Black Woman, Mental Health

Dog People Are My People

Hello hello and happy Friday! Hope everyone is doing the best they can, and that in the end that proves to be enough. I’m just logging out from a crazy week at work and about to pour me a cocktail, but wanted to drop something a bit lighthearted for consideration on this fine August evening. I got jokes for days on my end, not every post is going to be heavy and deeply introspective ;-P

Anywho, folks who knows me in real life, and even folks who know me on social media, can tell you how I am absolutely obsessed with dogs. The bigger the better, and the more socially-maligned the more endearing I find them. I myself am the proud pet mama to an 80-pound pitmix, and I just think that he is the bestest most loveably little bubbas I’ve ever met in my life ❤ I love puppy cuddles and snuggles and kisses (not on the mouth!!). I love the way dogs love you unconditionally, are a constant source of joy, force you out of the house for walks even when you don’t feel like moving, and how they will defend you if they feel someone oversteps into your territory or personal space. My dog Dallas is the baby boy I’ve never had, and I would do literally almost anything in the world for him. Someone once asked if I had a choice would I shoot a person or my dog, and my question to them was…who is the person? Like is it my mommy or brother? Is it a random stranger? I had questions, and this person got so offended that I had to laugh. Dude, I LOVE my dog. You think a stranger stands a chance? Tuh!

That being said, on quite the opposite end of the “warm and cuddly” spectrum there are those who know me in real life, and also on social media, who know that I do not want human children of my own. Never have, never will, no thank you please. I don’t knock folks who are parents or who wish to become parents, and my heart goes out to those who long for that bond and are unable to have biological children of their own. Yes, there is always adoption, but y’all get where I’m coming from with this. That being said…

The next time someone tells me the reason I only love dogs more than children is because I haven’t had kids myself, I will be sending them a Zelle/CashApp/Venmo request for $500 towards my “Fertility Fund” since they wanna be in my uterus so bad. You want me to have kids so bad? Put up or shut up, ma’am/sir.

Y’all got “Have a baby with no life partner” money around these parts? Y’all gon’ help your girl pay for private school and sports and feeding this little monster <ahem> I mean blessing? You puttin’ something in the pot to pay for the abundance of therapy and spa time I will need to deal with the stress of raising a whole-ass human being that I didn’t even want to be here? Is there a return policy for said child if I don’t like how it turns out that won’t send me jail? Are you advocating for my health and bodily autonomy in the medical field and with our law makers since Black women are 3-times more likely to die in live childbirth than our white counterparts? Are you paying for the “Mommy Makeover” to put my organs and muscles and vee-jay back into their proper places when I pop this kid out? No? Oh you were just giving an unsolicited opinion without knowing my mental, physical, and financial state on whether I should procreate and add to the Earth’s overpopulation? Shhhhhh…ut the fcuk up dude LOL!

Leave me and the rest of my dog-loving brothers and sisters in peace! We’re not hurting anyone by choosing to NOT have kids, least of all the feelings of a stranger we don’t have any connection to. Leave us to our cute puppy outfits, our playdates, our Starbucks Puppuccinos, and our Rich Auntie/Uncle/Zaddy vibes. Y’all’ve got this parenting thing down! Let the rest of us live in homes where things are where we last put them, where there’s no slime or sticky crap on our floors or walls, and our bank accounts are thriving and abundant. You do this for us, and we’ll try really hard to pretend along with you that you love this parenting experience as much as you say you do. I respect folks who chose to have kids, but I really respect folks who have kids and warn folks that if they had to do it all over again they would be #TeamPetParent for life.

Y’all be blessed and y’all stay silent. Cheers!


This Little Light Of Mine…

After a particularly inspired set of therapy/coaching sessions over the past couple of days, I’ve found myself walking through my apartment humming this song under my breath. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!” But as I’ve been humming away, a question kept percolating to the surface of my thoughts – Do you always let your Light shine? That glimmer of excitement or passion in your eyes? Your brilliant and luminescent intellect? Your fiery personality or warmness of spirit? Is it always appropriate to just unapologetically let your most authentic be on full display, no matter the venue or audience? Should our Light be toned down for work, or dimmed in our personal life to downplay our strengths and talents? Do we dip our heads and hide that sparkle in our eye and dazzling smile on our face when someone praises us for something awesome we did that can be traced back directly to that singular trait that makes us unique to the Universe?

The symbolism of Light has been used throughout history as a mark of intellect, guidance, divinity, and goodness. When you take your hand off your personal dimming switch and start shining at full wattage, it is my belief that you will attract what you are putting out into the Universe. You become a guide, a safe place to land, an inspiration for people finding their way through their own darkness. And when you are facing adversity, your Light is a warm and bright spot to guide you back through the mire to the person you truly are at your most authentic level.

Now I can hear you all saying, “Ashley, I can’t be my authentic self at work! I have haters and an insecure boss!” or “Whenever I’m the best version of myself they just knock me down!” And even “My friends say I’m just ‘too much’ and have unrealistic dreams!” Well honey, just know that you’re not alone. I have suffered from a near nervous breakdown, anxiety and panic attacks, Imposter Syndrome, depression, you name it, just from trying to dim my Light so completely that I became invisible to everyone, including myself. However, I can tell you that when you are completely at ease being your authentic self, you never have to worry about dulling your inner shine just to fade into the background. And if you face resistance from people who feel the best version of You is the one where you’re relegated to being a shadowy or muted version of yourself, it might be time to seriously reconsider the company (professional and personal) that you’re keeping. Any room where you cannot be the best and brightest version of yourself is the wrong damn room! When you open yourself up fully and let your Light shine, you will attract the right people, profession, and places for you to really grow and thrive.

So? This little Light of mine? It’s time to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine! And I think it’s time you do the same for yourself. Let it shine so brightly that folks are blinded by your scintillating wit and brilliant personality 😉 As for me, I like who I am when I’m all lit up for the world to see, and I am so thankful for the chance to finally shine as bright as the stars in the night sky after so many years of hiding in the dusky backdrop of my own life. The folks and opportunities meant to be in my life will be drawn to and inspired by my warmth and illumination. Those threatened by my shine who would condemn me to a life in the fog or in a poorly-lit corner so that they aren’t in (perceived) competition with all of my awesomeness? Well they can either get with the program or be blinded by my radiance!

I’m not dimming my Light for any soul or situation on this planet again, and you don’t have to either! Be the YOU that brings you joy, and watch how brightly the dawn of change shines in your life.

Black Woman, Inspiration, Mental Health

Let’s Try This Again, Shall We? (Mess in Progress)

It’s taking everything in me not to start this post with the obligatory “Allow me to reintroduce myself” line (hat tip to Shawn Carter), but that is exactly what this post is going to be – a reintroduction of sorts.

When we first met, I was a single 34 and a half year old Black American Howard University graduate living in Miami with a furbaby and no fcuking clue about what I was actually supposed to be doing with my life. We went on a wild ride of 10 posts where I laid bare some of the most profound and impactful experiences of my life – the good, the bad, the ugly, the fcucked up. Then POOF! Like a woman’s bodily autonomy south of the Mason-Dixon and our collective confidence as a nation to have free and fair election cycles, I disappeared!

My last post in August 2019 left off with me in a deep (I do mean DEEP) state of depression after ending a relationship, being unemployed (or underemployed) for almost a year and a half, being swindled by an MLM masquerading as a mentoring organization, and still not having any idea WTF I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I was broke, emotionally a wreck, lonely, sad, angry, and slowing losing my shyt to the point where I was genuinely concerned for my mental health and physical wellness. And this was all BEFORE the global pandemic sent us all inside for a year in isolation and mental anguish waiting for a vaccine and watching friends and family members die. Yay! I had given myself until the end of November 2019 to find a job before packing it all up and moving back to North Texas to crash on my mother’s couch and ignore adulthood for the foreseeable future, but then I FINALLY started a new job!

That joy had a small darkness riding with it, as I suffered from PTSD and had a pretty gnarly anxiety attack when I first started because I was trying to be as perfect as possible so I wouldn’t lose my job and end up worse off than before. I didn’t have the finances or emotional stamina to keep fighting to stay in Miami if that happened, so I worked ridiculous hours and made myself sick for a month just to prove my value and loyalty. Even when I was finally clawing my way out of the darkness, I still couldn’t let myself relax and be thankful. Then came COVID-19. We were sent home indefinitely to “stop the spread,” and home is where I have been since March 13, 2020. I won’t dive into quarantine, etc. for today’s post, but I guarantee it will make an appearance later down the line. Don’t wanna fuzzy my re-intro with a global pandemic, you know? That would just distract you from the fact that as of today things in my life are much improved!

I’m still single and living in Miami with a furbaby and no fcuking clue about what I am actually supposed to be doing with my life. BUT!! I ain’t unemployed or broke no’ mo’, and my mental health is thriving! I still get overwhelmed and battle anxiety, I haven’t figured out how to transition careers into something that makes me money and gives me back my time, I still watch HGTV and try to figure out how a professional butterfly catcher can afford a $1.2M home, and I have yet to put all my personal business on IG or Twitter. I will always love a good bourbon and the occasional bottle <ahem> glass of vino, but I’m drinking both a lot less frequently and not clutching a bottle like an emotional support binkie as I drift off into a restless sleep where even my dreams are like “WTF dude?” And…while blogging is still a helluva lot Cheaper Than Therapy, the way this co-pay is set up (thank GAWD for health insurance through my job) your girl found theeeee most amazing psychologist in 2021 and has been doing the WERK, y’all!

Healing and self-development and growth ain’t for the faint-hearted, and every time I wanted to quit I made sure to book the next session immediately. I knew if I quit I would stay where I was forever, and I just couldn’t stomach the idea of that shyt. What would have been the point of all that suffering and misery and anguish and breakdowns and comebacks if I was content to resign myself to repeating those old patterns? How TF could I simply allow myself to end up back where I started? No ma’am, no sir, no way in Hell. Absofcukinglutely not.

After a year of doing the hard work with my therapist, I graduated to doing even MORE hard work with something I never ever ever in my life thought I would have – I got me my very own life coach. Now, if you had told me a year ago that I would have a life coach (or that life coaching was a real and legit thing and not just people giving their random opinions on shyt), I would have called you crazy to your face. Life coaches to me were just folks running their mouths and giving advice on stuff you could just Google, because they don’t have to get their PhD to be one (sorry y’all, I know better now!) Well I am woman enough to admit that I was wrong.

The combination of therapy and life coaching has fortified me emotionally to do a lot of things, but the thing I am most excited about is that I now feel I can come back to my writing – to helping people not feel lost or alone or like something is wrong with them because they are still trying to figure it all out (whatever TF “It” even is). We can still help each other figure out what the next steps are, and then support each other while we learn how to take them. We can still take this journey one day and one BOTTLE of wine at a time with no judgement for the days we fall short of our own expectations. We’re giving ourselves GRACE in this new chapter, y’all!

I have no idea if writing into the void that is Michelle Obama’s internet will reach a single person who could benefit from me spilling my guts in a very public forum. I do *hope* that a few folks come along on this ride with me, because I’m definitely going to get into the mess, honey! I’m going to talk about being almost 40 with no boo or kids (and how I am 100% OK with this and you can be too!), the time I got roped into both an international Ponzi scheme *and* MLM foolishness to keep a roof over my head, how I almost collapsed personally during quarantine and finally had to seek professional help to keep from hurting myself, and so much more! A *lot* happened during the last three years, and we’re going to touch on most of it (with names redacted to protect the guilty).

While some folks in the world seem content portraying their lives with a permanent IG or Snap Chat filter attached to only show what is perfect and beautiful, I find freedom in laying bare my unretouched TRUTHS because those unfiltered moments are the things that make life real. Cheaper Than Therapy is my personal outlet, but the ultimate goal is to let folks know it’s ok to be a little lost sometimes and that they’re not alone. Life is messy and amazing and frustrating and inspiring and devastatingly beautiful because of the fcuk ups, and though I may be a Mess in Progress I’m happy to talk about it and share my journey with y’all. So…let’s try this again, shall we?


Chapter Ten: Where Do I Begin…

Hello my Cheaper Than Therapy family! It has been almost a year since I last put fingertips to keyboard to connect with everyone and share my online self-counseling sessions with the Interwebs, and a LOT has happened during that time. Shyt, a lot is STILL happening as I sit here on my couch with my dog at my feet and incense burning to cleanse the energy in my apartment. I’ll bullet point the highlights below, and then when we’re caught up I’ll resume my reunion tour:

  • Ended things with a potential boo thang.
  • Got laid off from a job I hated.
  • Followed my passion for wine into the wonderful world of Wine Education via Wine and Spirits Education Trust.
  • Waited tables at a wine bar and restaurant…poorly…she ain’t meant for service, y’all.
  • Lost some weight…gained most back. Being a stress-eater suuuuucks. 😦
  • Got offered a career opportunity so amazing and out of the box that I just KNEW it had to be a blessing from God! SIKE!!! Opportunity turned into a manifestation of the Devil on Earth with some key players (not I, said the fly…) being indicted on federal fraud charges. I’m in the clear, but holy shyt that was a stressful revelation to live through.
  • Joined a mentoring organization to insert myself into circles of wealthy and positive individuals…refuse to do the work required to benefit from said organization.
  • Lost some old friends to the passage of time because our seasons had definitely run their course.
  • Still out here trying to figure out just what in theeeeee entire fcuk these last 16 months were supposed to teach me besides how close I can be pushed to my limit before I suffer a psychotic break and require a padded room and the strong tranquilizers to settle down.

Caught up? Fabulous!  Questions or comments? Save ’em…a bish it too tired. All I can do right now is figure out what is best for MYSELF at this moment, and it does not include entertaining other people’s opinions on just WTF I am doing or how I am processing all of the emotions I’ve been tasked with carrying these past many months. This is the entire purpose behind starting the blog – to get crap out of my head without having to write a check for a copay (can’t afford my actual shrink right now anyways), but I don’t have the energy to entertain people’s well-intentioned advice. I’ve literally spent the past year with this nagging sensation that I should be documenting what I’m going through to help myself and possibly help someone else, but I would always chicken out and internalize my struggles because when you put it all down and then read your life back to you, it forces you to re-live some pretty horrible moments that you tried to bury deep inside of yourself so you can keep pushing ahead. We are all going through various levels of BS and just trying to do the best we can, but I was ashamed and embarrassed and overwhelmed by everything I had going on.

There were so many moments in the past year where I just KNEW I was about to get a win – Lord knows I’ve earned one by now – but even my wins turned into even bigger losses, and I just wanted to crawl inside myself and die. Not literally die because I’m not suicidal, but I am tired. And as much as we want to put on a brave face and say how strong we are and that we can handle anything with prayer, or by drinking water, or by eating our veggies, there inevitably comes a point where you honestly don’t think you can do this shyt anymore. But since you aren’t suicidal you don’t even get the peace that comes from knowing that an ending to your pain and loneliness and exhaustion is on the horizon. There is no fucking horizon. There is no light. There is no hope. And who wants to put these thoughts on paper (so to speak) to be ridiculed or judged by other people telling you how it’s going to be ok and just keep moving forward or how God’s got this? Who wants that? And let me tell you something, I am a proud woman of Faith but my biggest daily struggle has been not to get angry with God. To keep trusting Him even when I don’t feel Him near, to be still and not feel guilty about the stillness because there is a difference between being still and doing nothing.

I feel like I am losing the ability to be happy for other people’s victories, and that is not my personality. I celebrate my friends when they accomplish new goals and victories because that’s what a non-shitty friend does. But I’m tapped out, y’all. My every waking thought is consumed with how to get out of a hole that is closing in on me with every passing day, and that leaves zero room for me to pull from my emotional well to celebrate pregnancies, weddings, promotions, new houses, new cars, etc. I just ain’t got it. And a lot of my friends didn’t know I was battling all of this because for so long I kept the worst of it confined to a small group of those people to whom I am the closest. They were, and still very much are, my backbone when I have no more strength to stand on my own. Other folks thought I was just being a bitch or something and to those folks I say to get over yourself. Seriously. If I have been acting out of character lately, a real friend would have checked in, not checked out. Cleaning out my friends list and reassigning other people to different roles in my life has probably been the only silver lining I can think of at this time. And that’s not to say that it’s anyone else’s responsibility but mine to police my emotions, but isn’t that what we have our nearest and dearest for in the first place? To check on you when you’re down? To support you sometimes just by sitting with you in silence while you cry silent tears of hopelessness, but at least you don’t have to cry alone? Would they not want the same from me if I noticed their mood changed or they because withdrawn? No? Just me? Meh.

This return to writing, my acknowledgment of the darkest of dark places I have walked through these past few months, is being done for purely selfish reasons. I. Am. Fucking. Tired. I feel like I am going to explode from the inside, and that I will be found in my own body puddle clutching a bottle of bourbon with one hand while my dog lays next to me chewing on my hair if I don’t get some of this out of my system. The anger. The rage. The pain. The hopelessness. The loneliness. The utter desperation that comes from legit not knowing what your life is going to look like in the next 30 days, and having that idea keep you up at night clutching a bottle of bourbon instead of making you hopeful for whatever new adventure is coming your way. I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past year and change, and some of it ain’t pretty. I’ve become more emotionally vulnerable and humble than I have ever been in my life, but I hate the feeling of neediness that is associated with this new evolved version of myself. I hate needing help. And I gotta tell ya…I need help. Lots of help. But I am used to helping others and then helping myself. This is new. And I don’t like it.

I’ve got some work to do in the next few weeks, and as uncomfortable as these past few months have been I have a feeling that between now and October 1 it is about to get a lot worse. And I am afraid I won’t make it. I am afraid I will crumble and break and fall apart and be too defeated to keep fighting. But as much love and support as I get from my friends and family, I am all I really have and am the only one who can pull myself out of the darkness. I don’t have anyone who can take this burden off my shoulders and carry me while I rest and regroup. This is on me emotionally, even while I’ve been humbled to the point of accepting tangible help from outside individuals. I think it actually adds to my burden because I feel like I owe them for their generosity, and that added debt tacked on to my current situation feels like a weight is sitting on my chest.

How do you pull it together? How do you know that everything will be ok? What does ok even look like anymore? What do you do when you reach a crossroads and things haven’t worked themselves out? How the fcuk do you recover?

I know I’m not the only person going through some horrendous growing pains right now, so hopefully this post makes you feel less lonely. It won’t make you feel better to know that other people are suffering like you are right now…but maybe it will help with the deafening roar of failure that is draining whatever positivity you might have left to keep fighting.

And we must keep fighting. What other choice do we really even have? And it’s that revelation that makes me the most tired out of everything. And that says a lot about how tired I truly am.


Chapter Nine – Uncomfortable Truths

Some of the people I have spoken with over the past few days have been very dismissive of the apparent avalanche of sexual assault/harassment stories that have come to the forefront in recent months, but I think it finally occurred to me why that is.

Women- you’re dismissive because if you think back far enough, you’ll probably realize there have been times in your life where you were on the receiving end of an unwanted assault. You might not have known it at the time, but something didn’t feel ok about whatever you were experiencing- a hug that lasted a little too long; an inappropriate joke from your creepy uncle or family friend; being felt up by a cute guy at a party that made you feel gross when society said it was supposed to be a compliment. Maybe even sexual partners who did not rape you but applied so much pressure in the moment that you felt guilty if you didn’t say yes. We’ve all heard the lies men tell when they want to get between your thighs – If I don’t cum I’ll get sick/blue balls; Why are you being a tease?; We don’t have to do anything, just lay here naked with me. And we do because we’ve been conditioned to think that if we end up in these scenarios then it’s our fault for whatever might happen. We asked for it. Men can not control themselves. Boys will be boys. You look back on your own experiences, and now you might be feeling the dread of knowing that even if you had spoken up or out that it would have been *your* reputation that was ruined. Your family that would have turned on you. You start to remember all the times when something didn’t feel right or when something was done to you and for the first time you might feel like a victim. You might feel guilty for not reporting it. Guilty for giving permissions to men for their bad behavior for your entire life and not saying or doing anything about it. You might have some compassion for the women who are speaking out now, or you might feel resentment because you know you’ll never publicly name or shame the person who took little pieces of yourself from you that you’ll never get back. So you dismiss the accusers because you think they need to either get over themselves, get over the trauma, or you’re jealous that their voices will be heard on a level yours never will.

Men- some of you are dismissing these claims because if you think back you might have actually been “that guy” to someone in your past. Maybe you got too handsy at a party? Maybe you remember a time at the movies when you slipped your date’s hand down your pants and held it there while she tried pulling it back without making noise in the theater to draw attention to the issue. Or maybe you remember when you and a group of your guys took turns having sex with a girl at a party while she and everyone else was drunk and watching because that’s just what raucous young men do. It wasn’t rape if you were having sex with someone and you and your friend switched out from behind and the girl didn’t consent to a different partner. It wasn’t an assault when you grabbed the girls breasts or slapped her ass when walking past you and your group of friends while waiting for the bell to ring for next period. It was just a joke when you locked yourself in a room with a girl and pressured her into a sex act while she performed it with tears running down her face at a party. And it was hilarious when at school the next day you told everyone she was a slut and her reputation was ruined for high school and sullied for college. None of these behaviors from your past count as assaults to you because it was just fun and games. Kids being kids. Boys being boys. You hadn’t even thought about it in 10, 20, 30 years and it certainly doesn’t make you a monster. It doesn’t make you *like the men you hear about and see on TV.*

Parents – while going through all of the above feelings about your own pasts and the actions endured and performed, you realize you’re perpetuating the cycle with your own kids. You teach girls how not to get raped, but don’t teach your sons not to rape in the first place. You tell a girl that she was asking for *it* based on how she was dressed, and you dismiss the sexually deviant acts of young boys and men as “boys being boys.” It’s normal. It’s how it always has been. That’s why raising boys is deemed “easier” than girls. That’s why girls get the lectures and the curfews and the daddies threatening their dates with shot guns. Dads know how these boys are being brought up, so while they’re thinking of all the things that the date could do to his daughter that would drive him to murder, the conversations he’s having with his son before a date don’t have anything to do with respecting a girl’s space or her body. He’s beaming with pride at the idea of his son scoring and slipping him a condom so he doesn’t get the little “slut” knocked up. Y’all are upset because you’ve realized that you’re raising the next generation of predators under your own roof, but you are also too afraid to take a different stance because of how sexual deviancy has been normalized. You’ve probably also realized that some of the behaviors from friends and family are inappropriate towards your kids, and now you feel guilty for bringing them around but you know they “didn’t meant anything” and “that’s just how they are.” Uncle Jimmy has always been a little handsy. Your friend from work was checking out your daughter, but she shouldn’t be wearing those shorts around the house anyway. You make your daughter dress in layers when she leaves the house to make her as invisible as possible to members of the opposite sex because you “know how men are.”

None of this is normal. None of this is ok. Not all victims will tell our stories out of shame or fear or embarrassment. Men won’t own up to their behaviors because they don’t view themselves the same as the men being dragged through the media. If the assault wasn’t violent then there wasn’t ever really an assault, right? If it was as bad as the girl says, she would have spoken out earlier. Can’t she take a joke? You know how boys can be with their hormones. She was dressed like a whore in the first place, what did she think was going to happen?

That’s why y’all are so upset. And that’s why this cycle won’t end.