Let’s not just talk about mental health when a tragedy happens or when a celebrity’s life is lost. It should be an ongoing discussion.
It’s not something that just comes and leaves if a day or two is spent discussing it. Those of us who deal with mental health aren’t cured from it in a day. It takes time coupled with understanding. It’s literally a process – for many of us. So, let’s talk.
First, anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, etc is a real thing and does exist in the black community. History has taught us to deal with it in different ways. Our ancestors were forced to push it down and just keep going. When a child has been snatched from his mother for profit, a husband watched his wife raped and left broken and powerless, or a father watched his son punished for doing what boys do; we were forced to keep going because we had no other choice. There were no therapists to help us talk through our feelings and we didn’t have fancy names like PTSD, PPD or anything ending in –ism.
True, we may be one of the strongest races on the planet but that doesn’t mean we know how to deal with things in the best way. And just because our ancestors dealt with conflict or struggle by pushing it aside doesn’t we have to. None of what they experienced was healthy. So, truth is, if we pair our resolve with healthy conversations, confession and professional help then we can combat mental health for good.
We (black people) have to stop dodging the issue. It may be uncomfortable at first but your loved one’s life is more important that our comfortablity. Check on your strong friends. Sometimes self care requires another. And if you are one who deals with mental then do your best to reach out for help, no matter how hard it may seem. The best thing you can do for yourself is take care of yourself: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually which effects every other part of your life especially relationally, professionally, academically, (you get the picture.)
And I’m not saying I’m the poster child for mental health or profess to be any kind of therapist/ physiologist (I studied English, lol.) But I do know what depression and anxiety does and ways to heal from it.
I believe there is freedom in confession so I confess that anxiety does effect me. And sometimes I feel I’m not allowed to admit that in my culture. But honesty is my paramount virtue.
Sometimes I want to run. Leave the room. Retreat. The result of being around too many people, trying to figure out their thoughts of me, or if their even thinking of me.
Retreating is my default. I’m used to being alone and I don’t mind it one bit. But as I mature I realize being around people is the original intent of life. I need others for my sanity. And when anxiety (I didn’t know what to call this feeling until more recently) creeps up on me in a room of people I’m not sure about, I avert my attention on something (anything) than the thing/ person triggering my uncomfortablity. It feels like my heart is going to fall out of my chest. Then I pray I don’t make a scene. Yes, I’m nervous, scared, excited and lonely all at the same time. I’m debating on if I should leave the room or just stick it out.
The last time anxiety tortured me was because I felt left out (no one likes that feeling) but even though it wasn’t a big deal (your triggers may be different from mine) my mind magnified the situation above reality. I walked into a restaurant late (don’t judge me) where people who care for me were awaiting my arrival (I usually like the attention on me.) Prior to my arrival I discussed something trivial with a friend that I didn’t expect to be there but when I saw them it was like I was left out of cruel joke. Honestly, I wanted to turn around, walk back to my car and wait awhile before I began again. You see, the problem with anxiety is it magnifies me. It’s less about you than you think it is.
Honestly, I have come a long way from retreating from situations that make me uncomfortable (if we’re comfortable then we’re not growing!!) and I wasn’t about to go backwards.
So, I sat there and faced my fears head on.
- I identified why I was feeling that way
- I determined whether the situation warranted that particular response
- I identified possible resolutions to the situation
After all that (it took about 10 minutes) I figured it was either going to be a fight of flight type of resolution. Though my feelings were valid the cause of them were not. I had to look at the reality of the situation. No one was there to play a joke on me or make me feel left out. I know the people there loved me so that dispelled the fallacy of hate. Once I stripped away my feelings I came to the conclusion that the culprit was miscommunication or misinterpretation and not malice.
Sure, I felt justified in my feelings but I still did the work in identifying where those feelings came from. Which is another part of freedom from anxiety. It may take years to discover the root: why we feel the way we do or do the things we do but the work is absolutely worth it.
Talk about your feelings. And even though I didn’t discuss my feelings with the person who triggered them (everyone isn’t equipped to provide healing words for you see Reverse Self-Sabotage) I talked about it to a person I trusted.
I know mental health doesn’t effect everyone but I’m sure you know someone who is effected by it. And if you then you may not deal with anxiety the same way I do. But let’s figure out the root of it, evaluate our feelings and then identify possible healthy solutions.
Honestly, a conversation can go a long way.
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