She was faced with depression at an early age, which forced her to take time out from secondary school months before she wrote the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate, but today Lleuella Morris is miles ahead of that as not only does she own businesses, but she also uses that experience and the many others she has had over years to inspire others.
Morris does not consider herself a motivational speaker; she told the Sunday Stabroek that she sees herself as more of a liberator and someone who shares knowledge, teaches, and inspires people to grow and develop themselves.
“I create tools, techniques, systems and frameworks to equip people to overcome their adverse experiences. I promote right thinking and mental and emotional health and well-being,” she said during an email interview with this newspaper.
Born in Hopetown, West Coast Berbice, Morris has been living in Trinidad and Tobago since 2007 and owns the personal development company, AMZ Consulting Company Limited; a Masters Thesis coaching business and L&N Accessories through which she creates bespoke ladies accessories, mainly watches and t-shirts.
Known professionally as a Personal Growth Expert, Morris taught for one year at the age of 16 before moving on to Trinidad.
“I attended the then Caribbean Union College [now the University of the Southern Caribbean] and graduated with degrees from Andrews University,” she said. She holds a BSc in Behavioural Sciences, with emphasis on Psychology and a BA in English.
While she gained employment just out of university at the very institution, Morris said she soon realized that she had not gone to university just to work doing research and development which later turned to secretarial work.
“I knew I hadn’t gone to school for that. I also knew that I wanted to be an independent consultant,” she shared. But while she knew what she wanted to do there were stumbling blocks, such as her being too young and not having years of experience as a consultant. She recalled that even a mentor told her this.
But she was strong-willed and never let go of her dream. “Through the years, I have
worked in research. I taught English as a second language, worked with an NGO teaching life skills in prisons and worked as Consultant Administrative Coordinator at a mall. Between these, I did masters thesis consulting and coaching. When there was a gap in my employment contracts, I intentionally ramped up my volunteering. I’ve volunteered with the United Nations online editing development documents for organisations in India and Spain respectively. I have volunteered with ITNAC (Is There Not A Cause), ADRA (Adventist Development Relief Agency). I was a mentor in the BGTT mentorship Programme. I served on the board of the Association of Female Executives of Trinidad & Tobago as their Programmes Director, and I was on the Children’s Ministries Advisory Committee of the South Caribbean Conference of Seventh Day Adventists.
Depression and bullying
However, it has not always been smooth sailing for Morris and while she is not keen on publicly addressing this aspect of her life, she shared with this newspaper that apart from facing bullying during her high school years, she was also “faced with major depression at the age of 15 and had to take time off school right when I had CXC exams in front of me in a few months hence.
“At a later time in my life, I was faced with unemployment which allowed me to reinvent and recreate my life.”
What made it more difficult during her teenage battle was the fact that Morris was unable to understand what she suffered from until years later. However, she believes it was that ignorance, coupled with determination that saved her, as when one does not think something is actually wrong, there is nothing to pity. After a week’s break from school, she returned, determined to write her examinations, sharing that she even self-studied a subject that was not being offered in her class and copped a Grade One.
It was not until a couple years later that Morris was formally diagnosed with major depression.
“I would spend the next 10-12 years being treated for depression (which included antidepressants and talk therapy with a counsellor). I saw several psychiatrists and counsellors within this time. So I am very familiar with the processes and nature of treatment,” she said.
Morris believes that many young persons suffer depression, “because they are not fully self- expressed in the world [and as such] don’t understand who they are. They struggle to feel like they fit in and are being bullied and come under immense pressure from all around.”
Morris believes that depression is so widespread these days because of a combination of several factors including early childhood experiences and trauma, and other stressful experiences people face.
“A common thread through it all though is how we treat ourselves. You may not have had control over your early traumas or stuff life hands us, but we are always, always responsible for how we treat and handle our own selves,” she posited.
She stressed that humans have an obligation to treat themselves with utmost kindness and care and she believes that a leftover from the country’s colonial history is “speaking to children in a rough manner, emotional abuse, and being critical with them (childhood emotional maltreatment) to motivate performance.
“Naturally, being spoken to like this often enough, we will learn to speak this same way to ourselves without realizing. This is not good. Tenderness and love is what makes things grow.”
She advised that young people can overcome this sort of depression by seeking to understand themselves, who they are, do personality tests to discover their unique strengths and cultivate a strong sense of self based on understanding what they have been created to be.
“Practice self-compassion. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes and short comings, rehearsing negative views of self will lead to breakdown,” she advised. And those who are vegetarians or vegans need to watch their Vitamin B12 levels as low levels of B12, according to Morris, will affect their mood negatively and they may become depressed, partly because of it being low. She urged young people to reach out for help if they feel depressed.
Apart from speaking engagements, Morris said that in 2017 she started a blog to share her knowledge and since then she has contributed in several online blogs and websites including the Good Men Project, Leaders in Heels Australia, Up Journey and Success Consciousness. She has also recently been published in Africology: Journal of Pan-African studies.
“I am a driven and determined, results-oriented person who has high ideals. So, I am aware I rate success differently,” Morris said when asked what motivates her.
She said that she is thankful for what she has achieved at every step and when she sees the look of recognition and resonance on the faces of her audience. Also when people approach her to say they were inspired by one of her talks or when they meet her and explain a challenge they were having and to which she provided the answer.
Morris’s first talk was to the contestants of the Miss T&T Differently-abled Queen Show 2013. Her first official personal development presentation was done in June 2016 with the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago where she taught persons how to create a life plan. After that, she had sessions for three months. She has also spoken on other topics of personal growth and development including ‘How to get Started as a Consultant’, ‘Personality types’, ‘The Power of a Positive You’, ‘Spiritual Gifts’, ‘How to Practically Increase your Faith’, and ‘How to Overcome Sin and Temptation’ among others.
Earlier this year she held a five-day camp which was themed ‘The Hopetown Kids Skills Development’. She shared that the initiative, which was held in her home village, was inspired by her love and passion for developing her community.
“During the last Christmas holidays 2017, I observed that there may be a need for the children to do more than just be on their tablets mindlessly,” she said.
The free camp saw different professionals present on various topics and some 32 children attended from Grades 4, 5 and 6. While she hopes that the camp will be an ongoing one, Morris said she first has to plan a structure and source funding but for now she will continue trying to inspire change and give assistance where she can.