I am officially a resident of Los Angeles again. I am home. Home in myself, in my skin, in my body. I am home in a new relationship. I am home, home. All the work I have done in the last four and a half years has led me to this present moment. All the traveling, exploring, country-hopping, suitcase-living, first-date having, and dream chasing has led me to a place that I dreamed of and am hella thankful for.
May was national Mental Health Awareness Month and I had every intention on posting a blog about various tools I've used over the years that aid my mental wellness. Instead, I utilized just about every resource I had to manage my mental health (which hasn’t been the best this year).
Since March, there has been a beautiful and daunting juxtaposition of falling wonderfully in love while also being violently harassed.
You know the giddy feeling of lighting up at text notifications from a new love-interest. Those savory moments in which you relish at a simple "hey" message, cause if nothing else that means somebody you like is thinking about you too.
For me, that feeling was often replaced with chest-tightening and stomach dropping after receiving messages including threats of physical and sexual violence. Slut-shaming insults were hurled at me and personal details no stranger would know were used as an intentional way to target my mental health. For no other reason than I am a woman comfortable enough to share her life on the internet.
Who would do this? In short, an acquaintance with whom I’ve had little interaction with in person began to harass me after I posted his inappropriate messages to me on Instagram. He had my phone number from a group vacation in 2019 when I met him. We had not text one another personally outside of the group chat…in 2019. Because I refused to take down a post regarding his inappropriate messages, for three months death threats ensued.
At the time, I received daily back to back phone calls that were followed by text messages in the seconds it took to block the fake numbers. Almost every night, I forwarded my phone calls back to the harasser so he’d be calling himself. One night, I forwarded the calls to an LAPD hotline. The text I received after was, “You tried it. Call me."
At the time, I was interviewing for jobs. Sometimes, I’d forget not to answer my phone to unknown callers—thinking it was a prospective employer. Instead there was silence on the other end, followed by a text message saying how stupid I was and that he’d find me. I informed him of the restraining order in place; he responded that it didn’t matter because he was still going to touch me.
I’d be in a Zoom meeting and a death threat would appear via iMessage. Violent threats were posted on my blog, awful comments were put under a Reel I made of me and the baby children I love. I blocked fake pages as soon as I saw them watch my Insta-story. I did not feel comfortable leaving my or my boyfriend’s apartment longer than the time it took to walk the dogs. When I did leave my cocoon of safety, any pictures taken wouldn’t be posted until weeks later.
I tried to savor every moment outside of my personal chaos. Clinging to my new lover, I attached myself to him and our love-bubble full of good food, belly laughs and slow dancing to 90's R&B. When we weren't watching re-runs of Living Single or New York Undercover, we'd be out on mini adventures in the city. I leaned into the goodness of it all while also being open about where I was mentally/emotionally. He was understanding. I had worked and healed and aligned and dated and dated and dated until I was introduced to this beautiful ass human bean with a great sense of humor and affinity for consistent communication with me.
What I (thought I) knew about myself and love and partnership was challenged; but only in the way that made me wonder how I could ever put up with anything less.
When my sisterfriend shared, "In the words of Langston Hughes, 'Dig and be dug in return.'" I smiled, 'cause writers just get it.
I allowed the mutual interest to flourish while experiencing peace and comfortability romantically for the first time in my life. I loved myself out loud and was celebrated. Who I was, was celebrated. Both the beautiful put-together me and also the not so beautiful falling apart me. I experienced the gushy-cheesy stuff I be saving from the internet.
And I also feared for my life.
I knew that I would settle into an apartment in LA in 2022 and seek long-term commitment. I have loose goals and plans that I work out with the fluidity necessary in my life. And as-planned, I have a place, a job and a fella I'm crazy about in a city I absolutely adore. No matter how much you plan/prepare for, there are still some things in life unplannable-for.
I didn't realize how affected I'd been by the harassment until two months passed and I woke up one day with incredibly matted hair and the realization that I stopped going to the gym, opening my laptop and publicly hanging out with friends. Then it hit me, "Oh shit, I'm depressed." Because I prioritize my mental/emotional/physical health, I didn't think I would be affected by an intentional attack on my mental health. However, my already present anxiety and depression didn't stand a chance.
Depression looks a lot different in my life now. It used to be capital "D" depression but not so much anymore. I am still high-functioning and even on my most depressed day, I show up for other people better than I show up for myself at times. And because I work from home more times than I don't, I can manage and accommodate my mental health in ways I was not able to with full-time in-person work. It's still really tough, though.
I'm open about my life, the most open book I've ever read. And with that comes susceptibility to people's opinions, projections and outright hate. It's easy to think, "Had I just not posted the video about dude, this would not have happened." Or had I not posted photos showing "too much skin". Even when I changed my phone number, the rep at AT&T saw my background photo of me in lingerie and said, "Perhaps this is why people are harassing you." And I know she meant it in good nature, but what does that say about consent and rape culture--which is ultimately the root of my harassment. I told a man to stop being inappropriate with me, he persisted. He then responded with aggression when I called him out, then threatened my life incessantly for making his foolishness public.
Would wearing more clothes on or off the internet have changed this? Would pretending the things he said to me online did not make me uncomfortable? Would ignoring him have? Would me being silent have changed his behavior in any way?
There was no way for me to prepare for the cyber-bulling, violent harassment and daily death threats I received (and am presently still receiving). And as much as I want to brush dude off, there's a lot of crazy shit in the world. If someone tells you all the ways in which they'd personally harm you, it'd be wise to take heed.
I tried to power through and just "ignore him", but the shit still leaked into my daily life. I kept my phone notifications off and I stopped posting online as often. I hid in a way I have never felt the need to hide myself before.
That ain't no life though. I however, have and am presently working through it, and I will continue to work through whatever life throws my way. Because despite all the nonsense, my life is beautiful and unique and filled with many pockets of joy, peace and love. More times than not my life is my favorite life because I create it to be so.
All I really wanna do is show people that no matter what, you can live a life that FEELS good, not just one that looks good. I just want to show folks dreams can become reality, with (your own defined) work-ethic, gumption, a few tears, and solid community. I want people to look at me and know that whatever their "thing" is, whatever makes them them should be fucking celebrated...if by no one else then themselves.
I want folks to know it's okay to rest and try new things and dance no matter how badly and explore and be sexy--whether sexy in the comfort of your own home or online for the world to see. I wanna share my belief that it is quite alright to seek love and ease and fail or start over as many times as needed to live a life that makes you happy to wake up in the morning before all the outside shit seeps in. I want folks to release all that shit that tells us we don't deserve the moon the stars the sun AND the best fried chicken as often as we'd like.
I just be wanting to live my life out loud unapologetically and not be harassed for it.
I find no coincidence in the same time I met my partner who effortlessly allows me to be myself in all the ways—is also the same time a man went out of his way to try to shame me quiet for being my unabashed self.
I share a lot and generally don't share until I feel I'm on the other side of whatever it is I'm dealing with. What I'm learning about life is there's always gon' be somethin' that comes in and changes the plan, adds to or takes away from us and we gotta just keep rolling with it. Jessica Rose's Reel describes my online vs reality perfectly. I be going through shit. But, the innanets is where I am entertained, have community, and connect with folk who appreciate the magic I sprinkle to the collective.
I am a light, and recognize that the only way folks can bask in the warmth of my sun is if I take care of myself. And one thing sis knows how to do is take care of herself. With all that has been happening in the last three months, I have prioritized my mental and emotional health the best ways I know how. And when that wasn't working--I reached out for help until I got the help I needed. I go on hikes, and let my my loved ones know what's going on even when it's hard. I ask folks if they have space for me and hope they respect when I don't have the space in return. I cook delicious food and eat unapologetically, every time. I show up for people when I can, and I am learning to show up for me first in the same way I preach my friends to show up for themselves.
I seek love and pleasure and things that make me smile. I meme my way out of depressive episodes and breathe my way through anxious ones. I lean on my life coach, and when I need further assistance, I lean on a therapist.
Things have been hard. I've been really sad and also scared. But, I've also had hella happy moments in the midst of it all. I'm still here. I'm still breathing. And as long as I've got breath in my lungs, I've got enough to get through to the next moment and write about it.