When Did You Begin Accepting Your Black Self?

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

“When did you accept your black self? When did you add your blackness into your self-identity?

When did you first acknowledge it? When did you begin to like being a black woman/man?”

I did not always like the fact that I was black. For many of us, accepting our blackness comes with a lot of history and responsibilities? Though, you may not be aware of it, at some point, you had to go through a self-acceptance process to make sense of who you are. I wonder how many people are walking around in their lives and have not experienced this process?

My Black Experience

For me, the day had to come where I could look in the mirror and I accept the reflection that looked back at me. In my home country of Jamaica, I became quickly aware of the fact that I was supposed to hate my dark-skinned complexion. I became quickly aware that although I was being raised in a country that was black, the people that had the money and influence were not always my race, and soon on the heels of that, I began to learn that people who were lighter-skinned were viewed as prettier and more appealing. I often got reminded that my skin was too dark, that I should never marry anyone that was my complexion or darker because my babies would be too dark, that my lips were too big, and all the other issues associated with having a dark-skinned tone.

At a young age, I discovered that I was not happy with who I was, and that I should not be happy with who I was. When I moved to the US, I moved to New England where I was suddenly often the only black person in the room, or a handful of blacks in the room. I developed a new practice of immediately counting how many of us were in the room, a practice I still do today, something that I have come to recognize as a norm within the black community in America. I suddenly felt a weight that I never experienced before. Because I was often the only or one of a few present, I now had a responsibility to my race to behave, to speak well, to become a positive representation as I met people who had never met or did not have many interactions with black people. Although, as an adult now, the situation may not be the same as in New England, I still find myself being one of a few in the room often and still feel that responsibility. As a therapist, that responsibility seems to have become magnified as I recognize the low levels of representation within the mental health field.

What Does It Mean to Accept Your Blackness?

Accepting your blackness means accepting all that comes with being black. It means accepting all the history that is a part of the black culture. It means accepting the social issues that we deal with, for some of us – this is a daily issue. It means loving the complexion that you were born with, the natural curl and coils of our hair, the features that we were given. It means delving into the strengths that are woven into our DNAs. It means learning from the past and working to overcome inequalities and create a future for our culture and communities. It means celebrating our music, food, art, and expressions that uniquely represent us.

It also means recognizing that a lot of our histories have been lost as our stories have been told by other races countless times; it means recognizing the social issues that plague our culture and race. It means accepting that the general perception of our race is the oppressed but standing firm and understanding that other people’s perceptions of us do not have to become our realities. It means taking control of our destinies and stories.  It means learning from the past so that we do not keep reliving it. It means celebrating those who have gone before us and paved the way in historic and amazing ways, but also seeing that our work is not done. It means celebrating those who are standing firm now and making strides for future generations. Accepting our blackness means taking responsibility for our role in these changes and taking control of the legacies that we want to leave our children and future generations.

For me, it is recognizing that all the experiences I had growing up finally matured into recognition of what others like me go through. It means advocating for my culture and communities. It means being a part of social progress so that I not only set an example for my children, but actively show them what a strong black woman looks like, all while teaching them that they get to define what kind of strong black women they want to be. For me, it means ending the generational poverty of lack of education, lack of financial resources, lack of future preparations, and lack of control. For me, it is saying, I am black, and I am finally happy with my self-identity.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

How Awesome Is Our God?

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.”

Isaiah 43:21 KJV

I was reading a devotional (I forget which day it was) and after reading it, I just felt amazed. Sometimes, we are so busy with our lives and distractions, we just forget that God really is good all the time. The service that I went to this past Sunday also reinforced those thoughts that I had. We get bogged down with complaining about everything that we never take the chance to just relish all the small and daily miracles that God gives. It rained for two days this weekend and I’m sure everyone, including me, was complaining, and saying…enough of the rain. Then, I was watching the weather and the meteorologists was reporting how much we needed the rain.

I know that sometimes we are just so focused on our lives, and the issues that we are having within them, it is hard to lift our head and minds out of the fog and look at the big picture. So, this post was my reflection to God on his small mercies that I take for granted. Small mercies such as, having a car, having a working car, having a few days of 60-degree weather in the middle of winter, waking up excited about the work that I am doing, and the list goes on and on.

These thoughts were especially on my mind as Lent started today (February 14th). I have seen a lot of the posts on social media that are either using Lent as a joke or social media trend and that just really me of the importance of remembering why we celebrate these holidays in the first place.

Can you see small mercies that He has done for you daily in your own lives? Take sometime and think about it. Click To Tweet

Throughout my own spiritual journey, in the last couple of years, I have started fasting as a way to get closer to God. This year, I joined a church (Travelers Fellowship Community Church) and they are doing a 40 day Fast and so I decided to participate. Today is day 1, so this will be a new experience for me. Along with all the things I wanted to pray about, my most basic thought as I approach this Lenten season is just one of wonder as I think about what Jesus went through and what this season leads up to. I just can’t help but feel humble and grateful and feel that it is only right that this season be used to show God appreciation for how great and wonderful he truly is. I am sure I will be posting some more pieces on this experience. Stay Tuned!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Why Do Black People Suffer With Mental Illness In Silence?

Photo by Olayinka Babalola on Unsplash

 I like the Instagram account of Mental Minute Project (@Mentalminuteproject) who showcases videos about people who are living with mental illnesses. I have noticed that there are a few minorities on the page who have shared their stories, and I wondered why there weren’t more videos from minorities. I am so thankful for those who were brave enough to share their stories. We need more conversations like these within our communities. Thank you to MMP for providing the platform for others to share their stories.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the US experience mental illness; that’s approximately 40 million Americans who are dealing with mental illnesses, there should be more videos from people of color.

As a therapist and a woman of color, I recognize there are many people of color who still believe that in seeking help, they are expressing weakness instead of strength, and this is just not true. It is always easier to hide from the things that cause us pain instead of dealing with them head on. It is always easier to give up than it is to fight for something that matters.

African Americans tend to focus a lot on past assumptions and past histories, we have a hard time of letting go of the past and focusing on the future. A lot of the prevalent thoughts and beliefs about mental illness are outdated and incorrect and we may not always be willing to amend or change our ideologies and assumptions when presented with new information.

Statistics (from NAMI) have shown that African Americans are 20% more likely than the population to experience serious mental health problems. For the trauma and social issues that people of color experience, in addition to all the social barriers that affect our communities, I’d wager that this percentage should be much higher.

The American Psychiatric Association noted common mental health conditions that affect the black community, such as chronic emotional stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. These are serious mental illnesses that when left untreated will only escalate. In everyday life, people of color deal with many social issues that are stressful, and though, it may have been normalized as part of our lives, these disorders and illnesses can escalate and cause more severe emotional problems.

So, why do black people continue to suffer in silence?

  1. Stigmas – Our culture and race has been viewed as weak and of lesser value throughout much of our histories, admitting to further conditions that are perceived as weak, keeps us suffering in silence. A black person has to work twice as hard as another person to prove our worth, why give someone more ammunition to view us as weak?
  2. Knowledge – Many of us still do not understand mental illness. Many of us feel that mental illnesses are ‘white people issues,’ we are still operating from outdated information or a refusal to believe that this is really happening to everyone.
  3. Faith – Many of us believe that if our ancestors were strong enough to overcome slavery and all kinds of atrocities, we should be strong enough to overcome mental illnesses. Some believe that we should be able to just pray it away, some believe that we should be able to seek only our pastors. Spirituality and faith should always play a role in treatment, but I am a firm believer that God wants us to practice our freewill and seek help for ourselves. We must understand that faith is not just an abstract principle, faith is believing and putting that belief into practice.
  4. Minority Representation – The lack of professional minority representation within the mental health field does not breed trust within the black community. Most of us are wary, distrustful/mistrustful of a field that is predominantly white; some may feel that they may not be able to connect with the clinicians and some may feel that the clinicians may not understand their experiences.
  5. Minimization – We tend to minimize our pain or rationalize our pain. Sometimes, the pain is so chronic and so much apart of our lives, we have normalized it and do not recognize that we are manifesting consequences of our pains in our daily lives.

We must recognize that although these may be valid concerns, we do not know what our experiences will be like until we venture out and try. Many of the reasons that we hold on to operate out of a fear-based belief and has the ability to hold us back and keep us suffering alone unnecessarily.

As you read through this post, I implore you to reach out to a clinician if this is evoking feelings or thoughts within you. Please check out my resources page to connect with a therapist of color in your neighborhood.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Should I Get a Psych Evaluation?

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

As we prepare for February, the start of Black History Month, I would like us to not only focus and celebrate on those in our community that have come before and paved the way and made monumental changes to our world and culture, but to pay tribute to them and their legacies, by considering how we can add to their legacies, create our own legacies, and build a life that is fulfilling for us and worthy of the sacrifices made for us.

Our history have shown that there is power in us. There is power in our blood, our skin, and our race. But oftentimes, we mistake having power and showing power as the absence of any weakness. This is simply not true. There is strength in recognizing that we need help; there is strength in asking for help when we need it. If we examine some of the influential figures in our culture and history, we recognize that they did not accomplish the things they set out to do alone. They may have been the face of the particular change they affected, but they had a community behind them. Examples of these figures include, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, whose wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King was also instrumental in the changes that he made to our world, and President Barack Obama, whose wife, Michelle Obama, was also instrumental in the changes he made to our world. In addition to their partners, there were communities of people behind them that helped to affect the visions that they had for our world. Within their strengths, they recognized that they needed aid to carry out their visions.

In our community, there is a tendency to equate needing assistance with weakness which causes us to suffer in silence unnecessarily. There is growth in understanding when we need help.

So, in February, build the courage to examine your lives to see if you are suffering alone needlessly. Are you feeling alone, depressed, isolated? Are you experiencing a lot of pain? Are you going through a traumatic experience? Do you just need someone to listen without judgement? Think about seeking out a therapist who can assist with all these things and more.

Examine your life and consider if you could receive help from a psychological evaluation to get you the assistance that you need.

What is a Psychological Evaluation?

A psychological evaluation (psych eval) is a series of tests conducted by a psychologist and is used to assess for psychological symptoms and disorders, and the results are used to determine an appropriate diagnosis which is used to create a treatment plan. It is important to recognize that the treatment does not have to be carried out by the psychologist who completed the evaluation. The results can be sent to a therapist that you are working with. The evaluation is not one that you prepare for and takes a few hours. Do not view the evaluation as a sign that something is wrong but rather as an opportunity to care for yourself and to invest in creating a healthier you.

Is There a Difference Between a Psychiatric Evaluation and a Psychological Evaluation?

A psychiatrist conducts a psychiatric evaluation. A psychologist conducts a psychological evaluation. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who prescribes medicine. A psychologist holds a doctorate degree but is not a medical doctor. Therefore, a psychiatric evaluation is considered a medical evaluation; the psychiatrist evaluates your mental health, makes a diagnosis and prescribes medicine if needed. Medicine can be used in combination with psychotherapy. A psychological evaluation also assesses for mental and emotional disorders and the psychologists can usually identify treatment options based on the results.

When Should I Get an Evaluation?

Remember that the focus is to have a healthier you. If you feel you need to talk to someone, do not hide from those thoughts. There is a path from thoughts ->behaviors ->habits. We all should be very vigilant about our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors because they have direct impacts on us and our lives. Reach out to a professional if you feel the need to.

Here are some signs that you may need to seek out a professional therapist or seek an evaluation.

  1. Drastic changes in behavior – whether the changes are extremely positive or extremely negative, they should be monitored; if the behaviors are outside of your norm, they should be examined.
  2. Extreme changes in mood.
  3. Anger or other emotions that appear to be uncontrollable or very volatile.
  4. Suicidal thoughts/ideations or suicidal attempts.
  5. Maladaptive coping behaviors such as cutting.
  6. Thoughts or feelings about harming others.
  7. Consistent physical pains that may not have a valid reason or a medical condition does not explain the full symptoms.
  8. Addictions – social media, sex, substances, money, etc.
  9. Inability to regulate one’s self, emotions, and behaviors.
  10. History of trauma – disaster, weather, assault, neglect, emotional, relational, etc.
  11. Changes in hygienic behaviors – when someone is no longer caring for their bodies.

If you feel that you are dealing with any of these issues or anything in this post has triggered a feeling or a thought, do not ignore it. I implore you to please seek professional assistance. Checkout the resources tab for numbers you may contact.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

What Is Racial Trauma In The Black Community?

Photo from Time.com; Beyond The Industry/Facebook

The Black Trauma

Racial trauma is real. I have learnt that people with privilege try very hard to discredit this concept. They seem to believe that saying continuous trauma to people of color is non-existent. For African Americans, the stark blatant denial is not just offensive, it is hurtful and regressive. It is a reminder to us that there are more than enough people out there that want to turn back the hands of time, and probably would if they could. An example of this is Mike Ditka’s recent statements. In case you don’t know who Mike Ditka is, he is former football player, coach, and commentator who has been inducted into both the college football and professional football hall of fame. When a person such as a Mike, who is well-renowned and respected, can make statements such as “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of,” and “you have to be colorblind in this country…the opportunity is there for everybody,” from a platform such as his, there are lasting impacts, especially to the community’s history that is being denied. Only people with inherent privilege feel that being colorblind will solve problems. Race was built into the DNA of the United States due to how this country was built. In addition, race has been built in the DNA of many developed countries including the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, France. Racism is not only an American issue. Therefore, there are millions of blacks around the world that deal with prejudice and discrimination daily. What many people do not realize is that how we deal with social problems that plague our world and planet is a very clear determinant for where our future is headed. Discrimination of any kind is a human problem because it affects everyone on this planet.

From a long history that has tried to teach us that we are not worthy, that we are less than, our culture and race has undergone transformations unlike any other culture or race. One of the biggest issue that faces the black culture and black race is our history. Our histories have been told at the perceived mercies of other races and cultures who have, of course, denoted themselves the saviors, the rescuers, the victors – and anything else that shows them above blacks – of our race. We all have very limited knowledge of where we come from and not many examples of black greatness and success. Ancient Egypt is a prime example of this. Egypt being in Northern Africa, it is easy to want to view them as past black greatness. However, there are so many divisions regarding the race of this culture, we cannot seek to try and find redemption of black greatness in them. Our lack of knowledge on our histories is deeply rooted in our blood and culture.

So, when people want to try and tell us that we should be colorblind, this is not a privilege that blacks have. Our race has defined the way others have treated us. Our race has defined the way others interact with us. Our race defined the way others expect us to behave. We do not have the luxury of being colorblind. I think another problem that the black race also deals with is we are all scattered around the globe. Other cultures and races have examples of successful countries. There doesn’t seem to be one for blacks. Yes, there are many majority black countries but most of them have been affected by slavery and colonization. Slavery has decimated our histories and cultures and still affects us to this day. We have been unable to unite our culture and move towards progression the way we need to.

Racial Trauma

The cover picture of this blog is triggering; there is no denying this fact. Looking at a little girl on her knees on a leash does not present a positive picture in any way. Like this picture, African Americans experience triggers quite often, for some – daily, that affect our emotional and mental health. We often hear statements that remind us of a painful history that still lives in our blood along with remnants of which are still very present in the society we live in; racial trauma is a condition that many of us are familiar with. Dr. Erlanger Turner defined racial trauma as “experiencing psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, hypervigilance to threat, or lack of hopefulness for your future as a result of repeated exposure to racism or discrimination.”

Robert T. Carter explored race-based traumatic stress injury  as a consequence of emotional pain that is based on racism and discrimination. Trauma develops when exposure is continuous. Symptoms can arise through anxiety, depression, rage, low self-esteem, and other. Many of us do not realize that the news and outlets we give attention to that focuses on racial incidents have direct impacts on us. When we watch deaths of black men, such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner, we feel this within our community because we know that at any given moment, it could have been our brother or father, or relative and so this pain sits in our psyche. Added to the constant microaggressions we face in our daily lives, the trauma lives on. For black women, the trauma is also harder. Reports have shown that black women and their racial incidents are even less visible in mainstream news.

Mental Health Impact

The most obvious mental health impact is the development of symptoms such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, among others. Additionally, experts have reported that symptoms of race-based trauma present similarly to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is important to note that not everyone develops symptoms, and not everyone may have or have experienced racial trauma.

We also underestimate the toll of non-race based pain, such as death, loss, and grief and how much they affect us. When we experience a death in our family, grief is normal. There are also added factors that come into play, financial support, education, employment, and other life factors that affect the lives of the living who are still grieving. In the black community, trauma is also present when we consider the circumstances of the death of our loved ones; in racial encounters, we recognize that the situations can easily be reversed which creates a level of fear, distrust, and insecurity. These reactions can also increase our anger, especially as we want to do something to not feel helpless or alone. For our community, mental health has not been a recognizable concept for a long time. If we are feeling distrustful and afraid, who would we want to open up to about this pain that many perceive as not existing? This is the dilemma of racial trauma.

It is also important to note that race-based stress is not a diagnosable disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Mental health disorders are one of the biggest unmet needs in our society today. The opioid epidemic is a clear example of this. Our society is struggling with finding ways to cope with their internal pain. People are in pain and do not know where to turn. We have been conditioned to believe that we should be strong and just “get over it” but it is clear that no one is doing that. ‘Getting over it’ is only masking the pain; eventually that pain will surface in one form or another.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Dr. Tererai Trent: The Good Life Project Interview

Image courtesy of BoldandFearless.me

Backstory

I was first introduced to Dr. Tererai Trent’s story through an interview on Oprah Winfrey.  In some ways, I saw some of myself in her. An immigrant moving to a new country chasing cherished dreams, held so close to the heart, and finding the courage to chase those dreams. I was so amazed at the things she went through in pursuit of her own dreams, she became an inspiration to me.

Now, I’ve had the immense pleasure and honor of listening to an interview with Dr. Trent on the Good Life Project podcast (@goodlifeproj); Jonathan (@jonathanfields) held such a beautiful interview with Dr. Trent. It was extremely moving and absolutely resonated with me. Dr. Trent is clearly a storyteller and tells her story in a beautiful, sincere, haunting, and passionate manner, you can’t help but be affected.

I first learned about this podcast through my girl, Kryssie, and just loved Jonathan’s calming voice in his interviews. He comes across as a very patient and caring individual in his tone and words to his interviewees. In this interview, I am especially thankful for the thoughtful questions he asked and for allowing Dr. Trent the space to explore her thoughts and her story; this allowed the interview to be exceptionally moving and emotional. The interview really touched a part of me, leading to this special blogpost as it resonated with my own history and dreams.

Dr. Tererai Trent

Her voice is calm and yet emotion-ladened with years of experiences, knowledge, and wisdom and she lays bare gems to help us examine and redefine our lives. This is a woman who has lived a life that has taught many lessons. A black woman who has learned her place in this world and have figured out what her legacy should be and have literally gone after her dream. There are so many generational themes in her words, that I cried listening to her interview.

Important Lessons

  • The first theme that really resonated with me was a lesson that I learnt when I moved to the US. Many Americans have never been exposed to anything outside of this country. For some people, this leads to a set mindset, and sometimes a complete unwillingness to learn about things that are different. Not only that, Americans have a tendency to take things for granted because they know nothing else. For immigrants, we understand the things we have escaped and this creates a vision of what we are chasing. As an immigrant, resilience and adaptability are requirements for us to improve our lives. Change is a constant for us as we recognize that things can be very temporary and oftentimes, we are faced with sacrifices in order to seek out more.

 

  • More. This is a country of abundance. A country that offers so much. A country that means so many different things to so many different people. For me, this country offered me the chance to chase dreams that I long held onto. It offered opportunities to escape poverty, to escape a scarcity mindset, and it offered me the chance to build a life on my own terms. Dr. Trent talked about passing the baton on to future generations. In my youth, I only knew that I did not want to continue the life that my family had lived. The constant struggle for money and opportunities was not something that I wanted to continue. In my home country, education is available to girls, which I was most grateful for as I saw it as my only way out. In Jamaica, girls are not always encouraged to pursue education past high school. Oftentimes, girls become mothers very young and education is put to the side; or sometimes, the job opportunity for girls is so low or menial, it can be discouraging. The world over, we have witnessed how education is withheld from girls. Our value tends to fall short of the value of boys. Dr. Trent’s story is such proof of this.

 

  • Generational Poverty. Trent spent a lot of time talking about the passing of the baton which is such a perfect metaphor the generational poverty that persists within the black community. She talked about wanting to change that baton for her herself and her children. I was always an observant person – some would say nosy – but I always noticed small things, such as when we went to certain areas, the houses were lot sturdier and bigger and the people that lived there usually didn’t have my skin color; when we went to certain stores, the people in the stores may have looked like me, but they would be deferring to others that were not our skin color; many of the cars on the road that didn’t look beat up or old belonged to skin colors that were not mine. I recognized very early on that there was a class divide in my country. I wanted to be the one that would break this pattern in my family.

 

  • Black Women. Trent connected with me as a black woman who had to create her own path instead of following what others were doing. Like her, I see my mother as a strong, faithful black woman who has beat odds that most people cannot even imagine. When I look at her, the will in me stands up to understand that she has singlehandedly helped me shape my future. As Jonathan noted, without Dr. Trent’s mother’s words to her (without her yes) and her encouragement, those dreams would have been just that, dreams to be taken to the grave or buried in the dirt. My mother was that for me. Dr. Trent, her mother, and my mother symbolize the strong black woman that many of us aspire to be. These women depict their strength in their sheer tenacity, willpower, beliefs, actions, and integrity. They live out their heroism daily and in small moments when no one is looking. These are true acts of the strong black woman

 

  • Educating Women. Trent spoke about the importance of education in changing her life. For me, education was pivotal. I discovered from a very early age that many of the people around me were not educated and did not place much importance on education. Education is available to girls in Jamaica, but with so many distractions available and with the lack of emphasis on education for black girls, education is often left by the wayside by high school. When I think back to my history, I remember that my mom was never even given the chance to make it to high school. Most of the people in my family had very little education, and most did not make it to high school, much less to graduate. Some of my siblings found education to be tedious and to serve very little purpose. As a mother and a therapist, I have a learnt that a big part of the problem that plague the black community is the conversation that we have with our kids and the way we talk about their dreams and visions with them. Whatever goal I shared with my mom, there was never any doubt on her part that it was achievable for me. I remember nights of her laying beside me asleep as she tried to wait up for me to finish my homework. To this day, those are some of the most precious memories I will always have of my mom. Whatever I was willing to give to go after my goals, she was right there every step of the way.

Black Women

For black women, I think there are a few things we can take away from this interview.

  1. In a world of no accountability, who will help our children build their legacies? Who will help them learn about their histories and the experiences their parents have gone through to get them a different future? Who will teach them the histories of our culture and race? As we are faced with now blatant disregard for the black community’s wellbeing and the black family breakdown, who among us has the strength to push our community forward.
  2. What kind of baton will you pass on to your children and descendants? What will be the value of your life when you are gone? As Dr. Trent’s mother noted to her, our goals and passions should be in service to a greater good; it should be bigger than us because we all have been influenced by the greater good of others before us.
  3. Black women have been silenced by race and gender prejudices and injustices for centuries. We owe the women before us and our daughters after us the right to use our voices and leave our marks for others to know we were here, we are here, and we will be here.
  4. In a country of abundance such as this one, where power inequality is rampant, the standard of power will not change if we do not fight for it and if we do not step outside of our comfort zone. Black women have demonstrated our value and our worth in all areas of life and society. However, the fact that we are still reading articles on the first black woman to do something, means that there is a lot of work left to be done which we all are aware of.
  5. Caribbean immigrants – we are not immune to these struggles. If you have been living in this country, it is very likely you have experienced your own racial traumas. If you also look closely at your home country, you will see the social issues that exists there. None of us are immune to the social problems that plague our race and culture. These social problems will heavily impact our futures, as they have already been doing, if we do nothing.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

What Does God Do With Our Pain?

Photo by Sam Burriss on Unsplash

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55: 8 – 9

There are days when it seems like we are all alone in our pain. We feel like no one understands our burdens and the things we are going through. We feel isolated, pained, alone, and hopeless.

A few years back, I felt that way. I felt that my world was falling apart around me and God had chosen to punish me for something and He was not hearing my prayer. That had to be one of the lowest points in my life. The sheer terror of hopelessness breeds every negative feeling that can exist in our minds and in our bodies. I must admit that I stayed in that space for a long time and had no idea how to come out of it.

In times like these, you create a mask for your face and a shell for your outer body. You feel like no one understands and no one ever will.

It took me a long time, a long time, to start to understand that I had a choice in the way thoughts were controlling me. It took a long time to recognize that, yes, I had those thoughts, and they were difficult to deal with, and yes, I did really feel hopeless, but I had to begin to acknowledge the small part of me that wanted a better way. When I hit the lowest moments of my life, I did not know what to do.

Out of sheer frustration and pain, I yelled at God. I told Him how mad I was at him for punishing me. How annoyed I was at Him for his sheer silence in the midst of my pain. I pretty much unloaded my pain onto Him in frustration. The funny thing is I didn’t feel that He was responding back to me, but I noticed that my burden began to feel slightly lighter and just a little lighter the more I unloaded on Him.

Then I began to feel the urge to pray again and to read the Bible. Slowly, I began to make the effort to do so a little each day. In all of my pain and frustration with Him, I had just stopped praying, reading the Bible, and going to church. I wanted nothing to do with a God who was punishing me but not hearing my pain.

Slowly my mood began to improve and I slowly started talking to Him throughout my day, at the time, I didn’t realize that that was also considered a form of prayer.

It took a long time, not weeks or months, but years to understand a few lessons:

  • God is always present. He is always listening no matter what we think or feel.
  • He allows us to hit rock bottom or to sit in our pain because that’s where we get quiet and reach out to Him when we don’t know what else to do.
  • He speaks to us all the time through His word (the Bible), through friends, through books, through the words we hear at just the time we need them.
  • He uses our pains to help others and in helping others, we begin our own healing.
  • Pain develops character and there is nothing more important to God than our character.
  • Even when we are far away, He is always a friend to us, silent and waiting.

I don’t know who this post is for as I was so unsure of what to write in this post, but He allowed the words to flow through me to touch someone who is reading this. For anyone who is experiencing these feelings, I encourage you to yell at God, get upset with Him, and tell Him how you feel. He can take it. He already knows how you feel. He is just waiting to hear from you.

And then take that moment of strength to reach out to a therapist and explore those feelings that you are having. Try to understand the source of those pains. Understand that God has his role and we have ours. God is present and is our strength and can help us unlock our purpose; let Him deal with the ‘how and when’.  We can do our part and step out in faith and recognize that He is already working for us. So now, it is our time to work for us as well. Let us take our control from our thoughts and pain and begin to work or way out of those self-fulfilling prophecies. Let us expand and change the energy we are sending out into the world.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Stepping Outside of Our Comfort Zone

Sometimes there are things that we really want out of life, but we are too afraid to go after it. I believe it was Will Smith who said that he realized that “the best things in life are on the other side of fear.” One of the lessons that I have experienced over the last year or so, is that to gain something, you have to lose something; on the flip side, to have something different, you have to do something different.

For many of us, there are things that we want to achieve, whether in our personal lives or professional lives, but we go after these goals from a scarcity mindset. That means that we focus on all the things we do not have, all the things we do not know, all the things that we think must happen before we go after this goal. And if we approach our goals from this mindset, we will have talked ourselves out of the urge, the desire, and the energy that we had to go after this goal. The truth is that in pursuing a desire or a goal, there will always be a chasm between us and that goal. This is where the growth happens. This chasm is the journey. This chasm is the difference of the person you were before you began pursuing your goal and the person you will become after reaching your goal. Every goal goes through this process. The journey is where we develop ourselves, develop our skills, develop our knowledge, and practice our skills and revise them.

Fear will have us focusing on all the reasons why we cannot achieve our goals. Please also understand that fear can come in the form of shame as well. We can shame ourselves into thinking: “Who are we to deserve this thing?” We can tell ourselves all the things wrong with us and why we are not deserving. We can accept what others tell us about all the reasons why we cannot do something. We can let roles and norms outside of us dictate what should be standard and what should not be. Or we can listen to that tiny voice inside of us that is begging to be heard. We can listen to that yearning inside of us to make a change and to step outside of our comfort zone and to try something new.

New Jersey Counseling Association Conference

In this picture, I am presenting with my colleagues at the New Jersey Counseling Association (NCJA) 2017 Fall Multicultural Conference. Sure, I have done many presentations throughout undergraduate and graduate school, but I have not presented in front of my peers and professionals who have been in this industry for longer than I have. Of course, fear was present; but, I thought about the fact that this opportunity meant more to me than the fear of presenting and making a mistake. I tell myself and my clients that we have to consider which one means more to us: the fear we face when trying something new or the feeling of regret that will arise when we let fear win by passing up opportunities that we wanted to take a chance on.

Let us remember that change does not come when we are comfortable. The basic ebb and flow of life shows us that change is the most basic principle of life. We have no control over this. We only control how we respond to the change. Are we brave enough to take a chance on ourselves? We cannot wait on our fear to end because fear will always be present. As soon as one fear is conquered, five more will take its place. So discomfort finds us when it is time to make a change; whether it is that feeling in the pit of our stomachs, the nagging thought that won’t leave us alone, that thing that we passed on that has regret following us around, discomfort finds us in many different ways. Let us all embrace courage so that we can push fear to the back burner so that we can boldly go after our desires and goals.

 

P.S. – This picture was given to me, and I apologize as I know that it does not have the best quality. However, this was an important milestone in my career which I wanted to share.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

The Value of Change

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Change is the most constant thing about life. It is probably also the most feared thing in life for many of us. Change brings about a wide range of emotions for many of us. Fear sets in many ways: fear of failing; fear of missing out; fear of being judged by others; fear of letting ourselves down.

The list of fears is far-reaching and never-ending. It is easy to get caught up in our fears, but we do not realize that fear is there to protect us. It is there to help us scan for danger and ultimately take the safe route. This response is built into our brain and has withstood the test of time. The thing is that society and life has evolved, and fear can now become paralyzing as the ‘safe’ route is not always the ‘best’ route. The thing about fear is that as soon as we manage to get enough courage to work through one fear, another 5 is created in its place. Fear is never gone. That’s why there is bravery and courage. That’s why being brave and being courageous does not require us to be fearless. It just means that there is something other than fear that is of value to us. The question comes down to which one has more value to you?

I started this blog in July 2017. Fear was rampant. Fear of all the things I didn’t know, fear of all things that I couldn’t do, fear of all the things that I could or would do wrong, and every other fear that I can’t remember right now were all present reminding me of why it was an awful idea to try this blog thing and I just kept thinking about it. One day, I had to make a decision about what mattered more to me. I had to think about the future I wanted and realized that being fearful was not a characteristic I wanted to be associated with.

A few months later, I realized that I could look at my blog and pinpoint areas that I needed to do better in, to grow in. In that moment, I made the decision to change my platform. I decided to make some permanent changes that would take time. I had the option of beating myself up and getting mad that I had chosen the wrong platform to begin with and that I now had ‘extra’ work to do. Or I could look at the situation as growth; that only a few months ago, I knew nothing about blogs, hosting platforms, website layout, etc and now had a clearer idea of what I wanted to have and what I could do.

Change will always happen. It will always be present. It can always feel overwhelming. However, until we change our perspectives, change the way we look at the situations before us, change will always be overwhelming. We have to break down the changes into little parts that we can work through so that it does not feel overwhelming. We must think more about our goals and fight to stay in a positive state instead of focusing on the negative which tells how much change will hurt, how much change will be hard.

What do you need to change your perspective on?

Focusing on the positives of having the website aligned with my values and goals is worth more than the work it will take to get there for me. It has taken a couple of weeks, but slowly the website is becoming what I want it to be. The satisfaction of accomplishing something that is meaningful to me is worth more than staying in a situation that I was no longer happy with because I fearful of doing more work. Fear will never end. So that means I will never start if I am only waiting on fear to end.

Remember that change is not always bad. Change can be renewing. Change can mean that one door closes, but it also means that another is waiting to open. If we only focus on the door that is closing, we will miss the opportunity of the door waiting to be open. Change allows us to re-evaluate our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, outlook, lives, environment, and future. Allow yourself to be open to the possibilities that exist with change.

We were never meant to stay in one place.

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Why Do We Need Faith?

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

“And we know all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8: 28 1 (KJV).

For many of us, this picture above represents many moments for us when we have felt low or lost. We have felt alone, unworthy, unheard, unappreciated, invisible, and everything in kind.

If we could be able to step outside of the pain for even just a moment, we will realize that the biggest pain and trauma that we go through, could be the biggest catalyst in our lives. These unwelcome pains and hurts could be the force of change in our lives. These ‘negative’ things if given the chance, could encourage us to make big changes in our lives.

The most painful things in the moments when we are going through them feel like the things that will end us and end our lives, and just swallow us in unknown depths of despair. The clinician in me wants to remind everyone that everything in life has a season, so do not give in to the urge to make these moments of pain the sum total of our lives. The human in me knows that this makes the trauma feel trivial, this makes the pain seem less than. But the growth in me, who has been there in my own pain and hurts, have learnt that God closes many doors for us. The person of faith in me has learned that when God speaks, and we do not listen, like any parent, He will keep finding ways to get us to listen. The faith in me has learned that God does not cause everything to happen; evil exists, pain exists because we live in a fallen world created by the human choices of Adam and Eve. But though He may not cause everything that happens, He will allow things to happen to help us develop our character. And most importantly, the pain in my hurt hurts Him too; recognizing that because I am made in His image, He feels my pain too.

 

While He is present with me through it all, He alone can bring good and prosperity out of the darkness. He only needs to open one door.

 

Romans 8:28 has become my favorite verse for this reason. It is hard for me to step outside of the pain and see any good, but He can look down the road in my future and know that if I get through this moment, the strength I will need for the next battle will have been forged in me.

What are you struggling with today? What pain feels like it is eating you alive? I encourage you to hold on just a little bit longer. I don’t know who may find solace in my words of saving grace, but I implore you to pick up a Bible and read Romans 8:28 because His words may just be the balm to that wound that you’ve been waiting on.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading