healing

Guest Post! Trusting the (blech) Process

Guest Post!  Trusting the (blech) Process

Yay!  Marquita Hamilton is back with another beautifully written and encouraging post.  Missed her first one?  You can check it out here.

I don’t know about you, but personally, I hate processes.

At least as they relate to “getting my life together.”

I want whatever needs fixing to be immediately fixed as soon as I recognize it’s broken.  I honestly (though unrealistically) believe it should be fixed just because I decided it’s time for it to be fixed.

Isn’t that enough?

The truthful answer is, “no.”  It isn’t enough.  We are not allowed to be spectators in our healing and growth.  We must be active participants.  This is particularly true when we begin the process of healing from trauma.

Wouldn’t it be great if our minds and emotions worked just the same as our bodies?

When we are hurt physically our wonderful brain automatically and immediately begins the process of organizing the various cells, hormones, and chemical processes that are needed for our physical comfort and healing to begin.  When we have a scratch or cut, we don’t have to think about the blood stopping or a scab forming.  The torn flesh beneath is reformed, and the damage is repaired. Development, healing, or positive change are not autonomic processes; meaning, they don’t just happen.
 
I am really good at what I call “shrinking myself.”

I can sit in my head and figure out where the knots and “nots” are, I can figure out how and where I got off track.  I’m really good at identifying (after the fact, of course) what triggered a cycle or pattern of behavior.  I feel happy and proud of myself for being able to do that.  It makes me feel “smart” to be able to figure those things out.  But what I’ve learned recently is that I’m not so good at is the most important part:  the follow through.

I see the knot, but don’t take the action to untangle it.

I see the “not” and don’t do what’s necessary to make it an “is.”

I identify the trigger, but don’t set proper boundaries to avoid it in the future.

The term for that is “analysis paralysis”.  It is a helpful term introduced to me by a super smart sister friend.  It basically means I get stuck in thought mode and can’t move forward.

It’s easy there in thought land.

I don’t have to take any real actions because “I’m figuring it out.  I’m working it out.”  Isn’t that mature and responsible?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Thriving Guest Post! Can I see that shoe in a size "me" please?

Marquita Davis is a divorced mother of three young adults, who enjoys: writing, storytelling, cooking, and people watching. She is currently on a journey of healing and self-rediscovery.

She's also a dear friend and I am so grateful for her willingness to share her journey with us this week!

“I think you’re suffering from depression,”

...are the words of a text message from a dear friend. 

That one small sentence evoked several emotions that included:  disappointment, frustration, disbelief, and a bit of resentment towards that friend.  I couldn’t, however, ignore the fact that it wasn’t the first time that sentiment was presented to me for consideration. 

I also couldn’t ignore the fact that the sentence stalked me throughout the week.  I repeatedly stumbled onto mental health articles in the form of unsolicited forwards from other friends or shares on social media.  I found myself in conversations with people suffering from depression spontaneously sharing their journey as though I asked to hear it.   Like anything one actively tries to avoid, it became apparent that I was expending more energy avoiding the issue than dealing with it.   
 
What exactly was so offensive to me about the idea that I may be dealing with depression?  

One of my jobs is in a homeless shelter.  I regularly speak with guests about their issues with addiction and mental health.  During these interactions, I try to convey mercy, understanding, support, and encouragement.  I don’t have any difficulty understanding how the individual traumas they’ve experienced contribute to their present circumstances or state of being (depressed, bipolar, chemical addictions, etc.).  In fact, many of their experiences are not only relatable, but shared. 

But for some reason, the same grace and compassion that I extend to them without measure, I withhold from myself.  

My family, social circle, and culture promoted messages like: “get over it”, “just deal with it”, “suck it up”, and the classic, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”.  These were and, sadly still, are my truths to unlearn.  Words to live (and die inside) by. I was raised with the idea that you just keep moving when something sets you back.  You just get up again if you get knocked down.  No triage.  Just get up and keep it moving.    Unfortunately, these statements all mean that my hurts/disappointments/trauma weren’t/aren’t as important as those of others. 
 
When people experience trauma, a part of the aftercare process is therapy.  If not professional help, at least having a support network of friends or family to talk about things with is extremely beneficial.  In too many of my own instances, as for a lot of women of color, we get hit and are told to keep it moving. 

For instance, there was no therapy of any kind for me as a young child when my parents divorced, or as a teen when I had been raped and it resulted in pregnancy and abortion, when I masked the pain of these events with promiscuity and alcohol.  

No triaging when, as a young adult, I developed esteem issues, and experienced domestic violence in relationships.  There was no talking about them. 

There was no acknowledging these events without inviting shaming for either sharing my vulnerability or having put myself in those situations.  No talking about my troubled marriage, subsequent divorce, death of both parents, etc.  So, how did I deal with them? 

I put them away and got on with life.  

Eventually, however, the cupboard becomes full.  The bill comes due.  The toll is taken, and any other cliché that means, “The makeup smudges, the mask cracks and slips, the costume rips because it no longer fits, and the truth of who you are is on display. 

Many people will let you continue living and functioning believing your carefully crafted projection to the world is still effective, but anyone who truly loves you will tell you it isn’t.  They will see you and your brokenness beneath it all.  They will notice that all the “bad” that was tamped down, packed way, and hidden has been leaking if not full out bursting out at the seams.  My friend did that for me.  She said, “I think you’re dealing with depression.”
 
At that point, I had a choice to make.  

I had been presented with information that I could either ignore, accept, or investigate.  I chose to investigate.  I spent some time with myself (a scary task) looking my life (past and current) and some of the things I’ve gone through, things I’d done and not done.  I looked at some recent/repeated patterns and cycles I developed: 

  • not practicing consistent self-care (doctors’ appointments, hygiene, exercise, diet),

  • loss of interest in activities and hobbies that once brought me joy,

  • spending less time with friends and family or refusing invitations,

  • making excuses for missing engagements and appointments,

  • increased clutter in my personal spaces (bedroom, car, desk at work). I was never what anyone would describe as a “neat freak”, but even I had to admit that the situation was out of hand even for my standards.

I could go on, but I won’t.


I could not justify or explain away the mountain of “evidence” I collected against myself. So, I did something bold.

Something I hadn’t done before.  Something that I’d later berate but forgive myself for, I cried for me. 

I allowed myself to experience and sit with my own pain and traumas. 

I gave myself space, compassion, and mercy.  I shared some of my story/journey with someone that I could trust to listen without shaming or victim blaming.  I made a call to Human Resources at work to ask about free/sliding-scale counseling services provided by my employer. 

I’d like to end this by saying that I’ve made a call to setup an appointment, but I can’t honestly do that.  I can say though that I’ve taken some first steps in course correction.  I have planned to take the next step (making the call) no later than mid-August.  I can’t explain the delay, but you know… baby steps. 

For me, those things and just giving myself “permission” to be vulnerable are huge.  

Maybe you’ve identified or related to some of this.  Maybe you know someone with similar habits.  If so, be gracious and kind to that person. 

Especially, if it’s yourself.

One more thing, check out Therapy For Black Girls which is an online site that “encourages the mental wellness of Black women and girls”…while you’re there listen to a podcast, find a therapist and more.

Rest in the Middle of the Fight for Racial Justice? Yes, Even for You.

Rest in the Middle of the Fight for Racial Justice?  Yes, Even for You.

A couple of months ago one of my African American friends and readers unsubscribed from my list.  I immediately began to worry that it was because of a couple recent posts I’d written.  I worried that it was because in my attempt to challenge liberals (white liberals in particular) to “climb the empathy wall” and seek to understand (though not condone) the perspectives of white conservatives that I unintentionally communicated an acceptance of racism. 

 

I’m trying to learn how to talk/write out loud about race and gender oppression and injustice while holding all of it alongside the goodness of human beings and of this life we’re living here on Earth that is so often woven together with some really horrible evils.

 

Like slavery.

 

Like the school-to-prison pipeline. 

 

Like rape. 

 

Like separating children from their parents at the borders of one of the richest most powerful nations in the world. 

 

Like people getting killed for being gay.

 

And some more subtle, insidious evils. 

 

Like people of color having to deal with yet another white person telling them that they “don’t see color” or responding in a variety of creative, defensive ways when shown their own racial biases, or the racist practices and policies all around us.

 

Like women who are confident and assertive being labeled as “bitches” when men doing the same thing are viewed as great leadership material. 

 

Like the many ways that certain body types are set forth as the standard of beauty and others as unacceptable.

 

Like stereotypical versions of the traditional clothing of indigenous peoples being viewed as appropriate “costumes” for white folx.

 

After years of seeing mostly just the harm caused by white people, and not finding much room in myself to recognize that there could also be goodness (including in myself and my ancestors) I am trying to make space for the complexity of people. 

 

Because being stuck in shame doesn’t actually help to dismantle racist structures or bring about more justice and healing.  In fact, it keeps me focused on myself.  Aloof.  Distanced.

 

 

The reality of human life is that there are good people who participate in horrible things.  I am one of them.  So are you.  And the more privilege we have in our particular culture and context the more damage we’re likely to have participated in harm in one way or another, often without any conscious awareness of it. 

 

I don’t ever want to justify the harm – that’s the tricky part.  If I run over your foot with my car unintentionally, you still have a broken foot.  And I have a responsibility to address that harm. 

 

AND

 

I am increasingly more convinced that compassion for other human beings (and ourselves) and acceptance of the fact that that we will do harm both intentionally and unintentionally, is the only path we can take towards healing our broken world. 

 

Especially for white folx in the U.S. who have grown up learning the many “scripts” of white supremacy — which means all of us, not just those who claim the title of white supremacist with pride.  I don’t want that to be true, but I can’t escape it.

 

I’m especially thankful for some people of color—like Amanda Kemp, Andréa Ranae, Ijumaa Jordan and my friend Nyeema Watson) who have offered me unearned compassion alongside challenges that expose my participation in the very messed up way of being that we’ve all grown up with in the U.S.  Their compassion toward me, along with truth-telling, is helping me to grown in my ability to offer compassion to others.  Including those with whom I strongly disagree. 

 

I’m thankful that among activists in many circles there is a growing movement to do big work in new ways that start with self-compassion and self-care.  Check out The Nap Ministry for a unique example – napping as resistance!  Or the Healing Justice podcast (the name is changing soon because the founders, who are white, were helped to see that they had appropriated a term created by BIPOC queer activists.

 

For people of color it’s very likely that your next step in the work of racial healing is NOT to talk to white people sometimes – or a lot of the time. I know for both my husband and my oldest son, working only with people of color for the past year and not having to deal much with white folx has been a much needed respite…

Especially for White Folx Who Are "Woke" - A Challenge to Try Compassion

Especially for White Folx Who Are "Woke" - A Challenge to Try Compassion

Hi All,

In light of our President's recent comments about some of our congresswomen I'm reposting a slightly edited version of a post I wrote last November. And I'll have some follow-up thoughts coming next week. Would love to hear from you if this resonates - or totally doesn't. Either way, let's have a conversation.

It’s November 7, 2018, the day after mid-term elections in the U.S. 

 

There are great victories and great defeats for both Republicans and Democrats.  I’m heartbroken by some of them, but that’s not what concerns me most this morning. What concerns me most as I see the many, many, close-to-50/50 races, is this vast evidence that we still aren’t able to listen to and understand each other. 

 

In particular, it concerns me that the liberal left—those of us who believe ourselves to be more tolerant and enlightened, more progressive; those of us who operate in circles where mindfulness and compassion and empathy are buzzwords—we aren’t listening to the predominantly white, working class, Americans (and many conservative Christians) who have been crying out for years now that they want to be heard. 

 

I feel concerned in conversations like the one I had with colleagues yesterday, in which they assumed (correctly) that I am a Democrat who would be pleased by the defeat of Ted Cruz (which didn’t happen.)   

 

I’m concerned because I think most of us these days can make generally accurate assumptions about the views of the other people at our tables because we have so little contact with people whose views differ significantly from ours. 

 

Lately I’ve been reading from Pádrig Ó Tuama’s book Daily Prayer with the Correymeala Community most mornings and interestingly today I read this line:

 

“May we populate our tables with all kinds of people.”

 

It reminded me of Priya Parker’s book, The Art of Gathering, which I haven’t yet purchased, but I heard her talk about it in an interview (I think it was on The Good Life Project podcast.)  Two things from the interview stuck with me.  One was the idea of intentionally facilitating gatherings in which we set the stage for deep conversations, rather than focusing primarily on table settings and flowers.  Deep conversations among diverse groups of people, where we know there are truly divergent perspectives.  Can we have these conversations?