As we remember and honor fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, I also reflect on the close of May - the designated month for recognizing Mental Health Awareness. Though I can't help but think about the ways in which the mental health of military men, women and their families are impacted daily as well as the ways that the global pandemic has affected us all over the last year, I would also be remiss if I didn't share how much my mental health has also improved in just one year despite it all. Certainly, everyone's journey to healing and positive mental health looks and sounds different; and no matter what that is for you and yours, extend yourself grace because if nothing else, our G-HOPE survivors have taught us that 'healing is a journey, not a destination'. As we reflect on what this may look like for us individually and collectively, I'm happy to share what has worked for me; and maybe it will give you food for thought as we prepare to navigate through this day of remembrance as well as a new month ahead - yet another opportunity to write a new chapter of our lives!
FREE Your Mind....of FEAR!
Just one year ago, I was working full time for an organization that was oppressive yet I tried to convince myself that because of 'the cause' to end domestic violence and sexual assault - one that I am very passionate about - that somehow I needed to be strong, push through and fight the battle for myself and for others. What I realized in the process of dissecting this internal dialogue and spiritual dilemma, however, is that freedom does not always have to come in the form of a battle and that some things are only accomplished in a spirit of peace. That peace, however, cannot be found if we avoid our fears by pre-occupying our mind, bodies and precious time with resistance. After all, the law of attraction says that 'what we resist, we attract' so why not submit to fear?...Now...I don't mean submit as in 'giving in' but rather, embracing the truths that fear comes to share with us. For me, I had to embrace what I was afraid of...the fear of failure...the fear of being without...the fear of not knowing what my next steps would be or what direction I was heading in. But to be honest, as cliché as it seems, the saying that 'everything you want is on the other side of fear' is so true! Having made it to the 'other side' as a full-time mom-preneur and having the privilege of feeling joy and purpose daily while also learning how to enjoy the beauty of uncertainty that also comes with it, I can attest that on the other side of fear is FREEDOM! By allowing my mind to be free of the need to control my fears...my ability to embrace it instead, has now gifted me the opportunity to experience what it is to be free - freedom to be with my children and family, freedom to write my own narrative, freedom to determine what role money will play in my life and freedom to simple BE ME!
Say YES...to Yourself!
So I have a new love and hate relationship with the word NO. I always found it difficult to say NO to people because as an empath I'm naturally built to put others' needs first. Likewise, as a person who aims to be positive and see life from the 'glass is half full' perspective, NO doesn't serve my vocabulary as it is by definition 'not any; used to give a negative response; not at all; to no extent' . YES, however, means 'used to give an affirmative response' and in order to shift my perspective on the term 'NO', I also had to shift my perspective on the term 'YES'. As a result, my perspective is not that I say no to others but rather, that I simply say yes to myself! Likewise, I don't perceive NO from others as a period - its just a semi colon that is followed by the question 'So how will you say yes to yourself?' One example of how this perspective has served me and my mental health now a year later is my successful completion of The 2020 Executive Program in Leadership Strategies For Violence and Abuse Prevention from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice. Just a year ago, I sought the assistance of my then employer to attend this program. Unfortunately, I was told 'no' but guess what? I applied to the program anyway and in sharing my challenges with them, was offered a scholarship to defray the costs for my attendance. By saying yes to myself, I can proudly say that the Universe and I were co-conspirators in my personal growth as the first from the U.S. Virgin Islands to complete this program; but also, in our community growth as well since H.O.P.E. - the philanthropic branch of Girlfriendism - was subsequently founded as a result of my participation in this program. (Check Out More About The Program Here: https://www.sp2.upenn.edu/research/research-centers/ortner-center-on-violence-abuse/executive-program/)
Speak YOUR Truth! As a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault who has recently connected with other survivors through the Girlfriendism HOPE Talks Series, I've been able to share in the power of creating space, holding space and BEing in spaces where I can speak my truth and support others in doing the same. It isn't easy but it sure is rewarding! Positive mental health has meant finding myself but also finding my tribe of people who hold space for me to share my truth - I hope that you can find this too!
*Check Out Previous HOPE Talks Videos at https://www.girlfriendism.com/g-hope*
Live IN Purpose, On Purpose! This is easier said than done but then again...anything worth having and worth living requires time, care and freedom to evolve. Whether your desire is to work for yourself, have a family and/or to be financially secure, trust the process of envisioning and knowing that you will get there as long as you are living in purpose, on purpose. Everything in this life is happening FOR YOU not to you so carve time out to listen to your inner voice because within it is a higher power than yourself guiding you along the way!
Find Your Happy Place! So while I'm tempted to say 'My happy place is at My Girlfriend's Closet' (and those of you who frequent the boutique know that we literally have a sign that says 'This is My Happy Place because truly...it is!'), I have to be honest and remind you that 'happy' is not a place - it is a state of mind. Find you happy place mentally and spiritually so no matter where you are, who you're with or what you're doing, you can always reach for it because your happiness too, lies within you!
So In Closing...
Whether we are a military family, single-parent family, blended family, LGBTQ+ family or otherwise, there is one truth that we cannot deny: WE ALL HAVE MENTAL HEALTH! We all have a responsibility to break the stigmas because mental health is so much more than what is portrayed in the news...it's anxiety from family and relationship conflicts, depression from the uncertainties in our world today and its also apathy - a potential outcome that can arise from severe and consistent trauma that results in the inability to even care. Haven't you ever felt this way? If you're being honest with yourself...you probably have but guess what? I have too and its okay because mental health isn't always negative...it's also the state of being happy, feeling joy and being at peace and as I've shared, I've experienced all this too. So wherever you are on this mental health spectrum, know that you are allowed to feel how you feel; and likewise, you have the power to choose if and how you want to heal and to grow!
For more information on mental health resources in the U.S. Virgin Islands and/or to schedule a mental health in the workplace presentation by Girlfriendism Business and The XauSky Group, please feel free to message us at email@example.com. Also, feel free to check out the resources below or visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness at https://nami.org/Home for national resources.