When I launched London Mind Fit my goal was to illustrate to those who need to hear it most that you can recover from mental health conditions. Not only can you recover, but it is important that you tell yourself that you can and that you will.
While not all mental health conditions are made equal, we are all human beings with will power living in a world where miracles happen everyday. My recovery from my mental health issues has seen great successes and true progress that I am so grateful for. All of the hard work that I have put into my healing process, including making this documentary, has been worth it because of where I stand in regards to my health today.
I am stronger than before, I am wiser than before, and I am disciplined about my mental health regimens. While every day is a new day to tackle obstacles and experience growth, sometimes decisive action is what need, sometimes rest is exactly what we require, and sometimes expressing your truth is what we need to move forward. Learning how to listen to your body, mind and intuition and respond accordingly is how you can best learn how to take care of yourself. At the end of the day, we all have our own very specific, wants, desires and needs.
Remember the saying, “where there’s a will there’s a way?” Remember that the next time it feels like your path has lost light and you cannot see the rest of the way. Ask yourself, can I see the next step? And if the answer is yes, take baby steps and crawl until the lights come back on and you’re sprinting down a clear path of reality again.
Watch #MentalHealth: A Documentary today on YouTube and please share this documentary with your loved ones, especially if you believe that there is someone that it can help.
Healing is a process that begins with identifying a problem. Tupac Shakur diagnosed what he saw in the streets with his concept of “T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E.” When you look at those two words together you can potentially think one thing, but in reality 2pac broke the term down letter by letter to mean something that most people I encounter do not expect. The acronym stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everyone.” And in my opinion, there is no truer talk.
I have always loved Tupac. Ever since I first heard “Changes” on the radio I fell in love with his music and Hip-Hop as a whole. But, it wasn’t until I heard about T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. that I realized just how intertwined my purpose is with what Pac was talking about.
The hate people give children is what creates the pain we encounter daily in society today. Until the issues 2pac was addressing with T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. are properly addressed in our social system, we will continue to see hurt, and pain, and suffering.
I found out the meaning of the acronym around the time that I was working on my theory for the promotion of children’s rights, The Child-Centric Framework (CCF). CCF utilizes dominant psychological theories of human development to drive the point home that the relationships we have as children affect the dynamics we experience with others throughout our lives. CCF draws on the evolving nature of the social conception of the child and the proven effectiveness of macro level policy changes to help guide that evolution. I focused on this theory for a year, and realized at a certain point, that I was addressing 2pac’s concept of T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E with The Child-Centric Framework. CCF promotes child empowerment for an end result of healthy societal functioning. It is a perspective to begin a conversation from.
Tamir Rice would have turned 18 this week. 18. He would have finally become an adult. This week, as if almost overnight, Tamir Rice would have acquired all of the rights and responsibilities of being an adult in this world such as, the freedom to make his own decisions. But, because he was playing with a toy gun in a park, and was Black, he was shot by police and died as a result. Tamir Rice was 12 years old.
In 2012 Trayvon Martin was killed. People can play guessing games all they want as to why my mental health suffered at that time but they would be wrong. It was Trayvon’s death that I couldn’t handle. When I heard of his death, all I heard in my mind was a child being murdered. I had seen so many deaths and instances of police brutality online that when Trayvon was killed I broke open. That’s when I wrote my first rap verse. That’s when I turned to Hip-Hop to survive.
Tamir Rice was 12 when he died. Trayvon Martin was 17. Tamir Rice was playing, and Trayvon Martin was just getting Skittles. Please let that sink in. Do not forget their names because they were both someone’s sons and they were both valuable human beings in their own right.
Since George Floyd’s death, I have not known what to say publicly on this website, because I have mostly been having thoughtful conversations in private about it. But when I saw the above meme, “Healing comes from repairs. We need a systemic repair.” a quote by Mily Gomez, LPC, I knew how to contribute to this discourse properly.
Healing is something that needs to be done actively, so that eventually it can be done automatically, in order to allow you to proceed to the next level. Consider the concept of healing a physical injury, there are concrete stages that you take dependent on the type and severity. Well, our entire system is injured, so we must take steps in order to achieve the end result that we want, which is a healed new system.
When it comes to police brutality what we are seeing is generational policies embedded in white privilege isolating and targeting Black communities. As a collective, we cannot accept this as daily life. In a world that is over half a century down the road since the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that outlines the rights of every citizen globally, how can we accept the systematic murders of innocent people for any reason. How can we accept the ignorance of racism being as rampant as it is in countries as wealthy as the United States, where it is commonplace to be harassed simply for being Black. Just as Tupac identified the root issue of T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E., we must identify the root issue that is plaguing every single one of us, every single day, due to the fact that racism can spread like diffusion. It can poison the mind, and it can create bias that costs others their livelihoods and even their lives.
The truth seekers are those who either actively or innately lift the veil of the lies that bind us and prevent us from living our lives more fully. The truth seekers can change the world, because to live in an ignorant state of any kind is to set yourself up for either failure of a major kind, or a sheltered and inaccurate existence.
As a starting point for a conversation about the root issues in our system, look at where the most pain resides. If you listen to 2pac’s music you will notice that he is often talking about pain, particularly the pain that he sees in his own life and his own community. Begin your journey of looking for solutions to the problem. Begin with T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E
Then, as a next step, think about The Child-Centric Framework as a springboard perspective to approach your problem solving for the issue. And from there, let your mind soar.
While thinking about potential solutions, think freely. Allow yourself to let a train of thought fail, so that you can eventually get to the one that does not. Trial and error is a process, and trial and error is often a process that is required in order to find the answer that succeeds in solving the problem.
I do not know the cure to racism. I do not know the cure to all of the root systemic issues that infect our society. I do not know how to solve all of our problems. But I do know some things when it comes to human rights. And I know that the bottom line is that everyone deserves to have them, not just those whose complexion matches the authority’s opinion of who should receive fair treatment.
The Child-Centric Framework was created in response to my identification of a mental health crisis across the globe. I saw a problem and I chose to address it by creating a framework based on a hunch. I knew that children’s rights was a part of the answer, it just wasn’t until I dove into the research, finished the theory, and then delved deeper into 2pac’s concept of T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. that I realized just how potentially powerful CCF truly is.
Racism is an issue that affects everything, because like Pac said, “the hate you give little infants f*cks everyone”.
I believe in paying homage to important events when their anniversary arrives, not because I want to linger in the past, but as a way to remember who you are.
After what happened a decade ago, I have had to install mechanisms into my life that remind me of just that.
When you engage in any romantic relationship, you take risks. Normally the risk you worry about is getting your heart broken, not your mind.
When Youssef raped me on this day 10 years ago, he broke both.
When you have a broken heart you can feel lost, but when you have a broken mind you definitely are. He didn’t break my heart by being a perfect man and then letting me down. He didn’t break my heart by promising me the world and then not delivering. He didn’t break my mind by telling me I was the one and then choosing someone else. He didn’t break my mind by asking me to be his girl and then hiding me from the world.
He broke me through rape.
Rape is used as a tool in war. The mental health ramifications of being sexually assaulted can manifest themselves in many different ways. Trauma leaves a burden on the survivor to either remain seated by what you have experienced or figure out how to stand up again. It seems like every time I tried to stand back up I was pushed down again, but like Cardi B says, “knock me down 9 times but I get up 10.”
At times the pain and the mountains I was facing felt like I was taking on Mount Everest without a map, proper gear and other key essentials. But I trusted myself to get to the other side. I believed in something bigger than myself, whether you call that energy source God or The Universe, and I had faith in that higher power. I had belief in nature and the good in the yin and yang.
2Pac said, “there’s gonna be some stuff you’re gonna see, that’s gonna make it hard to smile in the future.” Right now is one of those moments I am having trouble smiling in. As George Floyd’s murder has sparked Black Lives Matter protests worldwide, there is an incredible amount of violence seen at the hands of police against peaceful civilians exercising their right to express their frustrations with a system that can only be described as a “failure”. The system has failed me numerous times, but you don’t see me raising my white arm screaming “All Lives Matter” because no one is saying that all lives do not matter by saying “Black Lives Matter.” Just as being an advocate for women’s rights is not saying that men should not have rights too, the Black Lives Matter movement is about advancing the human rights of the Black community, not eradicating the rights of others.
To me it’s simple, you’re either down with human rights or not. So you’re either with Black Lives Matter or you’re not.
As I have reflected on the days leading up to this one, it is impossible not to think about all of the Black women who have been raped. It is impossible not the think of my friends around the globe from all different places who have been raped despite the various differences in our societies. Sexual assault and rape are issues that plague every single sector of society, the consequences of which affect everyone. It is a women’s rights issue that we should all be able to stand up for, not against.
Today I decided to go back to where it happened. I had been wanting to go the Old Port neighbourhood of Montreal for a while now to sit by the St. Lawrence River but hadn’t worked up the nerve to do it. Youssef lived there and that’s where we used to spend time together.
As I sat by the water today, I thought about all of the people that I represent on this issue. I thought about all of the silent voices that cannot speak because they are minors. I thought about all of the silent voices that cannot speak because they do not have the ability right now. And, I thought about all of the victims of rape who do not survive and cannot speak because they are not here to do so.
I came home and then I made this video of my day, edited alongside two of my songs “Loved U By Mistake” and “Tidal Wave.”
When I got home from my day I wrote this:
Truth be told I want to scream
In fact, when I got there
To the place we used to go
That’s how I felt
Like I want to scream so loud the whole port could hear me.
Scream so loud the whale in the St. Lawrence river would create a tidal wave with his fin just to wash away the tears you’d made me cry by the water so many times before.
But this time there were less tears.
This time I reflected on me, not you.
This time I didn’t see you hurting me, but I saw me getting stronger.
In 2010 I wrote a poem out of frustration. I remember sitting at the table in my flat writing this piece while I was supposed to be studying as a way to make sense of the world around me. I wrote a lot of poetry around this time since life was swirling in so many different ways, and as I was becoming more and more hypersensitive to the news, I increasingly needed to rely on my creative outlets to get me through the heartbreaking truths of our society.
This week, I tried relentlessly to record a video of myself discussing what is going on right now in the media, specifically in regards to the murder of George Floyd. I sat down 3 or 4 times to do it, wrote notes on what I wanted to say, but when it came down to it I couldn’t express how I truly felt.
Then I remembered my poem, I Am Close-Minded.
Right now we are seeing an incredible amount of division, racism, and exploitation of power globally. The news has been overwhelming for many for a while, but right now it seems to have come to a clear head for many of us who are tired of seeing innocent Black lives be stolen because of the systemic injustice of racism that has yet to be addressed worldwide.
I Am Close-Minded encapsulates how I feel in this moment, despite the fact that it was written one decade ago. It could have been written today, but it wasn’t. What has changed from the time that I wrote this poem and today is that social media exploded over these past ten years. While our main news sources were largely mainstream media corporations back then, now social media dictates where our attention goes. There is people power in that.
This poem is helping me right now, I hope it can do the same for you.
Baby steps are the best place to start when you are trying to climb out of a difficult spot. While regular steps tend to involve the more arduous heavy lifting, baby steps are a necessary part to beginning any journey.
“Baby steps” are sometimes the most nerve-racking steps to take, because they are typically the first ones. Everything at this stage is unknown and you are a novice, but once you find a momentum, those baby steps will eventually be eons away. You will eventually be making great strides. What is important is that you start, and what is important is that you believe that you can recover and reach your end goal.
Sometimes you have to start and stop, just to re-begin again when you are in a better place. There is no shame in that and the end result will be the same. We all have different stories and experiences that shape our perspectives. How we feel when we hit the depths that push us to finally do something about it has a lot to do with when baby steps can begin. It is often from hitting rock-bottom that things somehow can become clear again. And for everyone, this moment looks different.
In my mental health journey I have had to start and stop just to re-begin, more times than once. Actually more times than I can technically count. But there was a key “baby steps” moment in my life when I was “in the thick of it” mentally. I reference this moment on The Eric Ibey Podcast.
The instance I am talking about right now was when I couldn’t write. I was in my mid-20’s and I was highly depressed after harsh hospitalizations, overmedicated and trying to process trauma. At this point I could barely speak, and I definitely couldn’t write. This was especially alarming for me because I am a writer. I had no idea how to dig myself out of the hole I found myself in, and the mental health professionals didn’t seem to have the answers that I needed.
So one day I purchased a Van Gogh notebook and decided that it would be my second book. I called it “I & I”. At the point when I got the notebook, I couldn’t even write a sentence let alone a whole book. I knew that writing an entire book would be ambitious at that point but that was my end goal at the time. And so I told myself, “Okay, first I will write a word. And then, the next day, I’ll write a sentence. After that, I’ll write a paragraph. And from there, a page.” And so on, and so forth. “I&I” didn’t survive as a book, but within a few months of starting it I would write an 80,000 word book helping me process my trauma.
That process would lead to being published on multiple writing platforms online, writing numerous manuscripts, and finding the confidence to pour myself into songwriting as well. But none of that would have been possible without the baby steps at the beginning.
If you’re in a place where you have to take baby steps, please be patient with yourself along the journey. Most things do not happen overnight but with layers of bricks laid to create a solid foundation over time. Find your rhythm and put in the work; the results are always worth the effort and time where your mental health is concerned.