When Things Get “Complicated.”

I would hold onto my favorite romance movies, and use google as my personal bible. I can tell you exactly what oxytocin is, how it works on your body, and exactly when I am feeling it. I write down poems about ex-lovers, like prisoners writing down thoughts. I feel trapped by the concept of love; why can’t I attain it? Why do I forgive people who won’t forgive me? Why do I love people who replay my mistakes like broken records? As if I was the only one with the aux cord, as if I were the only one picking out the mixtape songs. Love is an undefinable concept, one that I have spent too many hours trying to define and understand.

I wish I had some profound thought to give you all, or some answer to the exact scenario that you’re experiencing. I don’t know if what you did was forgivable or if they really have broken up with you for good. I can only hope for the best for you, and hope that you receive the outcome you were intended to have. But isn’t that the sucky thing about people? We don’t know anything for sure (or at least I don’t). Our lives, our decisions, our moves are all based on assumptions on past outcomes. But every situation is unique, right? Or maybe we are all playing the same sad love song on a broken record, hoping that maybe this time around the record won’t ski—-

I have no answers for you or any solutions. But what I can leave you with is a little advice I’ve learned from failed relationships:

1. It’s cliche, but try to enjoy the moment.

As to where my relationships didn’t always work out, when they were working, that’s what mattered. There’s no promise as to what’s going to happen, or what’s not going to happen. There will be people you meet that you fall head over heels for, and then somehow you’re left picking up your shoes from their place. But I want you to focus on before that happens. Focus on the way their teeth line up whenever you see them smile or the wrinkles that crease up on their face when they speak. Capture every “I love you” and “I miss you” on pieces of paper, and keep them in a jar for safe keeping. Take a deep breath during the fights, hold your tongue, and think about the next thing you’re going to say. If all else goes bad, go to your safe space, reach for the jar, and remember how many times someone saw something beautiful in you.

2. Find a balance between happily alone and happily together.

Some of us are naturally introverted, and others are naturally extroverted. There’s nothing wrong with that, and we shouldn’t try to force people to be things that they aren’t. But what we should do is challenge ourselves to push outside of what’s “comfortable” for us. When you’re in a relationship, it isn’t about just keeping yourself safe, or making sure you’re the most comfortable. There will be times when your partner needs you to break out of your habits, and it probably will be best to make that sacrifice for them. At the end of the day, we just want to feel special, and doing something you don’t normally do could be what makes that person feel that way.

3. Love is not a competition, focus on winning each other.

Sometimes in love, we compare and contrast. After hurt and heartbreak, mistakes get thrown around like snowballs in the middle of December. That’s normal, we are human, and whatever we are feeling is real. But love isn’t about drowning each other in frozen water, love isn’t about doing things to make each other sick. In any relationship, may it be with family, friends, or your significant other, hurt is inevitable. There are things I’ve done and said to my mother that I wish I could take back, as I’m sure she feels the same. I’d never bring those things up in future encounters with her, because to me, there’s no point. When we inflict hurt onto our loved ones, we are not directly impacted by that pain, but cold words still send chills through us. We are forced to sit with the reality that they might not trust us anymore, or they may think they we love them less. But that’s not true, life is never that simple.

4. Breaks aren’t always breakups.

So many people have accepted this notion that breaks are breakups. Not that I don’t understand it, it’s easier to just accept something is over than to have hope. Sometimes, breaks are just easier to have, easier to leave from, easier to accept. But there are occasions when we are in relationships and everything just starts getting overwhelming. Little fights become monstrous, and answers standing right in front of us can be seen past the cloud of smoke. In those occasions, I think it’s perfectly fine to accept the thought “If it was meant to be, it will be.” I think it’s perfectly fine to accept that sometimes some wounds need a little inaction so they have time to heal, time to breathe, time to be. I don’t know exactly what a break should look like for you, but don’t we all just need one every once and awhile?

5. Be patient, give it time.

I have to be the most impatient person in the entire world, really? I used to watch the clock at school, now I watch the clock at work. I’d spend so much watching the clock that it felt like time was moving backward, and by the time it was actually time to leave, I didn’t have anything positive to show for it. Now at work when there isn’t anything to do, I draw, and I’m pretty decent at it. When I am in my room and I wish I had something to do, I just listen to music and sing to myself. In a relationship, you’ll have to learn patience. You have to learn how to play the waiting game. But instead of sitting and waiting for answers, why not fill the time with something else? I promise it’ll make everything go by a lot faster.

I wish I had more inspiring words to give you. Or a solve all book that you’d only pay $9.99 to read. But I will neither pretend to know your problems nor can I pretend to understand what you’re going through. But that’s okay. My biology professor once wrote in our textbook that, “We as humans try so hard to make sense of the world around us, so we label and categorize everything in order to understand it.” When we understand things, we may start to feel like they are less scary, like we have some control over them. If I’ve learned anything from love, it’s that we have to start getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. We have to stop using labels to find security, and categorizing actions to reach understanding. People are not, have not, and will not be simple. So stop seeking simple answers, and treating situations like they can be generalized.

We are individuals, our love is personalized for us. Treat it that way.

An Open Letter To Men Who Refused To Take ‘No’ For An Answer

I’d like to start this piece off by saying, I have spent a significant amount of time thinking about how interactions impact all genders. I understand that emotional intelligence and empathy are skills that take time to develop, and there have been (and probably will be) times where I exhibit less than favorable behaviors. With that being said, I can only speak about my experience, because that’s the only experience I know enough to write about. However, I welcome diverse perspectives and stories so I can expand my understanding and awareness.

Today, I was upset by a guy who felt like because he took me out for drinks and dinner, that because he was so nice to me, that those behaviors should have resulted in him being able to have sex with me. He kept asking for sex, and I kept trying to find new ways to explain to him why I didn’t want it. “I just met you; I want to take my time; I don’t want random hookups; I don’t treat girls like this.” He treated kindness like it was a coupon card, where if he said and did enough nice things that he’d be able to redeem my body in return. I’m not going to get into how wrong that ideology is; that’s for another writer to cover.

But what I am going to write about is how scenarios like that have impacted my self-esteem. Ever since I was 12, grown men have used their eyes to undress my body and scan upon my pubescent flesh. When I was 13, I was told I was a tease, because after first base I refused to go for a home run. When I was 16 I was called jailbait, because as a Black girl, I developed a bit faster than the rest of my friends. When I was 17, I was told I’m pretty for a Black girl, even though the rest of my friends were just considered “pretty.” When I was 18, I was raped, I was sleeping, I didn’t want that. When I started dating and finding interest men, it became clear to me that bodies mattered, a lot. I can recall researching articles that would tell me “Guys like girls that are naturally pretty, here’s how you can create that look with makeup.” My ex-boyfriend, the guy I lost my virginity to after I was raped, he told me “I just think you’d be more beautiful with straight hair, it’s just my preference.”

Most of my childhood was filled with narratives that focused on how females could be perceived as beautiful by the opposite sex, and very little about how we could just feel beautiful.

As I grew into my adult body, I had to learn to deal with being in positions where I was expected to explain my choice to be (or not to be) sexual. “I don’t want to have sex; I want to wait; I wish you’d respect me no; I don’t feel ready; It’s not that I don’t like you; I just don’t want to.” This became a narrative my tongue was all too familiar with, I knew how to make a man feel better about being rejected than I knew how to make myself feel better about not being respected. After I was assaulted, I was too angry to explain myself. Too hurt to be kind, and far too tired to be patient. It was one thing to have men think they were entitled to my body, but it was unbearable when they acted on it. There have been too many times when lines were crossed (or attempted to be crossed) when I was either disinterested, sleeping, or drunk. Remembering the times when I was disregarded at my weakest point, even to this day I find it absolutely disheartening. But enough about my history, that’s another story, the point of this piece isn’t about what happen to me. This piece, well this piece is all about how negative male interactions have impacted me.

After all those things happened, I felt as though my body held more value than my voice.

Sexualizing me held more importance than respecting my sexuality.

My guy friends always wondered why I had such a low self-esteem, they wondered why an ex-model and educated Bachelorette would think so lowly of themselves. I never knew how to answer it until now: “You can tell me you think I’m beautiful all you want, but if I am constantly treated like I have no value or importance then of course I would feel ugly.” The actions of men treating me how they wanted to treat me, and not how I wanted to be treated truly hurt me. By no means do I expect people to show as much skin as I do, or kiss as many people as I do. But I do expect people to feel as though my attire is not an invitation to assault me, and that my kisses do not translate into consent.

I wish that when I told boys “no” that “why not” and “please” were not words that followed. I wish that the man on the street who called me a whore during the summer, and my professor who told me to smile during his lecture would practice more empathy with the next girl.

This piece isn’t about me hating men or how they give me anxiety, there will be another author who has those feelings, and will probably articulate them better than I could. This piece is simply asking men to practice a bit more empathy, and to actively work to build their emotional intelligence, I am working on it too.

I’m asking that when a girl says “no”, that you just respect it, rather than using pressure and guilt to try to change her mind.

I am asking you to hold your tongue when you see a woman wearing something that inspires a reaction out of you, just think about what she’s feeling. After numerous interactions with men, I started to think that I was the problem, that I kept picking all the wrong guys. I thought that I was stupid because I just couldn’t get it right, that I was broken because I repeatedly got hurt. But after all these interactions, after listening to the perspectives of my brothers, and male friends, I’ve come to realize that I don’t think men are challenged to increase their emotional intelligence.

I do believe that there is a point in time when men reflect on how they make women feel, but I’m challenging y’all to start doing that today.

The Unedited Truth About What It’s Like To Date While Dealing With Mental Illness

For the longest time, I was under the assumption that I couldn’t have a healthy relationship, and trust, I’ve tried. Years of therapy, constantly trying to assess my flaws. I would try so desperately to find happiness and fulfillment in relationship, but it simply wouldn’t work. To that point, I was so desperate for love. Constantly searching for it, I can bet that in my week I would have more dates than you would in a month. The worst part was, I identified the vicious cycle I allowed myself to be a part of. “I feel lonely, I’ll go out with this guy, Oh meaningless sex? I guess… This makes me feel dead inside. Why did I do that? I hate myself. I want to be alone. I feel lonely, I’ll go out with this guy.” I hated myself, because the worst part of it all was knowing that I was only hurting myself. I felt envy for my friends who were in successful relationships, why couldn’t I have that? But who did I envy more? It was my friends who could be alone, who didn’t feel like they needed a relationship.

When I was able to get a guy to like me for long enough that he would keep seeing me, it seems like I got worse. They wouldn’t understand my anxiety, they didn’t understand the anxiety attacks or the constant fight I would undergo just to smile on a regular. They didn’t understand the depression, why I would lay in bed for hours and block out all the sunlight. They couldn’t feel empathy for what I was going through, and then it ended. I don’t even think I gave myself a fair amount of time to heal, to cope with the abandonment i would reach out to other people. I started seeing everyone as replaceable, it didn’t make me feel better though. Eventually I met a boy who also had a mental illness, like me.

When I had anxiety attacks, he’d get down on the floor and sit with me until I felt better. When I would push him away, he stayed. When I’d cry, he almost instinctively knows what to do to make me feel better. I finally felt understood, and I think I latched onto him for that reason. One day I received a message that we were over, for no fault of my own, but because he needed to tend to his mental health.

I don’t know what it was about him, but that pushed me to a really bad place. Anxiety attacks, depression, mood swings. I don’t know how he could put me into that scary place, when no other person could, but that’s what happened. I tried so desperately to hold onto him, I think to this day I may still be fighting to do so. But what come from that was an awaking, he made me realize that we weren’t ok.I wasn’t ok, and the path I was walking was guided by loneliness and not love. After working with my mentor and psychologist, I started to accept that I am a deeply traumatized individual. I began to accept and realize how my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder impacts every aspect of my life. I get panic attacks when I make mistakes at work, I am scared of being alone because of a fear of being abandoned, I dissociate during sex because I don’t think I always want to be there. My psychologist set up an appointment to see a psychiatrist, who I ended up dumping everything out to. I’ll admit, I wasn’t optimistic about medication. In my mind, it couldn’t take the trauma away, only numb it.

But, at this point I was willing to try anything, my mental health was declining and I was starting to fear for myself.

I was prescribed Zoloft, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which basically helps my brain by increasing serotonin levels. Serotonin is the chemical in our brain that helps us maintain our mood. Too much serotonin isn’t a good thing, but it turns out my brain has too little serotonin which more often than not results in depression. I think sometimes we forget that mental illness impacts our brain, it is an invisible disability that impacts every single aspect of our lives. The lonely feelings started to go away after medication, which in turn resulted in a decrease of my dates. I deleted my tinder and bumble, now I am a lot pickier with who I go out with. I don’t have sex as much anymore, and when I have it’s been amazing because it’s not driven by the desire to have someone there (I actually want to be there now). I feel like I can function like a person who isn’t crippled by mental illness, and that has been liberating for me.

I by no means am suggesting that everyone start medication, that’s between you and your doctor. But what I am suggesting is this:

Those with mental illness, I hear you. It hurts, and sometimes the worst part is that we can’t imagine a life outside of this. But we deserve so much more than the uncomfortable reality that we are faced with, and we deserve to get to a better place with help. If you are able to, I hope you would seek that help rather than stay in situations that no longer serve you. Please be honest with yourself.

To those who process information differently than us (me), please use empathy. Please sit down with us when we are scared, please stop using your brain processes to shame mine. Please understand that sometimes my decisions are influenced by imbalances in my mind, and more often than not I don’t know how to fight the demons I am faced with. Please go outside of yourself.

"For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf." -Ntozake Shange