Since the beginning of 2020, we have all been consumed with creating resolutions, breaking bad habits, and creating new ones for the enhancement of our daily lives. While writing my personal, professional, creative, and mental health goals, I had developed all these plans about how I would make this year as resourceful as possible. 2020 would be my year of elevation and financial growth.
Five days into the new year, an unfortunate situation with my father forced me to be honest with myself and come to the realization that my father is and has been a toxic parent for quite some time.
For years, I had been neglecting my mental health and my feelings towards my father for the sake of keeping the peace and the comfort of my blended family. Before I could execute this year of success and elevation, I had to interact with one of my fears; standing up for myself and creating boundaries.
Enough was enough.
I had reached my peak and I was completely fed up with how I was being treated. For years, I had bottled up feelings of neglect and emotional dysfunction. Just when I thought that my relationship with my father was progressing, it wouldn't take long before we were feeling like we were strangers again.
Being lied to and treated as an afterthought broke my spirit and started to affect my relationships and work.
I was sad but mostly angry.
I started to self-sabotage and blame myself for the circumstances of our relationship. I felt that my absolute last resort was to speak up for myself. Therefore, I decided to write my father a letter and read it to him, explaining how I felt and the reasons why I felt as though he was a toxic parent. Trust and believe that this is the last thing that I had ever wanted to do.
In reality, this was something that I needed to say for both of us, more so for me.
After reading the letter, there was an awkward silence and apologies from him. I further explained that I simply needed space and that I would let him know when I am ready to proceed. Our visits were put to a halt and phone calls were limited. The distance allowed me to have time for self-reflection, sitting in my emotions and seeking therapy because I couldn't handle this on my own.
I discovered the significance of taking care of myself emotionally and spiritually which gave me more freedom to be better to others.
I started to actually seek advice from loved ones and taking the search for a black therapist more seriously. The Therapy for Black Girls podcast helped me tremendously. Even taking the time to research toxic parents and the effects it may have on the family. It took a while but I found a therapist. Even after our first consultation, she explained to me that navigating through these kinds of relationships can be hard on both us.
Creating the boundaries with my father actually helped change his perspective as well. I think for the first time in years the restrictions forced him to actually listen and consider my feelings. Since the letter, he has been very cautious and treads lightly with his choice of words. We are definitely not 100 percent, however, we are getting there slowly but surely. I have faith that we can at least have a respectable relationship again.
One thing that's for certain is that we are all human and are fighting different kinds of battles, even our parents.
I'm sure there is a lot that I don't know and understand about my father and/or his relationship with his own father which could be affecting our relationship. I have reached a point where I am no longer going to feel sorry for myself. All I can do is keep an open mind, take action, and treat myself the way I would love to be treated.
No one else is responsible for my happiness except me.
Toxic parents are real and they are rarely discussed. If you are dealing with anything similar, try your hardest to keep your head up and take it one day at a time. Expect less and take care of yourself more. Focus less on where you are lacking and narrow in on the love that you do have from others.
It is OK to love from a distance.
Featured image by Shutterstock
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports