Photo Cred: India Kea
People often say that mental health isn’t a topic discussed in the Black community.
Not my Black community.
I exist in a bubble that’s saturated with stories by black folks of painfully honest struggles and wellness journeys, that are quite possibly keeping me alive right now.
It’s not odd for me to see an Instagram post from a local fashion beauty talking about her anxiety or a fierce philanthropic millennial opening up about her depression. I felt at home during a conference last week where three black moms spilled their guts about postpartum disorders as a packed room of fellow black mamas nodded and Amen’d in accord.
I have good friends (hey, @debtfreeblkgrl) who are academically trained to help people suffering from mental illnesses.
I have other friends who use their professional skill set to help others as a hobby because of their experiences navigating life. For instance, there’s my friend Mario (who hipped me to meditation when we first met, which I received with much skepticism). Just a couple days after learning about an event to launch his co-founded platform GoGetSomeJoy last November, I booked a bus ticket from D.C. to New York to be in attendance. When he was short on panelists, I linked him to Krissy and her former grad school classmate Alixis, co-founder of @NoBlackGirlLeftBehind.
And when Mario emailed me a couple weeks ago about writing up something for GoGetSomeJoy’s spinoff project Self Care Check-In, I obliged within the hour. Because that’s how it works in the bubble.
I’ve swapped stories and mental health resources with a couple of my friends who get paid (big bucks) for their professional advice (which I often feel guilty about accessing for free). When my badass single mom best friend told me that she was seeking help for being overwhelmed by raising a son with autism, we spoke honestly. No judgement. All love.
And when I read my younger cousin Malika’s post on this very blog about growing up with a mom who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, I was inspired to write about my own experiences with mental health issues.
While casually chatting about depression two days ago with my cousin, she told me that people cultivate bubbles because they gravitate to things they personally experience. For instance, she wouldn’t be hyper aware of ADA accommodation violations in her everyday life if her son didn’t have a disability.
Well, I guess that explains it. For the past five years, I’ve been in love with a perfectly imperfect man who was diagnosed with chronic depression in college. Our relationship has wavered between months-long episodes of sunken defeat and miraculous periods of smooth sailing.
And I wouldn’t trade it for the galaxy. Perhaps because of my bubble.
Last summer, my son’s father abandoned his parental responsibilities and has since disappeared. As far as I know, he’s yet to acknowledge that he’s dealing with a mental health crisis. It’s been beyond stressful for everyone involved.
For probably the entirety of October 2017, I could barely breathe because of stress at work. Panic attacks sucked my energy and spirit even after I was off the clock. I had to request immediate time off, most of which was spent dreading the thought of going back to work.
One day last November, I was going over my six-month personal and professional goals (because I’ve been known to plan my life on paper down to the year, month, day, minute, and second) and I couldn’t handle it. I closed my Macbook and cried on the couch for hours. My husband found me lying there face down and didn’t know what to do. And I was without answers for him.
A couple days later, I saw a counselor at a clinic who said something along the lines of “girl, you have moderate anxiety—you need to see a therapist ASAP. Like, IMMEDIATELY.”
So I found a bomb Black therapist (emphasis on Black because I had a white therapist a couple years ago and the experiences drastically differ) who I’ve been working with since then. Life. Changing.
And I’ve been trying (and failing and trying again) to commit to watching one of Faith Hunter’s energizing flows to start my mornings. I’m just getting into meditation but oftentimes it’s hard for me to sit in silence or with my thoughts. So I listen to podcasts.
When Another Round got cancelled, I wasn’t heartbroken just because Heben is all types of bae but because Tracey always left me with “drink some water, take your meds, call your person” (and because the show is just black girl magic. period.) Then I found Black Girl In Om… thank you baby Jesus. And Lauren and Deun introduced me to folks like Lalah Delia whose Vibrate Higher Daily motto has become my #2018wellnessgoal.
So what am I saying with all this?
There are hella Black people talking about mental health so I’m calling bullsh!t that it’s not discussed in our community. And if there’s no one in your circle who is talking about it, I’m willing to share my resources—burst my own bubble—and let you in.
Written by Christina Sturdivant Sani
Christina Sturdivant Sani is a freelance journalist and Washington, D.C. native who loves writing about her city—the good, bad and the ugly. As a staff writer at DCist for two years, she wrote more than 1,600 news and feature articles covering politics, education, crime, transportation, food, and culture in the District. Among other articles of 2018, she wrote a cover story for the Washington City Paper about racism at American University, an article for CityLab about how black youth are hopping on dockless bikes, and a Washingtonian Magazine feature about Wakanda-esque co-working space Dream Village. She’s currently rubbing elbows with developers, brokers, and architects to launch a D.C. edition of NYC-based real estate publication Commercial Observer. Tips are always appreciated.