Journaling

To Help Me Forget For A Little While…

I had a whole article written before I decided to scrap it and be completely transparent. In that one, I was talking about how I, the great mental health blogger that I am (I’m kidding), keeps calm during a time like this. I had bullet points on the basic things that people do like cook or take intermittent naps. I was going to make it seem like I was automatically processing everything correctly and in a healthy manner. I was going to make it seem like I had all the answers. As much as I would love to be the knower-of-all…I’m not…I’m human just like all of you. I ponder things religiously, and sometimes even after I’ve given every brain cell I have to try and connect how things operate, I still don’t understand. On top of quarantine and living through a pandemic, there have been some looming thoughts in my head. My Grandmother passed away about a month ago, and every time I think of her I begin to cry…I’m tearing up a little now that I mention it. My summer class just ended, my internship, something that I’m very grateful for, is relatively demanding, and I’m trying to write more content on this blog. Then, if that isn’t enough, take a look at the news! If you’re black or a person of color, hearing and seeing the stories of your people being slaughtered in the streets can psychologically distress the strongest person. At one point, Twitter was in a frenzy; exposing countless rapists and abusers around the country. Thoughts of my own attack flooded back to the corners of my brain like a dam. I relived that anger, that hopelessness, and that sense of sudden numbness. I remembered the people who told me it was my fault. Hearing someone say that an act you’ve never asked for is your identity strikes you like a freshly sharpened dagger…I don’t know how else to explain it. I’ve had crying spells where it felt like they would never stop; where my eyes would swell like a bee sting and wither like a drought. It was a lot, and I had to take a break from it all. 

I’m guilty when it comes to using my productivity as a means of feeling valuable. I also try to ignore any mental pain or fatigue that I feel because I think being perceived as strong is better than being stable. Today, I laid in bed, typed this, and watched Netflix, and I actually felt good about it. Usually, I would engage in some tender-loving self care for about thirty minutes, and then go right back to doing some type of assignment. If I tried to practice self care, I would immediately counteract it. I would surround myself with the countless messages swirling through the media that my life was not welcome and I have no place anywhere. As much as I am proud of people of all shades, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, genders, and so on coming together…it’s draining that we as a collective are still doing this. Black people and people of color deserve to be respected. Marginalized groups deserve to be loved. We deserve to live a long and healthy life. We don’t deserve this bloodshed. We don’t deserve to live in fear. I’m exhausted. I’ve had a headache for the last two days, and you can tell I’m stressed by the slew of pimples that have accumulated on my cheeks. My brain felt like it was swelling; I felt nothingness one minute and then every emotion known to man the next. I was going insane…staring at the wall and letting my thoughts run rampant insane. Enough was enough, I had to do something in order to regain and maintain some type of sanity. So…this is what I did. 

I started a new day and set my intentions. As crazy as the previous day might have been, this is a new one, and there is always a chance that this day will be better. First, I always give thanks to God and the universe that I am able to see this day. There are so many loved ones who didn’t, and I am grateful that my journey is to be continued. I am a firm believer in manifestation and prayer, and I honestly think that these two things have really saved me in terms of my mental health. The pen is mightier than a sword, but combining the power with a strong voice… you’re unstoppable. I am slacking on writing down my manifestations, so I need to get back into the swing of things. Sometimes just waking up and stating how you want your day to go will make you feel that much better. To piggyback off of giving thanks for waking up in the morning, I pray for the things that I would love to take place in my life, like me and my family being protected against evil forces sent to kill, steal, and destroy and achieving every goal that has been set. Then, I thank God for everything that has happened; that it happened, that I learned from it, and that I made it through. If I write down my prayers and manifestations, I always read them out loud. Never say negative thoughts aloud, or at least try not to. It’s normal for negative thoughts to come about, but don’t speak them or write them down. When you speak or write out negative thoughts, it is almost like you are decreeing them into existence.

I took deep breaths and tried to meditate…it is harder than it looks. As people, we are quite shallow breathers. As we mature into adulthood, we change the way we breathe. As infants and children, we all breathe deeper. We took big, extensive, belly moving breaths, and now we more so breathe with our chest. Try it; take a breath in through your nose for ten seconds, and then breathe out for ten out seconds through your mouth. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot lighter. Your heart rate increases a little when you take a breath in, and slows down once you breathe out. When it comes to meditating, I have always had difficulty. I’ll roll my yoga mat out, get down, hit my criss-cross applesauce position, close my eyes, clench my thumb and pointer fingers together, and try to focus on one thought peacefully. I last probably for a good thirty seconds…I wish I was kidding. One thing I feel I need to work on is focusing on my breathing; remaining still and reminding myself that whatever I have to do will get done once my meditation session is over. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get past the minute mark. According to the Massachusetts General Hospital, breathing, mindfulness, and meditation changes brain regions that are associated with memory, empathy, stress, and sense of self like the brain’s gray matter. When I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, sometimes the simplest thing to do is to take a deep breath.

I drink water and eat fruits and vegetables. Water is my favorite beverage. It is the elixir of life. The fact that there are people around the world who don’t have access to water while there are people who freaking swim in it for a living is ridiculous to me. For those who have the privilege of having clean drinking water…don’t take it for granted and donate to give others the opportunity to have the same access. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine states that an adequate amount of water intake per day is between 11.5 cups and 15.5 cups. I have a gallon jug that I keep beside my bed. I try to drink half of it every day, and I’ve been keeping up with it. Water lubricates your joints and muscles. It helps cushion the brain and spinal cord…those are pretty important parts of your body. It helps eliminate waste, helps you stay energized, promotes healthier skin…the list goes on and on. Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent some cancers, give you a beneficial dose of vitamins and minerals, and so many more factors. I know when given the opportunity to chow down on a donut versus a stalk of celery, it can be hard to choose the healthier option. It’s okay to indulge in some Krispy Kreme from time to time, but believe me, you will feel much better after gnawing on an apple. I’ve been eating a lot of peaches lately, as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, and baby carrots. When I’m craving a bowl of chips, I try to replace that with a mix of all three vegetables.

I pay a visit to my seven year old self. The reason I go back to my seven year old self is because that was the age when I started feeling insecure. Seven year old me was when I started to kind of lose the confidence I had. It took a few years to gain it back, and I know that little me would be beaming with joy. She would be proud of the things that I’ve accomplished. At the age of seven, I would give anything for my hair to be straight. All the other girls seemed to have their hair that way, and I wanted to be like them. My hair was straightened every four weeks until I was about eighteen years old. I was chubby, with a name no one pronounced right, glasses, and a gap in between my buck two front teeth. My two year anniversary of my big chop was last week, and I am currently rocking a growing fro. I would have never thought that I would be comfortable with my curls and coils. When I was younger, I wanted to be skinny and at least be the same height as my Dad, who stands at 5’9. I am six inches below that, and I’m about a size ten…well, during quarantine, I really have no idea what the hell I am. As shocked as she would be, she would be proud that I am happy with who I am. If I was able to speak with her, well, I wouldn’t speak at first. I would embrace her; the road that is ahead is treacherous, but beautiful at the same time. She learns so much about who she is, the flaws that she has and the things that she needs to exemplify and praise. She wouldn’t cry once being held because she thought tears were a sign of weakness, but I would, because I know it showcases quite a bit of strength to do so. I would tell her that I love her, despite that person telling her that no one didn’t. I would tell her to love herself more…and then more than that, and then more than that. I’d ask her how she’s feeling right now and maybe give her some advice on how to resolve it. I would tell her that being quirky and weird is what makes her special, and that she is not alone in the unique way that she thinks. What would you tell your younger self?

I fell back in love with things I used to enjoy doing. I’ve taken some of this time to just explore. I began to play the viola again. I played in a conservatory in high school. As I held the instrument in one hand and the bow in the other, I almost felt whole. I played The Swan, the 13th movement of Camille Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals. It is one of the prettiest pieces of music I think I’ve ever heard. When I listen to it, I envision myself in Paris…he is a French composer you know. As stupid as they may have sounded, I wrote songs and poems. I have a piano right across from my bed, and when I get an idea in my head, I’ll move my chair in front of my keyboard and just let my creative juices pour out onto the keys. For a lot of you creative folk, it may be hard right now to create. It was for me too, and I kind of pressured myself to make something that I deemed as worthy enough. Sometimes you find your best work within a dry spell, and I just created…whether it was good or bad. The act of writing poems or music was more so supposed to be therapeutic, and it was. Whether it made sense or not, I just wrote about what I felt. Art is such a good form of therapy, whether it be singing, dancing, drawing…anything. It made me realize that I want to incorporate more of those talents into my daily routine. If that made me feel better then, I’m hoping it will do so from day to day. 

Fine…I will include intermittent naps in here. Napping is one of my favorite past times. A nap has become an integral part of my daily routine, my only flaw is that a thirty minute nap will turn into a five hour snooze. Sleeping is crucial for your physical health. It rejuvenates you. It heals and repairs your heart and blood vessels. It can help improve concentration and productivity and help your immune system. In my case, sometimes I don’t know what to do, and I stress myself out trying to come up with an answer for whatever I’m going through. Sometimes the only thing I can do is take a nap, rest on it, and save the mental effort for another time. I got out of my house. Just sitting outside on my porch letting the sun hit my face can be the therapy I need. I watch the trees sway back and forth as they waltz with the leaves. The fresh air reinvigorates my senses, and I picture myself in different scenes of nature. I was on a beach in California. I watched the snow fall in the Poconos. I rode bikes down the streets of Toledo…I was there. I go to my happy places, whether they be close by like my Grandma’s room, or somewhere on the other side of the world like the time I made paella in Barcelona. I appreciated the things that nature does for us; offers us sunlight, nourishes our plants and crops, gives us shade and oxygen…I am so grateful for these scenes.

Don’t batter and abuse yourself; pushing your brain to the brink of insanity. No matter what, your mental health is important. When your mental health is in the right place, your body follows suit. We all thank you for your continuous fight in trying to end racism and white supremacy. We all thank you for working hard and making moves in your career. We all thank you for risking your life to help others. We all thank you for being here another day, but sometimes those days can be too much. It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to feel joy during this time. You need to remember the good things that life can offer, and we want you to be here when these good things finally come about.

Standard
Journaling

Grieve At Your Own Pace

I tend to ponder in thought quite a bit, as many people do. The mind can take us to some pretty chasmic places; rewinding scenarios in our heads that make no sense, whether you have created them or not. Since Sunday, I have been doing this as I’m sure many other people have. This makes no sense…none at all. When unexpected and unexplainable situations occur, we try to rationalize what’s unfolding. We’re in disbelief and we’re in shock. We empathize with the victims and their families. We think about how something could have been prevented. We claim that what has happened is not real. We think about the situation if it were us in their shoes. We may link together other times when our feelings took a turn for the worst, making our experience that much more unbearable. Our emotions aren’t linear; in complete and utter shambles one day, feeling invincible the next, then back in shambles again. There is no clear way to express your emotions during certain situations.

Grieving is the multifaceted response typically for loss. Grieving has no standard image or action. When you have developed a deep bond with someone or something, it suddenly being taken away can feel like we lost apart of ourselves. I remember when my Grandmother passed. The moments during the initial shock differed so much. My Dad was in hysterics. He wasn’t in town at the time, so his wails and cries were transferred through the phone. My Mom, somewhat stoic in nature, sighed as she processed the passing, not because she was annoyed, but because she knew how impactful his mom (my Grandma) was in his life. My parents work well together. While my Dad starts with emotions first, he works through them so at the end of the day he can use his logic. My Mom is the opposite. Whatever she needs to do, she’ll get it done, only to process her emotions after it has been completed. They are able to lean on each other when the other needs to.

You may want to cry. You may want to scream your lungs out. I took a six hour nap yesterday after incessantly bawling. Some want to be left alone, while others want to be surrounded by close friends and family. As long as it’s not hurting you or anyone else…

…grieve the way you need to.

Loss can feel like a heart attack. You feel like you’ve stopped breathing, your heart palpitates, and tears may start to well at your eyes. It can feel like the end of the world. You feel numb; on earth, but not apart of it. It feels like your mind is dissolving. Memories flood back like a tsunami, and it almost feels like you will never be able to reach a homeostasis. Denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance…sound familiar? These are most commonly known as the stages of grieving. Of course, most of us know what denial is; refusing to believe that whatever took place happened. Isolation commonly goes along with denial. We like to remove ourselves from other people’s company. Maybe it annoys you being around others who don’t feel the way you feel, and that’s okay. Maybe you just want to be alone because you just want to…that’s okay too. We may start to feel tension build up. Our muscles clench as you grit your teeth and try to ignore the seething displaced pain that’s felt. We may get mad at ourselves for responding the way we are when grieving. Maybe you’re upset because you physically lost something and you forgot for a brief moment that you’re human and things happen. Anger can be directed towards another person who was involved; a lot of the time, the person who was the victim if there is one. We may garner a sense of hope with bargaining. If I do this, then this will be the outcome. If I stop doing this, then they will come back and this, that, thus, and so. It’s like trying to make a deal with the universe. We may begin feeling overwhelmed and saddened at the fact that whatever it is we are going through…not much can be done to change the outcome. And once all of this passes, people can finally accept the changes that have come, and begin your journey of healing. Does it always start at denial? No. Maybe you get angry at first. Maybe you all of a sudden feel this wave of melancholic energy. There may be some stages that you don’t even experience, and then there may be some stages that are added to your personal grieving process. There isn’t a time frame to grieving either. It may take someone years to heal from something, while for others it may take a couple of days. Take as much time as you need.

What happened was tragic, and your brain might not be able to compute what has just taken place. Disconnect from the world for a little bit; take some time amongst yourself. Analyze and acknowledge your feelings…every single one. Take things slow for the day. Deep breaths; in through the nose and out the mouth. Move around; do yoga, exercise, take a walk…be around nature. There’s something calming about fresh air; being among the trees, the very vessels that give us oxygen. If it’s too cold to go outside, curl up with a warm blanket and an inspiring book. Go pick up a pen and write. Write everything that develops in your brain, no matter how random the thoughts may be. When bad thoughts begin to burgeon, stop their growth with words of love; for yourself and for others. Love, that’s the key thing. Love those whom you’re closest to, and don’t forget to love them out loud. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, and work on forgiving others for theirs. We have been reminded that life is inevitable and it is sudden. That doesn’t mean worry about when your life may end, it means celebrate it and all of its little wonders. You made it to class on time, congratulations! Your boss brought donuts to that 8 o’clock meeting, that’s amazing. The little things can be the most important and enjoyable parts of life. You’re alive, it’s okay to act like it.

Appreciate the time you have.

Standard
Journaling

You Made It…

Can you think back to December 31st, 2018? What were you praying and manifesting would happen in the year to come? I knew 2019 was going to be a culmination of growth and reflection. Well, I feel every year consists of those two things, but I don’t know…2019 was different. Think about it, 2019 is the last year of the decade; this was the year of completion. 2019 made us uncomfortable; it made us question how we treat people, our past decisions, and the ways in which we have let other’s interact with us. We were kind of lost going into this year. I can speak for myself when I say that 2019 was my wake up call. January 1st got right in my face and said “get it together!” 2019 dragged me by my heels and made me face reality. It was scary, it was harsh, but it was needed. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different response, and I was a lunatic. 2019 made me question who I was as a person and who I wanted to be. It made me question the energy I allowed to infiltrate my space, but with that being said…it made me ask myself why I was attracting this type of energy?

I spoke a lot to my younger self, and it was good to see her again. She was around the age of seven or eight. She had a braid on each side of her head with one in the back, and pink barrettes clipped to her scalp. She was chubby and cute, two things that she didn’t think could coexist with each other. She wanted someone to tell her that she was worthy. She wanted to be told that she was beautiful; that she was smart, talented, and intelligent. She wanted to be told that she didn’t need to lose thirty pounds in order to look good. She wanted to be told that her physical flaws aren’t flaws at all; they’re little idiosyncrasies that deserved to be celebrated. At the age of 21, I was glad that I was able to give that to her.

In 2019, I was able to confront a lot of things in my life that used to poke and prod at my self esteem. I highlighted the things that I love about myself, as well as the things I want to change within. I was able to forgive myself and others for the past, and leave those memories there. I have become more content with being alone and spending time with my thoughts. I am learning that I am my own soulmate. Myself and I were courting in 2019, and now we are in a relationship. When deeply in love with yourself, you move differently. I learned that everything is not a competition; just because I failed does not make me a failure. What’s meant for me will be for me, and I should speak positively over my life because it is precious. The things that I cannot control I will not give energy to, and I will be more careful with the things I can change.

I am so excited for 2020. I got a glimpse of what could come if I continue down the right path. I haven’t felt this hopeful in a long time. I feel confident in myself, and when the bouts of insecurity come, I know what to do to remind myself of my worth. I’m being more selfish this year. This new decade I pray will be the new emergence of the person I want to be. I will be a better woman, a better sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend, writer, student, artist…all the things that I consider myself, I will be better. I pray for a cleansing of the heart, mind, and soul. To anyone reading this, I pray that you tap into that potential that you know is there, and that you too become the best version of yourself.

Happy New Year

Standard
Facts and Opinions

All About Mental Illness & Health #worldmentalhealthday

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.

Psychologically:

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.

Drug Usage:

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:

https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Santrock, John W. Child Development: Fourteenth Edition. 2013, June 18th. McGraw-Hill Education.

https://www.healthline.com/health/what-part-of-the-brain-controls-emotions#the-limbic-system

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/causes-of-mental-illness

https://www.mhanational.org/mental-health-treatments

https://www.nami.org/stigmafree

https://ourworldindata.org/mental-health

 

Standard
Facts and Opinions

How To Stay Young…According to Tracee Ellis Ross

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!

View this post on Instagram

5 “grown woman” ways to stay young. by me.

A post shared by Tracee Ellis Ross (@traceeellisross) on

Number 1: Giggle As Much As Possible

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
  • reduce stress
  • 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!

 

Sources:

10 Impressive Benefits of Laughter

https://stason.org/articles/wellbeing/sleep/how_many_hours_do_you_need_to_sleep.html

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/napping

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html

https://familydoctor.org/health-benefits-good-sex-life/

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sex-and-relationships/masturbation

 

 

 

Standard
Facts and Opinions

What Consent Is…and What it Isn’t

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:

 

Standard
Journaling

Today’s Affirmations: Pain and Resolution

I re-watched an episode of Uncensored on the television station TV One. This particular episode was on a woman by the name of Tami Roman. For those of you that don’t know who she is, she is most known for being a cast member on the VH1 hit Basketball Wives, as well as being on the original season of The Real World. I didn’t really know much about her, but I really did learn a lot about her life. My Mother used to watch this series, and she would say that Tami could be a force to be reckoned with, and now that I have seen her episode of Uncensored, I can kind of see why.

This woman was sexually abused not once…but twice in her life. The first time was when she was eight years old by her Mother’s boyfriend. I wrote an essay on child sexual abuse. If you didn’t read it, please take the time to do so. The psychological turmoil a child can go through when it comes to being violated at an early age…the list goes on and on. Then while getting gas with a friend, she had her jewelry stolen off her body and was forced to drive to an abandoned warehouse where her and her friend were sexually abused for four days until the person finally let them go. The anger she must have felt; the anger and frustration. I am sure that incident caused her to put her walls up and go into attack mode when she senses that someone is attacking her. I kind of do the same thing. I recently had a person tell me that I was too aggressive, and that if I think someone is trying to pick a fight with me, I shut down or go off…there isn’t really much of a gray area. With that being said, I wanted to focus on pain, anger and of course resolution. Sometimes we can’t control the things that happen to us. The pain and trauma that is inflicted upon us against our will is not our fault. It has no bearing on who you are and has everything to do with them. The mantra is of course for healing any guilt or shame that comes with the wrongdoing that has been forced upon you, as well as soothing the anger and frustration that comes with remembering.

I am not at fault

I am not my trauma

I AM NOT MY TRAUMA

I am not my pain

I may be frustrated now, but I won’t be for the rest of my life

What they did has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them

It’s okay to be angry

It’s okay to not be okay

It’s okay to reach out for help

I will be healed

I will be whole

When I begin to think about the past, I will focus even more on the present and the future

I am my own hero

I am strong…but it’s okay not to be sometimes

This too shall pass

Things will get better

I will continue to have faith…and if I have none at the moment, it will come to me

I will exercise my emotions in a healthy and positive way

I will regulate my emotions when they seem to be too much

Positivity is just beyond the horizon

I will surround myself with people who care about my well being

I will surround myself with people who want me to do better

I will be around people who treat me the way that I should be treated

I will treat people better

I will evolve positively in all aspect of my life

All me hopes and dreams will come into fruition.

I will be alright

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
Facts and Opinions

A 12 Year Old Black Boy Is Still A Child

In the black community, a twelve year old is seen as grown. Tamir Rice was that very age when he was gunned down by the police in 2014 for playing with a toy gun. A 12-year-old black girl in New York was told to remove her clothing by the police because they thought that she had drugs on her person. Black children grow up much faster than they’re supposed to, and we can attribute that to how society depicts us. We’re aggressive, loud, and unruly individuals. Black boys are just being bred to be gang members and drug dealers, while young girls are fast; growing up to just be unwed Mothers. I don’t know how many times I was told not to be “fast” growing up by my parents, grandparents, and other adults in my life. Since when does wearing shorts constitute that I suddenly had an affinity for grown men? I understand now that they were saying this to warn me and keep me safe.

This notion has stuck with us ever since we were brought over as slaves in the 1700s; black men and women just being okay with whatever happens to their bodies, as if they were some type of doll; a possession. What angers me is the fact that our people are feeding into these lies, and are inflicting pain because of them. On this blog, I talk quite a bit about sexual assault. As a black woman who has been through my share, I know that it has a long lasting affect on a person. The amount of pain, anger, confusion, and frustration that one goes through is almost unbearable. I have literally thrown up over the stories that I have heard of black women who have been inappropriately touched by older men. Some women were as old as six being touched on by men ten times their senior. As we uplift the black queens that have endured this misconduct, we have to remember that this is the case for black men who have been through rape and sexual assault as well.

We must uplift them too, and listen to their stories. Almost every male that I have spoken to has told me some sort of story about them being sexual with a woman much older than he while they were under the age of 17 or 18. It doesn’t matter how old the person looks, if they are under the age of 18, they are not of legal age to consent to anything sexual. Hell, they aren’t really of legal age to consent to anything. Recently, a 21-year-old woman was confronted by her friends because she was having sexual relations with a 12-year-old. Not only did she do that, but she documented it on her phone, and gave the boy an STD (and you best believe that she knew she had it). One of the friends had let this woman into her home and shared it with her. She had the audacity to betray her trust and rape her friend’s little cousin. I wanted to kind of highlight the reasons why she engaged in this behavior with the young man. She claims that this boy was coming on to her and touching on her, and that’s how the incident started. I want to say that this is complete and utter bullshit…pardon my language. Even if the little boy did all of that, you didn’t have to have sex with him! Push him away and use it as a teaching moment, and if he’s being aggressive, tell someone about it. Tell him that what he was doing was not okay. Don’t indulge. Do you have no self control? I agree with the woman in the video telling her off. That was no excuse, she’s just trying to play victim. In an Instagram live that the boy’s cousin was giving, she said that the rapist mentioned that he started to look good to her after awhile. This woman also said that the rapist also claimed that it was more exciting to do something that was illegal. She thought that it was thrilling. She bragged that she was having sex with him…get this…four to five times a day! A day! For two weeks. This woman recorded their sexual encounters. She even sent them to a friend. You see, pedophiles are not just creepy white men in their late fifties with salt and pepper beards and cargo shorts, they can be young, attractive black women.

There were men in the comments section of the video saluting this young man, saying what had happened to him was not that bad. They think that a young boy having sex with an older woman is some type of prize that they should take pride in; like a badge of courage. A close family member of mine was nine years old when he lost his virginity to an 18-year-old. His brother, who was 12 years older than him allowed it to happen. He actually set it up. This person is one of the most intelligent people that I have ever met, and even he couldn’t see that what had happened to him was rape. This little boy was raped; there isn’t any other way that you can spin it. In our culture, we are brainwashed to think that black boys aren’t as affected by sexual assault as we are because wanting to have sex is in their nature. This whole scenario (without the disease) is seen as a fantasy. In a YouTube video, Lil Wayne was detailing how he lost his virginity at the age of 11 to a grown woman. The people in the room were laughing as he retold the story, but there was nothing funny about anything that he said. DeRay Davis in a VladTV interview said that he was raped as a little boy by two grown women in their thirties. He tried to make a joke about it, but again…there’s nothing funny. And you can’t forget R.Kelly. Robert Kelly…where do I begin? He stated that he had been sexually abused by a family member from the time he was seven or eight to 14 or 15. I know one of those abusers was his older sister, and someone probably abused her, and so on and so forth.

Going back to the essay that I wrote on child sexual abuse, the psychological effects that this young man may have will be brutal. This child could grow to resent women. He could shut down from physical contact all together. He could go the opposite route and engage in reckless sexual activity, putting himself and others in danger. He could exhibit severe emotional issues later on in life. He could show symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Sex may be distorted because of this situation. There is so much that this little boy could be going through. As a future psychiatrist (I am speaking it into existence) it is my mission to help people; guiding them out of guilt and shame from something that they didn’t even do. Like the little boy in the video, most of these boys are touched by a family friend. Most of them are assaulted between the ages of nine and 13.

Just because the person has a penis, it doesn’t mean that person is always the aggressor. Being raped is not a way of entering manhood; that happens naturally. If a 13 year old girl was raped by a 23-year-old, does that now make her a woman? No, it doesn’t does it? Why is it any different for a man? Tommy J. Curry of Texas A&M knows all too well about this subject. In his book, The Man-Not: Race, Class and Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood, he goes into the lack of victim hood that black boys experience in terms of sexual assault. “The hyper-masculinity of the Black male brute resonates in the minds of observers and theorists as a denial of his sexual victimization and rape by women.” You can rape a man. Men aren’t just these sex crazed animals, they have boundaries as well. Like I stated earlier, even in our community, black boys are not seen as children. They are seen as brutes, savages…even monsters, just because of their race and the way they look.

The woman who raped this 12-year-old boy will not have it easy in life. Not only is she a rapist, but she’s a sex offender. The crimes that she committed can result in a few legal charges; statutory rape, child pornography, and attempted murder for the STD (I think). This woman is a predator and she needs psychological help. Talk to your sons. Talk to your brothers. Let them know that older women preying on them is not okay. Hear their stories and don’t ignore your friends when they tell you about their traumatic sexual encounters. Let them know that you support them and are sorry that those women did those things to them at such a tender age. Black men, don’t suppress your pain and bury it, it will only fester and explode in your face in the long run. Protect yourselves; your bodies, your minds, your spirits. Please get the help that you need. It’s alright to get help. It’s okay to reach out for guidance. You deserve to heal just like everybody else.

Video posted below:

Standard
Journaling

Today’s Affirmations: In A Healing Place

I am in a healthy space

I am where I am supposed to be

I do not fear the future

I do not live by my past

I will keep going

I know I will be successful

I will achieve pure happiness

I will make my younger self proud

It’s never too late to change

I will change for the better

I am excited for what’s to come

I will heal in every way, shape, or form

Everything I need to heal is within me

I will grow positively

I will grow in self-love

You are not your faults or traumatic experiences

I am strong

I am amazing

I can be anything I want to be

I love myself

I love myself

I love myself

xoxo

 

 

 

 

Standard
Facts and Opinions, Uncategorized

#BlueforSudan

Social media might be seen as a nuisance in some people’s eyes, and it certainly can be when it comes to how much Millennials and us Generation Z’ers consume, but the information that is readily at our fingertips would not be accesses without it. There are so many things that could have been hidden in this world. Recently, the Sudan Massacres have been trending. With all the other hashtags that have come and gone, the ones about Sudan have remained. Over the course of about a year, I’ve heard certain things coming out of Sudan here and there, but with more explanations coming to light, I can now say that I think I understand what’s going on more so.

The problems within Sudan started about thirty years ago. Former Sudanese dictator….I mean president Omar al-Bashir was elected into office. During this time of terror, the countries economic system was completely obliterated, leaving an extensive amount of turmoil. In December 2018, the civilians of Sudan decided to mobilize and try to bring an end to the destruction that has been brought by Omar Bashir’s rule. Soon after, their actions began; peacefully protesting. Many of Sudanese people would do what they could to make a statement. They wanted al-Bashir to step down from his position of power. Unfortunately, the peaceful protests that the Sudanese people demonstrated began to turn violent and deadly. Dozens of people were injured…as well as killed.

A few months ago, February 2019, Omar Bashir calls for a state of emergency. This banned all gatherings that were unauthorized. After this, all hell broke loose. It didn’t matter that people were exercising their voiced in a non-violent way, security forces met them that way. It was no holds barred; whatever method of force they wanted to use was permissible.

On the date of April 6th, 2019, the largest peaceful protest sit in took place. It was the largest sit in within Sudanese history, and it took place right in front of the headquarters of the armed forces. Once again, more people are injured and killed trying to make a change. They wanted him out of office. Five days later, multiple government officials, as well as Omar al-Bashir, are in criminal custody. The Sudanese Transitional Military Council, or TMC, has been created by General Awad Ibn Ouf. He was the former minister of defense. Until the elections are held, the TMC announced that the military would rule over Sudan. The next day Ibn Ouf is replaced with Abdelfattah Burhan. The next few days, the TMC decide to still pillage through Sudan as a stalling tactic. Since then, women and children have been raped and killed. People were separated from their families. On June 9th, a nationwide call of disobedience has been called by SPA (Sudanese Professional Association).

With countless other individuals, I have changed my social media avatars to a standard shade of blue to show my solidarity with Sudan. But is that all we can do? I understand that money may be a bit more scarce in some people’s households, so any form of awareness is appreciated. I wish that blue avatars would wipe away the atrocities that are taking place in Sudan. There are always ways to donate, but it can be trick to find credible and ethical places to give as much help as possibly needed. There truly are people out there who don’t care about others, and they’ll do anything, even scam people who want to make a difference. There was an Instagram that was just exposed for capitalizing off of the lives that have been lost in Sudan. It’s despicable.

Places such as Unicef, University of Khartoum, Mercy Corps, and other organizations are accepting donations and trying to help Sudan in their times of trouble. If you know of any more, please spread them to others and donate what you can to them. Bustle.com gives a whole list, but if any of those are corrupt, please let me know.

The smallest amount can make the difference, but just getting the message out and explaining what’s going on over there can also be a way to make a change. Don’t reblog and retweet just to jump on a bandwagon. I mean yes, spread the word, but actually empathize with the people that are going through this situation. I know that if you were going through this, you would take any methods of help that you could.

Bustle Article: https://www.bustle.com/p/7-organizations-supporting-people-in-sudan-that-you-can-donate-to-right-now-18013743

Standard