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What Self-Care Looks Like To Chronic Illness Warrior Devri Velazquez

Finding Balance

In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.

Devri Velazquez was diagnosed with Takayasu's Arteritis in 2011.


At a time when most women come into their womanhood and blossom into adults, Devri was was struggling with the effects of a rare and invisible autoimmune disease that caused inflammation in her large blood vessels and could ultimately lead to heart failure or stroke. One thing Devri never forgot was that no person or sickness could steal what God had in store for her life. An illness that would have stopped many women in their tracks ended up being a catalyst for the now 28-year-old content creator's success.

Editor of NaturallyCurly and self-identified health advocate Devri Velazquez recently chatted with xoNecole for this installment of our Finding Balance series to share how her chronic illness allowed her to discover the power of self-care and why it's her mission to share this knowledge with women around the world.

Between pharmacy visits, a chaotic work life, and finding time to nurture personal relationships, Devri is often tasked with staying on top of a very intense schedule. Despite her obligations to the rest of the world, her illness taught her that it is impossible to fill from an empty cup. She opened up to us about what "Finding Balance" means in terms of her own lifestyle.

What's been the driving force behind all of the hats that you wear these days?

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I enjoy the feeling like I have total control of my time and sustaining a career that is grounded in a divine cause.

What is a typical day in the life of Devri Velazquez?

Most of my days start with the same routine: me grabbing a latte at the neighborhood coffee shop, answering emails and sending pitches for about 2 or 3 hours. I like to go for 30-minute walks with my dog to give myself mental breaks throughout the day, making sure I am writing or creating for about two hours until my partner gets home from work in the evening. On random occasions, I like to meet up with fellow creative entrepreneurs and freelancers to bounce off some inspiration, whether that involves discussing a potential project to collaborate on, or simply venting about our current creative process woes. I also have to manage a chronic illness (which is a full-time job in and of itself), so I have lots of appointments, pharmacy visits, and much more that get sprinkled in my workweeks.

When you have a busy week, what's the most hectic part of it?

I have to allow myself time and space to breathe. I take my alone time and inner peace seriously. I don't like feeling like I'm losing control or unraveling, so it's important to me to keep everything grounded in my faith that everything will work itself out, and that there is no need to stress about every little thing. If I don't get something done on today's agenda, it moves over to tomorrow's list. I try to affirm to myself that I am doing the best I can.

You are a huge health advocate, is that rooted in your own perseverance in living with a chronic illness?

I have Takayasu's Arteritis, which is an inflammation of my large blood vessels. I got diagnosed in 2011 when I was 20, so right when I was really coming into my own as a young woman. It was the biggest blessing I could've had, because it put a lot of things in perspective for me about the essence of time and love. My illness affects me physically on so many levels: some days my pain is so unbearable that it's hard to focus. I have a lot of things that don't work in my body the way they're supposed to as a result of it, so I have to be my biggest advocate all the time, especially since the world can't see with the naked eye what's going on. I've learned how to communicate how I'm feeling no matter what type of setting I'm in or who I am around. It has helped me become more fearless and unapologetic about proclaiming exactly what I need.

Do you practice self-care? What does that look like for you?

My whole well-being is centered around self-care. I try to live by that phrase and truly honor my mind, body, and soul's needs at every moment of the day. With an unpredictable health condition like mine, it is more important than ever to stay present and hyper-aware of what my body is asking for.

How do you find balance with:

Friends?

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I tend to have friends that treat their time seriously as I do. Because of this, I try to find something for us to connect on that could be mutually beneficial. That way we both don't end up feeling like we just passed the time without getting anything accomplished.

Love/Relationships?

It's easy when I have just one person that I've focused on for 2 years now so that I can stay focused on building up my career and keeping as healthy of a work-life balance as possible.

Exercise?

I walk at least 2 miles a day (I live in New York City so it's inevitable) and I also practice mindful yoga and meditation. I don't do anything strenuous due to my physical limitations, but I do miss doing cardio!

Self?

I write, write, write. I have been writing every day of my life since I was a little girl and I never stopped. This has always helped me stay connected with my inner self, whether it is to admire and affirm her growth or release her from past traumas and painful memories. Journaling is like drinking water to me.

When do you feel most beautiful? And what are some traits about yourself that you immediately think of with love?

I feel most beautiful when I have awesome second-day hair. Of course, that's a rare occasion but when it happens, I cherish it -- any natural knows what's up! I've always appreciated my facial features, how they display both of the races I come from so uniquely, Black and Mexican. I love what God has done and continues to do for me, and when I stop to think about it, I feel beautiful and blessed.

I'm such a fan of your freedom in the way you move through life, what does freedom mean to you?

Freedom means letting go of toxicity and understanding that no matter how disappointing or painful a relationship, place, memory, ailment or anything can be, it will pass. Freedom also means that I choose to not be afflicted or oppressed by my circumstances but empowered by them.

Do you ever detox?

I do a social media detox for maybe 5 days at a time every month. It feels so good when I come back, it's so necessary for my mental health. I kind of touched on this earlier, but I also do a makeup detox at least a few days a week to let my skin breathe.

When you are going through a bout of uncertainty or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?

I take frequent "self-care" breaks throughout the day by going outside, getting some fresh air, and praying or meditating to calm myself down and re-focus. It works every time but it's always work to actually get to that good place. I just keep going until I get there. Or if I'm really going through a mental breakdown, I call my mom and she usually gives me a virtual slap to let me know it's all going to be OK.

What does success mean to you?

Success is feeling so accomplished that if something happens and I'm gone tomorrow, I will have a smile on my face in the afterlife because I know that I went out working on the legacy. I literally can't go to sleep at night without knowing that I did something, no matter how small it was, to fulfill the vision I have for my future children and their children. The ambition makes me feel successful already -- but I have a long way to go!

What is something you think others forget when it comes to finding balance?

I know for me in the past, it was neglecting my relationships and being so selfish that I was cutting people off without realizing it. We all need those people who are going to tell us if we're looking a hot mess, or if we could've done this instead of that -- but do it from a place of love, of course. Not everyone is going to have the best intentions for someone, so I've learned to maintain the balance by nourishing my relationships and staying rooted in love.

For more Devri, follow her on Instagram or check out her blog. Take a look back at past Finding Balance features here.

Black Women, We Deserve More

When the NYT posted an article this week about the recent marriage of a Black woman VP of a multi-billion-dollar company and a Black man who took her on a first date at the parking lot of a Popeyes, the reaction on social media was swift and polarizing. The two met on Hinge and had their parking lot rendezvous after he’d canceled their first two dates. When the groom posted a photo from their wedding on social media, he bragged about how he never had “pressure” to take her on “any fancy dates or expensive restaurants.”

It’s worth reading on your own to get the full breadth of all the foolery that transpired. But the Twitter discourse it inspired on what could lead a successful Black woman to accept lower than bare minimum in pursuit of a relationship and marriage, made me think of the years of messaging that Black women receive about how our standards are too high and what we have to “bring to the table” in order to be "worthy" of what society has deemed is the ultimate showing of our worth: a marriage to a man.

That's right, the first pandemic I lived through was not Covid, but the pandemic of the Black male relationship expert. I was young – thirteen to be exact – when Steve Harvey published his best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Though he was still just a stand-up comedian, oversized suit hoarder, and man on his third marriage at the time, his relationship advice was taken as the gospel truth.

The 2000s were a particularly bleak time to be a single Black woman. Much of the messaging –created by men – that surrounded Black women at the time blamed their desire for a successful career and for a partner that matched their drive and ambition for the lack of romance in their life. Statistics about Black women’s marriageability were always wielded against Black women as evidence of our lack of desirability.

It’s no wonder then that a man that donned a box cut well into the 2000s was able to convince women across the nation to not have sex for the first three months of a relationship. Or that a slew of other Black men had their go at telling Black women that they’re not good enough and why their book, seminar, or show will be the thing that makes them worthy of a Good Man™.

This is how we end up marrying men who cancel twice before taking us on a “date” in the Popeyes parking lot, or husbands writing social media posts about how their Black wife is not “the most beautiful” or “the most intelligent” or the latest season of trauma dumping known as Black Love on OWN.

Now that I’ve reached my late twenties, many things about how Black women approach dating and relationships have changed and many things have remained the same. For many Black women, the idea of chronic singleness is not the threat that it used to be. Wanting romance doesn’t exist in a way that threatens to undermine the other relationships we have with our friends, family, and ourselves as it once did, or at least once was presented to us. There is a version of life many of us are embracing where a man not wanting us, is not the end of what could still be fruitful and vibrant life.

There are still Black women out there however who have yet to unlearn the toxic ideals that have been projected onto us about our worthiness in relation to our intimate lives. I see it all the time online. The absolute humiliation and disrespect some Black women are willing to stomach in the name of being partnered. The hoops that some Black women are willing to jump through just to receive whatever lies beneath the bare minimum.

It's worth remembering that there are different forces at play that gather to make Black women feast off the scraps we are given. A world saturated by colorism, fatphobia, anti-Blackness, ableism, and classism will always punish Black women who demand more for themselves. Dismantling these systems also means divesting from any and everything that makes us question our worth.

Because truth be told, Black women are more than worthy of having a love that is built on mutual respect and admiration. A love that is honey sweet and radiates a light that rivals the sun. A love that is a steadying calming force that doesn’t bring confusion or anxiety. Black women deserve a love that is worthy of the prize that we are.

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