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L E M O N A D E

These past few months have been some of the most testing of my 21-year full-time gig as a human being, and the strain has manifested itself most evidently in a lack of posts and sparse Instagramming.
After attending Pyer Moss's Fall/Winter 2016 show this past NYFW, I became unable to get the prevalent theme of untreated mental illness in the Black community (and indeed, in many other PoC communities as well) out of my noggin. Returning to my small hovel in Pittsburgh filled me with immense distress, a kind of pain and despair that I couldn't quite lay my finger on. I thought it was because I missed the energy of my home city - true - or because I'd suddenly realized that I wasn't living the life I actually wanted - also true. As the weeks dragged on, however, it hit me: I was experiencing a ridiculously taxing depressive spell, and none of my various hobbies could pull me out. I couldn't bring myself to pen a blog post, conceptualize & execute a photoshoot, or spend more than 10 hours learning a new skill every few weeks. I felt trapped in life, alone, and devoid of value.
Objectively, of course, I knew myself, my skills, my worth, my potential. But there was also a part of me that would not allow my brain to acknowledge anything positive, and so I decided I would simply wait for it to pass. It didn't. A week ago, I went to work carrying a little bit of good news in the back of my mind to help me laugh and smile, at least through the duration of my shift. However, it quickly became evident that this bit of happiness was already negatively affecting my coworkers and my ability to continue dedicating myself to that job, so after two long years, I took my leave, a crying wreck. 

In a concerted effort to cope, I posted my story, rife with domestic abuse and unchecked mental ailments (and have recently come to the knowledge that my family has a long and very obvious history of them) to Facebook, and the outpouring of support from friends and family I'd previously thought were nonexistent filled me with some hope. And so did Beyonce's Lemonade. Indeed, I had never been married, much less cheated on, but I identify strongly with the stages of recovering from pain inflicted by loved ones, from the feelings of being devalued by not only society, but family as well. I saw the way she searched herself, loved herself, and subsequently demanded the respect she deserved.
This outfit, designed and painstakingly patterned and sewn by yours truly over the course of the four days after I'd quit my job,  is a physical manifestation of trying my hardest to find joy, to begin to pull myself out of despair. It is sensual, emotional, beautiful, and vulnerable. And, most importantly, the fact that these textiles were sourced secondhand from a creative reuse shop is a literal embodiment of the value I hold most dear: the needs of the individual are the needs of humanity and the environment as a whole.
I hope we can continue to initiate holistic discussions on many "taboo" topics such as mental illness, race relations, and global consumer impact in order to improve the conditions of everyone in our collective society.
"Take No Shit" Jumpsuit* / / handmade
 Photography / /  Khadijat Yussuff

*This post is dedicated to those living with mental illness, as well as to those whose lives were taken and affected by the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh on April 24, 2013.