In many ways I would truly like the year of 2019 to go fuck itself. However, I’m aware that I shouldn’t make such negative declarations because of the many lessons that life has taught me this year. I have had this premonition for a while now that I still had a major transitional phase left in my life, and from what I know of life so far, I knew that it was going to be ugly. This year has been ugly.
I started off the year making great money with plans to pay off debt, travel and to FINALLY be able to 100% support my children’s expenses. I write about what it is to be a single mother managing her own mental health yet it is always with the caveat that I am privileged to receive a ton of help from my parents and other family. I am grateful for the support, but I also feel like a failure as a mother who requires so much assistance. It has been a long-term goal of mine to relieve my parents of aftercare and babysitting duties forever. I could taste the reality of the making that dream come true this year. I finally felt as if I had my life together! I even had a cleaning lady, was on my way to good credit and looking for houses to rent for the girls to have a larger space to grow.
Fast forward to today and I’m working out deals with the leasing office of my apartment building to avoid eviction and I’m pretty sure my car is going to be repossessed this weekend. I have exhausted all resources and I am, quite frankly, completely defeated and not sure I have it in me to be a phoenix rising from the ashes YET AGAIN.
My 35th birthday was April 15th of this year. On April 2 I lost my job. A few days later I found out a friend of mine had passed away. A few days after that my car was rear ended on my way to a performance.
Back in the day, a series of unfortunate events used to be just what I needed to kick into high gear, motivating me to sacrifice and rebuild. This time around I knew I didn’t have it in me. I knew that I was going to have to take those upper-case L’s while allowing myself to slow down and face the failure and despair of it all. For the longest time I didn’t tell anyone I had lost my job because I felt completely ashamed and I didn’t want to deal with anyone else’s disappointment in me without first dealing with my own. I was also harboring a ton of fear and panic because my major worry was that I was no longer mentally equipped to juggle 9-5 office work. (At the time I did not realize that it felt pointless to me to work so hard toward goals that did not belong to me, and in my opinion, did nothing to edify the world. I later discovered that my true passion is to be employed in the nonprofit world).
Honestly, I buried away the stress of that job because the money I made was finally going to allow me to provide the life I only dreamed of being able to provide for my girls. I wanted them to trust that I could take care of them without anyone’s help. I wanted to be an example to them of a winning woman who could do things all on my own. By the time I resolved in my mind that I needed to figure out a way to manage my stress, quit my poetry and performance endeavors to concentrate on my career and building a life for us— it was already too late for me. When I am stressed and overwhelmed, I tend to shut down and I can’t think straight or make good decisions. These factors had already taken their toll in my work environment and it was too late to fix the mistakes I had made.
So, there I was: unemployed with an entire poetry tour booked and prepaid. There I was numb, unable to process the unexpected death of a friend. There I was just trying to stay afloat without swimming or treading water because managing my own depression already feels like drowning—if these waves were here to take me out, then so be it. The practical portion of my brain set up a plan to focus on full-time artistry, to maximize on the free time I had on my hands to write more, promote more, improve my marketing skills and use the money from my poetry performances to support myself in between finding a “real” job. My productivity lasted about a week before I began to panic.
And it’s strange because I started to live this double life. I was able to fake being ok (and even felt ok for the most part) for two months until my children went off to be with family for the summer. After that, I split my time between hanging out in my apartment binge eating and watching tv all day and on stages performing and hosting events. I didn’t want to “fake” good energy or feel like I was pretending at my performances so I came up with a routine that consisted of sitting in my depression all day, then an elaborate bathing, saging and self-compassion meditation ritual that I would complete before each show. I wanted to allow myself the room to still show up in my authenticity— a little weary and broken— but to also use performance to bleed out my anxiety on stage.
I know that I didn’t act entirely responsibly during this time. I put off filing for unemployment because my brain didn’t want to go there. I wanted to triumph over the circumstances, but I wasn’t necessarily putting in the work to do so either. I couldn’t rise out of my depression, especially when anxiety and resentment came to sit alongside it. I resented how much I had to lean on others for help. I resented that I had to share my embarrassing story before asking others for help. I resented that I had to hustle more to sell books at gigs and to land more paying gigs when I just wanted to stay at home and sleep and write and cry. Whenever I allowed myself to think of my predicament and the future ahead my anxiety would build, and I would fall into a spiral of negative self-talk that would sink me into a deeper bout of depression.
At one point I had put off the thought of suicide so often that I had to allow myself a few hours to journal about the scenario because I couldn’t get it out of my head.
The Things I Tell Myself to Be OK
You are not a fuck up…
There are disastrous people on this planet who just can’t seem to get anything right. They blame others for their problems and seem to be in constant need of SOMEthing from SOMEone at any given moment. Their lives are one highlight reel of poor decision after poor decision while others stand back and observe the continuous loop of shit show that can be cringey to watch unfold. Some days I feel like I fall into this category or n’er-do-wells. I worry that my life will be a constant cycle of digging myself up out of the trenches only to fall back in again. What usually happens is that at a time when I need minimal help that can prevent a downward spiral, I end up trying to handle everything myself because I don’t like to put others in a position to judge my struggle.
In my first session with my recent therapist she said to me, “You don’t do well asking for help, do you?” and I thought to myself, ‘Of COURSE not!’ These days it seems to me that people go out of their way to make you feel like a loser if you need help. Or, without your knowledge, whatever deed was done by the Good Samaritan is kept on a scoreboard and if your actions don’t comply with what they expect of you in the future then you are forever villainized as needy and ungrateful. Which is yet another aspect of asking for help that I struggle with; gratitude. Most of us have a love language or some feeling we need to receive in return to help us feel as if we have made the right decision in helping someone in the first place. For me, I always thought the best way to show gratitude is to pay it forward but I’m finding that this concept doesn’t satisfy everyone. So, there is the anxiety of feeling like a total loser/fuck up for having to ask for help, on top of having to share my personal business with someone, plus trying to figure out the best way to display gratefulness. I have anxiety just thinking about it! I typically just opt to isolate myself and try to avoid the hassle of involving anyone else in my problems altogether.
I am working on it, along with working on self-compassion affirmations to remind myself that I am not fuck up for making mistakes and to not let anyone treat me as if I am. This practice is definitely easier said than done because in this world where everyone is so FUCKING perfect, most jump at the opportunity to judge someone facing a hard time—especially if you are a person who is (by society’s standards) supposed to have your shit together. Single black mothers are the most marginalized women in the world yet expected to be amongst the strongest. We are to sacrifice for our children, grind, hustle, lose sleep, earn degrees and smash our career goals to pave a better way and provide better for our children. I want to do that; however, I crave the outlet of creativity. Stage performance looks like self-indulgence and ego and selfishness, so I am not that mom. I know I am not that mom and I feel the shame of not being that kind of mom every day. Being different does not mean that I am a fuck up.
You have more control over your life than you think…
I say this to people all the time as much as I struggle to believe it myself. The worst thing about depression, for me, is feeling as if life is an unpredictable crashing wave that will drown me every time I think I’ve finally learned to swim. I become fatigued of feeling overwhelmed and powerless so I am constantly trying to find ways bounce back and stay afloat. This year has been especially difficult because I think my super black woman survival mode powers are temporarily broken. When it comes to fight or flight, I used to ALWAYS be the bitch to put up a fight but this time I allowed myself to run away. I was too weak to deal with the shame of being on unemployment yet AGAIN, on food stamps yet AGAIN, of harassing temp agencies for work yet AGAIN—so I made the very stupid decision to wallow in my own depression and hope for the best. I allotted myself time mourn and process the shame of my situation which ended up being the best decision for me, although on paper it looks like the worst possible thing I could have done.
When it became time to clean up my mess I did so without desperation and anxiety guiding my actions. I took time out to face the reality of my situation and to mentally prepare myself for the worst-case scenario which was: losing my apartment and vehicle and having to completely start over again. Once I was able wrap my head around those scenarios, I felt more powerful than ever because I knew that it would be difficult to rebuild again but also that it would not break me. I had given myself some time and some self-compassion both of which led me to feel as if I could mentally handle whatever life would throw my way.
It’s still ok to hope and dream…
I am working full-time again at a mental health based nonprofit organization. I am making about $12,000 less than what I used to make, which is a large hit to the lifestyle I had hoped to create for myself and my girls, however I am working to make sure this doesn’t deter my goals. I still want to be independent; I still want to rent a house and clean up my credit and all the other goals that seemed a lot more achievable when I was making more money. I can sometimes get caught up in the despair of a situation and say things to myself like, “Well, get used to living in a cramped apartment with your children because there is no way in hell you can afford anything more than this.”
I refuse to limit my dreams like that anymore. At this moment I am in rebuilding mode so I have no idea how I am going to accomplish those goals, but it would be silly of me to completely erase them as viable options. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I can remain determined and I can hold on to hope.
It’s ok to be the only one who cares…
I hate that I am the only one who cares about me sometimes. It feels lonely for the most part, but life doesn’t guarantee that others will care about your issues or about you to the extent that you want them to. I think in all of my romantic pursuits this has been my driving force; to find a partner that truly cares about my wellbeing and to have a partner to help problem-solve life with. Now I think I just accept the fact that it’s up to me to give a shit about ME. Sometimes others don’t have the capacity to care—which is legit, therefore it’s up to me to continuously rise out of the ashes to champion for myself. As I said, it’s an isolating feeling but it is definitely a better feeling than simply allowing myself to drown. If there is no lifeboat you just have to find the strength to save yourself by swimming to shore. This time around it was so so hard and honestly, I relied more on prayer and fate than anything. I barely had it in me to fight. I only knew that as long as I cared enough and had hope in my future and my children that somehow things would be ok.
Enjoy the sun…
On top of everything that has happened this year I have been struggling with releasing an emotionally oppressive past relationship, sexual assault, being separated from my kids (until I can financially rebuild) and other issues that I keep locked in my privacy vault that I am not comfortable sharing. There is a part of me that worries that happiness will never find me or that I will never be able to properly experience joy, but then I remind myself that feeling pain and sorrow so deeply means that I am also capable of experiencing deep joy.
I refuse to allow a dark cloud to hover over any joyous or peaceful moments in my life. I refuse to believe that there is always another shoe to drop, tough lesson to be learned or fight to be had. Sometimes in life, we simply reap what we sow and have to deal with the consequences of our own bad decisions. It is important for me to remember that bad decisions do not make me a bad person. I also do my best to sow goodness and kindness into this world—so when it’s time for me to reap those things I should allow myself to feast on the harvest.
In 2019 I finally acknowledge that I have been showing up a little girl in many aspects of my life. Six years ago when I started this journey—this blog and the Whiskey Girl brand—I didn’t know where it would lead me and only a few years ago I realized that this was my path to healing. Healing would be lovely if it were a one and done kind of thing but I can attest to the fact that there are levels to this shit! I have been so resistant to pain, rejection, heartache and abandonment that I allowed that little girl inside of me to take over and wreak havoc in my life. In 2019 I realize that it is time to let her go. It is time to clean up and handle my life as a woman. What I didn’t realize about healing my inner little girl is that I would go through a mourning process letting her go. I feel guilty for letting her down, for not showing up woman for her— and I feel sorrow that she didn’t get to experience the happiness I wanted for her. However, I can’t let her rule me any more and the best thing that I can do for her, to honor her and my children and my future is to finally overcome my patterns of darkness and make the conscious effort to enjoy the sun…
A sign of growth is usually categorized as a 180°, meaning you have completely changed, done an about face and are no longer engaging in the same actions you were before. From the outside looking in, this year seems to have been a 360° for me. I travelled on a path in the past six years that has led me right back to where I was: rebuilding after major mental health and employment setbacks. I am even back working at the very same job I had two years ago when I just knew that I was on this upward trajectory of success and more money. I returned to my old job a little different than I was before; I am rebuilding a little differently than I have before. I am more grounded in my identity; I am less afraid of the unpredictable happenings of life. I am less controlling, I am wiser, I am freer. It has taken me years to get back to this place and when I made the decision to accept the offer to return to a career I had left years ago I did it because I realize it doesn’t matter how others view my progress. To others my life may look like a giant step in the wrong direction, but in my heart I know that I have returned to a place that is more suited for me except I am wiser this time around and determined not to take anything for granted this time. I will take a 360° over a broken circle any day.
I am complete.