Self-Preservation as Self-Care: How to Set Healthy Boundaries ~ Nneka M. Okona

Zora Neale Hurston, the foremother of Black women’s literature, so eloquently penned that Black women were “de mule uh de world” and even many, many years later, we can see how this statement still rings true. Black women are seen as the pillars of strength in nearly every circle we comprise. We are the backbones of our families, the shoulder always called upon to cry on. We are supposed to readily perform strength, on demand, no matter what our emotional or mental state.

We do not belong to ourselves: our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our hearts, our spiritual state. Our emotional labor is prescribed and expected.

Self-care is a phrase often uttered as of late, especially on social media. My thought is that we, Black women, now know the importance of tending to the trauma we have been dealt for hundreds of years and dedicating ourselves wholeheartedly to healing, moment by moment, day by day. And we know that self-preservation, an uncompromising notion of clinging to ourselves and maintaining the sanctity of ourselves, is a defiant, revolutionary act of self-care. Setting boundaries — along with enforcing consequences if said boundaries are willfully ignored — is a crucial part of this, too.

Quick story: for most of my childhood and well into my adulthood, I was a doormat. I was kind and had a giving heart but lacked strong discernment and sound judgment. People sensed this and took advantage, taking and taking and taking until they couldn’t anymore. Until there was no further use for my presence in their lives. Until I was depleted and drained and filled with resentment. And then they’d be gone. Learning to choose myself after this defunct pattern yielded to learning what boundaries are, evaluating where I needed to set them in my current relationships and how I could set them as the need arose in new interpersonal bonds.

Boundaries are the space between you and another person, a space where you end and the other person begins. Setting boundaries is a method of informing those around you how to treat you, how to care for you, how to interact with you in a way that is nurturing, fulfilling and makes you feel safe. It isn’t about forming a tight fence around your inner being. It is about ensuring you feel free enough to be yourself, in totality, with those you bond with, and interactions are healthy, reciprocal and beneficial. And also that your values are acknowledged, honored and respected.

Learning to set boundaries can be tricky when it’s new, especially if those around you are used to a certain dynamic. If it’s a new concept, there’s a chance guilt may set in because it’s uncomfortable but don’t let yourself succumb to guilt. Push through the discomfort. Growth is on the other side.

Truly ready to ensure all of your bonds are healthy, safe spaces? Use these guiding principles as a compass while learning how to set healthy boundaries.

Always choose yourself. Always take care of you. 

Saying no is a complete sentence and requires no further explanation. If you really don’t want to do something, say no. If you were invited to go somewhere with friends but really need to take the night to get some much needed rest, don’t be afraid to say no for fear of disappointing them. It is better to be a disappointment to friends who most likely will be forgiving and understanding than be a disappointment to yourself because you are overexerting yourself. Be selfish, not selfless. No one but you will or is truly capable of putting yourself first and having your best interests at heart.
Firmly and directly assert yourself to those in your life.

Make a list of your values. Honestly determine what is important to you in your bonds with other people and keep these close to your heart. These are things that matter to you, these are things which make you feel valued and loved in your relationships. When behavior veers outside of what you deem acceptable according to your values, communicate that, immediately.

For example, if your partner has a tendency of speaking recklessly or raising their voice when they are upset with you, inform them you would appreciate if they would not raise their voice at you when angry. Make sure to use either “I feel…” or “When you…” statements to articulate your feelings. This is so you are explaining (and owning) how you feel and not casting blame on the other person to put them on the defense. By stating this, you are telling your partner there is a proper way to productively address issues and yelling is not one of them.

Be prepared to enact consequences if your boundary is not acknowledged, honored or respected.

Consequences aren’t a punishment or an angry thing as many of us have come to know. They are also not empty threats to manipulate the other person. Instead, consequences entail taking heed of a pattern of behavior, using that to inform future interactions and stating what will happen going forward. It might mean you no longer correspond with a person as frequently or not at all, and the relationship changes because their actions communicate a lack of respect.

For instance, perhaps a friend insists on calling or texting you late at night. This bothers you and you tell them, directly, to please not call or text you late and night (setting a boundary) and if they continue to do so, you will not answer when they reach out to you so late (consequence). Remember, this is about you. This is about engaging with others on your terms, what makes you feel comfortable and safe.

Ensure the boundaries you set are firm and stand behind them fiercely.

Boundary setting is often a learning curve and is not one size fits all for every person or situation. If a person is a repeated offender of poor behavior, your boundaries may be more rigid than say, for instance, a boss who has all of a sudden become overbearing and situationally difficult to deal with.

It is important to note your boundaries are only as strong as your commitment to following through on them. Stand behind what you say. Don’t let the (temporary) discomfort and guilt that arises prevent you from doing what you need to do to protect yourself. An example of this would be telling a friend you don’t like when they consistently cut you off in conversations because it makes you feel unheard (setting a boundary). Tell them if they can’t take the time to listen, you’ll will limit the conversations you have with them (consequence) but then a couple of days later go back to letting them cut you off mid conversation. You’ve communicated the opposite of what you intended: that what you said wasn’t that big of a deal and they can continue to conduct themselves in this way without any repercussion. It’s rewarding bad behavior and putting yourself back where you started. Prevent that; stick to your guns. Follow through.

Be patient (and gentle) with yourself. This is a process.

This is a journey, a multi-step, methodical, measured, slow journey. It won’t happen overnight and it will be difficult initially. You’ll be pushing back against an old way of interacting and shifting into more positive and healthy methods of engaging. The result, however, is well worth the effort, discomfort and plethora of other emotions that may arise — reciprocal relationships with people you respect who treat you lovingly, kind and nurture you in precisely the way you need.

Self-preservation as self-care is a fine art and boundaries are one component of that masterpiece. Invest in yourself through creating space and a lovingly flow between those you care about is yet another way to ensure you are taking care of you in the best way possible.

Nneka M. Okona is a writer based in Washington, DC. Visit her blog,, her website, or follow her tweets, @NisforNneka.

Here’s how to tell a psychopath from a sociopath ~ Tanya Lewis and Samantha Lee

The terms psychopath and sociopath are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t quite the same thing.

So what’s the difference, you ask?

To find out, we asked James Fallon, a neuroscientist at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine who specializes in studying psychopaths (and also happens to be one himself).

While neither term appears in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the medical handbook used by psychiatrists, psychopaths can be divided into two categories, according to Fallon. The first category includes what are known as primary psychopaths. The second includes what are known as secondary psychopaths, or sociopaths.

Here’s what sets the two apart:

(Note: These definitions are meant to be informative only, not to be used as a diagnostic tool.)

bi_graphics_differences between a psychopath and a sociopath_1

(Samantha Lee/Business Insider)

But that’s not all. According to Fallon, both psychopaths and sociopaths can be further broken down into two subtypes, based on their demeanor:

bi_graphics_differences between a psychopath and a sociopath_2

(Samantha Lee/Business Insider)

12 Therapeutic Crafts To Kick Off A Creative New Year ~ Priscilla Frank



Another new year, another opportunity to incorporate self-expression, creativity and mindfulness into your daily routine. You don’t have to be a professional artist to reap the many benefits of a little arts and crafts. Simple activities like coloring, doodling, and playing with clay are known to decrease anxiety and boost mood

Below are 12 simple suggestions for restorative art projects that will start your year off with serenity and ingenuity. Whether you make 2016 the year you keep a dream journal, paint into a tissue, or revamp your old beeper into a found sculpture, it’s going to be a good year. 


Dreams are weird. Often times, language isn’t the best way to convey your logic-defying, physically impossible, difficult-to-untangle night visions. Instead of writing down last night’s hallucinatory adventure, doodle your favorite moments from the trip. It’s a mindful way to start the day and, who knows, you may end up a promising surrealist artist! 


Creating a work of art all at once is a daunting task, we know. So why not start the process off with a single shape, even a single line? Every day, add to your image, even with a simple touch, maybe eventually adding color, paint or sculptural elements. You can also make each new detail pertain to each day, turning the artwork into a kind of beautiful calendar. 


How long do you actively think about your New Year’s resolutions? A month, a week, an hour? Try writing your goals onto little slips of paper you can dangle above you when you need the motivation. I love the look of a simple Yoko Ono “Wish Tree” style mobile, Connect the strips with thread to a single branch and try hanging it above your desk. 


If you have one of those old gadget drawers, full of random extension cords, defunct beepers, desktop mice and whatever else, bring out your inner scavenger and create a found sculpture. There are few things as beautiful as a circuit board. Add a little glitter, paint, feathers, yarn — whatever floats your boat — and you’ll end up with a beautiful homage to a technology no longer with us. 


Portraits traditionally depict a pretty elite crowd — noblemen, patrons, Katy Perry. I suggest taking a (very) alternative route and turn one of your most humble household items into your newest subject. You may not have spent ample time gazing at the complexities of your washing machine or toaster oven, but, rest assured, they’re every bit as visually compelling as Ms. Perry. 


If you already keep a diary, why not treat it as the literary masterwork I’m sure it is? Create a proper book cover for your sacred memories, in the style of your favorite memoirs or novels. Whether you opt for a serious portrait of yourself pouting with a cigarette, or minimalist graphic design with the help of some construction paper, your journal will finally have the visual accompaniment it deserves. 


Tim Moore was an artist assistant who, entranced by the marks they incurred, saved his employer’s blotting tissues. The fragile canvasses accrued random blots of pigment and water, made unconsciously when washing and drying brushes. The result is the happiest of accidents. Either save blotting tissues of your own or take the concept a step further, setting out to intentionally turn tissue into canvas. 


A spot in your closet. A corner in your cabinet. The bottom drawer of your desk. Paint a secret space that’s reserved for you and you alone. Like skipping underwear for a day, the miniature sanctuary will be a covert corner you can think of throughout your day and smile. You stealthy minx. 


There’s something so beautiful about maps, isn’t there? The way stretches of land and sea are condensed into lines, colors and codes. Try making a map of your own, whether recounting a trip you took, a place you love, or even mapping realms of memory or imagination. I recommend looking at the work of artist Val Britton, whose cut paper maps blend reality and imagination with stunning precision. 


If you can’t turn down a little occultism here and there, I challenge you to create a deck of tarot cards with your own personal symbology. Who or what would be your High Priestess? Your Sun? Your Fool? The personal nature of the cards will make future readings all the more intimate. If Benjamin Mackey created a deck just for “Twin Peaks” characters, you can do it. 


Food coloring. Shaving cream. School glue. That’s all you need to create a homemade paint the texture of fluffy clouds. Just combine glue and shaving cream in equal proportions and mix in the food coloring to your liking. Then get to work creating your very own puff-filled universe. 


I don’t know much about composing sheet music. But I do have a soft spot for the beauty of musical staffs, treble clefs and scales of notes. Artist Ana Prvacki celebrated the erotic nature of classical music with her “Porn Scores,” adorning sheet music with surprising drawings of miniature genitalia in conversation. You don’t have to go an NSFW route, but let the boundaries and traditions of classical music guide you on an unplayable musical journey of your own.

We Asked People With Gender Dysphoria How They Take Care Of Themselves ~ Sarah Karlan

Charlotte Gomez/BuzzFeed News

The uncomfortable feelings that come with gender dysphoria can really throw a wrench in your day-to-day life, making even simple tasks seem impossible. This type of dysphoria is often defined as a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because the gender to which they were assigned at birth and their gender identity don’t match up. When your body and mind aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, it’s easy to feel pretty low. 

We asked people to tell us what they do to make themselves feel good when they’re stuck in some serious dysphoria blues. Here’s what they said:

1. Escape for a bit into your favorite playlist.

“When my dysphoria gets bad, I take out my guitar and play music. Sometimes I like to play my own music, music I wrote. Mostly I just cover songs. When I play, I feel like I’m in my own world, just my mind, my hands and my guitar. I escape into a little space inside my head and fill it with music.”

— Anonymous

2. Take a moment to point out a few positive things you love about your body.

“I am nonbinary, but I was assigned male at birth. Whenever I experience dysphoria, I usually turn on some music and just let my mind clear. I’ve also found that it helps to tell myself, out loud, that my body does not define my gender and to point out things about my body that I do like. Just because I have big hands, doesn’t mean I’m male. And I know I love my eyes. I have to remind myself that there are still positive things about my body.

Something else that works for me is talking to one of my good friends. They know that sometimes I feel awkward in my body, and they can help reassure me that I’m 100% awesome even though my body doesn’t exactly match how I feel that day.”

— Anonymous

3. Cuddle the crap out of a furry friend.

‘I’m nonbinary. Some ways I’ve found to help cope with dysphoria [include] wearing an outfit I know I look good in (it boosts my confidence a lot) and listening to songs I can sing along to. I also like repetitive tasks, like putting CDs or books into alphabetical order or making bracelets. It gets me out of my head, helps me focus on other things. Quite often it gets overwhelming, though, in which case sometimes just having a bit of a cry and a sleep helps. Oh, and cuddle a pet. Pets don’t care what gender you are. I’ve never in my life known a transphobic dog.”

— Anonymous

Charlotte Gomez/BuzzFeed News

4. Pamper yourself with comfy clothes, your favorite makeup, and lots of chocolate.

“I’ve had gender dysphoria long before I knew I was nonbinary but i just didn’t know how to describe it. Some days I can control it; other times it’s impossible to control. it makes me hate myself, but it’s not very strong most the time. To make myself feel better I wear comfy clothes, do my makeup and make myself feel like the person I am inside. Also chocolate is a great quick fix ;)”

— M.

5. Find someone you look up to — if not out in the world, then on YouTube!

“My best way to cope with dysphoria is quiet indie music or watching YouTubers like Uppercasechase, a trans guy who is pretty far in his transition. Seeing trans people who are far into their transition gives me hope that everything will be okay. Watching YouTubers who are transgender and talking about it helps to know I’m not alone and gets rid of the feeling that I’m the only one feeling like this. It really is a great feeling knowing you’re not the only one.”

— Arthur

6. Take a peek into the past so you can appreciate how far you’ve come.

“As a trans guy at about 8 months on T, it really helps me to look back at older photos from when I wasn’t so far along on my journey and look at how far I’ve come. Old photos are super cringy to look at but they definitely make me feel better about where I’m at now.”

— Jamie

Charlotte Gomez/BuzzFeed News

7. Slow. Everything. Down.

“About a year ago, I would probably not have known what dysphoria even was. Well, now I do, and I’ve come to experience it from time to time. It can lead to self harm and anxiety, so it’s not really fun. Usually I get through my bad days by trying to talk slower and quieter, as that usually makes my voice sound a little deeper. I usually let my mind drift off to my favorite playlist,s or maybe try to talk to friends of mine who might have the same problem.” 

— Nate

8. Surround yourself with people who understand or may be going through the same thing.

“The struggle is absolute hell, especially in mine and many other cases of being in high school, a tough series of years on its own — figuring out your true gender or how to embrace your choice in gender can be really hard. Most of all, avoiding bullying [can be hard]. But what I like to do is surround myself with friends who are typically dealing with similar struggles with sexuality or their gender as well. If things continue to get worse, I highly recommend a warm blanket, a desk to hide under, some sweet movies, books, or rad tunes. Also candy and shizzle come in handy.”

— Anonymous

9. Focus on the amazing things your body can do, rather than what it looks like.

“I’m a trans woman but I didn’t have major issues with body dysphoria either before or after transition. I think a big part of the reason for that is because I trained for a long time in modern dance, which focuses so much on what your body can do rather than what it looks like. So I knew that I wanted to be a woman, but I didn’t carry with me a lot of the body image baggage that goes with. I enjoy being a powerful, athletic woman whose body doesn’t conform to idealized beauty standards. Anyway, I know that very few people’s bodies do.”

— Meredith Talusan

10. Take a time-out.

“I’m a trans guy, pre everything, and my name is Emmett. I’m generally very dysphoric, but some days are worse than others. On my bad days, which is usually when I’ve been misgendered a lot or when I’m menstruating, I tell my best friend and she calls me “lad” or “sir” and makes comments about how masculine I am. I also bind every day, and sometimes I pack with a sock pinned to my boxers. I tend to make tea, talk in a deeper voice, and wear all men’s clothes when I’m feeling dysphoric too. One of the best things I do for myself is take breaks and make sure I keep myself safe.”

— Emmett

Charlotte Gomez/BuzzFeed News

11. Pour your feelings into a notebook or blog.

“I write. I have to stop the hollering in my head so I put it all down on paper. Then it isn’t as real, they stop being consuming emotions and they’re just words.” — Kaleb

12. Find out what clothing makes you feel good and own your outfits.

“As a gender-nonconforming person, my body image fluctuates on a regular basis. Sometimes I feel femme and sometimes I feel butch. There are times when I feel a little trapped, like on social occasions when I’m expected to be femme when I don’t feel like it, like for weddings or formal interviews. On those occasions, I usually try to wear at least one item of clothing that I feel like doesn’t conform to standard binary gender norms, like a necklace I identify with masculinity, or boxers under my dress. It makes me feel like I’m still genderqueer even if there are times when I don’t feel comfortable being seen that way.”

— Anonymous

13. Escape into a long and luxurious shower.

“I’m genderqueer and experience a lot of dysphoria around my monthly cycle […] but I like to get as cold as I impossibly can (open a window, take off all my clothes) and get into a really hot shower or bath and wash away the cold. 

I also live in my hoodie when I’m feeling nasty and it feels good to be toasty and wrapped up. ” 

— Karen

Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed News

14. And make sure that shower is nice and toasty!

“Whenever I’m feeling dysphoric, it can be hard to do simple things like shower… so what I do is, before taking any clothes off, I turn on the water really hot so that all the mirrors in the bathroom and fogged up and I can shower and get dressed without seeing my reflection.” 

— Aleksander

15. Remember to be easy on yourself and on your personal image of yourself.

“On days when I’m feeling particularly dysphoric I tend to look at pictures that show the diversity of cis peoples’ bodies so I can recognize that although to me some parts of my body feel out of place, to a bystander I wouldn’t stick out at all. I think anyone that experiences dysphoria needs to realize that our perception of ourselves is quite often very skewed.”

— Evander Ribton-Turner

16. Write these steps down and repeat as often as needed.

“If you are dealing with dysphoria right now..

1. Take a deep breath. 
Relax, allow yourself to think straight. 

2. Have hope.
One day this will be all over. We feel depression because we see no future, but I promise there is one. 

3. Express how you feel. 
If you need to draw, write, play sports: Do it! Find something that you like, and express your full emotions while doing so. 

4. Talk 
Talk about how you feel, whether it’s to a friend or even to yourself! ( No, you’re not crazy. ) Talk: You need to say how you feel, and what you feel, and make goals for yourself. 

5. Understand what you’re feeling. 
Listen to yourself and understand exactly what you’re feeling. We all as humans have goals and have places in our lives we would like to be. Don’t feel alone. 

6. Remember you are important. 
Your trials and struggles in life are here to make you stronger. You’ve made it to this point. You’ve done it be proud of yourself. Love yourself. You are bold, you are beautiful, and you are important.”

— Travis

17. Make a goddamn kingdom of blankets and rule the land of cozy!

‘When I get bogged down with gender dysphoria I tend to hide in my room under blankets and hope it goes away. Or, I will wear baggy jeans and sweatshirts to hide my shape — which admittedly isn’t the smartest idea when one lives in California. But in all reality you need to be kind to yourself during this time. You are still you, you are valid. Just because your body doesn’t look like what you or society expects it to, it is still beautiful, and it is still yours.”

— Anonymous

Charlotte Gomez/BuzzFeed News

18. Sweat it all out at the gym.

“I’ve been overweight most of my life, but especially after puberty. It’s been hard, because society is not kind to people who don’t fit into their beauty standards. I often struggle with feeling good enough, attractive enough, and just… enough, on top of this dysphoria. This year, I started taking care of myself. Investing in me is investing in my work! I’ve found that good nutrition and exercise has helped tremendously. My mood is better, I feel healthier, and it’s something I never really believed I could do, but now I know I can.” 

— Rhys

19. Avoid spaces or people that will bring you down.

“If you’ve been feeling really dysphoric for a while, spend a day dressed as your stereotypical biological sex. You’ll feel awful for the day, but the day after when you dress as your actual gender will be awesome. Avoid transphobic places and people as much as possible (certain friends, YouTube comments in general) and go to places that understand and affirm how you feel (Tumblr, safe spaces). If there’s a certain activity that makes you feel less dysphoric (shaving, using hair gel), do it!”

— Anonymous

20. Remember that you are allowed to feel this pain, but don’t let it get the best of you.

“I have experienced gender dysphoria for years, and it is far from fun. But there are many ways I make myself feel better! Sometimes, I put on that one outfit that I know looks flawless. I write down a list of all of the things that I love about myself. Maybe I watch that new episode I have been meaning to see! I always do something that I love doing: This small distraction can take away from the pain of gender dysphoria. The most important thing? Know that you are allowed to feel this pain, and that you are beautiful and amazing.”

— Anonymous

I Found My Womanist Aesthetic by Embracing Being Large, Black and Female ~ Anitra Winder

“What shall I tell my children who are black? Of what it means to be a captive in this dark skin? What shall I tell my dear ones, fruit of my womb, of how beautiful they are? Where everywhere they are faced with abhorrence of everything that is black…?” — Dr. Margaret Burroughs, 1968.

Growing up it seemed as though race and gender had always been a part of my consciousness. However, at that juncture in life I understood identity in the most simplistic terms. I was poor, black, a girl, a bit rounder than most, but that’s where the observation ended. There was no evaluation of how those identities influenced who I was or who I was going to be. Hence, the multiple social identities of being black, large, and female were always present, but not contextualized. 

Through a simple game of make believe, I would come to understand my expected place in the world. I never cared for the idea of being a princess. In every book I’d read they were either locked away in towers, being abducted, persecuted by evil step-mothers, or simply lying comatose while life raged on. I never wanted any part of that but one day out of boredom I thought it would be interesting to play with a different group of girls during recess. These girls played princess regularly and approached it with an uncanny degree of formality. As a circle of girls clucked on about the hierarchy of princesses, I interjected, “Can I play? I could be a princess, or maybe more like the queen!” The blonde ringleader said, “Okay, you can play, but you can’t be a princess. Princesses are blonde and pretty and you’re black and fat, so you can be a wicked witch.” I decided not to play. 

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, commented in her book Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?, “The issues of emerging sexuality and the societal messages about who is sexually desirable leave young black women in a very devalued position.” The initiation into this devaluation was truly an American creation, a methodology that conceptualized a social structure of race and gender based on a sexist, white supremacist model. 

From that playground experience, I began to learn that as a female I should desire to be pretty, and that being black and overweight nullified any possibility of achieving that desire. I became acutely aware that society would attribute every failure or character flaw to my race and size, which would be used as a measure of my inferiority. My experience as a human being would be limited to the restrictive stereotypes paraded within various forms of media. In addition to navigating the difficulty of racial discrimination, I was expected to conform to beauty ideals that shared no cultural resemblance to who I was. Black women who looked like me were at best asexual mammies, muted and stable best friends, or sassy, glorified ghetto cooks who lusted over ham hocks and the men who’d never part their sheets. These grotesque images of black womanhood are starkly juxtaposed with images of blonde bombshells, pale, rail thin supermodels, or simply your typical lily-white, girl next door.
Most media images serve as indicators of social status because one learns what a society values and what it does not through media representation. The black female body has historically been debased by the intersecting atrocities of racism and patriarchal oppression. My black, large, female body was being offered up as a sacrifice to the contemporary “cult of thinness,” which socially sanctioned my body as unfit to truly be feminine. In a grossly sexist and racialized society, a black, fat woman is not valued, and therefore eclipsed. I questioned, as Sojourner had, “Ain’t I a Woman?”  

During my young adulthood, I caved into social pressure. I obsessively straightened my hair and began binging and purging food. I dare say I alternated between states of anorexia and bulimia, which is of course absurd because black women do not have eating disorders, and fat people cannot be anorexic. 

Depressed by years of relentless stigmatization, it was only when I chose a form of self-integration that would take place outside of the confines of white culture, that I began to realize my worth. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Fannie Lou Hamer cast stones against the patriarchal, white supremacist power structure. They strived to enhance the plight of their people, and their black femininity was soundly intact. These remarkable women were the catalyst for the formation of my womanist aesthetic. This womanist aesthetic would guide me to stop demonizing my unique characteristics, and engage in healthy behaviors. 

I no longer chemically processed my hair nor consumed nutrient poor foods that were introduced into the African American palate by oppressive forces. These changes resulted in a healthier physical and mental state. I reclaimed the power to redefine beauty and femininity on my own cultural terms. Just as the warrior women before me did not submit to the prescribed societal notions of their value or existence, I too have chosen a cerebral and substantive beauty to define the majesty that is my black female body.

Anitra Winder is a queer, crafty, Afrofuturistic, writer, and social justice advocate. She has a degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Health Care Administration/Public Health. When she’s not focused on social justice issues, she’s battling her comic book addiction…she’s not winning. Find her on Twitter @donitocarmenito.

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed ~ Kelsey Darragh, Kirsten King

Understanding your own mental illness doesn’t happen overnight – It’s a process. So, using the medication she was prescribed, one woman opened up about her long, and sometimes impossibly difficult, experience coping with her own mental illness.

BuzzFeed Video / Via

“I had my first panic attack when I was 17-years-old. My body went into flight or fight mode. Well, jokes on me because I was on an airplane flight when it happened.”

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

“I had so many questions, but one stood above them all: Why me?”

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

One in four people struggle with their mental health.

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

And only roughly one third of people with mental illness seek ANY form of help.

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

“I sure as hell didn’t like the way I felt and I didn’t care who knew it. Well, maybe I cared a little.”

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

“I was afraid of telling my friends that sometimes I felt like I was dying… physically, and emotionally.”

“I started going to therapy. I had good days, and bad days… and really bad days.”

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

Eventually, a diagnosis was reached: “Bipolar disorder. Getting a definitive diagnosis meant there had to be a cure, right?”

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

“…Hope. What a misleading drug in itself.”

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

“I tried to fixed everything externally to fix an internal problem. I switched jobs, colleges, therapists, I took more Ativan.”

“I had good days, and bad days, and less really bad days. And then life happened – smacked me in the face and right off my tracks because a guy I loved broke up with me.”

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

“The threat of unpredictability is the scariest part when something depressing happens to someone with depression.”

“There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to feelings and moods, they just exist. We just feel. It’s the choices we make on how to constructively deal with those feelings that define us.”

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

“In seven years time, seven psychiatrists, four psychologists, countless therapists, two misdiagnosis, and over 20 medications… I was finally figuring my mental illness out.”

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

“I cannot hold myself accountable for what happens with my depression and anxiety. That I don’t have control over. But I can hold myself accountable for the strength of trying.”

A Woman Explains Her Mental Health Journey Using The Pills She Was Prescribed

15 Easy Things You Can Do To Help When You Feel Like Shit ~ Maritsa Patrinos

1. Get a drink of water.

Get a drink of water.

Maritsa Patrinos / BuzzFeed

You could be dehydrated! Your body needs water. Not juice, soda, or alcohol – get a tall glass of water and make yourself drink all of it.

2. Make your bed.

When you have a lot to do and it feels overwhelming, making your bed can be the first step in getting your life on track. It will also (hopefully) discourage you from getting back into it.

3. Take a shower.

Take a shower.

Maritsa Patrinos / BuzzFeed

Life feels different when you’re clean! And it can give you a burst of energy if you’re feeling lethargic. Wash your hair and give yourself a head massage.

4. Have a snack – not junk food!

Did you eat enough today? It’s super tempting to eat junk food when you feel like crap. If you don’t feel like making a whole meal, maybe just a piece of fruit. Something you can burn throughout the day and not in a burst of five minutes.

5. Take a walk.

Take a walk.

Maritsa Patrinos / BuzzFeed

You might need some fresh air and not even know it. Give your body some natural light, breathe some different air, move your legs a little, even if it’s for just five minutes. Allow yourself to think some different thoughts.

6. Change your clothes.

Even if you aren’t going to leave the house today, put on real clothes. Or, if you’ve been wearing the same uncomfortable clothes all day and feel restless, change into your sleepy clothes and slippers and relax.

7. Change your environment.

Change your environment.

Maritsa Patrinos / BuzzFeed

Staring at the same four walls day after day can be drudging. Can you work from a cafe, a library, or a friend’s house? If you can add going somewhere to the list of things you did today, you may feel more accomplished.

8. Talk to someone, not on the internet – it can be about anything.

If you don’t feel like talking through your troubles, that’s okay. Visit a friend, talk to them about a movie you saw. Call your mom and see how she’s doing.

9. Dance to an upbeat guilty pleasure song.

Dance to an upbeat guilty pleasure song.

Maritsa Patrinos / BuzzFeed

NOT ELLIOT SMITH! Pick something high energy and bump it. Dance like a rock star for one song to get your blood pumping again.

10. Get some exercise.

Do some cardio, work up a sweat. If you don’t have the time for a whole workout, look up a sun salutation on Youtube and stretch for as long as you have time for. Do some push-ups or sit-ups at your desk.

11. Accomplish something – even if it’s something tiny.

Accomplish something – even if it's something tiny.

Maritsa Patrinos / BuzzFeed

Do you need to grab some groceries? Schedule a doctor’s appointment? Reply to an email? If you can’t get to the big stuff on your list, focus on the small stuff, and don’t forget to congratulate yourself for getting something done.

12. Hug an animal.

If you don’t have a pet, can you visit a friend’s? Or can you go to an animal shelter?

13. Make a “done” list instead of a “to-do” list.

Make a "done" list instead of a "to-do" list.

Maritsa Patrinos / BuzzFeed

Instead of overwhelming yourself right now, start feeling better about what you did get done. You can add “brushed teeth,” “washed dishes,” or “picked out an outfit” to your list. It doesn’t matter how small the task, prove to yourself that you’re effectual.

14. Watch a Youtube video that always makes you laugh.

I personally recommend this one.

15. Give yourself permission to feel shitty.

Give yourself permission to feel shitty.

Maritsa Patrinos / BuzzFeed

You’re allowed to have a shitty day, and you don’t have to fix it all right now. If you try to fix it and it doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. Give yourself the time and space you need to feel what you’re feeling.

A Complicated Normal: Riding the Wave of Mental Illness ~ Vanessa Hazzard

I thought I was well. It’s been over a year since I stopped cutting and almost two years since I’ve been released from the hospital after being treated for borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and PTSD. Since then, I’ve held a steady job and re-enrolled in a Bachelors degree program. My life had been successfully recalibrated after years of trauma. That life was so far in the rear view mirror, so small, that it seemed just a blip on the radar compared to all the good things that lay before me.

I felt normal for the first time in my life. Not bland normal, just sane normal; a stable, healthy, functional normal. I should’ve known that my kind of normal is a bit more complicated when a seemingly innocent hug from behind triggered a rush of memories long forgotten. It wasn’t even so much the memories themselves that bothered me. It was the feelings of being dirty, used-up, and insignificant that accompanied them. I’m not lazy when it comes to my mental health. I do the work, as tiresome as it may be, and yet this occurrence sent me into a tailspin. How can some people shake off their woes, while others, like myself, are just left shaken? 

That night, I tried to sleep it off, but to no avail. Through all the tossing and turning and tears, I couldn’t escape myself. I remembered that I had an expired bottle of Valium with a few pills left inside. Hoping they still had some potency; I washed down a pill with a sip of cheap wine and waited for my mind to settle but it wasn’t long before the psychosis began. This trance-like reality was a familiar place for me, just a few years prior when the symptoms of PTSD were at its peak. I was slow and heavy, yet deliberate when I grabbed the razor in my drawer and did as I’ve done many times before. I cranked up the classical music station I was listening to and began slicing my inner thighs. The razor slid across my skin like a bow on violin strings. I always want to be a violin when I’m in this state. It’s so beautiful, fine and delicate, attributes I always fell short of embodying.

At first, my slicing was a bit haphazard, a few cuts here and there. I just wanted to see my blood escape from the inside of my body. Then, as the music grew louder, I became increasingly more intentional with the cutting, as my need to be a violin intensified. I was focused and on a mission. By this point, my mind was completely fragmented yet a small part of me knew I was obsessed with an impossibility. But the orchestral violins, like a pied piper, led my other parts further and further away from the stable, healthy, functional normal that I worked so hard to achieve. I began cutting a musical staff in my leg. Then I sliced another. Then one more. I kept going until the violins released their hold and I was re-minded. I’m not sure how much time went by, but when I looked down, I had cuts that spanned the length of both my inner thighs. The drops of blood dripped out like notes in a messed up lullaby, as it was successful at putting me to sleep. 

The days and nights that followed were more of the same. I’d put on a happy, pleasant face at work. I’d help my son with his homework, make dinner, and then head upstairs to cut while he was playing with his uncles. I was good at faking normalcy when all the while I was slipping deeper and deeper into depression. Truth is, I was battling a depressive episode for a few weeks, but was able to keep it at bay. Between medication, meditation, and working out, I knew I was able to work through it as I have done in the past. This trigger though…it snuck up on me and pulled me under. For days, I was a melancholy mass of flesh and shame drudging through what felt like molasses towards the mights at the end of the tunnel. I might be healthy one day. I might be successful. I might never have to take medication again. The thought of my son was like dangling a carrot in front of me to keep me running towards those mights, instead of succumbing to my current reality…my inner thighs were full of fresh, self-inflicted scars… the results of a poor and dangerous coping mechanism. One that I sadly and shamefully enjoyed.

When bedtime came, my son came upstairs crying for his dad. His dad and I have been divorced and living in separate households for a few years now. Even when I think that my son has processed our separation and accepted that he’ll see his dad only on weekends, by mid-week he usually begins to cry for him. I do as I always do. I put him on my lap and rock and embrace him. The weight of his, lanky, seven-year-old body stings my scars and I am immediately filled with hypocrisy. How can I console him when I can’t healthily attend to my own depression?

After his tears subside, he asks me to read him a book, Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. The little girl in the book is in search of something beautiful in her neighborhood and questions her neighbors on what they think is beautiful. In the end, the girl’s mother says that she is her something beautiful. I looked at my son and said, “…and you’re my something beautiful”. Without hesitation, he replied, “…and you are mine, mommy”. I couldn’t help but burst into tears while my son drifted off to sleep. This tainted, scarred body and complicated mind was his mommy…and he thought her beautiful. That was his normal and I hope that one day it becomes my own.

White Men Have Less Life Stress, But Are More Prone To Depression Because Of It ~ Erin Schumaker


When people talk about the black-white health gap, they usually mean that black people have worse health outcomes than white people. And generally, that’s true. On basically every measure, from childbirth to hypertension to HIV transmission rates, the black community fares worse

But there’s one area where this gap doesn’t hold up: men’s mental health. White men are more likely to face depression associated with stressful life events than black men or women of any race, according to a recently published study in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.

This is an especially interesting finding because, as might be expected, white men reported having fewer stressful life events than black men. These events were defined as poor health, financial stress, issues with employment, marital or family problems, problematic gambling behavior, police harassment and being the victim of a crime or discrimination.

“White men were experiencing the least stress in their lives,” lead study author Dr. Shervin Assari, a research investigator at the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry, told The Huffington Post. “They don’t get a lot of it and they are not used to it, so they are more prone to its harmful effects.”

Logically, people who haven’t dealt with stressful life events, or who have encountered them infrequently, lack the coping mechanisms and support systems that develop when overcoming hardship. Social support and religion, for example, are proven and effective coping mechanisms for dealing with stress. 

“They don’t learn how they should mobilize their resources from previous stressful experiences,” Assari said. “Whom should they talk to? How should they act? They have not learned to respond to stress to the same level as black men.”

In a way, the study hits on a sticky subject. Depression is a serious and often debilitating mental health condition, and white men who are suffering from depression should be supported, not stigmatized.

On the other hand, the strong association between a small number of stressful life events and depression among white men speaks volumes about white privilege. The world treats white men well — so well, in fact, that infrequent negative life circumstances mentally harm them.  

Resilience in the wake of stress 

The study, which included almost 6,000 adults from around the country, controlled for income, education, employment and marital status. It did not find the same stress-depression correlation among women that it did among men.

When comparing stressful life events along gender and racial lines, women had more exposure to stress than men, and black participants had more exposure to stress than white participants. Black women reported the highest number of stressful life events while white men reported the least exposure to stress.   

Unlike men, however, black and white women had similar stress-related susceptibility to depression. Assari thinks this may be a product of habituation, or when the body stops responding to a stress or stimulus it is repeatedly exposed to. 

“You start developing a type of resistance to it,” he said. “After some types of very severe stressors, people transform.”

This is what’s known as post-traumatic growth, when a person shows resilience or emerges stronger in the wake of a traumatic experience. While such stressors are clearly a net negative, the results of a heartening 2013 study of low-income mothers in the years following Hurricane Katrina found that 30 percent of survivors felt the storm had given them an improved sense of personal strength, enhanced spirituality and improved relationships.

They are not used to stress, so they are more prone to its harmful effects.


Learning to cope with repeated exposure to stress can have a dark side, too. Chronic stress has been linked to anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

And all too often, people’s behavioral strategies for dealing with stress are far from healthy. Smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating and using drugs are all coping methods, albeit unhealthy ones.

Coping with stress by drinking alcohol or overeating creates a physical health burden even as it dispels a mental one. Drinking too much can lead to heart disease, liver disease and digestive problems, while being overweight is associated with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the authors of a study on race, chronic stress and health disparities published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2010 wrote: 

For many individuals, especially among materially disadvantaged ethnic groups, the short-term benefits of reducing states such as anxiety, depression, and frustration may psychologically outweigh the risk of poor long-term physical health from behaviors such as overeating, consuming alcohol, using tobacco, and using over-the-counter or illicit drugs. 

Dispelling the myth that men don’t get depressed 

Perhaps the most important takeaways from Assari’s study are the fact that men do suffer from depression, and that the study dispels the highly damaging belief that mental health and emotions aren’t something men need to worry about. In fact, it’s just the opposite. While white men certainly enjoy privileges that come with their gender and skin color, they are especially vulnerable the debilitating effects of stress-related depression. 

White men are also at a high risk for suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that white men have the highest suicide rates of any demographic, accounting for 70 percent of all suicides committed in the United States in 2013.

Of course, depression isn’t always linked to stressful life events. Moreover, a strong association between stress and depression doesn’t mean that white men as a group are more likely to suffer from depression than women. According to the National Comorbidity Survey, the lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder among men is 13 percent. Among women, that number rises to a full 20 percent who will suffer from the disorder over the course of their lifetimes.


A Comic That Accurately Sums Up Depression And Anxiety ~ UpWorthy

Sarah Flanigan has been fighting depression since she was 10 years old and anxiety since she was 16. “I wish everyone knew that depression is not something that people can just ‘snap out of,'” she explains. “I mean, if I could ‘snap out of it,’ I would have by now.”

Depression and anxiety disorders are real illnesses. Mental illnesses are not “in someone’s head,” they’re not something a person can “just get over,” and they affect so many of us — over 40 million people in the U.S. alone.

Despite how common they are, it’s still really difficult to explain to people who may have never experienced a mental illness.

Enter: cute, clever illustrations that get the job done.

Nick Seluk, who creates the amazing comics at The Awkward Yeti, heard from reader Sarah Flanigan. She shared her story of depression and anxiety with him. If it could help even one person, she said, it would be worth it. 

Nick turned her story into a fantastic comic that perfectly captures the reality of living with depression and anxiety.

“I’ve been through and seen depression and anxiety in action, and thought Sarah’s story was so perfectly simple,” he told me. “We all get sick physically and mentally, but we need to be open to talking (and laughing) about [it].”

I couldn’t agree more, and I think this comic will resonate with a lot of people.

Simple yet powerful, right? 

“The hardest part of living with depression and anxiety for me is feeling like I have to hide it,” Sarah said. “I’ve always been known as the happy one in my group of friends. Everyone’s always so shocked when I tell them I have depression or they see the self-harm scars.”

“It’s much harder than it should be to say, ‘Hey, I have depression and I’ve been struggling with self-harm since I was 10 and I just really need your support to get me through tonight,'” Sarah explained. 

Let’s all keep working to make it easier for our friends, family members, and ourselves to get support. Let’s keep talking about it.