#TherapyThursday | Forgiveness

This particular Mental Health Chat stirred up something at the core of many participants.

We discussed forgiveness and its tie-in to mental health. What a spirited discussion!!
Lines were drawn in the sand, beliefs and dogmas were challenged, folks agreed to disagree, and here we are.

Rather than my usual recap of those events (checkout the storify here), I elect to share what this chat churned up.:

  • Forgiveness is a part of the process of moving forward in life.
    Strongest lines drawn over this idea. I will stick to my guns about it:
    Had a traumatic event occurred in my life (and they sure have), I find it necessary and expedient to my own mental, emotional health to forgive the offender and release the transgression from my physical memory–or at least reshape what the event and its outcome represents to me. I don’t see the point in living my life as a victim of what happened to me.
    Several felt like forgiveness was not a part of the deal, that moving forward didn’t necessitate. which brings me to this:
  • Forgiveness is not emotional; it is a decision, one of the most difficult to make.
    AS such, forgiveness is in no ways WEAK. It takes incredible amount of mental fortitude to forgive.
    Also, because we are social animals, no one is above forgiveness. It must be at some pt or other extended to all of us. No one is beneath or beyond forgiveness either– even though there are degrees of transgression and personal injury and harm, anyone can be forgiven.
  • Forgiveness is a godly activity. It requires superhuman help to forgive the most abhorrent betrayal, crime, travesty, ignominous violation. I would never suggest abuse victims get in touch with their abusers and haul out for forgiveness.
  • You must begin with forgiving yourself. Another standstill about social conditioning, personal responsibility, and blame. For some, it’s easier to release the original offender than to release yourself from the knowledge and fact that you allowed the violation to take place. To some, I imply here that you are to blame for what happened–and I do not say so. You are not to blame for what happened to you. But you need to affirm that truth within yourself, for yourself.
    It’s a protective measure to forgive yourself for your perceived flaw or weakness, short-sightedness, or whatever else you internalize as the cause for why they targeted you. Picked you out, counted you out. Forgiving yourself affirms that you’re worthy of caring; you’re validating your own experiences, knowing that they play a part in making you who you are. Do you like the person you are now? Do you accept yourself without condition?

Perhaps what we really need here is an operable definition, because many seemed to think forgiveness as fulfillment of another person’s expectations, oppression, the delusion of religious pious nonsense and social elites.

Perhaps, their bone is not with the concept, but with the established institutions that are man made, therefore fallible. oye.

What forgiveness is NOT:

  • Dismissing the offender’s actions as insignificant or denying that you were offended/wronged:
    Part of forgiving someone is being willing to acknowledge that a transgression took place, and how that affected your physical, mental-emotional, spiritual well-being. To deny or to stuff your true feelings is to ignore the truth. And, the truth sets you free.
  • An opportunity to be re-victimized or re-traumatized by the offender:
    That is straight-up fear talking. False Evidence Appearing Real.
    You cannot center this process on who hurt you, because then your focus will not be on your own healing, growth and development, and personal agency. This whole process is about your agency!
    You can choose to submit to worry and fear, to relive trauma, or choose to have your thoughts, words, life centered on something more positive–true and effective liberation.Psalm 27:13
    I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. 
  • Vengeance, or conditional upon exacting retribution from the offender:
    Indeed, that defeats the purpose of offering forgiveness–vengeance connects you to the offense through anger, bitterness, festering pain, and possible self-destructive actions. You getting revenge or paying evil for evil will not erase the original offense or assuage your grief at being mistreated.
    It will, however, leave you open to attacks on your own conscience:
    If you originally perceived to have been violated on a certain level, what you value/care for/love being attacked and injured, are you not hypocritical for violating someone in turn? What does it say about your character that you would resort to causing that pain?
  • Synonymous with reconciliation:
    This misunderstanding often has tons of people up in arms.
    You can choose not to embrace your offender–in lots of cases, a clean break is essential to improving and maintaining your mental and emotional health. (esp. physical/emotional/ sexual abuse, grief/loss when the offender dies…)
    You do not have to stay in any communication with the person, because you do not owe them anything. You don’t even have to locate and speak directly to them in order to practice forgiveness. You could write a letter and burn it, or draw it out, or have an objective third party stand-in for the offender and say what you need to say.
    The decision to continue in relationship to the offender is entirely up to the injured party.

Forgiveness is a chance and opportunity to allow joy to return to your heart despite your circumstances. For Light to give you some revelation, to get objective insight and perspective about your life again. For doors to open because you have removed conscious and subconscious blockages that were rooted in pride, and your fear of being violated/rejected/mistreated.

Why allow pride and fear to steal any more from you??

 

 

Proverbs 19:11
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

 

 

 

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#TherapyThursday | Anger

This week’s MHChat, we discussed anger, how to classify it, when it is hidden, how it manifests openly, impact of social ties, culture expectations and attachment styles, and how best to utilize or diffuse it.

Major Points:

“We all have experienced anger in self and others; increasing life pressures may add to sources of anger.”– @MHChat

  • Anger is a natural emotion, usually a response to a perceived threat, insult, injustice. We can create it when we aren’t able to manage our thoughts effectively in a situation.
  • This normal, healthy emotion often masks hurt, shame, and vulnerability.
    Anger = Sadness (grief) + Frustration (hopelessness)
  • Root causes of anger include disappointment, hurt, frustration, and other emotions concealed from stigma, perceived transgression, a boundary violation.
  • Experiences of anger can be wide-reaching and pervasive, used personally or politically.
  • Anger influences our thoughts, emotions and behavior: When angry, we compromise our rationale, judgment and critical thinking, and we center our thoughts on the offender.

“If the privileged anger/hate, the stigmatized suffer. If the stigmatized anger/hate, it becomes self-inflicted.”

  • Children’s anger is often silenced, seen as inappropriate and punished. Adults are pressured to make anger something productive so anger is often silenced.
  • Depression comes from suppressed anger. Manageable anger is healthy.
  • We learn to regulate our emotions within healthy attachments, nurturing, supportive, secure relationships.
  • Hidden anger seethes beneath the surface. It can manifest as a refusal to listen to someone or to cooperate, passive-aggression, manipulation, procrastinating and other self-destructive, asocial behavior.
  • Continually correcting others is a sign of hidden anger (a critical spirit).
  • Anger can fuel our greatest purposes, passions, and callings.
  • It may help to identify what other emotions you are experiencing besides anger, to access other vulnerable emotions.
  • Children need to see anger is best harnessed by patience, consideration of what motivated negative actions, and wisdom. –George A.
  • Bypass misunderstanding by communicating motivations and listening to others motivations.
  • Many consider anger inheritable genetic personality trait–they are relieved to find out it’s not inevitable.
  • If a belief about being weak/inept is activated, one may overcompensate by acting in a powerful, angry manner.
  • Society rarely acknowledges emotions in children or trauma in young people.
  • Channel anger into constructive energy.
  • We learn how to deal with anger over time, expect to become more patient, sympathetic to others.
  • As we learn to manage vulnerable feelings, and work through shame, and communciate we get better at dealing with what underlies anger.

#CultureFix | When Art is Not Enough

Hey, lovely, creative, resilient, faith-filled readers!

Jubilant July celebrations are still rolling through the rest of this month. 😉  I’m focusing on community building, tribe by tribe, family by family, one day at a time. #Takeover2016

In honor of Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (official government name),  I’ve partnered with #CultureFix, “a global, collaborative network of artivisits, cultural producers, & influencers who use arts to impact communities around the world,” founded by Nora Rahimian and Natalie Crue. (Here’s a snapshot of what goes down every Tuesday at 3 pm EDT/12 PM PST.)

What’s in store from this fabulous collaboration? Two Twitter chats centered on mental health awareness for creatives and entrepreneurs of color, as well as an open resource for support. (Cue the fireworks.) By these, we aim to bridge these gaps of access and availability, and spark insightful conversations about mental health and wellness. ❤

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culture fix mh creative chat

It was my first time co-hosting a Twitter chat ever!!  Meet our esteemed guests:

  1. Ronald Draper (@inDRAPERweTrust), mixed media artist, art as activism educator, NAACP award winner, and director of Contemporary Arts at Harlem Hospital Center.
  2. Julia Nguyen (@fleurchild), developer, storyteller with Prompt, a community of people in tech who speak about mental health, living in San Francisco. She also leads open source mental health project if me, a communication app for loved ones.
  3. Ashley Freeman (@DontDieAfraid), a.k.a Resilient Ashley, creator and mental health advocate who empowers individuals to realize that their circumstances don’t hinder their future, through her initiative Don’t Die Afraid. (You can join the Resilient family here.)

This was a lively conversation on mental health and creativity, with several views and suggestions presented! Here I’ve captured a couple gems:

On working creatively, coping with career anxiety & other concerns: 

  • “There’s basic worries like bills and helath care. And then there’s bigger questions, like “Does what I’m doing really matter?” –Nora

  • Do people really want to hear what I have to say?
    Does it matter if people want to hear it? Am I creating for an audience or me?
  • I worry that my message won’t reach those who will be impacted by it the most.I cope by being vocal about mental health everywhere I go, because I will never know who needs it until I put it out there. We get caught up looking for our target audience instead of building and realizing people will be attracted naturally.–Resilient Ashley

  • Is it possible to be a part-time creative? There’s “artist as occupation” versus “artist as identity”; that compartmentalizing is significant…deep down we’re innately creative beings, to a degree or another.
  • When you feel a need to cope, look back and realize that you left a place you hated.–Ronald D.

  • Mentoring with young people and socializing about non-work topics helps me cope.
  • I stress about success and opportunity; practicing thankfulness helps me to be less worried.
  • It’s necessary to build a cypher, people that can support you in various facets, can lean or for resources, or talk, especially in mental health.–Natalie C.

On finding mental health access and resources, when the nature of creative work often means lack of access to health care:

  • Online communities are pretty good for this–be aware you have to learn how to navigate those spaces well though (DON’T FEED THE TROLLS!)
  • I talk to mentors, accountability groups.
  • There’s great spaces like Tessera Women and apps like TalkSpace!

On shifting habits: being OK with struggling:

  • Artist as identity make work failures feel more like personal failure.
    Exchange ideas; don’t be afraid of criticism.
  • Talk about your achievements; journal the good times. Let your light shine!
  • #MentalHealthCheckIn–Resilient Ashley

    Self-care is important especially when your work deals with intense topics.

  • Embrace the quiet.
  • Remember: Isolation is the breeding ground for negative thoughts.
  • Do you feel as though you’re in your head too much? Art can get you back into your body, get you connected to yourself. 🙂
  • To produce with your hands and utilize your talents to the best of your ability can be fulfilling in and of itself!
    It is also okay to make work for your own introspection or healing, and to not share it publicly. 

On creative expression not being enough, and breaking stigma against traditional treatment:

  • Find a fitting art form–art should be release hidden as a job.–Ron D

  • Resilience! Inhale! That’s crisis management 101.
  • Embrace what makes you uncomfortable.
  • Art is an extension of us, not all we are. Prioritizing health makes us better people and artists. –Jeron
  • Be vulnerable; talk about stigmas openly; be honest with yourself and others.
  • Be open about your experiences in therapy; be willing to share how it helped you cope!
  • We don’t talk because we perceive mental health [issues] as weakness. Sharing our story from our power positions challenges that. –Nora R.

  • We don’t have to discount our struggle, pain because it’s not as “grievous”/traumatic as others, i.e. (“just” my emotions but their realities #firstworldproblems ).
    If you are prone to self-deprecating comparisons, cut that out!
  • Reminder: Struggle is part of your story and why you’re strong.
  • Keep complimentary emails in a file and pull them out as reminders of your greatness.

  • Have different circles of inspiration, various friends and activities. Have empathy for yourself.

Natalie’s quote put an effective sum on this discussion:

  • Self-care is not about indulgence, it’s about self-preservation. –Audre Lorde

(You can scroll through the full discussion here.)

That’s all for today! 

Tune in to #CultureFix on Twitter, Tuesday, July 26th, 3 pm EST for part 2: Self-Care, Working Creatively, and Healing the Gap (when trauma is not ours).

culture fix acct tag

#MMHM| Self-Care with #CreativeSmartGirl

Last Thursday was a tumultuous day for several of us. After a week of horrible, gut-wrenching reports of state-sanctioned violence, black men and women brutally murdered at the hands of law enforcement officers for petty offenses and retraumatized via the media–we really all needed to breathe. People of color, black women in particular, are not afforded a chance to recover from the shockwaves of violence, grief, and fear incited against our own. A collective Selah moment was in order–thankfully, Nia Phillips, founder of #CreativeSmartGirl, and her guests Brittany Josephina, Wilsar Johnson, Lauren Ash, Yetunde Ajayi-Obe and Chastity Cooper, offered us just that.

We discussed how to engage self-care in the midst of hustler culture, and political chaos:

On making self-care a part of your lifestyle:

  • Self-care is self-preservation. It’s restorative, allowing for a preventative release and affirmation.
  • It is imperative that we learn how to prioritize ourselves, our needs and work towards holistic health.

On prioritizing self-care as a creative and entrepreneur:

  • Allot time for self to regroup, renew and refresh. –Chastity Cooper
  • Take breaks from social media–it places too much emphasis on insignificant things.
  • Take time in your day before you are bombarded with work–establish a morning routine that smooths your transition into the day.
  • “Break down monthly goals into small weekly bullet points. Tasks are achieveable with time to breathe.” –Oheneba Sankofa

  • SLEEP!
  • Listen to your body/mind: Warnings I’m off-kilter and in need of rest: I’m snappy, strained, drained, juggling too many things, and lacking focus.

On managing guilt from prioritizing self over work, family and deadlines:

  • True friends honor your commitments to yourself.–Lauren Ash

  • Creativity suffers when your focus is divided.
  • Schedule and plan time to spend with friends and family to let them know they are still a priority. –Anekia Nicole
  • “‘No’ is a full sentence.” —Shonda Rhimes

  • Understand where that pressure is rooted: pride, perfectionism, attempts to manipulate, selfishness, insecurity, an inaccurate assessment of your worth (ie: performance-based). Give yourself and others some grace.

On making improvements since implementing self-care:

  • Workouts help get past the mid-noon slump; they reenergize you…Take care of your body! –Wilsar
  • SLEEP + LACK = SLACK. —Kiyla Monet

  • Self-care enables you to make time for the most important tasks and projects without overcomitting to satisfy egos, thanks to time management and boundaries. 🙂
  • “It doesn’t have me feeling like the world owes me something.” —Nefertiti Anderson

On the role self-care plays in maintaining mental health and wellness:

  • Breathing and taking up space allows you to find comfort in sharing your gift with the world. –Ashley J.H.
  • Be on purpose!
  • “The messages we get say that WOC are not important. That takes a toll mentally, emotionally…” —Shannon Franklin

 

The clincher question of the night:

What is currently missing from the self-care, mental health and wellness space for overwhelmed creatives and entrepreneurs?

  • Self-care is overused and losing its meaning, in need of personal redefinition.
  • Superwoman super-shero syndrome has GOT to go!
  • We’re lacking honesty and transparency. What about the bad days?
  • Sister circles…self-care can be practiced with others. –Brittany Josephina
  • Open forums to state if you are struggling with a lack of self-care –Chivon John
  • Unhurried conferences with break out sessions, few panelists, and lots of time to chill–Ingrid Green
  • Misunderstanding: POC, especially WOC suffer mental illness the most! Most WOC diagnoses go untreated.

  • Being unabashed and unapologetic when discussing mental health

I learned tons from some fabulous ladies. Safe to say we all felt a bit more loved and encouraged that night. 🙂

Challenge: What do you think is missing in the self-care, mental health and wellness space for creatives and entrepreneurs of color? 

Join me and #CultureFix on Twitter tomorrow at 3 p.m. EST/ 2 p.m. Central/ 12 noon PST, where we discuss Career, Anxiety, and When Art Is Not Enough. It’s gonna be a blast!

Liebster Award!!!

“Her unique mix of mental health advocacy, faith and art will leave you smiling!”
AW!! Here’s proof that community building is super effective! I’m really honored that you nominated my blog for a Liebster award, sis. To many more years of advocacy, care and stigma fighting together!

Rowana Abbensetts

Woohoooo! We got nominated for our second Liebster Award! And when I say “we” I mean me and all of you readers! Wow, you readers keep me so inspired and passionate about blogging and mental health. I feel like I have a little community here and that really means so much to me!

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Blessed Be the Ties that Bind…

“Blessed be the ties that bind all hearts together in Christian love.”
How many of you all have heard that little benediction before?
Growing up I heard my mom and aunts repeat that to one another in moments when there was disharmony, but I didn’t grasp its significance.
I’d chalked it up to Christianese, one of those things we just say like “To God be the glory”, and “Bless your heart.”
But what does it really mean,
“Blessed be the ties that bind all hearts together in Christian love?”
What are the ties? How IS Christian love different? What does it look like to carry this out in the 21st century?
There is clearly a blessing associated with true unity in Christ’s Body:
An Anointing, Grace and favor, and life!
Psalm 133 says
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for  brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron,Running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord Commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.
What ought to unite us is Christian fellowship, more than socioeconomic position, or childhood experience, or education, or national origin, or speaking the same language, or even social media.
We know that God has called each and every one of us to the ministry of reconciliation, according to 2 Corinthians 5:18-19:
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
The gospel has the power to draw men and women to Christ, to His unfailing love and His eternal Kingdom! To repair the broken relationships between parents and children, among siblings, between friends. To heal and transform our surrendered hearts in order for us to love others as He loves us.
It has the power to unify even a divided, hateful nation under God indivisible with true Liberty and justice for all.
We know we are commanded to love one another: 1 John 3:23 NKJV
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
This radical love is marked by grace and mercy, humility, serving, submission to authority, speaking the truth in love, unfailing constant hope… It is through the Holy Spirit that we are able to love this deeply and supernaturally, because by nature human love is fickle and self-preserving. By nature I might hold onto an offense, let the sun set on my anger. But God’s love endures all things, believes all things. It never fails.
In this hour, the enemy has released a torrent of fear, hatred, envy, strife, violence and absolute disregard for life, all over this country.
In this hour, it’s not easy to be a proud Black, female, Christian. It’s easier to use blanket statements about police, non-black people, protesting, Black Lives Matter, than to engage hurting communities one on one. It’s easier to let Twitter and Facebook lead/dictate conversations than to press in God’s Word, or pray for direction. It’s easy to be a passive leader.
In this hour, I believe God is calling us, the least of these in this nation, to activate our faith, to stand in the gap and represent this unshakeable Kingdom! To demonstrate, not just March with our coworkers, family and friends in coty streets, but live it out loud! To be on one accord with His Word.
This is a time when our ties, our loyalty, our connections, our friendships, will be tested and shaken–or proven to have a solid foundation.
Philippians 2:1-3
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

Blessed are the ties that bind. Powerful are the ties that bind.
Victorious are the ties that bind.

#TherapyThursday| Going up from here

Featured Image -- 3788

Welcome to #TherapyThursday. This is a safe space, so get comfortable. Inhale, exhale.

Today I’m doing things a little differently.

I woke up this morning heavy hearted, weary and retraumatized re: Alton Sterling, Dylan Noble, Phillante Castile, India Kager…the list goes on and on…the films, the outrage, the mind numbing rage… The past 48 hours (really, 3+ years) have raised more questions than anything.

How can we pick up and continue life as we know it within hours of an onslaught of evil?

How can we protect our sacred spaces when the sanctity of our very lives are in question?

Who can bear up underneath this burden? being set as sheep to be slaughtered? How do we keep from developing cynicism and hardened, apathetic hearts? How do we rally and support one another tangibly, substantially, impactfully?

Where and to whom may we turn to trust to process continual trauma at the hands of law enforcement and the media?

How might we produce a grassroots network to call in family, friends, and established mental health support groups for us?

It is officially Minority Mental Health Month, and Jubilant July unofficially. As a proud Black woman, visual artist, an empath and a mental health advocate, I sincerely believe it’s my duty to help the black community in particular to safeguard their mental health. To comfort us in the wake of fierce brutality, to reach out and touch.

So this is more of a check-in than anything.

Hide yourselves for a little while, My people, until the indignation has passed.

Take time to self-care. Make sure you can still breathe. Engage on righteous terms today.

Gentle reminder:

I know it’s beyond tough to move out of bed today. *hugs*

Joy is our strength. Joy is not happiness; not conditional upon ideal circumstances, not temporal or subject to the temperament of a person.

Joy is intentional, rooted in the reality that this world we live in is not home, that Christ guarantees they can cut down our bodies but cannot kill our souls. Oh but they try. It is grounded by the fact that Almighty God is close to the broken hearted. He is father to the orphan, friend to the friendless, and our only hope.

Lord make Your presence known and manifest to us. Minister to us. You said blessed are the poor and needy in spirit, blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Grace us with Your supernatural strength to go forward, grace us with Your peace that’s personal and surpasses understanding, and Your joy. Make it bubble over from within us and comfort and heal from the inside out. We trust You. Amen.

I will defy the odds and expectations by cradling and protecting my precious joy.

be well.