Help Wanted

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I woke up feeling slightly disoriented. I had a feeling like I had forgotten something or that I needed to be rushing to do something. Neither of those things were true but no matter how many times I said to myself “You’re ok” I kept feeling as if I wasn’t so I cried. But I was still getting dressed for work. I cried in the shower, I cried brushing my teeth, I cried getting dressed. I took small breaks but this was the remainder of the day that day and it wasn’t the first time I had felt this way. The crying was how I coped. The pressure of nervous energy I felt in my chest and hands, I had taught myself to release in deep sobs. I was ok with that.

Unfortunately, this carried on much longer than I had experienced in the past this time. That one day turned into a week of deep sobbing. A week of barely eating. A week of not answering my phone because “How are you?” and “What’s wrong?” from people who knew exactly when to ask was too difficult. I had called out of work for a day because I couldn’t collect myself long enough to be in public. My dog was quiet and attentive. My parents and sister was concerned. My best friend offered to drive a few hours to sit with me. Although there were so many people who obviously cared about me, I was still very embarrassed to be falling apart without what I would consider “good” reason. Feeling that way was unfair to myself and I would later realize disobedient to God.

As a member of the Christian faith, I can’t recall hearing much about seeking professional help with mental and emotional disorders in church settings. Depression was supposed to be prayed away, anxiety was sinful because the bible says don’t worry, and many other conditions were overlooked. Thankfully I have a mother who offers to pray for me but urged me to talk to a doctor in the very next breath. She reminded me that I don’t have to feel that way by myself, that there are people trained to help with this kind of thing and I should see someone as soon as possible. The craziest thing is, I knew this. I don’t always want to take medicine but I am fully aware that Doctors and mental health professionals are the answer to the prayers we’ve been praying for comfort during times like the one I was having. But part of me was still just very embarrassed to talk to someone. What would I say? I didn’t even know why I was sad or what brought on the anxious feelings. Then there was the part of me that desires complete control over my daily routine. What kind of person am I that I’ve let sadness interrupt that? What couldn’t I just get it together and handle my business? I needed help but I didn’t want help because I always believed a person like me shouldn’t need anything from anyone and that was my problem.

“Ask and it shall be given unto you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be open unto you.”

Matthew 7:7

The bible very clearly says to ask, seek and knock. All actions that require some participation. I asked, with prayer but I hadn’t actually sought out any of the solutions to my problems. I asked God what to do but when God sent me people to tell me to seek help, I didn’t and felt ashamed of doing so and it’s mainly because, although I knew I needed help, I didn’t want to need help. There’s nothing about our faith that encourages us to be lone islands or that I should shoulder the weight of everything in my life alone. So by refusing to seek the help that is available I was being disobedient.

Soon after I had this revelation, I scheduled an appointment with a new doctor in my area. She’s a wonderful Caribbean woman who, though she isn’t a mental health professional, still asked questions about my mental health during my general wellness check, listened to my concerns, hugged me and recommended me to some counselors in the area. Know I’m in the knocking phase. I’m researching her recommendations and making contact to get the help I need and that I have grown to actually WANT.

I’m sharing this to encourage us to talk more about seeking help for mental and emotional issues as part of having a healthy faith. I’m sharing this to encourage anyone who may be feeling embarrassed about needing this kind of help. It’s ok and you deserve whatever will help to improve your overall help. Lastly, I’m sharing this as proof to myself that I recognize I don’t have to keep this to myself and deal with this alone. I know that sharing this may bring judgement but I can’t worry about it. I want help for myself and for anyone else reading this who may need it also.

As fall approaches, some of us may begin to notice we are emotionally affected by the change in temperature and fewer hours of sunlight. Or maybe you haven’t really paid close attention to it but when you start to think about it, you are a bit less perky and sometimes more irritable than  you may have been during the warmer months. I am not a medical professional and cannot diagnose anyone but if your change in mood is interrupting your daily routine, you may want to consult a medical professional to see if you identify with some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder or any other conditions that may make it difficult to function in your daily life.

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Out on a Limb

 

August 8, 2016 I officially moved from my home town of Louisville, Kentucky to Leesburg, Florida. It was both exciting and scary. The move was quite sudden, but an opportunity presented itself so I decided to trust God and by Gut and just GO. After reflecting on my first year here I thought I should share some of the things I learned, in hopes that it would inspire someone who may be considering making some kind of leap of faith. My advice is, get with God and JUST DO IT! I hope this video blesses you!

Living

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So I’m back in the comfort of my parents’ home, in my hometown, with my home girls and home boys, and best of all my home church. So much good could come from being back at home where things are familiar. One would imagine feeling some sense of comfort. But not I.

Away from home was a symbol of success for me. I associated home with “stuck.” I had spent the last 4 years away from home trying to figure things out and make sure I wouldn’t be forced to return home but there I was. I was at home, resenting all the comforts that home provided. All I could feel was that I had tried to do something and it didn’t work. I felt like I failed and that was so hard for me. I had never truly felt like I had failed at anything before so a new feeling of failure mixed with the familiarity of home was heavy.

Of course, I couldn’t let anyone else know that. I was about to be around people who have known me since I was born and who I felt like expected more from me than I was able to produce but I wasn’t about to let them know how I really felt. I had to make sure I appeared satisfied with my decision to return home and seemingly begin again.

I began going through the motions.  I read books, I wrote poetry, I looked for jobs, I ate a lot and I exercised so I wouldn’t feel bad about how much I was eating. Of course I started attending my home church again just as I had before I left. I re joined the choir and helped to revamp the young adult ministry. I appeared to be making use of my time and trying to regain my footing but in reality I had no idea what I was doing. After obtaining a degree, I still wasn’t quite sure what career I wanted to pursue so I was looking for jobs just because I needed a source of income. I wanted to go back to school and I knew where I wanted to go, but I didn’t have any money so I was kind of just applying to see what would happen. I was literally just waking up and doing things until it was time to go to bed again.

Keep in mind, God still wasn’t speaking to me the way I was asking him to. I was attending church, I was praying, I was serving, I was tithing but I was doing it with clenched teeth because I still could not hear God. As I served in ministry, I was able to watch God move on everyone else’s lives and it was like sitting in a room watching an ex friend walk in and speak to everyone but you. The kind of ex friend that you still love but you’re just not seeing eye to eye at the moment so a part of you wishes they’d say hi but you’re too stubborn to kick off the conversation because you feel like they should apologize first. Physically, I was fine but my spirit was perpetually sulking and it was weighing me down.

Then one day, I was sitting on my parents’ couch watching TV. I was alone and preferred it that way. I was watching Say Yes to The Dress enjoying the brief escape from my self-proclaimed boring and uneventful life. When all of a sudden a young woman appeared on the screen. Margo Mallory was her name and I will never forget. Margo’s head was completely bald but she was so beautiful and full of life. She was excitedly shopping for a dress for her big day when she would marry the love of her life after a long battle with cervical cancer. She found a beautiful dress and made a decision not to wear a wig on her wedding day because she felt beautiful as is. The show gave us a short glimpse of her wedding day and I was so happy for her. Then the last few seconds of the show right before the credits, the screen went black and in white letters appeared the words “In loving memory of Margo Mallory.” In that moment, it was like time stood completely still as I stared at the screen. I couldn’t hear anything and all I saw was the last image on the screen of the tribute to the beautiful bride I had just watched marry the love of her life. I felt sick and I knew exactly why.

When I was 18 years old, I went to the doctor for an annual exam. My doctor performed my exam as she normally would but she came back with different results. My pap smear came back abnormal and  I had tested positively for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is sexually transmitted which was confusing to me because at this point, I had only been with one person who I assumed had also only been with me since we had been together and we were using protection. After expressing this to my Doctor she told me that HPV is contracted by skin to skin contact and not necessarily bodily fluids, meaning it is possible to contract HPV even while using condoms. She also told me that it’s common for the virus not to present symptoms in men. They can simply carry the virus with no knowledge. It is also common for HPV to progress into Cervical Cancer so she scheduled me for a biopsy. As you can imagine, this was tough news for a person who had only recently began participating in sex, but I didn’t allow myself time to think very hard about it. I put the next appointment on my schedule and waited.

When I returned for my biopsy  I took my sister and  mother with me for when the results came back. When my doctor returned with my results, she told me she had indeed found cancerous cells and I needed to quickly schedule an appointment with an oncologist. She asked me if I had any questions but I couldn’t really breathe enough to ask anything. I remember my mother asking if I would need chemo and if I was going to lose my hair. The Doctor told us I would likely only need surgery but I would need to consult with the oncologist. She then left the room to give us time to process. I still couldn’t say anything. I didn’t even cry right away. I just sat there silently. I’m not even sure if my Mom said anything else to me after that. The last thing I remember is my sister turning to me and saying “Well… now you get to be a cancer survivor. That’ll be cool.” That was when I cried. My baby sister, 14 years old at the time, was so optimistic and I love her for that.

The next few months were kind of a blur. Everything happened so fast. I met my oncologist, he scheduled my surgery, I had surgery and then months later I returned for a follow up and was told I was cancer free. Two months later I was off to college and didn’t really think too much about it after that. I don’t think I really fully processed the gravity of the situation because I truly believed I was going to be fine. But watching Margo on Say Yes to The Dress that day put everything into prospective for me.

As I sat, staring at the TV not even realizing I was crying hysterically, I heard inside myself the clearest voice “You’re so angry that your life didn’t turn out the way you wanted but you’re 23 and your life isn’t over and it very well could have been. You’re alive! Now go live.” It sounds unbelievable but that is the most personal experience I’ve ever had with God and I felt so ashamed. I was distraught at how I had behaved; Treating God like God ruined my life and there was absolutely nothing wrong with my life. I was living a GOOD life and it was up to me to continue doing so. The chapter of my life where I lived in Atlanta away from everything familiar was over but my life was far from over.

It was at that moment I decided I was done sulking. I was embarrassed that I had been living a tantrum. I couldn’t control everything but I could definitely control my attitude. So that’s what I did. I lived.

 

With a Silent G

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The last post ended with me heading to college and for a lot of people, college is where the storm starts. For me, college was college. It was exactly what I expected it to be. It was tough and it was all over the place. I never had money but always had just enough. I went to school in Atlanta and had the time of my life. There was always something to do and new people to meet. I danced on the hottest dance time in the city, I pledged a Greek Letter Organization, I won a spot on our school’s royal court and went to all the functions. I made some friends, acquired some family and fell in love. I worked 2 jobs and had an internship and I just knew my career was eventually going to be poppin’.

I majored in public relations management as an undergraduate student and eventually was going to be an entertainment publicist. Atlanta is the perfect place for that kind of career. I was doing all the interning and networking everyone told me I should be doing and I was honestly having a great time. I even found time to still be active in the community because that’s what I was raised to do. The life I was living was just on the edge of the life I had told God I wanted to live. I felt like as soon as I graduated, I was on my way to professional media relations maven-hood. Then, I could show everyone that I was going to be everything they expected of me. I had a handle on things.

In 2012 it was time for me to graduate and I was beyond ready for life after graduation. I was working at Footlocker in the Westend Mall and at a local hair salon as a shampoo assistant, neither of which were in my career field but it was all good. I was feeling inspired watching my peers who were securing their careers in Atlanta and across the country. I was applying for jobs in the city and planning my next moves toward entering graduate school. I had about $40 in my bank account and my lease would be ending soon but I told God what I wanted and I was expecting him to come through.

July of 2012 rolls around and I still had  nothing. I know I know, July is only 2 months after May when everyone graduates. “Give it some time, Imani. Things don’t happen over night,” was everyone’s advice. I heard them and I believe that but this time was different.  I didn’t have any money, which wasn’t new, but there had been two shootings at the mall where I worked so I had already told my manager I wasn’t going to be back because I didn’t have time to be getting shot.  So now I was down to 1 job. I was about a month away from not having anywhere to stay, which wasn’t really that jarring either to be honest. Something was very different this time. I felt different inside myself. I felt wrong and I couldn’t figure out why I felt extremely uncomfortable living my life.

This wasn’t the kind of discomfort that happens when money is tight and you’re just trying to figure life out from paycheck to paycheck, no I had experienced that for the last 4 years so I would have been ok with that for a little longer. This was the kind of discomfort that felt like everything I was trying was supposed to fail. Like failure was chasing me down. Remember, before now I had never known failure in this way. Things work for me because they just do. I do the work and I say a prayer and things go the way I said they should go. Yet, in July of 2012 I felt like I was being pushed out of the life I was trying to create. At one point my car had been broken into about 4 times in a span of 4 weeks; 2 of those times happened within a day of one another. I had a tire blow out on my way to my internship making me late for the final time and eventually, among other things, costing me that opportunity. It was like all my aspirations were standing over me in true mean girl fashion saying “get outta here, girl, this ain’t for you.”

I felt so many emotions in July of 2012. I was confused, I was exhausted, I was frustrated, I was so mad. I remember laying in my boyfriend’s (at the time) lap crying because I was so hurt that God was trying to tell me the life I wanted is not the one he wanted for me. I knew for sure that’s what it was because any step toward that life fell apart. I cried every day for a week in July of 2012. Every single day for 7 days I came home from work, I ate a meal and I cried until I got tired enough to fall asleep. I told God what I wanted and in July of 2012 I heard a resounding “no” that would rearrange the next 4 years. In July of 2012 I called my parents in Kentucky and asked if I could come home. And just like that, I was leaving the life I was building with my friends, my boyfriend, and my career aspirations in Atlanta to go back home to Louisville.

There was so much resentment and many more tears. I felt like a failure. I had gone away to college to prove to everyone that I was everything they expected of me only to move right back into my parents’ house at age 22 having failed at building the life I felt like I was entitled to simply because I had told God that’s the one I wanted. In August of 2012 I packed my things and went back to the room I lived in when I told God I wanted to live in Atlanta as an entertainment public relations manager. God told me “no” and there was nothing I could do about it.

Feelings of failure take a real toll on you emotionally when you’ve always excelled. My life was still fine. I had two parents who were willing to take me back in and allow me time to figure things out. But I could only focus on the fact that I had tried something that didn’t work out. I was trying to believe that everything would work out but the spirit of failure was whispering in my ear a list of things I should have done to have a different outcome. This was my fault. I didn’t do enough. I didn’t work hard enough. I didn’t network enough. My parents sent me to Atlanta and I came back home with only a degree (imagine being mad you got a degree lol) and nothing else.

In August of 2012 I laid in my bed in my room in my parents house with tears running into my ears and I said aloud “What do you want from me?” and I heard absolutely nothing back. My experience with God has always been listening for God’s voice inside myself. Whether it’s a feeling pushing me toward something or a thought that comes to mind that answers a question I asked. God’s voice has always been very real to me and this time I couldn’t hear it. I didn’t hear anything, I didn’t feel anything different from the same hurt I had been feeling for a month so far. And it continued for months. I was sometimes literally shouting at God and I was hearing absolutely nothing.

Naturally, because I believed everything to be in my control with some assistance from God, everything was all my fault. I failed, and now  OMG with a silent “G” because God is obviously beefin’ with me and is giving me the silent treatment. This went on for months. It began in August of 2012 and continued into the beginning of 2013. Silence.

This post ends here but my journey had just begun.

Confessions of…

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I’m Imani.

I’m a (late) twenty-something who is still figuring it out. By “it” I mean all of it. Life, love, health, career, purpose etc etc etc and I’m trying to root it all in faith. The crazy part is , I’m also a control freak. I like things the way I like them and any time they aren’t the way I like them, I’m near anxiety attack. Even crazier than that, I JUST realized this about myself because up until about 2012 my plans have pretty much gone uninterrupted. From 2012 until now I’ve been on a journey to revise and re envision my life according to my purpose within the body of Christ and I know that a huge step in this process is sharing this journey with others.

This blog will be hard for me. Truthfully I’ve been putting it off because of how difficult it will be to share my highs and lows with total strangers. It will be even more difficult to share without being able to control how my vulnerability is received. I can’t control readers’ reactions and perceptions and as a person with a career in controlling perceptions, that is absolutely terrifying. What’s even more terrifying is knowing with every fiber of my being that God is trying to do a good thing with my life and never being obedient enough to reach my full potential.

So here I am. Sharing. Over sharing. Committing.

Praying that my vulnerability blesses someone.

These posts will not always be formally written. Sometimes they will be in narrative form. Other times they will include my free flowing thoughts. They won’t always be properly punctuated. But they will be original and authentic.

This blog is my voice while I navigate God’s plan.

 

 

 

I’m Not New to Jesus

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I’m not new to Jesus.

You know how people say they grew up in church? My father is a Pastor and I literally grew up in church. I spent almost every day of my formative years at church. In elementary school, my school bus stop was 2 blocks from my church. I walked there everyday after school and helped the church secretary fold bulletins or read hymns to myself, pretended to teach lessons, choreographed praise dances, whatever to pass the time until I could go home. I went to service every Sunday and twice on 4th Sunday for baptism. I went to bible study Wednesdays and choir rehearsals on Thursdays. I went to all the programs and any other service around the city where my Dad was ministering. Someone reading this thinks this sounds dreadful but listen, I LOVE(D) church. My very first friends and chosen family are people I met in church. Thankfully, my church was fun and progressive. We always had some kid-friendly activities happening, so going to church was just life for me.

Aside from being the churchiest kid in Louisville, I mean it when I say I’ve known Jesus my whole life. I mean technically I was baptized October 6, 1996 (yes I remember because churchy) but I cannot remember a time not feeling connected to Christ. I was taught very early who Jesus was as a person and as an extension of God. I prayed and believed in my heart that God heard me and loved me and that Jesus’s life is proof of that. I was a very spiritual child. Always looking for signs that God is real, always asking God to show up for me. There were things I felt as a child that, although I didn’t think much of them when I was younger, I would realize much later that God and I have a special relationship and that things I said and did as a child helped to cultivate that relationship. I’ll get more into that as the blog continues.

All in all, I had an awesome childhood. My parents worked hard to make sure that I lived a carefree life as a child. Outside of school, which I excelled in,  and normal childhood responsibilities, I had no worries. Here’s the hang up. My entire life, I didn’t have very many things to pray very hard about. Like, I prayed but my prayers were reflective of my lifestyle. There was nothing that I prayed for, that if God told me no, would dramatically alter my life. But, of course, I didn’t realize that at all. As far as I was concerned, God and I were just on good terms. Of course I did regular teenaged stuff (Mom and Dad skip the next few sentences), lied, stole some small things, snuck out of the house, Snuck people into the house, hung out too late, experienced some things too early but still within “reasonable” boundaries for myself because I had things I wanted to do and people I wanted to impress and I couldn’t do that addicted to drugs, pregnant or dead. If that statement comes across judge-y, that’s because it is. I meant absolutely no harm by that mindset at the time, but things were supposed to happen a certain way for me and I was very in tune to what was happening with everyone else and how other people reacted. I just could not have that.

People expected certain things from me, therefore I expected those same things from myself. So, I went to school k-12 and did well. I was active in the church and community and had everything under control. In the fall of 2008 I was off to college and I was determined to make things happen the way I imagined. I was convinced that everything I wanted, would happen because I had already told God that’s what I wanted. I told God, and I did it in Jesus’ name.

Here we have identified my problem; a problem I would only recognize years later in retrospect.

Again, I am not new to Jesus. I’ve known God my entire life.

However, the realization that I need him in a much different way than I’ve ever needed him is very very new to me. This post ends here but my journey had just begun.