World Mental Health Day
On October 10th, people around the world will be observing World Mental Health Day. And, considering the political and social climate we live in, it’s more important than ever that we take care of ourselves and focus on our mental wellbeing.
It happened to me
When you grew up with a Marine for a dad and a mom who was like the real Claire Huxtable, you learn pretty early on that letting people see you “weak” is not an option. I heard it too often growing up–never cry in front of people, keep smiling and let them think everything is fine, don’t let anyone ever know you’re feeling less than stellar.
And I took this to heart. It was how I was raised. So when people around me hurt me in more ways than one, I never let them see it. I developed a stone face. In my head, I was thinking about all the ways I wished I could make them feel as awful as I did, but I never let on.
My dad told me crying was a sign of weakness. If I cried in front of him, it never swayed him. It made him have less respect for me. He was more likely to taunt me for being weak than to comfort me. So…yeah…it was ingrained in me and my siblings to keep up the facade, never let anyone think we couldn’t handle the shit they were piling on our plates, pretend that all was perfection.
I tried to keep this going for the longest time. Sometimes I even convinced myself that I was okay. I didn’t think about how I was overthinking things, or how I couldn’t sleep at night, or the stomach issues I was having or the tension headaches that often flared to full-blown migraines. I told myself I was strong, just like my mom, and I could get through all of this no matter what.
Then one day I couldn’t.
The last straw
It started with quitting my former job after being gaslighted my then-manager. I was already exhibiting signs of prolonged stress without even realizing it. Then I was hit by the deaths of two close friends within one month of one another. Their sudden disappearance from my life left me feeling discombobulated and empty.
Then in January my younger brother—my baby brother whom I loved so very much and who always had my back—died and it felt like the final straw.
I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t write. I went through my days with no sense of time and nothing to tether me. My husband did all he could to support me but I understood that I needed to get help dealing with my grief.
I ignored the mantra of being a strong black woman who didn’t need anyone’s help because I knew it was bullshit. I needed help.
I was crying every night. I couldn’t sleep more than two or three hours. I was the walking wounded. I went to my general practitioner and he recommended a therapist whom I could meet. That was back in February.
Since then, I’ve been seeing him once a month, talking through everything related to the grieving process which I am still going through and other issues that had built up over a long period of time and caused me to become one of those highly functioning people dealing with anxiety and depression.
So why am I telling you this? Too often we black women think that getting help for depression and anxiety is a luxury only afforded to white people. I’ve heard friends and family say this often enough that it made me wonder just how many of us are feeling like we’re dying inside and still pretending to the world that we are okay, that we don’t need help.
Listed below are three books that focus on Black Women’s Mental Health…
Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting
Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America
Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength
Resources for you
If you feel like you need help, turn to your general practitioner. Most health insurance policies cover mental healthcare.
Be honest with your doctor about how you’re feeling. Don’t be afraid to let him or her know that you have been dealing with stress or other contributing factors that have led to you not feeling like yourself.
Find a support group.
Organizations like Mental Health America can help.
If you’re feeling suicidal, please don’t harm yourself. Turn to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. There is always someone there who can talk to you and help.
If you don’t have insurance, check with Medicaid. If you’re eligible, there are many options available that will be based on your income level.
Whatever you choose to do, please don’t say you will fix yourself later. We’ve lost too many people who say that. Please don’t self-medicate and think it will solve everything. Please, get help if you feel like you need it.
We all are in your corner. And if you just want to vent or feel like there’s no one you can turn to, you can send an email to me in Sweden and I will read it and answer it and try to be there for you as best I can.
But don’t think you’re in this alone. We love you. We are here for you.