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The Mighty Podcast: Self-Acceptance as a Tool in Mental Health Healing

Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following episode could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Listen to The Mighty Podcast episode, “Self-Acceptance as a Tool in Mental Health Healing.” We’ve also provided a transcript below. To talk about the episode or share topic ideas, join the Podcast Peeps community on The Mighty.

In this episode, Mighty Staff members Ashley Kristoff and Brittany McCoy talk with Minaa B., a therapist, writer, wellness coach and mental health educator, about her book “Rivers Are Coming,” her experiences with healing, finding self-acceptance and the power of writing and poetry. Please be advised this episode covers topics that may be triggering such as self-harm and suicide. If you’d like to avoid this section, it occurs from 6:02-6:30.

 

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Transcription:

Ashley Kristoff
Welcome to The Mighty Podcast where we infuse the health space with positivity, humor and vulnerability. The Mighty is a safe and supportive community here to help you find the people and information you need to navigate your health journey. We’re so excited to spend some time together today. Now let’s get into what the health we’re talking about today.

As a content warning, we want to note that there’s mention of self-harm and suicide in this episode. If you’d like to skip this section, you can go to this episode’s description for the exact timestamps to avoid. If you are a loved one needs help right now, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting home to 741741 or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. These resources are also available in the description.

My name is Ashley, I work for The Mighty, I am joined by my coworker Brittany, do you want to introduce yourself?

Brittany McCoy
Yes, of course. Hi, everybody. I’m Brittany. I am the Associate Editor here at The Mighty. I run the super contributor network and I am also an interdisciplinary storyteller. So I do photography, videography, written word, performing you name it, if there’s a way to tell the story, I’m gonna use it.

Ashley Kristoff
We’re also joined today with special guest, Minaa B. Mina is a writer, therapist, wellness coach and mental health educator. Minaa, do you want to give a little bit more of a background about who you are?

Minaa B.
Yes, well, one, thank you both for having me. My name is Minaa. I’m based in New York City. And as you mentioned, I am a writer, wellness coach therapist and a mental health educator. I have been in my field for nine years and I teach people how to cultivate self-care through the lens of boundaries and community care.

Brittany McCoy
That’s super important, honestly.

Minaa B.
Thank you.

Brittany McCoy
Yeah. Well, we’re super, super excited to have you here. We love the work that you do. And the work that you do is super important. And honestly, I’m also a comedian. So I always like to kind of throw a little like fun question in the beginning just so we can like, you know, ease our way in. My question is, if y’all were kind of pastry, what pastry would you be and why?

Minaa B.
I will start off by saying that I would be an almond croissant. And that is just because that is my favorite kind of croissant. Honestly, anytime I go to a coffee shop, I’m very disappointed when they don’t sell almond croissants. And I always specifically ask them to warm it up for me, a little toast on the edges, nice little crisp. So on a nice beautiful day with the warm cup of coffee. And almond croissant is my go-to.

Brittany McCoy
Okay, I love that. Oh, wow. I love that a lot. Actually, I’ve never had an almond croissant.

Minaa B.
Oh no.

Brittany McCoy
I haven’t.

Minaa B.
You have to! If you’re not allergic to almonds of course.

Brittany McCoy
I’m not, I’m not. I’ll have to try it.

Minaa B.
Yes.

Brittany McCoy
OK, good. OK, so what about you, Ashley? What kind of pastry would you be?

Ashley Kristoff
See, I wasn’t sure. But then you said almond croissant. And then that reminded me that like, almost every single time that I go into a coffee shop, I ended up getting the croissant that’s filled with chocolate. So that’s what I’m gonna go with because chocolate is just a dependable staple. I will eat it for every meal and make an excuse for it and like making chocolate into a breakfast food and being acceptable, absolutely, I’m here for it.

Brittany McCoy
I like that. OK, OK.

As someone who bakes This is kind of like I’m having an identity crisis right now. I think I would probably go with an eclair. I think that eclairs are super bougie. And yet, they’re super simple. And I think that that’s me. I think that I’m super simple, but no one else sees me that way. So you know, a little dark chocolate on top, you know, light fluffy. Still got the substance, just a bit, not too much. Keeps the party going. So yeah, I’m gonna go with an eclair.

Ashley Kristoff
I love the idea that there are some bougie pastries. There’s just some, there’s some joy in that statement there.

Brittany McCoy
Exactly. You couldn’t just do french toast. No, you had to do like some kind of over-the-top, avant-garde pastry. It’s bread, at the end of the day it’s, it’s bread with a different finish. So settle down here, calm down just a little bit.

Ashley Kristoff
People love their fancy bread.

Brittany McCoy
They do, they really do.

Ashley Kristoff
It’s important. All right, so on today’s episode, now that we’re warmed up a little bit, if you wanted to know what kind of pastry we are you now do, we do want to really dig into the topic of what it means to heal. You know, we thought Minaa would be such a great person to talk with this on. She’s devoted a lot of her work done so much around that concept of healing. So, a little bit we would love to dig into a little bit about your mental health journey, kind of how you got to where you are today and what you do in your career.

Minaa B.
Yes, so basically, my mental health journey starts from childhood. It might sound a little cliche, but I have my own mental health struggles which is very common for people who enter this field. Basically, from childhood, I struggled with depression and anxiety, but I wasn’t fully diagnosed until I was about 22 years old. And in retrospect, looking back is when I was able to understand some of those childhood symptoms of depression and anxiety, the stomach aches, the consistent crying, the the constant sadness, and the cleaning and this and all those different things that were manifesting from something deeper happening to me. And this pretty much started from me being bullied as a child, I was bullied in first grade. Not only that but in my household, I come from a very dysfunctional family. And so I just had to I was navigating to different environments that just felt very hectic for me, one environment where I felt unsafe, which was in school, and another environment where I didn’t feel necessarily seen heard, or in some sort of ways too, safe, you know.

And so that manifested into me getting older. And by the time I reached high school, I started to struggle with suicide ideation. And I began cutting, the cutting started off as a suicide attempt. And then it turned into me cutting as a way to cope with the depression and the different feelings that I was having that like I said, I didn’t even have awareness to call it depression at the time. And by the time I was 22, it was when I pretty much kind of had my breakdown. And I was just like, things have to change. And you know, the healing journey is not linear, of course. And so, so many things happen throughout my life from childhood up until me reaching 22. And me deciding therapy is a route that I need to take, especially from recommendations from other people when they noticed that I just wasn’t doing OK.

That is kind of my story in the context of why I picked this journey. And why I picked this field. I, of course, wanted to do many other things, I’m multi-passionate, but I always just had an interest in human development, specifically, because I was always the only one. So I always felt different from our friends and my peers. Because when I would talk about what I was dealing with, emotionally, no one else could relate to me. And that in some sort of way, sparked a sense of curiosity, where I was just like, well, I want to understand my brain more, I want to understand myself more. And I want to understand psychology and the human development and all these different things more, because why is it that I am feeling these things that no one else is experiencing? Yet, this is just really impacting my life. So that played a huge role in why I decided to become a therapist.

Brittany McCoy
That’s amazing. And it’s so interesting that you said like for the people who find their way into like this field, so to speak, because you know, The Mighty we’re, we’re a health community, how our own lived experiences can really gear us towards wanting to pursue, you know, something in relation to this field, whether it’s more on the creative side, the storytelling side, the clinical side. I can definitely see how A led to B led to C lead to D.

One question that I do have for you is, you’re so well known for your poetry and your poetry is gorgeous. It’s stunning. How did you find poetry as a way to communicate and a way to utilize it as a healing method? How did you go from clinical professional to basically, writer-artist?

Minaa B.
Yeah, that’s a good question. So it kind of was, again, one of those things that I was already doing pretty much my whole entire life until I awakened into these titles of this is poetry. This is art. This is writing from childhood, I loved reading books, I specifically loved fiction and looking at it from a clinical perspective, a lot of it was I wanted to get lost in someone else’s world because I really didn’t enjoy my own reality. So from the time I was a kid, reading books was something that I absorbed and through that literature became the thing that made me feel safe. So I would read two to three books a week as I got older, that never stopped reading just became my life.

And so by the time I reached High School is when I started to create vision boards before I even knew what a vision board was, you know, I would have magazines I will cut out words I will paste them all over a board I’ve been hanging them up in my room. Words just became my escape reading became my escape. And through that, that’s how writing manifested in my life, because I was so consumed with other people’s words are started to think about well, what words do I carry that I want to put out on paper. So journaling is something that I started to do also when I was in high school, that came from reading books, doing those vision boards and just writing became a huge part of my practice. It started off with journaling and just started off with writing down how I felt writing down my mood, writing down my different emotions. And as I got older, and I started to advance or elevate the type of literature I was reading is how poetry started to come about for me, and how writing started to come about for me in a more elevated way. So that was the foundation that really just began this journey of being a writer and being someone who uses words as a form of art.

Brittany McCoy
That’s beautiful.

Ashley Kristoff
I love that I think that what you said early on was so relatable about how you’re able to like jump into other people’s words into their worlds. And I definitely can understand relate to that when I at an early age, I started doing acting for that same reason I could become a character and then I can escape into a new world, or I could try those things. And that’s kind of what the extension of what I do with makeup now is it’s creating, it’s using this art to kind of jump into a different world, kind of sit into a different character or different shoes. And it’s such a good release to be able to, like express all of that into what you’re putting out there. So I love all of that.

Brittany McCoy
It is and I also think to like from another performer, I feel like so many people when it comes to healing and mental health, especially people who are more so I want to say in denial about what they’re going through in their journey, I think that when we create, whether it be characters, whether it be stories, I think that when we create these new worlds for them to jump into it almost when they sit here and say, Well, do you see this character see the development of this, you see the development of that, on some level, I do think that it is resonating and touching back with what their even in denial with themselves, I think that the creation of new worlds is such an integral part of the healing process. And it’s been a huge part of even my healing process. If I’m being honest, it’s why we’re relating so heavily to everything that you’re saying. I think it’s so integral because it helps connect people to the parts of themselves, I feel like they otherwise wouldn’t really connect to.

Minaa B.
Yeah, I definitely agree. And I think sometimes those alternate universes help us to see things in ourselves that we may have not thought were issues or problems or concerns. But it helps to spark a sense of self-awareness. Oftentimes, to gain awareness, we do need to be exposed to other realities and other thoughts and other beings and other things in general. And that helps us to look inwardly, you know, and so for me, that’s where storytelling and writing and just poetry all that really helped me to look inward and see what my truth was, and what my pain was and what my frustrations were, and then being able to channel it, and give back and pour out from a place of my hurt and my pain, and using words to do that.

Ashley Kristoff
I love that. I think that really leads into one of the questions I wanted to ask you which is, you’re talking a lot about how this has really helped you and helped you express. So I’m a little bit curious as to why you chose to write your book, “Rivers Are Coming” because you’re taking all of those very personal thoughts and you’re putting them to paper for kind of others to see as well so I’d love to hear a little bit about why you thought about writing a book.

Minaa B.
Yeah, so when I wrote “Rivers Are Coming,” it was around a time when I was struggling with my own mental health journey and I was around, like I said, I started therapy around 22 and I started writing “Rivers Are Coming” when I was about 24/25. So this was like, kind of right out of, and around that time is when I ended therapy. So it was me coming right out of this sense of awareness and awakening from all the things that I learned from being in therapy for two to three years. And I decided to write it because at the time I was writing a blog. I was fairly new to bringing my writing to Instagram.

At the time, you know, back in the day, when Instagram was pretty much just like let me post a picture of my coffee with these Instagram built-in filters. And then it started to evolve into let me share my words. You know, that’s when, it was around that time when sharing words on Instagram was becoming this thing and so I had a blog at the time, and I was getting a lot of traction on my blog and a lot of people were just talking about how they could relate to my story, and shared just how my story impacted them. Or they just felt like they could see themselves in the things that I was writing. And so because I was getting that connection from people through the things I was writing on Instagram, as well as on my blog, is when I decided you know what, what would it look like to just write a book and put these words in the book that felt a little more safer. Something that you could just hold closer to you than having a blog on the internet to read. You know, I think like I said, for me, my experience with books are very intimate. I think there’s so much that we can learn from reading and literature is so powerful that I said, “You know what, why not just write a book?” And that’s how “Rivers Are Coming” came about.

Ashley Kristoff
I love that you said like it’s something that you can kind of hold close to you. I think the internet, it can be such a good support. It can have a lot of really good resources, but there’s something so innately powerful about having that physical thing you can kind of hold and relate to and find support in.

Minaa B.
Yeah, absolutely. So that’s what, that’s what I was envisioning, you know, like the internet is not necessarily a place that I personally feel like we can hold dear to us we can, we can learn a lot and we can feel connected to people but I also think there’s something different about literature and what that can offer us.

Brittany McCoy
Definitely. Utilizing Instagram as a platform for your poetry. I think that that the cool thing, obviously, as we’re all like, you know, we’re all writers here, we’re all storytellers. And what’s so cool about books is that it’s such an accessible way to world build for others. I think that utilizing Instagram, it’s an even more accessible way to put words in the hands of people who may not have the means to go out to the library or means to go out to Barnes and Nobles or wherever it may be to go and find the words and find the means of healing. The amount of times that I’m scrolling on Instagram, trying to look at cute cupcakes, and then someone ends up posting like, you know, some like really heartfelt poem, or like, you know, wordscape, or whatever you want to call it. I think that it’s because of people like you, like poets on Instagram, writers on Instagram, sharing those words that like we said, were able to put healing into the hands of so many more people who I don’t think would know that they need healing without it if that makes sense.

Minaa B.
Yeah, yeah, definitely and that’s why I still utilize Instagram or my newsletter, where I write for different blogs and stuff because it’s accessible, you know, and access is very important right now. And a lot of people just don’t have access, you know, and even with literature, like we’re seeing a huge decline, you know, with bookstores and Barnes and Nobles every minute is shutting down in new location, right? And so a lot of us are looking toward the internet for resources and information. And so that’s how I still utilize those platforms as well because we’re still reaching people.

Ashley Kristoff
Yeah, and I love that relatability to of, a lot of people who find words and find poems like these, maybe they are dealing with their own mental health struggles right now, and maybe they don’t have the words to kind of express how it’s impacting them, how it feels for them and by having these words show up and resonate, you’re giving them more tools so that they can better explore and better heal and learn what they need to do to get onto their healing journey, if you know, especially if they’re not even aware that they need healing.

Brittany McCoy
Definitely. One of the poems that really stood out to us, we were talking about, like, you know, your work and whatnot. One of the poems that really stood out was the, “She and I Are Not Friends” from the book. And personally, it’s funny, I made a joke right before you got on I was like, she and I are not friends, we don’t know her. We don’t like her. We don’t talk to her. You know and it’s so funny because Ashley, I don’t know your interpretation of it, but what it made me feel and think about when I was reading it was inner denial that I personally still feel with parts of my healing journey, and how much I push that girl away, and how much I push the girl I once was away while simultaneously missing the heck out of her. It literally, like I read it and I had to like sit back because I had just been talking to a friend about it was the hot topic debate of, ‘if you could change your trauma, so you didn’t have to experience it, would you?’ And it made me go back to you know, that whole conversation because that’s something I think about a lot of who I would be, who I was before said trauma, who I would be without say my personal childhood trauma. And where, obviously you change one thing changes everything else, but that’s what that whole made me sit with, the who I was, who I am now, and who I wish I could be, if that makes sense.

Minaa B.
Yeah, definitely. You know, when I wrote that poem, that was during a time where, you know, like I said, coming out of therapy and just reconciling with a lot of what I was dealing with. At the time, I was on antidepressants and I think I struggled with acceptance, self-acceptance at the time and so there were parts of me that I was still denying and parts of me that I kept trying to push away. And those parts of me were really trying to embrace me, and hold me and show me that my humanity still matters, that I’m still worthy, and that I’m still enough. I had a hard time reconciling with that.

And so when I wrote that it was kind of like me being in the middle and feeling like this tug of war between self-acceptance and also wanting to get to a place of from self-denial to self-acceptance, you know, and how can I cultivate that in my life, and recognizing, how do I define my worth? How do I define what it means to be enough, because at the time, like I said, coming out of therapy, being on medication, all those things really were a wrestle for me. And there were times where I felt a lot of shame for being someone who had to be on medication, being someone who realized, like, I have chronic depression, this might be the rest of my life, I don’t know. I might have to take medication the rest of my life. I don’t know. And so I think that, because I’ve wrestled with my self-worth, it really just came from a place of, how can I love myself while also stop rejecting myself?

Ashley Kristoff
Yeah, I totally, I totally resonate with that, too. I think when I was reading this, it resonated to a different part of my journey that I didn’t, that I didn’t expect it to. And this was when I was like, diagnosed with cancer. It’s where I, you know, developed some trauma from, I developed some of the, you know, symptoms I deal with to this day that I, you know, constantly work on. But one of the questions I do have is because I had thyroid cancer, I take a medicine that replaces it. So you saying, like, “Am I going to be on this medication for the rest of my life?” was like part of that trying to accept that like, this is part of what is my life now. And that’s OK. It’s what’s keeping me healthy. It’s what’s keeping me on track, and able to, you know, wake up the next day, but it was really hard to kind of deal with the way my life changed so dramatically and overnight.

And so I was really just thinking about how much that experience impacted me. And then back to what you were saying, Brittany, about how if I could have not gone through this what I have wanted that and think I’m in a place now like I think maybe a year out from that time, I would have said absolutely like, no way do I want to have had experienced this. But I think I’m at this point where that experience made me so much stronger, it made me learn so much about myself and it made me want to take the initiative to work on myself and work on the things that I didn’t want to bring into my future and grow into the person that I am now. And so that really stuck with me through reading this one.

Brittany McCoy
I think it’s good because Minaa you mentioned that a lot of it was you know, self-acceptance. And I do think that that speaks to your prestige as a writer because you know, let’s be real as artists, as creators, so often we create work, and the minute we put it into the world, it’s no longer our work. It’s ours, but every person who reads it, they takes their own form of ownership, it becomes their baby just as much as it is ours due to however they may be perceiving it ever they may be going through, you know. So I do think that it speaks to your prestige that you wrote that about self-acceptance about, you know, going through said journey and that that is also how it’s being perceived. I think very rarely do we write or recreate something and exactly how we meant it to be perceived, it is perceived. I know me, I start at A but if you told me it was about C, B, D, then I’ll be like, Yes, sure. But I do think that that is amazing on your end.

Minaa B.
Well, thank you, you know, and I think that I mean, it is true. Like once we put our work out there, it’s exposed, and now you have opinions and you have thoughts and you have ideas around something that is sacred to you. I do think the beauty in art is that it is something that can be interpreted in many ways, right? I find that to be beautiful to see how you know even how you two are sharing how that resonated with you and what came up for you and your story. And I, it makes me wonder, everyone else who read that, right, like what, what came to mind for you, because I think the beauty too, is being able to craft your own experience because sometimes too with art, I think people are looking for an answer. It’s like, what did you mean when you wrote this so that I can get it or I can find value with me? It’s like, well, what came up for you, Right? And what is an answer, right? There is no one concrete answer.

Brittany McCoy
Right.

Minaa B.
You know, because this is, I wrote that from my own perspective, but what came up for you when you read it, that is what matters. What I was feeling in a moment really doesn’t mean much but what you get from this is what truly matters because that’s what you’re going to hold on to. And that’s going to be the thing that you cling to. I just think that the beauty in it too in exposing the, the work that we craft and hold so sacred to us gives people an opportunity as well to make it into something that can be sacred to them.

Brittany McCoy
I completely 110% agree. And it’s even evident some of the other work that I was reading out of yours where, it’s so funny because as a writer, there are certain euphemisms, metaphors that I love, just as a person. If you can fit anything with flowers in it, you got me. So it’s funny because when I was reading some of your other work and some of your other poems, it did feel like I was able to make your work home if that makes sense. Another poem off the top of my head it’s, I don’t have the name of it, but I remember what it was. It was about depression within the Black community. I currently am going through a situation with someone I care very much about who is also Black, who is vehemently so far deep in denial about their depression, that it’s actually impacting their health negatively and it’s getting very scary.

And I think about how I, as a young, queer, Black woman in my family. Hi, I’m breaking a lot of generational curses at the moment. It’s always you know, that one person who ends up doing most of generational curses, but a lot of that the curses I’ve been breaking, it’s surrounding emotional health and emotional vulnerability, even seeing that poem and some of your other ones, it heavily resonated because it made me, one it made me remember, I’m not alone in this, you know what I mean? Like, how many of us are the ones breaking those generational curses, having those conversations of, “Hey, I’m not OK, we don’t have to bear this weight. We don’t have to bear this burden.” And I think that that is so evident in a bunch of the different columns within, within your work within the book.

Minaa B.
Thank you. Yeah, I definitely felt like it was important for me to shine light on that, because, you know, it’s very clear through evidence and research, or just personal experiences and interpersonal experiences, that mental health in the Black community is still highly stigmatized. And that is not just at the fault of members of the Black community, that is also at the fault of white supremacy, you know, and how health and wellness was not designed for the well-being of Black people in the first place, right. And so now that results in internalized racism or internalized oppression, where we fear health and we fear wellness because the reality is it wasn’t used to uphold us. It was used to be experimental on us. Y

ou know, so there are deep wounds and layers in our community and this stigma actually is a manifestation of intergenerational trauma, and historical trauma, you know, and so I’m hoping that my work as well as the work of other Black artists, and Black mental health professionals, and Black people in the wellness space can start to create a shift in breaking those cycles of intergenerational trauma in the Black community, by just opening up and talking about what’s happening. And that, you know, this is not a white person issue, this is an everyone issue. Mental health does not discriminate. Mental health does not, is not selective. You know, we all are people and I think by owning that also gives us a sense of ownership over our humanity by seeing ourselves as humans, and not just as a race, because I do think that that is where the separation can lie for some people. So you know, I just felt like it was important for me to shed light on something that is just important to me as a Black woman in this country. And recognizing that there’s still so much work to do on many levels, whether it be micro or macro, just wanted to be able to shed light on that topic for those who didn’t feel seen or heard, or were unsure about, can they talk? Can I talk about this? You know, can I have a conversation with someone? How can I just normalize that this is something that is impacting all of us?

Brittany McCoy
I think that you excelled in doing that. And I think it’s because of work like yours that I think we obviously have a long way to go, right. Like, that’s undeniable but at the same time, I do look at where I was personally back when I was first like, diagnosed so to speak. Almost a decade ago, my first major bout of chronic depression happened about a decade ago, to now and I think of the acceptance even within, even amongst like my peers, the openness within my Black peers when it comes to mental health. And it’s because of work like this. It’s because of the conversations that are being facilitated like this, that we’re able to do that.

And I think that that is so crucial because now we look at the children who aren’t born yet, a huge, a line that really spoke out to me actually was when you mentioned the unborn children in the womb, saying, “Why are you hurting me?” That was a very similar thinking that actually made me start wanting to recover from my eating disorder years ago because it was the idea of my future children are already with me, the way that you know, eugenics work and everything, like whatever trauma I’m experiencing, they’re going to kind of feel those repercussions of it. If I want to excel in a way that’s going to better the future generations, then this is something that I have to take care of now because they feel my pain. So that very specifically was a line that made me say, “Yes. yes.”

Minaa B.
Yes, thank you. And I mean, everything that you’re saying, who just embodies a lot of where I was in that space when I wrote that. So I’m happy that that resonated with you.

Brittany McCoy
Definitely.

Ashley, I know that something that you mentioned to me that I definitely agree with was how a huge theme of the book was like between change and transitions and healings. Would you like to go into that?

Ashley Kristoff
Yeah, I was, I, you know, even in your introduction, you say that the book is about change and radical transformation and I hadn’t really even soaked that in as I was reading the rest yet. And I actually ended up going back to your introduction, because I was like, there’s just so much in here about this idea of change and transformation as part of the healing process, like something that you kind of do. And one of the things I really liked that you mentioned in “The River” was that you said, “change occurs on an everyday basis and the point to this thing called humanness is to transform daily.” That just really resonated with me about how that healing journey happens. It happens one day at a time. So I wanted to just kind of discuss that theme a little bit.

Minaa B.
Yes. So that was like the core focus of the book that bridges to the title “Rivers Are Coming,” which is, this is also in the introductory chapter where the title was inspired by the song “Change is Going to Come” by Otis Redding. You know, he starts off by saying I was born by the river and the reason why I chose this title “Rivers Are Coming” is because, to me, a river is an endless flow. I think about how life in itself is an endless flow. And change in itself is an endless flow. Transformation is an endless flow. And so what does it look like to invite this endless flow of healing and transformation into my life and so that’s where the idea of “Rivers Are Coming” came in because the whole concept is change is coming. And I’m going to invite that change into my life.

And like I said, I wrote the book around a time where I was going through immense change. I spent years rediscovering myself, understanding myself, and then stepping into a place of transition of what does life look like. I had literally just graduated from my graduate program with my Master’s in social work. That was a year out when I was writing it. Welcome to adulthood. Right, where now you are out of college and so what is next? I was stepping out of therapy, what is next? You just learned so much about your life, what is next? You are on antidepressants, what is next? So really, it was just about understanding the changes that I went through, and also change is still going to continue to happen. There is no like final destination. I always try to tell people that healing is a lifelong journey, it won’t stop until the day we die. That might sound a bit much to people. But that is just the truth. No matter how old we are, the hope is to be committed to change, and even if you aren’t committed to it, it’s going to show up anyway, so brace yourself for it. It’s really, it was just an invitation in a way for me to be able to connect to that river and connect to this daily practice of what it means to transform.

Ashley Kristoff
Yeah, I love that and made me think too about how a lot of people who are stuck in negative thought cycles, they’re stuck in negative just situations, a lot of the time it’s, it’s in part because they’re finding comfort in the familiar. And that is, you know, a very valid feeling to be in but you can’t move on, you can’t grow if you don’t allow yourself to be open to that change. And I think letting people take a step and recognize that like this is happening, you know, like you said, the change is happening every day, even if we, if we want to deny it, or we want to push back, it’s still happening around us. And taking that step too just free yourself and recognize that it’s happening. And this is, this is what life is, is, is such a powerful like moment of self-realization. I think it helps you become the person that you want to be and the person that you are on the path to becoming.

Minaa B.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s important to be able to just make space for it, you know, because like I said, it’s gonna’ come anyway. And so like, how can we invite it in and make space for change and honor change when it shows up? Instead of feeling like we have to push it away.

Brittany McCoy
Right.

Ashley Kristoff
Absolutely and I think I really wanted to round out this kind of discussion bit with this idea of, and this is a question really, for everyone. What can healing actually look like? What is healing? A lot of people go healing is I start here, and then I get better. I think we know for a fact that that’s not the case. So I want to talk a little bit about what healing actually does look like.

Minaa B.
Yeah, that’s a really important question. So healing really is just rooted in self-awareness and that’s how I perceive healing to be. It’s about being aware of what needs to be transformed and what needs to be changed. Engaging in skills and practices to respond to our pain and our discomfort. I think that often people feel like healing means erasure or it means forgetting, and that is not true. Healing means when the pain comes, what am I gonna’ do with it? When the pain comes how am I going to respond to it? Not, when the pain comes, something must be wrong with me, I must not be healing because pain is still existing. Pain is always going to exist so healing for me really is about how do we engage in practices that help us to be resilient. Help us to cultivate how we think how we look at pain, how we look at struggle because those things are going to manifest whether we are in a great place or not, that is just a part of life.

So healing is how we respond to hardship. Healing means understanding that pain is normal. Pain is a part of the human experience. Struggle as a part of being human experience and when it arises, how am I going to respond to it? Am I going to let this thing overcome me? Am I going to let this thing engulf me and become my world and my identity? Or am I going to say, “Oh OK, pain is here. Let me feel it. Let me see what it’s trying to tell me. Let me see what I can say to it in response, and just navigate life that way.” So for me, that’s what healing really is all about. It’s about how we respond to our circumstances. And we can assess that healing by recognizing in what ways have we been able to measure our ability to deal with hardship, to deal with adversity. And to me, it’s just really about what are the skills that we are continuously exposing ourselves to, to learn and unlearn so that when that adversity continues to show up, we know how to respond to it.

Brittany McCoy
Right.

Ashley Kristoff
Yeah, I love that. For me, I think healing is doing the next best thing, even when it’s the thing you don’t want to do. So making that next right choice for yourself, even if that next right choice is just like getting in the shower for the day, right? Just whatever that next right choice is that helps you on your journey, even if it’s not pretty, even if it’s messy, just taking that step and, and continuing that and recognizing when you do need to rest as part of that.

Minaa B.
Absolutely.

Brittany McCoy
You know, it’s funny, I’m just like sitting with at all, because there’s so many thoughts buzzing in my head, especially about the messiness aspect of it all. You know, I think that something that I had this love-hate relationship with the healing space on Instagram, the self-love movement, I love the idea of it. But I think that it’s turned into this topical, bubble bath, self-care movement that isn’t rooted in what we actually need. It’s rooted in more, capitalistic, what we can sell to make you feel good type, you know, whatever it may be.

And I know the messiness of healing, even for people who have been on their healing journey from it, I don’t want to say people who like know what’s up simply because as you heal, it’s going to be something new every day. It’s going to be new challenges, new awarenesses, whatever it may be, but even for people who I want to say have maybe more experience in actively trying to heal may be the proper way to say it, there’s still that level of kickback of, “No, I don’t want to have no, this is hard, I don’t have the energy, I don’t have the space to even attempt to do what it’s going to take to put me in a healthier situation, or healthier relationship, or healthier this or that, because of the kickback.” And this goes back to exactly what we were talking about with the transition theme within the novel, especially because of how hard transition and change can be because you can’t, in my opinion, you can’t heal yet stay rooted in the same ideologies, the same residence that you were in before as a human being. Are you ready to let that phoenix moment happen? And as you know, a phoenix has to die to be born again and that death part is sometimes so scary. I think I’m actually in that right now. That’s kind of where my mind is after everything. It’s that the messiness of it the fear, all of that 100%.

Minaa B.
Yeah, I totally agree. That’s definitely like you know, how it manifests and how it looks. And how do we embrace the messy but then also, how do we create space to put together the pieces that feel broken? And how do we learn from those things? And how do we approach ourselves from our toxic mindset or toxic ideologies or toxic behaviors in order to cultivate change within and in our communities?

Brittany McCoy
I agree completely.

Ashley Kristoff
I think a great way to kind of wrap this up is I would love to ask the question, how do you use self-care to help you in your healing journey?

Minaa B.
Oh, man, this is loaded because self-care is so big. Self-care is really just taking care of my mind, body, spirit. You know, there are a bunch of practices that I do. Self-care looks like taking my dog for a walk. Self-care looks like having boundaries with people. Self-care looks like asking for help. Self-care looks like writing and reading in my journal. I mean reading books and writing in my journal. Self-care looks like eating foods that are nourishing to my body that make me feel good, that don’t leave me feeling sluggish or melancholy. So self-care is a very loaded thing but that is what my day-to-day looks like where every moment of my day of self-care, just choosing myself first and erecting healthy boundaries, and recognizing what I’m responsible for. And what I’m not responsible for, is also a way that I practice being able to have ownership over myself.

Ashley Kristoff
Yeah. I like the idea that it’s really, it’s making those conscious choices that you know, you’re going to fill you and bring you to that next best place, like we kind of talked about a little bit before. For me, I use self-care, I think more when I’m not doing OK, than when I am doing well and I think that’s part of why I get into those places where I’m not feeling OK, it’s cuz I don’t, I’m doing good, like, everything’s fine. And I don’t take that moment of reflection to think about doing those self-care things, even when I’m in a good place to continue myself and keep, keep on track of myself. But I’m trying to use, use that a little bit more mindfully in my day-to-day life.

Brittany McCoy
It’s funny, I think I’m the complete opposite. I think when I’m good, it is so easy for me to engage in self-care, a lot of self-care for me is definitely taking care of the physical body, it’s the lotions, it’s the, the nice sheets, it’s the, it’s all of that like, you know, little silly luxury thing that like makes me feel like I’m worth it if that makes sense. And when I’m good, it’s so much easier to partake and I want to say almost higher maintenance form of self-care that really touches my soul. Obviously, as we’ve mentioned, self-care isn’t just like the topical bubble bath, then it’s like, didn’t I just saying something bad about that. It’s not just that, but when I’m in a worse mood, it’s a lot harder to engage in all of that. So I think that for me the way that I personally engage in self-care as a part of my healing journey, and a very similar way to you Minaa, it’s typically through written word, especially through poetry. I want to say after some situations that I was in a couple years ago, that was my only means of communicating, not even to the world but just to myself what it was, I was feeling. Forcing myself to be honest with myself. Honesty is probably for me the most important form of self-care that I have to force because it’s too easy to operate with rose-colored glasses.

So this has been a very insightful conversation, we’ve about so many different things we’ve talked about race in the healing journey, we’ve talked about just transitions, the different parts of life, and how self-care intermingles with that. I think we’re all going to be walking away from this with a lot on our minds in regards, like everything that we’ve talked about. So to bring it all together and tie it with a cute bow. My question for everybody here is what made you feel Mighty this week?

Minaa B.
That is a good question. Honestly, I would say that what made me feel Mighty this week was giving myself permission to rest. I think I caught myself getting caught up in productivity this week and feeling like this has to be done at this time. And I realized, why does it have to be done at this time? Like, what are you going to gain if it’s done at this time, and it’s like absolutely nothing. There’s no difference whether it’s done now or done tomorrow. And that made me feel Mighty by being able to be self-aware in that moment and saying, “Oh, you’re doing it again.” And just rest, just relax. It’s not the big deal that you’re making it out to be.

Brittany McCoy
I think what made me feel/be Mighty this week was giving myself permission to be happy and stay in my happy moments. I think that happiness for me lately is very hard when good things happen. It’s like I have this like threshold emotionally that it’s very hard for me to surpass and be super excited about. And I’ve had some pretty amazing things happen even the past like 24/48 hours that as uncomfortable as it feels I’ve given myself full permission to just be belligerently, effervescently happy regardless of who is around me and on top of that protecting said happiness from people who wouldn’t share in my joy and who wouldn’t want, and who wouldn’t want to support my joy. So I’m going to say giving myself permission to be happy is what made me feel Mighty this week.

Ashley Kristoff
I love that. I definitely relate to like feeling that I kept myself out of like, you can only feel this happy so that’s very relatable. For me, what made me feel Mighty this week is I have been putting it off for a while but I decided to finally call the psychiatrist and get a kind of diagnostic test for a little bit of what I’m going through so I’m waiting to hear a callback. I’m actually hoping I get a diagnosis out of it that will kind of propel me in the direction I want to be going and learning what my healing journey looks like at this point moving forward. So it was very difficult for me to make that phone call and like I acknowledge that I need to and I need to get to the root of where I’m, what I’m feeling, but I did it this week. I feel a lot lighter for having done it.

Brittany McCoy
That’s, proud of you.

Ashley Kristoff
Thank you.

Alright. Minaa, do you want to share where people can find you and find your work?

Minaa B.
Yes, of course. So they can visit my website at www.Minaa (M-I-N-A-A-B).com. And they can also find me on Instagram at M-I-N-A-A_B and you can register for my newsletter either through my website or through my Instagram link in my bio where I share bi-weekly content, course offerings as well as writing prompts.

Ashley Kristoff
Amazing, we’ll make sure all of those links are in the description as well. I want to thank everyone for listening to this episode of The Mighty Podcast. If you want to continue the conversation, head over to TheMighty.com or download The Mighty app to become part of our community. Thank you so much to Brittany and Minaa B. for being on today’s episode. Join us on our next episode and Stay Mighty!

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