Sometimes life's greatest journeys are the ones that begin without a roadmap. The sense of wonder grants us the opportunity to carve out space for our own self-discovery, while leaving a path for those who choose to follow in the footsteps we've paved. Over the last few years, the wellness space has been the new frontier for many to find their way to healing and self-growth, where words like "self-care" and "affirmation" serve as breadcrumbs to lead us to our highest self. Although we don't all start off with the perfect tools or any at all, life has a way of guiding us to the lessons that will equip us for the journey ahead. For author and wellness consultant, Alex Elle, writing has been the compass that has guided her path.
Courtesy of Alex Elle
For as long as she can remember, Alex had always been a writer. Whether through the expression of poetry or journaling, writing granted space to find her voice on the page in times of heartbreak and uncertainty. But it wasn't until she entered therapy that she was able to uncover the healing power that writing had to offer, "I found writing to heal by way of therapy and I think that's when the lightbulb went off for me; that I could heal parts of myself through writing practice that was supportive to the growth I wanted to have as a woman."
Through the guidance of her then therapist, Alex was able to unlock the "emotional toolbox" that opened her up to writing practice as a measure to write to heal, not just to vent. This shift evolved Alex's approach to writing, and soon, the gentle nudge of a friend would push her to tap deeper into the direction of her purpose, "A friend of mine told me to stop hoarding my story and happiness because someone else might need it. I said to her, 'Why me?' And I remember her saying, 'Why not you?' And that really changed the game."
Courtesy of Alex Elle
Since then, Alex has been writing her way through healing, self-compassion, motherhood, and partnership while drafting a blueprint of growth for a community of women around the world. Now, as her debut memoir, part guide, After the Rain, releases, Alex hopes that it will serve as a companion and support system along her readers' healing journey, "I wanted people to know that they aren't alone. I wanted to give people hope. Things can be really painful in our lives, but we can greet them with curiosity, grace, and understanding."
xoNecole: What was the moment like for you when you decided to say “yes” to the process of healing and self-growth?
Alex Elle: I love that you said that because it was definitely an intentional choice. When it comes to my process: self-choosing has been like a prayer; it's been a meditation and a mantra. Being able to hold myself accountable when I get it right and when I get it wrong has really been the greatest lesson in writing for me. The turning point was knowing I wanted something different in my life and knowing that I could access it, I just had to show up and do the work, even if it was scary and daunting. And it still is sometimes.
I think a lot of people might think that because I've healed some, that I've healed completely. And that's not the case. I'm really proud of myself for making the choice to use writing to get closer to myself and to examine my truth and my flaws. Because for me, writing makes things real. I wanted to make sure that I was really leaning into the self-belief of worthiness. This was the blooming of self-accountability and deciding to make a different choice for the life I wanted to have and the life I wanted to lead.
"The turning point was knowing I wanted something different in my life and knowing that I could access it, I just had to show up and do the work, even if it was scary and daunting. And it still is sometimes."
How have you embraced the path of a pioneer in your own healing?
I've been thinking a lot about this a lot; not having anyone show me how to do this. I think for me right now, there's a sense of pride that I was able to pave the way for what healing could look like for my daughters. And also being an example to other people who might not have had folks available to show them how to heal or love themselves. I want to show folks that you don't have to have somebody show you how to do it all the time, sometimes it's just a choice to figure it out on your own terms. It may take you a lot longer, but it's given me a sense of accomplishment and sacredness. The sacred ability to teach myself how to be who I want to be.
Courtesy of Alex Elle
"I want to show folks that you don't have to have somebody show you how to do it all the time, sometimes it's just a choice to figure it out on your own terms. It may take you a lot longer, but it's given me a sense of accomplishment and sacredness. The sacred ability to teach myself how to be who I want to be."
How do you decide what stories to hold and which ones to release?
Being in this work, I feel like I have a duty, especially as a Black woman, to show up fully in transparency and vulnerability because often we're taught to do the opposite out of fear and self-protection. And I get that. But I also think it's important that we have folks we can turn to who model vulnerability and who do it scared. I think it's also important to say that there are some stories that I will always hold close because they're sacred and they're mine. Maybe pieces of them will be shared but the whole story is not always for everyone. So it's about how we move through our delicate stories and still show up and say, 'Hey, you're not alone here.' That's what's so important for me in my work: that people know that they're not alone.
I hear so often that I'm like a mentor to people, even if we've never met, that the work feels like a warm hug from a mentor. And that makes me so proud, especially as a Black woman who is in this work of making space for other Black women. Even if they do it in private or make space in their family or community, that they have the language and blueprint to do it for themselves.
"Being in this work, I feel like I have a duty, especially as a Black woman, to show up fully in transparency and vulnerability because often we're taught to do the opposite out of fear and self-protection. That's what's so important for me in my work: that people know that they're not alone."
What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing 'After the Rain'?
I learned that rainy seasons are a part of this life. Not enough people are talking about our stormy seasons, especially in wellness and self-care. We hear about manifesting and affirming and that's beautiful, but sometimes things are going to be hard and rainy and terrible. But the sky will clear, the sun will come back up, the plants will bloom and we will still be here. There's a blooming and wilting that happens, during and after the rain. Making that really clear on the page was important and trusting the storms of my life is too.
Courtesy of Alex Elle
"We hear about manifesting and affirming and that's beautiful, but sometimes things are going to be hard and rainy and terrible. But the sky will clear, the sun will come back up, the plants will bloom and we will still be here. There's a blooming and wilting that happens, during and after the rain."
As you look to the future, what does legacy look like as it pertains to being a wife and mother?
It's funny because I've been thinking about legacy a lot when it comes to my work, but I haven't sat with legacy as much around motherhood and wife life because I just feel like we are a living legacy. But now that you ask, my greatest legacy is that my children know that they are valuable and important and that I model that for them. At first, I didn't know if I was doing it right because in motherhood you really don't know. But our children are watching; they're watching closely. My oldest daughter wrote an essay for school recently and shared, "My mom is a successful author and a kind, compassionate person. She shows me that if I work hard, I can do what I love." And that's legacy. The memories that your children have is legacy.
Belly laughs and fun is legacy. And I say that because I don't have a lot of good memories from my childhood, but my husband does. His mother passed away four years ago, and the greatest legacy that I see through her children is how hard she loved them and how much they loved her. Legacy for me is deeply rooted, unconditional love. That at the end of the day, my husband knows that he is deeply loved, my children know that they are deeply loved, not just because we say it, (because we are a very lovey home), but if for some reason any of us lost our voice, we would be able to show it and feel it deep in our bones in ways that words can't match. So for me, that's legacy.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Elle
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
Have you ever been told you're dating your "Twin Flame?" Doesn't that sound like a perfect match? You would automatically assume your relationship is passionate, fun, and filled with matched energy. Thus making your bond "Simpatico."
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the concept of a twin flame isn't about love in the romantic sense. Pop culture has made the term popular over the years, making people romanticize the idea of having a twin flame. And to anyone who has experienced their twin flame journey, you understand it wasn't the joy ride you thought it would be.
What is a Twin Flame?
A twin flame is a spiritual mirror reflection of you. They will reflect the good and bad – your deepest insecurities, fears, strengths, and weaknesses. Every relationship teaches us something, but your twin flame relationship will teach you the most; therefore, whoever that individual is will shake up your life.
You two will push and challenge each other to grow.Your relationship will feel intense, and you both will feel like you've known each other forever, but once again, a twin flame isn't in your life for romance. They are there for soul evolution.
As stated earlier, pop culture has made the idea of twin flames something people want, not realizing what truly goes into dating your twin flame. So, here are six common misconceptions about twin flames.
Misconception 1: Everyone Does Not Have a Twin Flame
The first misconception is that everyone believes they have a twin flame, which isn’t true. Twin flames are rare, and some individuals can already be “whole.” In addition, any time you have a relationship that puts you through the wringer, it doesn’t mean they’re your twin flame. However, that relationship can be a karmic bond, leading to the second misconception.
Misconception 2: Your Twin Flame is NOT a Karmic Bond
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Twin flames and karmic bonds are different despite people using the terms interchangeably. Both relationships are passionate and draw people to each other, but karmic bonds are unhealthy and usually short-lived. Similar to our twin flame, karmic bonds are in our lives for a reason because they are there to teach us a lesson, but that is it. Sadly, we tend to ignore the lesson and be attracted to trauma in our relationships, eventually becoming attached. Hence, the addiction to the toxic relationship.
Misconception 3: Constant Bliss
Some assume that it is always sunny in a twin-flame relationship. In reality, these connections can be tumultuous and challenging. Twin flames often serve as mirrors to each other, reflecting both strengths and weaknesses. This mirroring process can lead to conflict and self-discovery. Believing that a twin flame connection shields individuals from difficulties undermines the growth potential inherent in such relationships.
Misconception 4: Immediate Recognition
Recognizing a twin flame isn't always instantaneous. While some might experience a deep sense of familiarity upon meeting their twin flame, others may take time to realize the depth of the connection.
Misconception 5: Inevitable Reunion in This Lifetime
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Not every individual will have the opportunity to meet their twin flame in the same lifetime. The timing of such reunions is complex and influenced by various factors, including individual growth and life circumstances.
Misconception 6: Twin Flame Relationships Will Be Together
This answer can be yes or no, but in my experience, I have never witnessed someone end up with their twin flame. Once again, your twin flame isn't in your life for romance; it catalyzes your growth. While dating them, you will be forced to do the necessary shadow work to heal and grow. And if you can, then you can end up with your twin flame. Remember, they reflect what you put out.
Twin flame relationships go beyond romanticized ideals, serving as a mirror for profound self-reflection and growth. And dismiss the misconceptions portrayed about twin flames. Instead, the focus is on transformative personal development, requiring individuals to confront their vulnerabilities. Adopting a realistic perspective enables a deeper understanding of these connections' unique and challenging nature.
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