be brought down significantly through laughing. Laughing also increases blood flow and the respiratory system. It also boosts your immune system. Laughing improves your health over all!
Number 2: Get Your Sleep
On average, I think I get about six hours of sleep. I’m trying to get another hour or two in there. Eight hours I think would be a pretty good amount of time to catch some z’s. Human beings are diurnal creatures, meaning we like to function through the day and take the load off at night. Owls, for example, are the opposite. They are nocturnal, they love the night time, but you probably won’t see them out and about during the day. A study by the Boston University School of Medicine states that sleeping less than six hours and more than nine hours increased diabetes risk. They say between seven and eight hours is great! And what about naps? According to the National Association of Sleep (that sounds pretty credible, right?), a twenty to thirty minute nap is recommended. Sleeping and napping helps improve focus and alertness. It can also help enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents. Now for some people, naps might be a no go. Some (me….I’m one of them) are left to feel groggy or even more tired after a nap. Sometimes it may also affect later sleep patterns. But if you are tired…GO TO SLEEP…if you can. That’s your body’s way of indicating that you need a rest.
Number 3: Drink Plenty of Water
Please! For the love of God…drink some H2O. I literally drink water 80% of the time. I just bought a twenty six ounce Manna water bottle from Meijer a few days ago, and I carry it all the time and keep it near my bedside. Water keeps your body at a normal temperature. Do you want strong knees like Megan thee Stallion? Well you better start drinking up! Water cushions your joints and lubricates them. Water helps your body protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues. Through perspiration, bowel movements, and urination, waste is removed from your body.
Number 4: Have As Much Sex As Possible
Okay Tracee! I see you girl! Besides the obvious reason why sex is good (or should be), sexual activity does have some health benefits as well. Having sex once or twice a week helps boost the immune system by producing higher levels of immune fighting antibodies. No more illness for you! Sex may protect people from heart disease; balancing estrogen and testosterone hormones. It helps lower blood pressure too. Remember to practice safe sex and consensual sex (not sure what’s considered consensual, check out my blog post on what consent is and what it isn’t. Here’s the link: https://underneaththefro.com/2019/08/18/what-consent-is-and-what-it-isnt/). And let’s not forget about masturbation (is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?). There are a load (I have a dirty mind) of health benefits when it comes to masturbation. The following include:
reducing sexual tension
helps you sleep better
improve self esteem and body image
relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension
strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic region and anal areas
If you aren’t having sex, you can get the same result from a low cardio workout or a brisk jog. Meditation helps too, as well as taking the proper steps towards boosting self confidence.
Number 5: Love With An Open Heart
You lost me there Tracee. No, I’m kidding, but sometimes when you’ve been hurt so many times, it can be difficult to love with an open heart. I took it more so as loving yourself with an open heart. Truly loving yourself is such a beautiful thing, but it is a journey; a journey that I am still on. There are people that have lived their whole lives hating who they were, and I don’t want to be that way, and you shouldn’t want that either. It is easy to love openly and freely when things are just peachy. But what about when things aren’t looking so good? It’s a lot harder isn’t it? The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it can also cause a lot of paranoia and create more doubt and fear. Our mind and our heart seem to be on a different page from time to time (or all the time). Keeping an open heart can help heal past pain and transgressions. The heart is so powerful. The heart has the ability to heal hurting wounds. This one might be a little tricky, but it can be done.
Well, that seems simple enough, right? It’s the little things that can help us get through our days just a little easier. Thanks Tracee for the advice!
I’ve been logged out of social media for a little bit so I was a little out of the loop on some things that have happened recently. Going through the normal bar bathroom selfies, inspirational quotes, and random rants, one story made me furious. It made me grow angry with each word that I read. I’m tired. I’m tired of seeing stories like this. I’m tired of slowly being desensitized by these stories because they happen so often. I’m tired of being fearful for the people that I know. I’m tired of begging my friends to put their locations on so I can check and make sure they’re where they are supposed to be going. I’m tired of carrying around mace because I don’t know if some lunatic is going to randomly feel enticed to tackle me to the ground and assault me. I had thought of carrying around a taser, but they aren’t legal in Illinois. I do plan to carry a pocket knife with me at some point. I shouldn’t have to do that! No one should have to do that! I should be able to get to my destination safely with no interference. Anyways, I could get stuck on this topic for days, but I’m going to get on to the point of this article.
Uyinene Mrwetyana. Uyinene; a South African name meaning gift of God. Reading about her I got a chance to get a glimpse of her personality. She seemed intelligent, warm, and widely loved. Her skin was so radiant and that smile…her smile was captivating. She was just nineteen years old, making strides and efforts towards living her dream. She attended the University of Cape Town. She was a film student. Who knows, we could’ve seen one of her films on the big screen one day. Well, that won’t happen. We may never get to see her creativity in motion. We may never get to see her artistry. Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and killed by being hit in the head with a scale by 42 year old Luyanda Botha (allegedly) inside a post office. She went there to get a package, and the man told her to come back later. She was said to be missing August 30th. That’s when he brutally attacked her. I was scrolling through her Instagram and nearly cried. She was beautiful…my God she was so beautiful. The man’s trial is set for November 5th according to The South African. He seemed to have no remorse in regards to what he did. I really hope he rots in prison.
The hashtag #AmINextProtest has been trending. People carry signs through the streets of South Africa pleading with people to stop killing their peers and loved ones. South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, addressed the nation Thursday, admitting that there is an uproar of sexual violence against women. He proposed numerous ideas to try and combat this issue. Will these proposals be enough though? Words are just words…they are nothing without action.
Women in South Africa are at risk for being attacked. According to Al Jazeera, a woman is murdered every three hours. Rape is just as rampant. In a 1994 journal by S. Armstrong, it goes into how rape is the assertion of male power. Under apartheid, rape of white women was the only rape that mattered; they found black women rape to just be apart of the struggle. In the journal, it also states that one out of four women have been sexually assaulted before the age of fourteen. These numbers are on the rise…more and more women are going through this treachery.
Will it be me? Will I be the next one to die? Will a situation like this be my fateful demise? Will it be my best friend’s? My Mother’s? My aunt’s? My future daughter’s? I couldn’t fathom sitting at home waiting for my baby girl to come home…only to have the police approach me, telling me that she’s been bludgeoned and raped to death. So many people are apart of the “sexual assault club” and frankly, I don’t want any new members. I think back to my experience, and I thank the Lord that I am still alive, because I didn’t have to be. I’m starting to lose faith in humanity. I’m thinking that there will never be change. And if there is, things will get a lot worse before it gets better.
Uyinene could’ve been me. It could’ve been anyone. So…who’s next?
Consent. That word has become pretty controversial over the past few years. With the #MeToo movement, so many people are mustering up the courage to come forward with their stories of sexual assault, rape, and abuse. Consent is the permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. Not too hard to comprehend right? Well, for some, it’s relatively confusing.
That could have to do with rape culture says Lena Finkel in her article for Medium.com called Why is Consent So Difficult to Understand? The no means no mantra should be instilled into people’s brains, I mean it’s simply self explanatory. If you ask someone if you can eat their fries for lunch, and they say no, well there you have it…you can’t eat their fries. If your hairdresser asks if they can chop all your hair off and give you a tapered fade and you say no, guess what? They better not be chopping your hair off and giving you a tapered fade. If you are lounging on the couch with your boo Netflix and chilling (oh, how I hate that term), and he is starting to go a little bit further than you want, when you say no or stop…he better go back to paying attention to Thanos evaporating most of the Avengers on TV (spoiler I guess, but you should have seen it already. If you haven’t…what’s wrong with you?). Of course, there are people who think that no means “let me try a little bit harder to persuade you until you give in” and stop means “I’m going to do it anyways because you’ll eventually like it later on.” No is a powerful word…and there are many times where uttering that word still doesn’t give the other party the bright idea that what they’re doing is wrong and not wanted. Well how about when no isn’t said, but the act still isn’t wanted? This is where consent begins to get a little fuzzy to some.
To add on to the definition of consent, consent must be clear, concise, and enthusiastic. There is nothing wrong with just getting down to the nitty gritty and asking, “do you want to have sex?” I know, I know, that is probably the least sexy way to get in the mood, but better safe than sorry. If the other person does not give you a solid green light, abort the mission my friend. I mean a succinct, “yes I want to have sex with you.” If the person is hesitant, saying things a long the lines of “I guess” or “maybe” sorry bud but that’s a no. For your safety, that should be a no. If the person consents, and things are going well, and then all of a sudden the other person wants to stop, what do you do? You stop! There is this weird belief that a person can’t cease consent if they already started getting physical. I’m here to say that’s not the case at all. You can always revoke consent at any given time.
What about if the other person is intoxicated? Or incapacitated? In 2014, music artist Cee-Lo Green tweeted that it wasn’t rape…if the woman was unconscious. He also added, and I quote, “people who have really been raped remember.” You’d be surprised, but there are actually a few people who believe this. It’s like when someone comes into your house and takes from you when you’re not home. “Oh it’s not stealing if you’re not in your house.” If I hit you in your sleep and you don’t wake up, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t hit you, I still did. You just didn’t feel it. On January 18, 2015, Brock Allen Turner, was spotted raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. This woman experienced a significant amount of physical trauma, as well as emotional. People should be able to go out and enjoy themselves at a party, but at the moment, it’s just not something that we can do. Society tends to blame the person who blacks out or gets inebriated is shamed. Yes, a person should know their limits in terms of drinking, but we are human, people sometimes can get a little out of hand and drink more than they need to. That doesn’t mean that someone should just take advantage of them because it’s now easier for them to be manipulated. If I take a glance at your wallet while you’re at a parking meter and see a large wad of cash in there, does that give me the right to bash you over the head and take it? I mean, you opened your wallet a little too wide, obviously you wanted to get robbed. Does that make sense to you? In my personal opinion, if a person is drunk, they are not able to consent. Point. Blank. Period. You have no business trying to sleeping with a person who can barely stand or make rational decisions for themselves. A lot of people use this as a loophole. Oh she said yes so it was okay. Oh he didn’t fight back, it was fine. This person also is a light weight and gulped half a bottle of Hennessy and washed it down with Capriccio and one-third of a 4 Loko. I don’t really see the fun in having sex with a person who is on the verge of passing out or choking on their own vomit.
Predators like to prey on people who are more vulnerable because they have more power over the situation. A drunk person won’t really fight back as much as a sober person. What if they’re both drunk? Who takes the ownership? Even I am stumped on this. Typically, it is determined based off of the person who is the most conscious in the situation. If the person knows that they are drunk, and the other person is drunk as well, and the initiate the act, they are the ones at fault. The court would really have to go through the case with a fine tooth comb if it was ever sent to trial. This argues the fact that drunk sex can never be consensual. I don’t really know about that, but I do believe that it depends on the amount of alcohol that is being ingested. There’s a difference between tipsy and drunk. Going back to the statement I made before, who would want to have sex with a sloppy drunk person?
To sum up, I’ll go through a run down of what I’m talking about:
never assume the person wants to have sex. I don’t care if they are bumping and grinding on you in the club and singing The Weeknd’s Or Nah verbatim after deep throating a popsicle…ASK! Sorry for the graphic image.
pay attention to body language. If you are initiating sexual contact and the other person is not engaging enthusiastically or like they actually want to do it…stop! Remember, consent is clear and concise, and should be verbal to be safe.
if the other person is drunk, leave them alone. Just leave them alone. If the person is on some type of narcotics…LEAVE HER ALONE! They are not able to consent. If you’re not a shitty human being, maybe help them in some way.
it’s still rape if the person is unconscious. Cee-Lo Green is an idiot.
lastly, no means no.
Unfortunately, there are those people who know that no means no and that rape and sexual assault is not okay, but they don’t care. These people are mentally disturbed; disregarding a person’s well being for their own pleasure and sick compulsions. Those are the people that need the most help, but it might be too late for them. There are some pretty cruel people out there. Please be careful. Remember, you are not at fault. You are not in the wrong.
Here is a video that I think really helps demonstrate what consent really is: