A Word on Breath

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As I took the train home tonight, I had a hard time catching my breath. Tears fell from my eyes as I thought about all that has happened in the past week. Here’s the thing – at any given time in our world, trauma and death and suffering occur. It’s not lost on me that so many of our global community suffers and we turn a blind eye, ear and heart away from them. But this week…this week, has been too much. It has hit so close to home. It has become home.

I am an anxious person. I took medication for anxiety for a few years and now only take it as needed. Today, for the first time in a while, I felt like I needed my anti-anxiety medication. The symptoms I was experiencing reminded me of my last panic attack. It was the only time I’ve ever felt like I was going to die. My heart raced. The world around me was spinning out of control. My palms were sweaty. My head pounded and my lungs constricted to the point of me wheezing out, “I can’t breathe. I can’t catch my breath.” I thought I was dying. I think this is how Eric Garner felt  in the moments preceding his death.

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A Word on Shame

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As Brene Brown would say, this weekend I suffered from the worst vulnerability hangover ever. After my unfortunate Friday night experience, all I wanted to do was go and hide. I replayed the events of that night over and over and over again and could only think one thing – “Lord, have mercy.”

You see, not only did I feel bad about how things went, my mind led me to a place that went beyond embarrassment to pure shame. I totally passed over the thought of “Oh, well, maybe it will be better next time” and headed straight to “See you are not good enough. You really are a fraud. You can’t do this. You are bad.” Continue reading

A Word on Worthiness

I am WorthyI was asked to be a part of a Good Friday service by a woman who I greatly respect and admire. I am growing as a preacher – am very good with content and am working on delivery because I want to appeal to black church communities. That being said, I was equal parts nervous and excited about this opportunity, which featured seven women in total who were from various faith traditions.

I prepared for the sermon like I do any other sermon. I took time studying, praying, reflecting and writing. As I crafted my message, I felt the Spirit move over and through me. This is a sure sign that I’m operating in my gift and as the words came to life on my manuscript I felt confident that the message that I was given was the one that God had intended.

Then came Friday. Leading up to the worship service, I had fleeting thoughts of insecurity, but I brushed them off. However, when I arrived at the church, every feeling and thought I ever had about not being worthy, not being good enough, not belonging came roaring to life. I literally hid in the bathroom after I arrived because I felt so out-of-place. The anxiety was rising and I though to myself, “How in the hell did I get here? Why do I think that I belong here? I can’t do this.” Continue reading

It’s Time to STOP Planning

So I’ve failed miserably. Once again, I set the bar so friggin high and when I realized that I couldn’t reach it, I just stopped trying. You may remember at the beginning of Lent I had this amazing plan of reading and reflecting on Not Alone by Rev. Dr. Monica Coleman. I downloaded the book, set up a reading schedule and began what I thought would be an eye-opening Lenten journey. The last post I wrote was on Day 2. It’s now Day 20 something of Lent. Needless to say, I am behind.

I felt guilty. Once again, I feel ashamed. I’ve been here before. And I’ve written about this before. Damn…

I had an epiphany today. I am a HUGE Dr. Brene Brown fan. Like HUGE. Today I watched her with Oprah on the series Super Soul Sunday. As I am watching and tweeting and being blown away, I realized that I am continuing with patterns that are not serving me well. While I think I have this whole abundant living/embracing my shadow/being vulnerable thing down, I realized that I continue to self-sabotage by not being true to myself. How so?

I mapped out my Lenten plan and decided to take on the tasks of daily reading and reflecting during the craziest time of my life. I was hired for a new position, moved across the country, began a new job, am still looking for housing and am trying to stay on top of all of my wellness tools to make sure that I don’t head back to depressionville before my 10 year cycle is up. So why on earth would I take on one more thing? How unrealistic can I be? And that’s when it hit me – I set myself up by taking on too much and creating grandiose plans instead of living in the moment and embracing my reality.

Even as I had this thought I was like, but plans are important. If I don’t have a plan I won’t get things done. I have to dream big. What will people think? I’m realizing that for a person like me, with the issues, challenges and realities I face, planning and being unrealistic can be crippling and lead to a continued cycle of shame, depression and isolation.

So here’s what’s going to happen dear Shadow Lovers. I’m going to stop talking. I’m going to stop planning. I’m going to lean in and just be. That is the best thing I can do for myself. Join me?

Love,

Me

My 2013 Journey: Motivation, Wisdom and Faith

I’ve been thinking and praying about the direction of Embracing My Shadow for 2013. There are so many things and experiences that I want to share but I also want to make sure that what I’m doing makes sense. Blame my “Type A” personality, but I felt like I needed to order my site a little bit more so that there was a flow that made sense…well, at least made sense to me.

In 2013, I am going to post three times a week. I’ve decided to do the traditional Monday-Wednesday-Friday format but each day will have a particular theme/angle that addresses how I seek healing and continued growth in my journey with depression, anxiety and other things that threaten to overtake me.

  • Motivation Mondays – I’ll be exploring those things, people, places, moments, etc… that have motivated me and reminded me of my worth and the importance of loving myself. I start this Monday with a post I’ve been dying to write about my experience with pole dancing that was arguably one of the BEST EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE.
  • Wisdom Wednesdays – Wisdom is often synonymous with knowledge. I’ll be sharing words and stories of wisdom from people who have inspired me. I’ll also be sharing more facts and other information that will continue to address the stigma of mental illness and hopefully help people tear down the walls of shame that surround them.
  • Faith Fridays – I am a theologian at my core, one who seeks to make meaning of all things in my life through my faith perspective and am particularly observant of God’s presence in my life. I am also one who seeks truth, meaning and love in various religions and traditions. Faith has been particularly important to me on this journey and I hope to share some ways of thinking and being that could help you as well.

I am also looking forward to my first book blogging project. For Lent this year (the church season that Christians observe which calls us to repent and journey inward to reflect) I will be using a devotional written by the Rev. Dr. Monica A. Coleman entitled Not Alone: Reflections on Faith and Depression.

I am inviting my readers to consider sharing their stories, especially those readers who are of African descent. I wish to continue to bust stigmas about mental illness, particularly within the Black community. I will be posting stories from men and women who are on the journey of accepting all of who they are.

I admit that this is more for me, the writer, than for you the reader. I’m sure that most of you don’t care how I organize the blog, but this makes sense to me. So there you have it!

This blog will always be about my struggle with depression and anxiety and my journey of accepting my WHOLE self. It is my continued prayer that I can also inspire you to do the same. We must love ourselves and embrace ALL of who we are. I truly believe that only by doing this can we be in authentic and healthy relationships with others and experience abundant life. Thank you for sharing this journey with me…

Love,

Me

Ruminations and Recriminations

It goes a little something like this…

I don’t feel good.I think I may be sick.I should stay home from work.

Who wants to be around me anyway?I’m pathetic.I’m a failure.I’m divorced.I’m crazy.I run men off.Who would want me?No one can love me.I don’t even love me.

I could have done better.I should have done this/that differently.I feel so guilty/ashamed because…I will never be forgiven.

If people really knew what I was thinking, they wouldn’t love me.If people knew the real me, they would never want to be around me.If I were a better friend/employee/lover/sister/daughter I wouldn’t be alone/depressed/anxious/afraid.

What if I never have children?Does that make me a failure?Isn’t that the one thing I’m supposed to do as a woman?Who am I kidding? I couldn’t take care of another human being if I wanted to.

I’m going to be fired.My work isn’t good enough.Did I make the right choice?What should I have done differently?Why is this so hard?

I’m not good enough.I’m not worth it.I’m inherently bad.I’m irrevocably broken. There’s no hope…

What was God thinking?Is there anything good here?What’s the point?What if I ended it all?Would anyone care?Then people would know that I am really a coward.

God help me.

These are actual thoughts that have plagued me. They start off slow, without warning. They’re amorphous and at times, unidentifiable. Truth be told, if you aren’t paying attention, they can creep up on you. One minute you’re fine. The next minute, you are so sad, or even worse, you are so numb. Before you know it, you are literally paralyzed by your thoughts and incapable of emerging from the darkest of places.

When you can actually feel something, the worst feelings take over – despair, hopelessness, guilt, shame. When you’re incapable of feeling, you just know you’re bad, worthless, forgotten, abandoned. The feelings and numbness take you to dark places, make you feel like your life isn’t worth living.

They don’t seem that bad. I mean, they’re just….thoughts, right?

WRONG.

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Rumination is the act of focusing on the things that are distressing. Recrimination is a retaliatory accusation, in this case against yourself. Ruminating and recriminating have been my downfall and are signature markers of when my depression is at its worst.

Our thoughts have the power to be life-giving or life-taking. For those of us who struggle with depression, our thoughts are things we must pay attention to and fight on a daily basis. Guilt, shame and inadequacy can literally kill us by causing us to believe that we are worthless. Many people end their lives. While I’ve had suicidal thoughts, I’ve never taken steps to kill myself. I’m not sure why…

For me, the best things in combating these thoughts are medication, therapy, exercise, and spirituality. I’ll write more about each of these later but suffice it to say, without medication (Prozac and Xanax), therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on a REGULAR basis to be exact), exercise (participating in a variety of dance styles including Pole dancing – more on the benefits of this later) and spirituality (deepening my faith life through my Christian tradition and embracing Buddhism as a way of life) I would NOT be where I am today.

My prayer is that your thoughts breathe life into you rather than take life from you.

My prayer is that if you struggle with ruminating and recriminating, that you seek help and support.

My prayer is that you are able to reclaim the goodness within and never doubt who you are, what you can do or your value ever again.

If you or someone you know are contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

For more information about treatment options, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Visit Monday’s blog posting, which may provide some support through some very powerful lyrics – Music Mondays: Shine the Light by Sugarland.

When your thoughts threaten to take you under, please remember this one thing: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Love,

Me