I know I haven’t posted in a long time! It’s because that depression hit! She hit me like I stole her man or something. Like dang sis I don’t even think your man is cute. I changed up some things. So I am now seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist and I’m on new meds! I’m taking Paxil now. I guess my doctors thought that OCD was serious rather than just a thing that pops up here and there. Anywho, I got a short story in the works for you guys and an updated mental health blog post. I’m trying!
In early December, A group of people from my college (me included of course!) went to Flint Michigan to bring clean water to people’s homes. We were driving around one morning after breakfast and we could see the water tower in the distance. It was kind of just looming over the city. Usually when I pass a water tower I really don’t put much thought into it. But when I was in Flint, I had so many thoughts. It really has been 4 years since the residents of Flint had access to clean running water. Clean water should be something that everyone has access to. There shouldn’t be cases where people are getting sick from bathing and drinking the water they have in their homes… but here we are.
So to explain the situation really quick, a few years(April 2014) back Flint officials switched their water supply to the Flint River. They did this to save money. The residents started to see a difference in the water. They were told to boil their water because they found lead and bacteria in it. In October of 2015, they switched their water supply again. It took that long because of the PRICE. They were worried about the cost of having clean water rather than the well being of the residents. You’d think this is great! now they’ll have clean water! But no, they don’t have clean water. After having poison water flowing through their pipes for so long, their pipes are now damaged! So their water is still not safe. (I clearly didn’t use all of the information I found after researching it but I encourage everyone to read up on it too.)
Anyways, the people of Flint are relying on bottled water to bathe, and drink, and brush their teeth because of this. Can you imagine buying a case of water to bathe? Probably not because you never had to.
So back in December, we went to interact with and bring cases of water to the residents. It was such a new feeling. First, I have never been out of the state with complete strangers. We all know I have social anxiety so it was completely out of my comfort zone but I really wanted to help. I really really wanted to make a change. So I signed up and I got to go! We drove like 13 hours in a cramped van and we finally made it! Our first event planned was to go to a community center called the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village. This event was for the children of Flint. We had stations where they could tie dye T-shirts, decorate cookies, do arts and crafts, have their face painted, and their nails painted. We also had a DJ come in and the little kids were running around and dancing and just living their best lives. We had Dominoes deliver to feed the families who came out on the snowy day. Down the hall we had EMS do blood tests and checkups. We were supposed to have a coat drive but that didn’t go too well. We also had cases of water for people to go home with.
After the event was over we went back to our motel to eat and sleep. On the following day, we had a water drop planned. we were going to go to 2 different housing complexes and give water to those who wanted it. First, my group went to a housing complex and we carried cases to all the apartments we could get to before we ran out. We knocked on doors and interacted with people. I was really proud of myself because again, social anxiety. After we ran out of water there we went to senior living complex and interacted with the older people and it was such a lovely experience. They were so happy to have us and they were so loving. We met this one woman and I really wish I could remember her name but she told us how she doesn’t see her children much anymore but she was glad to have us because we were like her children. She took pictures of us and she cried when we had to leave. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. After this housing complex we got in the van, picked up our belongings and we started our long drive back to New York.
So It’s been over a month since this happened and I’ve had time to reflect. I would without a doubt do this again. I feel like this is something I want to do forever. I always said I wanted to help people when I grew up. (I’m kind of a grown up now. I’m 23.6 years old.) My heart broke many times and I found myself crying more than once. I found myself frustrated and angry. It doesn’t take a genius to see this water crisis affects mostly black people and people who are not wealthy. At our first event, a family left empty handed because they came to get a coat for their son. The people who were bringing the coats got there extremely late and only came with like 3 coats. I think the cause for this was because the coats were donated and not many people donated. I want to figure out how to host a coat drive on my own and send them to Flint. So if anyone knows how to do that please let me know. I found this experience to be good but my main problem with it was the fact that most of the students I went with were very privileged white kids. They saw this experience as something that was going to be “so lit” and that they were going to get “so drunk” and they brought drugs. The people who were in charge were also privileged white people. They meant well but I feel like black people should have had some leadership roles especially since we were going to a predominantly black city. We were told that we had to know how to “act in the projects” because they were “not safe.” There’s still a lot of racism in their speech so it just didn’t sit right with me. There’s a lot I’d like to improve on if I’m able to go again.
In case you haven’t noticed, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I was wondering if I should post anything about it since I already have some posts about mental health and self care. But I didn’t have anything too personal so this is what this post will be about. My personal struggle with mental health…
So let’s start with how as a child, I was always vey anxious. Very, very anxious. My parents never thought much of it they just always reminded me to “calm down” (insert eye roll) This started maybe in Pre-K and lasted until… well forever. Then sometime during my High school career, I started to feel depressed. And that also lasted until forever.
I graduated HS, dropped almost all of my friends and went to college. During freshman orientation, they had us take a survey and now that I think about it, it was in poor taste… They asked questions like:
“Do you find it hard to trust authority figures?” …I’m black why would I trust them??? ( btw their campus safety team were full of racists and didn’t know how to talk to people sooooooooo)
“Do you trust teachers?” No I do not. (btw that school had terrible teachers who hated their jobs and they were racist soooooo)
“Do you get sad?” ….duh?
“Do you get nervous?” ….obviously
By the time I finished the survey, they told me that I should visit the counseling center. I was like wow all this because of a survey that asked you to check “agree” or “disagree.”
But I guess back then I was like whatever and I made an appointment to see a counselor. I saw her once a week every week for like a year. Did talking to her help? Not really. There was a disconnect. I was just never comfortable with her. I felt like she cared but something was just off. I dreaded going every week. But I went. After a few sessions, she diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, and Depression. (Also Insomnia but who needs an actual diagnosis for that??)
As the first semester comes to an end, I start to feel hopeless, angry, overwhelmed, and done. That was the day I made plans to take my own life. I know there’s no easy way to talk about that so I’m just going to keep it short. It was actually really scary for me. I felt like I was in a trance. I felt alone. I didn’t get to make such a drastic decision because my boyfriend at the time came in and noticed what was happening. When I snapped out of my trance, I had scratches all over my hands and arms. My eyes were swollen and red, my room was a mess (I guess I destroyed it during my trance.) My friends were scared and crying. I made a huge mess of things.
The next day, i took a final, and the following day I went home for winter break. I came back to the counseling center and told my counselor what happened and she made me an appointment to see the psychiatrist. I was prescribed Lexapro and that was terrible. The first day I took it, i fell asleep, woke up because my heart was beating so fast. I sat up, felt dizzy, jumped out of bed and vomited all over the floor. Now imagine me scooping up throw up out of carpet with a plastic spoon. I was on Lexapro for at least 4 months. 4 months of me feeling sick. So I stopped. I was also prescribed Ambien for my insomnia. Did it help me sleep? No. But it did turn my brain off… and there’s a lot of silly stories and screenshots of me trying to text my friends because of that. I was taking Ambien on and off for like 2 years.
Next on my mental health timeline comes in during my sophomore year of college… or what was supposed to be my sophomore year. I moved in, went to maybe 4 classes and stopped going. I dropped classes, switched classes but nothing felt right. I knew I didn’t belong there. There was nothing there for me except one friend and a toxic relationship that was disguised as healthy and happy. I had the feeling like it was not my semester. No one was understanding me. I was feeling alone again. I was feeling overwhelmed and hopeless again. That scared me. So I dropped out 5 weeks into the semester. I went home and fell into the deepest of depressions. I was taking my Ambien during the day. I was sleeping, I wasn’t eating. I didn’t even leave my room. I want to tell you how long it lasted but a lot of it is a blur. I can’t remember anything. I do know that by the time that Fall semester was over, I was enrolled at a new school for the Spring semester. I got back on track and I made new friends. But this didn’t solve my mental health puzzle.
I went to the counseling center at my new school. I saw a new counselor once a week every week for about 3 years. I also saw the psychiatrist. I was put on Zoloft and Wellbutrin. Eventually it was just Wellbutrin.
At some point I was doing really really well. And then something weird happened. My family somehow scraped up money for me to live on campus for a semester. So I lived with a stranger for the first time in my life. She wasn’t terrible but like she could’ve been better… But as I tried adjusting to living with her, she made comments about me being “OCD” I didn’t think of her as the most politically correct person so I shrugged it off. But then my best friend started noticing it too. After pointing it out several times, I started to realize that there was a huge shift in my routines. Everything I did became a little obsessive. Maybe more than a little but again that’s a blur too. I couldn’t sleep unless everything on my desk was squared off, my shoes were in the shoes section of my room, my clock was facing my head, my phone had to be charged before I slept. I had to clean everything with clorox. My room smelled like clorox for a really long time. I spoke to my counselor at this school and she asked me to try to fight it. I said okay and never tried. But after I moved out and went home I was back to the normal me.
I adjusted very quickly to going back to being a commuter. It was no big deal. It does affect my sleep, my energy, my social life, and sometimes my grades but what can you do? But let me get to how counseling/therapy is accessible to everyone. So I saw the same counselor off and on for about 3 years. I started dreading our time together. I felt like she didn’t really listen to me and she didn’t take me seriously. I felt that way with psychiatrist as well. Neither of them bothered to learn my name either. I was always called “Tanya” but I don’t know that hoe. Because MY name is Taina (tie-ee-nah.) Anyways, I stopped taking my medication and I stopped going to see a counselor. Call it self-sabotage if you’d like. But I can’t deal with people who are supposed to help and they just don’t care. I remember a few months ago going there feeling suicidal again because they always say come in even if you don’t have an appointment if you’re feeling down. So I did that and a week later, I saw my psychiatrist and she looked me in the face and said “I heard about your little meltdown.” I’m still trying to figure out if they treat the white kids the same way… I doubt it though.
So what I’m trying to say is help isn’t always accessible. Whether it be the fact there’s a large supply of terrible professionals available, or help is out of your price range, or just not enough time in your day… please talk to someone. Keeping things bottled up can’t be good for you. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, teacher, anyone. If they try to invalidate your feelings try someone new. Write about your feelings, sing them, dance them away. Just help yourself the best you can.
I feel like I’ve had you guys here long enough. So I’ll leave this here. But talk to me, let me know your mental health timeline. I’m listening!
Before starting this blog post, let’s do some light housekeeping.
So hey friends! I started this whole blog for a class I am in and the semester is now coming to an end. At first I told myself I was going to delete everything by the time I received my final grade, but now I think I’m going to leave my blog open. I can’t promise that I’ll have a post every Monday or Tuesday like I’ve been doing. But I do still want the platform in case I want to write. So this may or may not be my final post. My Twitter and Facebook page will be deleted very quickly.
Also, I know this post will seem a little strange coming after my Self Care posts but I feel like this needs to be posted. I know this is going to be pretty jumbled because I’m still trying to put my words together. There might be a part 2 if I feel like I couldn’t get it all out today. So here we go…
I have some questions for all my black readers, Do you feel safe in your predominantly white spaces? Or how do you make yourself feel safe? What are you feeling when you’re one of 5 black students in your class, with 0 black professors, and 0 black counselors? What do you feel when you’re walking around campus and the white students have matted hair or cornrows? And what do you feel when you’re at a school functioned party and the DJ plays No Problem by Chance the Rapper, and your white “friends” are screaming out how there’s gonna be some “dread headed niggas in your lobby”? What do you feel when you’re in class and your white teacher says that she doesn’t like the phrase “colored people” but not because of how black people were (and still are being) treated, but because “aren’t we all colored” as she raises her paper white hand?
And if you’re one of my black readers (or even my non black readers of color) and you think there’s no problems with anything I listed or you always feel safe, this post isn’t for your delusional eyes. At this point you just need to seek help.
If you’re one of my white readers and you also feel like this is nothing… LOL this post was never for you. Go take yourself where you’re wanted.
I say all of this because I’ve been enrolled in college since Fall 2012. We are now coming to the end of Spring 2017. (I know, I know, I transferred and took a semester off.) I’ve been enrolled in 2 schools and both of them are Predominantly White Institutions. And in both schools I’ve experienced anti-blackness. In my 5 years (give or take) the only advice I have for myself is to make black friends. But what advice do I give people who have trouble making friends? I guess I’m asking my readers for advice. I mean I have one semester left with only 3 classes… so maybe this advice isn’t for me but for others. Let me know friends.
This is my last installment of my Self Care posts! Today let’s talk about movies. What do you guys watch when you’re down? (let me know below)
I usually watch sad movies when I’m down so I can be sad and let it all out by the time my movie is over. My go to sad movie (also my favorite movie) is Girl. Interrupted. This movie is about Susanna Kaysen. Susanna, was admitted into a psych hospital. She meets many people and she gets some help. Here’s the trailer:
This song plays in themovie and it gets me every time!
If I’m not feeling up for a sad movie and I’m looking for just something familiar, I have a few choices…
Beetlejuice is about a couple that dies and haunts their old home
My favorite scene is :
I’m a big kid at heart so why wouldn’t I watch Rugrats in Paris while I’m down? It’s just such a great combination of adorable and funny
Another movie I would watch is the Jimmy Neutron movie! We all know that when we were younger we’d watch this movie and wished our parents got abducted by aliens!
And Finally! The Lilo and Stitch Movie! You’re lying if you never quoted “Ohana means family”
I hope everyone had a relaxing safe spring break! Now let’s get back to business!
I hope all of you have a restful spring break. Please don’t drink and drive. Stay close to your friends. And if you see any strange occurrences don’t be afraid to speak up! With the news of all the missing girls, we need to stick together and look out for each other! Now that I’ve said that, go turn up!