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Living a life of normalcy and enjoying the oddness of the mundane are great ventures that weren’t afforded to me. Adulthood seemed like incomprehensible anguish, a rollercoaster of fickle despair with a drop of elation.

“Wake up to smell the roses,” they said, if only I could manage to get out of bed and brush my teeth first, or shower and wash my face.

You see, at 19 years old, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I was living every day in waking misery, fatigue and body ache, and the wretchedness of trying to make it through college. As an young adult, the trepidation of looming deadlines from essays, projects and later nagging bosses would leave me paralyzed, unable to complete even the most basic tasks, while constant changes to my antidepressants and antianxiety medications led to a 50-pound weight gain and deeper depression. While I was maxed out on Prozac, my soul felt numb and the rapid thoughts and heart palpitations never seemed to stop.

By the time I was 28, a new team of doctors finally accurately diagnosed me with bipolar II and a borderline personality disorder. I was placed on a new medication regime with the proper antipsychotics. A cocktail of Lamotrigine, Abilify, Lexapro, Trazodone and Klonopin made my soul glow, and my mood swings finally ceased.

From there, I was able to gain some control over my feelings of hopelessness. With proper medication and regular psychotherapy that helped me reprogram my thoughts, I learned that nothing is black and white, and recognized that there are gray areas. With that, I found a happy medium in life.

Despite it all, I had become an accomplished young adult with friends and family by my side. I landed a graphic design job with my dream starting salary. I work with an awesome team with room for me to grow in the company. I live in a cute garden home with my pups, sister and nephews. All this filled me with energy and a zest for life. I knew that anything was possible, and I wanted to take on the world.

One night, as I was sitting on the edge of the bed, I searched for something special to treat myself because I finally felt like I had it all and wanted to celebrate that. But I could not find anything that culturally represented me other than a graphic tee. I wanted to celebrate my wholeness, and all the craziness that came with it. As an accomplished 28-year-old with a mental illness, I could now recognize all my wins and lessons learned. So, at that moment, I decided to take matters into my own hands and birthed my business, Curly Contessa, a culturally centric home goods and giftware line.

I found solace in illustrating and celebrating my tribe. Each product highlights the beauty and strength of Black women. I find joy in sending friends and loved ones gifts for holding me down through a bad spell. It is important for those gifts to represent them, to represent our diverse hair textures and varying skin tones. So, because I get to help other people feel seen, life has become one big celebration.

I am now able to celebrate the little things because of the times when even the thought of getting out of bed was difficult. I am more engaged in life. Now at the end of the day, I get to pour a toast to myself in my own “Black girl magic pint glass” or sit in serenity on the sofa with my “All the feels” mug. Holiday gifts I give will be wrapped in paper with the faces of a diverse group of Black women who look like me.

Battling a mental illness is tough because you must retrain yourself to get through each day of the week. The holidays can be a challenging time and emotionally exhausting. Whether it’s seasonal changes, meeting end-of-year deadlines or dealing with dysfunctional family members, the holidays can seem not so merry for some. I am happy to be in a place where I can share my feelings and bring hope to others. By being my own Santa, finding soothing activities and creating a relaxing environment with serene music and a cozy blanket, I put myself in a jolly spirit. Focusing on what makes me happy, being encompassed by friends and family, and keeping things simple helps me create merry little moments.

For me, there is no gratification in being average. My comprehension of life has heightened, and I have far surpassed being standard. Now, I aspire to be great in everything I do. I have learned to enjoy all the complexities of life. The delicate nuances of daily living and experiencing a vast array of feelings when I once felt numb make me whole. I cannot wait to ring in the New Year knowing how far I’ve come; I have plans to extend my home goods line. The pride that comes from watching my dreams grow has been the best gift ever.