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“Bravery hides in amazing places.” – Kiera Cass
Life sometimes has a way of making you feel like you are the only one in the world facing a problem that millions of people deal with every day.  We are all one in a million in any given situation, yet the story we tell ourselves is, this is only happening to me.

It was that toxic thought process that sabotaged so many opportunities in life.  The idea of keeping your problems private kept me in bondage until a few years ago when I decided to let it go and let it out!  When I changed my thoughts, my life began to blossom in ways I could never have imagined.

My Story
I was twelve years old when I experienced a tragedy that would forever change my life. My cousin and one of three childhood friends committed suicide.  I can remember that day so vividly in my mind. It was my first experience with death.   It was then that my struggle with depression and thoughts of self-harm begin. The adults in my life handled this situation so poorly, from my parents to school officials and even church leaders.  No one knew what to say or do, so they all just moved on. Mental health wasn’t something discussed in the Black experience, even after such a horrific event. So I was left to pick up the pieces the best way I knew how.  But what does a twelve-year-old know about picking up bits and putting them back together? With all the heartbreak and pain, I could only take away one thing from this event; be quiet and keep it moving. That is what everyone around me did and what I was expected to do.

When I couldn’t focus in class, I was scolded; when I woke up grumpy, I was disrespectful; when I couldn’t even attach a word to the emotion, somehow I was still just all wrong.  The residual effect from one of the closest persons to me followed me through every relationship, friendship, opportunity, and even into parenting, because no matter what, I had to keep it moving!

Fast forward to 2019 when I was nine months pregnant with my third son.  I was due any day and was so over being pregnant and excited to meet my new tiny human. Without warning, I woke up with half my face paralyzed and my speech slurred. I was home with my two other children, and panic was quickly taking over my thought process. I called my mother, who was already leaving the house before I could even hang up. My mother arrived to help me get dressed and escort me to the hospital.  While I was lying in the hospital, concerned about my health and that of my unborn child, I realized after years of keeping it moving and not fully healing, that my body was manifesting all the stress I kept it under. Something had to change!  It would not be easy behavior that is deeply rooted is challenging to break.

My Secret Struggle
My life was full of adversity; however, I still managed to meet all the life markers. I graduated high school and college, participated in clubs and organizations, grew professionally, got married, had children, and was accepted and attended graduate school. I was going through the motions checking off the “boxes” I thought I had to succeed. I didn’t even know who I was as a person. Friends and family who knew my story never really got to see how it affected me because I just kept it moving. I was struggling through life with a smile.  This is the most dangerous way to live.

How often do we put ourselves in “robot mode” to keep checking those boxes or not making anyone else uncomfortable with the truth of our story?  I tended to isolate myself at times, which is really where false narratives ran wild in my mind.  At some point, we have to recognize that this is not a way of life. I was existing, but I am so thankful that God orchestrated my path back to a whole and abundant life.

Embracing the Importance of My Wellness
First, I had to make my mental health a priority. I couldn’t just keep the “fake it until I make it” attitude.  I surrounded myself with individuals who had my best interest at heart and who were delicate with me as I worked to change the narrative of my life. It was free to speak to a counselor and friends. It was challenging to feel again, but I embraced it, and I learned how to cope with my emotions instead of hiding them.  It is through the healing process, one I am still going through, that I found myself and was able to walk right into my calling.

Through healing and growth, I found my voice and vision.  I have watched the Word of God come to life as He has ordered my steps. So, in February 2020, I created Misfit Heroes Inc., Inspired by the unlikely individuals God used in the Bible.   I hope to provide programs, events, and resources that pull us out of “robot mode” and allow us to experience the fullness of life through healthy coping strategies.   I believe God takes us through experiences to enrich our lives and contribute to the lives of others. Misfit Heroes Inc. is my heart work because I can personally relate to the demographic I serve. I now embrace my uniqueness and focus on standing out because I was not born to move through life but live it!!!

7-Day Action Plan 
Over the next 7-days, take time to assess where you are. Are you in “robot mode” or are you living the life God intended for you to live?

Call to Action
Dare to be quiet, find your voice and walk in your purpose!
Tune into Living Strong: The Flip Side of Adversity Radio with Dr. Jackson on the Empowerment Channel: https://bit.ly/DrVempowerment 
Best Regards,
Courtney Jackson
The Flip Side of Adversity Guest Blogger

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