Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month
May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

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!

 

Being Black in a Predominantly White Space

Daria screencap
Jodie talks about herself

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…

Classroom
The Only Black kid In The Class

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.

OR

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.

Graduation
I guess only one black person is allowed to graduate?

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.

An Open Letter to the Depressed Black Women: and for those who are suffering from other mental illnesses

Black History Month banner
Black History Month banner

Dear You, Dear Me, Dear us,

I want to start off with, IT IS OKAY. It is okay for you to feel depressed. It’s okay for you to feel constantly anxious. Its okay for you to have OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder. It is okay for you to have eating disorders, autism, and substance related problems. It’s okay for you to feel overwhelmed in life. And your suicidal thoughts come with the distress. Your feelings are valid. You are valid. Do not let anyone tell you that your feelings are invalid because mental illness is “some white people stuff.” Do not let anyone tell you that you aren’t allowed to feel because you have to be a “Strong Black Woman.”

This Strong Black Woman identity that no one asked for, is detrimental to your health. Once you hear that “you gotta be strong and suck it up” speech, you’ll start to keep your feelings to yourself. You’ll feel like your experiences don’t matter. And most importantly, you won’t get the help you need. This Strong Black Woman trope won’t teach you to take care of yourself mentally. But it will teach you to put everyone else’s needs before your own.

This Strong Black Woman guide teaches:

The Strong Black Woman must hold down her Endangered Black man.

The Strong Black Woman has to procreate and then raise her Impressionable Black Children.

The Strong Black Woman has to do right by her Large Black Family.

And the Strong Black Woman must work for the Entitled White Man without anger.

The Strong Black Woman cannot feel,

she cannot put herself first.

She has to wear her hair like this and she has to wear that.

And her Strong Black Body is community property.

If her Strong Black Body was violated, she has to keep it to herself.

If her Strong Black Body was violated, she didn’t follow the rules.

If her Strong Black Body was violated, it was her fault.

All of these rules will become internalized from the moment you learn to talk. You’ll start to feel like you cannot handle it. You might want to give up. .. But I am not writing to you so I can tell you how you should react or to tell you how to live your life. I’m writing to tell you that all of these feelings, experiences-everything. Everything is valid. You are not crazy. You are not just looking for attention. And you are most definitely not making it up. You are not alone. You can find comfort in other Black women.

Black women are tied together all by the same rope made of misogynoir. You are taught that other black women are your competition. I want you to un-learn that. We all have so much in common and when we are not leaning on each other, we are suffering alone. You do not have to suffer alone. I want you to read this letter and go out to the black women in your life and start a candid conversation about the mental health of Black Women.

–Taina E. Morris