It's been a while ya'll. And I'm so blessed to be here to share a little bit with you all. It's November 2021 and many of you reading this have lost loved ones this year, and I want to acknowledge your losses and encourage you right now as you grieve. If you're reading this, you still have a chance to choose you. I've recently transitioned out of a therapy routine which consisted of two 1 hour sessions every week. This has been happening since about May of this year and looking back I can't believe how much I've learned about myself and how much I have to celebrate. Celebrate! Me, celebrate my accomplishments used to seem so selfish to me, so self-centered, so stuck-up, just "ugh" girl bye! But let me tell you, waiting for or seeking external validation is a thing of the past.
Let's talk a moment about self-love and define it. When you love yourself you appreciate yourself and hold your well-being and happiness in high regard. Self-love is taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your own to please others and the "act" looks different from person to person. Self-love is a term often tossed around that has become popular, but it is vital to understand and act on for the sake of your mental wellness.
Over the past couple of months, I have gone through some pretty significant life changes that I never imagined I would--life altering, world-shattering, bring you to your knees, crying out to the Lord WHY ME changes. I am now divorced. And this new way of life, this new normal, was and still is hard to even say. This is when I began my self-love quest. You know why it began here? Well I realized I really did not like or love me like I said I did.
1. We should treat ourselves like we want others to treat us. Say it ain't so! I was definitely not doing this. My relationship with God was so torn, I made room for the devil to tap dance all over my mental health and make a bad situation much worse! THOUGHTS! Yes thoughts. The way I would think of myself would always be in some sort of negative way. If you didn't know this yet, but if you're thinking it, you're most likely living it. I would say things like, " You're worthless, you're raising your children in a broken home, you allowed the devil to win, you aren't a good person, you are weak... " you get it. When I should have been saying, " You are so resilient for recognizing that the negative self-talk and thoughts you have about yourself are untrue! You are growing as a person and taking charge of your life by committing to your relationship with the Lord and going to therapy twice a week" We are what we think.
2. I began taking care of myself when I challenged the negative stories I created about myself.
3. I had to learn to recognize and ACCEPT my emotional state. Journaling about my emotional state helps a lot.
4. Here's a big one!!! I had to become more understanding with myself, hold a space for empathy. I'm learning how to have an active understanding for my mistakes and my perceived losses, and learning how to effectively communicate with ME about ME without harshly judging ME and punishing ME. Oh I'm good at punishing ME! Its so ugly, but a lesson learned and so much growth has happened because of what I have unlearned about punishing myself.
5. I've been choosing me so good, I've been inserting and utilizing this word a little more frequently in conjunction with another word and wait for it... NO and Boundaries. (clears throat) Yep, make that two words that work together for my good and yours. Boundaries and the word No. And now that I think about it, why not Boundaries and YES?! Yes to the things that protect me, value me, that are healthy for me, that I choose for me, that feed my soul, that are not self-sacrificing. Boundaries and YES! (this wasn't planned, shrugs)
I decided to start treating me like I treat a confused child. I don't scold it. I don't shame it. I don't beat it down. I ask, "What are you trying say? What do you want to tell me?"
I chose me. I'm choosing me. And with God this new chapter will bring new wisdom. I won't be quitting on HIM again because he never, ever quit or gave up on me. I will push. I will cry. I will fall, and I will rise.
When I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2019, I was so relieved. Not only had I found a doctor who actually listened to me, but she had an answer for my debilitating pain. After years of confusion, dozens of doctors and several misdiagnosis, I felt like I could breathe again.
But last year proved to test me even more physically and mentally as well.
I thought the height of my pain was a few years ago when I became the caregiver for my mother who was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. What I didn't yet know was that I had endometriosis and my chronic pain was just one symptom of many that I was experiencing. For over a year, I ignored my pain, put my business on hold & got a nanny job so that I could properly care for my mother all while still homeschooling my son and continuing my education through trainings and doula courses.
While I have been able to somewhat manage my physical pain since being diagnosed, I was not at all prepared for how endometriosis and stress would affect my mental health.
If 2020 taught us nothing, it taught us to focus on health and whole body wellness, especially mental health. Many things changed for me professionally and navigating a business during a pandemic was more than challenging. And due to the nature of my work, I had to make huge operational changes that completely modified the way I worked and connected with my clients. To say I was stressed was an understatement. Thank God for my husband who proved to be my saving grace and comfort more often that not after a long day of Zoom consultations and birth support. During this time, my main source of stress relief was halted overnight: exercise. I am a Zumba instructor as well as a doula and when Covid-19 began to rapidly spread across my city, county and state, everything was shut down including my classes. Truth be told, I was already planning the next phase of my fitness journey, but I did not anticipate how long my classes would be on hold. It has been over a year since I taught my last Zumba class and yes, I miss my students and the dance floor terribly. But it didn't matter.
My body was holding on to so many emotions, it was presenting itself as physical pain and suffering which left me no energy or desire to exercise anyway.
May 2020 proved to be one of the hardest months to endure due to the murder of George Floyd. Between the news and social media, I was in a constant cycle of being triggered and when I am emotionally triggered, my body responds well before my brain has a chance to even process what is happening. This is likely due to my childhood and the sexual abuse I experienced as a young girl. Believe it or not, this was a HUGE revelation for me. Why you ask? Making the connection between my pain and what I was consuming (news, gossip, negativity, lies, videos of unarmed black and brown people being murdered, political propaganda and yes, even food) helped me to make the necessary changes to slow and break the continuous cycle of triggers and pain so that I can permanently release all the built up negativity and projections that I am physically and mentally holding on to.
I have known for some time that I have a stronger intuition about certain things than most people. Attunement is a word often used in the birth world when describing the way
doulas connect with our clients. My son has actually helped me to tap into my own empathic power. What I have learned on my healing journey is that I am also an empath. However, I have recently discovered that this spiritual gift has been blocked in one way or another since I was a kid. So the more I teach my son to lean into his own power, the more I learn about my own and that has given me a peace I haven't had in long time. It assures me that I am indeed headed in the right direction with my healing.
This year I am continuing to focus on my mental health and releasing any blockages that may be holding me back from fully realizing my purpose. Connecting with other "endo warriors'' has also been important for me over the last year. Maintaining relationships and enjoying an active personal life can be difficult both physically and mentally with endometriosis or any chronic illness. Aside from my husband and my close girlfriends, the Endo Black community has been an amazing part of my journey. It's an organization dedicated to spreading endometriosis awareness and supporting the black and brown women who live with the disease. Not only do I receive information on how to manage my endo, I have found a tribe of individuals like me who can relate to a painful, life-altering condition that most people have never even heard of. The comradery and compassion is refreshing and healing. I started writing and journaling again. I have been meditating and practicing Reiki therapy. I am moving my body intentionally through yoga and nature walks. I am also exploring acupuncture and sound therapy. I am open to any and all things that will facilitate healing and mental wellness. The most important thing is that I am happy and whole so that I can properly care for myself, my family and my clients.
You can read my complete endo story and learn more about endometriosis here.
Tell me what you think about this video? Do you agree? Disagree?
Brandlyn Owens is passionate about exploring and educating herself and others about mental health topics. She's a momma of 2 kiddos and she resides in Durham, NC.