“You’re only as strong as the tools in your toolbox.” -Michael Bastian
Having a self-care toolbox is very important on your healing journey. The tools that are in your toolbox should be a perfect mixture of people, activities, tangibles, and intangibles. Before I started counseling my toolbox consisted of anger, abuse (both physical and verbal), and self-loathing. I did not know how to communicate exactly how I was feeling to anyone, so I kept my feelings bottled up. Every time I would get upset it was like shaking a bottle of soda and after a while everything just came spewing out in a negative way. I may not have been angry at the person that I was releasing on and that person may not have done anything to cause such rage but it didn’t matter to me because when I needed to release, I released. These were my tools for a long time. I was so mean and hateful, not caring about anyone’s feelings… not even my mom’s, my son’s, not even my own.
Now let me say this, I wasn’t just angry and mean for no reason. There were many reasons why I was so angry, but one of the main reasons was because I suffered for years silently from depression because of mental/verbal abuse from my dad and relationships. Growing up my dad showed my sister, Ktari (deceased), favoritism over me. She was light-skinned and his family had/has a real colorism issue as it pertain to girls who are dark skinned versus girls who are light skinned… (not blaming his family, however as his child I did blame him… but I have since released that anger). I could vividly remember my dad getting my sister out of school early to take her shopping or giving her whatever she “TOLD” him she wanted. He treated her like a princess and whenever my sister and I would disagree/fight he would always tell me that it was my fault. When I would ask him for anything, it was always a reason why I couldn’t get it, so I became depressed because he made me feel as if he didn’t like me… like I wasn’t good enough for him to love. Because of that, I spent a lot of time in horrible relationships trying to make guys love me. I took mental and verbal abuse from guys just to say I had someone that honestly, I can’t even say truly liked me. Which made me angry inside as to why wasn’t I good enough to be loved by a man.
Early on, my dad taught me that physical abuse was the way you expressed your feelings because that is what he did with my mom… he would fight her (not beat her up because my mom held her own… I watched her many days take him down but he did attack first) When I got angry enough I would fight anyone who was there, whether it was verbally or physically (mostly physically). As I got older, I developed one agenda and that was to hurt others before they hurt me… and that is exactly what I did. I didn’t discriminate… man, woman, child, or animal… if I felt threaten that you were going to hurt my feelings, then I had to hurt yours first. Because of this way of thinking, my mom really didn’t want me around because I argued with everyone… (I even argued with my pastor at that time during church services while he was in the pulpit… whew chii the anger) My anger made my mom so uncomfortable that she would make me drop my son off to her just so she would know that I wasn’t taking my anger out on him.
NEED TO KNOW: When I first became a mom, I suffered from postpartum depression. So here I was suffering from childhood depression, mental/verbal abuse, insecurities, anxiety, and postpartum depression… I was a ticking time bomb. I scared everyone I came in contact with because no one was safe… I even scared myself at times.
When I got into my last relationship I had been single for 2 years so I thought that everything had gone away… boy was I wrong because my communication skills still sucked (no physical abuse though… praise God). I didn’t argue with him but I just didn’t know how to express myself which cause major problems and after it ended I became so angry with myself. I honestly thought I was going to hurt myself. All sorts of thoughts were going through my mind… I just wanted to know what was wrong with me… why wasn’t I good enough for a man to love… I was at my breaking point. (Ma if you are reading this please don’t start that crying because I am better now… ok)
After I started counseling I learned that my tools that were in my toolbox were not tools at all… they were suicide attempts. I was slowing begging for someone to hurt me, if I didn’t do it to myself first. Once finding out that my tools were not helping me, I decided to get rid of them and replace them with tools that would help me live a purpose filled life.
Sidebar: The day I found my counselor I had already left about 5 messages on different counselor’s voicemails and she was the only one that called me back… the same day. She told me to come to her right then but I couldn’t because I was on my way to the doctor. I went 8:30am that next morning… my life will forever be changed because SHE CALLED ME BACK!
In my toolbox I have:
People: The people in your toolbox should be positive role models; be it someone you know personally or someone you look up to whom you never met. The people in my toolbox consist of people I know personally, i.e. my mom, my counselor, a few family members, past educators, coworkers, and my pastors. (I also have professional and spiritual role models and a life coach) I also have people I have never met, i.e. Oprah, Angela Rye, Michelle Obama, Kandi, Sarah Jakes-Roberts, and of course BEYONCE’. My 5 QUALITY friends are in my toolbox as well… MY TRIBE IS DEEP! All of these people possess qualities that I try to mimic often. I have learned how to communicate through consistent communication with them. In my opinion, learning how to communicate is the single most important reason why having positive, honest people in your toolbox is important.
Activities: Activities that are in your toolbox should be activities that helps you to release anxiety and stress. (activities that gets your body moving, creating endorphins) As an overthinker one activity that I try to stray away from is walking. I don’t know about anyone else but walking makes me angry because I have a lot of time to think about my issues… hell, I even start thinking about old issues and start getting angry about those all over again. So, I don’t recommend walking if you are an overthinker like me. But other activities such as cooking, dancing, painting, just to name a few are helpful tools to have in your toolbox. Spending quality time with loved ones is a very important activity we all should have in our toolbox and that we all need to do more often. My favorite activities are educating my community and decorating my home… these are my happy places.
Tangibles: Tangibles are things that you can touch. My tangibles are my journals, self-help books, the bible, and creating pieces for my home. Writing helps me to release my thoughts as if I am talking to another person… it is truly a form of indirect counseling. Also reading self-help books and the bible (the best self-help book of them all) drastically helped to change my thinking about who I am. (my counselor recommended most of my recent reads… even scriptures in the bible) Tangible tools serves as a release of anxiety and stress to help you continue throughout your day.
Intangibles: Intangibles are things that you can see and feel but can’t touch. My intangibles are first and foremost GOD, Instagram, podcasts, music, and movies. Listen God is the best intangible that I have. When I focus my thoughts on HIM I can feel HIM and through my actions of purpose walking (i.e. writing my blog posts) I can see HIM. Knowing that HE is with me is comforting. The podcast that I listen to are mostly self-help podcasts… empowering, encouraging, and educating me to be the best version of myself. I absolutely love Instagram… you can find me any day lost in the ShadeRoom’s post. Scrolling Instagram takes my mind off of my issues. There’s this one page in particular that I love, #SoSatisfying, the videos on there are so soothing and calming… I legit transfer into a relaxed state just by watching those videos. I always loved movies, especially comedies. I love to laugh and I have found through research that laughter releases endorphins, which literally makes you happy. I am a complete music junky. I listen to all genres of music. I can ride for hours and listen to music just to relax my mind. But, you have to be careful because music can stir up some feelings and emotions that are not real at that time. Intangibles are a great way to spend a self-care day; they help and are great for the soul.
Fill your toolbox with what helps to bring positivity into your life. The toolbox you carry with you on your journey will determine the success you will have in different battles along your journey. You will have battle wounds and scars but you will not be defeated.
The Chic Educator 🍎
Disclaimer: I am not saying that the tools in your toolbox is are going to erase all of your daily issues and struggles. However, I do know from experience that if these tools are used properly your daily issues and struggles will become less, leaving you with positivity energy to channel towards your life’s purpose.