My Natural Hair Saved My Life: An Open Letter To Miss Jessie’s Titi Branch
That moment when you want to cry, know you should cry, but a lump in your throat has become just as familiar as swallowing it has.
And you can’t help but wonder…
Is this my new normal?
I hope not.
Because after 511 victorious days of overcoming sadness “normal” is relative and surviving is what’s imperative.
It has been several hundred days since my best friend/mother passed and while I’ve really wanted to cry everyday this aching lump in my throat, delivered from my heart, doesn’t really allow it.
However on the 509th day when I woke up to my Instagram feed announcing the death and apparent suicide of Titi Branch, one of the co-founders of the wildly popular natural hair care line Miss Jessie’s, I couldn’t swallow this oh so familiar lump in my throat anymore.
I cried, and cried and cried. Off and on all day. As if I knew her.
But I didn’t know her…
What I did know though, was her sadness.
Not her personal sadness, but the effect that sadness can have when it moves into our lives for far too long.
So I wrote this post for you Titi, and for all of us who struggle with daily depression – living most of our lives in the depths of despair.
Dear Titi Branch,
I can’t stop thinking about you.
Hearing that your days on earth ended earlier this week has affected me greatly and my heart aches…more than “normal.”
Wonder runs through my mind and while I’ll never know if your sadness was chronic or post traumatic and connected to grief like mine, what I do know is that regardless of the cause, the effect sadness has is just as excruciating and debilitating.
So I’m so sorry sis.
I understand how it feels to want to make the pain stop and how doing nothing feels like the only logical choice most days. However somehow some way, I keep going. I’m not really sure how honestly.
Therefore thinking of you this week I’ve been praying and meditating on this very question:
Why I am I still here? Why haven’t I quit yet?
And while lying on my yoga mat yesterday, eyes closed in Savasana, heart rapidly beating after one of the best vinyasa flows I’ve had in a long time, I discovered somewhat of an answer.
Every time I open my eyes and feel my breath (whether after a yoga session or another restless slumber) I am reminded that I am alive. And while depression can undoubtedly feel suffocating it is in these moments of recognition that I can somehow focus on #thelittlethings. Mustering up the courage to take one more challenging yet hopeful baby step.
And for these 511 saving grace moments I am truly #grateful.
I can honestly say that thanks to a combination of prayer, the support of friends and family, therapy and tons of faith, everyday I wake up to another chance to create a new normal.
It’s hard work sis and I know that you understand…
However there’s one baby step that I’ve recently been taking that has meant so much.
See my Mom and I went natural around the same time in 2008, and this hair journey was simply another “us” thing to add to our already marvelous list of mother-daughterhood. I loved talking about products, regimens, YouTube videos – anything natural hair related with her.
She would buy products galore Titi (since her income and taste for “nice stuff” was a bit different than mine) and whatever she didn’t like or love she would pass on to me.
This was truly the ultimate only child perk.
She tried everything out there and I was loving the hand me downs. However when she finally settled on a line- because note, my mother was was also a super loyal lady (no co washing with one brand only to condition with the other for her) – her top choice was Miss Jessie’s.
So when I had to clean out her bathroom of products after she left earth on July 25th 2013 I remember coming across her Miss Jessie’s regimen. Honestly I was about to throw it out, but instead I ended up putting those 16 oz jars of natural hair sweetness into the pile of “things I may need one day.” Right there along with the something blue for my wedding day and my first rocking chair for my future first born’s nursery.
And about a few months ago, approximately 452 days later, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired and started therapy.
Getting better was all I wanted. Above everything else, and I remember asking myself – what would my Mother do in this moment? And the answer came so quickly it was clear – my mother, being the southern regal classy lady that took care of herself in ways that I only think to do a few times a year would: “Pull it together by at least looking together.”
So right then I decided that if I wanted to change the way I felt I had to at least literally change. Out of my pajamas, out of my bed and hopefully one day out of my apartment.
Therefore as simple as it sounds, I simply started getting dressed. Wearing makeup to blog at a coffee shop. Twisting my hair at night instead of passing out after drinking too much wine. Polishing my nails and wearing earrings just so I could “feel together.”
It was #thelittlethings and boy did they make a big difference sis.
So in this new process of “pulling it together” I started to reacquaint myself with Miss Jessie’s. My mother’s products to be exact. My nightly regimens and deep treatments replacing the late night convos I missed having with her – and making myself feel beautiful ultimately made me feel hopeful.
Simply put – as odd as it sounds – my natural hair saved my life.
I don’t sleep through days as much, or think about quitting life as much – often times because I wake up feeling alive (with a rockstar twist out as proof).
Therefore right before I prepared to untwist yet another perfect twist out this past Monday morning, my stomach twist and turned when I heard about your passing.
My heart broke and I cried. And I cried. And cried. That lump not being so easy to swallow anymore.
I cried because I wished something or someone would’ve saved you.
I wished you had memories so rich that you were able to hold on for just one more baby step.
I cried because you weren’t able to get up and let #thelittlethings bring you hope and peace.
I cried because I’m honestly just so sorry sis.
You don’t know my face, or my name, but I do and will always miss and think of yours.
The breaths you took all the way until your last affected so many – however on behalf of my best friend-guardian-angel-mother and I, I would like to say thank you.
Thank you for the 16, 613 days of bold steps that you took here on earth.
I honor your courage, your life and pray that your existence forever penetrates our hearts.
A Sad But Hopeful Natural Hair Girl
Note: Depression is a disease, not a choice. If you need help don’t be afraid to reach out. Now Matters Now.