Snow On The Ground

“Mom, it’s snowing outside!”, my last man child exclaimed. “Yeah right, what snow, in San Antonio?”. “Dude, I shall believe that when I see it”, were the only words I could come up with in response. You see, even though I couldn’t imagine that my youngest son was lying about the snow, I still couldn’t believe it. Not in Texas…

But it was snowing…a lot.

In fact, it snowed for hours that night, and I LOVED every moment of it!

“I hope we don’t have school tomorrow”, I heard his 16-year-old voice add with a note of finality. “Me three”, I agreed. Glad to hear the happiness in his voice. Ever since the online schooling thing began, he has been outwardly so brave and so agreeable and gone with the flow, even as I know deep inside that he hates it!

My heart went out to him. He is such a brave boy. His parents got divorced when he was only 3. Even though his father is showing a semblance of presence in his life these days, I know it must be tough. Dealing with not having his older brothers in the house anymore, and his mom and stepmom going through a separation.

Being only 16, missing his friends, having to endure high school on a computer, with his mother around the corner, in the same house day-in, day-out, must be hard. But he has been nothing but gracious about it. He is a cool kid. Even if I have to say so myself. The strongest of the three, emotionally, I think. But what do I know? I am only their mom, LOL.

Morning After
Night Of

Back to the snow.

That night I took some pictures and even went live on Facebook to share. I love the sound of snow falling. The softness of it. I love the color of snow. The whiteness of it. I love the peace and calm that often comes in the morning. Everything is white, the sky is bright, the air crisp, the snow cold, clean and inviting.

I ran outside at the crack of dawn the next morning with Lulu, my pet rat terrier-mix who appeared to be enjoying herself as well. She was prancing around in the snow and seemed more comfortable in it than I thought she would be, knowing this was her very first-time seeing this much snow. She is 8 in human years. Wait, did I just spy her lick some of it? Lulu! 😊

I remember the day the boys and I picked her up at the pound. Her sister had just been adopted. Her original name was Honey. She had actually picked us. She was the only Black dog there, and she was beautiful. She kept jumping up and barking at us, like she was saying “pick me, pick me”, and pick her, we did. Her full name is Lucretia, so we call her Lulu for short.

My street was quiet. Everything around me was covered in snow. Roof tops, branches, cars, the street, shrubs, sidewalks, everything. Que buena! Not a soul was outdoors. No cars, no kids, no parents, no school buses, no pets, not even the birds were out yet. None of the usual suspects of neighbors who walk in the morning. Noone. Just me, my dog, my phone, and my thoughts…

For a few moments my mind went to her. I wonder what she is doing right now. Would she be awake? Would she be outdoors? Would she be by her window watching, thinking, wondering? Is she lonely? Does she miss me? Does she even think about me? She did not come to walk Lulu this past weekend because of “inclement weather”, her text had read.

I miss her.

I miss calling out her name, “Elle!” when I walk in the house. I know I would have been all over her this morning, if she still lived here. I would have been in her room first thing, waking her up with my usual Tigger-like excitement, wanting to share it all with her, asking her to come out and join me for a walk, to which she would nearly always respond with a cold “no”. 

“Why do people do that?” I asked myself for the 46th time. “Why did I do that?” Stay in a loveless relationship. Was it desperation? Was it love? Was it to fill a void? Both my beloved youngest sister, and my relationship coach, Dr. Sonia Wright, had asked me the same thing. “How long were you going to stay?” and more importantly, “Why?”

I knew both of them meant well.

“I don’t know”, was the best I could come up with each time. “I don’t know”. As a coach myself, I know that-that is not true. Everybody knows. We all know why we do what we do. We all know why we make decisions that may or may not serve us. We do know, but we mostly choose not to accept it, or more commonly, choose to deny it.

We generally choose to say those three words first, “I don’t know.” It is easier. It is safe. It absolves us of responsibility. It prolongs the time of indifference. It allows us to remain in the victim mentality. But it also keeps us stuck. Shackles us to indecision. Prolongs our pain, and might I add, prevents our progress. Because if we can’t figure out what it is, or call it out by name, we can’t truly fix it.  

So, that morning, standing there in the middle of my street, alone by myself, enjoying the scenery, while taking pictures of the snow, of my house, of Lulu striking a pose on the lawn, I asked myself the same question for the 47th time, “Why did you stay?” Reluctantly, I finally responded in a series of whispers…

Because I love her.

Because I wanted her to love me back.

Because I needed her.

Because she saved my life.

Because I loved being married to her.

Because I kept thinking and wishing that we would somehow magically work through all the mess.

Because I wanted us to make it.

Because, even though we were both suffering in the relationship, I still wished we would get through it.

Because I was still rooting for us.

Because I was in denial.

I love the feel of the snow under my rain boots. The soft crunching sound it makes as I walk down the street, Lulu coming along for her morning walk. The air was cool as I inhaled huge chunks of it into my lungs. I am cold, but I am so loving this once-in-a-life-time experience. It snowed, in San Antonio!

Except, I am here by myself. Not able to share the moment with anyone, but me.

Then I recalled Dr. Wright telling me that I had to learn to embrace solitude. “Look at it as a welcome experience,” her soft voice came through the phone. “When we call it loneliness it has a negative connotation to it.” “This could literally be the beginning of the best time of your life, but you have to let it in,” she added. “You have to first go through all the emotions that come with a split from an 8 year-long relationship…”

“What if it’s OK to feel the way you feel right now?” I ran through my list of feelings; Unsure, angry, sad, devastated, disappointed, betrayed, afraid, shocked…” The list went on. Wait! Was that also relief?? Somewhere in the back there, was relief. I briefly looked at it and skipped it. Anguish, panic, despair, melancholy, heaviness in my chest… I continued.

At one point during the call, Dr. Wright instructed me to embrace “I am enough” in every sense of the word. While still crying my heart out to her, I realized that I have struggled with self-acceptance in that sense. I crave companionship, as a result, I have settled for relationships that amongst other things, have been unfulfilling and to some extent, toxic.

I have been entering them from a place of scarcity. From a place of lack. No wonder I remained needy even as I constantly told myself I had a mate. I remained lonely in most of my relationships, even if they all started the same way, with excitement and the idea of commitment.

Apparently, I have always felt like I needed someone in my life in order to feel whole. It became clear as we talked in hushed tones around 11:30pm that night, with snort and tears running down my nose and my eyes, that I have struggled with a fear of abandonment…for years.

My earliest memories of being abandoned came up during the conversation. My mother had been unable to nurse me during infancy, I was told. When I was 6, my father forgot to pick me up one day from school and I had to walk all the way home. I had been the only child from my neck of the woods on the elementary school bus and was consequently bullied like crazy by the other kids.

My parents never came to visit me during my 5 years in a boarding high school in Nigeria, I got into high school at 11. Neither did they come to visit me during my entire time in medical school, another 5 years. I went to med school at 16. Looking back now, I grew up forcing myself to believe that they loved me, but this was their weird way of showing it.  

I remember vowing when I was a young adult, that I would never miss a visiting day in my kids’ lives. That I would be the mother I had yearned for, all those days, the father I had needed those early formative years if given a chance to have children of my own. Today, I can only hope that I am.

Before the call ended, we discussed the possibility that I had-had an emotional affair. What? Yes, she kindly explained. I had immersed my heart and soul into my work on trauma and suicide prevention in youth these past few years, because, in her words, I wasn’t getting the nurturing and attention I needed from my marriage. So, I guess, I cheated with my work. Is that even a thing?

Wow!

Night Of
Morning After

As Lulu and I turn the corner at the end of the street, I spy one of my White neighbors who never speaks to me, walking slowly in our direction with their own dog in tow. I immediately made a U-turn, I really couldn’t care much about messing up my beautiful and serene revelry with a snooty neighbor this morning…

We walk on, slowly, quietly, in the opposite direction. Lulu appears to step on something, and momentarily begins to limp. But she regains her gait, and we continue. She stops from time to time to do her business. I register the deep yellow color of her urine against the white snow, and make a mental note to check on her water supply when I get home.

I can barely hold on to my phone by the time we get back to the house. My fingers are so cold that they hurt, but my body is warm, my heart is happy, there is snow on the ground even if I have no one to share it with. I walk in the house and call my name, “Dr. Lulu!” I am doing what my coach has told me to do. I am getting used to being with me.

In the distance, the world is beginning to wake up.

It will be a good day.

“In life, you must know when to make a you-turn if possible” ~ Dr. Lulu

BB

5 Tips To Help You, Your Teens and Young Adults Cope with The Pandemic

Earlier today, I coached a family whose 16 year old had recently attempted suicide. His parents were concerned that he has been at home for the past one year, and amongst other things, had become depressed and anxious. He has been separated from his friends, his teammates and his girlfriend since starting online schooling. His grades are also beginning to suffer, and so is he.

They wanted tools to help them reconnect with their child.

As a pediatrician and speaker on youth suicide prevention, as a coach who works with parents of teens, but most importantly, as a mother of a 16 year old teenager of my own (and with the pandemic lingering on and with no end in sight for our current situation), I think this list might help us parents better manage our relationship with our teens and young adults (YA) at this time.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo recently twitted his concerns about the rising trend of suicide amongst teens. Sadly, this trend also affects our young adults who may or may not be in college as well. Suicide rate in their age range (10 to 34 years) is second only to accidents as the leading cause of death, and that trend seems to be compounded by the pandemic.

As someone who has struggled with suicidal ideations myself, and as an author of a book on teen suicide, I know the loneliness and hopelessness that can occur, and the despair and anguish that accompany them. While chatting with my youngest son tonight, we both came up with the following tips that might help you and your teen or young adult.

Acknowledge and Validate Their Feelings

One thing that I preach about all the time is the need to validate your teen or young adult’s feelings by acknowledging them and empathizing with them. Your teen needs to know that you understand from whence they come. Tell them you get how frustrating and disempowering they must be feeling without access to their friends and peers and all the activities they enjoy.

Share your own frustrations as well. Tell them exactly how you feel and let them see that while you don’t necessarily have all the answers, you do share their fears. However, end with a note of hope. Share your stories of struggles and how you navigated them in the past, listen to them as they share their own stories. Allow your kids to see the vulnerable side of you by sharing a challenging story from your past.

Trust me, children want to know that their parents are just like them in some ways. They do need to know that you have also struggled in life. That you don’t always have the answers. That helps them accept and deal with their own limitations as well, and helps them connect with you on a deeper and might I add, more realistic level.

One of the major issues I notice with some of the parents I coach is the tendency to want their children to think they are perfect. That is a dangerous precedent. Kids need to see their parents show them the full range of emotions that they can express. As an African, I know first hand how our parents almost never show any other emotions besides stoicism. #notgood.

Hang out with your children, enjoy the time with them.

Check-in With Them Frequently

If your teen or YA is currently enrolled in distance or remote learning, find ways to support them through it. We can all agree that these are unprecedented times. In my home, all three children are affected, and each child is dealing with it differently. Since I am home with my high schooler, I can only directly affect him, but I do ensure that I also have access to, and engage with his brothers often.

For his older brothers, we have twice weekly check-ins that have been instituted. Each one calls me on the telephone on a pre-selected day, usually on the weekend. And I in turn have a mental health check-in via text on Wednesdays. I send a simple text message asking how they are doing. These seemingly “little” habits have had the dual effect of keeping open connection lines and reassuring me, the mama bear.

As for my last-man-child (LMC), I frequently stick my head into his room, and ask how his day is going. I make sure he takes frequent breaks from his class computer (which he built himself for his 16th birthday) by walking around every 2 hours or so. We have regular discussions about relevant topics; school, his grades, his friends, who is dating who, football and basketball, his haircut, and even racism and politics…

Encourage Social/Physical Distancing and Wearing Masks

For this, frequent reminders and open-hearted (non-judgemental) discussions are critical. Talk about the fact that ‘their friends might be sick and not know it’ aka asymptomatic. Remind your young’un, that while they themselves might not “get sick”, there is a clear danger of bringing the virus home, and possibly getting you, their grandparents or other family members sick.

This is quite possibly the most challenging part of this entire pandemic for teens and YAs. Because they mostly feel they are invisible and can’t catch the disease, they often balk at the thought of wearing masks or socially distancing. They also fall prey to peer pressure if their friends do not also do the same.

I encouraged my LMC to have his friends come to visit last summer. This idea was a hit, and I watched him and his friends reunite one night outside our home. It was a brief but heart-warming (and much needed) drive-by socially distanced visit with their masks on. The smile on his young face the rest of that evening was all the payment this mama bird needed.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Pandemic or not, we must still champion healthy habits in our children. The usual suspects: adequate rest and sleep, healthy eating and drinking, frequent water breaks, exercise, etc. are all still a daily requirement. In my book “How to Raise Well-Rounded Children”, I state clearly that the one ingredient needed to make our kids do the right thing is us!

Share moments of laughter with your teens

We MUST exemplify any behavior we seek in our children. That means getting with our own program. I love to exercise and read. And my kids see me practicing that daily. My LMC and I bonded with Spanish lessons in the heart of the first lockdown. Those were special moments that we shared each night. I enjoyed the one-on-one, and he got to stay proficient with his spanish, win-win!

These days, we bond through cooking. He has always had a flare for the culinary department, so the lockdown gave him an opportunity to watch a lot of Master Chef and Master Chef-Junior. These TV shows helped him blossom into our very own Chef Boyardee 🙂 These days, he literally picks the recipe, shops for the ingredients and boom! Gourmet meal!

Use Technology to Your Advantage

This last one is simply inevitable in today’s world. I smile as I write this, because I am the world’s most notorious “hater” of technology. But, I am learning that it can be my friend if only I allow myself to find the good in it and learn to use it to my advantage.

While I understand that we don’t want our kids playing video games all day, or stuck to their phones day in and out. I ask for grace for them through these trying times. Allow them to use their phones or play their video games a little longer, as long as they complete their school work and house chores.

Over time, I have learned to give in to my boys and their gaming. It actually warms my heart anytime I pass by my LMC’s bedroom and hear his brothers’ voices on the computer playing with him…bonding with their sibling… or just hanging out. That is such a good feeling!

We also used the power of Zoom to celebrate my eldest son’s graduation from Stanford last year, attend my brother’s son’s christening, and check in with the extended family and long lost friends from time to time. Thank goodness for that, I truly can’t imagine how this pandemic would have been without video conferencing! It’s all good.

Go Forth and Make the Best of it!

In ending, as the pandemic rages on, we must approach it like any other challenge, with positive determination and confidence. We must not give in to the uncertainty, the anxiety, or the sense of helplessness and lack of control that we are all in no doubt experiencing individually and as a community. Let’s lean-in to the unknown, and sit with all the feels that come with that.

As parents, the time with our offspring is finite, so we should learn to give in a little, loosen up and try to enjoy them while we still can. My favorite question is: “Remember your teen years? What did you want the most from your parents? Now give that as a gift to your own children. Thank me later 🙂

At the end of the visit with my clients today, I reminded them that adolescence and teen years don’t last forever, but parenting does. So, I will ask you what I asked them as the visit drew to a close… What is the best thing that could happen to your relationship with your child from this pandemic? Write it down, and go for it!

If you are looking for a coach to help with your relationship with your child, let’s talk. http://www.calendly.com/drlulu. Al see you on the inside 😉

BB

My Pain

It started as overall body aches, with burning throughout my skin, pain in m’bones, joints, occasionally involving my tendons.

There were muscle aches and a few headaches. There was a diagnosis, fibromyalgia. Or was it? What is it? Was it stress, was it my diet?

No ma’am, it’s chronic pain…for life! And oh, it’s common in women your age. YIKES!

It all began after the I sold the practice and filed bankruptcy. Becoming a single mother, an airforce officer, commander, medical director… divorcee…

Then a little neck pain, then my upper back. Those didn’t really bother me much at the start. Then more neck pain and hip pain and knee pain… hmmm

Then knee swelling, and painful cysts. I can’t run, walk, kneel. I can’t. It hurt. A lot.

Then numbness and paresthesias in my hands and sometimes, my feet.
Then more neck pain, and now with neck stiffness
Needing massages multiple times a day, but my muscles hurt, so massages were out!

Then physical therapy, which they said would help, but it still hurt to do everything.
Then doctors, doctors, and more doctors, more orthodox medical practitioners.

Ayurvedic doctors, DOs, MDs, dieticians, house wives, friends. The essential oils, the snake oils…Then the neurologist, the pain doctor and the neurosurgeon, everyone!

Then X-Rays, CT Scans, MRIs, dietary change, eat this, drink that, avoid this, apply that.

Then LOTS of PAIN, I mean LOTS!

Then crunching sounds when I move my neck
More crunching sounds
I HATE the crunching sounds…!

Then pain medicines, injections, radio ablation, Tinz unit, Vicks, Robb, “Ukwuma”.
Muscle Relaxants
Doctor visits, follow ups, referrals.

It hurt when I typed, it hurt when I did my hair. I LOVE doing my hair!
Pain on the right side of my neck, my right shoulder. Lots of pain and difficulty even with opening cans, opening the front door, shaking hands, you name it.

FEAR!

What if I have to suffer this way for the rest of my life? What if my spinal cord gets affected? What if I get paralyzed? What if, what if, what if?

*During one procedure by the pain doctor, my Blood Pressure crashed, and I was nearly a Code Blue! HELP! I will do anything!

More pain.
Much more pain.

I wake up some nights, my fingers are numb, and ask my wifener to pull at them to “wake’ them up. She does.

More pain, I am now consumed with thinking about pain… Is this my life?

But, like a true trooper, I smile, take my meds, exercise, do Facebook lives, inspire people, coach them.
I cook, clean, mommy my kids, wife the wife, daughter my parents, sister my siblings, doctor my patients, love my friends.

More pain.

Then one day,
My LMC said, “Mom, I am tired of massaging your neck.”
“You need to see a doctor”.

Oh?
I thought I was already seeing them, too numerous to count…

Then a pandemic, lockdown, no elective surgeries…
Then September 14, 2020

4 years
4 hours
4 screws
An ACDF (Anterior Cervical Disc Fusion)
A scar

And STILL I had pain!
But this time, I have a scar
Do you have a scar?

Mine reminds me that I have had pain. I did have surgery, I did try doctors, lots of them. And I gave orthodox medicine a chance

Over 3 months after my surgery, my neck, shoulder, back and entire body still hurt…WORSE!

Until last week. My repeat neck CT showed proper alignment. All my screws are in place. So why am I still hurting? What is that about?

I can’t sleep at night, I am obsessed with (not) being in pain. It is all I can think about.

So, I decided no more meds, I had taken all of 5 bottles of pain meds and muscle relaxants. I was done. I vowed to heal myself. To do it myself. I returned the meds to the pharmacy.

And that was when the universe sent me Dr. John Sarno, a doctor with a difference. The brain behind TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome)

A doctor who asked questions. One who challenged the norms. One who changed the narrative, my narrative.

And now I am pain-free! TOTALLY!

After nearly 10 years of suffering with fibromyalgia, I have no more pain at trigger points. No neck pain, no back pain. no shoulder pain. NONE!

Are you in pain? Are you a chronic pain patient like I was? Check out his books, they will save your life! But you must first believe…it’s that easy.

My name is Dr. Lulu
I am a former chronic pain patient.

What about you? Where do you hurt? Let’s talk.

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” ~ Bob Marley

BB

RIP Chad Boseman aka Ebubedike

Igbo Kwenu! Yaaa!! Nigeria Kwenu Yaaa!!! Uwanile Kwezuenu Yaaa!!!!

Every once in a while, you encounter a stranger, but strangely, you feel like you already know them.

That person to me, was the Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman.

Each time I looked at him, I saw an Igbo man. I generally don’t watch too much television, or movies for that matter, but he got me to watch the Black Panther movie not once, twice, but three times!

I will confess that he did not quite nail the African accent in his memorable role as King T’Challa, but between his gap teeth, easy smile and dark chocolate tint, he made my heart flutter each time he appeared on the screen.

Yes, as far as bodily features and physique go, Killmonger had one, ok, two on him, but, Chad was electrifying on screen, and since the BP movie was my very first time seeing him ever, I was hooked!

He had an easiness about him. His stride. His thick dark coils. His eyes. His eyes.

This past weekend was such an emotional roller coaster for me, like many people of color and our allies, we have watched as things have continued to deteriorate on the streets on Amerikkka, but nothing could have prepared me for his death.

I was already greatly saddened by Mr. Blake’s shooting, and the inhumane way he was treated at the hospital. The pockets of unrest, the increase in boldness of the Karens and others like them, the nut job we have for a president, the death toll of Covid-19 and everything in between were already bothering me big time.

To top it up, my two eldest sons both returned to college (one to grad school and one to undergrad) in the past couple of weeks. I also happened to have had the added adventure and trauma of being a Black female, and mother of 3 Black boys with the added layer of trauma as their primary provider.

So, you get that my stress level was already at a semi-high place. And with the loss of 2 super heros (Black Mamba and Black Panther) within the space of 6 months is a huge blow to the African Americans, period!

In honor of the Black Panther, I have written a list of what I am calling “Lessons I Learned From Ebubedike aka T’Challa, aka Chadwick Boseman.” Enjoy!

1/ Live For Today: While I never really knew him, somehow I think that he lived each day in the last four years to the fullest. I, like most of us have found out that he apparently starred in multiple movies for the 4 years that followed his diagnosis.

2/ Live For Now: Like #1, I know, he did everything in his power to enjoy his every minute of every hour of the time he had left on earth, and luckily, he took us along with him on the journey.

3/ Make Your Mark: We must live our lives to leave a mark on this earth. Like I say all the time, when you meet people, you must leave the best piece of you behind with them. Make your mark on this earth. Start where you are.

4/ Be Unstoppable: Once you find your purpose, and you get on your path, become unstoppable! He was so good at what he did. He fought to the end. He was unstoppable in his brilliance!

5/ Take Every Opportunity to Do Good: Whether he knew it or not, he exemplified taking opportunities to do good, and he was good at it. He made us fall in love with a him, easily, he was not only a hero, he was also a Black super-hero.

6/ Smile: I have seen pictures of him not smiling, but the pictures that have been etched in my heart are those with him flashing his gap teeth in a smile. Such a handsome young man with such an infectious smile.

7/ Make People Happy: Did King T’Challa make us happy? Yes! Did he make his family happy? Yes! Did he make the world a happier place? Absofreakinlutely! Making people happy is much easier than you think!

8/ Make Yourself Happy: Yes! Do make yourself happy. Wear your mask first. Fill your cup first. Something tells me Ebubedike always made himself happy by making a tough decision to show up 100% of the time in all his roles, despite his pain and suffering.

9/ Challenge Yourself! This was probably one of the most important things he did. He challenged himself everyday to do something meaningful, knowing his time was limited. What about you? When was the last time you challenged yourself to do something meaningful?

10/ Do It! Just Do It! Yep, I know for a fact that he “just did it” He simply did what he knew needed to be done! How many times have you had a project or a deadline, or something that needed to be done, but didn’t do it? Why? Because you think/thought you had time? Well, he KNEW he DIDN’T have time. So, he just did it.

11/ Be the one: Be the go-to “guy”. Be the person who we all want to go to for it. For life, for service, for laughter, for what we need. Would you, could you be the one?

12/ Be the best: At this time, it is not even a matter of whether he won awards or not. While I have not seen any more of his flicks, and I know for sure that I can’t bring myself to watch it, I know he was the absolute best at what he did. And I am proud of him for that.

13/ Play hard and live like today is your last day! Ooooh, if I could get a penny for every time I heard that, I would be a millionaire now! I am going to learn to play hard these days. I know it will be hard, but it is doable. Think about it, how could would it be if you were able to live each day like it was truly YOUR LAST!

14/ Stay true to yourself! I honestly believe that this was him in the truest sense of the word. He was honest and true. And it showed in the way he conducted himself during his last 4 years of life.

15/ FIGHT! FIGHT!! FIGHT!!! I don’t think any one needs convincing that he was a fighter! He fought to the last breathe, and as far as I am concerned, he won! So, let’s go forth and fight like the Black Panther did!

16/ Die hard: What I really want to say here is, die hardest! There is no doubt that it must have been really hard staring death in the eye. But he did it, without fear. He went about his business, doing what he had to do with a vengeance knowing death was eminent.

17/ Breathe: I know, that is the watch-word now, thanks to George Floyd. But seriously, find times in the day when you can breathe easily. Find moments that take your breath away, look for them, they are there.

18/ Know: Get to know yourself and to know what time it is. In my heart, I know he knew exactly what he was up against. He knew every single detail of every single thing that mattered in his life. You, my friend should be in the know.

19/ Believe: in yourself. That is the best strategy. He was sick, but he believed in himself. He knew exactly what and who he was, and believed he could pull off that many movies AFTER he was diagnosed with terminal illness. If you only believe in yourself…

20/ Be brave: Look fear in the eye. Be fearless, be bold, be brave. Yes, be brave enough to do that which you would have never believed you could achieve. Regardless of what it is, if you are brave, you can conquer

21/ Ask for help: Yes indeed, it is brave to ask for help. A friend of mine once said “it is easier to say yes, than to say I need help”. That means we need to learn how to ask for help. Period. Don’t assume we can read your mind…:)

Now, please enjoy this poem I wrote for him on my Facebook page on Saturday.

Such a beautiful smile

Such a good soul

Such strong laughter

Such a brave heart

Such a great actor

Such a resilient person

Such a SUPER HERO!

Such a Black man

Such a Black son

Such an exemplary American

Such pain you went through fighting one of the worst diagnoses of all

Such bravado in the face of the inevitable, as you gave us some of the best out of Hollywood

Such a wonderful ambassador of mother Africa

Such hot tears running down my cheeks as I write this

Such a blessing to have “known” you

Such a good and restful sleep you’ll now have, as you close your eyes this one last time

Such a sweet reunion with your friend, Black Mamba

Such a painful goodbye dear Black Panther

Dr. L

BB

#neverforget #alwaysremember

 

Dear Blog, as Black History Month comes to an end…

I want to say this to you, to my people, the Black Butterflies, and Black Bees, and Black Hornets out there…

You know who you are, you know yourselves,

stand tall, stand proud, take a knee, take a bow, be strong, but whatever you do…

 

 

#neverforget

#alwaysremember

 

They came from the African coasts

from the Motherland…

from the belly of the seas, the depths of the ocean

My people,

My ancestors,

Aunts and uncles, yours and mine.

 

Look closely,

See the furrowed brows?

Hear their anguished voices?

Listen to the wailing from the depths of their hearts;

the unborn, the children, the youth, the grown, the aged.

 

Their pain, oh, the pain!

I feel it, fresh as it were today.

Our wounds, still hurting from yesteryears,

…and fresh ones today cut deep

Our scars, never healing

Different, yet same.

 

The anguish in her furrowed brows

The cramps in his tired limbs

The cries from babes at the breast

The wailing from youth in pain

The torment that knows no end

Suffering and wondering, where is God?

 

Praying, asking, is this life?

Lives still in limbo

Thoughts still displaced

Hearts still bleeding

Minds still unknowing…questioning,

…wondering and wandering

 

Ashamed, confused, scared, angry, sad, dejected, unhappy but believing…

 

Today like always, we remember, we never forget.

 

Happy BHM

Black history museum pics

BB

 

 

Out Of The Darkness…

November 04, 2018.Nov-4-13

 

 

 

A day I will always remember.

A day that I totally had to have in my life.

My first Out Of The Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention.

A day that opened my eyes to the reality and the magnitude of this problem.

I found out about this day from my nurse at work. I signed up after my good friend Mari told me she had signed up. I signed up not knowing exactly what it was going to be like, but trusting that the day was going to be…in the very least, fine. I signed our team up and placed the info on my website, partially expecting and also not expecting much response to the call for donations. While no donations came indirectly, I managed to gather a team of about 15 walkers through the help of my good friend Mari, totaling about 375usd!.

The day started like any other. We arrived early. The first emotion that struck me was that of amazement, at the number of cars already in the parking lot, even though the walk was to start about 2hrs later.

There was a sea of colors of tee-shirts, most in groups, a few scattered around, all there for one thing, in remembrance of a loved one. There were purple tees, white tees, green tees, red tees, blue tees, and multicolored ones. There were people, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, teens and young adults, toddlers and even a couple of babies. But one thing struck me hard; they were mostly Hispanics. About 99% strong! Where are the Caucasians?? Most studies I have read indicate that White males are the leading sex in Suicide, so where are they? And what about the African Americans? Do we not suffer from depression, do we not commit suicide? Are the recent studies about African American children aged 5-12yr being more likely to commit suicide than their Caucasian counterparts incorrect? Wait! I know what this is. This is the grand state of denial that is so rampant in our community. As a Nigerian, I dare to say this problem started from the Mother-land where mythic quotes like the following run rampant. “We don’t get depressed”, “such things don’t happen to our people”, “we can pray it away”, “it’s a sign of weakness, and of laziness”, “depression is not even real”, “those medications do not help, they actually make you worse”, “therapy? please, that is for Hollywood, we are black folk, we do not do therapy… Or my favorite, “don’t tell anyone you are depressed, we don’t want them to start looking at you/our family funny”.

I walk around distributing my business cards to different teams, introducing myself and explaining what I do, sharing my story about my struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts, and my own son’s depression,(which I totally did not recognize while it was happening) I notice folks sporting different color beads signifying the kind of loved one that has been lost: White for children, orange for siblings, blue for support, red for spouses, etc. I pick up some beads for my team, my wife lost her brother to suicide. On my way back to my team, I hug as many as will accept my hugs as we wait for the ceremony to begin. Some of them have lost multiple family members to suicide.

After the opening ceremony, the names of the victims are read out, I again am amazed that my assumptions are right. A huge percentage of the names called out today are Hispanic.

 

The organizers are happy to announce that over 64,000usd were raised so far,  over 273 teams registered (many more are not in organized teams), at least 300 names are called ( I don’t have the actual count, but the name calling went on for at least 30 minutes or more. They inform us it’s a 5K walk, kicked off by the release of white balloons by the family members in honor of the lives lost. Again, I am amazed, excited at the opportunity to be a part of this, yet saddened by it all.

Along the trail, I speak to dozens of parents and family members affected by suicide. It’s easy to find the parents, they are wearing white beads, they are not as animated as everyone else, and you know that look when you see their eyes. I interview a few of them, I hug ALL of them, I am touched deeply by their stories.

One young man who took his life just last month was only 25yr old. His parents still obviously devastated. His mom says she “sleeps with his picture every night, and talks to it every day”. She has lots and lots of unanswered questions. His grandmother found him in the backyard in Austin, sadly, they were not able to make it on time to the hospital.

Another mother was carrying the picture of her son-in-law. He had first served in the Army, then joined the police force, but his PTSD got the better of him.

When asked who he was walking for, one little boy simply pointed to the picture on his tee-shirt and said, “my uncle”. He had never met him.

I met yet another mom, this time, of a young 10yr old boy, who would have been 13yr this year, she is still crying for her baby lost. He had been bullied. A lot. I hugged and hugged and hugged her, and held on a little while longer. She found him hanging from his bunk bed, his belt around his neck.

Yet another beautiful lady, Ms. Alyssa’s younger sister, Marisa, spoke to me. Alyssa had battled with depression for a long time and finally lost. The words inscribed on the back of Marisa’s tee-shirt read “I have run the race, I have fought the fight, now I lay me down to rest”. Her own prescription antidepressants, her path to said rest. The sisters’ resemblance is so uncanny that Marisa’s own daughter (who never met her aunt) always calls her ‘mommy’ each time she sees her photograph. It has been six years.

cherelle-jovanna-locklear-18f4b1935d46ccdd

The heartbreaking story of a handsome 17yr old was shared with me by his maternal aunt. She told me he had attempted suicide three times in the past. He had gotten help, he was on medication, and getting counseling, but (in her words) “the demons got to him before we could”, this happened on September 18, 2018. So fresh is it, that his mother could not bear to come for the walk.

Then, I talked at length with one mother whose team carried the flag of the Cycle Around The Globe for Suicide Prevention and Awareness. Her son, a former Special Ops US Marine, spent only 9yrs active duty, but deployed 8 times in that short time! When he eventually got out in 2012, he battled nightmares, sleepless nights, and severe PTSD. He could only sleep when heavily medicated. He eventually tired of “the voices in his head” and one single bullet did it for him, only 3yrs after he got out, a few days after his 30th birthday. “He will forever be 30” she added at the end of her story. Again, all I can do is hug her, and hold on a little longer.

On the homeward trail, I walked up to a nurse and her co-worker, both walking for someone else. She shared that her friend and ex-boyfriend had taken his own life soon after his 60th birthday. His story is unique because she states in retrospect she now realized that, after they reunited 40yr later, he had one day suddenly started “acting out” his desire to end his life, he was making specific requests like going to visit a cemetery to “say goodbye”, returning to the place they had their first date, giving away his belongings and generally no longer caring about the world. She remembers he stopped wanting to hang out with her, and only wanted to talk about death.

jamel

The last two stories are etched in my mind. The first is from my good friend Mari, who shared that a long time ago, her friend and classmate in nursing school had gotten dressed for work one morning, arranged all her nursing books against the walls of the garage, got in the car, turned on the ignition, closed the garage door, and went to eternal sleep. Her husband found her when he returned from work. She had 2 children.

The second is from the only non-Hispanic family that I met during the walk today. There were at least 15-20 of them in their team, walking for the family Patriarch. I recognized the non-Hispanic name right away and wanted to speak with them. I spoke to his wife, his son and his daughter, as well as the rest of their family friends and relatives. He was Indian. It’s been one year.

I, myself have felt the pain of depression. I have felt the need to end it all. I didn’t, my wifener wouldn’t let me. I felt like I was a failure, a disappointment. My first marriage was over, my private practice sold for zero dollars profit. The military was stressful, and I had to file bankruptcy following bad business choices in my private practice, stemming from a poorly qualified practice manager in the person of my ex-husband. Somewhere along the line, I felt I had failed myself more than anything. I wanted out. All my pairs of shoes, my fancy designer handbags, and even my beloved children did not save me. I simply felt that ending it all was just what the world needed. I was a failure. My marriage had failed, my practice had failed, and I had failed, and nothing you could have told me would have made a difference. Luckily, my wife would not hear of it and went all the way out there, in the darkness to find me and bring me back. I owe my life to her.

In the end, I can only say that I am thankful for the Out Of The Darkness Suicide Awareness walk, thankful for the experience, thankful for the stories shared, for the hugs given and received, and praying that the families can find closure, somehow. Thankful for my family that came out to support me, my wifener who walked for her brother; mi Madre, my biggest cheerleader; and my little man-child for trouping along. Mari and her family and friends who walked with team Teen Alive, for the sparkle they added to a cloudy day. And to all those who walk for their loved ones, in the words of a Kenyan proverb, “may the grass you stand and walk on, sprout again”, and may you never have any cause to weep for your loved ones again, Amen.

 

Nov-4-11

“gone, but never forgotten…”

#enddepression, #endsuicide, #endthesilence, #talksaveslives, #itsoktonotbeok, #Icare