July is Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s hella hard, but if I can help one person by sharing my experience it’s worth it.
When people talk about getting healthy mental health is often left out of the conversation. People invest significant time into building diet and exercise plans, but not as much into living in healthy mental spaces. Mental health plays a major part in a person’s ability to move through life. I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression for quite a few years now, and it hasn’t always been something that I’ve talked about. Like many people, I found talking about my mental health embarrassing. When I first started realizing the symptoms I had no idea what was happening to me. I struggled a lot trying to figure it all out on my own and had a lot of downs before I realized how to get up. It’s still hard sometimes, but because of what I went through I feel it’s so important to share my story and the things that have helped me become stronger.
My anxiety started in high school. I remember having my first anxiety attack in the middle of the hallway. So many thoughts were rushing through my head at one time that I couldn’t catch my breath. My hands went numb and I had no idea what was happening to me. My teacher, Mrs. Swadley, pulling me inside of her classroom and helping focus my breathing. She talked with me for awhile to ease my mind and shared with me that she was dealing with anxiety as well. When I got home that evening and told my father what had happened he was so angry with me. He kept asking why I was acting like that and why I would do something like that at school. His only advice was that I needed to control myself and get it together. I felt so ashamed. I didn’t really understand why it all happened, but I felt like it was my fault.
Anxiety consumed a large portion of my college experience. Everything was new. Everything was scary. Everything created mass chaos in my mind. Something that was really hard for me was going into class. Like seriously the physical act of walking into a classroom. I had a really hard time, especially if I was late. Just the thought of walking into the classroom filled with students looking at me made my heart pound like crazy. Most days after making a 15-minute walk to class I would just turn around and go home. I was physically frozen and frightened to go inside the classroom and for me it was easier, and made more sense, to go home. As you can imagine I exceeded the attendance policy for multiple classes, and having anxiety is not a good excuse for missing class whether you did the work or not. Buh-bye GPA.
Depression hit long ago, but I didn’t seek professional confirmation until I was in college. I think I chalked a lot of it up to teen angst and being young so, instead of trying to figure out what was going on I took to acting out and being self-destructive. College was when it seemed to really set in though. Being away from home seemed like the only fix to all of the problems. I could run away, reinvent myself, and ultimately be happy- just like that. I left seeking freedom and solace and found one of the most enabling environment imaginable. Sadness didn’t disappear, but it could be quieted with all of the euphoria college had to offer. I also had a major, life changing event happen to me while I was in college that shook my very existence. This I held on to for years and tried EVERYTHING in my power to make myself forget.
Damaged is without a doubt the best description of how I felt throughout the majority of my early 20s. There would be days that I would feel so sad and think so negatively that I couldn’t even get out of bed. Tasks as simple as showering and getting dressed seemed so grandiose that just the thought of them overwhelmed me. There were many days where I would only leave my bed to use the restroom. I truly thought it would never stop & that I deserved every bit of my misery.
A major turning point for me with my anxiety and depression was having a friend opened up to me about her issues with the two. She was having a meltdown and she turned to me because she was spiraling. This was such a powerful moment for us both. I could that she had been needing to reach out for so long, and something in me made her feel safe. For the first time, I felt that it was appropriate to share my struggles. The tears never seemed to stop, but for the first time, I felt light. This person and I have always been close, but this moment changed our friendship forever, and we are both grateful for it. These days, college and those dark times seem like distant memories, but it’s important for me to remember them because not every day will be bright. I currently am not taking any medicines right now, and though that may not work for you, I wanted to share some things that have really helped me to stay on track and out of those dark places.
Talking it out
I know it may seem horrible (trust me I remember feeling like that) or feel like it’s opening the door for judgment, but anxiety and depression are more common than people like to let on. Tons of people have had the same experiences and you’ll notice, more times than not, those close to you will be able to say “I’ve been there” or “I know somebody who has been there” versus “girl bye, you’re crazy.” I know that when you get into a depressive phase it is hard to believe that anyone is for you, but these are the times when you need people the most. So, make it a point to get comfortable reaching out when you feel yourself slipping. The people who love you when you’re up will love you when you’re down. Call them up and say “Hey, throw me a lifeline”.
When I go through one of my anxiety spells I spiral so quickly. My negative emotions become weeds taking over any space for positivity to flourish. Trying to calm my mind on my own is almost impossible. When I was first introduced to yoga it was definitely riding a fad wave. It was the new, hot, “healthy” thing and I jumped right aboard the band wagon. I bought the mat, accessories, went to a few classes, and quite pretty soon after starting.
I found yoga again about a year later after watching an interview with Russell Simmons. Hearing how important it was to his daily routine motivated me to give it one more try. For someone who is usually so “go, go, go”- yoga can be frustrating. Every move is very slow and deliberate. If you don’t know how it can be hard to slow down your body and your mind, but it’s such an enlightening things. Yoga helped me to quiet the noise. It also helped me feel more positive and comfortable in my own skin.
Essential oils have been a godsend. When Co and I would talk about our stress load and anxiety she put me on to lavender. She said she’d put it on her wrist in the morning and smell it to calm herself anytime she felt anxious and overwhelmed throughout the day. After that worked for me I started really looking into what other oils were out there and how they could help with other things in my life. I have since bought an oil diffuser and have been water whippin lol. Check out these helpful tips for blending and mixing your own oils for the best results.
When I’m shaky and sad and unable to snap out of it nothing helps like tea. The aroma, the warmth, and the feel of the cup are honestly like a hug from the universe. It warms my soul and all the places that feel empty and dark. This is especially helpful when I cannot get to sleep.
Blogging is definitely bae, but journaling has always been my first love. Journaling is one of my go-to situations when I am feeling really depressed. I started doing this before I started talking to anyone and a lot of times it was really great for me to get all of my emotions out. When you’re only talking to yourself there is no one to judge you or make you feel worse about your current situation. A lot of times I end up crying, but it’s cathartic because I need to unload all of these things from my brain. Writing everything down candidly and without any filters helps take the burden off my mind and pain out of my body.
Mental health is a definitely something we all should be taking serious and never something we should let anyone make us feel bad about. If I can make one final recommendation I would definitely suggest seeing a therapist if you can afford it. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve talked to a few friends who it has made a major difference for. It can be a little expensive, but now they have companies like talkspace that offer affordable, convenient, over the phone services.
If you have any other tips or just want to talk about your experience PLEASE feel free to share below. This is a safe space! Peace & love dolls.