A few months ago, I shared what my life is like living with a mental illness in Let’s Be Real Society’s syndicated article “Fresh Air”. While writing my part, I thought nothing of it. I described what it was like for me in a manner that I thought others could visualize and went on about my life… for a minute. Only as outlets began to publish the piece, did I think about what I had really shared.
I have mental health issues. I struggle with both depression and anxiety. Well they say the first step to solving your problem, is to admit you have a problem, so that part is done. However, I didn’t consider the awkwardness that would follow, and it really wasn’t because anyone said anything but just knowing I had finally faced my truth.
The first step is admission, but I sought treatment for my issues twice in the past. The first time I was about 21, and the meds gave me cottonmouth. My jaws would lock, and I would be gritting my teeth all day. It was horrible and usually I felt nauseous and/or suffered from headaches. I didn’t want to live like that, so I stopped, but I attempted meds again almost two years ago. This time they weren’t so bad. The symptoms were lighter, but due to job and life changes, I fell off.
Yet, I don’t really want to take meds. Every few months there is a recall on drugs. Commercials for prescription drugs are some of the scariest things one can watch, in my opinion, once they get to the disclaimers. I want to learn how to control my “illness”, my mind.
Now can I be crazy for a minute? I have admitted I have a problem, the doctors have diagnosed the problem, and yet everyone around tells me “it’s in your head.” Well duh, I get that much, but do you? I am going to reply, “no”, because if you did, you would realize it is like stating the obvious. 42.5 million people are diagnosed with mental illness each year in the US alone. 16.5 % of the suicides that take place are related to mental illness, and yet as a society, it’s like we refuse to believe.
I don’t want to keep having conversations about mental illnesses existing in the Black community, I want to have conversations about how to handle how it, how to deal with it. How do you live with battling yourself, your hardest working organ, your brain?
I already know it’s present, because I am the product of many generations of it. These artists and celebs you read about daily and drag, are products of it. Their drug abuse and high- risk “sexcapades” are symptoms of it. The deranged and confused homeless people you see in your neighborhoods or at the corner store are often victims of it, and yet we whisper and discuss it in shame.
Does mental illness exist? Hell yes! Next question- how do those who suffer from mental illness live a healthy and successful life, equivalent to those who do not have to live with this burden? Did you know in Trump’s new healthcare reform, mental illness (including anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia) is listed among pre-existing conditions to be denied healthcare? Yes, it is true. How do we be recognized and not labeled or stigmatized? These are the questions I am more concerned with having, the conversations that interest me.
School of Social Work. University of Washington. (2017). Facts About Mental Illness and Suicide.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). Risk of Suicide.