Black Health Matters-Especially Yours

May 17, 2016

“I don’t care what the statistics say. This little Black girl believes in the power of prayer as well as counseling and therapy” – this is a status I posted a few months ago to FB and it continues to resonate. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to use this platform to address this topic as my very own mental health was threatened quite a bit over the past couple of months as well as the mental health of others who are close to me.

Being enrolled in a Social Work program, you are bombarded with statistics and information about marginalized & impoverished communities and a whole bunch of other academic terms. It gets beyond exhausting and discouraging to see Blacks at the bottom of every positive list and at the top of every negative list, relatively speaking. Historically, mental health and the Black population have had their own set of challenges. Even with all the pain our culture has endured for hundreds of years, one would think that alone would cause us to jump leaps and bounds to seek out help but our actions are the complete opposite and continues to be. According to Mental Health America, 63% of Blacks consider depression a personal weakness, 56% of Blacks believe depression is a “normal” part of aging, and Blacks are less likely to take antidepressants for treatment of depression.

Therein lies the problem. Not only is it a shared narrative that Blacks can inherently withstand harsh treatment and it is “normal” for us to suffer, but now we carry that same belief that continued pain, depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns are a normal part of our lives – that it’s just supposed to happen.

I, too, believed the hype. Back in February, I wrote a post titled No, I’m Not Ok and in there I made the claim that I was not depressed. D.E.N.I.A.L. Symptoms of depression reared its ugly head not too long after making that post and it affected my world a great deal.

On top of taking 18 credit hours in a graduate program (I will never do that again…EVER), 3 jobs, Addyson, my relationship, Mae’s Closet, social life…. I lost it. My desire for church fizzled out because Sunday mornings were the only time I could actually sleep in and that’s all I wanted to do. Besides, being in church only caused me to think about all the things I still needed to get done that day once church was over. My appetite decreased causing me to lose weight (hell, I’m already small), Addyson & I would go weeks at a time with the same hairstyle because I simply did not have the time nor the energy to switch it up, I grew irritable and moody but everything I was doing would continue to feed my depression rather than address it. My craving to stay busy was the very thing that enhanced my mental health concern and I didn’t know how to get out of the cycle. To this day, I am still battling with the idea of taking a break and not feeling guilty about it because “things still need to get done.”

Let’s just say, I’ve come to the end of myself and only by prayer and wise counsel from others am I able to get back to a healthy state of mind. The idea of enduring pain for long periods of time and sitting in “funks” no longer felt normal to me and I wanted to do something about it. That’s the crazy thing about depression. You hate the state that you are in but it becomes so comfortable that the idea of physically having to do something different causes even greater anxiety and you fall into a state of complacency. Don’t let social media images and successful posts fool you. I’ve attained a lot this year and last year and am very grateful for it, yet and still, feelings of gloom still consumed me.

Having quiet time with God in the mornings before I started my day used to give me a great boost but the idea of having to get up early in the morning would mean I would have to miss out on much-needed sleep and I wasn’t ready for that – even though I knew it would help.

Eating healthier meals would help me focus more on my work and give me the energy to keep up with my busy lifestyle but that would mean I would have to actually cook more often and meal prep, and I just didn’t feel like it.

See where I am going with this?

Depression is a constant cycle of defeat and if we aren’t careful, it is so easy to get stuck there.

Since coming to the end of myself, I’ve forced myself to get up and attend church service, made some healthier food purchases, removed some social media apps from my phone until I’m ready to hop back on, and for the first time in SEEEEEEVERAL months, I had quiet time with God this morning. Rather than pouring a cup of coffee, I had a smoothie. All baby steps BUT it’s a start and today, I feel better.

Depression isn’t normal. Suicidal thoughts aren’t normal. Not eating isn’t normal. All these things are very common but it doesn’t make it normal. They are all a detriment to our livelihood and we have to take these things seriously when they arrive.

Even though it doesn’t feel like it, we have control over those thoughts.Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ”– 2 Corinthians 10:5

Just because the seed of depression is planted doesn’t mean we have to water it.

Seek help. Unashamed. Black, White, Green, Fluorescent Beige – whatever your color is. There are professionals in the field whose sole job is to provide that counsel to get us through those seasons.

Address that feeling of being down and feeling complacent. Stop normalizing suffrage and reclaim joy. Research different therapists and counselors in your area, what your insurance/employer will cover, and what sessions are free. The resources are out there. We just need to take that step towards peace..

“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” – 2 Corinthians 3:17

God Bless,

Alana Marie

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