Success, with Style

Standing with People Suffering from Mental Illness

Posted on December 8, 2016

 

“The semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” (Project Semicolon).

semi colon tattoo

 

The semicolon is an offering of hope for people suffering with mental illness, including depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.

I got this tattoo on my 32nd birthday because the date represented a milestone that exceeded merely getting one year older. June 20, 2016, is a time stamp marking just how much I overcame over the past year and a half. I never gave up even though there were times that I wanted to. I fought for myself. I worked very hard to create the life that I deserve. We all struggle, every single day. Some of us do it in silence and don’t survive our trials. 

This semicolon is for everyone who suffers in silence, who feel betrayed by their own mind, who struggle to convince themselves that they want to live, and for all those whose power of persuasion falls short. Mental illness is a silent, bastardized, and ostracized killer that often exists without resistance and accountability. I got this tattoo to stand in solidarity with everyone who resists, whether it is because you are managing mental illness or because you are a professional trained to help others manage.

Encouraging you to keep writing your life story,

-TJ

What Beyoncé’s Lemonade Can Teach Us About Inclusion

Posted on December 8, 2016

I wrote this piece a little while back for another blog that I run – Inclusion at Work.

inclusion at work

When Beyoncé premiered Lemonade, Black women and girls around the world declared a collective, “Yasssssss!” We were mesmerized by seeing our faces represented in the film and encouraged when we heard our experiences affirmed in Beyoncé’s lyrics and Warsan Shire’s poetry. 

About a quarter way into the film, I had the epiphany that Lemonade, the album and film, was unapologetically about and dedicated to Black Women. Although she depicted universal themes of love, betrayal, heartbreak, anger, insecurity and confidence, forgiveness, longing for freedom, and empowerment, Beyoncé centered images and narratives of Black women while telling this story. 

Picture Parkwood / via Tidal

Beyoncé did something that most filmmakers in Hollywood either don’t think to do or deliberately intend not to do: she presented Black women’s humanity in all its complexity, history, and beauty. Not only did Beyoncé pledge allegiance to Black women, she presented Black women as…

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Trying to be a runner again is not like “riding a bike”

Posted on October 22, 2015

I went running this morning and it was brutal.

I set a modest goal: run from my home to the park 6 blocks north, run intervals around the track twice, and then run back home.

One and a half block into my run, I felt bones and muscles in my bodies that I should not feel. Like, the bones in the bottom of my left foot and my ankles. I like my life better when I know that I have functioning limbs and muscles, but without knowing they are there, doing their job.

I ran the Chicago Half Marathon three years ago and started training for the Bank of America marathon the following year. Six miles into my ten mile run, my left knee tapped me on my shoulder and yelled, “BITCH, YOU GUESSED IT!”

(If you don’t know where that gem comes from, check out Kid Fury and Crissle of The Read podcast.)

I hobbled, tried to run slowly, tried stretching, limped, prayed, tried to run again. Finally, I had to accept my reality: I was badly injured in a way that I had never felt before. I limped the four miles back home, cried a little, and tried to figure out what to do next.

After a trip to my doctor, who sent me to a podiatrist, who sent me to a physical therapist, a diagnosis of illiotibial band (IT band) syndrome, and months of not being able to run more than 20 minutes on the treadmill without feeling pain, I was finally able to run outside again, but only for 30 minutes.

I realized after experiencing that injury that not only did it halt my training, but it also debilitated my confidence. Running five miles used to be nothing for me, but during that injury, it hurt to walk up and down stairs.

I gained weight and insecurity. Running was one of the best things to happen to me. It was meditative. I realized about two years ago that instead of being meditative, running became a source of anxiety. I was literally afraid to run. Not because I thought I would be injured again, but because I was afraid of failing. I was afraid that I would set a running goal and I would not meet it. I’ve intermittently met that fear head on for the last two years, and not always successfully.

So when I left my home this time with my modest running goal, it was not only a decision to get in some much needed cardio, to release some stress, and to find my love of running again, but it was also a decision to confront a fear of failure.

I made it to the park and hit the track. My intent was to sprint the straight and jog the curve two times.

My ankles and left foot showed up that morning like,”Oh, hey, girl. Just stopping by to make your run is a living hell.”

I sprinted the straight the first time and heard myself wheezing. The wheezing was a mixture of unattractive mouth-breathing and a little bit of asthma.

I got my breathing under control and jogged the curved. Then I mentally prepared to sprint the curve again, and hit my sprint. I was much slower than I used to be. I jogged the curve. Barely breathing, I remembered how I first started running four years ago on the treadmill at the gym. When I enrolled at the gym, the trainer explained to me that the best way to increase my endurance was interval training. He told me to jog for 2 minutes and run for 1 minute and to repeat this process 10 times. Running intervals that first time was hard as hell but within a year, I ran a half marathon and was having a pretty good time doing it.

Running was hard when I first started. I kept at it, struggled, learned, and improved.

I’ll have to do the same thing this time around.

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