As 2019 comes to a close, I am taking the time to reflect on my mental health recovery. I remember the countless days that I wanted to die in my sleep and struggled with suicidal thoughts for five months before attempting suicide a second time. I was hopeless and became frustrated with battling depression. At the time, death seemed like a better option.
Almost four years later, I thank God for sparing my life because I gained a new passion for mental health and found purpose in my pain. Before my suicide attempt, I worked in entertainment (television). While I enjoyed it, I always felt like there was more. I’ve always desired to be a successful entrepreneur. I put my public relations company on hold to focus on my mental health. I eventually decided that I no longer wanted to use my communications and media skills in the same way.
I am in awe of God’s grace and mercy. Romans 8:28 reminds me that “that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
I never imagined that my mental health challenges could lead to the birthed of my company Fireflies Unite. It is the first and only mental health media and communications company. Its mission is to bring light into darkness (just like the fireflies) by sharing the stories of people of color who live and thrive with mental health conditions through digital, social, print and broadcast media, events, training, and community partnerships. I could not have birthed this without my challenges. I see that God was restoring me and building me up for all that is unfolding now. My brand allows me to use a combination of my professional and personal experiences.
In 2019, I have accomplished the unimaginable with God's favor. I added three new streams of revenue to my business, published my first book Saved & Depressed: A Suicide Survivor’s Journey of Mental Health, and became certified to instruct Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) and Mental Health First Aid training. I was blessed to participate in an event with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, and The Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce On Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. NBC highlighted my story and I addressed suicide among black children in the article. In addition, I was on the cover of the Rally Up magazine, selected to serve on the Maryland Behavioral Advisory Council and currently support a mental health research project with a non-profit. I had over 30 speaking engagements, and the Fireflies Unite With Kea podcast received over 32,000 downloads.
Another victory was going back on my medication after being weaned off. I never wanted to rely on my medication and thought I was in a better place and could function without it, but I noticed myself getting worse. Six weeks later, I became suicidal, spent my birthday in bed, and the entire month of September in a terrible depression. Many may not consider that a win. However, I learned to celebrate every milestone as my medication helps me function at my best. It shows that everything can be going well in someone’s life, and they still struggle with depression.
My mental and emotional health has not been only my priority this year, but so has my spiritual, physical, and financial health. I am on a journey to be whole in all areas of my life. My relationship with God continues to grow, and my faith and trust have increased despite life’s challenges. I became consistent with tithing, spent many mornings reading my bible, and praying.
God continues to honor my obedience to grow closer to him.
I know that God has called me to travel the world and share my story and be a successful businesswoman. I cannot do that if I am physically exhausted from not taking care of my body with proper nutrition and exercise? How can I ask God for more opportunities if I can barely walk up one flight of steps without feeling like I ran a marathon?
My lower back was often in pain, and my knees were weak from the additional weight I was carrying. I have taken control of what I consume and embrace mainly a plant-based diet. I have been going to the gym at 5:00 in the morning since January. I’ve gotten stronger, build endurance, and pushed myself physically like never before. I am proud of the 66 pounds I’ve lost since August 2018.
The highlight of 2019 was my participation in a mental health campaign with the Quell Foundation that allowed me to be on a billboard in Times Square! My life is a testament that God uses what we deem as bad to push us to grow and build our character, and walk into our destiny. Battling depression is not easy, but when I look in the mirror, I am proud of the woman I see. I am ready for 2020!