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September 2021

Post #20: Decade Number 3…Welcome to 30

I. TURNED. 30

As a refresher, let me start with just a little about myself. I am an AA woman. I work in research and tech. My Myers-Briggs personality type is INTJ. I am in a relationship. I am a Virgo. My interests include music, art, science, travel, public health and women’s issues.

So, what did I do during my birthday trip? My bf and I traveled to the Washington DC area which is one of my favorite places. We ate a bunch of amazing food. We ordered takeout from amazing places like Nandos and Souvlaki Bar. We tried short rib poutine and bao buns at other restaurants. We stumbled across some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life near Georgetown. My boyfriend tried Jeni’s ice cream and Georgetown cupcakes for the first time (which I already loved). I tried Limoncello❤️

We did some shopping at a few places including Pentagon Row, Crystal City Shops and the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. We also “completed” the Saddlewood Saloon escape room at Bonds Escape Room Arlington.

Next, what did I learn in my 20s? I learned the following:

• Gratitude

• The importance of loving the people in your life fiercely while they are here

• Forgiveness

• Ridding myself of people and things that do not serve me

• Patience

• Boundaries

Last, what am I looking forward to in my 30s?

• Covid ending

• Watching my nieces/godbabies grow up

• Transitioning into a new level of friendship with my besties

• Growing my career

• Being less afraid

• Entering into a romantic partnership/marriage

• Potentially having children/adopting

• Traveling

• Paying off debt

So what have you learned or what are you looking forward to learning in your 30s?

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September 2021

NEW PODCAST ALERT

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June 2021

Post #19: My first monster was my father…

My truth. My first monster was my father. Just to state, I was never sexually abused by my father. I am a survivor of severe emotional and mental abuse. The occasions of physical abuse are few but are still present in my memory.

For as long as I can remember, I have had a shitty relationship with my father. I have some “good” memories but they are far removed. My father has been an alcoholic for the entire duration of my life. The rift in our relationship started with my mother’s alleged affair. I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7. My father asked me if my mom had a boyfriend. I don’t even think I had a clue of what a boyfriend was. I don’t remember my exact response. I just remember that whatever I said strained our relationship forever. To this day, he still blames me for not telling him about it. In our last conversation, over 20 years after the initial conversation…months after my mom’s passing. He brought up the anger that he still had towards me concerning that incident.

I remember the night I ran to my neighbor’s house in the middle of the night. I was in my bedroom and heard loud yelling from our living room. I heard fighting and violence. I put on my shoes and ran out our door through the kitchen. My neighbor opened the door and saw me crying and afraid. She was super kind. She asked me what was going on. I told her that my dad was drunk and was fighting with my mom. She let me wait at her house while she called the police. The police walked me from her house back to my home. In a nutshell, both of my parents denied that anything had happened. My mom and I packed our things and spent the night at my grandmother’s house. We went home the next day. He never forgave me for that.

At almost every single graduation ceremony that I have had, he has found a way to start an arguement with me. He hated that I was not afraid or dependent on him. On the day of my high school graduation, he threatened to not take me to the early admission STEM program at my college. I told him that I would just find another ride there. At my college graduation, he disappeared after the ceremony with no cellphone amongst a sea of people. When I asked him why he had disappeared, he got angry and started yelling.

I made the decision to cut him out of my life after my mother’s passing. He acted an entire ass from the time we found out about her terminal illness through the funeral preparations. I couldn’t take anymore. Prior to her passing, I told my mom that I would be cordial to him. However, I told her that once she transitioned, I would be done with him for good. A few days after her funeral, he spoke ill of my mother. It was unforgivable. This was after he had already insisted on splitting her ashes. I ended the phone call and the relationship with him that night. Several months later, I received a phone call from the hospital telling me that he was trying to give my name as being the person responsible for my mother’s small amount of medical bills. The women on the phone were so kind and apologetic. They told me that legally it was his responsibility and that they would pursue further actions as needed. Mind you, I had already covered the entirety of my mom’s funeral.

He tried to con me into believing that I was not worthy of anything good…That I was inferior and a mistake. That I was unworthy of happiness and love…I make a choice to rebel against this daily.

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May 2021

Post #18: Hello depression and anxiety my old friends

I’ve had depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. However, I wasn’t officially diagnosed with having anything until 2017.

Prior to being diagnosed, in 2016, I started attending both group and individual therapy in grad school. I was having a hard time. Not with my coursework though. I was at a huge PWI several states away from most of my friends and family. I was one of a few black people in my program. I was having difficulty adjusting. On top of that, I had two decades of abuse and trauma to work through.

Notably, in mid 2014, I was sexually assaulted by a guy I was dating. This experience wasn’t my first encounter with having an unwanted experience with a person I was dating. However, the nature of the experience changed me for the worse. I sought solace in things that did not make the feeling of being “dirty” go away. My levels of anxiety and depression only increased.

In May 2019, I decided to go on medication to assist me in my mental health journey. I already had been working with a therapist. Upon asking me a few questions, my primary care physician gave me a series of assessments. I ranked in the “severe” category for both anxiety and depression. I already knew that something was “wrong”.

Life had been kicking my ass making my already fragile mental health even worse. Dealing with the loss of my mom and general unhappiness with my career caused me to dread waking up every morning. Dragging myself out of bed felt like what I can imagine is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. I couldn’t concentrate. My brain was foggy all of the time. I was always tired.

Two years later, I am thankful to have gone on my medication. I am able to focus so much better and operate without a looming sense of existential dread. My life has improved substantially. I have been able to focus on being there and celebrating my loved ones. I originally thought that going on medication made me a failure. However, I realize more than ever that my conditions were (are) a chemical imbalance. I couldn’t “will” myself into fixing it. I’m living now and not merely existing.

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May 2021

Post #17: Issa Natural Hair Wash Day

My natural hair is currently the longest it has ever been in my adult life. I have had countless struggles with my hair for over the past decade or so (see Post 13).

I made the decision to unloc my hair during April 2020. The pandemic closed most hair salons and I got tired of looking rough. I had only been loced for about 3 months. I decided to commit to taking care of my natural hair and refrain from cutting it.

Currently, my hair is about 9-10 inches when stretched. I am proud of myself. For the most part, I have stuck to a set routine with some variation here and there. I’ve also worn wigs less often and allowed my hair to breathe.

Here is my routine:

  • Prepoo hair on a monthly basis
  • Shampoo my hair weekly or biweekly
  • Condition my hair during each wash and detangle
  • Deep condition for and hour twice a month using a heated cap
  • Oil scalp after each wash
  • Use the LCO (leave-in, cream and oil) method to prep and style hair in two strand twists

Here are some of the products I use:

  • For Pre-poo: Olive oil and Africa’s Best Originals Hair Mayonnaise
  • For Shampoo: Aveeno Clarify & Shine Apple Cider Vinegar Blend Conditioner OR Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Sulfate Free Shampoo
  • For Conditioner: Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Conditioner
  • For Deep Conditioner: Miss Jessie’s Rapid Recovery Treatment MIXED WITH Mielle’s Rosemary Mint Strengthening Hair Masque
  • For Oil: Olive Oil, Jamaican Black Castor Oil and Wild Growth Hair Oil
  • For Leave-In: Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Detangling Leave-In Conditioner
  • For Cream (or Gel): Design Essentials Almond & Avocado Honey Curl Forming Custard

What are your staple hair products?

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March 2021

Post #16: Hello loso (low sodium) eating

In December of 2020, I received unexpected news during a routine medical appointment. My blood pressure was abnormally high. At 29, I had never experienced this issue before. I was told to come back in a month for a follow up appointment.

Due to being super busy with work, I returned almost two months later. Honestly, I had changed nothing about my eating habits. I was sure that the previous measurements were just weird outliers. However, while my blood pressure had lowered some, it still teetered between the elevated blood pressure and high blood pressure (stage 1) zone. I was devastated. My PCP discussed putting me on blood pressure medicine but I asked her for an opportunity to make some lifestyle changes.

Since college, I have gained an enormous amount of weight. I lost 70 pounds in college through calorie counting and exercise. However, I was not able to keep up this same momentum while transitioning into the working world. I would go through bouts of losing weight and working out but they would never last for more that 3-4 months.

This wake up call got my attention. Losing my mother due to congestive heart failure complications (along with other conditions) completely broke me. My depression was debilitating. It should have been my sign to cut back on salt and get back on track. However, it drove me to continue to seek comfort in food especially fast food. I rejected any thoughts of working out. Doing the bare minimum was difficult enough.

I am now in a better place due to seeking help. Being in this better place helps me to realize that I cannot allow myself to become a casualty due to my own poor decisions. I am not perfect but I want to put forth a good effort in shifting my lifestyle.

So far I have done the following things:

1. Started cooking more and eating out wayyyyy less

2. Cooking with low salt or no salt seasonings (no added table salt or salty seasonings)

3. Trying to keep my daily sodium intake to less than 1500mg-2000mg

4. Buying low sodium food options in stores ( low sodium or reduced sodium broth, beans, bacon and tortillas are examples)

5. Monitor my blood pressure by testing at least 1-2 times per day

I definitely have not been perfect and have yet to start back working out. However, my goal is to start back soon using some Youtube videos. I have a follow up appointment in 2 months and my goal is to be back in the normal blood prssure range and ten pounds lighter.

My goal is to never have to start high blood pressure medicine. Wish me luck!!!

Do you monitor your salt intake on a regular basis?
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February 2021

Bonus: My favorite perfumes

While I still enjoy a good fruity body spray from Bath & Body Works, I am growing to appreciate slighty more “womanly” scents. My top 10 favorite perfumes (in random order) are:

1. Light Blue-Dolce & Gabbana*

2. Gucci Guilty-Gucci

3. Good Girl (Supreme)-Carolina Herrera*

4. Black Opium Neon (Intense)-Yves Saint Laurent*

5. Yellow Diamond-Versace*

6. Gucci Bloom-Gucci

7. Ocean di Gioia-Armani

8. Candy-Prada

9. Daisy-Marc Jacobs

10. White Diamonds-Elizabeth Taylor

*Top Four Fragrances

What is your favorite perfume?

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November 2020

Bonus: Preserve your sanity…log off

Please make a mental health plan for tomorrow and probably Wednesday as well. I plan on avoiding all news outlets and social media. Here are some ideas:

  1. Paint on a canvas
  2. Read or listen to an audiobook
  3. Meditate
  4. Call a friend or loved one
  5. Clean your house/apartment
  6. Light some candles
  7. Sage your space
  8. Listen to your favorite podcasts
  9. Watch stand up comedy specials
  10. Go to sleep early
  11. Cook or bake something
  12. Journal
  13. Listen to music
  14. Put your phone on do not disturb for a few hours
  15. Give yourself a home pedicure or manicure
  16. Color in a stress relief coloring book for grown folks
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October 2020

Post #13: The politics of black hair…a bag of wigs

When I was 17, I first lost my hair. A new medication did not agree with my system. I had terrible side effects including severe mood swings and the loss of my hair. Thankfully, I was able to switch to another medication that has not given me any adverse effects in the past 12 years.

To mask my hair issue, I began wearing half wigs at 17. A half wig is a hair unit that is made to be blended with your natural hair. This blending helps to camouflage the unnatural hair line of the half wig. When I first started wearing half wigs, I would neglect my own hair. I would do almost nothing to maintain it. I would cover the front with massive amounts of gel so that it could blend into the half wig. Not a good idea. My hair went through this for years. The result was a damaged and tangled mess.

Fast forward to a few years post-college, I began wearing more full wigs. I would moisturize my hair underneath and put them in either flat twists or two strand twists. Then I would apply the wig cap and the full wig. Unfortunately, the combs found in some of these wigs and the hairpins I used created some friction with my actual hair. I would see thinning along my hairline and where the combs had made contact. It seemed like everyone else was able to grow long and thick natural hair by wearing wigs as a protective style.

Regardless of the damage, I continued to wear the wigs. I felt more attractive and professional while wearing the wigs. I would alternate between curly ones, straight ones and wavy ones. If I had a job interview, I would always wear a wig. I never thought that my natural hair was appropriate enough to wear in a professional environment. It was low density and pretty thin. No one wants to have hair like that.

In recent years, I have started embracing my natural hair more often. My hair reminds me of my mom and grandmother’s hair. I care for it by washing and conditioning it on a weekly to bi-weekly basis. I even started locs at the beginning of 2020 (I removed them after about three months due to not being able to get them redone during the COVID-19 salon closures). However, even with this appreciation, I think I will always keep a bag of wigs. I like being able to switch up the look of my hair on a frequent basis. I just want to make sure that I don’t start back using them as a crutch…a crutch all of the time

Hair, especially black hair, has always been inherently political. What is your hair experience?

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October 2020

Post #12: Check your breasts and know your family history

Just a reminder that not everyone survives their fight with breast cancer. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in the mid-90s. I was too young to remember most things. I just remember climbing into her hospital bed and asking her a million questions. Thankfully, she received chemotherapy and a mastectomy and was able to survive.

Fast forward to 2016, my mom had started having issues with her eye. At the time, I was finishing up grad school in Ohio. After being sent from doctor to doctor in Eastern NC, she finally was referred to a specialist at Duke. In August 2017, we learned that the cells found in her eye had origins in her breast. This meant that my mom had breast cancer once again that had already spread to other parts of her body. Although she had received a mammogram each year since her initial diagnosis, there was and is no commonly accepted screening practice of checking for cancer metastasis in previous cancer patients. By the time breast cancer metastasizes to your bones and other organs, it is terminal.

My mom went through a series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Thankfully she had the best oncologist in the entire world, Dr. Jeremy Force. However, in conjunction with other complications, she lost her fight on January 2, 2019.

💕This post was made in honor of my mother and other people who have lost their lives while fighting breast cancer. There is still more work to do in terms of breast cancer care and research.💕