What it’s like to feel paranoid

For those of you who do not know I will be spending the summer in San Francisco away from my little family, while I’m excited for new opportunities to learn and build my career, it would be an understatement to say I am FREAKING out but the point of this post is that I always freak out.

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Because I hear time and time again to just “calm down” or “everything will be fine” I thought I would share my frustration with those statements by explaining how my brain works. My brain does not understand “calm down” my brain only hears “freak out” and “everything can and will go wrong.” That is the immediate response I have when faced with anything, whether it is routine or novel.

No matter how many times people tell me to relax I can’t. I literally feel like I have hands around my throat and can hardly breathe the majority of the time. You know that big lump you get in your throat when you feel like crying but can’t, the kind that leaves you with a pounding headache… that is how I feel 99% of the time.

Let me explain this a bit more because people typically see me and think I’m fearless or I have it all together and trust me I work VERY hard to keep that image. In reality that is far from the truth.

On the daily basis I freak out about everything that could possibly go wrong from car crashes to abduction (no exaggeration) and because of this I research and plan everything out beforehand (of course this is only sometimes helpful because we all know nothing ever goes as planned).

Let me give you an example, if I have to go somewhere I plan out my route beforehand. Last year I was interning in Little Rock, AR and had to drive alone for the first time to the city. Not only did I plan out my route beforehand but I literally took a virtual tour of the route via google maps (street view to be exact). I planned which parking lots I would use and which streets I would walk down. This may not sound like a big deal but trust me feeling that I HAVE to plan every tiny thing is a huge burden and honestly it’s only the beginning of my obsessive thoughts. If you think I don’t know exactly which ways I will have to get to my internship this time around, which streets to avoid, which areas have more crime in San Francisco already, you do not know me well my friends. I’ve already researched the exact buses, BART (bay area rapit transit) and which streets I should walk down versus when I will need to call an uber or taxi (something I have never done). It may sound like I’m just overly prepared but let me continue.

I’ve spent at least 4 hours reading stories of people who’d been mugged in San Francisco, I read so much I found there is a pattern, it seems people are typically mugged between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. Which means I won’t be out after dark. I may as well be a detective right? I already discovered that the majority of the people in the area have their car broken into and that petty theft is often ignored by the cops in the area so I’ve been planning ways to secure my belongings. Even looked up antitheft bags. I even considered dressing down on the way to work and then changing my clothes once I arrive so I don’t look like an easy target. I also considered what steps to take in case I do get mugged and oh what if they have a weapon? What if there is more than one mugger? Now you’re starting to get it. Do you understand how annoying it is to feel this way? A part of me knows I am overreacting but regardless I can’t make the thoughts go away.

My mind automatically goes to the worst possible thing that could happen. Last night I looked out of the window more than 20 times because I thought someone would break in. I literally jump out of bed anytime I hear a car door close. Because it can’t just be a neighbor or civilian right. Not in my head… in my head, it is most definitely a serial killer. The only time I ever get a full nights sleep is when I know someone else is home (my husband or relative). I have a son who I check on at least 10 times once I put him to bed to make sure he is still alive. I even check if my husband is still breathing in his sleep half of the time. He may think I’m being sweet if I lay on his chest but I am just checking for a pulse. Relaxing is not my strong suit.

I always feel like someone is watching me, or following me. It feels like I’m walking on eggshells everytime I leave the house. Every time I get into the car I imagine getting into an accident. Every time I go to the store alone I imagine getting mugged. I hate walking anywhere alone. Even just calling people to handle administrative things stresses me out. I literally plan out what I will say in my head before any phone call or meeting, even if it’s as simple as asking for directions. I get so anxious I physically get sick. The majority of the time I keep myself incredibly busy to distract myself from these thoughts.

Now you may think I sound like a hot mess and you’d never want to hang out with me but do not worry, the majority of the time people around me do not notice because I have mastered my poker face. Internally I may be freaking out but on the outside, I look like I have it together and trust me that is a talent in and of itself. Odds are if we met, you would probably never know I was feeling this way. Unless of course, I told you, but then you still wouldn’t understand to what extent.

Don’t get me wrong being overly paranoid does have its benefits, though very few. I tend to be overly prepared which means I am never lacking when it comes to school and work. However, dealing with everyday life can be a burden at times and it is especially worse when people who do not understand how difficult it is for me to relax, tell me to do just that.

When I was just a child my dad left and my mother was arrested. My oldest sister was murdered and my brother randomly died in a car crash 4 years ago. Many of the people I grew up knowing have passed away. It bothers me when people say “you will be fine” or “nothing like that will happen to you” because if it happened to them what makes me an exception. Bad things happen and I have reasons for feeling like they will happen to me. A part of me feels that it is inevitable and so I should just take chances and live life to the fullest but yet I still worry about everything. It’s a neverending battle that I deal with on the daily basis but I try very hard not to let those negative thoughts rule my life (even though at times it feels that way).

It is not fun to live inside your head considering all the horrible things that could possibly happen at any given moment but it’s also not fun to have people tell you to just stop worrying as if it’s that simple. I wrote this in hopes that people who do not experience this level of anxiety will understand how burdensome it can be. We need to switch the need to tell people to just “calm down” or “be happy” and shift that into understanding how others perceive the world. Those things aren’t simple for everyone. It is easy to tell someone not to worry when you don’t understand how it feels to be bombarded with intrusive thoughts on the regular basis. Instead just be present and be there to show support. I hope this post will offer some understanding to some of you and I hope you share this with others.

Thanks for reading!

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I saw my Civil Rights Icon: Ruby Bridges

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Growing up black and southern I heard a lot of stories of the difficulties many of my ancestors and family members faced 50 or so years ago. Ruby Bridges’ story was one of those stories I always grew up hearing. My family owned the film created in honor of her and I watched it all throughout my childhood. I was not able to understand what she faced and how significant it was until I was much older and now I can fully appreciate everything she experienced.

On Feb. 2, 2017 I was able to see my childhood icon share her story in person in the auditorium of my very own campus at Harding University. It was a historic moment as I, an African American woman at a historically white university, was witnessing a woman who helped break the boundaries to allow that to happen. Needless to say, I was extremely excited.

The event began with a formal introduction of Ruby Bridges along with a video that shared a bit of her story. We were then introduced to her and were able to hear her story in detail. Afterwards, the President of Harding University was able to sit with her and ask her a few questions. This was the only part I didn’t quite enjoy because I was unable to see her from where I was seated. After that she stayed on stage to sign copies of her book, which were available for purchase prior to and after her speech. I unfortunately was not able to get a photo with her but being able to hear her speak was incredibly rewarding. I really loved that even with the amount of people who showed up, everyone was incredibly respectful and courteous. She had several standing ovations and just had a way of speaking about a difficult experience with such grace.

Several of the things she said have been engrained in my mind. One of my favorite quotes from her that night was: “Evil doesn’t care what you look like. If you open yourself up to it, it will use you to do the work that it wants done. And if evil doesn’t care what we look like, why should we if we consider ourselves good?”

I hope these are words we all take to heart. All in all it was an event that I and many others will remember for a lifetime.

How to reach your mental health goals in 2017

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When we tend to focus on our physical fitness goals for the new year but overall wellness requires more. If you’re like me and struggle with poor mental health this post is for you.

I’ve struggled with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and intrusive thoughts for numerous years. While things have improved a bit I’d be lying if I said they were completely better.

A huge goal of mind is to truly heal and grow this year and here is how:

Connect with others

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This won’t be easy. If you’re like me and tend to distance yourself from others this will be your biggest challenge. Find support from others. I’ve learned nothing is more healing than having someone you can really talk to about the things you struggle with.

A key factor in this is finding someone who understands which I’ve found to be hard.

For example I can’t talk to others about the struggles I feel about being a black woman if they have no experience with that. They may be able to sympathize but not show true empathy because they don’t fully understand. Same goes for whatever you struggle with. If you struggle with depression or body image issues it’s helpful to talk to someone who has also dealt with that because they are more likely to understand.

It always helps to open up and to let what your feeling be known and have a safe space to do so.

You can seek people out in a group setting, therapy, church or other spiritual gatherings.

Find the root of your struggles

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Sometimes but not always poor mental health is caused by underlying pain that hasn’t been fully addressed. I understand this isn’t the case for everyone and in some cases it can simply be genetic or caused by chemical imbalances in the brain but for some it’s caused by trauma.

Being unsure of the cause of your pain is very conflicting and can make things more difficult. If you believe the source of your struggles is trauma, dig deep figure out exactly where these thoughts and feelings stem from and go from there.

This is something that will take years and years of work. Therapy helps in many of these situations but also finding others who can relate (as mentioned above). Knowing where you were in your life when your mental health started to take a turn is important because it allows you to understand your triggers and understanding your triggers can bring growth which brings me to my next point.

Avoid Triggers

Easier said than done but once you understand what triggers you and why they trigger you it’s easier to avoid situations that will cause you harm. This is difficult because those around you are not aware of your triggers, they may not understand how your brain works and this is not the same for everyone.

We all struggle differently but something sets us off. Whether it be a comment, someones tone of voice, failure… any of those things can cause a breakdown.

However, it’s also important to note that some triggers can’t be avoided and we simply have to learn effective coping mechanisms to deal with them in a healthier way. This is one of my biggest goals as I tend to lash out either internally or externally when I’ve been triggered.

Being connected to those who understand is helpful but we also have to be able to cope with those who don’t or can’t understand and that’s where things get a little complex. In order to do this you’ll need to work on building healthy coping skills.

Learn to cope

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This is something that you’ll learn as you heal but how you react to triggers is vital and in some situations can be the difference between life or death especially if you’re one who struggles with intrusive or suicidal thoughts. This is a tough cookie to swallow for those who don’t struggle with poor mental health but have close relationships with those who do because for them everything is an “overreaction” or they simply don’t understand.

My suggestions (other than the ones listed above) are to meditate or pray (if you’re religious). For me this is my go to coping mechanism when I’m triggered. Though I personally believe quiet time is important in general whether you pray or not because it gives you a safe space to clear your head.

Working out is also helpful. It’s actually incredible what exercise can do for your mental well-being. Ever heard of runners high? Yea that is a real thing.

Focus your energy into something you love. This can be therapeutic. For me it’s writing and dancing. Simply writing this post is helpful for me as I’m able to express myself. Find things you enjoy doing and in times where you find yourself really struggling do those things.

I want to remind you I am not a doctor or therapist or psychiatrist at all so these tips are just based on my opinion and what helps me personally. Everyone is different. If you find yourself in serious need of help please talk to someone you trust and seek real help. In the meantime if there is something I can do to encourage others who are struggling I will, that is why I write.

Thanks for reading.

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Defining Success: When you feel like a failure.

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Some define success as attaining wealth, others may define it as accomplishing goals. Some may view success as reaching certain standards at certain stages of life.

Getting married, finding the perfect career, having children or not having children. All of these may been seen as success to some.

One thing I’ve learned is, what success means to one person is not what it might mean to another. Within societies, however, we tend to adapt similar ideas of what success looks like, and those who take their own path are sometimes frowned upon.

I’ve struggled for years feeling like a failure because my life doesn’t look like those around me. I didn’t realize how much comparison played into what we find successful. For example, when I graduated high school with all of my peers I felt successful, I’d accomplished my first big goal.

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College has been a different story. Instead of coming to college, finding the perfect major, graduating and starting families, I did the opposite. I came to college confused, changed my major twice, lost a family member, became depressed and dropped out. I then started a family, traveled a bit and thought about what I really wanted to do and then returned to finish. Though returning hasn’t made me feel successful, in fact it’s made me feel quite the opposite.

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For some reason getting my degree really seemed to be the determining factor in whether I’d be successful or not. Though, many of the people our society deems as successful do not have college degrees.

Then I began to  wonder how many other people have been so brainwashed by societies ideas of success that we let ourselves feel this way.

It wasn’t until I had women telling me I was lucky to have a good husband and beautiful child that I realized success for them may look like something else. If my definition of success is having my own little loving family, then I am successful. However, when I compare my life to the standards of others I’ve learned that I might never feel successful.

Who is to say that one day when I graduate college, and find a job that I won’t still feel like a failure. Maybe I’ll have a decent job, but I may have classmates who seemingly have the “ideal” job. We tend to base our success on the success of others, at least I do. It’s a problem.

In short, others success is not the basis for our own. It’s not a competition. When you see people who are content and satisfied with where they are in life, whether it be a college drop-out, a stay at home mom, or a wealthy businesswoman, know that they are successful in their own way.

Success is relative to you and is not define by someone else.

– Rere

Social Media: Influencing Insecurities?

One thing that has been bothering me a lot lately, is my obsession with becoming the next “IT” girl. Now others around me don’t realize I have this issue but it’s there. Now when I say “IT” girl I’m referring to the girls online. You know the ones, Instagram famous, perfect figure and beautiful face with lot’s of followers and lots of comments affirming she is, in fact, beautiful.

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I have never been that girl. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not TOO bad, but I’ve never stood out much. It used to be just wanting to be friends with the popular kids in school but todays technology has changed that.

We are all constantly exposed to millions of other people and while I get that people display the best of their lives I sometimes feel that I don’t even have a “best” to share. I wake up everyday and scroll through beautiful pictures of beautiful people living seemingly exciting lives and I feel “bleh.”

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Comparison is the thief of joy wise ones say and it’s true.

While I totally understand that what I’m seeing online isn’t necessarily “real” I still feel like I’m missing out on being a part of something.

I grew up feeling neglected and ugly. I never received positive affirmations from family members, quite the opposite in fact. School didn’t help either… I was made fun of based on appearance quite a bit. I had friends but I was lonely. Rarely did people want to get to know me, the real me. I never sparked any conversations, not good ones anyway.

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By the time I started to blossom and receive positive feedback on my appearance I didn’t believe it. Nothing anyone said at this point could get me to believe I was beautiful, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t continue to struggle with this.

Social media has become my new high school and while I’m 23 years old, married with a toddler, I still find myself wanting to fit in. I want so badly to be the girl others look up to, others find important because I’ve never felt important. I’ve never felt relevant. I’ve never felt like anyone cares how I feel, what I like to eat, or what I enjoy doing. I’ve never been the person people wanted to know about. I’ve kind of always been the invisible one.

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I used to be very LOUD so I’d make myself stand out and force others to pay attention to me, but even now, even in the midst of finding who I am I feel irrelevant.

When I look online and I see those “online celebs” I envy them because others seem to care so much about who they are. It seems a bit outlandish to let others control how you feel about yourself but for me, it’s difficult not to.

Sometimes I find that I have to take short breaks from social media to allow myself to truly enjoy the life I’m living and stop comparing my life and myself to others. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop secretly seeking validation from others but I definitely believe social media influences my insecurities.

Social media or no social media, I understand that how I feel about myself and my worth come from within. It’s just taking some open and honest self-dialogue to figure that out.

I’ll get there.

 

Love sees truth!

When it comes to Interracial couples many like to say that “Love sees no color.” That statement is simply untrue!hubandi6

When Mike and I first met the first thing we noticed about each other were our differences. I was a small town southern girl, him was a foreign city boy. I was christian, he was an atheist. I was black and he was white. We noticed these things from the very beginning, this set us apart as a couple. We were different.

Fast forward a few years and we are married with a baby boy. A lot has changed in our relationship and in the world.  A topic that has often come up in our relationship due to recent events, is racial tension.

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We have felt the weight of the world’s issue with this (especially in America) on our relationships, and I constantly feel obligated to justify why we are together to those who don’t understand it.

A huge misconception that bothers me the most is the idea that interracial couples ignore race completely… This is not the case at all. We haven’t decided to ignore each others differences we decided to accept them.

Throughout the course of our relationship we have spent a lot of time learning about each other and why we are so different. I shared my culture with him, and he shared his. This has only helped us grow as a couple. When we say we wish the world could be “like us” we are speaking on the issue of not accepting each others differences. It takes tolerance and understanding to grow as people.

My husband and I are together because we accept our differences not because we pretend we are the same. We recognize that we are not that same. We find that that is what makes us unique and beautiful. I would not have learned as much as I have had I’d married someone exactly like me. We want to carry the idea of tolerance and love and spread it to others, because we feel our relationship is a reflection of just that.

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When we look at our little boy we see love. We see a beautiful combination of cultures come together as one.

There are still so many who look at us and see something wrong.

We need to accept that we are all different, but learning about those differences will do more good than ignoring them.

Spread more love!

The wrong path

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One thing I have always struggled with in my adult life is where I am in my life. In an age of social media and posting the highlights of our lives to share with each other as well as the rest of the world, I found myself constantly comparing.

I’m sure I’m not the only one, we all do it. We stare at photos of attractive strangers on Instagram, and watch the travel vlogs of people who don’t even know we exist wishing we had what they had. Well at least I do.

The problem with this is I begin to see faults in my own life. I begin to think there is something wrong with where I am in my own life.

You see, society sets up this path of how life should look if we are successful, if we are doing things the “right” way.

I’ve spent A LOT of time wondering what the “right” way meant.

I did not grow up with both parents. Is that wrong?

I didn’t have a loving relationship with the relatives I did grow up with. Is that also wrong?

I didn’t finish college, get married and then have a child. Instead I went to college, got dumped, started dating, struggled with depression, failed classes, went to work to pay for school, got married, traveled abroad, had a kid and returned to finish.

Is that wrong?

That is a question I’ve asked myself for a while now. It’s interesting to me that society has placed this idea of what our lives should look like and expect all of us, no matter how different, to fit that mold.

I find myself discontent and feeling judged constantly because I’m not at the place in my life others expect me to be, I’m not at the place people say you SHOULD be at 23.

I’ll admit sometimes others aren’t great at helping me feel like my life is fine, in fact just the opposite. Others seem to feed into the idea that we should all follow this specific path if we must become successful, and if you aren’t you’re basically just catching up.

One thing I’ve had to sit down and tell myself is that my life is my own.

This is the most important thing I’ve ever learned about my life. It is unique to me. My experiences are my own and no one else’s. Every single choice I’ve made has shaped me into the woman I am today, good or bad.

The issue comes when I and others choose to compare lives. We feel like we all have to measure up to this made up standard of what a good life is. We fail to realize a good life could look like many things. Living a successful life is relative, its all about the perspective of the one living that life.

I’m writing this mostly for myself, to remind myself that my life may not look as picture perfect as those around me, but it is my own. I am doing what is best for me and my family, and that is beautiful.