This week I’m getting a little personal. So here it goes…
I grew up in a home where your feelings just weren’t talked about. Sure, we had our moments as kids where we expressed emotions, but they were always the happy ones. The normal stuff. I never sat down with my family and talked about the things that made us, as kids, feel sad or overwhelmed. The bad stuff. My parents didn’t grow up being open as kids, so you wouldn’t expect them to be that way as adults. Shockingly, my dad – the traditional African parent – was more empathetic at times than my mom. He had a little bit more compassion and patience with us, but it was rare and came in small doses. Also, unfortunately in most black communities the general mentality is “black families don’t have ‘those kind of’ problems and we don’t talk about stress because we shouldn’t have any. Let God handle it” Well I’m here to say as a black woman – that shit isn’t true. That mentality needs to stop. We are not ‘too strong’ or ‘too good’ to have depression or other emotional stress. Mental illness does not discriminate! Depression, anxiety and suicide happen to all people of all races and all genders.
Around high school when I started to learn more about who I was, I began to feel intense emotions – like most kids in high school. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my HS but I was a completely different person in school than I was at home. I kept my emotions to myself and didn’t dare tell anyone about it, because I knew my family would look at me like I’m crazy. On the outside I looked happy and no one would ever assume anything was wrong. And most of the time, nothing was wrong – till it wasn’t. I was always the happy girl in high school who joined all the clubs, made everyone laugh, and had a lot of friends. But there were a lot of things that were wrong internally.
But I didn’t experience my first panic attack until I was well into college. That’s when the real shit started happening. All of a sudden I’d get an uncontrollable attack – tears, shortness of breath and a tingly feeling in my fingers. At the time, I didn’t really know what a panic attack was, and didn’t know much about anxiety. The first time it happened I was hoping it would never happen again. But well….it did, and it will probably continue to happen for the rest of my life as long as there is a trigger. 95% of the time I feel great and I’m happy. But the other 5% – I am at my lowest. I can go months or almost a year without having a panic attack, but as soon as I face a huge amount of stress, they come right back. It sucks and its a bad feeling.
I used to have a hard time telling anyone I had anxiety, but nowadays its a lot easier for me to open up about. Probably because I’m an adult now and have a lot more self-confidence. Also, most my friends have some sort of anxiety or depression, so I fit right in! (that’s a joke – sidetone I use humor or laughter as a coping mechanism) To be clear, I’ve never been tested or been prescribed medications. This is my own self-diagnosis. I know…that sounds so silly, but I know I have real panic attacks and have been depressed before, but I can’t find the courage to talk to my doctor about it. You know when you visit the doctor and they ask, “do you ever feel sad or depressed?” I wanna be like, “duh girl! who doesn’t?!” But I either say “no” or “sometimes” and they move on to the next question. Truth is….I’m just afraid to professionally DEAL with it. I’ve never seen a therapist and never taken any drugs. I’m stubborn AF so I’ll never take meds (I’ve got my reasons), but there are times when I wish I had a therapist to talk to – someone who can help me deal with my emotions so that I can have more control over my stress. Stress can lead to so many other health problems and diseases, and I do my BEST to not let anxiety get the best of me.
If you are dealing with anxiety or depression, I feel your pain and I’m right there with you. Keep doing the things that make you happy. Stay away from toxic people. Write down the things that you’re grateful for. Talk to your best friend about how you’re feeling. And most importantly – stay moving and stay active. Don’t let anxiety win. I’m here for you….
see you next Monday loves…
photos by Seek Axiom