HAVE YOU GRABBED YOUR COPY YET?

Are you someone who has been through trauma or trials in life and has recently been thinking about working on your healing to better yourself? If so, this is the perfect e-book for you! Start your healing for only $17.17 by downloading my e-book! (Click link in Bio) This e-book is a great way to improve your mental health and start your healing journey! After you download it, you can share it with someone else who may need some healing. The only way to create a better life after trauma is to start healing! 
The Pearl Blog Presents: The Healing Journey Healing & Growing One Day at a Time! It is an online E-book that discusses the healing journey. What is healing? How do you start the healing journey? How do you recognize unhealed wounds? What techniques should you use to begin your healing journey? There are so many great resources here! You will have a different perspective on healing after reading this E-Book!!!

More than just a Girl from the Projects…

Did you know that researchers found that children’s immediate neighborhood area has significant effects on life outcomes, which can differ considerably compared to those experienced by children just streets away? 

Well, this is, in fact, a true statement in some aspects! I was born into poverty. A single mother raised me with five children in low-income housing. The neighborhood I grew up in had the regular gun violence, murder, drugs, homelessness, lack of two-parent homes, and the everyday struggles of families living in the low-income projects. Although my mother lived in the projects, she made our home much more than that. She cared about our grades, activities, and where we hung out in our neighborhood, and she most definitely did not tolerate bad behavior. Our mother was not perfect, but she always tried and never gave up! She would say, “It doesn’t matter where you come from; it only matters where you’re going.” So, where I lived did not matter to me! Until second grade, which was the first time I was told, “You are just a girl from the projects.” It may seem trivial, but it came from someone I admired and thought was a friend. This friend had more than me, she was living in a two-parent home, and she would constantly brag about all she had or point out what I lacked. So, after the second grade, when friends would ask where I lived because they wanted to hang out, I would always come up with reasons why I couldn’t hang out to prevent telling them where I lived. Being a little black girl from one of the worst projects in our area always made me feel like I was not enough. It was not only students, but when teachers learned where I lived, they were sometimes judgmental. If not for what others said, I would have thought I was living the good life because our mother made us feel like we had more than enough! 

Middle School was a lot better than elementary because many of us came from the projects, and we all linked together, and I felt like I fit in! The only issue was that I was often labeled a trouble maker because of “the birds of a feather flock together concept.” I admit to often acting out while I was in middle school because I wanted an adult or someone to ask, “What is going on with you? Is everything okay at home?” It was middle school when molestation started. Therefore, I acted out for attention. I acted out because I was angry and confused about why this was happening to me. In class, I was the class clown who kept everyone laughing because it helped to alleviate the pain I was feeling every day. Being violated so young shifted me into this rage. I am ashamed of some of the hateful things I did or said during my middle and high school years. Violence & criminal activity was how I released anger. Running away was all I knew to do, but I realized early on that running away from home or dropping out of high school never would fix my problems. During this time, there was no such thing as “Mental Health Support,” but with what I know now, I was depressed and dealing with PTSD.

My anger stemmed from the fact that my childhood trauma could have been avoided and stopped, but it was not. No one took me seriously, or no one tried to protect me. It was not until the 11th-grade year that I joined ROTC and met a sergeant that would not give up on me, so I decided not to give up on myself. My 12th-grade year was when I decided that I wanted to be more than “just a girl from the projects .”I wanted to prove wrong my English teacher, who said, “You will probably end up in jail one day.” Or My chorus teacher, who often said, “You are nothing but trouble.” My goal was to show and prove that children from low-income housing matter and can also be educated and successful! 

Once I changed my mindset, I started to cut off those toxic friends that I used to run with and began to think of how I could get out of the environment I was in to do better for myself. One thing I knew was that my mother could not afford college or anything else. Therefore I worked until I came up with the idea to go to the Army, and that was the best decision of my life. The Army was just supposed to be my ticket out, but the Army became an amazing outlet. While serving, I was able to go to college, travel, learn, and experience things I would have never experienced in my hometown. Once I was enlisted, I realized that I could not do what I used to do, I had to change, or I would not last in the Army long! I went into the Army with trauma, just wanting a getaway. What I learned about running from trauma is that it will follow you until you face it! I had suppressed so much pain and memories for years that I had rather forgotten. I hoped to start fresh and gather all the resources to better myself! I did not know how, but I knew I wanted to improve myself mentally, physically, & emotionally. I pushed a lot to the back of my mind during my time in the Army, and I thought everything would be good because I was finally okay, I was living in a better environment, and I thought I could start over and forget the past. 

But the thing about trauma is that you must begin healing before truly living a productive life. 

Michelle

Unfortunately, my healing journey started later in my life because I was not aware of all the available resources for mental illness, domestic violence, or trauma. Due to untreated trauma, I scaled through life from eleven to about twenty-five years of age, suppressing trauma and on the edge of a breakdown. I was like a ticking time bomb, and eventually, I would explode. After losing my grandma, who was my heart, having to leave my kids for deployment, being abused and cheated on, being away from my family, and feeling like there was no other choice, I decided to end my life. I have no regrets because that suicide attempt led me to many great resources, gave me the courage to end a toxic six-year marriage, and forced me to face my trauma. After accepting that I needed help, my healing journey began, and I have been healing ever since. It may sound unnerving or does not make sense, but Afghanistan saved my life and gave me a different outlook on life. I learned how short life was, and I realized that I was not my circumstances. I had been walking around for years shameful, scared, angry at the world, & suffering inside. I hated myself, and I was ashamed of where I came from. I never wanted to talk about what led me to a psychiatric ward in Ramstein, Germany, until Covid hit and all the trauma I had been in therapy for started to eat me alive and swallow me whole. I remember having suicidal thoughts and feeling isolated from any support. Instead of taking the wrong route, I stepped out on my faith and started The Pearl Blog: Where the Healing Begins & it was the best decision I ever made.

Blogging helped release my feelings and those heavy burdens that I was so carrying during the covid lockdown. I was hurting so bad that I wanted to find a way to spread awareness. I wanted to create a platform that promotes prioritizing mental health and healing, which was detrimental in 2020 with mental illness at an all-time high. If you are reading this, I want you to know that The Pearl Blog and my Mental Health Instagram @healingandgrowing_ are my passions, and  I advocate because I want to, not because I have to. There are many stigmas regarding mental illness, and I want to be a voice for the voiceless. 

So many of us are fighting mental battles alone. I know this because I tried to fight a battle alone and almost lost my life. When I look back on my twenty-four-year-old self that just wanted to end it all, I wish I could hug her & let her know, “It’s okay to ask for help.” I did not ask for help because I was ashamed. Shame, intrusive thoughts, self-doubt, anxiety, PTSD, and depression kept me voiceless. My family and those closest to me had no idea what I was going through. For that reason, I choose to be vulnerable about all my trauma because someone may be reading this right now and decide, “I want help.” My goal is to advocate and spread awareness. I am a witness that circumstances, my environment, or my Mental Health did not prevent me from prospering in life! I am still on my healing journey and have struggles just like you. The only difference now is that I recognize I have a problem, and I am in the process of healing those wounds and not allowing myself to be a victim anymore or allowing myself to project my unhealed trauma on others. I have no shame about who I am, and I can now proudly say…..

I am Michelle from Bethel Homes Project. I am a wife to an amazing man, a mother of 4, a combat veteran, retired military, trauma survivor, mental health advocate, mental health blogger, and NOW A PUBLISHED AUTHOR! My first book will be released tomorrow, April 28th, on the 4th anniversary of my fathers ascending into heaven. I usually hide out during April, and I soak in depression while isolating myself from the world. This year I decided to gain control of my life, and I refuse to be depressed. My father loved me, and I know he is very proud of me! In my E-book, The Pearl Blog Presents: The Healing Journey Healing & Growing One Day at a Time! I discuss the healing journey & the importance of maintaining your mental health. I answer the questions: What is healing? How do you start the healing journey? How do you recognize unhealed wounds? What techniques should you use to begin your healing journey? This e-book is a good read for anyone on their journey to heal and prioritize their mental health! The e-book is available for purchase here! Pre-order here to enter into the raffle to win an item from my Mental Health Merchandise and a $100 gift card! Also, remember you are more than what they say! You are a conqueror! Keep healing and growing and living life on your terms! 

-Michelle

I Never Thought Suicide Would Knock at my Door….

Hello, Pearls

Been a while since I last blogged, and there is so much to inform you about. Just as a warning this blog post will be discussing suicide, so this is your cue to leave if suicide is a trigger for you.

Let me first start by saying that life has been challenging lately. There has been a series of unfortunate events happening consecutively and, in all honesty, my mental, spiritual, & physical health has been on the line. Usually, I remain positive and try to focus on the long-term outcome but when your children endure any type of pain; it changes you. My firstborn son has struggled with bullying for over a year. Just so you have an idea of who my firstborn is I would like to describe him to you. I call him “A”, he’s eleven years old with the soul of an old man, he is intelligent beyond his years, there is nothing he will not do for his siblings or anyone that he loves, his smile brightens up a room, his laughter is contagious, and he has dance moves like MJ! To sum it all up my son is a special little boy and he made me a woman! “A” was my first child. I named him Aidan “the fiery one” because during my entire pregnancy Aidan was always active in my belly. During my pregnancy with Aidan, I experienced mental, emotional, & physical abuse. I was 37 weeks pregnant when my then-husband pushed me to the floor onto my nine-month belly. After the domestic violence incident during my 37th week, Aidan stopped moving, and I had to receive a non-stress test regularly until I was induced. After being in labor for over 14 hours Aidan came into this world hollering. I’ll never forget looking over at my 8lb 15oz baby boy and just crying. I could not believe the baby that I carried for 42 weeks was here in the flesh. Aidan was my “little friend”, which sounds weird right, but I talked to my baby all the time when I was down. Everything I did was for my “A” I attended college during my entire pregnancy, and I was also in the military. Before Aidan entered this world, I had already made up my mind that he would never experience trauma as I did… & boy was I wrong!

I divorced Aidan & his younger brother’s dad after five years of marriage because one day I had an epiphany. One day I woke up and had enough arguing, fighting, cheating, and disrespect. One day I woke up and choose myself. I never knew this choice would lead me down this path. If I could give you all any advice it would be “know who you are procreating with!” I did not give myself the proper amount of time to know this man and that is why my children, and I are now suffering the consequences of my actions. I thought divorce meant freedom, but my experience has been the opposite. My ex-husband is vindictive, and I know this because everything he does is an attempt to get my attention, belittle me, blame me, or hurt me through my kids. Over the years I have been in trauma recovery therapy, and it has helped me cope and better understand that his behaviors have nothing to do with me. The sad part about the divorce is Aidan was old enough to see the dysfunction and it has traumatized him to the point he now says comments like, “why can’t ya’ll just co-parent mommy.” Aidan believes that his dad and I being cordial is easy. My son is innocent and does not understand the reasons I prefer to keep contact and communication at a minimum with his dad. The only thing Aidan knows is he wants all his family together. In the beginning, I often felt guilty for divorcing because I planned to try to stay until our children were at least teenagers. I tried to stay “for the kids” but I was miserable and not happy at all. Staying for the kids started to affect my kids negatively. Our youngest son does not remember, but Aidan was old enough to understand and that breaks my heart. I never wanted my children to go through a divorce or a broken home. If I knew that a broken home would lead to my son being diagnosed with mental illnesses and feeling inadequate, I would have made some different decisions in my life. Truth be told we can not change our past, and should only focus on making our future better. 

Therefore, over the last 3 years, I chose to forgive and move forward for myself. Forgiveness meant I stopped focusing on all my ex-husband did to me and made my kids the priority. I have supported their bio-dad being active in their lives since we divorced. I am not a “bitter baby mother.” All I ask is that we follow the decree and be respectful to one another. I noticed even when I bend over backwards to make the co-parenting work; my ex-husband always find a way to make a problem. He is oppositional to any and everything I say, and I understand now that he is vindictive, bitter, and stuck on how our relationship ended. The interesting fact about this entire situation is that for six months straight my ex will be a “super-dad” he will pay support, send items for the kids, be patient, act kind and respectful, and be an “active” dad. Then just randomly he starts to slack again and become disrespectful. Switching between kindness and back to rudeness has been a cycle over the last seven years and this year I just had enough! This year 2022 I decided I will no longer be disrespected and verbally abused. In my opinion, children must learn to adapt, and a part of adapting is to understand that mom and dad are divorced and are not best friends but we both love you unconditionally and will always love you. That being said, the boundaries I set this year must have triggered my ex because he started his narcissistic behavior again. We have been meeting at the same drop-off for the last five years and he just decides randomly without proper notice that he can not meet my husband at the drop-offs anymore. Initially, my husband showed up to the drop-off and just showed proof he was not here just in case this issue came up in court. My husband and I never knew this incident on top of the bullying would send our son into a pediatric psych facility for a suicide attempt. 

As I am writing this, I am still in disbelief that our son wanted to end his life. What hurts the most is I thought I “knew” my son. Aidan had expressed that the bullying was a lot and I thought informing school administrators, calling the cops, and supporting him would make things better. I was wrong. Aidan felt like it all was too much for him, and he decided he rather not live anymore. For Aidan, the burden of being bullied and being abandoned by his bio-dad was just too much. After Aidan’s attempt, he was admitted to a facility for pediatric psych patients. Immediately after his bio-dad was notified the narcissism began. Although their bio-dad has never in the last seven years attended a doctor’s appointment or cared who their teacher was or what was happening in their lives; all of the sudden he wants to be involved in everything. I encourage him to be involved with our boys, but what baffles me is that he comes into the situation and attempt to tell me what I should or should not do for our son. He started saying he would like to meet and talk, he wants us to do better for the kids, and he wants to be actively involved. Now, at first, I was ecstatic, because I believe it takes a village to raise a child; but I immediately had a sense of sadness and stress come over me because I know their dad lacks consistency and he often makes promises that he do not keep, and I fear that the inconsistency will send out oldest son over the edge and cause him more mental stress. So as a “mama bear” my first instinct is to protect my cub. Part of protecting my cub is enforcing the boundaries. I told the boy’s dad that he can be as involved as he wants, but that will not include him calling or texting me day and night, unnecessary meetings, or any communication outside of our children. It seems harsh but the inconsistency and lack of boundaries are something that I must not allow for my own mental health. I can not allow this man to curse me out, control me, and blame me anymore. I will leave the door open for him to build relationships with his children but in this situation, my only part is to step back and support my children.  

Supporting Aidan has been easy because I understand what it is like to struggle with mental illness, I understand not having a full-time active bio-dad, I understand being bullied simply because you are different, and I understand wanting to die so bad that you attempt to end it all. I understand because I have been in Aidan’s shoes, the only difference is that I did not have the support system and village that Aidan has. Aidan will be attending therapy regularly, participating in in-school counseling, having support persons on his school campus, and he is now on a new medication to help him cope. I am elated to have my baby back home, but I have also been overwhelmed, doubting myself, blaming myself, and simply not okay. I am not okay! This has been one of the hardest experiences of my life. Never in a million years did I think suicide would knock at my door and affect one of my babies. If I could give any advice to anyone going through something similar, I would say be sure that you are taking care of yourself; especially when your main responsibility is caring for others. Over the last three weeks I have felt mentally tired, and physically burned out. I am still not sleeping that well, and I often worry about my son’s mental health and what he is thinking or feeling. When you are a mom whether you carry the baby or not; there is this unspoken connection between you and your offspring, and when your offspring hurts it causes the mother to mentally and physically suffer. The bond of a mother and child cannot be examined in words. No words can explain how I feel about any of my children. 

The love for my children has led me to where I am right now while I am writing this blog. I am now at a point of releasing the things I can not control and living in the moment because life is so precious and short. I have promised myself to live more and be unapologetically me more often. I did something major tonight! I started fresh and chopped off all my hair. I believe that hair holds energy and I needed a fresh start. While the hair was failing, I felt like a burden had been lifted off of my shoulders. Cutting off my hair was the fresh start I needed. My main focus now is believing in myself, loving myself, doing what I love, setting boundaries, and living life to the fullest. I just want to continue spreading awareness about mental illness and being an advocate of mental illness because I know the struggle and if I just help one person, I have done what I aimed to do. If you are reading this and struggling mentally, I will attach some resources below; but please get help if you are struggling. You are not alone in this, so many of us are internally dying inside and too scared to ask for help. Ask for help. REMEMBER…It is okay to not be okay! 

Talk to you all soon,

Michelle 

Follow this link for tips and resources: https://www.instagram.com/p/Ca0N-p-P5v0/?utm_medium=copy_link

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.

Goodbye 2021…

Can you believe that 2021 is almost over? Throughout my adulthood there have been some years that were challenging and some that almost took me out completely mentally, physically, & emotionally. The year 2018 was the last year I felt challenged the entire year and often asked myself …how am I going to make it through this year? I know that trials and tribulations in life teaches lessons and builds character. In the year of 2018, I learned some gut wrenching and heartbreaking lessons that changed my life and viewpoint on life forever. The year of 2021 has been a mirror image of the year 2018, accept the trials and lessons were different. In 2018 I learned 3 important lessons.

  1. Life is precious and short, so live it to the fullest. 
  2. There is no one I can trust or depend on more than myself. 
  3. If I want to make something happen, then I must do the work. There are no short cuts!

The year 2021 hit me like a ton of bricks. I planned on 2021 being a year dedicated to my mental health and conquering trauma by facing my problems and finding solutions. I also wanted to work on my physical fitness and being more mindful because I was neglecting self-care in 2020 and I wanted to make some major changes in 2021. I do not like making changes, because I can admit too much change scares me and makes me feel uncomfortable.  I can attest that the times that I have tried and was consist with making changes in my life, it always led to something so great. Instead of making changes this year I felt stagnant, mentally suppressed, physically wore down, spiritually under attack, and just not myself. This year I was creating life, while internally dying inside. During a time when I should have been on cloud nine about life, I was regretting it. If you have been following me awhile then you are aware of my mental health journey. One of the major things that keeps me mentally aligned is physical activity. In 2018 when my father passed, my husband and I was separated awhile, my sister was fighting cancer, and my family was crumbling. While my life was falling apart, I fell in love with fitness. It started with at home workouts, prayer & meditation, running, & being consist with self-care. In 2018 I recreated a better version of myself while going through grief and heartbreak. The grief and heartbreak transformed me into this strong and emotionally mature woman that I loved. I learned to love myself no matter what I was going through. Fitness gives me confidence, keeps me grounded, and gives me this high that I just enjoy! Since my pregnancy was high risk and I had physical limitations there was a lot I could not do, and the lack of psychical activity is what started the perinatal depression and sent me into this dark place. 

The darkness I have experienced this year has taught me some major lessons. Although this was a challenging year, just like 2018 I felt like it had to happen so I could transform. I am a firm believer that things happen in our lives to transform and prepare us for our purpose. The last few months I have struggled deeply with letting go of my past, accepting that I am enough for myself & my children, realizing I need help and that is okay, and knowing that fucked up situations and circumstances happens to good people. Just because you are a “good person” does not make you exempt for challenges in life. The challenges that I experienced this year has taught me some lessons that are going to help me transform and do better in 2022. My number one goal for 2022 is CONSISTENCY and EFFORT. The year 2021 I felt like I had no control of my life, and I was constantly in this victim role or feeling victimized. There was a lot of complaining and self-sabotage in 2021. Yes, my life has been hard, but did I have to soak in it and have that same energy all year? NO! The Martyr Complex is basically how I can sum up my 2021. Martyr complex is related closely to “the victim complex”. At its core, the victim complex involves someone viewing themselves as a victim of their life events. They often express that bad things always happen to them, claim that they have no control over their life, and don’t take responsibility for things they do. The motives for a victim mentality are often unconscious (WebMD, 2020). It was not until recently after taking a break from all social media and evaluating this entire year that I realized most of 2021 I was unconsciously making myself a victim. I sacrificed a lot of  happy times, because I focused too much on all the bad that was happening. This year taught me to always find something good in all situations or circumstances in life. I understand now that my year could have played out differently if I only shifted my way of thinking. Mindset is major when you are trying to remain grounded in your life. My mindset was off all 2021 and I allowed my circumstances to keep me stagnant. Although I am so ready for 2022 to start, I am thankful for the lessons of 2021. I have some new lessons to take in 2022, and I am ready to shift my mindset. Because of 2021, my 2022 goals are focused more on mindfulness. In 2022 my top 4 areas I want to focus on are: 

  1. Finding something positive in all situations that I am going through. 
  2. Do not be a victim, find a solution for your problems. 
  3. Shift my mindset and be still more often.
  4. Remember hard times do not last forever. 

I do not expect 2022 to be perfect, but I can guarantee that it will not be a year full of self-sabotage. In 2022 I am stepping back from worry, stress, depression, uncertainty, insecurities, resentment, stagnation, being stuck in the past, or having scattered energy without being mindful. I am a mental health advocate and I know what I should have been doing this year, but even I slipped through the cracks and got lost. What I experienced this year is the exact reason why I started the @healingandgrowing_ Instagram and The Pearl Blog. It is my passion and mission to spread the word on mental health awareness, trauma, therapy, motherhood, marriage, divorce, domestic violence, and so much more I have experienced. These experiences happened to me for a reason, and I believe the reason is to share my story so just maybe one person finds solitude in my story or decides today is the day to make a change. My mission remains the same. I want to encourage, educate, and transform the lives of people who are looking to heal and grow through life challenges. In 2022 I am working on something special for all the people who has been supporting me. The comments, the likes, the follows, and purchases are appreciated. I have received more support from strangers since I started The Pearl Blog & I just want to say thank you. It is my hope & prayer that your 2022 is all you hoped for! Please comment below 4 things you are manifesting for 2022 or 4 lessons you have learned in 2021. I can’t wait to see what you all have to say! 

-Toni

Sources: “Martyr Complex: Causes, Signs, and More.” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-a-martyr-complex. 

I’m Struggling, What’s Next?

Hey Pearls! 

So, Thursday has passed, and my weekly blog was not posted because what I originally planned to post is not matching my current mood or situation. I have been stuck in this dark place for about two-three weeks. While in this dark place I have worked out, meditated, spoke with my therapist, & been proactive with my mental health and although I have prioritized my mental health nothing and I mean nothing has been able to help me! So, what should you do when you have tried everything to help yourself & nothing is working? 

Firstly, if you are struggling in life and nothing is helping to improve your suffering then it is time to make some adjustments. Often, we become accustomed to our everyday routine, and the idea of changing our everyday routine can be scary. If you are waking up every morning and ending every day unhappy it is time to make some major changes in your everyday routine. Did you know changing your routine can bring you happiness and make you feel more confident while getting through your day? Keeping the same routine keeps you from progressing. Deciding to break your everyday routine and changing up your normal schedule can be rewarding and bring a new level of happiness into your life. Believe it or not changing your routine will assist in feeling less burnt out, exhausted, or mentally overwhelmed. Change is necessary and I realize I am lacking in that department. I have become so used to my everyday schedule, but obviously my usual routine is not working, and I am left feeling burnt out, exhausted, and mentally overwhelmed. Starting Monday, I will be making some major changes in my day-to-day life. One problem I have is attempting to complete too much in one day. After my morning meditation and workout, I have decided to only complete 1-3 other task throughout the day and allow myself time to “be still”! Along with being still, I have also decided to rest or do light work when the children are napping because it helps prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed once they wake up. Wanting to get things done is great but think about creating a short task list each day with 1-4 task and having different task each day so responsibilities are split and there is no stress to complete everything in one day. So, first thing first, we must change our day-to day routine if it is not working in our favor. 

Secondly, check your ego! You are probably thinking what does ego has to do with this? Well, ego interferes with life running smoothly. Ego causes extra stress, confusion, and unnecessary disagreements. Ego also causes irritable moods and makes it hard to keep your life on track. For example, I often attempt to do everything on my own. My husband is the most amazing man I have ever encountered, and he supports me in everything, but I often deny help from him. Once I deny his help, I find myself getting angry at him when I start to have “too much on my plate” My ego tells me 

“You got this, and you do not need his help”! My ego tells me “He is to blame, because he is not here during the day to help carry the load”. My ego tells me “It is all about me, I am the one that just gave birth to a baby”. Although my ego tells me those things, I know in reality my husband is not to blame for my burnout, exhaustion, or mental state. I cannot blame him. Being burnt out is one thing but add ego into it and that is a deadly combination. When you are already tired and not aware of your ego it can lead to bickering between you and loved ones. Allowing your EGO to take charge prevents you from seeing things clearly and assessing the situation or problem objectively. When life is already hard it is important to be able to assess what is happening around you. Not being able to assess situations and work them out causes battles and conflicts between you and those who could be supporting you through the hard times in your life. So, if you are struggling in life and nothing is working; do not allow your ego to step in and push away those who love and support you. Be open to hear advise and other perspectives. Remember ego can cause you to lose touch with your actual reality, so keep the EGO in check! 

Once you have made changes and checked your ego, what should you do next? Think of ways to take care of YOU! What makes you feel good? Does work make you happy? Does shopping make you happy? Does fitness make you happy? Or maybe traveling makes you happy? Sit down and make a list of things that make you happy and start fitting those things into your life. Once you find a routine, support, and things that makes you happy; life will slowly start to get better. It is okay to need support to lighten your load. Maybe you need to delegate task to others. I have decided to start having my older kids to clean their own upstairs instead of me cleaning our upstairs and downstairs. Also, I will now be having one self-care day each week and a self-care weekend once a month. It is important to put yourself first even if you are married, in relationship, a parent, a business owner, or whatever. You are important and you must prioritize your mental and physical health. Tough times, builds tough people. If life does not seem to be improving take the steps to make changes. If you do not make changes in your life, you cannot expect any changes to occur. I have been looking at myself in the mirror hard lately and because of my day to day struggles I wanted to share the changes that I will be making because it may help someone else. Look deeply into yourself and be honest with what you need to be happy. Look at yourself in the mirror today an ask yourself am I okay? Am I happy? Do I need more support? Is my ego in the way? Answer those questions and make the change. Life struggles are temporary, stop focusing on what is not working, and trust that the changes you make will bring you nothing but joy, success, and peace that you deserve.

-Toni

Control is a Trauma Response

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, one of my favorite days to celebrate. In the past I would feel many different emotions on Veterans Day. I would feel sad, resentful, and even angry because when I was active duty, I enjoyed it more. While on active duty it felt like my service mattered more. The sadness, resentment, and anger that I felt every year on Nov 11, were feelings that I could not control and usually I would just sit in the house because I hated the fact I was no longer serving and reasons behind my retirement was out of my control. Not having control of what transpired has always bothered me. The lack of control in my life still bothers me today. Anytime I lack control it is a huge trigger for me. 

Having control over my life makes me feel less anxiety, and more confident that I can handle any and everything that comes my direction. This past week so many situations has happened that I had no control over, and I have felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest all week. The elephant on my chest feeling is anxiety, and although I work out, meditate, pray, journal, and keep faith in all situations… anxiety is one of those things in my life I cannot gain complete control over. Once I get the feeling of anxiety, I immediately become unhinged, sad, resentful, and anger. I often think if I could control the things around me life would simpler. The fact that I have been diagnosed with PTSD, depression, & anxiety already makes my life complex. A life that lacks control, is a life that can sometimes lacks happiness and the simple joys of life. The situations that I struggle with daily, are also the reason that I wake up every morning and commit to fitness, prayer, happy music, & loving on my family. Every day I search for happiness in some form. Focusing on some form of happiness is how I cope. Happiness is the best medicine I have ever taken! I do have control over how I decide to let my emotions, diagnosis, or situations affect my day-to-day life. 

Although I have been struggling with grasping control lately, I have not been giving up on life and just quitting because I know there is a reason behind my need to be in control all the time. I recently learned People who struggle with the need to be in control often fear being at the mercy of others, and this fear may stem from traumatic events that left them feeling helpless and vulnerable. As a result, they many crave control in disproportionate and unhealthy ways. The experience of abuse or neglect, for example, can make people look for ways to regain control of their lives (Good Therapy).  I have experienced so many traumatic experiences that the need to have control is imperative for me to be happy. But the need to have control is not a healthy trait to have. The need to be in control is a trauma response. I often feel like I am stuck in the traumatic situations of my life and trying to gain control in some form makes me feel grounded.

 Since I have had the elephant on my chest feeling more often than usual, I have decided to work on coping strategies with my therapist and find ways to ground myself when I feel like I am losing control. I believe the constant feelings of losing control has been the universe way of saying “You need to HEAL”. I practice and preach healing, but it is not easy. I find that my journey to healing has been the hardest journey I ever been on. I also find the hardest part about the healing journey is the lack of control and not giving up when I do not understand why certain things are happening.  I am aware that to keep going when I feel triggered, I must make the choice to accept the situation and remember no matter what happens in my life I must wake up every day and choose happiness. This Veteran’s Day I will not dwell on what was. Instead of holding on to the lack of control I may feel, I will focus on the present. I have already committed and decided to wake up and choose happiness this Veteran’s Day.  I am thankful for 7 years of honorable service, deployment that changed my life forever, travel that opened my mind to so much, battle buddies that I still call family today, and life lessons that moled me into the woman I am today. The military definitely saved me. I come from literally nothing, and the Army took me in and prepared me for another side of life. Today I am medically retired, but I am beyond blessed because there are so many that have served and are no longer able to celebrate Veteran’s Day because their circumstances were different. 

Today I felt like I had no control, but one thing the Army taught me is “I will never accept defeat”! I will not allow my trauma responses to have control over my life or emotions. Life will not always be easy, sometimes you will not have control over your own circumstances, but do not accept defeat. Allow yourself to choose happiness & joy! Happiness is not the easy choice for some of us, but it is the best choice. Nothing worth having will be easy! I have learned through life lessons that everything that brings me joy requires effort. Even though my life is not perfect, and I am not always in control… my life is worth living.  If you are a Veteran, Thank You for your service! If you know a Veteran thank them for their service. Also remember, even if you lack control over certain aspects of your life; choosing Happiness is always a better option than allowing your trauma to win! Heal the trauma and allow yourself time on this journey. The healing journey will not be easy, but it will be worth it! 

-Toni

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

ThePearlBlog