2023 has been the year of PTSD, anxiety and therapy for me. In 2022, I was viciously assaulted by someone in my family who then began to stalk and harass me. There have been many other illegal and horrific things this person and her family members have done, but all of that is for the detective to sort out. All I could do is control how I reacted to it all, and that is where therapy came in and saved my life.
After the assault, and the other sociopathic things this person has done, I started seeing a therapist. My therapist diagnosed me with PTSD and anxiety, and I sobbed for a few days. I am not exactly sure why it hurt me so much, but it did. Not out of shame, but out of disbelief and concern for myself. I knew something was wrong because I would have nightmares about the attack, heart palpitations and feel anxious all the time, but did not think it was at all related to PTSD. I was not that knowledgeable about PTSD and felt it was only something that happened to victims of war, incarceration, and major crimes.
Going on a first date after a dating hiatus is extremely nerve wracking. Little did I know that what I was wearing or how good my hair looked would not matter whatsoever in the first dates aftermath. What did end up mattering was a complete lack of self awareness on my part shown in the days after our date. That lack of self awareness ended up leading to a breakthrough in therapy, life and myself.
This was my first date with a handsome man I met a week prior while out with a friend. He and I made eye contact pretty quickly, and ended up in conversation later on in the evening for over an hour. We exchanged numbers, and not social media (I take no one seriously that asks for my socials instead of my number) and texted each other after we both made it home. Nothing outrageous at all, just the normal, it was great to meet you type texts. The next day, he texted letting me know that he would love to take me out and we went back and forth for a few days about our availability.
The date was set for the following week, and immediately my defensive walls went up without me realizing it. When he hadn’t texted me for a few days, I felt rejected and a bit upset. My thinking was, if he were truly interested, he would make more of an effort. I spoke to my married couple friends about it and explained the text exchanges between us. They called me out instantly! How dare them! Turns out they were right. My responses to him did come across as defensive, like I was writing him off. They told me to send a new text with days I was available for our date. I did just that, and he responded with a well planned date. Meanwhile, my wall of defense was still underneath the surface, rearing its ugly head, and rising like a phoenix from the ashes.
“What is flirting and why do people do it?” was the question posed to me by a fourteen year old boy last week. I tried to think of my best flirting moments to answer with and one that recently took place popped up in my mind. I continued “Well, last week I walked over to a guy and complimented his work and the way he smelled. This lead to us talking and he asked for my number!” I felt so proud of myself in that moment thinking I was imparting some new found wisdom on this kid. He then asked, “Okay, but why do people flirt?”. Believing I am on some sort of Yoda like roll I say, “Maybe because its a way to feel out the vibe first and see if the person you are interested in, is actually interested in you. You flirt as a means of protecting yourself from rejection I guess.” This made me think…are we all flirting to protect or boost our egos?
Having lived the single life for many years now, I chose not to try and flirt with anyone for a while . There has been a lot of “life stuff” happening so I took myself out of the game. Thanks to therapy, I’m back! So, last week I saunter over to a very attractive man and strike up a conversation with him. We exchange pleasantries, I turn on the comedic charm, laughs are had, numbers are exchanged, texts are sent, jokes are made and then…NOTHING.
Let me say that he is not only good looking but seems like a really kind person. He is an entrepreneur, has a beautiful big smile, and as I said before smells really good. He asked me questions about myself, my writing, and showed interest in getting to know me, but nothing really progressed. No dates were made and that is okay. Everyone we flirt with does not have to like us back, but it is a risk we take anyway. Why do we do it?
Have you also noticed that almost every week a tweet about forgiveness shows up on our Twitter timelines? The themes are mainly about how we must forgive others to be totally happy and free. Especially the forgiveness of our parents, and not blaming them for whatever may be wrong in our lives. That sentiment in particular is always a hot tweet in rotation. As someone who has been abused by a parent during their life (emotionally/verbally), I forgive, but it is extremely hard to forget. Forgetting is hard, as my abusive parents actions still effect my life today. To that I say, forced forgiveness ain’t it.
Dating is irritating, thrilling, scary and fun all rolled into one big ball of anxiety filled emotions. My good friend and I discuss dating highs and lows often with one another. She happily teeters between real life meet cutes and online dating. When she told me to just try using one dating app for a month and not delete the app until the month was over, I failed. Last year I deleted the dating app I begrudgingly downloaded to my phone within one week. This time, I was determined to give it one full month and I am glad I did. I spent one month on Hinge so you don’t have to.
Are you tired, run down, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Well, the answer to all your problems is not in this little app! If you love ‘I Love Lucy’ like I do, you got that reference. Hinge is not a bad app, but its features could use some help. Once you download the free app onto your phone, you are then sent to your settings which include adding pictures to your profile. After adding your pictures it makes you select a prompt to attach to your pictures. They have a prewritten selection of “witty” captions to add to your pictures. The reasoning behind this according to the app is that adding a caption will raise your level of engagement.
After painstakingly choosing your profile pictures (which for men did not seem too hard based on their pics) you select options like age range, distance, and if you pay for an upgrade you can fine tune the attributes you are looking for in a partner. With the pay upgrade comes more options to narrow down the search for your partner. There was no way I wold pay for this app, so I applied three must haves to my account which is also an option: open minded, no smoking, and vaccinated. Hey, what do you want from me, I am not willing to risk COVID for love. Immediately the likes started to come in which turned out to be very underwhelming.
I am not a strong Black woman. It feels really liberating to write that sentence down as I rarely have chances to say it in my everyday life. Yesterday I went shopping. I was carrying a bag I had from another store and immediately felt on edge as soon as I walked in. Why? As a Black person I know I am automatically being watched by security, and feel uneasy when shopping inside any store. Being followed by security is a normal experience for Black people. Normal as in it always happens to us and has been apart of our lives since childhood, which did not make me stronger, but instead gave me massive anxiety. When I walked into the store carrying a bag from another store I felt scared, and when I walked out having not bought anything I slowed my pace down because I didn’t want anyone to think I had stolen something. I am not a strong Black woman.
While my mother was dying from cancer I took care of her. I would go to work in the morning, and directly to my parents house at night to care for her, which included spending the night on her really hard days. For four months I smiled at work for the teachers, parents and kids, while simultaneously crying in my office bathroom in-between office visits. I couldn’t eat and my five-two frame became extremely frail. My emotional and mental state had gotten so bad that my size four jeans were falling off my waist. One coworker noticed. She had lost her father to cancer some years before. My coworker would bring me into her classroom and cry with me at lunch. She would bring me food and make me sit with her and eat. The front office and administrative staff knew what was going on in my life and never once showed me the care my coworker did.
After my mothers passing I became caretaker to my father who has a myriad of health issues. In 2019 his heart stopped and I watched the ICU team try several times to shock his dead body back to life; they did. He lived and I help. From doctor visits, emergency room stays, hospitalizations, grocery and medication pickup, nightly reminder calls to take meds and everything in-between…I help. My father and I have a strained relationship, but I am still there every day to take care of him. Once, while speaking to my cousin I commented about the toll all of this had been taking on me and he responded with, “Yeah, but you were built for this. You’re strong.” When I told him I was never given an option not to be strong he said, “I don’t believe that.” Unfortunately, when it comes to Black women most people don’t. They believe we were built for this…whatever “this” is but honestly, no one was built for this. I am not a strong Black woman.
Wanting to make a film and have absolutely no money or crazy expensive equipment? Wondering how you can get any of it done without a large budget? I am telling you it can be done. I made an incredible short film with a full cast, and on an extremely tight budget. Here’s how I made a film with little money, and you can too:
WRITE THE FILM YOURSELF: I know its easy for me to tell you to write the film yourself, but I promise you, you can do it! If for some reason you feel as though you can’t, then connect with a friend you trust and have them be your writing partner. As someone who works best alone, I prefer to write all of my material. Writing with a partner is an awesome way to bounce ideas and character content off of another person. Your writing partner can help you hone in on your films message.
MATCH YOUR BUDGET TO YOUR SCRIPT: I have several big budget screenplays written that I cannot make on my own. Meaning the scripts do not match my personal budget. Instead of only focusing on pitching/selling my big budget screenplays to a studio, I wrote a short film I knew would fit within my budget. Whether it is a short or full length feature, make sure that your budget matches your script. It’s important to create a film within your budgetary means so that it will be seen by the audience at its best. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars to make your film.
PREPARE YOUR SHOT LIST/LOCATIONS: You’ve written your script and feel like you’re ready to shoot it. Gather your shot list first. What scenes are you going to film and in what order depends on your budget as well. For my short film, In This House, I was able to use my parents home to film the entire thing. I purposely integrated the house into the script and made the home its own character. Figure out where you are going to shoot your film and create a calendar that reflects which scene(s) you will be filming. Factor in the time of day, amount of people needed and time it takes to get back and forth between each location as well. Hit up friends and family members to use locations i.e. their house/backyard/pool etc. so you do not have to pay location fees.
The first breast lump I found in my twenties. I asked my doctor to send me for a mammogram because the lump was hard and painful. Arriving at the UCLA imaging center in Westwood was nerve-racking. I went alone…I do everything alone, it is just who I am. The woman at the front desk immediately refused my mammogram exam. She stated I was too young to be there and that a mistake must have been made. I was adamant and did not allow her to dismiss me. Calling my doctor, insurance and using my tenacious attitude, I had my first mammogram.
Usually, women are not recommended to start getting mammograms until around age forty. Do not listen to this recommendation. Listen to your body. You body will almost always tell you when something is wrong. This first lump turned out to be a hormonal cyst. The doctors told me to not worry about it, but again, I listen to myself, not them. Getting annual mammograms since my twenties has been a fight, as I sometimes am u p against resistance and or dismissive doctors and radiologists, but I never let up. I stayed on top of this lump and made sure to always perform a self breast examination while showering, or laying on the bed every few months.
Fast forward to my late thirties, it’s 2018, and a new lump has formed. Many times I will find a lump in my underarm area from shaving irritation, which is completely normal and almost all of us get them, but this one was different. My Mother died of Metastatic Cancer in 2015, my Grandmother (her Mom) died of Lung cancer just a few years later. Again, I am taking no chances. I head to the UCLA imaging center in Palos Verdes and get a mammogram. The radiologist immediately comes out after the ultrasound (I had to have both because of the lump found) and dismisses my worries, even after I tell her about my family history, and shoos me out of the door. ‘It’s hormonal’ she says. I still feel iffy.
Since we are now in year fifty-thousand of quarantine, I wanted to address issues many of us have been facing while living with this pandemic. For me, anxiety, depression, fear, have been reoccurring themes. Whether you have been dealing with feelings of depression, anxiety, stress, or fear, know that we will get through this together.
March 2020 and beyond has been rough for all of us. We are losing jobs, loved ones, financial security, facing food insecurities and death on a massive scale. It is scary as hell. Black Lives Matter and racial injustice movements not only in policing, but also our workplaces are at the forefront as well. Reckoning on a major scale is taking place. Caught on video acting racist and ignorant = lose your job, unless you’re a cop.
Constantly being bombarded with videos of racism, including Black/Brown people being beaten, shot etc. is psychologically damaging to watch as a Black person. These videos are visceral and can bring upon a depression so heavy that you have to claw your way out of it. Losing your job can feel devastating. The fear that accompanies it marries with anxiety and can push you over your emotional edge. The stress of quarantine, COVID, and just trying to buy groceries, is an emotional nosedive many of us are collectively experiencing.
Cassia Jones is a writer and actor originally from Los Angeles, California. She began writing as a child and fell in love with acting while watching reruns of: I Love Lucy, The Carol Burnett Show, The Golden Girls, and In Living Color. Comedy soon became her niche, and making her mother laugh became the goal! She has written the nominated webseries, To Live & Date in LA, short film, In This House, and is currently shopping two screenplays and television series. Cassia can be seen in a variety of commercials, independent films, and self produced projects including To Live & Date in LA on youtube, and In This House.
Katie Lee grew up on the go as the child of a military family, but now considers LA to be her home. She has had a love for acting and performing since she was 12 years old and trained formally at the University of Florida where she received her BFA in Theatre Performance. Katie can be seen in a variety of film projects and commercial ads, most recently featured in R&B vocalist, Kehlani’s newest music video “Good Thing”. She is, “So grateful to Cassia for seeing her as Gracie Lynn and for the chance to work with the rest of the talented cast!”
Born and raised in North Carolina, Tiera Dashae moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to pursue a career in acting. Since then she has held supporting roles in independent films and theater. She recently wrote, produced, and played a lead role in The Undergrads web series. Earlier this year she reprised her role of Connie in the MyBigGayItalianWedding stage play. Currently, you can see her play the heartwarming & enduring mother in the short film In This House.
Jason Mimms is from the South Side of Chicago and the creator/star of JU-jU, a new comedy digital series. He is best known for his film and television roles in Laff Tracks, Boy Bye, Her Only Choice, and Hell Date. Jason is also recognized by his most recent theatrical performances with The Robey Theatre Company including, Knock Me A Kiss and The Magnificent Dunbar Hotel.
Cydney Ayrion Gooch was born in Los Angeles, CA. She is a vibrant spirit who has immersed herself in the arts since the age of five. She is best known for her role as Jessica Harris in Hollywood Horrors: The Family Secret. Cydney is a natural performer whose left her mark on the stage, as well as in front of the camera. She has set many goals, and like always is accomplishing them one roll at a time. Cydney has a passion for performing arts, dance and music. In her free time she enjoys traveling, swimming and going to local animal shelters. Her ultimate goal is to perform on Broadway and leave a legacy young girls will want to follow.
Sophia Robertson is a young LA actress, model and musician. She attends the Margie Haber Studio, and enjoys creating all mediums of art, including drawing, writing stories, composing music and her own fashion designs. Sophia also plays violin and piano. She enjoys swimming, and learning Chinese and German.
Jennifer moved out to LA six years ago from Chicago, IL. After a 20 year hair styling career, she is now a Stay at Home Mom while running her own Essential Oils business. She has no acting experience whatsoever and is grateful that she had the opportunity to participate in this film.
Women are apologizers; we apologize all day for being who we are. Most of us don’t even realize when we’re doing it, and we need to stop. The USA Women’s Soccer Team recently came under attack for celebrating their wins and abilities in a way that male athletes do all the time. These women are the best soccer players in the world, and were admonished by talk show hosts, “fans” and the like for relishing in their accomplishments. They didn’t apologize for celebrating themselves, and neither should you. Girl, stop apologizing.
Issa Rae (creator of the viral webseries Awkward Black Girl, subsequent book and hit HBO show Insecure) won the Emerging Entrepreneur Award at the Women in Film 2019 Annual Gala. During her acceptance she gave one of the most hilarious and self-love filled speeches that also wet viral. At this point Issa should just change her last name to Viral, because everything she does goes platinum…no diamond!
While giving her speech Issa stated, “Sometimes I feel as women we tend to downplay ourselves and dim our light, and we’re kinda conditioned socially to be humble. I’m a huge hip-hop fan and none of the artists I listen to are humble.” Of course there is much more to the speech, and I highly suggest you watch it on YouTube because its pure comedy, but the opening lines are what really stand out.
‘She’s Gotta Have It’ was absolutely stunning. I had no idea who Nola Darling was or what I was seeing, but I just knew that it was dope. No, it was more than that, it was beauty transcended past the norms. Each black and white shot was perfectly constructed into this myriad of colors and textures unseen, and I needed to see more. This film originally came into existence in 1986 I was just six years old, so I clearly had some growing up to do before I could take in its audacity, but once I did…my outlook completely changed.
Nola Darling, the films lead, had this big bed with candles lining the headboard dripping down onto its wood frame, creating the effect of luminescent wonder. When does she burn these candles? Only when she’s alone, or only when she is not? Could I do that to my bed? Would my mom be okay with that? “Like, seriously mom, come on, its just a visual representation of my angst…let me do it!” That’s what I would have said, had I ever worked up the courage to ask if I could have a mountain of seductiveness arched atop my beds headboard.
I wanted to be her; she was a juxtaposition of every emotion and desire I needed to express, but couldn’t. I watched the film over and over again until I reached an age where I can fully absorb her feminism. Nola had an around not give a shit what anyone else thinks attitude, I was dying to posses. Nola was a black woman not being portrayed as a crack addict, prostitute, the sassy best friend, or the babysitter. This film starred other black people, but above all Nola was the star, sex symbol, and independent woman all the men around her wanted. This was an anomaly and I was, and still am here for all of it.