It’s easy to look at life’s challenges as setbacks. But what if you look at them as a path to greater strength and self-awareness than you had ever imagined?
This quote summarizes the last seven years of my life. Right after I experienced a layoff as a result of downsizing at my job at the time, my mom got sick with ovarian cancer. I unexpectedly found myself being her caregiver, and at the same time, looking after my two younger siblings. As anyone knows, being a caregiver is extremely difficult and emotionally taxing. It’s a full-time job no one can prepare for.
My mom passed three years later. Being that my siblings were just 8 and 13, I began the task of transitioning from sister to parent figure. A change like this is extremely difficult. But I knew I had to be strong for both their well-being and the good of our family.
Raising children in this society is extremely difficult, and with us just losing mom, I knew in my heart that I had to guide them. There was no time to question how I would take on such a large task; I dived right in. You see, both of my siblings were adopted by my parents, and came from very challenging backgrounds. My sister had received a liver transplant when she was just one. And my little brother was burned on 50 % of his body, and came to live in our home when he was an infant. I look back over those times with pride. My brother is now a preteen, and will be entering eighth grade this fall; and my sister is a dedicated sophomore in college.
I believe in being authentic when I am writing. So as you read this, I want you to understand that these were challenging years — not just for my siblings, but for me as well. The grief was overwhelming. To be honest, I felt like depression was going to take over. But sometimes we get the exact sign we need to stay strong in the face of challenge.
In October 2014, just months after my mother died, I tuned into a spiritual radio station (WMBI 90.1) while I was cooking, and what I needed to do became clear. I needed to seek professional help for myself. Yes, taking that first initial step was hard because I was not raised to believe that therapy worked. However, I had to do something because I was drowning in sorrow and despair.
I started going to regular counseling sessions. When my therapist moved away three years later, I began to use a therapy website called Therapy For Black Girls. Through the site, I found another therapist that I connect with.
What I want to tell you today is that mental health is a MUST. I had been told that you couldn’t trust therapists and that you just have to suck it up, but I was very wrong. Regular therapy sessions began to change my life.
I’m writing this to let women know that you can change your life one step at a time by taking each day moment by moment, and if you’re a spiritual person, praying or reaching out to a higher power. I remember listening to a recording from Oprah Winfrey, telling people that it is up to you to change your life. That changed my ENTIRE perspective. Doing the work and understanding that you are responsible for your own healing is what it’s all about.
Life at some point will happen to us all, and going through those painful moments, it’s important to remember that you are NOT alone. Support groups, self-care, getting together with friends and taking time to focus on just you can change your life and your perspective.
You see, I was so used to taking care of others that I didn’t realize how much I needed to be alone, to discover more of who I am, and to find my own identity as a woman. That has been my journey, and I encourage you to do the same. Be kind to yourself, take chances, and if you need help, don’t ever feel like you’re less than. Love the woman you are, and the woman you are becoming.
I highly respect that Curvicality is a platform that celebrates and encourages us to accept ourselves — all of you, even the imperfections. Celebrate your rolls, stretch marks, moles, etc. The positivity behind that is life-changing. Once you love who you are, beautiful things take place.
Here’s to the beauty of all that is you, my curvy friends. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. You’re perfect just as you are.
Curvicality Note: We would like to offer a special congratulations to Kandis for receiving the Random Act of Kindness gift from Catherine’s plus-size clothing store for her activism with ovarian cancer.
About the Author: Kandis Draw lives in Chicago, is a classically trained pianist and a lover of philanthropy. She is a member of the Aids Foundation of Chicago Associate Board, Gilda’s Club Chicago Associate Board, and is an active member on the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) Illinois Chapter, and the Curvicality Advisory Board. She has written articles for NOCC National, Splash magazine, and recently published in Cancer Wellness Magazine. Her life mission is to serve others and make the world a better place one step at a time.