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Mental Health & Wellness Associate
Mental health is defined as “a condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental illness and by adequate adjustment especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about others, and the ability to meet the demands of daily life”. While mental illness is defined as “any of a broad range of medical conditions (such as major depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorder) that are marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning and cause marked distress or disability and that are typically associated with a disruption in normal thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, interpersonal interactions, or daily functioning”.
Now that is out of the way…
Each day I watch my close friends and even distant acquaintances pursue their most intimate goals. As they shift through the ups and downs of life I watch and listen as they practice yoga, read in the mornings, walk, go out on lunch dates, go to church, and a plethora of other Teen Vogue Top 10 Tips of Self Care techniques to cure their situational depression. One by one the “my life is full of stress” ends happily with I feel much better, now I can focus and show off. While my whole bipolar, anxious and PTSD mind is laughing and pointing at me, say “girl you wish”.
And because of this misconception about self-care, I have been conditioned to think that somehow me waking up and just not wanting to die isn't good enough. While my friends can experience 3 - 4 days of situational depression, I experience months of crippling depression. While my friends can stay up until 3am grinding for stacks, I can stay up for days thinking about absolutely nothing at all. And this by the way is no shade to my friends, just the reality of my every day, every month, every year life.
There is a certain level of privilege that comes with not having to manage a mental illness. One that is often overshadowed is the most oversaturated word “stigma". Terms like lazy, crazy and several adjectives have plagued and often kept those who manage a mental illness like me feeling as if we are just doing something wrong. The privilege of turning lemons into lemonade is not that simple for everyone. That is harsh, but true.
Now I am a black mental illness advocate, which simply means I believe in educating black families about mental health care, while sharing my personal transparent stories. I am not Iyanla Vanzant, which I hope I never become (another conversation for another day).
I do not have the magic juice to cure illnesses. If I did, I believe I would be the first to rid myself of my own. I have no quotes, memes, or chants that will guide you to overcome. And this thinking alone made me take a short break in my advocacy. I began to see a shift to people accepting Mental Health Advocates who simply I have gone to therapy, and I am completely healed. There started to be more conversations around bubble baths and being a good friend, then where to get adequate healthcare and experiences of chronic symptoms.
I understand people want a solution, some quick answer to how can I be happy… and I just do not have it. That is my answer! I can only offer my best, where that best may lay at that time. My best may be mustering up enough energy to brush my teeth. It may be just enough energy to put my hair in a ponytail. I will post about my sleepless nights and teary days. I am going to talk about chronic suicidal ideation. That is my truth, and I cannot sugar coat it to make others feel comfortable about their stigma.
What we cannot do as a community is let the truth get lost in translation. We Know better than anyone that hiding our stories has led to volatile assumptions about Mental Illnesses. We know making things lighthearted has not really helped at all. It is ok to have situational depression and be joyous and share your tips for working through it, but we can't keep confusing chronic illness with situations. No one wins in that universe. And honestly my friends learn about my struggles through my advocacy. Which is perfectly fine with me because I do understand that these conversations can be heavy.
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