Let me start off by telling you this. Life is messy, and there is no correct way to live this thing called life out. You're going to fail, you're going to mess-up, and you're going to make mistakes along the way- that is inevitable.
You'll have moments where you feel weak, your burdens will leave your spine broken and your spirit will feel fragile. You're going to stumble, fall, and trip along the way because the path through life is not perfect. There is no roadmap, guidebook, manuscript, or a set of prerequisites in place on how to navigate your journey. But despite the mishaps, misfortunes and struggles that we face as we attempt to evolve, life is so generous, for it gives us second chances every morning. And that tells me that no matter how dirty my past may be, no matter how many mistakes I've made, or the amount of times I've failed within my journey, my life is still deserving of its best chance.
I wish I had someone to tell me this when I was my younger self. I wish I had someone along the way to tell me not to take this thing so seriously. To not define myself by my misdoings or not to be so hard on myself when I messed up. I never gave myself credit for trying, I never clapped for myself whenever I made progress. My battle with depression and anxiety left me feeling hollow and I struggled with my imperfections; I never felt good enough, I didn't define myself as beautiful, I always struggled with understanding my worth and even my existence.
Hope is something I was reaching for but I never knew how to grasp it. I was blinded by my darkness, my fears, my doubts and my worries. It took a lot of self-reflection to move me from a place of hurt and into a place of healing, and along the journey my ability to learn how to be human is what truly saved my soul.
I no longer care to censor my emotion or my feelings for the folks who can't handle my truths. For so long I was ashamed of my story, and I was ashamed of my struggles. I was so busy trying to fit into society's box of beauty, intelligence, and normalcy that along the way I forgot who I was. I am an emotional being; I cry, I weep, I get angry and I get frustrated, and I also make mistakes, lots of them.
I am not full figured, nor am not I petite, my skin looks sun-kissed, my hair is rebellious, the lines on my hips are an indication of my body's evolution, and I am going to celebrate all that makes me woman because I have a right to what I define as beauty.
I am not always a strong black woman, I too get weak, and I too have moments when I'm burnt out, tired, and exhausted, but that does not take away from my worth, it does not make me less of an individual, and it surely doesn't put a price tag on who I am as a black woman.
The message hidden within our culture screams "be perfect," and then you get a bunch of people who beat themselves up and go crazy for something that isn't attainable because perfection doesn't even exist. I got tired of being that person who played dress-up with personality traits for not wanting to be myself. My humanness doesn't lose its value just because I've had a few depressed episodes, or because I've tallied up a lot of errors within my life.
So although I didn't have someone alongside me, letting me know that it's okay for my journey to look a little messy, I took it upon myself to share that message and birthed Respect Your Struggle, a movement dedicated to providing hope for people struggling with depression, mental health and life related issues.
Respect Your Struggle believes that in life there is room for failure. You don't have to be afraid of being different. You don't always have to be strong. And you are accepted even when you make mistakes. You are not alone in your suffering, and despite the struggles that you face, your life is deserving of its best chance. The message we want to spread is that it is okay to be everything that makes you human. Your struggles don't define you, they are only here to equip you for the journey.
Being human means to live as your most authentic self, raw and uncut. You must learn how to embrace every intricate part of you, the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly, without shame or self-condemnation. You are going to struggle, remember I told you life is messy, but you must remember to be compassionate towards yourself. When you try, applaud yourself, and when you fail, still celebrate the fact that you tried. Leave the door open for uncertainty, if the burden is heavy, lay it down. Don't suppress your tears, crying doesn't make you weak or overly emotional, and feelings are not an infectious disease, so don't be afraid to live with them.
Respecting Your Struggle is all about allowing yourself to be seen and your voice to be heard- you don't have to be ashamed of your story. I am in touch with myself because I am aware of the individual I once was, once was broken, and once was lost. I chipped away pieces of myself to make others whole. I wept silently and hid my truths for people who didn't even deserve my lies. My ability to be free does not come from pretending as if I was never broken, it comes from being aware that I once lived a painful life, and although I cannot erase whom my former self was- I have complete control over who my future self will be.
Join the movement! Order a shirt, share your story, follow the movement on Twitter + Instagram, and "Like" us on Facebook. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness please visit RespectYourStruggle.com to find help and receive encouragement around your struggles.