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

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.

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

Join The Pearl Blog Mental Health Forum on Facebook!

The Pearl Blog has created a Mental Health Forum where you can receive advice & support. Please join for updates & motivation! 🧘🏾‍♀️🎗💜 CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO JOIN NOW! ⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇
 

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,

 

The unseen “Battle”.

In war there are no unwounded soldiers… Whether it is an actual war like the one I deployed to in 2014, or if it is an internal war with oneself. War can be many different things. I define war as “A battle that is not always seen by those around you”. My initial battle started way before 2014, I was a child of my first sexual abuse at the early age of 11. As a young girl I attempted to escape the horror of the battles I was fighting by falling in love with the arts. I wrote poetry, I wrote short stories, I drew animated pictures, and as I grew older I feel in love with the stillness of photos. Photography was a hobby that turned into a passion. I like to capture still images, and every image I capture has a story. This picture here was taken a week before my entire life changed. At this very still moment I was on a military truck with a locked & loaded M16 in Bagram, Afghanistan thinking this exact thought “I can not believe I am here” Bagram in the Summer months is hostile, and very scary so I escaped when I was able to capture moments like this. This was just another day on a 12 hour shift, and I was just thinking of my kids and what I would be doing when I went back to the states. The deployment ended sooner than I expected due to an “unseen battle” that I was fighting and almost lost. God had better plans for me, and this picture reminds me of just that. This is a still moment of a wounded soldier fighting a battle that no one else could see. This photo is my replica of a Daguerreotypes photo. I enjoy old, black & white images. Some of the best photography is the ones without color. I wanted to share this photo as a reminder that battles can be won…if you continue to fight!

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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