Her Evolution: Embracing Ebony

Ebony, 34, Hanover, MD


At one point in her life, Ebony walked tentatively through the world.  Accidentally dropping blueberries from the refrigerator felt like cause for a prison sentence, a moment to ask for mercy rather than forgiveness.  The smallest mistake could ruin the rest of the day; this fear lurked around every corner.

Today, however, Ebony walks unapologetically through the world, ready to do whatever it takes to prevent others from feeling any semblance of the pain she endured.

Ebony feels like a person who was born to inspire.  With her natural sparkle, one might never know the tumultuous path she’s taken and the innate strength she’s gained to propel herself onward.  To listen to her story is to know what it means to truly Rise.  

Though currently living in Maryland, Ebony grew up in Detroit, Michigan where she developed her strength and resiliency.  Suffering the death of her father when she was 13 years old, a turbulent relationship with her mother, and mental and physical health struggles, the odds seemed stacked against Ebony. Still, Ebony does not present as someone who has ever let herself be defined by odds.

After a woman at her church provided her the necessary information about schooling, Ebony took the required test to get into the top ranked Detroit public schools.  She passed the test with ease and received a full scholarship to a top school.

Unfortunately, Ebony’s struggles did not relent.  Shortly after her father’s death, her favorite aunt became sick, and Ebony spent the first few months of her Freshman year of high school tending to her aunt in the hospital and the nursing home.  When her aunt passed away in December, Ebony’s mom began a downward spiral, exacerbating an already toxic situation at home. 

In a childhood marked by the absence of adult guidance, Ebony learned her own independence and unapologetic individualism.

“I have never struggled with peer pressure. I just haven't, because I think I've always had to be that adult,” Ebony said.  “The things that people my age did were always stupid to me.”

Still, as Ebony’s home life became more and more painful, her stress began manifesting in physical health deficiencies.  For her junior and senior years of high school, all Ebony could do was endure untreated physical pain while remaining in her unsafe home environment.  It was not until college that she learned she had an autoimmune disorder. 

“I was suddenly failing tests.  I suddenly couldn't remember anything. The brain fog was coming, I was starting to lose weight, Mom was getting more and more abusive, more and more controlling. And one day, I was putting up blinds and I was like, I don't want to be here anymore,” Ebony said.

Life had gotten desperate, and Ebony could no longer live with her mother.  These dark days of depression and suicidal thoughts combined with illness and pain created a breaking point for Ebony.  Something needed to change.

In this dire moment, Ebony found the family she needed, moving in with the people she would soon come to call her parents.  They came and got her in 2006, and with them, her nerves could finally relax.  

“I grew up not being able to trust the adults in my life, or honestly, anybody for that matter, until my parents came along, when I met them in high school,” Ebony said.

Ebony learned the safety of love and the comfort of being able to make mistakes.  For the first time in her life, something like accidentally spilling blueberries on the floor did not have to be a catastrophic event.  

After graduating high school, Ebony left Detroit and achieved admission to Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.  She paid her way through college, fully supporting herself and working toward the future she aimed to realize.

As college progressed, however, Ebony struggled more and more with severe sickness.  She knew something was wrong, yet skeptical professors constantly underestimated her truth.

“I was gaslit a lot, because I often told my professors ‘Something's not right. Something is wrong,’” Ebony said.  “They were like, ‘Yeah, something's wrong. You're failing your tests. You can't pass things. Maybe science is just too hard for you.’”

As she managed her health struggles, Professors belittled Ebony until she was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (which stops the thyroid from functioning properly).  Ebony finally had a name for her pain, and she learned the importance of advocating for herself in the healthcare system when no adults in her life would.

Slowly, Ebony realized the key to better managing her physical illness involved living in healthy environments and prioritizing mental health.

“I've lived with people who don't communicate their emotions, feelings, or process through them in a healthy way,” Ebony said.  “So I've learned how to be a lot more soft and a lot more happy honestly, because I've also seen what happens when you're sad and angry all the time.  It doesn't work out for you health wise.”

Ebony began to understand this during her first real encounter with independence.  After college, she moved to New York City, and though she struggled to find a job at first, Ebony eventually landed an internship at Mount Sinai Hospital doing training and education on maintaining electronic medical records. New York gave Ebony a real rhythm.  Rather than being forced into independence at a young age, scrambling to find footing, Ebony now had the chance to take independence at her own pace and live her life free of outside influence.

“I was able to get my own moving truck, move into my apartment, afford all the things, do all the things, have that life where I was just going out and eating and finally getting my health together,” Ebony recalled.  “I think that year and a half to two years was just absolutely incredible.”

While in New York, Ebony met her now ex-husband and together, they moved to Virginia.  In Virginia, she got her current job as a supervisor for health IT at Johns Hopkins.  

In her professional role, Ebony maintains all training environments and does the technical work for all six hospitals.  She is also the go-to person for translating technical language into understandable terms for the Chief Medical Informatics Officer, the Chief Nursing Informatics Officer, all of the managers, trainers, hospital staff, and anyone else who contacts her at work.  In effect, Ebony works to train the entire health system, ready to solve any problem that may come up.

“We joke and say that I'm the Olivia Pope of training because I can figure out stuff that no one else can,” Ebony said.

After her divorce, Ebony moved to Maryland in order to be closer to her work.  She has devoted herself to her passion of making the health system more equitable–which feeds into her love for helping other people get the care they need.

“I can feel the heartbeat of another person,” Ebony said.  “I tend to go above and beyond for people to make sure that they feel seen and heard. And I never want someone to struggle ever.  I would give the shirt off my back for another person, so they wouldn't have to go through anything that was hurtful or harmful.”

As she’s grown, Ebony has developed patience, honed her empathy, and improved herself as a communicator.  She loves herself and everything the self entails.

“I've finally embraced my weirdness. I love it.  It is one of my favorite things about me,” Ebony said.

Despite her developing self-acceptance, Ebony remained a self proclaimed “lone wolf” – an approach she knew was not healthy long term. She wanted to find other women who engaged in similar radical self-love, and fortunately, a friend suggested a workshop about thyroid health, where she came across Rise Gatherings. It was here that she met Tami and Rachel and their Rise community.  There was an immediate connection.

“There are moments where I come across things like Rise, and I'm just like ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing,’” Ebony said.  “These are the types of people that I want to be around…Now, I know the type of people that I want to be around, so now I'm actively seeking out those experiences.”

Tami and Rachel invited Ebony to be an ambassador for Rise Gatherings, and she attended her first Weekend Getaway in 2021.

“Every moment was special and magical in so many ways,” Ebony said.

Being in nature helped to create the magic and the intensity of the earthly connection between women, as they released the emotions they had all carried for so long.

“I was so tired and guarded.  I was really and truly looking for a release,” Ebony said.  “In that moment, Rise helped me to kind of crack through that primal part of me.”

At the Rise Weekend Getaway, Ebony attended many workshops and meditations, calming her mind in a way she never had before.  Though she had never held much stock in breathing exercises and getting in touch with her chakra, Rise opened up her mind to the importance of grounding herself.

“My brain just goes a mile a minute. So it's always really important for me to focus,” Ebony said.  “It ended up being so wonderful and so amazing in the end.  It was just nice seeing different modalities of how people express themselves.”

Through Rise, Ebony developed her inner power, tapping into her innate passion for storytelling using a workshop on writing.

“I realized as a person, I am a storyteller through and through,” Ebony said.  “I get in the craziest situations. And the facilitator was like ‘Ebony, don't ever stop telling your story.  You just have a way to connect people to those emotions, to those things, to those feelings, and you need to really embrace that.’”

Ebony funnels this need to tell her story into her Thyroid Warrior podcast, where she shares her experience as a young black woman managing her thyroid illness.  She knows that by speaking her truth, she is opening space for so many others to relate.  The podcast discusses the refusal to stay broken and the possibilities for a beautiful and healthy life in spite of autoimmune deficiencies.  The key to her messaging is that thyroid illness does not have to define you.

“You can live a happy, healthy, and joyful life despite having a thyroid disease or autoimmune disease or any other chronic or invisible illness,” Ebony said.

No matter what, Ebony aims to shield others from pain by teaching them how to advocate for themselves.  She provides the skills she wished she had as a teenager, and she uses her experience working in the healthcare system to teach what is best for both the patient and the provider.

“I have the background that I have from personal training, nutrition, aromatherapy, health care, health care administration,” Ebony said.  “I share how to advocate for yourself in health care, and because I know the stress and the struggles that providers have, I know the stress and struggles that I, as a patient, have, and I know how to provide insight and advice on how to help people navigate through the healthcare system in a way that gets them what they need, while also providing their doctor with what they need too.”

Rise was the first place that Ebony sold her products as a thyroid health advocate.  She has found people who spread unconditional love to her while she spreads her love in return.

“I'm learning that I don't have to work so hard in order to be loved and accepted,” Ebony said.

Now, Ebony is working toward her doctorate in Health Administration, with a concentration in policy and advocacy.  She hopes to one day open her own health care facility and take an equitable approach to providing resources that serve both the patient and the provider.  Rise has continued to inspire this dream. 

“Honestly, Rise was definitely a catalyst for a lot of this self discovery,” Ebony said.

“I love Rise because it is a group of women that come together to love and support one another, regardless of our backgrounds or differences, or where we are in life,” Ebony said.  “Rise Gatherings is an experience that everyone needs to go through at least once, to reconnect with the earth, with yourself, and to know and feel safe, that there are other people in this world that are rooting for you and want you to thrive and rise.”