Two truths: I could not survive in the environment I was in, and I was slowly sinking into a trap.

My options were death, homelessness and grad school.

I repeat. My options were death, homelessness or grad school.

It’s Minority Mental Health Month, so here is some minority mental health realness!

That’s right. I enrolled in school to prevent homelessness (and death), because that’s what you do when you’re poor and have just the faintest drop of motivation left to continue living. You get temporary fake-free housing in a new location and put your brain to work. You’ll dodge the debt later because you’re occupied with dodging the Grim Reaper right now. My depression had nosedived into suicidal ideation. But less about me and more about this jig!

The despicable and unacceptable reality is, many of us truly cannot afford to not be OK. Bills still have to be paid. We have inadequate or no health insurance, all while self-medicating using methods that make us sicker. Literally, every minute of free time is accounted for in coin conversion.

Everyone does not have access to the safety net of an inherited home or fortune, an emotionally stable family member, a financially stable friend, a recovery-conducive environment, a mobile socioeconomic status, clean water, appropriately staffed and culturally  competent schools, affordable health benefits or Barack Obama’s cell phone number (to send cathartic gifs to in times of distress). For a plethora of disenfranchised peoples, survival is literally day by day, minute by minute, paycheck by paycheck.

My hope is to pour the light in you that you are WORTHY of being The Priority, no matter how “poor” you are. We’re team #BrokePhiBrokeButRichInSpirit! Your value is far more precious than the dollar amount arbitrarily assigned to each hour of your existence. You matter despite the myth that you are depreciating stock inextricably tied to your ability to produce goods/services or physical labor.

Not only are many of us depressed while poor, we’re depressed because we’re poor.

Here are a five ways to navigate these cruel circumstances:

1. Budget

Live like you just got fired from your job and don’t know where your next income is coming from! Money can be a subtle stressor until it’s a roaring stressor.

2. Save

Save when you can, no matter how little the amount appears to be. Future You will appreciate it.

3. Group Economics

You got a homie, family member or friend you can shack up with to cut costs? Do that. Even if it’s just for a few months or a year. Emergency savings matter!

4. Invest in Your Self-Care

Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically and financially. Books (The Bible, self-help books, pleasure reading), apps, therapy, gym membership and/or a class of interest are just a few ideas to keep your star player (YOU!) tuned up. If you think you can’t afford it, ask yourself if you can afford to crumble to the point that you are unable to work and thus have no job to be able to afford anything. You can afford anything you want to afford, beloved!

5. Side Hustle

What is your gift? How can you turn it into a passive income that won’t require residual time or energy? If it does, it’s time spent doing something you already enjoy.

I pray that when it comes to your health, life and money, you ALWAYS choose YOU. You cannot be replaced or siphoned off for sick vacation days or vacation sick days. This system is sick. Especially since your position will probably be on Indeed before the deed you swapped your breathe for falls behind.

I have a master’s degree, full-time job, Lyft on some afternoons and weekends, and bills bills bills. My options are relaxation, make a few extra coins or my perpetually put on the back-burner my passion: writing. I am currently choosing to write this article because this conversation is important to me. Plus, there will always be another dollar urging to be made — another job that needs doing — but there will not always be time to tell this story. My story. OUR story. Shout out to my fellow Millennials! As J. Cole has hauntingly advised us in his latest musical masterpiece — choose wisely.

You do NOT have to earn self-care. It is something you deserve every day and should do every day. It’s not reserved for a certain day of the week or for weekends. Self-Preservation is your birthright.

Now, go out there and be Resourceful While Poor! Your mental wellness (and hopefully random ancient oak chest full of rare timeless jewels that you can cash in at your local pawn shop, which just happened to conveniently materialize as soon as you finished reading these gems) is on the other side, cheering you on!