The Cause & Effect of Racial Trauma on Black Mental Health

Hey Pearls, 

Not sure if any of you keep up with the news but since February 23, 2020, I have been following the case of Ahmaud Arbery. The entire situation bothered me because when I saw that video of him being chased and gunned down, I felt so triggered. It triggered me that an unarmed black man was gunned down in broad daylight. When I initially saw the video, I immediately thought why? In my heart, I knew the answer and that is what breaks my heart the most about the killing. Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down in broad daylight simply because he was a black man, running in a white neighborhood. After all the fighting for civil rights, black lives lost, and even with the time that has passed…. Racism and hate crimes against African Americans are happening every day. African Americans are like an endangered species right now because we are literally being haunted like prey and killed regularly. That sounds harsh and no one wants to speak on it, but this is a fact. 

Being African American right now is not easy; believe it or not, blacks are suffering from mental illness because of racial trauma that was caused because of their black skin. Therefore, if you are reading this and thinking how could someone suffer mentally for being African American? Let me give you something to think about! Imagine knowing your race was enslaved, raped, abused, tortured, discriminated against, and treated inhumanely for years before you were born. To know that before you were birthed into the world, you were already not accepted for who you are because you are African American. I remember my first history lesson on slavery, segregation, and the abuse of African Americans and it made me feel so uncomfortable. Being taught African American history in school messed with my mental health and made me feel fear because my initial thought was if I would one day be killed, abused, or discriminated against for being born to a black mother and father. African Americans are born in trauma. When an African American baby is born at a hospital 9/10 the mother is treated differently than a white mother. For example, when I delivered my first child the intake person asked me multiple times if I had insurance and seemed shocked when I stated that I did not have Medicaid. It was as if because I was African American that meant I was not supposed to have insurance. It made me feel so uncomfortable in my skin like I was less than. What transpired with my insurance made me realize why my mother always said, “because you are black, you will have to work harder and stand out more”. I understood then the reason she preached about education, integrity, and not hanging with the wrong crowd of people. 

Feeling humiliated or being in fear about what could happen because of the color of your skin can cause detrimental and distressing effects to an African American’s mental health. For example, distressing symptoms can arise as a direct result of racist incidents such as hate speech. They can also occur as an indirect result of broader inequality, which racism perpetuates. Although racism also affects physical health, one 2015 systematic review Trusted Source suggests that racism is twice as likely to affect a person’s mental health than their physical health (WebMD, 4 Dec. 2019). Discrimination is one thing but imagine suffering from mental illness for being black. Ahmaud Arbery’s mother probably will forever suffer from PTSD and anxiety surrounding the facts of her son’s murder. She probably suffers mentally every day because she gave her son the “how to be black in a predominantly white area talk”. Ahmaud’s mother probably told him that he has to be careful with where he goes, what he says, and how he acts around Caucasian people because it could become a life-or-death situation. Unfortunately for Ahmaud, he lost his life tragically. He did not argue, he did not provoke, or do anything threatening, and yet he was still gunned down. For those who are black, it is traumatizing to constantly see other black people being gunned down by Caucasian people, and 9/10 nothing is done about it, or the offenders of these crimes are getting a slap on the wrist. The mistreatment of black people has caused many of us anxiety, depression, and PTSD. African Americans are living in fear and scared to even be themselves in a public place out of fear of retaliation. I cried when Ahmaud’s mother read her victim impact statement because I immediately thought about my boys. I am a mother of three black boys, and we live in a predominantly white area. Therefore, this could have happened to one of my boys. As a mother of black boys, I have given them the same speech my mother gave me. I have told them to keep their hands to themselves because I know of cases when white women wrongfully accused black men and were being deliberately dishonest. I tell our boys to follow the directions of law enforcement, and if they are right, we can defend them at a later time; but do not risk their lives trying to prove a point. We have also reminded our boys to never forget you have black skin and there is a chance you will be treated differently because of it, but know that you should still be proud of your blackness. 

The saddest part about being a mother is having to explain all the ins and outs of what your black child cannot or should not do when your child(ren) should have the same humane treatment as other children. Our oldest son is the sweetest child, and he does not see color and he loves to make friends with everyone. I love that he does not care about the color of another child’s skin and that is because he has been taught to treat all people kindly and never judge regardless. Therefore, imagine how disheartening it was for our family when our son came from school and told me that a white female student told her dad she liked him, and her dad told her to tell my son “She cannot like a black boy”. It broke my son’s whole heart and after that, I purchased him so many history books because I wanted him to understand the origin of what had happened to him. After he started educating himself on African American history, he then had a better understanding of why the young lady was told that. Racism is taught, and that is the sad part. Children should be able to play together without worrying about the color of their skin. Since this incident occurred my son has experienced self-esteem issues and even became depressed for a short time. When you are a target that causes unnecessary mental stress, and it has led to high mental illness rates in African Americans everywhere. Statistics say “While African Americans are just as likely to report serious psychological distress, they are less likely to get behavioral treatment. But adult African Americans are more likely to report feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites. Still, in 2018, 18.6% of white Americans received mental health services, compared to less than 9% of African Americans” (WebMD, 4 Dec. 2019). Meaning not only are the numbers high for blacks dealing with mental illness due to racial trauma, but the numbers are even higher for the number of blacks not receiving treatment compared to the number of whites receiving treatment for mental illness. 

Once I researched and reviewed the statistical data it made me feel a deep sadness, and I truly wish times were different right now. And let me be clear, although I am a black woman and I know what is happening in the world, it has not made me hate white people because I know that all white people are not the same or racist. If I classified all white people based on the actions of some white people, then I am no better than those mistreating African Americans. I have met some white people that have positively impacted me. My mentor from my childhood was a white woman and she was and still is one of the most amazing people I know. She used to come into the projects I grew up in and take me out to escape my reality. I knew from her actions that she cared for me, and that is why I tell my kids to treat all people good because although racism exists; not all whites are racist. If you are African American and reading this blog, please remember to not allow the history or actions of a few to prevent possible worthy friendships and relationships. And if you are white reading this, remember racism is taught and you can change the narrative for your future generations. The constant fear, and racism that is causing mental illness in African Americans could improve if the correlation between racism and mental illness were made an priority. Racism and mental health are closely linked. Discrimination based on race or ethnicity can cause or worsen mental health conditions. It can also make accessing effective treatment more difficult (WebMD, 4 Dec. 2019).

The purpose of this blog post is to educate and inform others about racial trauma. Racial Trauma is a real thing and many African Americans are suffering in silence. African Americans are suffering from the effects of racial trauma such as flashbacks, nightmares, headaches, heart palpations, avoidance, and constantly being alert. A person’s life can forever be impacted by racial trauma and this topic needs to be discussed more. When the sentencing was finished, I felt obligated to blog about racial trauma because no one wants to speak about the effects of racism, prejudice, hate, or discrimination. We as a people can no longer ignore what is happening around us, and it is time for us all to focus on change. Change is the only way to make progress. The verdict, the judge’s statement, and the sentences in the Ahmaud Arbery case are the start of change. The sentencing of the three white men who killed an unarmed black man shows precedent that there will be consequences for racism and hate crimes such as murdering an unarmed black man. I am sure African Americans around the world felt a sigh of relief once they heard the sentencing. The Life without Parole sentence does not bring Ahmaud back, but it allows us all to feel important and valued enough to receive justice. Justice for African Americans in 2022 is major because in 1955 Emmett Till a fourteen boy was killed by white men and his family received no justice. Justice today reminds African Americans how far we have come since being killed and ignored as if it was the 1950s in Money, Mississippi. I hope that the treatment of African Americans continues to improve and that those who are suffering receive the help they need to heal through the racial trauma. I will be posting some facts and resources below, please check them out! Also, I am open to all thoughts and opinions. 

-Toni

References:

“African Americans Face Unique Mental Health Risks.” WebMD, 4 Dec. 2019, http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20191204/african-americans-face-unique-mental-health-risks.

Rees, Mathieu. “What Is the Link between Racism and Mental Health?” Medical News Today, 5 Nov. 2020, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/racism-and-mental-health#long-term-effects.

No one… (A poem about Postpartum Depression)

Postpartum is not, know that you are not alone in this journey & never give up! Your feelings are valid.

I’ve been in a bad place mentally since like two weeks after Mj was born.

I’ve been through so much since his birth and if I’m being completely honest I’ve had some bad thoughts, some bad feelings, & I’ve felt so alone in this process. It’s like everyone around me is moving on with life and everyday things and I’m stuck in this place of pain, depression, tired, & overwhelmed. I’ve become so numb and don’t even know how I’ve made it these last two months.

I’ve had people around me, but no one seems to understand or continue to say “how strong I am” when that is the last thing I need I want to hear. Poetry, blogging, fitness, mediation, or writing of any sort is how I’ve been releasing lately. I wrote this poem the other night while I cried at 0555 in the morning just wondering how I got to this place. I know this will get better, but right now it’s not and I hope me sharing this helps someone else who’s also struggling with postpartum. Know you’re not crazy, your feelings are valid, and we will get through this! 🙏🏾

-Toni💕

Signs of Postpartum Depression

A Birth, and a Rebirth

Before our last baby was born on August 17, 2021, I had already felt like I was completely dead inside. Besides his kicks and punches, I had become this empty shell of a person. Carrying a life is a blessing, but people forget all that comes along with it. I struggled mentally & physically. I dealt with excruciating pelvic pains, nausea, vomiting, & depression worse than ever before. Depression made it hard to get out of bed, smile, or even enjoy life at all. Physical pains made it impossible to see the end because some days I couldn’t even walk due to my pelvic pains. 

When it was finally time to deliver our newest blessing I was ecstatic to get it over with! Although I knew birthing him would be the hardest part, I was just ready to heal and start my postpartum journey! My entire birthing experience started wrong. The hospital gave me the wrong time to be there, my scheduled surgery started late, & I felt rushed & full of anxiety because things were not going as I originally planned and that caused me unwanted stress. 

The doctors and nurses that attended and assisted with my surgery were amazing, but the overall experience was painful. The spinal tap was not too bad, but unfortunately, I am starting to have after-effects. The first day was challenging because I had scar tissue from my three previous cesareans that made it more complicated for the surgeon to reach our son. The whole time I laid on the operating table I kept telling myself this too shall pass, pain doesn’t last forever, & trouble doesn’t last always. I did a lot of positive self-talk during surgery and in my post-recovery room. Although I was in pain, I would look over at my newest blessing and just smile. I naturally loved him and wanted to care for him no matter how I felt, so I breastfed through the pain and enjoyed just watching him breathe!

After getting through the first day I thought the second day would be a breeze & boy was I wrong! On the second day after my surgery, I was close to death. I had not had much sleep & the pain was keeping me up so although I usually decline narcotics, I accepted Percocet for pain instead of Motrin. I dozed off immediately after taking the Percocet, and I woke up to a nightmare. I was having an allergic reaction to the Percocet. My throat was closing, my body welted up, my breathing became labored, I was itching all over my body, and no one knew or understood what was happening until I remembered the last time I experienced this was when I had Anaphylactic shock from

Mushrooms. I told the doctors and nurses who had all piled in my room. The crazy thing about the entire situation is the one thing I needed the hospital did not carry… I needed an epi-pen and they did not have them.

During the entire anaphylactic shock experience, I kept looking at my newborn baby who was only a foot away. All I could think of was losing my life before ever being his mother. Believe it or not, maternal deaths of black women are extremely high right now and I thought I was about to be a part of the statistics. I thank God that I was given another chance to live. A nurse was working that afternoon that recognized what I was experiencing and jumped in to take charge, which saved my life. 

On the third day, I felt a lot better than the second day and I was just ready to go home. I felt my home would be the safest place for me considering my experience at the hospital. I was welcomed home by my mother who has been the biggest blessing in my life during my pregnancy and now. Being home did not bring on some magical healing because I was still experiencing a lot of pain from my incision area. Being home only made me feel safer than being at the hospital.  Our other three children were so excited to meet their baby brother & I felt good knowing that I was the creator of all this greatness 💕

Resting in the comfort of my home has been the best part so far. A cesarean birth is a serious procedure, and no matter where the healing process takes place, it will be a challenge physically & mentally. If I could give myself some advice for day three of healing from a cesearan it would be to walk as much as possible for the swelling, stay hydrated, & go at your own pace. There is no specific timeframe of when you may feel better after a c-section. Everyone’s situation and all bodies are different so it’s not a definite answer to the healing time. Just take any postpartum journey slow & at your own pace. 

I can say from my personal experience that I started to feel some relief by the third week. During the third week, I was able to be more independent and hands-on with my other children as well. It’s now week four of my postpartum journey and I’ve cooked my first meal, vacuumed, drove to Starbucks, & made the bed! Those tasks seem small, but they are hard tasks when you barely have core strength! I feel like I could do more, but my doctor still has me restricted as of now. 

My entire pregnancy and postpartum has been challenging. For me, this postpartum journey will be a rebirth of someone greater than I was before. I’m not focused on weight loss, snapping back, being perfect, or unrealistic expectations. I am focused on the healing of my mind, body, and  spirit so I do not allow postpartum depression, anxiety, and stressors of life to hold me back. I want to heal and grow from this experience! It is my experience that tough situations, build tough people. 

I already feel different inside & I am not the woman I was before I gave birth to our final baby. I see things differently, I’m thinking differently, & even responding differently about certain situations. Having a major surgery, a new baby, & 3 other children has been one of the most challenging times in my life so far. Luckily I have my husband who has supported me through breastfeeding,  physical support, & emotional support. My husband has been so selfless & it feels good to know that the man I chose to marry is the epitome of “for better or worse”! A supportive partner or support person through postpartum is major! 

I have also been blessed during the postpartum process to have my mother here for moral support. If you have been following my blog from the start or for a while then you are aware that our relationship has been like that of a butterfly, we have been through many different phases but we have grown into something so beautiful. My mom has encouraged me, loved me unconditionally, and sacrificed her everyday schedule for me! I’ll forever be appreciative of her.

As the days continue to go by I think about what I could have done differently before the arrival of our son to make this postpartum journey easier and there is no clear-cut answer. I would suggest any mom before birth to prepare meals, have a set schedule for other children, ensure to have a stockpile of everything needed for the baby & yourself, & home in advance. 

One part of the journey that is bitter-sweet is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been challenging but worth it for our son! Although I’ve had sore nipples, sleepless nights, & hours of pumping since his birth I know it’s worth it for his health. The pandemic has had me on edge, but having a baby during a pandemic is even more stressful & the antibodies in my breastmilk motivates me to continue my breastfeeding journey. If you are a mom that has decided to breastfeed I would say make sure you have a supportive partner or support person in general because it can be discouraging in the beginning. 

Postpartum journey is just that ….a journey! A journey of ups and downs and highs and lows. A journey of painful days, happy days, sad days, or days you may not even remember! The journey has been worth every second because I am watching myself evolve slowly into a healed woman, with no regrets! Life is about lessons and I have received some clarifying and life-changing lessons since the start of this pandemic and especially during my pregnancy. It has almost been a year since The Pearl Blog was created and it feels good to say the woman I was when I started The Pearl Blog was nowhere near this confident, healed, matured, focused, & motivated to just be better! 

If you are pregnant, a mom or a person just going through life challenges remember “this too shall pass”! Most things in life are temporary, just get your lessons and evolve from whatever challenges you go through. Challenges are meant to make you resilient, and resiliency makes you more equipped to handle future challenges!  So keep healing & keep growing through life! 

-💕Toni 

Mental Health Check-In 🧠✔️

Mental Health Check-In

I can not do this anymore. Why do I feel so alone? I was doing great, what happened? Why am I like this? These are the thoughts that have been crowding my head lately. This is anxiety, this is depression, this is self-doubt and I have struggled with the ups and downs of being mentally great & mentally hurting. Since my diagnosis of Anxiety, PTSD, & Depression I have had good weeks, bad weeks, and even good & bad months. Certain circumstances can cause my mental health to decline… & this pregnancy has been challenging. Pregnancy is a blessing, and I am grateful for the opportunity to bring life into this world for the fourth time, but pregnancy is also mentally, physically, & emotionally draining. Since my last mental health breakdown, I have been proactive in my mental health treatment. Being proactive about my mental health is the most important thing in my life right now. I have attended therapy regularly & I have been transparent with those around me about how I am feeling.

What I am going through at this moment in my life is the reason why I advocate mental health awareness. I know that there are others whose struggles are like mines or maybe even worst and I want you to know that you are not alone in this fight. Being mentally stable can be a fight for some, and I can admit it has been one of my hardest battles in life. Compiling mental illness on top of being a full-time mother, wife, entrepreneur, sister, daughter, aunt, and much more can be overwhelming. On top of my mental struggles, I often feel like I have to save others around me who are struggling and that also interferes with me staying afloat. Right now I just need to stay afloat so that I can get through this pregnancy gracefully. Each day I wake up and take it one day at a time because I know that I have so many people depending on me. Worrying about those who are dependent on me is what makes me tell myself “Do not give up now, you have come too far from where you started from”. I often speak life into myself, because if I did not who would?

This too shall pass is my current mood, and until this storm pass I will just keep my umbrella up and my head high. I have decided to challenge myself to take the time to put myself first mentally, physically, & emotionally right now. I can not allow myself to experience a mental burnout like this again, because being this low is not healthy. The growth in it all is that I can now recognize when I am not okay, and I can accept that it is okay to not be okay! We are all human, and it is so important, to be honest with ourselves. If you are reading this right now I would like to encourage you to have a transparent moment with yourself and ask yourself “Am I okay?” & “How am I doing mentally, emotionally, & physically?”. These are important questions that need to be asked regularly. I am publishing this blog as a mental health check-in and a moment of transparency. I wanted to post this blog as I am going through it because I feel in my soul that there is someone that needed to read this.

July flew by! There are 4 more months left to make a change and do something to better yourself. Think of one mental health goal that you can work on during these last four months. I have some creative projects that I will be working on, I will also be bringing a new life into this world, & my life will be hectic. With all that I have planned before finishing up the year, my #1 priority for the next four months is to put myself first & then let everything else follow! If this blog resonates with you please like, share, or comment! Also, I would appreciate it if you would comment on your #1 mental health goal for the last 4 months of the year.

With love,

Toni

Mental health … No more Fear or Stigmas!

Mental health … No more Fear or Stigmas!

Growing up in a low-come project out of Athens, GA I seen, heard, and experienced a lot before I was even thirteen years of age. I did not know much about mental illness as a child, but now that I am an adult I understand and know I have been around mental illness since I was a young child. At the young age of ten years old I witnessed more than one close family member dealing with mental illness and I only heard people during that time say, “so and so is crazy, do not pay them any attention”. Crazy?? I would wonder to myself what that meant but really had no knowledge and was too young to understand, and growing up in a black family like mines, you did not ask questions!

My first experience with mental illness I was 21 years old. At the time I did know that I had experienced mental illness in my teenage years but was unaware. As a teenager I was sexually abused by more than one close family member, and my mother’s then boyfriend as well. I got my first menstrual cycle, and a little time after that is when the abuse started. From the age of 12 years old until around 16 years of age I was often sad, and I hated myself inside and out. The hatred for myself surfaced from feeling as if I had no power or control over the things that were happening to me. The people who were hurting me were all in proximity and that bothered me on a regular basis. What was happening to me was a secret at this time, and I had no one I felt I could trust or tell what was happening to me. During this time, I thought of just wanting to disappear and I felt a deep sadness inside that led to me being a rebellious and angry teenager. I was unaware then, but I was experiencing depression and reactions to trauma when I was a teenager. The sexual abuse led to self-hate, confusion, and depression and that is where my battle with mental illness first started.

At the young at of 21 I was unhappily married, and I had just experienced my first experience with childbirth. My birthing story is a scary one. Long story, short… I attempted natural childbirth and lacked the support that I needed from my spouse at that time. My first born and I both experienced a traumatic birthing experience. Our son was born 8lbs 15oz and my small frame could not fully birth him which led to us both losing oxygen and an emergency c-section after 14 hours of labor. Immediately after the birth I did not feel like myself at all. Did I love my son? Yes, I loved him, but in all honesty, there was no connection between him and I. About a week after his birth is when I first started to experience somethings mentally that I did not understand. My son was a colic baby, and he often cried for long periods of time. I remember not getting much sleep, not having support from my spouse, healing from a major abdominal surgery, and crying all day. One night it was about 3-4 in the morning and I started to hear theses small voices that were saying “make him quiet” …I knew that hearing these voices were not okay, and I also understood that it was wrong if I acted on them. In all honesty I attempted to ignore those voices, but it seemed to get stronger. Being in fear, and not understanding why I was feeling or thinking this way, I picked up the phone and called my mother and told her what was happening. My doctor at the time was supportive and explained to me that I was experiencing postpartum depression and I had never in life heard of that word before. The doctor explained to me that she could prescribe me something for the thoughts and that it would get better. I was prescribed an anti-depressant and within 2-3 weeks I started to feel like myself again.

After experiencing postpartum depression, I still needed help because although I was not sad everyday like before there were still times, I experienced bouts of depression. Depression was my second mental illness diagnoses after postpartum depression. If you read The Pearl Blog, then you know what I was experiencing in my marriage and on -top of that I had a commitment to the United States Army. During this time, I was in college, a new mom, new wife, and a soldier with the weight of the world on my shoulders. My next child was born 3 years after out first son, and I did not experience postpartum depression at all. After the birth of my second son, I had obtained my first degree, was going through the sadness of my grandma experiencing breast cancer, and training/preparing for my first deployment to Bagram, Afghanistan. Right before I was set to leave for deployment is when my grandma passed from breast cancer. While I had not fully grieved my grandma, I was headed on a plane to a combat zone physically strong, but mentally weak. I had no business at all being in a Combat Zone in the mental state I was in at the time.

Afghanistan was mentally and emotionally exhausting. Imagine being in place where you are in the middle of enemy territory. Imagine being in a place where at any moment you are under attack. Imagine being in a place where you constantly experienced people losing their lives on a regular basis. Imagine all this on top of being mentally unprepared, away from family, grieving, and deeply depressed. Afghanistan is when the suicidal ideations became super strong. Afghanistan was the first time I in fact told myself this is it and I no longer had a purpose or reason to live since I was hurting so bad internally. TRIGGER WARNING… (STOP HERE IF THIS IS A SENSITIVE TOPIC FOR YOU) No one close to me knows what really happened June 2014 in Afghanistan except the doctors and therapist who treated me in Ramstein, Germany and my therapist and psychologist here in the states. I remember every detail of the day I decided I was done living. I woke up that morning completely numb. Numb was a new emotion that I experienced while deployed. Once I became numb to what was happening around me, I proceeded to the Combat Stress team there in Bagram and talked with a officer who was supposedly “a mental health advocate” he told me that I was in a combat zone and what did I expect to happen! The officer I turned to for help turned me away, that day I attended church there on Bagram Air force Base and after church service I decided it would be the day I ended it all. I had some opioids, which were easy to obtain. I do not know how many I took, but I do know I was MEDAVACED (Medically Evacuated) to Ramstein, Germany.

Attempting suicide was the best thing I could have ever done, cliché… I know! But it was in Ramstein, Germany after speaking to my kids and my family that I realized I had a purpose here on earth. God had saved me for a reason. I was not sure then what my purpose was, but I knew from the first day I woke up in that Ramstein hospital that I wanted to live my life to the fullest. After my recovery I was sent to Walter Reed in D.C and then headed for my final duty station in the US where I was assigned to The Warrior Transition Battalion. The Warrior Transition Battalion was a battalion for soldiers wounded physically, mentally, or emotionally. It was at this Battalion where the Army or your branch of service decided to keep you, or medically retire you based off their evaluation of your physical and mental health. The Warrior Transition Battalion assisted me tremendously because I was mentally and physically damaged. I was unaware how broken I was and how much help I really needed until I was assigned a team of people to help me. While in transition from solider to civilian life I realized I had lived my life in secrets for years, I had covered my wounds so well that everyone around me thought I was so strong and healthy. Internally I had been broken for years, and Afghanistan was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was diagnosed with PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, OCD while at the Warrior Transition Battalion. My physically injuries were at least a page long, but in all honesty, I preferred physical injuries over the mental wounds that I had received. It took me over a year to get on track with my physical and mental health journey and I have continued that journey since 2014. Have I fell of the wagon a few times…Yes, of course! The difference now is that I have a support team and the best mental health professionals and advocates around me.

All my mental health experiences were issues I had never experienced before, so I did not know I needed help. What I can say today is that I appreciate all my trauma because it led me here to The Pearl Blog. The Pearl Blog is like an open journal for me. I come here to share my life and experiences because when I was facing this trauma I had nowhere to turn, and I felt completely alone. The Pearl Blog reminds the readers that you are not alone in your struggles, and life is hard, but it gets better with time. There are so many stigmas on mental health. Mental Health is something that is unspoken. Mental Health is something that some are ashamed of. Before PTSD I enjoyed fireworks, gatherings, concerts, and just living my life freely. Now I shy away from the fourth of July because the sound of fireworks drives me insane and puts me back in Afghanistan in that bunker. I no longer like concerts because large crowds cause super high vigilance and anxiety. Can you believe I was once a social butterfly, but mental illness and trauma changed my life in so many ways? Therefore, I support mental health awareness because I know how hard it can be, but I also know with help you can live again. Do not allow the stigmas or fear of getting help stop you from your purpose. You have a purpose here on earth, and you may not know it yet but if you are living it is never too late. It is my hope that you continue your healing and growing process. I have a mental health forum on The Pearl Blog Facebook page, I also spread my mental health awareness and advocacy on my Instagram page @healingandgrowing_. If this blog resonates with you, I also suggest you read the following blogs as well:

The unseen “Battle”.
Aligning with my Purpose❤
Join The Pearl Blog Mental Health Forum on Facebook!

Thanks, Toni

When should you seek Therapy?

When should you seek therapy?

Therapy is a topic that most recently became popular due to covid and all the mental stress that covid caused on everyone. Before covid I rarely heard therapy being advocated on social media, the news, or among family and friends. I did not even know I was a candidate for therapy because I pre-perceived that therapy was only need if you were suicidal. The idea of therapy made me nervous because the thought of sharing my most personal and hurtful experiences was embarrassing to me. Sadness was a regular feeling for me after the birth of my first son. Being diagnosed with postpartum depression and being told “black folks do not have that” by some of my uneducated peers what my first real experience with seeking help! Now that I am older and have experienced more, I find it important that I advocate mental health awareness and therapy. Therapy is an amazing tool for those dealing emotional distress or just can not figure out life. Often, I am asked, how did I know I needed therapy? And when should you seek help from a therapist?

The American Psychological Association suggests considering therapy when something causes distress and interferes with some part of life, particularly when:

  • Thinking about or coping with the issue takes up at least an hour each day.
  • The issue causes embarrassment or makes you want to avoid others.
  • The issue has caused your quality of life to decrease.
  • The issue has negatively affected school, work, or relationships.
  • You’ve made changes in your life or developed habits to cope with the issue.

Coming from someone with childhood and adult trauma I believe the proper time for therapy is after you experience something traumatic or know that you have changed but not for the better. Sometimes in life you just feel completely off, and you do not know why. When you are feeling like you do not know yourself it is time to seek help. I advise seeking help before you find yourself in a dark hard and unable to climb yourself out. I know firsthand that it is a scary feeling to ask for help. It is also a scary feeling to know that you have an issue, but not equipped with the tools to handle the issue. “Therapy has been like my bag of tools that I go to when I need to fix something”-Toni Murray. Honesty speaking therapy will not heal you overnight. Therapy takes time to work, and you must remain consistent, or you may not reap all the good benefits of therapy. Also, sometimes you will find a therapist and realize after a couple of visits that the therapist is just not a fit for you. It is okay to change therapist until you find the right fit for you. For example, I have had experiences with male therapist, but due to my past traumas it is hard for me to trust a male therapist or feel completely comfortable. Female therapist has worked out better for me and makes me feel more comfortable, but that does not mean there are not good male therapist out there for you. Do not give up, until you find the perfect fit. I encourage anyone that just need a listening ear to please seek therapy. Therapy can be a life changing experience in a beneficial aspect.

I will list the benefit of therapy that I have experienced below:

  • Feeling like I have support and someone I can speak to about anything.
  • Knowing that all my secrets and troubles can be released confidentially.
  • Receiving unbiased advice and criticism in the right way.
  • Being able to release and feel like a weight have been lifted after each session.
  • Having someone to hold me accountable.
  • Improving my everyday life and relationships
  • And emotional release that medication can not give me.

Let me know your experiences or lack thereof with therapy? I have listed some other blogs that relates below:

 

 

 

I will never give up, I will never accept defeat!

Today is Veteran’s Day and I am proud to have served, deployed, & retired from the United States Army! The military was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I joined the Army in hopes of removing myself from the toxic environment I was living in. I did not know how much I would learn, how strong I would become, & how it would change my life forever. I can remember like yesterday arriving at Fort Jackson, South Carolina for Bootcamp, and feeling nervous and scared! I did not expect to be yelled at immediately and made to feel so small, and I did not understand the point of the drill sergeants yelling & screaming all the time. While in “Reception” the start of joining the Army, you learn the Army Values, & the Soldiers Creed! When I first seen the Army Values, I did not take it seriously, and I felt the same about the Soldiers Creed. My first thought was “This is Dumb”! If only I knew how the Army Values & Soldier Creed would change my entire outlook on life.

The Soldier’s Creed

The Army Values are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor integrity, & personal courage. Personal Courage is the most meaningful core value because before the Army I was timid and introverted. Before I joined, I never had much confidence in myself or anything I participated in. I used to always second guess myself.  The soldier’s creed has so many great points, but my favorite two lines are I will never accept defeat & I will never quit. It took about a year of reciting the Soldiers Creed & the Army Values before I started to take it seriously. I woke up every morning and I would remind myself that I can face adversity, and no matter what occurred that day I would always face my fears and end the day by moving forward positively. The Soldiers Creed reminded me to never accept defeat & never quit.

Once I was Medically Retried from the Army it took every being of my body to remember what the Army taught me! I was depressed, struggling with PTSD, finally divorced from a toxic individual, and a single mother. All I knew was the Army and that terrified me. I did not think I could do life without waking up in the morning being apart of something so great. I felt so alone without my battle buddies (military friends) who were my biggest support system and more like family. I stayed in a rut for months until I was presented with my retirement award and realized how much I had given to my country. I had deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, I had served honorably & I had to remind myself that even if I was no longer in uniform; I still mattered, I still could serve my community, I still had so much to give, I was still resilient, and now was not the time to quit!

Blogging  has brought me to a place of needing to remind myself that I will never accept defeat & I will never quit. Sharing my life, my art, and being 100% open and on display for others has not been easy, and neither has staying positive when I am not always receiving reviews or sales. There are days I feel like quitting and I do not think I am doing enough. My goal with The Pearl Blog & Majorie Arts is to help others heal, but in all honesty, I am healing from it as well. It helps my emotional & mental health to let all my pain out through blogging & art. Anytime I am writing, capturing pictures, or being creative it makes me feel good about myself. My goal is not monetary, my goal is humanitarian. I intend to help others heal from their hurt. I am a firm believer in never giving up, never accepting defeat, and always showing personal courage, but also sowing those gems into those around me. Those three things seem so simple but are the hardest during your moments of despair. To the person reading this, please never give up. No matter if life is not going the best for you today, move forward to tomorrow and try again!

Happy Veterans Day,

 

A high conflict divorce is where marriage ends, and war begins…

A high conflict divorce is where marriage ends, and war begins…

To those who have experienced divorce/breakup with kids we all know how difficult it can be once you have decided to part ways from someone whom you have built a life with and have created children. It can be emotionally draining, stressful, & full of high conflict for the adults. Imagine what it does to kids?

Being a divorcee, I know how hard it can be to divorce, and the after math of it all. In the beginning of the process it can be so intimidating and heart-breaking because you do not know what to expect. This week on Majorie Blog I will be discussing the 5 most important things that has helped me co-parent after a high-conflict divorce. If you are not sure what a high-conflict divorce is I will sum it up.. A high conflict divorce is where marriage ends, and war begins…

For me I felt as if I was going to war, but I will let you know now co-parenting after a high-conflict divorce does not have to be war for you or your children. There is some peace, and although there will be bumps in the road, and may be some days when you feel defeated, if you follow the following tips I promise you co-parenting will not be a war, instead it will be peace for yourself & all children involved.

When I first got divorced, I focused a lot on what was done to me, how I was abused, mistreated, and hurt throughout the years. I focused too much on the pain I endured from the marriage and I did not realize the major changes and hurt the divorce was causing my kids. So that is where my first tip of advice stem from.

1. If you are hurting because of a bad divorce then please seek counseling for you, but no matter what the other parent does to push your buttons or make your life miserable, ALWAYS put the well-being and happiness of your kids first. Putting the kids well-being first allows you to heal just from seeing the happiness in them. Seeing my children happy is what helped me to ignore and disengage from a lot of unnecessary drama.

There will be occasions where something may take place that is negatively affecting the children, or there may be situations where the other parent is acting against what you feel is the best interest of your children. In my case the other parent was often in and out of jail, and was an addict, and disciplined in a way I felt was too harsh. In these cases, it is best to seek legal advice & handle your situation through the court system, but NEVER ever interrogate your children about the other parent & make them feel stuck in the middle.

2. Do your very best to not put the children in the middle of adult drama, adult drama can make the kids feel like they have to choose a side or make them feel like the situation is their fault. The more you can hide from your children, the better.

Co-parenting consist of co-existing with another person with whom you are no longer with. Co-existing could be phone-calls, drop-offs/pick-ups, or events where the children are involved and both parents are required to be in attendance. There will be occasions that require you and your ex to be present for the sake of your children. I suggest making these times as simple as possible and this leads to tip #3.

3. Always attempt and make every effort to work together for the best interest of the children. When you are present with you ex, always make sure there is no inappropriate behavior displayed while the children are present. Children pick up on behaviors, and energy of adults. So work together and be an example for them!

When relationships end, there are occurrences where it ended on really bad terms and you may genuinely dislike the person you have to co-parent with. The person I co-parent with was a serial cheater, and abusive so of course there was animosity and hate towards the other parent in the beginning. I really did not want to co-parent with him, and I did not want to share my children with such a person. I had to realize that I chose this person to procreate with and now I must deal with them and accept the choices and decisions I made that led to this. In doing this there were times when certain things were said about the other parent and the kids would ask questions or want to know the whys? The biggest things I learned is that the kids will not remain kids forever…let the kids determine who the other parent is without your opinions of that parent. Children are big on energy and actions. Let them decide!

4. Do not speak badly about the other parent while the children are present. The children will resent you, and the children will be upset because they love both parents. They are not aware of what happened between daddy & mommy. Even if they are aware, stay neutral and let them figure it out. If they need further understanding a neutral party/ therapist may be a good option. Whatever you decide bad-mouthing the other parent is not the answer.

My final and most important tool that helped me was disengaging. My divorce was high-conflict and there was a lot of disagreeing and I felt like I was treated so badly, and I felt like although we were divorce there was still tension, disrespect, yelling, anger towards me, controlling behavior, verbal & mental abuse, and I would always try to combat back and forth with my ex until I realized silence is the best medicine for a high-conflict ex. I only speak to my ex when it is ABSOLUTELY necessary. I understand now that I divorced some one who may never change for the better, but I am not in control of anyone but “MYSELF” when I realized that I am not responsible for my ex behavior toward me, I changed and I THRIVED for the better of myself & my kids.

5. DISENGAGE…If your ex is someone that like conflict and enjoys making your life hard…I suggest you disengage. Disengaging is one of the easiest ways to end conflict because the other person needs someone to engage with them in order to keep the conflict going. Remember you are no longer with him/her so there is no need to argue or prove yourself to them. Remain silent for your peace and your children peace.

I am not a therapist or professional, but I have experienced a high-conflict divorce and high-conflict co-parenting until I changed the narrative for myself and my children. I have used all the tips I gave, and they have worked for me. Divorce does not have to destroy you or your peace of mind. When you realize that war with your ex, is like war with your children it will make you look at co-parenting so differently. Before you can mentally be okay it is important to know you are not alone in this. People divorce every day, and co-parenting does not have to be toxic. You are only in control of you! Never allow another person to live rent free in your brain!

Mental Health Awareness..Top 5 Tips 💜

 

Mental health is one of those issues that are barely spoken on, and usually hidden because of shame. October 10, 2020 is Mental Health Awareness day and I wanted to personally give some tips to better your mental health. I have struggled with mental illness throughout the years and I want to make it clear that you are not alone! I will list my top five Mental Health tips below!

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