On the eve of my 31st birthday, I watched as God washed the sky in fiery oranges, brilliant reds and soft lavenders. Breathing in the cool air and watching my dog delightfully try to eat grass, I felt a calm rush of understanding. At that moment, right before my personal new year was set to begin, I realized that life is a maddening, sweaty and damn-well-worth-it rehearsal in cerebral exercise. Of course, we only get one shot at this beautiful, wonderful, wild ride we call life, so it’s by no means a trial run. But every single moment, every connection to another person, every L humbles us and energizes us toward better mental health. Or, at the very least, they should.
In case you’re living in a life that doesn’t include Beyoncé, her recent Homecoming documentary doubles as a masterclass in this. It’s a moving portrait of humility, managing expectations and constant learning. Fresh off of gifting the world young Rumi and Sir, the Queen eased back into an excellent series of 8-counts in preparation for a historic Coachella—bending her body, extending herself and, most importantly, toughening her mind to get back into fighting shape even on the hardest days. Each day, she allowed herself to look crazy, to learn and to submit to the process in order to get to be her best self. “That’s why people don’t like to rehearse,” she says during her self-directed and written Netflix feature. “You gotta be humble. You gotta be willing to look awkward and you gotta study, be a student.”
Thanks in part to my wonderful therapist, for the last year, I have learned that living in a state of rehearsal—submitting to the process—is the source of your mental wealth. Each session, I’ve unearthed and unpacked experiences that once crippled me, kept me mentally broken and stopped me from being a pupil of life’s teachings. I wasn’t open. I wasn’t shut off and completely not dealing with my shit, allowing it to fester. To cope, I swaddled myself in a cocoon of pseudo-OK-ness because I believed that’s what was expected. Everyone else was OK, so why wasn’t I? Hypothetically, I could be bleeding out in the street and toss an “I’m fine” to anyone who attempted to tend to my wounds. That’s how isolated I was in my own psychological pain. For years, I lived in that self-imposed emotional haunted house. I had rowed there, committed to stewing in my own trauma, and unintentionally, I hurt a lot of people along the way.
It wasn’t until I spent the majority of my 30th year committing to my mental wellness and being my inner Beyoncé that I was able to openly discuss the sexual violence I’d experienced and the shame it carries, to vocalize my depression and the many times it almost Thanos’d me, to admit that I was this close to being real-life homeless, and to learn the necessary steps to excavate my way toward the light.
If you take nothing else from this article, understand this: silence nourishes shame, avoidance makes space for deep-seated pain, and all of it can really destroy your mental health. That’s why it’s imperative to get intimately familiar with where you are and bow to it.
It has taken great bravery and discomfort for me to begin to heal; to claw at the sands and shrubs of my mind in order to find my voice; to face myself in ways I never thought I had the Captain Marvel power to be able to; and to view my experiences, both good and bad, from a place of positivity and peace. I chat myself up in the mirror every morning much like Insecure’s Issa Dee (minus the awkwardly fire bars). I put a hand over my heart (no matter where the hell I am), close my eyes and take a few breaths whenever anxiety taps me on my shoulder looking for my attention. I now don’t feel that I have to be OK because Instagram says so, and I have been able to be genuinely vulnerable with loved ones, which affords me emotional freedom and the sweetest mental peace I’ve never known.
I used to beat myself up believing this is a journey I should’ve started well before I lived for three decades. But the journey toward mental wellness isn’t just about learning yourself, but also applying several mind-boosting techniques to your life in every season. Everything happens as it’s supposed to, and I needed to take inventory, peer over my shoulder at my 20s, beckon for clarity and find out how to grow into this current chapter, where I am giving myself grace and kindness in every emotional storm or sprinkle.
Trust me. Life ain’t as perfect as Bey’s Coachella performance. My every day is still a little messy. Not Real Housewives filthy but Unicorn Store chaotic—colorful, driven by imagination, filled with signs of full, purposeful living. I’ve determined that I’ve got to mine my peace and my joy every day. Discover it. If it’s buried, dig it up (and never be ashamed to ask for help).
For you, the person reading this, you’ve got to practice strengthening your mind and continue to affirm that everything you need to be centered—in harmony with your mind, body and spirit—already exists within.
Nowadays, when people see me, they say I look different. My aura, a watt (or two) brighter. My stance, a little straighter. And it’s the attention to my mental health that illuminates everything else.
Although we’re a week past my special day, and even into an entirely new month already, my growing abundance of mental wealth is long-lasting. And if you’re open and allow this beautiful life to humble you and teach you throughout every experience, mental wellness is the best thing you’ll ever possess.