Because I’m Happy!


I started this blog in June of 2016 as a way to share what I was growing through. It was my hope that my blog & what I had to say would touch just one person…& let her/him know that she/he is never alone in whatever difficult situation that gets in the way. I’m grateful that I have accomplished just that, & if my story never touches anyone else, I truly believe I have fulfilled a part of my purpose in life.

 

But I’m sure you’re wondering how I got here. How did I go from not even being able to get out of the bed some days to being fully “functional”? How did I survive the depression I was experiencing? How did I survive the anxiety I was experiencing? How was I able to reach the place I’m at now–a happy, whole place. Well, I’m glad you asked, & here’s how:

First, I reconnected with God. 

I firmly believe that the sole reason I was able to pick myself back up again, is because I had God pushing me back on my feet. Once I started back going to church & bible study, I started to feel this immense sense of hope that I didn’t feel before. I started to believe that I could actually overcome my situation & get back to a happy place again. Prior to last summer, I did have a relationship with God–but it was weak. I was streaming church, & not actually going to a physical place of worship. I wasn’t reading the Bible, & my prayer life was lacking. It’s sad that it took me experiencing all the negativity I did to reconnect with God. However, God may take you through a storm to get your attention, & to let you know that He wants you to come back to Him. That’s exactly what I did. I found a church home where I live & made it a priority to go every week. I purchased a new study Bible & created a prayer journal. Having the comfort of knowing that there is this Person who knows every thought, every action, every flaw, but still loves me so made me feel so selfish for not even trying at times. If He took the time to create me & make me exactly who I am, who was I to not be grateful for life? Who was I to just give up on myself when He never gave up on me? Now this way of thinking may not help everyone, & I don’t encourage beating yourself up about having a bad day or experiencing depression. I simply want you to realize how blessed you are & start to make a change. Reconnect with whatever Higher Being you believe in & see what a difference the relationship can make.

Once I reconnected with God, I started talking about my situation.

For me, this meant going to therapy (& of course, launching this site). Therapy is such a taboo topic in the African-American community, but I am not ashamed that I needed help. Because of therapy, I have now learned that there is strength in asking for help when you need it. I initially looked for someone who could help me through the grieving process after my Granny’s death. I experienced losing a loved one before, but her passing took a toll on me, & I needed someone to help me figure out how to navigate through the grieving process. The first therapist I saw was great in helping me initially, but I realized I needed something different & began looking for another therapist. My current therapist completed an assessment for me to help me determine if I was even experiencing depression at all. (In a previous post, I encouraged readers to at least try therapy once & get an assessment, so that you are able to know what you are actually dealing with mentally. I still encourage this today.) During that assessment, we connected in a way that I usually don’t even connect with people, & I still see her to this day. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean that I’m crazy. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean I am even “depressed” or that anything is wrong. I continue to see her because she listens to me, with no judgments. She encourages me when I feel like I’m not making any progress. She let’s me be me, & she helps me find the tools I need to keep making progress in this journey. She helps me lay the foundation for processing through what ever life experiences I may be having, & I look forward to going to see her twice a month. If you have a friend that you call & vent to, no holds bar, then you would enjoy seeing a therapist. It’s the same concept. My therapist has become a friend. Try it at least once, just to have the experience, & see how it could benefit you. It can be a little uncomfortable at times, but the feeling you get afterwards is worth the temporary awkward moments. 

If you’re one of those people that just side-eyed me because I see a therapist, my blog is not for you. Don’t be a part of the problem & the reason why people are afraid to talk about their mental health. We are here to break this cycle, not contribute to it.

Then, I started doing the work.

I realized after hitting such a low, low that I never wanted to feel that way again. So I had to figure out what I needed to do to make a change in my life. This is when I developed my self-care routine & started trying out different practices. I started walking every day to get endorphins going & to get some sun/fresh air. I started exercising as well & eventually started my yoga practice. I talk about some of my self-care practices in “Self Care ’17” & “Take Care of Your Star Player“. I also began letting go of some unhealthy relationships, started a forgiveness journey, & made changes to my living space. What’s most important is that I simply started putting forth effort to getting back to a positive mental space. When it got hard, I still kept trying, & didn’t give up on myself or the process. Life takes work, just like everything else. You have to be willing to do the work to live the life you want. Eventually everything will fall into place & it won’t even feel like work anymore. 

Finally, I started accepting being happy.

So here’s a little secret–among other things, I am afraid of being happy. My fear of being happy is decreasing as the days go by, but there are days where I resort to old habits & ways of thinking…honestly, I was so used to living a life that was dysfunctional. I wasn’t always unhappy, that’s not what I’m saying, but I had grown accustomed to having drama in my life. Bad things always happened, eventually, so I anticipated them even when things were going well. I was walking around with this dark cloud over me, & I didn’t even realize it. There were times where I felt like my brain was working against me, tricking me into thinking the worst. (Anxiety.) So I am learning how to get through those moments without letting the anxiety take control. I’m in a really great place now, & I am so grateful for this happiness. I appreciate it a little more because I know what it is like to be unhappy. I appreciate life & am striving to take advantage of each & every day. I’m learning to live in the moment–to not always have to take a picture or rush through eating my food because I’m “starving”. I’ve realized that being so focused on “timing” will have you missing out on a lot of things. Timing is never perfect. Tomorrow is not promised & you just have to go for it (whatever “it” is). Be happy.

What progress have you made in the last year? Looking back on this past year has shown me that God is still in control, & His work is amazing. I never thought I’d be in this place–happy, whole, loving Anaston. There were days where I never imagined I’d be openly sharing my story & giving others advice on their own self-care journey. But look what’s happened in a year! I’m here, doing all of those things! I’m excited for what will happen in this next year & the years to come.

Stay tuned.

 

 

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” x Frederick Keonig

 

 

Grandmother, the Alchemist.

 

“Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands…’I had my ups and down, but I always found the strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”- Excerpt from Beyonce’s Lemonade.

I have to be honest, I have been avoiding completing this blog post for months. Grief is such a strange thing. There is no recipe for “How to Deal With Grief”, & despite all of the self-help books, articles, etc. the fact remains the same–people deal with grief differently. & guess what that means? You have to learn how to navigate through it in a way that works best for you. So that’s what I have been doing, & I can’t tell you that I have figured it out just yet.

My Granny passed away in March of 2016. I thought I prepared myself for her death, but I was way more unprepared than I could have ever imagined. I can’t even describe the audible sounds that escaped my body when my mother called to give me the news. I immediately felt an immense sadness, & wished that I would be able so see her one more time. Hold her hand one more time. Roll her hair or get her dressed one more time. Watch her say her prayers before bed one more time. Give her something sweet for a snack one more time.

So now almost a year later, I still have those same wishes. I often think of all of the memories I have of her & the things she taught me. I’ve picked 3 pearls to share with you.

  • My Granny taught me the importance of prayer.

When her body was able she would get on her knees & say her prayers before bed every night. No matter what time it was, no matter where she was. Sometimes, because of the disease (Alzheimer’s) she would say them over & over, but she would always pray. One of my fondest memories is just watching her pray & wondering what it was she was talking to God about. She also prayed over her meals, even if it was as simple as “Jesus wept”. But regardless of the twists & turns of her life, her relationship with God remained constant. Her faith & her dedication to Him have inspired me to be much more intentional about my walk with God.

  • My Granny taught me the true meaning of unconditional love & that it is okay to “need” it.

Unconditionally loving someone is a remarkable thing, & I truly loved my Granny. As a child, I used to think that love was based on what people did for me, what they said to me, & even how they loved me. But during the last few years of my Granny’s life, I learned that love is not subject to a condition. When you love someone, truly love someone, you just love them. There were times where my Granny was sweet, I loved her. There were times when she was not so sweet, I loved her. There were times when she needed me, I loved her. There were times where she didn’t want to be bothered, I loved her. Because I loved her, I was willing to do anything to make sure that she was happy & well taken care of. If that meant feeding her, I did it because I loved her. If that meant repeating things to her twenty times, I did it because I loved her. If that meant staying with her all day & spending endless hours in a hospital, I did it because I loved her. There were times when I would get so frustrated with the situation & the things she would do or say, but I still loved her. I would be angry, disappointed, & sometimes even annoyed…& yet my love for her never changed. There was no “if this occurs, then I love her” or “I love her when”. That’s when I realized what love was supposed to be. 

Some of the most precious memories I have are when my Granny would ask me or my mom to stay with her when it was time for us to leave. It would break my heart when she would cry & ask us not to leave her. My Granny was a strong woman, one of the strongest I know, but she still needed love. She needed us, our love, our companionship, & it was okay. I think we sometimes feel guilty for wanting other people to love us. Yes, our love for self should be sufficient; the love God has for us is always more than sufficient…but never forget that it is important to feel love from the people around us. We were made to love & getting love in return, in whatever healthy form it comes, is something that it is okay to say that you need.

  • My Granny taught me how valuable time truly is.

Time is really one of the most valuable things we have on Earth. Once it’s gone, you cannot get it back. It is so important to treat every single day as a blessing, & you have to try to make the best of every moment. There were times where I didn’t slow down to appreciate some of the little moments with my Grandmother, & a part of me probably thought that I had a little more time. But one day I didn’t, she was gone, & all I wanted was a few more moments with her. You have to be present in life. Be intentional. Show up for people & always be mindful that tomorrow isn’t promised. 

What did your Granny teach you? Grandparents are extremely special people, & I’m blessed to have been able to have time with all of mine. We learn so many life lessons from them, some that don’t even “hit” us until maybe years after they are gone. Take some time to reflect on the time you’ve spent with your grandparents or even just your grandmother. I recently wrote a letter to mine that was therapeutic in my healing process. It’s also a great way to exercise your memory & remember some things you may have forgotten. My Granny was remarkable, magical, even. There were times where I was just in awe of her & everything she was. She was beautiful, she was honest, she was loving, she was strong, she was faithful. She lived life to the fullest from beginning to end. & I am blessed to have been able to know her in such a special way. 

 

Block Queen

To my girLS & baby sisters, I’m affectionately known as the Block Queen, lol. But what started out as a joke between sisters, has actually turned into a self-care habit.

Now that we are coming to the end of 2016, it is time that we do some “End of the Year Cleaning” to make sure that we are in the best possible position to have a positive start in 2017. In order to do that, we need to cleanse our minds, our souls, our bodies, etc. & get rid of the baggage we have been holding onto & toting around, both literally & figuratively.

It seems as if 2016 was not the best year for a lot of people–it was tough & full of a lot of life lessons & experiences. I am constantly seeing posts on my FB feed from friends & associates confessing that 2016 is a chapter they are ready to close. I believe a part of the problem is that we are holding onto things that God is trying to pry from our hands. Even if 2016 was a great year for you, you can still do some “End of the Year Cleaning” to open the door for even more blessings in the new year. Let’s get started.

So, how can we get our minds & souls right? The first step is to assess what we are feeding our minds & what we are feeding our souls. What are we choosing to actively place in our life? The easiest thing to do is look at the people you are surrounding yourself with. What does your tribe look like? Are you surrounding yourself with people who are uplifting you, encouraging you, inspiring you? Are your relationships healthy & growing? If you are unhappy with your circle, it is time to make some changes. That’s where the “blocking” comes in.

So, we all know what this concept of “blocking” is. You can now easily block people via an option on your iPhone, on Instagram, Facebook, etc. It’s simple. Start with your phone’s address book & scroll through your contacts. You may not actually have to block anyone, but I’m sure there are contacts that you need to delete. People you can’t remember meeting, people you don’t talk to at all, exes, people you drunk text or “emotional” text,  just to name a few. Next, open your messages & scroll through those–delete those text messages from your ex from 2015, delete that argument you had with a virtual thug that was a complete waste of time. Swipe, delete, delete, delete.

The next step is to assess what you are viewing, primarily on social media. Who are you following? What do you spend your time reading? What (or who) are you keeping up with? Ask yourself, “does this serve a purpose in my life?”. You know what is serving a purpose & what isn’t. Be honest with yourself. Sit down, look at the things that are going on in your life–good & bad–decide what you want to keep & what you want to remove. Being in a generation that is completely obsessed & attached to our phones, it is important that we are welcoming positive vibes through those digital sources. If you spend a lot of time on social media, or on your phone period, & find yourself wasting hours keeping up with people or things you have no business being concerned about…then we might have a problem. You know what to do, start unfollowing & unfriending!

Being a Block Queen (or King) is not saying that you should just block people left & right–it is saying that you are strong enough to remove unnecessary people & things from your life without feeling guilty about doing so. For example, if there is a person you just don’t vibe with, & their presence on your TL, in your life, & overall atmosphere just annoys you or creates a cloud of negativity–you need to remove that person. Completely. If there’s a person floating around that you know means you harm & is only around to keep up with you & what you’re doing, block them. That person doesn’t care about you, they only care about what they know about you. The whole “I want you to see this glow up” mentality is honestly not practical. That thought process is more concerned with the other person rather than the person you should be concerned with–you. 

There must be a balance to this process, though. I am not suggesting that you treat everyone as if they are disposable–people are not disposable. Don’t be quick to cut people off because they have offended you or posted something you don’t like. You don’t block people just for the fun of it or in a state of temporary anger. I’ve been guilty of unwarranted block sprees, & it is something that I am actively trying to work on. The point is to remove the toxicity, not to temporarily ignore a person & then follow them or contact them 30 minutes later.

Do you have an inner Block Queen (or King)? Get the digital detox process going. You can do this once a month, but if you feel like that is excessive, then start with doing it in December & again in six months. Take the cleansing process even further & go through your material things–your closet, your hair products, your pantry, etc. Get rid of the baggage & make room for the abundance of blessings God has for you in 2017.

“I’ve carried unworthy people on my back for years…Nowadays, I pack light.” x Ebony Cherrelle

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

I have struggled with my confidence, both physically & internally, for as long as I can remember.

As my readers know, when I was a little girl in elementary school, I was teased because my lips are big. I would be called names & made fun of & cry. The only person who took up for me was my first grade teacher–she told my peers that people paid to get lips like mine, that my lips were sexy, & that they needed to stop talking about me. Because I didn’t feel pretty, I was awkward & self-conscious. Then, over time, the teasing became focused on my weight. I have always been “skinny”, but people never seem to be able to accept that. I’ve been asked if I’m hungry, if I even eat, people offer me food, etc. I’ve even been told that if I turn sideways, I will be invisible. Picture that.

I’ve always been the “odd ball out”. I was never super popular in school (honestly, most people didn’t even like me). I wasn’t class president or one of the people picked for class superlatives, & always felt like I was sitting on the sidelines when it came to other people. I constantly got passed over for things & always felt like I was alone. I was insecure, shy, & reserved. I began to think there was something wrong with me. I began to think that my personality wasn’t “right”…so I put up a wall & changed things about myself to try to fit in with those around me. 

My low-self esteem both mentally & physically transpired into all areas of my life. I’m blessed that this battle rarely showed itself to other people, it was mostly something I dealt with on my own. So over time I began to make some changes to be happier with me, & I learned something along the way.


I am fearfully & wonderfully made, & God created me the way He intended me to be. He took his time when He created me, & because of that I am a fan of His work.

In order for me to see a positive change in my confidence, I had to look inwardly at myself first. Although I knew I had some insecurities with my physical appearance, I knew that these insecurities had a lot to do with my mind & the things I thought about myself. I had let what other people said about me change how I felt about Anaston. I worked on things that I knew I needed to work on within myself–mainly my attitude. Once I began to do the work on the inside, it was easier for me to work on the outside.

I had to realize that the only person who has to be okay with my physical appearance is me. I have the features I am supposed to have, & I am the size I am supposed to be. I have always been healthy, & food has never been an issue for me. I’ve realized that people will always have negative or rude comments about my size, but because I am okay with it now their comments do not affect me. I decided that I have a “goal” weight, & I am on the track to achieve that in a healthy way that works for me; however, If I stay this size for the rest of my life, that’s okay as long as I am healthy. 

I’ve also decided that in 2018 I will no longer entertain comments about my weight. I am going to start telling people that I do not appreciate their opinion & ask them to keep those comments to themselves. I am even willing to take it a step further & say the opposite of what people say to me. Maybe if I repeat their comments to them, they will see how hurtful it can be. (I doubt I actually do this, but there are times I wish I could._

It is also important to realize that we all have our own personal weight struggles & there is something about us that others desire to have. It is often the things we want to change that another person would be grateful for. 

Do you struggle with your confidence? Accept yourself first, exactly as who you are right now in this moment. Look at yourself in the mirror & affirm that you are beautiful. If there are things about your physical appearance that you don’t like, set goals for yourself. What can you change? Is it worth the change? Who are you trying to please? Once you can answer these questions, you can begin the work that you need to do. Be content with the progress, you won’t feel 100% confident every single day, it is a process (one that I am still working on). The important thing is to not let your insecurities take control. Be active in the work that you do, step out of your comfort zone & you will see the positive changes you desire. For example, if you don’t like looking at your reflection, put up mirrors all over your living space. Not only will you have fun decorating, but you’ll learn to be comfortable with yourself. I have mirrors everywhere, not because I am vain or narcissistic, but because I remember a time when I didn’t like who looked back at me. Now that I love her, I want to see her all the time. 

 

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully & wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 NIV

“When you are comfortable in your own skin, you are beautiful…Confidence is something you create within yourself by believing who you are.”  x Anonymous

F is for Forgiveness.

Lately, the concept of forgiveness has been just about everywhere in my atmosphere. I’ve read other blog posts about it, my pastor preached about it, my YouTube faves have recorded videos on it, etc. So I took all of this as a sign that I need to sit down & do some real forgiving in my own personal life.

Well, what does it mean to forgive? According to Google it means:

for•give•ness 

noun

“To stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”

I think it was in July when I purchased 21 Days of Forgiveness by Iyanla Vanzant & decided to embark on my “forgiveness journey”. Fast forward to September, & I had only completed 1 day of the 21 days. So at the beginning of the month, I decided to restart the book & begin my journey anew.

My intentions this time are much clearer than they were the first. This time, I’m actually being intentional about forgiving people (& myself), & I’m more willing to put forth the work to do so. I owe that to my growing relationship with God & my desire to be open to all that He has to offer.

So I had to ask myself why is this forgiveness journey important to me.

The first thing I realized was that if I want to be forgiven for my sins & the things I have done to other people, I first need to forgive people myself. I can’t expect God to forgive me if I’m harboring ill feelings & holding grudges toward people around me. 

Forgiving people is healthy–when you forgive people, you release a lot of negative energy. Forgiving people heals mental & spiritual wounds & brings peace into your life.

Starting on this forgiveness journey made me realize that I was carrying a lot of baggage around, & I didn’t even realize it. I also didn’t realize how hard it is to truly forgive people. I think sometimes we say we forgive a person but still carry around feelings or resentment.  But when you forgive a person you have to let all of that go & move on. It takes time, & for me isn’t something that I could do just in one moment. So I have taken a pause in the 21 Days of Forgiveness to really focus on the areas of forgiving that I assessed in the first few days.

I decided to make a list of people who I felt that I was holding a grudge against. Some of those people I reached out to, to apologize for my part in the demise of our relationship, & some people I had to just work through issues with on my own. It was a huge relief that I was able to rekindle friendships with two women I really cared about. Both of them were very good to me during the time right after my Granny passed, & I was in such a negative place emotionally, that I wasn’t open to receive the love they were giving in their own ways. Thankfully, after the dust settled, I was able to recognize this & make some much needed amends.

Working through these relationships also caused me to learn how to forgive myself. I’m human, & I make mistakes. Sometimes I do or say things that I am not proud of–these things happen…& when they do, I have to be willing to forgive myself so that I can continue to grow and mature. Forgiving myself is not always easy, because it means that I have to admit that I was wrong, which is not always comfortable. 

Do you need to start your own forgiveness journey? First start with forgiving yourself. Forgive your mind & your body. Once you have forgiven yourself, you can begin to start to forgive other people. Ask yourself if there are people in your life that you are holding grudges against. Make a list of those people & see if there are any relationships that are worth salvaging, & reach out to those people. This is not an invitation to open a bunch of closed doors, but it is important to make sure you don’t have any negative ties out in the world. Everyone deserves forgiveness even those people who have wronged us in the worst ways. Forgiveness takes time, but you have to make sure that you truly forgive. You can’t half forgive someone, it’s all or nothing. Once you start forgiving yourself & other people, you open up room for so much more positivity in your life.

“Holding onto a grudge doesn’t make you stronger, it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak, it sets you free.” x Anonymous

Be Good.

 

I know that I am a good person, & I strive to be a selfless person.

Being a good person means that sometimes, you will be taken advantage of…unfortunately. I’ve battled internally with being who God created me to be, a good person, & who the world is trying to turn me into, someone who is not so good. By “not so good” I mean someone who is not a “giver”,  & is cold-hearted & selfish, for example.

A part of me being a good person means that I also try to be selfless. I tend to primarily be concerned with other people more than I am concerned with myself. I take care of others before I take care of Anaston & a lot of my time is spent making sure that I am being “good” to those around me. Frequent thoughts revolve around questions like: How can I help this person? Can I give them my time? Are there any other “things” that I have to give? How can I make them happy?

I previously viewed being a good/selfless person as a personal problem. Why is it that I give so much of myself to others, & all people do is take? I am rarely on the receiving end of anything…& that has bothered me. So I often ask myself “why do I give?”. It is important that my intentions behind the things I do are genuine & not self-serving. Do I give to get something in return? No. Do I give just to be able to say I gave? No. Do I give because I don’t want what I have? No.

I give primarily because nothing that I have is mine. Yes, I have earned some things, worked for some things, I own some things, but none of it is mine. It all belongs to God. So who am I to not give what I have to someone else? This way of thinking is new to me, & it came to mind one Sunday during church. (In the bible, it’s referred to as “stewardship”. God owns everything, we simply take care of the things he has blessed us with.) Looking at it that way, it is easier for me to not to be so offended when someone only takes from me.

But I am learning that while it is great to be selfless, & it is great to be “good” to other people, it is even more important to be “good” to me. There has to be a healthy balance between my concern for those around me & the concern that I have for myself. I went through a period of time where I tried to be all about Anaston…& trust me, that neither worked for me nor did it last long. So now I’m trying to find that balance & create boundaries where I give of myself in a healthy way. I discuss how I am doing that in my post Take Care of Your Star Player

Do you identify as a selfless/good person? How are you maintaining the healthy balance in your life? I think we all strive to be good human beings, but it is important to make sure that our actions & intentions are aligned. You cannot give to someone just for the bragging rights or because you expect something in return. Give because you can. Give because it is who you are. Give because you love. But be sure that when you give, you save some for you. It’s a bad feeling to wake up one day & realize that you have given so much of yourself & you have nothing left for you. 

 

 

“I give because I know what it is like to be without. To long for & to be ignored; to speak & not be heard; to care for & have nothing returned. When I give it’s because I know the value in what I have in my heart. When I give, I am all in.” x Anonymous

Take Care of Your Star Player.

 

So this concept of “star player” came from a Katt Williams stand-up skit from the 2008 It’s Pimpin Pimpin tour (I believe). Basically its like everyone around you (I use “everyone” loosely) is on your team & you are the star player. You should watch the skit, its quite funny. I like the concept, even though how I am using it isn’t 100% the same as what he is talking about.

On sports teams aren’t the star players well taken care of? Of course! The MVPs of the team pretty much get what they want. They get the best treatment & all the perks. So as the star player, you must take care of yourself the same way. Give yourself what you want & the treatment you deserve! Have all the perks! You can’t spend all of your time focusing on the people around you, making sure they are taken care of & happy, etc. If you do, you leave nothing left for yourself.

This summer has been a journey for me to get back to focusing on myself after spending my adult life taking care of/primarily worrying about other people. My main focus, for as long as  I can remember, was my Granny. Not a day went by that I didn’t think about her, her health, & how things were at home. A lot of the decisions I made were also made with her in mind. I didn’t ever want to be too far away that I couldn’t go home & see her regularly. In March of this year, my Granny passed away. Her physical absence left me with these feelings of “what do I do now?” & “who do I worry about now”. I was forced to turn my attention back to Anaston.

A part of getting back to focusing on myself was figuring out how to actually take care of myself–physically & emotionally, & spiritually. I had to figure out things I liked/didn’t like, what I liked to do in my spare time, & my goals that weren’t tailored to my family life, etc.

So how do I take care of me? Here’s a list of some of my self-care practices, some of which were mentioned in my previous post about anxiety.

  • I go to church & pray often.
  • I journal.
  • I meditate.
  • Therapy.
  • I walk everyday (or at least try to).
  • I exercise.
  • I get (or at least try to get) a massage once a month.
  • I make sure I am eating enough & drinking enough water.
  • I write out affirmations.
  • I take at least thirty minutes a day for just myself everyday, free of outside distractions.
  • I try to do something fun every week.
  • I try to go to a new place in Savannah once a month.
  • I listen to music again.
Honestly, I believe going to church & really paying attention to my relationship with God has made a huge difference in my life. My spirit feels lighter, & I find that I am more at peace than I have been in a while. There’s something about being in a good church home that just makes me feel good.

Mostly I try to pay attention to me more, & I don’t apologize for it. When I make decisions I think about me first & how the decisions will affect my life before I consider how it will affect someone else. I am excited about learning new things about myself, & I am open to all of the growth that I am experiencing. I accept Anaston in the place that she’s in now, & look forward to the woman she will grow to be. I speak positively to myself & of myself. I’m focused on how I feel about me & how God feels about me. 

My Granny isn’t here physically, but she’s with me spiritually. Knowing that means she is still a part of everything I do, & because I know she’s in a place where she is more than taken care of, I find peace in taking care of me now too. I even try to enjoy some of the activities or practices that made her happy–it makes me feel like she’s here with me.

Do you treat yourself well? If you don’t take care of yourself, it will be hard to function the way you want to in the other areas of your life. Start figuring out what makes you happy. Make a list of the things that you like to do, & make sure you do at least one of those things a month. Make sure that every day you have time to yourself. If it is challenging for you to find time to be intentional about your self-care, try participating in my #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday movement. Every Tuesday, challenge yourself to do at least one thing for you. One thing that will make you happy & feel good. If you don’t take care of your “star player”, your team will inevitably suffer. You cannot take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself, first.

 

“Don’t just be good to others, be good to yourself too.”

What About Anxiety?

 

In my last post I introduced a new concept/way of thinking when dealing with depression. The same concept can be applied to experiences with anxiety, as well. If you aren’t familiar with the concept I am referring to, read my last post “Hello, My Name is Anaston…” first, then come back to this one. In this post I am going to talk about my own personal experience with anxiety and what it means for me, instead of explaining that concept again.

Honestly, I am not sure when I first started experiencing anxiety, but I realized within the last year or so how it affects my life & that it was time for me to actively deal with it.

So, what is anxiety? Here’s what Google says:

anx•i•e•ty  

noun

“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome” 

I guess that gives you a nice, “ice cream” idea of what it can include…but here’s what anxiety is like for me.

Anxiety is over thinking. It is having little to no peace of mind some days about any and everything. Sometimes it is second guessing things that I was originally sure about. It is panic attacks, having trouble breathing, feeling like the walls are closing in on me. It is having trouble sleeping–my brain never takes a break. It is feeling self-conscious in social settings, feeling nervous and out-of-place. It is self-doubt. It is the creation of & asking of questions that revolve around my self-identity. It is questioning if I am making the right decisions, or being worried about my future & the days ahead of me. It is having to know things 100% one way or another & feeling completely uncomfortable with the unknown. There is no gray area for me. It is having to be in control & have a plan. It is feeling anxious at times & being unsure why. It is wanting to be alone & isolating myself, because I cannot juggle both the world and the anxiety I am feeling. It is being trapped by the unescapable–my  own mind.

I think the most important part of dealing with anxiety has been accepting that I actually deal with anxiety. Now that I have accepted it, I deal with it in a healthy way & don’t include it as a part of how I identify with myself. Sounds complicated, but I just look at it the same way I look at depression. The moments when I feel anxious are temporary, no matter how long they last. They are not permanent nor do they consume my entire being. I didn’t choose anxiety, so I don’t have to choose to let it control my life. 

Anxiety does not mean that I am dramatic or that I’m being ridiculous. I can be an extrovert (which most people seem to think I am, although I wonder if I am an introvert, truly) & simultaneously experience social anxiety, which may come off as me being “stand-offish” or reserved with an attitude. Anxiety does not mean that I am paranoid. For someone who is a free spirit, I am also cautious about things, & that is okay. The anxiety that I experience is not the same as the anxiety the person next to me experiences, & that is okay too. Anxiety does not mean that I need a pity party or for “you” to feel sorry for me. Anxiety does not mean that “you” can make me feel like a burden or an inconvenience, no matter how frustrated or irritated “you” may be with me. 

Another important part of my experience with anxiety is how it affects my relationships. I no longer apologize to other people for my anxious moments. If someone wants to be a consistent part of my life, it is something that she/he simply has to accept about me & then act accordingly. It is important that my loved ones possess a level of understanding when I am having an anxious moment. Meaning that, even if a person doesn’t understand or agree with my experience, said person just has to accept that it is real to me. It means looking at me as the human being that I am, not a crazy person or a person with a problem. Said person has to be willing to work though the moment with me, or lovingly give me the space that I need to work through it on my own. I am also learning that I have to take the time to explain to my loved ones what I am experiencing, & that I have to be open enough to give people the opportunity to walk with me through the journey. 

I am learning that I cannot control every aspect of my life–sometimes it is okay to not have control over every single detail. I practice a lot of deep breathing, & I am learning how to meditate. I haven’t had a panic attack in a while, but when I was having them I would breathe through them & then go outside afterwards to lessen the “walls closing in” feeling. I also try to express myself more & let important people know when I am feeling anxious around them. I pray a lot, which doesn’t help all the time, but it does help a lot. 

Do you experience anxiety? It is important that you know that there is nothing wrong with you. More people experience anxiety than people realize…most just don’t talk about it. Take every day as it comes, one step at a time. Develop some self-care practices to take care of yourself in those anxious moments & surround yourself with people who will love you through your walk, not judge you through it. It is important that you have people who will not make you feel guilty for being a person who experiences anxiety; find people who will grow with you. That also means that you have to be strong enough to walk away from the people who cannot rise to the occasion. Recognize that what works for one person may not work for you, but you must stay dedicated to your growth & trust your own process. Remember that God will never put more on you than you can bear.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts & minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

Hello, My Name is Anaston…

 

…& I am not depressed. I simply experience depression. There is a difference, & here’s why.

I recently watched a video on Facebook, posted by a gentleman named “Prince Ea“, where he talks about this concept “you are not depressed“. He said that what he was about to explain would change the life of the person viewing the video, & he was actually right.

He describes the person as the sky & depression as a passing cloud. Clouds come & go, but the sky is permanent–it lasts forever. Clouds always come & go, because they are not the sky. If clouds were the sky, when they “went” the sky would too. So if I am the sky, that means that I am always here. Depression, as the cloud, is something that comes & goes, but is not always here forever. The cloud may be frequent or rather large, but the fact still remains that it always goes…and as something that is always here, I am greater than anything that comes & goes. (It’s a short video, but definitely enlightening, so I recommend that you look him up on FB and watch it!)

Prior to watching this video, I recall conversations with close friends & family about how I was depressed or feeling like I was falling back into my depression. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning on a “down day” & think to myself: “Today, I am depressed.” By starting my “down days” that way, I was affirming so much negativity & it would follow me, like a cloud, throughout the duration of my day. Over time, this pattern caused the depression I was experiencing to follow me not just through my days, but through my life. Because I claimed it I became attached to it, & for a while it was all that I was.

After watching this video I have realized how important the things I identify with are. I no longer identify with depression. I have accepted that it is something that I have experience with, but I realize that doesn’t mean it has to be my entire being. It is not my story–it is simply one of many chapters in the book. 

Everyone experiences depression differently. My experience may be very similar or dissimilar to your own, & that’s okay. I am not a spokesperson for all things depression–I am simply sharing my walk with it & the self-care practices that have helped me along the way. For me, changing my mindset has helped tremendously. Because I can separate depression from who I am, I am able to get through the “down days” better & have hope that the happier days will return. 

I am no longer ashamed that I have experienced depression, though others have tried to shame me & call me crazy. I am not, & have never been crazy. Depression does not automatically mean you are crazy. It means you are human & sometimes life is challenging for you. I challenge you to Google the word “crazy” & refrain from using it to describe people just because they experience depression.

Mental health awareness is something that is very important to me, & I am so glad that more people are starting to talk about it. Working through my challenges & learning why they occur has allowed me to love myself fully. My experiences have made be a better person, a stronger person, & I believe they were all necessary for my journey. 

Do you currently identify yourself with depression? If so, I want you to watch that video & make this the last day where you lay claim to depression. Make an effort to separate what you experience from what you are or who you are, & I know that you will see a positive change in your life. There are many ways to go about ensuring this separation, one being that you can name the depression you experience. I’ve heard it works for some people, so if you try it, let me know! You can also develop a mantra or a daily affirmation to remind yourself that you are not your depression.

P.S–It is also equally important to know what it is you are dealing with. Please do not accept a diagnosis that you are unsure of. I honestly self-diagnosed myself when I first noticed the signs of depression, but within the last month or so it became extremely important for me to be evaluated & learn exactly what I was dealing with. There are therapists that conduct assessments/evaluations, which are separate from therapy if you’re not interested in that. So I do highly suggest that you consider having an assessment done to learn what is affecting you. Once you know, it will be much easier to deal. 

 

“Remember, sadness is always temporary. This, too, shall pass.” x Anonymous

 

L is for Love, Pt. I

Love, is a choice.

And when we choose to love someone, we are choosing to freely give another person our heart.

The question I have been asking myself lately is: “how did I have the courage to give another person my heart, but yet he did not have the courage to give me his in return?”

So if you’re wondering–yes, I recently had my heart broken. I’ve been conflicted within myself about whether or not this was a wise choice for my third post. Is it too soon? Is it too deep? Is it too personal? It may be all of those things to some of my readers, but I decided that in order for me to heal my heart’s broken pieces, I have to talk about it.

The question you’re most likely asking now is “what happened, Anaston?” For the sake of maintaining some level of privacy I will refrain from going into too much detail, & just say this…I thought I met the true love of my life, the last few months were great & I was happy, & then one day all communication ceased. No, I don’t know why. I was given no reason, no explanation. No, nothing bad happened prior to. No, there were no signs. Weird, huh? I’m still waiting for a camera crew to come out & tell me I’ve been punked. 

I know these days it sounds rather cliché to say “I thought I met the true love of my life” & you may wonder how I came to that conclusion, but I just knew. Before all of the things happened that you do when you date a person occurred, I already knew. It was a new feeling for me, & it scared me at first, but I was elated that I found (or so I thought) the person I was supposed to walk through life with.

So my initial reaction, once I got over the immense confusion & disappointment, was to blame myself. There must have been something that I did wrong. For about a week, I blamed myself & picked apart the pieces of my entire being that I thought caused this to happen. Then, I started replaying memories & conversations trying to find the signs that I obviously missed. I came up empty-handed both times, & all I was left with was a fist full of tears.

It would have been much easier for me to be an angry, bitter, black woman on an “all men are dogs” rampage. But I’m not. Even after my first heartbreak (which happened in college), I wasn’t. And even with this being my second, I still love, love. My heart is big, & when I love, I love hard. I think that’s okay. Even though this has been difficult to deal with, deep down I am thankful for the privilege & experience. I am thankful that I was given the chance to give love to another person, contribute positively to his life, & be shown that (despite the ending) good men do exist. I was given effort that matched mine, & someone who made me laugh like it was another language. It was a blessing, & I will learn from the experience.

My dating life has not been the best, honestly. But I guess the plus side is that it has never been dull. I’ve only been in two “official” relationships in my adult life, & obviously neither one has worked out in my favor. I’ve also found myself in a series of situation-ships that never quite make it to a relationship. Throughout each relationship (even the situation-ships are literal relationships) I have had to decide what I value in a partner. There are times when I have settled just to have someone. There were times when I stayed in a “relationship” way too long & allowed myself to be abused, misused, disrespected, & taken for granted. There were times when I embarrassed myself, disrespected myself, & even lashed out physically. It has taken a lot of self-reflection & prayer to get me to a place where I am okay with my “exes” & the relationships I had with them. I am not ashamed, & I have learned so much, that I believe will make me a great wife one day.

Have you ever had your heart-broken? What did you do to pick up the pieces? We all go through different kinds of heart breaks, & it is important that we put our hearts back together again. It is so easy to let the loss change you in a way that does not serve you. It is easy to become angry, bitter, resentful, but the only person you are hurting is you. You have to let it hurt for a little while & then start the healing process. Ask God to heal whats been hurt & to give you the strength to remain open. Don’t give up on love, or let the world we live in convince you that it’s not out there. It is, & it will find you. Stay the course.

“I have been hurt so bad and I still love so hard. I admire my heart for that.”  x Alex Elle