In a world of social media, does my voice matter?

In a world of social media with a proliferation of voices, does my voice matter? This is a question I ask myself a LOT. So much so that I’m certain it must tire my partner that I’m constantly pulling her into the discussions about it. One reason I’m doubtful of the importance of my voice is because I never want to cause any harm by my words or messaging intentionally or inadvertently. People present many things on Instagram as undeniable facts. Captions and text blocks would have you believe personal experiences universally apply. These things while often benign aren’t always so. My experience with the holistic psychologist brand last summer was a splendid example of how much harm some accounts can cause. Her graphics felt like they resonated. Sure, I knew how to take what resonated and leave the rest. For some people, this wasn’t the case. There are stories of people who got off their medication based on her posts and the ideologies she taught, and this has turned out not to be the right decision for them. Not only that, it has caused them harm.

This leaves me cautious about the need for me to add my voice to the mix. I often think that perhaps what people need isn’t another voice to hear from, but to see that their inner voice is all they ever need. I’m not prescriptive and I don’t have the answers to your problems. Shit, I don’t have the answers to MY problems.

So, those are the things I don’t know and things I’m not sure of. Let’s get to the things that I know. I know that while it sounds good, and it’s probably true that our inner voice is all we ever need, this inner voice isn’t always accessible to us on our own. It is often through the words and the writings of other people that we’re able to gain a deeper understanding into who we are. It is in their bravery to speak up and share about their life experiences and the lessons they’ve learned in life that we all benefit. When I think of my favorite writer, Maya Angelou, I can’t explain how her writings and life stories continue to be an immense inspiration to my life. Her life wasn’t perfect, and she never sought to make it seem like it was. She also wasn’t prescriptive, she just spoke from her life experience and what proved to be true for her. Dr. Angelou had a deep longing to share insight from a place of not perfection but from a place of a desire to uplift Black folks.

This is a longing I know too well. I wake up each day with a deep yearning to speak and write about my life experiences. Not from a place of knowing it all or even knowing anything at all, but from a place of maybe if I share, someone somewhere will not feel alone in THEIR experiences. Writing about my love and my struggles isn’t all fun and games. My story is rife with a lot of pain and heartache, but in the pain is where I’ve found the lessons. In it is where I’ve formed my most cherished friendships and connections. It’s in that authenticity that I’m able to connect with others in my life. I want to continue writing and sharing. I want to have a record of a life well lived, a life well experienced, a life full of joys and sadnesses that are unique to me but universal in its lessons.

Maybe that’s my gift, huh? This ability to share. To connect our human experiences. To find the shared connections and the collective lessons. I doubt this gift of mine a lot and when I see other people who appear confident in their gifts, I’m sometimes inspired but more often scared that if im not that way, then maybe I have nothing to offer after all. Here’s the thing, I could keep holding back from giving it all my all while waiting to get confident or I can just share about this too. The struggle to believe I have a voice, the struggle to find that voice, and the self doubt that plagues me about whether there’s any benefit in me sharing that voice. That struggle isn’t just by the way, nor is it something I have to overcome first before I’m able to share about my experiences. It is all a part of my experience, this is the work. In my sharing this fear, doubt, and struggles and many others to come, I hope that you not feel alone in your fears, doubts and struggles.

Relationships as my biggest teacher.

I’ve had many relationships over the years all with trials but none has been as impactful as my current one with my partner and that with my mom over our lifetime. I believe that our relationships can be outstanding teachers if we are in the right space to be a student. Otherwise, it becomes about blame game. Focusing on the other person’s shortcomings or how they’re toxic or and anything else that is not how we can learn about ourselves from that relationship.

Disclaimer *this is not talking about truly abusive relationships*

It feels like taboo to talk about thing like your relationship is hard but you both remain intentional about remaining in it but that’s why I think we should. There were so many things that have happened throughout our relationship that many people (and us) would say we probably should have broken up in our first year.

I had a lot of anger from a life filled with painful moments. I had grown up a specific way where we yelled, screamed, hit people, thrown things etc. I was always ready to rumble if I felt hurt. Ginele also came into the relationship with her unique set of conditioning. So yeah, it was tumultuous. When I met Ginele, I had just had a pretty nasty divorce a few months prior after 4 years of a pretty abusive relationship. Of course I loved Ginele, but I had conditioning that I hadn’t worked on. My favorite thing to say was I am who I am and if you don’t like it, oh well. While secretly, I felt ashamed of the ways I acted out. But after a year of utter chaos, the love I had for her and the love she had for me motivated me for the first time to see if I can change the way I expressed my emotions. Five years later, here I am, grown and healed in so many ways. And six years into our relationship, the lessons keep coming.

While there are things I desperately wish I could change in our history, I can honestly say that she has been the truest reflection of myself that I’ve ever had. It’s so hard to see yourself. It’s much easier to see someone else and tell them what they need to work on. Shifting from that to just seeing yourself, sitting with that revelation, accepting it, and looking for ways to gain new skills to help you navigate life and your relationships with more ease is life-changing work. Our culture has taught us to throw in the towel early. If it’s hard in a certain manner, or for a prolonged period, or in a recurrent way, it’s not meant to be. And while I’m sure the sentiment that love should be easy resonates with and is true for some people, it’s never resonated with me. I don’t know of any uncomplicated relationships. I’ve never seen that, and so I don’t relate. What I know though and have witnessed in my life is the magic that comes from using love as a catalyst to learn, evolve, grow and repair relationships that matter to us.

By Instagram standards, I should have disavowed my mom so long ago. We have a very difficult history filled with abuse and it was the worst relationship in my life for a really long time. But when I started therapy and just talking about and processing everything that I went through in her hands, I learned compassion for her and by extension for self. She did the best with the knowledge she had. She saw certain treatments that were incredibly harmful to me as normal. So, when I learned the skills of telling her how what she did affected me, the skills of setting boundaries with her, and her (unspoken) determination to do the work, our relationship changed for the better. And it’s still evolving to this day. I’m so glad I stuck it out with her. And that’s kinda how I feel about Ginele and I. It’s been so hard. We have traumatic memories that I’d rather not have. We’ve married, there’s been infidelities, we’ve divorced, there are trust issues, there’s still a fairly regular conversation about if we’ll make it. If perhaps the hurt is too much to overcome.

So, we work, we go to therapy, we fight, we cry, we threaten to leave weekly because it feels just so hard sometimes. But above all, we love. At least we try to. Our love is divine. We both truly feel that way. Our therapists marvel at what we have. Our mothers marvel at what we have. That love is worth fighting for. Even if we have spent most of it unhooking from and unlearning our respective conditioning. Literally just last week, she called me out on my tendency to use tears and my pain as an emotionally manipulate weapon. At first, I wanted to defend myself and talk about how that’s so not true. But I examined myself and came to the open acceptance that I do that. It was such a relief when I finally admitted it and let go of the shame that came from it. And so now I can begin the work of learning new skills and techniques to counteract that conditioning. Anyhow, this is a much bigger conversation that I can’t wait to have going forward with Ginele as my guest.

Why I hate social media therapy.

When I first discovered that I had a voice, I wasn’t sure how to use it. I wasn’t sure of what avenue best suited the use of said voice. What I knew is that in my personal life, through conversations I have had with friends and family, I have an impact. The most profound impact I have from what I’ve been told is that I show others how to just be by being (I know because I asked). But gaining that voice first began in one-on-one therapy.

I’ve had the same therapist for the last 5 years. We talk about the same things repeatedly, but with new insights and perspective each time. He has seen me through the initial stages of leaving a lifelong religion, supported me when I came out and lost 99% of the people I loved. He has witnessed me navigate intense anger and self sabotage. He’s seen me navigate my first same sex relationship where I displayed hetero-normative expectations and therefore disappointments. He’s seen me perhaps get married when I shouldn’t have (he’s also thought me that taking should out of my vocabulary is a great strategy), he’s supported me through my divorce from that marriage because of multiple infidelities by my then wife and the eventual decision to get back together with her. If I were to guess based on his 25 odd years of being a therapist, he probably knew that the marriage would not work, he probably knew that I would file for divorce, he probably knew that that experience would be my biggest teacher, he probably also knew that my love for my partner would send me back into her arms. Yet, through it all, he maintained what I can only characterize as unbelievable restraint.

Restraint from offering me advice. Restraint from imposing his thoughts on me. He made sure I lived organically by living, experiencing, learning, and therefore growing. One could say that perhaps he should have helped me avoid the pitfalls of the heartache that was a constant companion to me during the last five years. But I beg to differ. As someone who experienced the pain, I beg to differ. The pain taught me more than his advice would ever have. Feeling gut wrenching, heart breaking pain has integrated the lessons into my DNA, into my very cells. I know what it is to have felt pain that was indescribable. Pain that feels as though your very gut is being ripped into shreds, the inability to speak, the increased heart rate, the shallow breathing, losing appetite followed by the gorging on food. If he had protected me from that, where would I be today?

So, if a therapist is so hesitant to give advice, why are there so many people on Ig, therapists included, who are quick to supply us with an endless list of should and should nots. And even when they’re not should and should nots, there is definitely a litany of advice givers on IG. I remember when I would take things I had seen on IG to my therapist, he would always say… well, it depends. Examples are “You have to love yourself before others can love you”… well, it depends on YOUR particular life experiences. Well, how about “you have to cut toxic people out of your life”… well, it depends, are you running away from triggers that could help you grow? So, he taught me that every single advice depends on your particular life experiences and that to know if advice applies to you, understand who you are. Otherwise, you’ll run from one advice to other, most of which are often contradictory unable to know if the problem is the advice or you. As a rule of thumb, I do not consume info and advice from therapists on IG. I get that there’s a vast market for it. Because of how difficult the human experience is, people are desperate for solutions. The self help market is a big and lucrative one. In fact, when I was still in church, they’ll always mock people seeking self help advice as lost sheep. I don’t consider anyone lost sheep, but I am determined not to contribute to the culture of offering people who I don’t know their life experiences advice on anything.

So then, as a creative, empathetic person who has had a positive impact in the lives of people in my life, what is my strategy for continuing to have a positive impact in the life of many more? JUST BEING! That hasn’t always been my strategy, though. In 2018, I had hired a business coach to help me figure out how to be an impactful human while on this earth and also make a living from it. I’ve been a nurse for the last 8 years and I love nursing and the impact I have on the lives of people, but over the years, I’ve felt less impactful. The medical system and the lack of autonomy that I have in the care of my patients made me want more. How can I make a living doing what I love, which is having a meaningful impact in the lives of others while also making a living from it because I don’t believe I have to be a pauper to be a good person? That’s where the business coach came in with all the strategies she has learned over her decade of social media marketing. Some of those strategies were: 1. Identify 3 quirky habits you have and weave them into every story so that people will come to relate to you by those three things. 2. DOn’t just post about your days on your stories, have a point to it. A lesson to teach, a thing to point out… story with a purpose. 3. Give people a bunch of free material so you can one day sell to them etc.

And I tried it for a little. I created free pdf’s building mailing lists that I’ll one day get to monetize off of. Build trust in your audience so that one day, you can sell to them and they wouldn’t see it coming. YOOOO…. that caused me so much anxiety because that is so who I’m not. But I thought, oh maybe it’s because I’m not as skilled a marketer as they are. I had paid hundreds of dollars for this coaching after I had followed them for a few years. So, yes, they got me as a client… hence their methods works. But you know what, over the last few years, I see those marketing strategies for what they are… white supremacist, capitalistic, predatory marketing strategies. I’m not saying don’t build a business on social media, but my question is why does it have to be couched in subterfuge? Why can’t you just come up with a brilliant business strategy that isn’t tied to you as a human who is flawed af and then market it as a business off the bat? Like hey, I’m a writer, I’m going to write a book filled with all the lessons I’ve learned from my life so far that I’m going to sell to you, buy it if you want to? While you go on being your hoeish, weed smoking, ratchet music twerking flawed af individual if that’s what you want to be. Or conversely, be your private self without having to showcase your entire life to be the relatable individual you are if that’s the case.

So, yeah, nursing is still annoying the fuck out of me based on how fucked up the healthcare system is. And I’m still a very creative impactful individual who would love to earn a living doing creative impactful things. And my strategy is just going to be to build a business that supports that that isn’t tied to who I am or how I present on here. Or maybe it is tied to it, but I’ll make sure it’s going to be exactly who tf I am and no persona curated by a social media strategist team. Yeah, you can strategize about my actual business, but never about ME as a person. Nah son, no one gets to get me to present a way that isn’t authentic in any way just to gain followers or sell some t-shirts.

Let me say though that I don’t feel this way about professionals who offer advice on their profession. It’s almost as though the self help, coaching, therapy business is the worst business to do on social media yet is the most popular. Because I believe that it is highly difficult to offer generalized advice when it comes to mental healthcare since it’s such an individualized thing. I think doing it in tandem is certainly beneficial but often times, people aren’t in therapy or doing one on one coaching. Rather, they’re consuming memes and tables and charts that offer generalized mental health advice. But also, there’s the nuanced conversation about access to therapy and alladat so I get why people gravitate towards free access to SOME mental healthcare.

Of course, I don’t know everything about everything and I’m not condemning anyone. Just had these thoughts rattling around in my head and wanted to write and talk about it.

Let’s talk,

Christabel.

Religion and Internalized Homophobia

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Listen here: Aberrant Behavior Podcast: 3. Religion and Internalized Homophobia

Hi everyone! I started a podcast called Aberrant Behavior and I’m so excited to facilitate conversation around societal norms and mores I’ve shed on my journey towards self-discovery.

In this episode, I delve into my long and complex relationship with religion and why I had to let it go if I was ever to love myself deeply. I have nothing against religion as a whole because I recognize it’s role in providing comfort and hope to many people as it did for me. Plus, faith and belief is a deeply personal thing that I don’t really think I have room to comment on another person’s faith walk. My mental health required that I let go of that journey and embark on a personal spiritual journey of self-discovery, self-love and self-acceptance. Psychotherapy and other modalities proved to be more effective in helping me eliminate the internalized homophobia I had.

I loved religion a lot, with my entire heart. Yes, I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and I remained one until I was 28. One reason was fear of losing my family and friends if I left. If you know anything about Jehovah’s witnesses, you’d know that there is legitimacy to this fear. But also, because bible scriptures answered many of the questions I had about life. Questions like, why are we here, what happens to us when we die, where are our dead loved ones and why are there kids in the world who go to bed hungry. It gave me a deep sense of assurance that this is not all there is to life. I still have a lot of those questions and without religion, there’s no assured answers to assuage my fears and concerns and that’s okay.

It was hard coming to terms with being uncertain. Without biblical answers to all my questions, I had to face myself. More accurately, I had to begin an exploration of what *I* thought about these issues but also day-to-day stuff. Like, is there really anything wrong with sex before marriage? Is there anything wrong with homosexuality? Can I be friends with people from all walks of life instead of just people who shared the same belief as I did. Is the man really the head of the family? What if there’s no man? What if the man has no head for leadership? Etc. Many of you may not have dealt with not knowing your own personal views of these things, but I did.

I had an identity crisis essentially when I had been in therapy for a year. It was painful work to temporarily (or permanently) to set aside religion in favor of self-help. Self-help was heavily condemned in my church. There’s a scripture in James that says that the human heart is deceptive and should definitely not be trusted. So yeah, learning from the works of other humans with deceptive hearts was not the smart thing to do. I still don’t think the intension behind this message was malicious. What I think is that getting people to completely distrust their instincts is harmful intent or not. At the very least, it proved harmful to me.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with religion. It gives hope, comfort and a sense of belonging. What I think is that religion would be so much better if people were encouraged and told that their instincts are worthwhile. That we’re not inherently flawed. That it’s beneficial to engage in a personal journey in parallel with a religious one. I wish churches and pastors did not discourage members from seeking mental health care. This is especially my wish within the black community. A community with so much generational and personal trauma coupled with the intense racism they face.

While religion is still on pause for me, I wish that when I was still religious; I had also sought to embark on a personal spiritual journey. I may not be religious anymore, but I’m the most spiritual I’ve ever been. I may not pray, but I meditate often. I may not go to a building to worship, but I visit with my journal often. I love all people. I believe that love is love. My intuition is all I ever need to call on. My ancestors are ever present to guide me because they live within me.

Things are changing, people are coming into an awareness of limitations inherent in religion. Church goers are also seeking therapy, they journal while going to church. They meditate and pray and I’m here for this evolution. But as things change, things remain the same. The homophobia persists, the demonization of self-help and mental health care persists. The hate of homosexuals continues.

I’m hoping that anyone who listens to me today and is religious realizes that the world is changing and that the acceptance of all people is the way forward. And that we are incredibly and wonderfully made and that we are not broken. I had a close friend tell me they couldn’t come to my wedding because I was marrying a woman. May you not be that friend.

Resources:

Find a therapist in your area: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us?tr=Hdr_Brand

Low-cost therapy for black women: https://therapyforblackgirls.com/

Low cost remote and in person therapy: https://openpathcollective.org/

Until next time, be well.

xoc.

My Healing Journey

Aberrant Behavior – Episode 2: My Healing Journey; engaged at 15 and 2 jail stints by 25. *Trigger warning: Domestic Violence, Self harm, suicidal ideation and other traumas* In my most vulnerable share to date, I talk about how an abusive childhood and a tumultuous teen years and early adulthood …

My Why

Aberrant Behavior – Episode 1: My Why In this very first episode, I talk about “My Why.” What drives me? what inspires me? Why am I starting a podcast?  Resource: https://www.instagram.com/the.holistic.psychologist/ Logistics: My goal is to drop an episode every week but I’m not tied to the capitalist obsession with productivity at …

No one can do the work for you

The woman you see in this picture is a woman who has fought to overcome so many adversities. My DNA and upbringing left me with a lot to contend with: anger, violence, alcoholism, abandonment and a deep lack of self love. For the last 5 years, I’ve worked deeply to tackle many of those things – successfully I might add – with the help of a therapist.

He helped me understand where my patterns came from and that while I’ve never dealt with any drug or substance abuse myself, living with one or two alcoholics has a lasting impact. He helped me learn how to deal with emotions that often felt so overwhelming and out of my control. How to react calmly when rage is all I ever felt coursing through my veins every time I felt cast aside and unloved. He has been invaluable to my life.

But, while he helped me understand patterns, he ultimately wouldn’t do the actual *work* for me. The work on growing to love myself, the work of re-parenting myself and knowing that even with physical and emotional abandonment, I was loveable. That those things weren’t a reflection of me but rather of parents who were parenting from a wounded place. That work would be mine and mine alone. Not my therapists’, not my ex husband’s, not my soon to be ex wife’s, not friends’, not acquaintances’, nobody’s but mine alone.

Honestly, it took being treated in a way that my rational brain recognized as unacceptable even when all my emotional brain wanted to do was cry and bemoan the unfairness of it all. It was that constant crying about how unfair it all was that kept me in situations where I wasn’t being honored and shown love and consideration and kindness. They couldn’t because of their own issues sure. But more than that, they couldn’t because I wasn’t being any of those things to myself. I was self harming, threatening suicide even when I wasn’t actively suicidal (which I have been in the past), crying about everything and was just about that “woe-is-me” life.

I had to wake up to the next level of my healing journey. And that started the day I walked out on a marriage that was just a year old and a woman I thought was my forever love. I thank the universe/God/Goddess/Spirit for bringing this opportunity to heal my way. I don’t quite appreciate the method but without this level of pain; I don’t think I would have had the ability to tackle my healing. That’s because it is hard work to tackle your ego. Learning it, it’s patterns, it’s attempts to protect you like it learned to do from infancy.

Re-parenting yourself is hard work. Unlearning decades of socialized and conditioned behavior and thought patterns is hard. Diversifying from long-held beliefs about who you are as a person as implanted in you by your earliest caregivers is hard shit. It takes showing up for yourself every single day. Day in and day out. Therapy is just once a week and is a stellar place to start and perhaps even stay for a long while but eventually, you’d need to do daily work on your own to level up in your growth process. This work doesn’t ever stop. This is life and living. The work is life and for life.

@the.holistic.psychologist has been paramount in this next level of growth for me. Check her out on IG and YouTube because she has immensely beneficial content on how to do work of healing yourself on a daily basis. She talks about a lot of the concepts I mention in this post about self, ego, reparenting, wounded inner child and more.

Ultimately, my desire through this transition in my life is to come to a place of being at peace from deep within. Love of self that is not interested in external validations. Learn how to implement boundaries in my life as well as to respect other peoples boundaries. Boundaries is a topic for another day because honey, it is so so hard to learn how to implement boundaries when you’ve always associated your best qualities to the fact that you’re an over giver. Who am I when I begin to say NO?! Where’s the generous, loving Christabel then? That is after all a quality that I’ve always loved about myself. Through the self harm and violent outbursts and bullshit…I was always the loving generous Christabel. Separating from that identity is going to be…interesting to say the least. But, I must.

Let’s chat again soon!

XO, Christabel.

Lessons in the storms of life – in the NOW

Recently, having had certain aspects of who I am come up, I’ve looked at some reasons I am the way I am. Growing up a Jehovah’s Witness, sometimes, it’s easy to point out all the things wrong with it. It wasn’t just a matter of going to church on Sundays; it was a complete lifestyle.

For starters, we went to the Kingdom Hall a minimum of two days a week. Add to that the days we met up to go preaching from house to house, and we found ourselves at the Kingdom Hall up to 4 days a week. I’ve written before about how being a witness and being in the “truth” meant not associating with “worldly people” beyond what was necessary.

This meant, no birthday parties, no listening to most music because they glorified the things in the world. No films that were ratedabove PG 13, and even then, you needed. Another thing we didn’t take part in was the political and social issues of the day. Being no part of the world meant advocating for God’s Kingdom to solve mankind’s problems. If you wanted an end to racial, social and economic injustices, then advocate even harder for God’s kingdom to come.

I’ve always felt somewhat “behind” in life. Not hip to most pop culture references, politically and socially ambivalent. I’ve been working overtime to remedy that in recent years with surprising realizations about my passion regarding social, economic and racial issues and there’s been growing pains.

Growing up with a certain set of values have irrevocably shaped who I am today. Many of what I’d consider my positive traits are because of those values. My journey in self-discovery has shown me that while there may always be a certain wish that I grew up differently with access to more options and exposure, there is always some good to be foundin who we are right now.

Forgiveness comes easy to me and I am very grateful for that. I attribute it to the scripture at 1 Corinthians 6:7 that asks us to let ourselves be wrongedrather than pursue a lawsuit against a fellow member of the congregation. There is something to be saidabout needing to stand up for yourself and all that, but the sentiment behind the scripture is to let things go if we can especially when it involves someone we love remembering that we are all flawed and will make mistakes.

Another quality inseparable from who I am is the ability to be content no matter what. The scripture says keep a simple eye because when the eye is simple, the whole body is simple. Being taught to keep a simple eye may have meant a lack of ambition but more than anything else, it has meant being satisfied with my current situation even while seeking ways to make more money or whatever else. Finding joy in the simple pleasures, accepting that the future and certain things in the present are beyond our abilities and out of our control.

These lessons apply in all situations because we can only accomplish anything in the NOW. Eckhart Tolle talks about this in The Power of Now extensively. Being able to accept that any decision we will ever make will only ever happen in the NOW helps us let go of things outside our control. This comes easier to me than most things so here I am passing it on as a reminder especially if it’s something hard for you to remember and/or practice.

Be it weight loss, overcoming trauma, dealing with anxiety or depression, working to live with the truth that the now is all we will ever have, will pay great dividends. Another scripture that comes to mind regarding that is at Luke 12:26, 26 where Jesus asks his disciples “Who of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his life span? If, therefore, you cannot do such a small thing, why be anxious about the remaining things?”

While I may no longer identify as a Christian (or anything right now), there are many lessons to be learnedfrom growing up as one. It is a good reminder for me to remember and honor where I come from even if I’m still healing from the damage that arose from it.

With love,

Christabel