self-care

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.

Think Being Stressed-Out is the Price of Meeting Big Goals? My Hypothesis: Hell, No

It’s been a tough week for me since when I wrote to you last.  Not bad, just challenging.  Mainly because, as I mentioned last week, I’ve been stepping out courageously to meet some challenges worth meeting.

 

Like, for starters, I held my first ever free call which scared the shit out of me for unknown reasons given that I’m used to teaching, and I coach people by phone all the time and one would think that this combo of the two would be no big deal, but for me it was. 

 

The call was for stressed college students who want to finish strong this semester.  And because if you’re reading this you all are in my tribe already, I’ll send you the recording if you request it, even if you weren’t on the call.  It’s chock full of the strategies I’ve found effective for me and my clients in managing stress and meeting the challenges of the end of the semester. Just shoot me an email at debshine@thriving4equity.com if you want it.

 

I’ve also done 2 days of interviews for a big, complicated job.  I’ll tell you more about it if it happens, but just the interviews were challenging in terms of time and emotion—fun and exciting in many ways, but challenging for sure.  In fact, just considering doing this big job while growing my business and expanding my writing requires courage for me – and calming down my inner, “Are you crazy? this is too much!” voice.

 

And maybe it is crazy.  But maybe it isn’t.  Because you see, this week, so far, I’m doing it.  And so far, all I’ve had to do it this week.  Not next week, not even tomorrow. 

 

And that’s all you ever have to do too—this. Right now. The next step. 

3 Steps to Having it All

This morning I had a moment when I realized that despite some challenging circumstances “nothing that truly matters is lacking.”**  It was like an infusion of hydration when I was parched with thirst, or an IV of nutrients when my body was functioning on just enough nourishment to keep me alive, but no more.  It was an experience of abundance.

 

Have you ever had a moment like that?  When you realized that your perception of what was lacking in your life was more fiction than truth?  When you felt the deep sense of calm in the metaphorical midst of the storm, or the famine, when you knew that everything that matters is already here? That you are not alone?  That there is no real lack in this moment?

 

I don’t mean AT ALL that we are supposed to pretend that we don’t feel pain or disappointment or loss. 

 

And I CERTAINLY don’t think it’s our job to tell suffering people that they should just “focus on the bright side.”  Empathy is usually a better path in those moments.  Empathy and companionship.

 

But I do know that living with a deep sense of “enoughness” is way better than living with the conviction that the world is mostly about lack, about not having enough, about needing to be perfect to get enough, or needing to fight for, or manipulate other people to get it.  And we can easily make a case for either version of life in pretty much any moment – whether the “enough” we’re looking for is enough money, or enough time or enough love, whatever.  

5 Tips to Keep You Moving Towards a Life You Love (from a 5k Finisher!)

I did it!  On Sunday, Feb. 26, at the age of 49 (and a half!), I finished the Screenland USA 5K—a event celebrating  the Centennial Anniversary of my new hometown, Culver City, CA—and when I did, I also finished my first athletic event ever of any kind (outside of P.E. and the annual “Field Day” torture that came with it.)  

Mostly the race itself was pretty fun and I’m kinda hooked on the idea of doing another one before I fall back out of shape, but in the meantime I want to take full advantage of my first opportunity to use a sports metaphor for life.

So, without further ado, here are my 5 “Keep-Moving-Towards-a-Life-You-Love” Tips:

 

When You’re New to Something, the First Mile Can Be the Hardest.

 

When I first started running as an adult a couple summers ago, my only goal was to be able to run a mile without stopping. Now that I can run 3 miles pretty consistently I’ve noticed that I generally still feel terrible for that first mile.

My experience with running seems to me to mirror a lot of new starts in life.  Often it’s the getting started part that’s the hardest, and once you get “in the groove” it’s not so bad.  The problem is that often we quit before we get to experience the still-challenging-but-not-so-excruciatingly-hard part that’s just beyond the end of that metaphorical first mile.

Tip #1:  When the path to your best life is tough, change your thoughts.

When you’re trying to establish a new habit or start a new project that you’re pretty sure is a path towards a life you’ll love and it’s also seriously HARD, rather than buying into thoughts such as, “This is too hard.  I’m too old/young.  I’m never going to make it!” assume that you’re in the “first mile” and it will get better down the road.  Approach the challenge with curiosity and some hope instead of fear and doom. Make your new mantra, “It’s just the first mile.  It’s just the first mile.  It will get better if I just keep going.”

Tip #2: Set up incentives—to help you to keep going just a bit farther. 

One of my favorite tools for this practice is a timer.  When you think you can’t go any farther on a project (or can’t possibly start because you’retoo tired/angry/hungry/short etc.) take a tip I learned from Anna Kunnecke (and the folks who recommend breaking down tasks into Pomodoros) and set a timer — for 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 25 minutes.  Whatever time your most rebellious or depressed self can agree to.  You just might find that your timer gets you past your “first mile” and (surprise!) you feel able to keep going just a bit farther.

Building a Life You Love, Step 1 (and a tip for 2017 planning)

Happy New Year! 

I feel as if I should be writing about how to set your intentions or goals or something to that effect, as that is what most of the writers I follow are doing, but the problem is that I haven’t set mine, so it would be a bit inauthentic to act as if I’m on top of the whole new year routine.

I did pull out my “Priorities and Goals” folder last weekend (pleased as anything that I knew exactly where it was!), but I still haven’t managed to do more than skim through my 2015 review and 2016 intentions.  So, if you wanted to pause and think about what you want out of 2017 and you haven’t done it yet, I’m right there with you!  And I want to remind you that we haven’t lost our chance just because it’s past January 1. 

I, for one, plan to pause and look back at 2016 and sit with my hopes and intentions for 2017 this coming weekend—and maybe in bits and pieces over the month of January.  Maybe you, like me, don’t feel able to find a big chunk of time to do it, but you could schedule a half hour here or there.  That’s fine.  That’s good.  Just do that. Or do nothing, if that feels more appealing.  You can still build a great life this year, with or without January goals/intentions/resolutions.

For those who do want to set some intentions for the new year over the course of the month of January I’ll share something each week that might help you as you do. 

Today, it’s a great question I was asked by coach Joanna Lindenbaum yesterday, “How do you want to FEEL in 2017?” I love this question.  Still pondering it for myself.

I think “delighted,” might be part of my answer, which is interesting considering that this has been a rough few weeks for me in the “delighted” category and not because of anything “technically” all that difficult.

The thing is I’m pretty good at BIG THINGS.  Major crisis?  I can handle it.  But bad weather in Southern California when my oldest son is here for a short visit – I LOSE MY MIND.   I scream at my husband and at California itself.  “California is sooooo mean!  It’s not fair!” I say!  I pout.  I stomp.  I cry.  I act as if I am about two-and-a-half-years-old. 

The emotional challenge I experience in the face of small everyday disappointments is not new for me (though the frequency has decreased.)   What IS new for me is my reaction to my meltdowns (a.k.a. my complete failure to be who I want to be and who I believe I should be in these moments) and to other kinds of failures: missed deadlines, blown budgets, embarrassing outfits, etc.  

I want to share with you what’s changed for me because I believe it is a foundational piece of the path towards building a life you love—and loving other people too!