Over the next week, I will take you on my own personal journey of becoming an overall healthier person, mind, body and soul. We will explore healthy relationships (romantic or otherwise), habits, and having healthy mental outlooks. I will divulge the lessons that life has taught me and how sometimes you really do just have to learn the hard way, (well in my case anyway). I will in no way pretend to be the authority on any of the topics discussed. I will merely be sharing my experiences with you. Hopefully, something resonates with you and that you may see a little bit of yourself in me along the way.
Note*: Latishia James is a trained rape crisis counselor and is willing to offer any additional support to any reader who feels they may need it, including resources for local rape crisis centers and hotline.
By: Latishia James
Lesson 3: Something’s Got To Give!
I am a giver.
I give of myself daily. Even when I propose in my heart to do for me, I still always end up giving of myself. It is not something that I am upset about, it’s a characteristic that I greatly admire about myself. However, it can at times also be my greatest character flaw. I recently had to come to terms with the fact that I often give of myself to the point of my own detriment and the act of giving is not isolated to certain instances, it spills over to every aspect of my life.
On the morning of April 9th I awoke to severe heart palpitations and shortness of breath. At first, I thought the abnormalities were attributed to me having a nightmare. I thought that once I took a shower and drank some water, I would be fine. Unfortunately, this was not the case. That day I ended up in the emergency room for what seemed like forever and as per usual no cause could be found for the sudden attack. Well, fast forward three weeks later and I now have not one but three diagnoses. Turns out that I have a heart condition known as tricuspid regurgitation, which we found out, is more than likely being triggered by rheumatoid arthritis and other symptoms are attributed to hypothyroid disease. In three weeks I have gotten three diagnoses and needless to say it has been more than a bit nerve racking.
I know that I am breezing through details of the medical ailments, which I am now faced with but that is because in the grand scheme of everything— what I was diagnosed with is not the problem. The problem is that I had been paying attention to everyone else’s well being but my own. My body’s response was to attack itself with not one but two auto-immune illnesses. In my heart I know that these illnesses did not suddenly manifest themselves out of the blue but rather the physical manifestations are merely the climax of what had been brewing beneath the surface for some time. My body, God and the universe have been trying to get my attention for so long but I ignored them all and kept it moving like I was getting paid to neglect myself. As I was talking to one of my many “mamas,” she asked me something that I had not given much thought to. “Why do you think God is allowing all of this happen at this point in your life as opposed to any other time?” she had mused that night on the phone. I gave her an answer that night but since then I have been able to develop a more comprehensive one that I would like to share with you. I believe God has allowed these diagnoses to surface now because he is trying to get my attention. Because he needs me to be still so he can instruct me on which direction to go to next. If I am so concerned about doing for others, I cannot focus inward and listen to what it is he would have me do for self.
Audre Lorde is quoted as saying, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I have committed this quote to my soul and it is my second mantra for 2012 (my first also being an Audre Lorde quote). I know that I have been called to a life of service and I truly would have no other career path– but if I am lacking, broken and empty how can I help to replenish others? Over the last few weeks thanks to mandatory bed rest and a host of doctors visits, I have had that time that I never seemed to have before to do things for myself and to be still and listen for cues from God and the universe. Thanks to women like Rosetta Thurman and fellow activist Nicole Clark I have been able to start my journey to refocus on myself.
I have been participating in the “31 Day Reset Challenge” created by Rosetta and it has truly helped me to be more introspective and to be still so that I am able to listen to God and the universe to be able to hear what my next steps in life should be. Nicole Clark in collaboration with Adaku Utah has created a self-care zine titled: “‘The Revolution Starts with Me,’ a guide for self-care and burnout prevention”. This zine has helped me to get on to paper things that I knew intellectually, but had not yet put into practice. Social justice activism can be a very rewarding career path but it is one where compassion fatigue, and burnout can occur tenfold. With this in mind, it is important that one always makes time for one’s self even if it is for 15 minutes a day
In addition to replenishing myself through self-care, solitude, introspection, committing to my physical, spiritual and mental well- being, I have also been able to work on another character flaw of mine. Being a giver I have always put the weight of the world on my shoulders without thinking that I could give it back. But over the last few weeks I have come to understand that being able to ask for help is also a critical part of self-care. With asking for help comes the bonus of needing to be vulnerable and authentic in all of your interactions, which in the end enriches your life and those who are in it.
I will always be a giver; this is something that will never change, something I do not want to change, especially given the vocation that I have been called to. However, I am finally realizing that my giving nature needs to be applied to myself as well. For “if I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, then what am I?”
Latishia James is a sexual health educator and advocate for women and girl’s health and reproductive rights. She currently coordinates