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Cultured Healing

The year is 2020, and the world is on lockdown, there is nothing to do but face yourself. My life changed completely in 2020 just as everyone else's life changed. The beginning of lockdown was full of Tik Tok challenges, eating and drinking A LOT, and gaining weight. I gained 25 pounds during COVID, weighing the most I ever have in my life. Not to mention my partner had recently moved down and we were living together for the first time since dating. This was an exciting new journey for me but I often found myself feeling stuck and carrying a lot of baggage. I was struggling with my own baggage as well as being a black woman in America. We face a unique set of challenges that make it more difficult to heal because we are constantly traumatized by politics, police, our communities, and sometimes our jobs. We are being being fed that we are inferior so it was important I found a way to heal in a way that appeals to my culture.

In August 2020, I decided to go on a healing journey to find myself. I wanted to take care of myself inside and out. I wanted to learn how to love and embrace myself and my flaws without the distractions of alcohol, partying, and men. Since the world had stopped, I had time to reflect without parties and alcohol. After so many years of self-destructive behavior, I was ready to let go. I was beginning a new journey with my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time and I wanted to be a better partner for him. The only way I can be a great partner to him, was to be the greatest partner to myself. If you are feeling like you are in a rut, feeling overweight, or struggling to heal after a toxic relationship here are some methods you can use to feel better.

F.O.M.O No Mo

The first step of my healing journey was taking a break from social media. I could not focus on myself with the distractions from the outside world. Instagram is both a fun distraction but I also I find myself comparing myself to others subconsciously. Studies have shown that taking social media breaks "improves sleep, reduces anxiety and depression, and reduces stress." I was on a social media break from July 2020 until June 2021. That time period was the most eye opening experience of my life. I realized the importance of loving the people closest to you intimately. To have genuine connections and great conversations without putting on a show for social media. I also learned how to be present and enjoy the moment while I am in it. I will never get this moment back again, I will never be able to change it so I want to enjoy it while I am in it. Before my break I felt the need to post the people I was with, the foods I was eating, how I was dancing, and more. Social media provides a false sense of acceptance and love. But how can thousands and sometimes even millions of "followers" love us when us don't even love ourselves. Thats why I loved my time away from social media because I only surrounded myself with people who I felt a connection with. It was important to me that I felt at peace with these people, because healing requires peace.

Girl, what's wrong?

The next step in my healing journey was to speak with a therapist. Sounds silly since I am a therapist right? Well imagine you have your own set of issues that you struggle to cope with yourself and then your job is to hear everyone else's traumas, issues, and problems they also need help coping with. I spend so much time helping other people fix their problems I did not have to look at my own. I experienced the greatest liberation of my life after speaking with a therapist. Having a therapist is like having a talking diary that guides you on being the best version of yourself. I was able to release so much trauma, secrets, feelings, and emotions I would never feel comfortable talking to a family or friend about. I told my therapist my deepest darkest secrets because I knew by law she could never tell anyone else. Unless you tell your therapist you intend on hurting yourself or someone else, therapists are bound by law to keep your secrets confidential. To feel the most comfortable speaking with her, I wanted to find a therapist who I felt could relate to on a cultural, religious, and interest level. I found a black woman from the same state who I truly connected with. If you are looking for a therapist look for someone who you feel you can relate to.

The Black Martha Stewart

One of the greatest lessons I learned on my healing journey is food is medicine. Food has the power to heal every illness and disease. Although I have always been thin, I loved cooking and eating. This was my opportunity to test my skills and make delicious healthy meals. The problem is that I love junk food and candy, so this would be a challenge for me. During the first 21 days of my healing journey, I drank only water and ate only fruits, vegetables, and grains. After the 21 days were over I resumed eating meat but reducing my pork intake and only eating grass fed organic cuts. For all my people on a budget like me, Walmart is my best friend. I am always finding the freshest fruits, herbs, and veggies for affordable prices as well as organic meats and eggs. I started a new tradition in my home called Meatless Mondays, much to my husbands dismay lol. I eat only vegetarian meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I absolutely love how it makes me feel as well as how I look. Without all the meat clogging up my insides I feel lighter, I have more energy, and I feel better. Studies have shown going meatless at least once a week "lowers your chloesterol, great for weight loss, and reduces cancer." I have made so many delicious healthy meals without meat that I convinced my husband he can survive without meat for one day.

Look good, feel good

We have all heard the saying when you look good, you feel good. When I started going to the gym and working out I felt great physically and mentally. Not only did I start seeing results of my hard work in the gym but my anxiety decreased considerably. According to Helpguide, "regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood." When I first got in the gym I lost 31 pounds, now that I have learned how to eat and use protein I have been able to stabilize my weight. I feel the strongest and more energized than ever before just by going to the gym. On a good week, I can go to the gym four or five times. On a busier, more tired week it is more like two to three times.

I never knew love like this before

I had a new love, one that made me feel happier, stress free, and less anxious. Yoga and mediation! Yoga and meditation has been essential in my healing journey. Learning how to stop and breathe has made me realize life really isn't as deep as we make it. We are here to enjoy life not to control every moment. Yoga and meditation encourages you to focus on your breath and the here and now. Not only has it improved my strength in the gym, it has helped with my anxiety, and helps me sleep better. According to John Hopkins Medicine, "Yoga offers physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages." I try to do a quick yoga sequence after the gym from Youtube in the morning. However, every night before bed I do some yoga poses to help improve my sleep. I also listen to a deep sleep guided mediation through Alexa to help me fall asleep faster and clear my mind.

It's all about ME

This last step is the most personal. It's the time you focus on who you want to be versus who you are. We are the only blockage between us and our goals. It is our beliefs, behaviors, and actions that stop us. People can have an opinion on us, but the most important opinion is our opinions about ourselves. If we think highly about ourselves the people in our life will be reflective, supportive, loving people. If we think low about ourselves then the people closest to us would not treat us with respect or dignity including our partners. As I healed more and more my circle got smaller and smaller and thats ok. I love it here. I also took this time to acquire new coping skills. I can no longer use a party or a drink as a coping mechanism I had to find healthier alternatives. Now I still like a cocktail once in a while but not how I used to consume. I learned that I really enjoy painting, even if I am not that great at it lol. I also learned that I prefer a trashy fiction novel over a self help book, and thats ok. I already loved cooking but now I get to try healthier alternatives and recipes which has made cooking more enjoyable.

This is Just the Beginning

This journey has taught me this is just the beginning. I will never stop healing and learning methods of being a better person. Everyday I am growing, so everyday I am learning about myself, the world, and my purpose. I am not the same person I was 3 years ago, I am not even the same person I was 3 months ago. I am constantly evolving and molding into a person I can be proud of. Everyone is unique so the healing journey will be different, but what do you think you will add or take away from mine for your own healing journey? Leave a comment below to tell me about your healing journey and what you learned about yourself.

Cortney Barlow

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