I’m back with Episode 2 of Conversations with Anaston! In this episode I am sharing a piece of my story regarding my experience with depression. Often times we shy away from telling our stories and being honest about the challenges we face with our mental health, so I am sharing my story in hopes that I can continue to encourage others to do the same. So in honor of #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday and #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth here is my depression story.
Birthdays have always been important to me. As a child my parents would come eat lunch with me or bring treats for my classmates and myself to enjoy. I’d have my mom check me out of school and we would have lunch together even in high school. I’ve always loved balloons, cake, candles, birthday cards, and especially people singing happy birthday to me. In my voicemails you can find old messages of my dad and grandmother singing happy birthday, and I still have many of my old birthday cards on the dry erase board in my bedroom.
In 2013, my birthday took a turn for the worst. And even though April 15 was always a special day, now it is always a reminder of how blessed I truly am.
After celebrating with a few members of my framily, and a failed plan or two, we decided to hang out at my best friend’s apartment. As we were getting off the exit in her part of town, I heard this weird “pop” “pop” sound and thought maybe the car behind us, with another two of my best friends in it, had blown a tire. So we pulled over in the median and got out to see what happened–to our surprise and horror, there were bullet holes in my childhood best friend’s car. Thankfully everyone with me was okay, but we spent the rest of the night dealing with the aftermath of this drive-by shooting. As a part of their initiation these gang members were instructed to shoot at whatever cars they could find and left a high school student badly injured.
That night I learned to never take any moment for granted and made a promise to myself that I would always make the best of my birthdays. So in honor of my twenty fifth birthday I want to share twenty five lessons I have learned over the years.
- Everything that I am and everything that I have, I owe all to God.
- The longest relationship I will ever have in life is with myself.
- Honesty is always the best policy.
- True love begins with me.
- The only person who can make me whole, is me.
- It is better to be over-dressed any day.
- Start every day with gratitude.
- End every day with gratitude.
- Patience is truly a virtue.
- Family is everything.
- God will always be there.
- I am beautiful, I am sacred.
- You can never stop learning or growing.
- It is okay to not be the smartest person in the room.
- I am capable.
- All you really need is one good friend.
- Emotions have never made me weak.
- Never become a part of the crowd.
- It is okay to not be okay.
- Never let a man convince or try to convince you that you are less than who you are.
- You have too much to do to spend your energy where it is not reciprocated or restored.
- You may be alone, but you are never lonely.
- Be neutral in your ego.
- It is okay to be happy.
- But God…
“I’m having a private party…celebrating the woman I’ve become. Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me!” x India.Arie
Photographer: Josh Garrett (@itsdannygphoto)
So, honestly I have not been feeling much peace for the last few weeks or so. Really, 2018 has been off to an interesting start…and for a while I was worried.
When I wrote Because I’m Happy! back in June of 2017, I was in a really great place. I was so excited about the work I had done on myself, the progress I had made, and the happiness I was blessed with. For the most part everything was going right, and I was dealing with the things that were less than desirable in a healthy way. So I am sure you can imagine my frustration when life started throwing its challenges at me toward the end of February. Now that I feel like I am on the other side of the storm, a few things have been put into perspective for me:
- God never said the weapons would not form. He said they will not prosper.
I think I got so comfortable in my “happy place” that I felt like I was untouchable. So when challenges started presenting themselves, it threw me completely off of my game. I began to question a lot of things and wondered why God was putting me through what felt like so many tests. I kept asking a lot of the “why me” questions, feeling like I did not deserve any of what was happening to me. This “level” of happiness I was experiencing made me think that I would no longer have to suffer through drama, disfunction, and negativity anymore. Boy, was I wrong. However, in the midst of each challenge, I have come out victorious on the other side. Every situation or outcome has not been ideal, honestly, but each was necessary for my growth. Though I was very uncomfortable, experiencing frequent anxiety, and very stressed, I am good. I have not suffered any losses. I wish I could keep this mindset while I am in “it”, but it is refreshing to have this perspective now that the dust has settled.
2. Always be the bigger person.
We all have those moments when we get tired of being the “bigger” person, always having to rise above, “go high”, etc. If you’re reading/listening to this and telling yourself you do not have those moments, you are lying, beloved. I had quite a few of these moments over the last few weeks. I felt like I was being put in situations where I had to be the bigger person, when everything inside of me wanted to be mean and petty…but I am not a mean and petty person. So why would I even waste my energy resorting to that type of behavior? I am not perfect, by any means, but I know that I have done the work to be sure that I no longer intentionally cut people with my actions or my words. So changing the very nature of who I am for a temporary game of tit for tat is not worth it to me anymore. I had to remind myself that getting even, proving a point, etc. could potentially do more damage than what was already done. Regardless of whether I was right or wrong, what matters most is that I can go to sleep each night with a clean conscience. And I do not want to sacrifice my peace of mind gambling in a game of revenge. At the end of the day, I can only control myself. I have the right to feel how I feel and even express how I feel, but the goal is to do so with tact. This can be easier said than done sometimes though. There are moments where I still yell, curse, and say things out of frustration, but thankfully those moments are few and far in between. When I am feeling the pressure to act out of character, I literally just close my mouth or stop myself from typing a message. Hopefully, once I have given myself a moment to calm down, I can handle things the right way.
3. Never give up.
Sounds cliche, but it is the truth. Here I am about to graduate from law school, and it seems like life is challenging me the same way it was when I was preparing to graduate from college. The part I have to remind myself, though, is that I made it through those experiences. They were also uncomfortable, stressful, and caused anxiety. However, they were conquered. I try not to spend too much time reflecting on my past, but it can be quite the teacher. Your past shows your strength. When you think about all that God carried you through, you ought to be able to keep pushing and stay the course. So I try to remind myself that if I “just keep swimming” everything will be okay. I will come out on the other side, I will get through whatever it is, and life will continue. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. There will always be things that will come to steal your joy, but if you keep seeking the light, happiness will always be there.
So I am continuing to do the work. I wish I could tell you the many ways I put my self-care routine to use during this time, but in the midst of the chaos all I could do was call my parents a thousand times a day, do a lot of deep breathing, shed a lot of tears, pray a lot, and try to have a few YOLO moments along the way…but now that I have typed this, I am realizing that all of those things are self-care, too.
How do you find the balance within yourself during difficult times? Think about the last time that you were faced with a challenge, and how you handled it. Think about how you felt, the things you said, and the things you did. Was there a sense of peace within you regardless of what you were being faced with? Were you able to return to that sense of peace after you freaked out or got upset? Try to figure out at least one thing that will be your go-to when you start to lose the balance within yourself. My goal is to be more intentional about meditating and breathing through things and to trust God and the capabilities He gave me.
“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” x Unknown
A lot of people have asked what my wash day routine looks like & how I style my wash & go! Here’s my routine from start to finish! Remember to find what products & techniques work for you, this is simply what works for me.
“And right now…I’m the blues in your left thigh, trying to become the funk in your right.”
It’s amazing how many people think that romance only exists between two people, that it is something that only couples can share…but I am here to tell you that romance should start with you. Because when you truly know how to romance yourself, then you can give romance to somebody else. Your Star Player is waiting on you to romance her/him. S/he’s waiting for you…trying to become the funk in your right.
So today’s #TakeCareofYourSELFTuesday question is tough, but as usual it is a necessary one.
In April of this year, I will turn 25. For the first time in my adult life I can answer confidently that yes, I love myself. If you had asked me this question a couple of years ago, my answer probably would have been some variation of “I think so”. Honestly, I believe I started on this journey of learning to love myself in high school, when I first started seeking love in other people. I can tell from old Facebook statuses that I was standing at the end of the aisle waiting for the love of my life to commit herself to me. And after a couple of failed relationships and disappointments over the years, I finally realized that love has to start with me.
And now I’m so in love with myself that it no longer troubles me when I do not receive the same amount or kind of love from another person. I’ve recognized that if I truly love myself wholly, that I will always be enough.
I show love to myself in many ways, one of which is discussed in L is for Love, Pt. II. To put it simply, I do all of the things for myself that I was previously looking for other people to do for me. So this means that I send myself flowers (just because and for special occasions), I take myself out on dates, I overload myself on self-care when I am feeling down, I remind myself of how special and beautiful I am, I look at myself in the mirror. & I mean, really look at myself in the mirror. I enjoy my own company. I know how to make myself laugh, I know what makes me smile. I know what makes me cry. I know what I like, what I dislike…I know who I am.
I recognize that even though I am far from perfect and will continue to grow and evolve through life, that I’m lit. However interested I am in someone else, I make sure I am just as interested in myself. The things I want for someone else to love or appreciate about me, I love and appreciate about myself. From my smile, to my laugh, to the way I give and how my mind works. I focus on building myself up. I do the work, even when it is tough. Every day is not pretty, and some days I am a mess. There are still days where I second guess myself, and allow myself to be swayed by the opinions of others, but I am 100% committed to making sure that I stand up and show up for me.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not an overnight, instant thing. Loving myself is a journey, and I walk through it every day. It has probably taken me the better part of two and a half years to get to this place, and I am excited about how much more in love with myself I will be in the years to come.
On Tuesdays I encourage my loved ones and those I am connected with on social media to participate in my #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday movement, which was inspired by the post Take Care of Your Star Player.
In 2018, I want to take this movement to the next level and really encourage others to start doing the work when it comes to their mental/emotional health. So I have decided to start creating journal questions to share each Tuesday.
Today’s question is a simple one, but it can reveal a lot to you. We ask people “how are you?” quite frequently as a conversation starter. Often times, we do not even truly listen to the answer. Today I challenge you to ask yourself how you are doing and then take the time to actually listen to the answer. Use this Tuesday to take care of your heart.
In the spirit of transparency and to hopefully make others feel comfortable sharing their answers with me, here is my response:
Today, my heart is full. She is happy. It is warm outside, the sun is shining, and I am having a great day. I have been working really hard to maintain my happiness despite being in a phase where a lot of things are uncertain. I feel as if I am transitioning into a new chapter of life and shedding some layers from my past. I slept pretty well last night, but had some interesting dreams. It always amazes me how my desires seem to manifest themselves in my dreams. Even though I try to refrain from spending time thinking about certain people or things, they still find me while I am sleeping. I’m really proud of my heart today. There are times when I want to be closed off, and I am fearful of taking new chances…but my heart remains open. She is not bitter, despite all that she’s been through. Today, I am extremely proud of that, because I could be in really bad shape emotionally. Sometimes I have to pinch myself during my moments of happiness, because I am not used to this. I find myself waiting for something bad to happen…and bad things have happened lately. But now that I allow myself to feel whatever emotions come my way, I am able to deal with them in a way that serves me. I am able to return to being happy. There are many things I am procrastinating on though, so I really need to sit down and focus on these tasks. I can already tell that the uncertainty in a few areas is the root reason of why I am procrastinating, so I know I have to work on this.
“I’m proud of my heart, it’s never been a quitter, it hasn’t become bitter, it’s had the courage to stay open, and that has only made me better.”
For January’s episode of the Sister Talks Podcast, Alexandria and I wanted to do something a little different! We recorded the “best friend” tag and answered a few questions about ourselves. We hope that this allows our audience to learn a little bit more about us in the new season of Sister Talks with Anaston and Alexandria!
You can watch the YouTube video here:
My sister bestie and I recently started our very own podcast, called Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria! We are both educated brown girls, & bloggers.
Here’s our fifth episode! Join us as we recap 2017 and wrap up the year with the lessons we learned. We revisit each topic covered on Season One of Sister Talks Podcast and share a few things about the future! If you have topics you would like for Anaston and Alexandria to discuss in 2018, share your ideas with them! Comment below or send them an email: email@example.com
On Saturday, January 6, 2018, I received a phone call from my mother informing me that my great aunt Evelyn had passed. Although I knew she had been battling cancer, I did not think that news of her death would come so soon, especially since it was the beginning of the new year. The news of her passing instantly reminded me of the day my mother called me when my Granny passed. I started to feel the same emotions and was completely consumed with sadness. It broke my heart that yet another family member had passed away–a family member tied so closely to my beloved Granny.
I spent the rest of the day wallowing in grief and sadness. As far as I was concerned, my day had been ruined. The plans I had were already cancelled and this news was the icing on the cake. So I did my best to spend the day processing through the grief the best way I knew how. As I mentioned in Grandmother, the Alchemist. grief is a tricky thing. There is not one right way to conquer it, and it can come in waves when you least expect it.
If I felt like crying, I cried. I slept when the tears ceased to fall, and I watched Harry Potter movies to take my mind off of things. Sunday rolled around and I still could not bring myself to get out and face the world. I realized that I had not processed through my Granny’s death as much as I thought, and it frustrated me.
Later that Sunday afternoon, I was able to pull myself together and set a game plan for how I was going to make sure I did not let this loss be the story of my 2018. I had already revisited my goals for 2018, but I knew I needed to be a bit more intentional about the changes I wanted to make. I also knew that just writing them down on paper was not going to cut it this year–I needed to start taking action and make changes right then and there. I needed to get excited about the things I wanted to do, and I needed to accept that in the midst of death, life still goes on. I had to realize that I owe it to my Granny, my great aunt, and every other family member I have lost to live my life fully. They would want me to. Something good bloomed out of my grief and although I am still processing, I am able to do so with much more positivity.
Now I have seen a lot of debate about goal setting this year. A lot of people are against it, do not quite understand the need for it, etc. But I encourage you to not get so caught up in the word “goal”. An intention for the new year can be viewed as a goal, any changes you want to make can be viewed as goals–the way you view this concept should be personal to you.
What are goals? Well, according to good ol’ Merriam Webster:
2. the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result
So like I said, a goal can be anything. Desires count, efforts toward achieving something count, it all counts. If I am doing actual goal setting, here’s how I approach it: I try to organize them by the different areas of my life, and I create a map, of sorts, to help visualize what I want to achieve. Here’s an example:
1. Set the actual goal.
Ask yourself what it is you want to achieve. Is there something you want to learn? Something you want to improve? Something you want to do more of? Or even something you do not want to do, if that works for you.
2. Why do you want to achieve this goal?
Once you have set the goal, start looking at your intentions. Why is this important to you? What is fueling this particular desire? Make sure your heart and mind are in the right place.
3. How can you achieve this goal?
This is the action part. You may not know initially how to go about achieving the particular goal you have set, and that is okay. Thinking about it will allow you to get the wheels turning and inspire you to try new things to achieve what you have set out to do. Do not be afraid of what may feel like failing along the way–use it as motivation to keep pushing you into greatness.
4. Affirm that you will accomplish exactly what you set out to do.
You have to believe that you can do whatever it is that you set your mind to. God created you to be great and he has equipped you with everything you need to live out your purpose. So encourage yourself. Write out affirmations related to your goals and remind yourself daily that you will be successful. Before you know it, you will be doing everything you intended to do this year.
No matter what approach you take to “goal setting”, always remember to give it all to God. It is important that you surrender yourself to Him and His will. He knows what is best for you and can be a great help when you are trying to figure out what you hope 2018 will be.
What is your plan for 2018? Personally, I am focusing more on intentions this year and keeping the goals I set in 2017 for inspiration. I have never been fond of setting “new year resolutions”, but I have found that setting goals helps me stay focused on being the best Anaston I can be. I use them as a reminder when life starts to get chaotic and I am searching for inspiration to do something. This is a work in progress though, and once I have a clear understanding I will share with you. If you have set your goals, intentions, desires, etc. for 2018 share them with me! I’d love to witness the greatness you are going to achieve.
“In all things in 2018, be intentional. Be convicted in your intentions and the year and life you want will manifest according to God’s will. May your 2018 be full of light, love, and an abundance of blessings.” x Anaston Jeni
We made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas is rapidly approaching, & the weather is changing– it’s obvious that 2017 is coming to an end! The months of November & December tend to be the hardest for people, no matter who you are, & unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into “seasonal depression” & experience anxiety.
As I’ve gotten older these Winter months have previously been more difficult for me, too. The weather & lack of light cause me to want to stay inside, keep to myself, & sleep. Conditions like these make it easy for me to lose motivation, focus on negative things, & experience deep levels of disappointment & sadness. Because my family is spread out, holidays aren’t as big as they used to be, which can also cause some sadness here & there.
So it is my goal for the rest of 2017 to keep my energy high & full of positivity. I want to maintain my happiness, continue loving myself, & be grateful for everything God has blessed me with. I am determined to make Winter the best it can be, & here’s how I am going to do it:
- Write a list of everything I accomplished in 2017. It seems like 2017 wasn’t a great year for many people; my Twitter feed is full of tweets with people confessing how rough of a year it was, how they are ready for it to be over, etc. (What’s funny is that I️ wrote these very same sentences in Block Queen in 2016. It’s really disheartening to see that the same things are happening all over again, a year later.) Though we don’t realize it, negativity like this can fuel depression & anxiety. Why not try a different approach & focus on the positive? What were the good things that happened? How did you grow? This idea was inspired by Myleike Teel’s podcast for the end of the year & it was a great suggestion to end 2017 on a positive note.
This is also a great time to practice gratitude. Once you’ve reflected on all of the positive things that 2017 brought you, spend some time being grateful for these things. Look at how different 2017 was from 2016; look at how God blessed you & kept you safe. If you are living, breathing, & healthy, then you have many things to be grateful for. Sometimes it takes being grateful for small things like clean water or air to breathe, your sight, food to eat, etc. that will push you to recognize the big things, too.
2. Set goals & create a plan. We all know it is popular to set resolutions for the New Year, so use this time to plan for 2018. I will publish a post on goal-setting in January, so I won’t go into much detail here. I set many of my goals in August, when my last year of law school started, so I am going to use those as the foundation for 2018’s goals. Write them down, put them some where you can see them often, & make them happen!
3. Stay active. In every sense of the word. This is the time to kick all of your self-care habits into overdrive. Actively practice self-compassion, forgiveness, and love. If you need reminders on how to start those practices, I’ve got you covered. (Each “practice” is linked to my previous posts on said topics.) Spend time doing things that make you happy & relaxed. Actively nurture your relationships with loved ones & yourself. Be intentional. Remember to be physically active–summer bodies are built in the winter, right?
I’m going to try a few new self-care practices in December & revamp some “old ones”. It’s always a good time to make improvements to your self-care routine. If something isn’t working for you or if you haven’t really been doing something, then work on it or change it. For example, I really want to delve deeper into my yoga practice, & become more consistent with my workout routines. So I need to create a different approach to both. Since it’s colder outside (sometimes, where I live) I might not take my daily walk, but I need to be diligent & do it anyways. I’ve also realized that my relationship with God needs some TLC, so I re-created my prayer journal & plan to spend time reading the Bible outside of church.
This is also a great time to clean your living space. I am trying to practice minimalism (we’ll talk about that later) so I have cleaned out my drawers, closets, & got rid of a lot of unnecessary things. My bed linen is usually black in the winter, so I have switched to all white bedding to brighten my room. I keep my curtains open to allow for more light as well. Try rearranging some furniture, adding a few new pieces, & do some good, deep cleaning. This can help improve your mood, allow you to relieve some stress, get some creative juices flowing, & accomplish something new at the same time.
How are you holding up, now that Winter is upon us? Trust me, the Winter & holiday season can be challenging. Don’t let this scare you though, because I am confident you can get through it. The most important thing is to recognize that you need to pay a little more attention to your mental, emotional, & physical health during this time. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t even have to go anywhere! It is as simple as doing something intentional to take care of you. This is also a good time to talk to your friends or family. If you are having a hard time & don’t feel comfortable seeking professional help, you can always reach out to a loved one.