So Anxious – The Stigma Around Mental Health

Life on this planet is wrought with a lot of struggle, trauma and stress-inducing events and situations. Stress and anxiety are actually considered normal, and thus we have a world full of humans suffering from a host of illnesses and disease, most notably mental health illness.

Unfortunately, there are countless people who have mental health concerns and there is such a stigma and taboo around this issue that many go untreated and do not seek help that could prove to be fruitful. I am particularly sensitive to this subject because I am prone to depression, am highly vigilant of my likelihood to suffer from severe anxiety and if I am not careful, can be incredibly emotionally imbalanced.

I go to therapy. I started going last year after I had another nervous breakdown, which to be honest has just been one long nervous breakdown. I began to suffer from anxiety in my early childhood after experiencing traumas, and since then, the anxiety escalated steadily as I was retriggered by life in general. I was (and am still prone to being) a very nervous and worried individual for most of my life and isolated myself a lot because of it. My first breakdown was my senior year of high school.

I was severely depressed because of various reasons and in a desperate attempt to stop the pain, I tried to overdose on one of my relative’s medications after I could not cut my left wrist deep enough (I was too scared). Clearly I was not successful. It snapped me out of it only enough to get through the year and into college.

College was a temporary breath of fresh air. I began to do yoga and meditate, changed my lifestyle habits, and on the other side of that, made some terrible decisions with alcohol and men. The depression was still in the wings and I had learned how to cope.

My second breakdown was after I finished writing my first book. I could not get out of bed without a significant amount of self-talk. I cried more than I care to remember and felt numb, empty and depressed. I tried everything I could to snap out of it. I was severely traumatized again about a year after all this. This is easily the worst thing that has ever happened to me. It took another year after that to finally admit that I was not okay and needed help, because I could no longer help myself. So in the same breath, it was what needed to happen in my life for me to wake up before something worse happened to me.

Going to therapy was hard at first. I constantly kept worrying that I was crazy, that no one would love me because I was so fucked up I had to go talk to someone, that I was weak for being so sad and depressed and was unable to get over it…

This is the stigma of mental health and wellness. The taboo of admitting that you are mentally perturbed and cannot alleviate it by yourself. I still have some remnants of shame because of my previous conditioning. My need to talk about mental health as it relates to human life is much greater than my shame, specifically for women birthing and the disparities in mental health for people of color, as this is my special interest.

Even writing this is hard, because all the negative self-talk comes up: what will all these people think of me? What if they think I’m crazy? What if they think I’m weak and need to grow up and toughen up?

Yet, this is very real. I can no longer sit here and not address mental health. It is how we feel about ourselves that dictates the choices we make for ourselves. Many people know they should take care of themselves and they don’t – not because they don’t want to but because there is a reason buried deep down inside that has interrupted their feelings of self-worth.

I encourage people around me to talk about their worries and concerns because I know what it is like to drown in depression. I get anxious very quickly and have to safeguard against it with yoga, therapy, partner and best friends on speed-dial, eating well and generally taking care of myself holistically. I know I cannot convince anyone to go to therapy. I also know that I’m not qualified to provide extensive help and that all I can do, and all any of us can do (unless trained) is be supportive and help someone in our life create a system of upward spiraling and expansion. I just hope that in sharing this much about myself, I can help lift the silence about the fact that all of us need to be listened to, and some of us truly need help.

The Sanctity of Birth

After years of anticipation for some, just nine months for others, birth is the single most important event of every human being’s life. Regardless of how much this event has been denigrated to a medical procedure, it is a special day – every single year, most of us observe the occasion and are aware that it is a marker of our existence. Childbirth should be a momentous miracle, one that all humans should respect as sacred.

Before any of us begin to think of becoming parents, we receive a plethora of messages about pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing. In contemporary North American society, the images we are fed through media and other people are of an emergency situation and frightening levels of discomfort and pain against the dramatic backdrop of a frantic hospital room. An extremely distressed laboring woman, screaming and cursing, coupled with an anxious and often clueless father is commonplace in television shows and movies. A doctor comes into the scene to command her to push and a baby is born. Consequently many of us expect this to be our reality when birthing. These images and the stories of horror that are relayed to us by women who have given birth influence our perception greatly.

Furthermore, let’s take a look at the perception that the current patriarchal system has of women. In the collective consciousness, women are thought to be submissive, weak, emotional, and helpless. Women have been demonized as the heralds of evil, citing the biblical story of Genesis and Eve introducing the apple to Adam as the reason women should not be trusted. To take that a step further, childbirth is perceived as a woman’s punishment for what Eve did. Religion, specifically the Christian/Catholic/Protestant religion in Western thought and philosophy, has been used as a tool to promote patriarchal misogynist sentiments and beliefs. In addition to the demonizing of women, the biology of women is seen as less-than, unclean, incompetent, and inconvenient. Thus, this deep belief is the negation of the feminine energy that corresponds to the masculine energy that has run unrestricted, with dire consequences.

Women have internalized all of these negative images of themselves and learned to see themselves the way society has mandated – as weak, powerless, and infantile. It follows then that there is no possible way that a woman can give birth safely and powerfully with little-to-no interventions. I began to recognize these beliefs within myself in college. The moment that propelled me into further inquiry and to embrace my feminine body and energy was a red tent event hosted by the feminist group on campus. We spoke freely about our menstrual cycles, the taboos around them, and the possibility of appreciating that special time of the month instead of hating it. After that event, I began to love my reproductive system and researched everything I could about the spiritual implications of my femininity, my menstrual cycle, and birthing.

It has become clear to me that the reclaiming of the sanctity of birth and empowering women to love themselves and their bodies go hand-in-hand. Every birth I have seen fills me with an undeniable awe and wonder at the miracle I’ve witnessed. Every time I support women in nourishing and bringing their child into the world, I marvel at their inner strength and power. There is already a shift occurring in the birthing community of women, families, midwives, and hospital culture; to continue cultivating this shift, we as a people would do good to reconnect to the importance of our first breath and the sacrifices, love, and power it took to bring them into the world.

Ynanna Djehuty: The Queen Has Arrived

It is said that every 7 years you become a new person. That every part of you is brand new and you are not who you used to be.

I just turned 27 last month. Next year is the official start of my Saturn Return at age 28, a multiple of 7.

I have been feeling since the end of last year an intense birthing of my new self. Everything in my life has changed drastically as I have shed layers of unconscious behavior and toxicity that threatened to snuff out my light. In the darkness, I chose myself. I will always choose myself. I am valuable. I am a goddess. A queen. I am embracing my shadows as well as my light, knowing that it is the shadow that defines the light. I am born again.

For those of you who know me personally, I am going to be responding to “Carmen” less and less. That is not the frequency I am vibrating on anymore. I am Ynanna.

Ynanna is my spelling of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility and warfare. Inanna is the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She is the embodiment of all the phases and parts of feminine energy and is one of the oldest myths that has remained intact before patriarchy took hold. It is also one of the stories the whole resurrection of Jesus was taken from. Her most famous myth is a metaphor for the ultimate spiritual initiation into wisdom, expanded consciousness, and adulthood, in which one willingly faces their shadows and their demons, to embrace both sides of them and be complete and stand in their power.