A Word on Publicly Embracing My Shadow

11053139_899139343499134_6248358955284661034_nSaturday, July 18, 2015 is a day I will never forget. I had the distinct pleasure and honor to be a speaker at the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering. When it was announced that I was speaking, many people sent me messages of encouragement. I realized very quickly that most people thought I was going to talk about racial justice or gender equity, two things I speak loudly and unapologetically about. However, my invitation to speak  at the Gathering was not about current events and the church’s response. My invitation to speak at the Gathering was an invitation to share my story with 30,000 people.

I remember the first time I publicly shared my story. It was the fall of 2012 and it was the first blog I published on this site. Fast forward three years and I was asked to share this story verbally. Leading up to the event, I was quite anxious. But something happened as the hour drew near for me to speak. I felt that all elusive peace that we often talk about in faith circles, the peace that surpasses human understanding. When I stepped on stage I had a moment where I thought, “This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

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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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Butterfly Confessions meets Embracing My Shadow

Have you ever had a moment or series of moments that led you to recognize that something great was happening? That something or someone was making all the dots connect? That your journey – the pain, the suffering, the triumph, the joy, the confusion – may have prepared you for the life you are now living?
Things have been clicking recently. Even in difficult times, those times when I am reminded of my depression and anxiety; those times when I doubt the goodness within; those times when fear threatens to overtake me, I am hyper aware of the fact that something is stirring…
“Thank you God for divine relationships, connections that are firmer than what passing out business cards can do…”
I met A’driane through Twitter. Yes, I know how that sounds. You met someone through twitter? Yup, sure did. When I emerged from the darkness that was my last depressive episode, I began doing some internet searching. I was looking for resources, people, stories, videos – anything – that would make me feel a little less alone. Anything that would help me make sense of my newly embraced reality. Enter A’Driane.
You see, A’Driane is a woman who has been blogging about her experiences with PPD, Bipolar 2 disorder and anxiety  for a long time. Not only did her writing endear me to her, but the fact that she was a younger african american woman made me begin to imagine a friendship with her. That sounds a bit stalkerish but truth be told, her writing was so profoundly honest, authentic and comical at times that I felt like she was
a long-lost sister. So I did what anyone who is involved in social media would do. I started following her on Twitter and keeping up with her blog. And lo and behold, she followed back!
What’s amazing is that our connection wasn’t just a chance meeting. I soon found out that my best friend in real life, who is also a PPD blogger, knew A’Driane long before I’d meet her. Little did I know that something was stirring…
Our social media relationship continued. We soon exchanged phone numbers and began texting. We even set up a time for a Skype date. By this point, I knew that A’Driane was someone whom God placed in my life at a very particular time for a very particular reason. At first, I thought it was all about me – meeting a woman who was sort of like a mental health mentor. Her story and her willingness to forge a relationship helped me personally. But as time progressed, I realized that our coming together was not just about me or her alone. God was doing a new thing and had brought us to each other for such a time as this…
Over the next couple of days I’ll be releasing videos of a conversation that A’Driane and I are having about black women and mental health. The case of Miriam Carey spurred both of us into action with the goal of helping to destigmatize mental illness in the black community and encourage women to stand up and speak out. I hope you join us on this journey, for it isn’t until we confront the darkness that we can see the light.
Love,
Me & Addy
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Planning Hope

The Rev. John Clausen was the father of my dear friend Sarah who died after a battle with Cancer in 2012. John was a writer and I thought this poem was very appropriate for anyone who struggles and feels like they are alone. These words give me hope and hopefully they’ll do the same for you. Thank you John.

Love,

Me

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You know the plans

Oh, Lord of life

You touch beyond
The pain and strife
You give the hope
Oh, God of love

In midst of doubt
You carry me
You bring me home

You are the plans
New life bestow
You are beyond
What I can know
You are the hope
Oh, God of love

In midst of doubt
You carry me
You bring me home

(Ref Jeremiah 29:11-14)

-Written by John Clausen

Photo by Linnea Clausen

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

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

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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.