How I Learned to Take Ownership of My Mental Health

This piece will contain explict content about living with mental illness and self harm. This is my warning, to you as a reader, that this content may be triggering.

I have a testimony I want to share with y’all about depression and suicidality.

The week of my 26th birthday, I made the difficult desison to receive a mental health check up that resulted in a 10-day in-patient hospital stay to treat my mental state. It was at this time I was diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder and Suicidality.  Suicidality is a condition that when triggered results in a person having obessive complusive thoughts of self harm and suicide. These are conditions I have lived with for all of my adult life that have gone untreated by medical professionals due to my own fear.

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To understand my fear of medicine and medical facilitates, we have to time travel back to my youth. When I was sixteen healing for the first time from sexual trauma, I made two attempts on my life that resulted in me being heavily medicated for a time on antidepressants. Now, at sixteen my brain was not fully developed. The medication I was being prescribed intended purpose was to stablize my moods, and treat my suicidality. Yet the side effects made me feel numb and like a shell of a person. This experience with medication was traumatizing to me. I developed a fear in my adult life of receiving medical attention for the depression and suicidality. For a long time I self medicated with smoking weed and eating edibles to mellow out my intense mood swings and quiet the thoughts of self harm when they got too loud.

I spent my birthday alone in bed sick with a viral infection trying to get to soothe myself with a blunt when I realized that living in this way did not feel useful or helpful anymore. I am grateful for the relief weed gave me intermediately and for the awareness that I was in need of something more. Getting admitted to the hospital felt scary and embarrassing. I admitted to my mother that I felt weak and incompetent. She, like all great mothers, reminded me there is No Shame in receiving mental health help- in fact it required a considerable amount of strength. She was right. It will be one week since my release and going on three weeks since I have been on mediciation treating my mental state.

Within the first twenty four hours I felt the first wave of mental clarity – it was Ah- Mazing ! The relief of being on antidepressant and antipsychotic does come with a cost. Due to my weight and biological make up I have felt all the the side effects at one time or another intensely. After completing simple task like cooking a meal, washing dishes, or bathing my children I feel completely wiped out physically. I get dizzy and this interferes with daily life as well.

In the span of the past few weeks my life has shifted. I learned the importance of priortizing my own care. Being hospitalized I was forced to sit my busy ass down and face the darkness within myself. I have been trying to distract myself with organizing, performing and other community based activities than face the reality that I am lonely.  And that loneliness is a direct result of when I self isolate when sad. I have for a long while found comfort in retreating inward, and for a time that was what was safest to do. At this current moment in my life I have had to sit with how not being expansive, and projecting my fears is actually limiting myself.  I am leaning into challenging myself to expand my comfort zone by sharing my story with y’all.

Healing is messy work. It requires that we be present while doing it. There is no right or wrong way- but there is trial and error to see what is best useful for you. Let my testimony inspire you to take charge of your mental health wellness. I invite you to stop for a moment and Breathe with me. Give yourself a gentle loving touch and say this with me :

(while you breathe in) I am Grateful for the Gift that is this Day .

(while you breathe out) I release all my shame to be transformed into compassion. 

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Around BuffaLowe: S&J Foundation presents Let’s Talk About Mental Health [5.29.19]

I learned about this event by way of my girl Adri V’s Instagram story last week. Jamil Crews, who kindly honored myself and several other nominees in October 2017 at the 4th Annual 30 Under 30 Changemakers Awards, is hosting a mental health forum and I strongly encourage anyone who can attend to go!

Hopefully our resident Buffalo blogger Marielle can make it to this so we can share the information provided on a later post!

It’s time to have some real conversations about Mental Health.

Jamil Crews assembled some really dope speakers to talk about mental health as it relates to people with learning disabilities. Those disabilities can take a major toll on your mental health and he wants to help you learn to manage it.

Karl Shallowhorn from Community Health Center of Buffalo is coming in to speak. Karl himself has dealt with having mental health issues, and has now dedicated his life to helping those manage their own mental health issues.

Janielle Mckoy, who is a fashion producer, is coming all the way from Toronto to speak. She had to learn to deal with having dyslexia, and she’s going to talk about that.

And a person who really doesn’t need an introduction, Danielle Roberts from the YMCA will be on hand to speak as well. Danielle is truly passionate about the community she serves and she’s going to talk about a lot of the great programming coming out of the Y to help people with learning disabilities.

It will be hosted by the very talented Yasmin Young from 93.7 WBLK – The People’s Station.

They will also have free mental health screenings on site.

So let’s talk with J and #BreakTheStigma!

Powered by The S&J Foundation

RSVP here:

Sandjfoundation.org

The Sweetness of Life

Over my posting hiatus I dedicated my time to reflecting on my life’s experiences, wrote fiercely, and had the opportunity to perform in shows that aligned with my core beliefs as a queer black femme dedicated to the liberation from oppressive systems. I was literally riding this high celebrating when I was attacked and violated by a stranger. The days and now weeks that have followed since this incident have tested my abilities that I have written about in the past : loving myself and my spirituality. In the wake of the trauma I was cared for by the women and femme folk that I am blessed to call my community. This experience has inspired me to write again in a public space about the transformative power of love, survival and sisterhood.

I woke up completely sore trying to shake the feeling of a night terror that clings on after sleep. Without moving I looked at the disheveled state of my room, house then down at my body that confirmed what I had feared to be true. Still in shock, I reached out to two of my close friends one of which before leaving the club we were at the night before told me to let her know when I had made it home safe, which was not the case. At some point in my drunkness I accidentally called two more of my friends, one who called me the next day and I told her what happened. I am extremely thankful at how quickly everyone moved into action to guide me into a recovery process that I am currently still undergoing.

Over the next two weeks I spent time sharing living spaces with friends as I still felt unsafe in my apartment. Among themselves they organized their availability to when they could be present with me when I was fearful of being alone. Each friend I stayed with and supported me during this time poured their loving energy into me as I began this new phase of my healing journey. They each passed along to me essentials for thriving through healing that I had forgotten in the wake of the most recent incident.  

Natasha and Ebony reminded me of the importance and simplicity of self care and spiritual balance. They both had their own unique takeNatasha reminded me to trust and return to my body through affirmations like ‘my body is doing what it knows to keep itself safe’, taking me to the hospital, and pushing me to take time to sit and rest. Ebony reminded me the importance of my connection to nature by going on walks and spending time with me in the park. The warmth of Shaketa and Zoe’s support reminded me of the feelings of my family that I longed so much for that is absent in my life and restored that love inside of me. Jayden restored my hope of my future self, that the care I dedicate now does extend to the me of tomorrow and thereafter. Eve and Rachel reminded me that coping can be unorthodox even messy, but writing will always be healing.

‘my body is doing what it knows to keep itself safe’

So many more of my dear friends imparted their love,wisdom and magic  that has nourished my soul. They all collective came together at my home to celebrate my twenty fifth solar return. With sage, paleo santo, candles we set intentions and reclaimed my space. Before bed that night I did a separate ritual where I reflected on my life’s course. I can honestly say I love my life.I cherish the experiences I have had and am excited for my future.

Coming forward with this new chapter of my story is a struggle. Grappling with flashbacks, triggers and unhealthy habits is harder than I remembered. I get angry and frustrated with myself for not progressing at a rate I aspire to in my mind. But each day I have to accept the fact that these wounds are fresh and new – I have to be gentle with myself.

If any of this resonates with you- if you are overcoming a trauma, a hardship of any form let me remind you of this: patience is key on this journey.

Love and self compassion will restore and recharge you continually.

When fear feels larger than life itself, shrink it by connecting with someone who genuinely cares for and loves you.

You are not alone in your battle for reclaiming your birthright of a peaceful liberated life. I hope my posts will remind you of this as I recount pieces of my own journey.