There is a new trend kicking across Tik Tok and Instagram. Men turn off their computers, go to the grocery store, buy some flowers, and practice the ultimate act of self-care by treating themselves to a home-cooked meal and sitting down with a glass of wine.
For women, self-care translates to various things, from doing your makeup even though you're planning to stay home alone wearing your fluffy pajamas. At the same time, you curl up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn, a glass of wine, and the latest episode of Bridgerton, to go out with girlfriends to bitch about partners.
When women talk about self-care, we take that seriously, "self-care" as an industry is worth billions of dollars. Still, it's only been in the last 5-10 years that patients with mental health issues have been connecting over the internet with other patients with similar problems.
There is power in that.
When I was being abused as a child, I didn't know what words to use to describe what I was going through because no one had taught me the words cult rape, gang rape, or even rape. No one had taught me that being punched in the bottom parts of my body repeatedly wasn't okay and that I was allowed to say no.
I was tortured so badly that I got used to it and once told my abuser he was boring me because it stopped hurting. That's pretty fucked up, especially since I was only fifteen.
I didn't get through it because I'm powerful. I got through it because my brain wrapped itself around those memories that traumatized me and made me forget. It would be almost 20 years before I started talking about what happened to me, and that only happened because I found people on Twitter who had been through similar experiences.
My speaking out didn't come easily. It came because I'd been watching The Pelican Brief and decided that the only way to save my life from my abusers was to make sure as many people knew what happened to me as possible so that if something did happen, someone somewhere would know where to look first.
I learned that lesson from Nana Batalia, Maple's grandmother, who still fights for better representation and support for victims and survivors.
Maple wasn't a friend of mine, and until she did, I didn't even know she existed, but when she has murdered, everything about my life began to change, even though it took me years to see the result.
I speak out for Maple and girls like me and her alike. Because I remember how many girls got pregnant before they were ready and started raising children before they'd finished high school. Because I've known too many women who ended up on the streets due to drug addiction after childhood abuse.
Because I didn't want to die.
I am only here because I have absolutely no interest in death today; there is nothing in the afterworld that I want to accomplish before I finish what I'm doing here and now.
That sounds powerful, right? A little bit, maybe? But it's only because I'm so fucking angry. Even as I write this, I am mad that a bit person is abused somewhere, and a minor child is hurt because an adult is angry or mean.
But because I wrote those words, you took the time to read them, and now you're thinking about the children in your life, and maybe you're deciding you're going to become fiercely protective so that what happened to Maple and women like myself, doesn't happen to the kids in your life.
That's why I do what I do; now, you have to ask yourself the same question when it comes to your mental health.
What is the anchor? What is the thing that pushes you forward when you don't think you can continue?
Why haven't you killed yourself? Primarily I would bet because you've found something, a reason to keep living, and even though some days are filled with tears or vomit, or exhaustion, you keep going because you know that your anchor needs you.
Every single person, every living creature, from the weirdest giraffes to the most gentle of elephants, has a purpose on this planet. Your mission is to decide whether or not you're ready to accept your purpose.
I have to warn you because the moment you say, "yup, I'm ready to do something great." The universe will throw every obstacle, every challenge, and annoying pain in the ass experience it can happen to you just to prove you are who you say you are, and it's one of the most challenging things in the world to follow your destiny.
There are days when I lay in bed and seriously contemplate suicide, and I think a lot about my audience in those moments. I think about my friends Allison, Renita, Savannah, and Barrie. I think about what would happen to them if I died, I think about what they'd say and who would tell them, and I realize ― every single time ― that I don't want to leave them like that.
I have anchors on this planet that keep me here, and if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here. These people are my ride or die, they are my circle, they are the ones who reach out to say, "Hey girl, I got you," and everyone needs that.
If you don't have that, find it. Join Facebook groups, find a bowling league, and go out of your way to find your tribe because without your tribe, you really are nothing. You're a shell version of yourself instead of the full beautiful and talented and amazing person you are. And I say this because when we find people like ourselves, we want to impress them and make them proud. I love being the Loud Mouth Brown Girl, but I love even more than my friends are happy to be friends with THE Love Mouth Brown Girl like they are excited for me and the trajectory of my life. They get a kick out of being around me when people come out to tell me in the street that my blog matters to them.
They support me online when I feel like I can't keep going anymore. Renita asked me how I accomplish tasks with everything that I have going on, and the truth is that it's because I'm inspired. I wrote this essay because I want women like me, like Renita, and the others, to know they can do anything, and no, it's not about "putting your mind to it."
It's about deciding that you're going to get it done, come hell or high water. It's a matter of deciding that you know, YOU have to believe in your core, that you are the only person who can get "this" task done, and then you start at the corners and build from there.
I didn't become the Loud Mouth Brown Girl overnight. It took years, 35 years to be exact, for me to fully embrace this title as something other than an insult meant to make me feel bad about myself. It took me years to look at what happened to Maple and understand how close I came to death myself.
Replaying trauma over and over again in my head for years was fucking evil. Still, I had to go through it all again and again until I knew every detail, until I drained every piece of information from my brain to acknowledge it all, and then make healthy decisions about how to move forward.
Many people in my hometown will tell me that I'm crazy or a liar or a rat, but every person trying to tear me down is more inspiration to keep going. I'm and have for most of my life been someone who people have always surrounded, but healthy people didn't always surround me.
Today I am much more careful about who I invite into my circle, and I am much more aware of my voice's effect on those I surround myself with. For example, it took 2,021 years for Ginny and Georgia to come out ― a show about a mixed-race daughter and her white mother ― a story about a woman like my mom and a girl like me.
It took 2,022 years for a story about a Sikh girl Superhero, and her name is Ms. Marvel, by the way, so you do not forget. When I grow up, when I'm fully grown, and I have a beautiful house and the perfect person to spend my life with, and our beautiful children, little Brown and Black girls everywhere won't have to struggle to see them on television and in films and movies.
They will have grown up seeing themselves in cartoons, literature, film, and television, and all of this will have been because we live in the one universe in the multi-verse where Maple was murdered, and I lived. So what are you living for?
You have this time, so make it matter. Make it count, if to no one else than yourself. So turn off the computer, make yourself dinner, dance naked, paint naked, masturbate, sing, scream, do whatever you have to do to release the toxic energy you've been holding onto so that you can set yourself free to be the bright star someone in the world needs you to see.
Maple rests with the stars now, but I see her in every star I look at, I hear her voice every time I sing myself Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to help myself sleep when I am feeling anxious, and I feel her spirit when I think about how close I came to death myself.
Her murder was the beginning of my story. It was the beginning of my origin story, and it taught me how to love myself. I will forever be heartbroken that I didn't get to meet her, but I know that when we finally meet, I'll get to tell her all the wonderful things I learned because she existed.
On days when you think you need to give up, let Maple be your light. Let her existence remind you that you're reading this post right now because she existed, and let that inspire you to do great things. Because you are destined to do great things, you have to decide that you want to.
Sending all my love,
Devon J Hall