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.