“I am a writer not because I have published a novel or made it into the most prestigious and elite magazines. I am a writer because I write. Because when all else fails I find that words and stories help me heal and help me share that healing.” – Nia Ita
Thursday, April 4th
I receive a DM on Instagram from a woman I do not know about a sweepstake I did not enter. Dique “a friend of [mine] entered [me] into a glamover sweepstake” and I have been selected as a finalist. I am doubtful.
Friday, April 5th
I am taking a lunch break at work when I receive a follow-up DM that reads as follows:
I am equal parts excited and suspicious. I’m not trynna get got. I do some digging online and all of the individuals mentioned have public accounts that can be reasonably traced. I find the mutual connection that entered me in the sweepstake and ask for a reputation check. I enter the Brooklyn address into google maps to make sure it’s not an abandoned warehouse. I invite my sister, ask hella follow-up questions and run it by my husband. All that.
Then, and only then, I decide to let myself trust the process and enjoy this gift that has dropped in on me out of seemingly nowhere.
Saturday, April 6th
I wake to find anxiety laying in the bed between me and my husband. It always has a way of showing up at the most inopportune moments. I take deep breaths. Remind myself that it’s OK that I’m not a model. Affirm myself that I am not the sum of my greatest mistakes, but the culmination of all the times I’ve risen up after falling. I receive the following message from Ajala:
I feel seen. I talk through all of this out loud as I drive with my sister to the photoshoot. I tell her that worry and doubt will not ruin my day, not today.
The photoshoot is unreal. I step into a brownstone in Brooklyn and I am welcomed by the sweet smell of roses. I am walking on pale pink petals and the stylist, Adeola Ajala, leads us upstairs to a sun-drenched room where we can put our bags down. Two rooms over in the kitchen, Dell’s catering has prepared a delightful breakfast spread.
The primping begins. Ajala styles me. Celebrity hairstylist, Stacey Ciceron, works my hair with fierceness and professional MUA, Tynesha Taylor gives me a goddess glow, bold lip look to match my dress.
Kai, the first photographer, starts off my shoot with a deep breathing exercise and choral affirmations. Nick, the second photographer, asked me a series of questions as he works through his set with me. Prompts like, “what are you most proud of?” and “Tell me your favorite joke.” The energy, the team, the day was magic. And it reminded me that I am magic.
April 9th – Present?
The rest of April was gutting, to put it gently. Difficult conversations with my partner, an unexpected nightmare that brought back buried memories like a monsoon and deep digging in therapy left me feeling despair.
I have been uncovering and working through the deepest of wounds. On Friday, April 26th I attended the Women Writer Bloom Eight Year Aniversary Celebration, Dance & Open Mic. I read this original poem:
What do you do the weekend after your therapist diagnoses you with PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder?
- You cry. The tears are part sad. They are also part relief and validation because after almost 30 years you can understand your brain a little better.
- You think about the books and writing you’ve avoided about your body.
- You think about the cupboard full of alcohol in the kitchen. You think about ordering wine from the liquor store around the corner. You make earl gray tea instead, adding oat milk and extra honey.
- You climb under the covers by 7pm on a Friday night and build a fortress of books on the floor and nightstand next to your bed. The anthology “Not That Bad” sits at the top of the pile and stares at you.
- You read poetry. Underline, highlight, annotate poetry. Write awful poetry-inspired scribbles that will never leave the unlined pages of your journal.
- You call your sister. She tells you how in graduate school she read research studies about how in certain cases PTSD was worse for sexual assault survivors than it was for war vets.
- You scroll through social media and look for distractions.
- You think about sending a picture of one of your scribbled poems to someone from your past.
- You remind yourself of the danger of bad company, like copious amounts of red wine when emotional and commit to some kind of sobriety. You go back to scrolling through Instagram.
- You get up and make yourself breakfast at midnight. Scrambled eggs and sauteed sausages. You sit on the couch with all the lights off and shovel the food in your mouth while watching The Challenge on MTV. You don’t even like this show and the food doesn’t taste like anything but there is comfort in chewing and swallowing and chewing and swallowing until the plate is empty.
- You don’t brush your teeth when you walk back to bed. You turn on the lamp on the nightstand and write a love poem to your partner about all the reasons you love them.
- You hold off on showering longer than you should and sniff under your armpits every few pages you read or write. There is something strangely comforting about the grajo.
- You make a second cup of tea, peppermint this time, and drift off to sleep.
- You wake up Saturday and consider brushing your teeth. Instead, you make another cup of tea. English breakfast with lemon and honey. You pour a shot of whiskey into the mug as you tell yourself you already had breakfast before falling asleep and one shot cannot get you drunk.
- You listen closely to the hum and swish of the dishwasher in the background. The birdsong that signals the coming of Spring.
- You pray. You thank God you are still alive. That you made it through that one attempt and every time you’ve felt tempted since.
- You listen to Harry Potter The Order of the Phoenix and wonder how Harry can be so clueless when it comes to Cho.
- You light a cool Rosemary candle that kind of smells like Palo Santo.
- You try to run your hands through your hair, like Harry’s dad does in Snape’s worst memory but your curls are a long, matted mess that you haven’t found the heart to wash or untangle. It’s been two weeks since you washed your hair. Your record is three. Two to three weeks. Your therapists says this is the median range of your episodes of depression.
- You want to laugh so you turn on “Any Day Now” and revel in Abuelita’s extraness. You miss your abuelitas. One is buried in a shallow grave and the other one might as well be. Neither are in this country.
- You think about calling your mom but you’re not really sure what you would say. “Hey, Google, how do you say post-traumatic stress disorder in Spanish?” Trastorno de estrés postraumático
- You spend entirely too much time asking Google a myriad of stupid questions.
- On Sunday morning you go to church and lose yourself in Americanized coritos and alabanza. You scribble notes on the sermon next to fragments of poetry and for just a moment, feel like you are a part of something so much bigger than you. Maybe you are broken but that’s ok. This is holy. You are holy and you made it through the weekend.
It’s been a rough three weeks and I’m just starting to come back up for air. I rewatched the videos from the photo shoot today and they made my heart smile. They reminded me that yes, I am enough. I am excellent. I am loved and forgiven and blessed in so many ways.
I say all this not just to highlight the wonderful people that made this day possible, but also to remind you of the words of Warsan Shire:
“Document the moments you feel most in love with yourself – what you’re wearing, who you’re around, what you’re doing. Recreate and repeat.”
I feel most in love with myself when I am being open, honest and vulnerable about my stories and my truths. I feel most in love with myself when I am inspiring others to do the same. I feel most in love with myself when I lose myself in praise and worship and allow God to use me as a light in these dark times.
In her Netflix special, Brené Brown: The Call to Courage, Brene emphasizes how necessary vulnerability is to the human experience. She talks about how it is better to experience vulnerability consciously, rather than pretending to be invulnerable and projecting your issues on to other people.
“You do vulnerability, knowingly or unknowingly. And here’s the thing, here’s why we need it: man, it is so much easier to cause pain than feel pain,” Brown says.
If you got this far, I hope your heart received what it needed. I hope you know that you are not alone. That we have all caused pain in an effort to avoid feeling pain. That we all have our burdens to carry and stories to tell. Like the refinement of gold by fire, healing is a process that cannot be rushed.
Photo Credit: Nicholas Cameron Byers