Since discussing loneliness and the “Strong Black woman,” where I discussed my own issues with being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I was 11 years old and opened the platform for women (and men) of color to more comfortably discuss their own mental health, I have been receiving a lot of questions about what I do to maintain my anxiety and panic disorder. I was slow to discuss this as a video topic and then slow to write the (more detailed) blog post because this is a very sensitive and personal subject. As in personal for each person. And I am not a medical professional, so I want to be extra careful about the message I share, ensuring that I imbue each person to do the proper research and find what best suits them in managing their mental health.
Mental health isn’t the easiest topic to discuss, but it is very necessary. Following the suicide death of the For Brown Girls founder, Karyn Washington, I felt it was the perfect time to open up the forum for my audience on discussing mental health and how that defies the Strong Black woman archetype. Hence came the Strong Black Woman & Loneliness in the Age of Social Media post. Some of opted to use it against as a means to call me crazy, accuse me having more serious mental health issues (as if that was something I should be ashamed of) and generally stripe every piece of negativity that they could from a moment where I allowed myself to be more open. I don’t believe in allowing people to shame you for any reason. Often allowing ourselves these moments of vulnerability speak to a great cause and gain, then the simple minded people that will contrive a way to belittle you.
- For me anxiety and panic attacks are often triggered by a specific event/cause. Panic attacks specifically are usual around emotional issues. I do not do well with being embarrassed by someone I care about or just flat out having my feelings hurt. Anxiety is more a slow build of a lingering feeling involving worrying about life issues. I have chosen to not take medication because I have not found my anxiety/panic disorder to overbearingly stunt my day to day life. However, medication is a very viable option for many people and is nothing to be ashamed or scared of. It’s just imperative that you do your research and consider all of your options.
- Therapy is a great first step for all people, though in the Black community we are still overcoming a strong stigma against secular therapy. Beyond cultural norms, many assume that therapy is out of their reach because of financial costs and not having insurance coverage. If you are employed by a major corporation, whether or part or full time, look into the mental health initiatives that your company offers. Companies like Apple, Target, Johnson & Johnson, Deloitte and the like have major initiatives to ensure productive work environments and part of that encompasses uplifting the mental health of their employees. If you are in school or live near a major university with a medical school, check for the mental health programs that the schools run. Many universities will run mental health programs that are targeted at a specific demographic and that’s good start to finding free or affordable mental health coverage.
- Keeping a journal is accessible to everyone and beneficial to all. I have kept a journal since middle school and it’s a great means to reflect, see my growth and work out any feelings or obsessive thoughts that I might have. Journaling forces you to be clear and honest with yourself. It’s very cathartic, which is why many of us subconsciously avoid or procrastinate writing in our journal. I am very guilty of this because I know once I start I’m really going to have to let it all out and hanging on to thoughts/feelings I know I need to let go if something I am actively trying to do better with.
- There is no hope at the bottom of any wine bottle. Be careful to not rely on any substances. I am a lover of wines, but I know that a glass is never the solution to my problems. I must deal with them head on. And anything that blurs out feelings is just pushing them to the back burner for them to re-manifest much stronger and detrimental in the future. This also applies to just being over all conscious about what you put in your body. A poor diet does negatively impact your mental health. Your hormones, blood flow, muscular health are all tied to what you eat and drink. Leafy greens not only keep the body fat down but also are energy boosters. Eat some kale and uplift that mood girl!
Lastly, share your story! Inspire and uplift others to overcome their own struggles. We definitely need to have a more open discussion around medication for those who are overwhelmed with anxiety or depression and it’s impeding them being able to function. You should always feel comfortable with whatever decision you make to ensure that you are living a healthy and happy life.