What didn’t make the highlight reel

As you may have figured out by now, writing is my therapy. If there is an issue I am struggling with – the first thing I think to do is write about it. Similarly, when a great idea strikes, “I’m thinking where is my journal?” In fact, I have several journals that I’ve started over the years because when inspiration hits, I have to get it down immediately – but I also have somewhat of a short attention span, so each journal probably only has about 5 entries before it got trapped in a bookshelf never to be visited again.  So when I started this blog I decided to keep an electronic journal – basically a word document in which I free-write and shape my thoughts. It isn’t as pretty and there is something missing by not being able to put pen to paper, but I like that I can go back and re-read everything from time to time. Doing so really takes me back through the memories and emotions of every single post, and lets me re-live those moments that I hold so dear.

Today, inspiration struck! Over the past week or so, a particular scripture had been running through my mind so I decided that today was going to be the day that I write it out and see what I come up with. As I opened my up “Journal” document and started to scroll towards the bottom to find an open space to write, all of the titles of my prior entries began to jump out to me and made me scroll a little slower… so much so that I just started reading entry after entry until I got to the end. And with each passing entry, my mind changed about what to right about next. “Oooo, I should write a follow up to this one,” I thought, “No, what I need to do is explain how my views changed on this one,” next. But then I started to get to some entries that I hadn’t posted. Some that I didn’t even finish because they were too hard…

The last post I made public was for my birthday, over eight months ago, and the one before that showed a 3-month gap – effectively confirming that it has been almost a year since I was publishing blog posts on a regular basis. Clearly, the writing never stopped, but the publishing did. And it goes to one of the points that I dislike about social media: people only really share their highlight reels.  When I turned 30 I struggled with measuring my life against others’ and one of the tips that I shared in my post “Tips for 30” was that we’ve got to stop comparing our lives to what others choose to post about theirs because it isn’t the whole truth. In carrying that thought further, I find myself wondering that “since we all go through struggles from time to time, what is the purpose of hiding that truth about ourselves?” We post literally everything we do and think on a daily basis – except the tough parts.

In my case, it’s no coincidence that the dates when my blog posts stopped coincide with the fact that I was going through a breakup. I mean, who wants to write about that, right? Her Lenox Stoop is supposed to make me feel empowered and unstoppable not depressed, heartbroken and scared. I was trying to move past it, not dwell in it. Plus, why would I want everyone in my business?! Though, for some reason, I wasn’t so concerned about people being in my business when it was something good happening for me… Despite the fact that people go through breakups all the time, and my perspective on the matter might resonate with most, I just couldn’t bring myself to air this dirty laundry to the world.

So what’s the point?

If you’ve read any of my other posts, this is right about where I would drop some gem of knowledge or insight or food for thought. But not today. Today, I encourage everyone to do some self-reflection – and I mean everyone, especially those who think they are hiding it well. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, quiet your thoughts and take some deep breaths. In your nose and out of your mouth. Let your mind wander to the deepest corners of your consciousness, where you are holding something you just don’t want to talk about, think about or deal with. Go there. Sit in it for a couple of minutes. Cry if you have to. Do whatever you feel moved to do to let it out. And when you are ready, open your eyes. But don’t wipe any tears away that may have fallen. Instead, go to a mirror. Look at yourself. Truly see yourself in your reflection. Feel proud that you let yourself be vulnerable, that you loosened the fists you were clinching, even if only a little bit. Stand a little taller, hold your head a little higher. And wink at yourself. Whatever it is that you’re going through hasn’t broken you. You’re stronger than you think you are. You have the power to change your situation. You have everything you need, already inside of you.

However, if you don’t think you can go it alone, I am also an advocate of therapy, I encourage you to find someone you can talk to. Mental health should be taken just as seriously as physical health and spiritual health. We all need a little help sometimes, and there is no shame in asking for it – in fact I believe that is a sign of true strength.

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Wake Up Call

Last week I received one of those calls no one ever wants to get. At 6:19 am on a Monday, I woke up to “your brother is in the hospital.”  You could replace “brother” with child, parent, grandparent, best friend, or any loved one and your heart will drop just as fast.  It’s never a good feeling to think that someone you care for is in pain – and an even worse feeling to know that their life could be in danger.  In this case it was diabetes, or what I am now calling the silent killer.

My brother had been experiencing certain symptoms for a few weeks – namely, constant thirst and urination, but also a lack of desire for his favorite food: snacks. And because it runs through our family, he immediately thought he might be developing diabetes. When I spoke to him the Saturday before he promised me he would be making a doctor’s appointment first thing on Monday.  So to find out that he never made it to the doctor on his own, a different kind of alarm bell was going off for me that morning.

In the early hours of Monday morning he had experienced dizziness and started losing his vision. So he went to the emergency room around 5 am and when they measured his blood glucose level it was 861. The normal range for a non-diabetic person’s blood glucose is between 70 and 130, and since his was so high his body was bordering on a complete lack of insulin and he was instead developing ketones in his blood, so they diagnosed him with diabetic ketoacidosis.  With blood sugar levels that high, they said he could have slipped into a coma or worse.  So they gave him IV’s of saline, potassium and insulin, and moved him to the ICU on a 24-hour watch until his levels normalized. Needless to say it was a rough 24 hours.

The American Diabetes Association asserts that, compared to the general population, African Americans are disproportionately affected by Diabetes, and estimates that 13.2% of African Americans are diagnosed with diabetes as compared to 7.6% of whites. Hispanic Americans are up there too, with 12.8%. The ADA also reports that diabetes kills more Americans every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined. So to find out that my brother could have died when really the only symptoms he had were thirst and frequent urination not only brings tears to my eyes but also sends panic through my entire body.

You’d think a disease so serious would have more serious symptoms, but it doesn’t – so many people go about their daily lives never even knowing that they have it or are developing it. Normal “blood work” during annual physical examinations doesn’t usually measure blood glucose and unless you have a relative or other loved one who has experienced it, you may never think to ask to have your blood tested.  Even as someone who has a history of diabetes within my immediate family, I never thought about either.  To me it always felt like something I may have to deal with when I’m 50, 60 or 70 years old – but my brother will be turning only 43 next week.  So this has rocked my world almost as much as it has rocked his.

So what does this mean for me and other black and brown twenty-somethings out there? If there’s one thing I know about us, we like convenience. Unfortunately, that can mean fast food restaurants and other quick meal solutions that could just end up pushing us even further down the path to diabetes.  And being someone whose weekly menu consists of bagels, burgers, cakes and cookies, nobody knows better than me how difficult it is going to be to shake those habits.  But the other thing I know about myself and us as Millennials, is that we know how to be informed. Small changes as simple as reading labels and cooking at home rather than eating out can make a huge difference on your health (and on your wallet). Knowing that it isn’t just sugar in the traditional sense that can cause a problem, but rather carbohydrates overall as being potentially harmful when consumed in excess, also helps us to make more informed choices out of the food options available to us.

For me, this was definitely a wake up call to change my eating and lifestyle choices while I still have the chance. It isn’t going to happen overnight, but at least I will no longer be able to feign ignorance – from here on out the choices I make will be conscious, and I hope yours will, too.