YOU ARE NOT.


You are not the thoughts that creep up and around and through you, thoughts that insist that you are not good enough. Thoughts that make you recoil in shame and wonder how anyone might love you.

You are not the thoughts that limit you and make you believe the worst. The thoughts that precede the dark feelings of despair. The thoughts that destroy.

You are not what has happened to you.

You are not what others say you are, if their words are anything short of uplifting.

You are not less than.

You are not lacking.

You are not beyond redemption.

You are not weak.

You are not insignificant.

You are not unloved.

Let’s remember all of the things we are, instead of the destructive things we think we aren’t. I will if you will…

Love,

Me

Affirmation-signs-004

 

YOU ARE.

i-am-powerfulYou are brilliant.

You are kind.

You are funny.

You are powerful.

You are loved.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Sunday through Saturday, September 8-14, 2013 surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2013. The theme this year is: Challenging our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.

We Wear the Mask – A Sermon on Suicide by Rev. Tiffany Thomas

mask_1

We Wear the Mask

By: Paul Lawrence Dunbar, 1896 

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

    This debt we pay to human guile;

    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

    And mouth with myriad subtleties.

     Why should the world be over-wise,

    In counting all our tears and sighs?

    Nay, let them only see us, while

            We wear the mask.

    We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

    To thee from tortured souls arise.

    We sing, but oh the clay is vile

    Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

    But let the world dream otherwise,

            We wear the mask!

Suicide is the intentional and purposeful taking of one’s own life. Suicide is an acute problem in our community, a problem that we do not talk about. The reason we do not talk about it is due primarily to the generally accepted notion that suicide is a “white” problem. Communally we earnestly believe that black people do not commit suicide.  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth… Click here to keep reading the orginal post by Rev. Tiffany Thomas published at Shepreaches.

YOU.

Hey You…

Yeah, you. The one with the sad eyes. The one that carries shame. The one whose heart is is broken. The one who can never believe the good because she’s always waiting for the bad. The one who has no patience with herself. The one who wishes she could be more, do more, love more…always more.

YesYou001

You, the one who feels so alone, even when you are surrounded by people, sights and sounds.

You, who wears a mask so as not to alarm those around you.

You, who hides from
yourself because of a reality that causes you pain.

You, who seeks out ways to run from that which hurts you, from those who know you, from things that can heal you.

Yes, you.

You, the one who was created in the image of the Divine.

You, the one who was molded and shaped and formed by hands and a heart that knew you before you were you.

You, who is gifted and loved and powerful beyond measure.

You, who just wants to be loved.

Yes, you.

Love,

Me

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Sunday through Saturday, September 8-14, 2013 surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2013. The theme this year is: Challenging our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911. 

Secret Shame

This piece was written for ShePreaches Magazine, an online publication for african american women for which I am a columnist. In honor of suicide prevention week, I will be posting daily in order to provide information and inspiration. If there is something that you would like to share, please contact me. Thank you for being the loyal readers that you are. We, not one of us, are not alone…

Love,

Me

Secret Shame Image

On August 19, 2013, actor Lee Thompson Young was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment. His cause of death was ruled a suicide. Lee was a twenty-nine year old black male who seemed to have a bright future ahead of him in Hollywood.  Lee died due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A suicide note was not left behind and his family, friends and co-workers were all shocked by his death.

On June 13, 2012, the body of writer Erica Kennedy was found in her Miami Beach, Florida home. Erica was a publicist, fashion and entertainment writer and book author who also happened to be the best friend of Kimora Lee Simmons. Erica was a forty-three year old black woman who was a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. More information surrounding her death was never released but it is believed that Erica committed suicide, most likely because of an ongoing, secret battle with depression. Much like Lee Thompson Young’s death, Erica’s death sent shockwaves through her community of family and friends.

Suicide is rarely spoken about within the black community. One might say that discussing it is taboo. I think it goes a step further than just being taboo. It is a secret shame….

To continue reading, please click here to see the whole piece that was written for ShePreaches Magazine.

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Sunday through Saturday, September 8-14, 2013 surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2013. The theme this year is: Challenging our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911. 

The Danger of Self Loathing

Trigger Alert: If you are someone you know is contemplating suicide, please seek help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free and anonymous service. Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. 

Self-hatred (also called self-loathing) refers to an extreme dislike or hatred of oneself, or being angry at or even prejudiced against oneself.

Not_Good_Enough_by_graphiqual

I thought I’d never get to that point again. I guess that’s the danger of thinking you’ve overcome something. I still have a lot to learn and realize that my family’s involvement in AA* (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA* (Narcotics Anonymous) has a lot to teach me. Never stop thinking that you are an addict. You are an addict. You might be in recovery, but the moment you think you’ve conquered your addiction is the moment you fall off the wagon. That being said, I thought I was over feelings of wanting to die.  Until last week.

Self loathing and shame are powerful emotions, ones that lie and lead one to think that they are worthless. And truth be told, they are the two emotions that I have battled much of my life. I don’t know where it comes from, but I have constantly thought that I was unworthy. I could never make a mistake. I was never good enough. All of these thoughts have fueled my desire to further my education and constantly seek to be better. All in all, these aren’t bad things to seek but I’ve learned that the motivations – self loathing and shame – are deadly.

My desire for to be perfect leads me to have zero tolerance about making mistakes and I am inherently ungracious towards myself. More about this thing called grace later…

This past week, everything that I feared became a reality – making a public mistake, disappointing people that I care deeply about, engaging a man in an unhealthy relationship, scaring my closest friends – you name it, it happened. Basically it was one of the worse weeks of my life. And the feeling of wanting to disappear, to leave and never come back, to die, returned.

I didn’t think I would ever be there again. I didn’t think that I would make decisions that would put me in danger. But I am realizing that the longer I go trying to cover up rather than embrace the dark side of myself, the easier it is for me to slip back into thinking that I am worthless. My tendency during these moments is to withdraw, to shut out loved ones and crawl into myself. I’ve found that my thinking is flawed during this time because my mind leads me to wonder why anyone would care. At my lowest moments, I believe this to be true. And this is dangerous.

I am thankful for the community of support that surrounds me in spite of myself. I am thankful for the women in my life who push through and don’t take no for an answer. I am thankful that my decisions did not lead to a point of no return. I am thankful that God’s grace abounds even as I struggle with it and can’t fully comprehend it.

I am continuing on this journey of healing – meeting with my therapist, taking my medication, getting back in shape, taking care of my body – but I realize that there will be setbacks.

My prayer is that feelings of worthlessness disappear as we look them in the eye and declare that they don’t have the last word over our lives.

My prayer is that I grow in grace and compassion towards myself and that you do the same.

My prayer is that love abounds – love of God, love of self and love of others – as I continue to realize my self worth.

Love,

Me

*Alcoholics Anonymous is an international mutual aid fellowship founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio. AA states that its “primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety”. Narcotics Anonymous describes itself as a “nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem”.

Stop and Stare

One of my favorite and most helpful therapists is a woman named Dr. Meg*. Dr. Meg was one of the first people to tell me to look at my marriage and other things in my life that weren’t life-giving. She was the first therapist to work with me in overcoming childhood trauma using Thought Field Therapy. She is a woman who can only be described as full of life, spiritual, intuitive and truly kind hearted.

One of the things I loved about Dr. Meg is that she was Jewish but had such an open orientation towards the Divine. She could definitely be described as spiritual and not religious; but she respected my viewpoints and my way of thinking about God, faith and life. I worked with Dr. Meg for about three years and really miss her and our time together. She was such a gift to my life and, though it would be another 2 years before I actually embraced what she said, she was a fundamental piece of my ongoing healing.

Dr. Meg probably would have been a hippie back in the day. She had strong feelings about justice and equality and was very much in touch with the physical. She pushed me to love myself fully, keeping in mind that I was created in physical form. My work with her got me thinking about pleasure and joy in ways that I hadn’t imagined before. One session in particular stands out to me and now, four years later, I am finally at the point of understanding what she said.

I was sitting on her couch (yes, she had a couch in her home office) crying my eyes out as is common in my therapy sessions. I don’t know about you, but I probably loose 3-4 pounds of water after every therapy appointment due to the tears that run freely. Dr. Meg was waxing poetic about something and truth be told, I wasn’t in the mood to hear anything positive or well meaning. I think I actually stopped listening at one point but when I came back to the session, she was talking about fucking corn fields. Yes, corn fields.

I patted my eyes dry with the tissue that is always placed strategically within arms length and tuned back into our session. I could tell that Dr. Meg was really feeling what she was talking about so I began to listen. This session was a time that we were working on my disconnection from noticing and appreciating the normal, everyday beauty of life. I had the tendency to take myself and my surroundings way too seriously. For some reason I never let myself just be – just be a kid, just be a girl, just be whatever. It would take pole dancing to reinvigorate a sense of joy and wonder. You can read about that journey here.

So back to this session with Dr. Meg. She was talking about beholding the wonder of God’s creation and an experience she had in corn fields in Iowa. She painted a picture that was devastatingly beautiful as she described rows of corn and light reflecting off of the fields and the smell and the air that surrounded her. She actually was moved to tears in her description.

At this point, all I could do was stop and stare. I had no clue what this woman was talking about. I never felt like that about anything, let alone fucking corn. The one time I have been in Iowa, the corn fields brought about images from horror movies and did NOT bring to mind the beauty of God’s creation. But I digress…

My challenge that week was to take in the beauty that surrounded me and appreciate things for what they were, connecting them to the Divine. I realize now that I wasn’t ready to understand what she was talking about. However, today, August 20, 2013, I finally began to understand.

Today as I sat by the lake and reflected on my devotional reading for the day, I got what Dr. Meg was trying to tell me. As I looked out over the water and watched the sun rise on the horizon, as I listened to the gentle breaking of the water as it hit the sand and as I took in the birds that were finding sustenance and relief from the water, all I could do was stop and stare. I was overwhelmed by the beauty that is God’s creation. As I thought about how things work in syncopated time, sometimes seemingly chaotic but coming together beautifully, I thought about my life. I thought about where I’ve been, where I am and where I hope to go. I thought about they way that God has consistently spoken life into my heart when all I could hear, see and smell was death and despair. I thought about the beauty that is the sun and how it brings life to dark places. And tears came to my eyes. For I could simply stop and stare.

Stop and stare at the beauty that is all around you.

Stop and stare at the wonder that God has created within you.

Stop and stare at the people in your life who love and support you.

Stop and stare and recognize that even in your darkest place, God is trying to reach out to you and connect with you using the most ordinary of means in the most extraordinary of ways.

Thank you Dr. Meg.

Love,

Me

Sunrise at the Lake

Sunrise at the Lake

*Dr. Meg has been using her influence to make a positive difference in her community in seemingly small ways. She is such an inspiration. Read about what she’s been doing here