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Credit: @empressofthemisfits on Instagram

Years ago, I used to make a face whenever I heard the words “wellness” and “self-care.” Again with that stuff? I’d think, then roll my eyes.

Until I realized that they weren’t just pretentious hipster words. They had real meaning. And they’re essential to not only me, but to the black community as a whole.

Black folks, we tend to skirt around the issue of mental health in our community. We tell each other to pray it better, snap at our friends to stop complaining, laugh at peers for showing valid emotions, and ignore our children’s depressive warning signs. It’s a problem.

That’s why I’m glad for people like Tonie, or as most know her on Instagram, @empressofthemisfits. Lemme tell you exactly why.

Credit: @empressofthemisfits on Instagram.

When I started following her a few months ago, I was going through a particularly rough time in my life. A dead-end job that hadn’t paid me in weeks, a home foreclosure that a former landlord hadn’t seen fit to inform my family of, no money to get to campus, and car insurance payments that seemed to loom over me like a dark cloud.

Credit: @empressofthemisfits on Instagram

Rock. F*cking. Bottom. Depression had a pretty good grip on me at that point and anxiety helped it along, hammering my nerves with stress. Everything felt like a crushing weight.

And no matter where I was or who I was with, I felt…strangely isolated. My friends couldn’t understand how the compounding situations felt like to a person with depression and anxiety because they didn’t have either. Explaining my emotions became taxing, tiring, and a bunch of other SAT Prep “T” words.

So I filled my time with more social media than I’d ever consumed. I started a blog, a Facebook page, and threw myself into both. That was how I came across Tonie’s page.

Credit: @empressofthemisfits on Instagram.

For the first time in the years that I’d been on IG, I saw someone who got it. Pictures that I could connect with, captions I could relate to. Snippets of someone else’s personal journey and struggle with the same mental health needs.

Her page was a breath of fresh air.  She’s got vibrant, artistic photos that have not a hint of that forced, odd, Stepford-esque quality most popular accounts seem to have. Home girl’s memes: Always right on the money. Her fashion: F*cking DE-LIGHT-FUL, okay?

Credit: @empressofthemisfits on Instagram

It’s a total understatement to say that it was empowering to see this other black woman thriving and smiling and being generally amazing while still struggling with the same things I was dealing with. This fabulous person was, in a way, just like…me.

Through her page, I realized that there isn’t anything “extra AF” about depression or anxiety. Little by little, with each post, I learn something new about how to build myself up from the pieces that have chipped away throughout the years.

She isn’t someone who claims to be a guru, but Tonie’s beauty and insight inspire me to try. To go out and do.

And to me, more than pretty photos and funny memes, that is what makes her someone worth following.

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