I had a headache. A pounding, excruciating, painful headache that wouldn’t seem to go away. I was taking over 21 college credits in an attempt to participate in a graduation ceremony that I was already 1 year behind on, I was working part time as a bank teller, I served as leadership in multiple campus organizations, I was involved in campus ministry, I had physical health concerns, my weight & physical features were a constant annoyance, I was financially struggling, overwhelmed, lonely, frustrated, and tired …so tired.

The headache got stronger with each new thought. Then, I received a call that my father had passed away. A source of much of my life’s confusion, gone before I could reconcile. Gone before I could make sense of everything. I hated myself for my mistakes. I hated myself for being ugly. I hated myself for being fat. I hated myself for the molestation. I hated myself for the sexual assault. I hated myself for never being good enough for my father, for other men, for love, for graduation, for acceptance …I just wanted the headache to end. I wanted the pain to go away…so I took some Ibuprofen. 

The next day I woke up in a hospital bed with a pumped stomach, IVs in my arm, and still in pain. It hadn’t gone away. The headache was still there. But it was now accompanied with shame and guilt. I was a Christian, I was social, I was outgoing, I was funny, I was …”happy”.  ”Too blessed to be stressed”, but now an attempter of suicide. I was afraid of what people would say. I was afraid of what they would think of me. I didn’t want my mother to worry. I didn’t want her to see her only baby in a hospital bed, not like this. But she did. A day later she flew from all the way across the country, and as visitors and doctors came and went out of my room, the only thing that I could muster in between tears were “I’m not crazy. I promise…I’m not crazy”. 

Some may disagree with that comment. I’m a gemini, so I’m no stranger to the accusation. I’m emotional, passionate, impulsive, imaginative, an overthinker, and an exhaustive lover. I love hard. I feel hard. I feel easily. I stress quickly - I am my mother’s daughter. Carrier of neurosis. A nurturer. Giver until every drop is depleted. Loving you until it hurts. It does hurt. A lot. Much of my grief is my own. And some, i’ve managed to adopt from others. I’m an emotional sponge, collecting hurt & pain of as if it were my very own.  I attempt to save. Somewhere along the line I lost myself in the process. “Feelings” turned into boulders. Massive, obnoxious, intrusive boulders that rolled down a hill and became bigger than life…bigger than myself. I could no longer carry them.

That day, the dam had officially broke, the shelf had fallen, and walls that I had so meticulously created came tumbling down. After a of culmination of traumatic events; some from childhood, some from recent events …fear, anxiety, and low self esteem had become close acquaintances. But somewhere along the line, I had also become good friends with pretending and denial. I was a pro at laughing, joking, and entertaining. I was an overachiever. I’d give & do for others excessively. A natural people pleaser. It was a way of attempting to win approval (since I didn’t believe my looks would do it). But it also worked with distracting myself and others from things that I was going through internally. I figured if I was social enough, busy enough, and if I gave enough, I wouldn’t have time to focus on the people, situations, experiences, and thoughts that tormented me. It was easier to pretend. 

I grew up watching “strong Black women”. Women who worked tirelessly at a 9-5, raised families on their own, supported their men, moved furniture, cured ills, loved unconditionally, and carried burdens without complaining or missing a beat. And if there ever was a dilemma, sickness, or issue, the proper thing to do was to go into your “prayer closet”. Prayer solved all things, and if it didn’t, you weren’t doing it right. I believed that admitting that I had a problem, would be a sign of weakness.  It would make me a failure. It would mean that I wasn’t saved enough, or brave enough, or competent enough. I would mean I was “crazy”. I feared the gossip, judgement, and assumptions. So I pretended. I pretended until it was too painful. 

That hospital visit four years ago led to me being diagnosed with Clinical Depression . Today, I still deal with a revolving door of disappointments, heartache, loneliness, fluctuating weight, health issues, anxiety, and confusion regarding my future & purpose. However, I am also equipped with something that is far greater than all of those things: faith & knowledge. My faith is what pushes me to fight. My knowledge is what informs me how to.I’m a little more self aware. I know my triggers. I know my symptoms. I know when i’m going to that place ….or when it’s coming to me. I promised myself not to ever let my mother see me in that hospital bed again, not that way and not under those terms. 

Instead of ignoring, covering, denying, and pretending, I try to speak. It’s downright scary at times, but it is as necessary as breathing. Silence hadn’t gotten me anywhere. I’m honest with myself. I try to be honest with others. I’ve opened up to my closest friends, as well as my employer about my mental illness. This is bigger than just having a bad day, being in a not so good mood, or making excuses. Like cancer, HIV, or diabetes, this is an illness  and I recognize it as such. Although I still sometimes have trouble asking for help (and accepting help), I am fully aware that I cannot do this alone. I seek the assistance of professionals. I utilize treatment. I reach out to those who can understand my story. I don’t walk around with a banner. I use discretion about when sharing is needed and appropriate. Everyone won’t “get it”. Everyone doesn’t have to. I have accepted the fact that there will be many that won’t understand me. It doesn’t make me or my testimony any less real. I wasn’t created to convince. I was created to speak. I was created to be a life changer. Starting with my own.

I may not have everything that I want, I may not be where I want to be, but I am growing. I am healing. I am fighting. I am loved. I am here…and I am honored to be. I still struggle. It’s a struggle just to write this. But it’s worth it. If not for myself, then for those who are silent.

"When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak" - Audre Lorde

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This post is in recognition of #NoShame Day, which is meant to bring awareness to mental illness within the international Black community. It was started by Bassey Ikpi:  writer, mental health advocate, and founder of The Siwe Project 

If you are experiencing something similar to the information in my post, just know that you are not alone and that there is support and resources available to you. We need you. I need you. Contact me ANY time.

If you have someone in your life that is exhibiting some of the symptoms that I listed above, be patient with them. Be understanding. Listen. Don’t minimize their feelings. Be supportive, be a friend, and if possible, direct them to a professional or personal resource that could be of assistance. They need you …and the world needs them

An on time reminder. “Sometimes you have to encourage yourself…”

An on time reminder. “Sometimes you have to encourage yourself…”

Made it safely to Kenya earlier today. So excited! Looking forward to what’s in store for the next 10 days in my namesake.

Made it safely to Kenya earlier today. So excited! Looking forward to what’s in store for the next 10 days in my namesake.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had enough courage to do something like this, but it was almost as if it was dropped right into my lap with a pretty little red bow on top and a note that said “I dare you to believe in yourself”. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! I was reminded of an Oprah Winfrey quote, “I bet on myself …and it was the best bet I ever made”.
I am excited to announce that I will be working with MaineDrama Productions in their 2014 show called Point…Blank…Period!
Promising to be a riveting collection of works, this collaborative project will feature various women’s reactions to their love/hate relationship with …their period!  That’s right, you read it correctly. And I know what you’re thinking, “EW! That’s gross!”. Well, it is…kinda lol. But It’s also natural people!
As a society, we often tend to be silent about the things that make us uncomfortable. But the truth is, each body has a story. However, our bodies, and our stories, will have little power if we are silent. As Audre Lorde so eloquently stated, “when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak”. 
Next year, I will be joining a group of talented women and telling the stories of our bodies: the good, the bad, and everything in between! Portrayed through monologues, skits, and spoken word, Point…Blank…Period! will give insight to a topic that is often unspoken or told in whispers.
With that said, I am super excited to announce that we have been accepted to showcase in the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival.  With any new show, it takes funding.  Securing funds can sometimes be a daunting task for independent artists and producers, however, I firmly believe that we can raise the necessary funds to make this production a success. Currently, we need to raise $5000 by March 22, 2014, for production and administrative costs.  We want this show to be a huge success, but we can’t do it without you. Will you help us reach our goal?
How can you help?  It’s pretty simple:
Click the link below and donate today!  No donation is too small…it all helps us reach our goal.
1. DONATE HERE
2. Tell your friends to help.  Word of mouth is the greatest tool.
Start the buzz about Point…Blank…Period!  . All you have to do is share the link to this post to friends & family. It’s THAT simple! 
All donations will receive recognition.  This may include mention in our show’s program, on the web, and/or through social media.
I am so excited about this project and know that you will love it!  Thank you for always supporting me and helping me to believe in myself, and the power of art, creativity, and WORDS. Because people like you are in the world, I have no doubt that this production will be a success. If you have any questions or concerns, let me know!
Sincerely,
Kenya D. Morris

It’s been awhile since I’ve had enough courage to do something like this, but it was almost as if it was dropped right into my lap with a pretty little red bow on top and a note that said “I dare you to believe in yourself”. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! I was reminded of an Oprah Winfrey quote, “I bet on myself …and it was the best bet I ever made”.

I am excited to announce that I will be working with MaineDrama Productions in their 2014 show called Point…Blank…Period!

Promising to be a riveting collection of works, this collaborative project will feature various women’s reactions to their love/hate relationship with …their period!  That’s right, you read it correctly. And I know what you’re thinking, “EW! That’s gross!”. Well, it is…kinda lol. But It’s also natural people!

As a society, we often tend to be silent about the things that make us uncomfortable. But the truth is, each body has a story. However, our bodies, and our stories, will have little power if we are silent. As Audre Lorde so eloquently stated, “when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak”.

Next year, I will be joining a group of talented women and telling the stories of our bodies: the good, the bad, and everything in between! Portrayed through monologues, skits, and spoken word, Point…Blank…Period! will give insight to a topic that is often unspoken or told in whispers.

With that said, I am super excited to announce that we have been accepted to showcase in the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival.  With any new show, it takes funding.  Securing funds can sometimes be a daunting task for independent artists and producers, however, I firmly believe that we can raise the necessary funds to make this production a success. Currently, we need to raise $5000 by March 22, 2014, for production and administrative costs.  We want this show to be a huge success, but we can’t do it without you. Will you help us reach our goal?

How can you help?  It’s pretty simple:

Click the link below and donate today!  No donation is too small…it all helps us reach our goal.

1. DONATE HERE

2. Tell your friends to help.  Word of mouth is the greatest tool.

Start the buzz about Point…Blank…Period!  . All you have to do is share the link to this post to friends & family. It’s THAT simple! 

All donations will receive recognition.  This may include mention in our show’s program, on the web, and/or through social media.

I am so excited about this project and know that you will love it!  Thank you for always supporting me and helping me to believe in myself, and the power of art, creativity, and WORDS. Because people like you are in the world, I have no doubt that this production will be a success. If you have any questions or concerns, let me know!

Sincerely,

Kenya D. Morris

How Kanye Saved My Life

Today, I told my supervisor “I do not feel well”, and for all intents & purposes, that was not a lie. Sure, my nose isn’t runny (at least not from a cold), no cough, no vomit, no high temperature …but, I just don’t feel …well. Which makes me quite the anomaly since I went to a wedding yesterday and was joking, laughing, dancing, and seemingly the life of the party. How one can go from that to crying their eyes out until 4am is beyond me. 

But that’s mental illness for you. It isn’t a respecter of person. You could be a fireball of a personality, and this disease will still find a way to dim your light. It’s paralyzing. It’s painful. And every so often it induces that “I don’t want to be here” feeling in me. It’s when the smallest thing can trigger immense despair. It’s when you are awake countless hours…days and days at a time… because insomnia seems to be a first cousin of anxiety and depression, and it feels left out when not invited to the party. It’s when it’s takes an immense amount effort just to get out of the bed and function or to do normal day to day activities. It’s when everything seems cloudy, and you can’t see past all of the smoke. It’s when you feel like you are drowning. Then you begin counting failures, and mistakes, and traumas, and all of those things seem to outweigh the laughter. You think of how alone you feel. And the next thing you know, depression has you right where it wants you. It has you contemplating if you, the world, and everyone in it would just be better off if you weren’t here. I don’t get that feeling very often, but when I do, it’s heavy. Typically, what keeps me around most days is the thought of potentially breaking my mother’s heart …again. And actually succeeding this time.

But that’s typically when the rationalizing and negotiating begins. You say “OK, they might be sad at first. But their lives will go on.” You start telling yourself that you’re doing them a favor. They won’t have to have complicated conversations with you explaining why you can’t figure out what makes you happy anymore. You won’t have to tell them about how you are learning to take yourself on dates & experience social settings alone and they say “I do that all the time. What’s the big deal?”. You don’t have to try to re-explain why anxiety makes some of the most minuscule things terrifying. And you don’t have to confuse them with your ability to be the most extroverted person they know, self-sufficient, and seemingly have a “good” life, yet still be depressed. You won’t have to make people uncomfortable. Family will move on, friends have plenty to keep them distracted, and men…well, none of them want you anyway…so you surely won’t be missed. No one NEEDS you.

And then came Kanye. Kanye Fancypants Morris to be exact. In May of 2012 I was on temporary leave from work after experiencing an emotional breakdown. I had a breakdown years before in college, but since then I had been managing with my mental illness, juggling multiple responsibilities, and had even moved up to management at my job. But unfortunately, somewhere in there, I had taken on quite a lot, and forgot about self care. To add on to matters, for the first time in my life I was living all alone. No mom, no roommates, just me, and space, and thoughts…way too many thoughts. And out of nowhere a note was on my door one day that included the words “we are now a pet friendly building”. Within minutes I was looking at photos of dogs at shelters. I went into my search wanting a puppy. Thought I needed something young, untainted and full of life (unlike myself). However, what I came home with a week later was a 7 year old dog that the Washington Humane Society had named “Kanye”. A miniature poodle who was grossly underweight, required expensive dental work, had a huge burn/scar on his nose, in need of a serious haircut, but one of the kindest, most gentlest dogs I had ever encountered. The puppies all had a waiting list & an adoption fee, but they were willing to give Kanye to me that day, on the spot, for free, AND throw in free food. He was extremely amicable, but older, unattractive, had health issues, and highly undesirable to most. I thought, “this dog NEEDS me”. 

Maybe I was the one that got adopted that day. Slowly but surely, this dog made me live. Whether I wanted to or not, I had to get up every single morning, rain or shine, and walk him. He was already potty trained, understood commands, and sought to listen & please (unlike the puppy I had pined for), and brought energy into a still place. This living thing, gave me a reason to not retreat. And even when I want to, he comes and sits next to me, licks my hand and gives me that look that says “If you rub me, you’ll feel better. I promise”. This little guy, that I get frustrated with, and impatient with, and may sometimes even yell at, still is excited to see me and forgives/forgets every little flaw that I possess. This creature, that despite his past, despite being neglected, despite the scars, despite his “taintedness”, wants nothing, but to love & be loved. And it makes think “maybe we aren’t all the different”.

And even when I leave him all day, come home, ignore him, cry my eyes out all night, and stay home the next day feeling debilitated, I am reminded that I can’t wither away. If it was up to me, most days I’d lock myself inside, but because of Kanye, I must go. And when I don’t want to, he’s patient. He waits. He may even jump in the bed, get close, lay next to me, and in his own little silent way, remind me that there is life after abandonment, wounds do heal, and that even if you don’t feel well…you are alive, and someone/thing in this world needs you. So take your time - cry, hurt, purge, rest, heal …then get up. 

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— 

I ran across this photo on instagram the other day with a caption that stated “What you put into your body speaks for itself. What does your body say??”. There was so much that I wanted to comment on, but ya know, it’s instagram. It’s a platform that doesn’t lend itself to many words (or at least that’s how I like to keep it). So the most I could muster up was “This photo is problematic. But I understand what you’re saying”.
The person’s intention was probably to motivate. However, a photo like this does the exact opposite. For one, the words “I’m beautiful” on a thin stomach communicates that a thin body is more valuable than another. And I purposefully used the word “thin” because one cannot tell just by viewing this photo if this person is actually fit or not. This photo perpetuates the notion that a thin body is reflective of good health. It is not. I know plenty of thin people that eat fast food regularly and rarely work out, yet they still remain thin due to genetics. There are also thin people who are that way due to eating disorders and other unhealthy habits. I’m an advocate of people working out & eating healthy because they want to. Do it because it makes you happy. Do it because your body will function well and be at it’s best INTERNALLY. 
It didn’t surprise me to later discover that the original photo had “I’m Beautiful” on both young women and someone later photoshopped it and put the McDonald’s symbol and “I’m loving it” on the larger physique. Let’s just call this what it is: FAT SHAMING. We live in a society that glorifies thin bodies and deems them as most attractive. If that is the aesthetic that you gravitate to in a mate, then that’s ok. But it’s problematic to tell women they are lazy, unhealthy, unfit, unvalued, and not beautiful because their bodies are not thin. Fat shaming is an ineffective way to motivate. If anything, it often only causes low self-esteem, which could lead to binge eating, anorexia, bulimia, and other disorders. Abuse does not inspire. It does what it was created to do …destroys. 
There will always be some reason someone somewhere doesn’t deem you beautiful. Bodies bruise, bodies scar, bodies change…and even at your thinnest, there may be some other flaw that’s disliked by others. What matters most is that you love you to the very best of your ability. This is something that I work on daily. My efforts to mentally and emotionally refute images and messages like the ones above are constant, but necessary. We must be our best lover.
I now work out consistently and I have adopted a diet that mostly consists of clean meals. I’m in better shape than i’ve been the majority of my life. I honestly cannot recall the last time I ate anything from McDonald’s. However, my stomach still looks most similar to the stomach on the right. And guess what? I am beautiful. My beauty is not indicative of the size of my body. My beauty cannot be confined to intolerable perceptions of aesthetic acceptability.
What does my body say? …it says, “Kenya, I love you. You are a strong thing. You are a good thing. And as long as you have me, there is a heart that will beat for you, lungs that will breathe for you, and a mind that will never give up on you”. That is beautiful.

I ran across this photo on instagram the other day with a caption that stated “What you put into your body speaks for itself. What does your body say??”. There was so much that I wanted to comment on, but ya know, it’s instagram. It’s a platform that doesn’t lend itself to many words (or at least that’s how I like to keep it). So the most I could muster up was “This photo is problematic. But I understand what you’re saying”.

The person’s intention was probably to motivate. However, a photo like this does the exact opposite. For one, the words “I’m beautiful” on a thin stomach communicates that a thin body is more valuable than another. And I purposefully used the word “thin” because one cannot tell just by viewing this photo if this person is actually fit or not. This photo perpetuates the notion that a thin body is reflective of good health. It is not. I know plenty of thin people that eat fast food regularly and rarely work out, yet they still remain thin due to genetics. There are also thin people who are that way due to eating disorders and other unhealthy habits. I’m an advocate of people working out & eating healthy because they want to. Do it because it makes you happy. Do it because your body will function well and be at it’s best INTERNALLY. 

It didn’t surprise me to later discover that the original photo had “I’m Beautiful” on both young women and someone later photoshopped it and put the McDonald’s symbol and “I’m loving it” on the larger physique. Let’s just call this what it is: FAT SHAMING. We live in a society that glorifies thin bodies and deems them as most attractive. If that is the aesthetic that you gravitate to in a mate, then that’s ok. But it’s problematic to tell women they are lazy, unhealthy, unfit, unvalued, and not beautiful because their bodies are not thin. Fat shaming is an ineffective way to motivate. If anything, it often only causes low self-esteem, which could lead to binge eating, anorexia, bulimia, and other disorders. Abuse does not inspire. It does what it was created to do …destroys. 

There will always be some reason someone somewhere doesn’t deem you beautiful. Bodies bruise, bodies scar, bodies change…and even at your thinnest, there may be some other flaw that’s disliked by others. What matters most is that you love you to the very best of your ability. This is something that I work on daily. My efforts to mentally and emotionally refute images and messages like the ones above are constant, but necessary. We must be our best lover.

I now work out consistently and I have adopted a diet that mostly consists of clean meals. I’m in better shape than i’ve been the majority of my life. I honestly cannot recall the last time I ate anything from McDonald’s. However, my stomach still looks most similar to the stomach on the right. And guess what? I am beautiful. My beauty is not indicative of the size of my body. My beauty cannot be confined to intolerable perceptions of aesthetic acceptability.

What does my body say? …it says, “Kenya, I love you. You are a strong thing. You are a good thing. And as long as you have me, there is a heart that will beat for you, lungs that will breathe for you, and a mind that will never give up on you”. That is beautiful.

I thought that anything at all was better than lonely. Then I got anything …and still felt lonely.

And bitter. And hurt. And unappreciated.

Keep your anything. Lonely will do.

Yaaaay! My juicer is here! Time for some detoxing. #OperationGetchoLifeKenya in full effect

Yaaaay! My juicer is here! Time for some detoxing. #OperationGetchoLifeKenya in full effect

Dear Kenya D.

This is not a resolution. This is not in recognition of a new year. This is an SOS. This is a distress signal. This is a plea.

Attempt to live a little longer. Not to exist; you do that just fine. LIVE. Attempt to resurrect sparkles in your eyes. Make an attempt to reclaim your magnificence…to snatch back your sanity…to take ownership of your everything.

Do things that you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the guts to pursue. Do the thing that you fear you will fail at the most. Take swimming lessons, learn to play an instrument. (Re)learn Spanish. Improve your health. Lose weight…and keep it off. Honor the God in you. Start an organization catered towards your passion. Tell your story. Heal the wounded. Guide the lost. Love the broken …starting with yourself. 

Desire for love to be the trigger, not fear. You know anxiety, apprehension, and doubt like close friends. Don’t continue to waste more countless hours worrying about men that do not want you, a mate that has yet to arrive, accomplishments that never occurred, an appearance that is incredibly imperfect, mistakes that you cannot undo, or people/things that you cannot change. Learn to be satisfied within the season you’re in. Live purposefully within each space that you are granted. It is a gift. Even the ugly.

Pursue a closeness with courage, faith, and optimism. Possess the belief that you deserve good things, and that you will receive them. Accept that every bad thing is not your fault. Rest yourself upon the notion that you are bigger than abandonment. Recognize that a broken heart still beats. Know that aloneness is not a curse.

Recall the little girl that used to spend countless hours in the mirror putting on make up, singing, acting, and imagining. Remember how much fun you had? Remember how much you enjoyed yourself? Be content with your own company. Be your best friend. Be the best lover you ever had. Write love letters to yourself. Dedicate Anita Baker songs to the goodness in you. Pen poems about your own splendor.

Look yourself in the mirror and adore your skin. Acknowledge every scar, every blemish, every stretch mark, every unwanted trace of hair, every lump, bump, curve, and flaw, and then praise it. Know that you are beautiful whether someone affirms it or not. Be your own validation.

You were built to love. So do it. Love yourself with the same intensity that you offer to the undeserving. You so easily offer so much of yourself to others. Saying “no” is not a crime. Accept that it’s ok to be a little selfish. You are not a villain for putting yourself first. Give yourself the gift of your own awesomeness.  Who could benefit from it more than you would? 

You are a survivor, this much I know. You are a fighter. You are a miracle personified. Now live - on purpose. Now be - everything you were created to be. Now do - everything that you were destined to do. Not just for 2013. This is not a new year’s resolution. This is an SOS. Save yourself. LIVE. 

With Immeasurable Love, 

Kenya D.

warsanshire:

everyday they want you to shrink:

fit in here, in my palm, in my shadow, don’t be bigger than my idea of you, don’t be more beautiful than i can accept, don’t be more human than i am willing to allow you to be and be quiet, you’re too loud, even your un-belonging is loud. quiet your dreams, your…

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