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.
No one wanted to admit that something could be wrong. Bad decisions based off of things that weren’t true. Voodoo, infidelity, rape, any and everything under the sun. Realistic to some isn’t realistic to everyone, including my mother. Especially the time in my life when I had to take showers with a t-shirt on. I was seven or eight years old and I would do anything my mother told me to, even if it was to hide from the cameras in the shower.
Our lifestyle didn’t seem any different from anyone else so I always assumed that our life was “normal.” The signs were always there, but one can only conceal mental illness but so much. You’re bound to slip up, say, or do something that doesn’t mesh with the “normal” that we’re all accustomed to. If someone were to ask me then, “How do you feel about taking showers with t-shirts on?” I would have given a normal response, emphasizing that it was just something that we did. If someone asked me the same question today, I’d clearly and confidently state that my mother has paranoid schizophrenia. Then, I had no idea–even after we moved out of the house that had cameras in the showers and walls. My family would always just call her crazy or say that’s just how she is. But her life decisions should have warranted more of response–a medical one.
In the same house that had cameras, another incident happened that screamed “Help me.” During this time, my mother and father were on the brink of divorce. In the car with my mother, driving from the store, she screamed and cried at my father. I honestly can’t remember what was said the entire car ride, or when we got home, but I do remember the following. My mother had a gun, a rifle to be exact. My father was terrified of what she would with it. By the time we got home, I vaguely remember sitting in the living room and seeing the police arrive. They escorted my mother out of her house in handcuffs after she had been crying hysterically. I was terrified at this point too. One of the police officers came over to talk to me and told me that they were just taking my mother on a trip and that everything would be ok. My father arrived and I knew he had called them. I was so upset that he would actually call the police on my mother that I blamed him for everything that happened following my mother’s arrest. She was placed in a psych ward for about two days for depression and to my knowledge, it would take five years for her to get an official diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia –five years.
So I could go on and on explaining, describing, and painting the many situations that involved my mother but that’s not my M.O. These situations happen to so many people, more specifically black people. For some reason, mental health has not always been a “thing” for black people. Family members were always just “funny.” If this doesn’t include your family then great, but it sure enough has been the case for mine. No one thought that maybe the chemicals in my mom’s brain could have been a tad imbalanced, or that therapy could have been the help that she needed. But how could they know? If they had known, would they have had the proper treatment resources? Don’t get me wrong, I adore my family and understand that they did the best that they could. I absolutely adore my father as he definitely did the best he could. And in no way am I bashing my family for really anything at all.
I’m urging anyone who knows of a struggling person to reach out and try to help. Sometimes, people are just interesting, but in other cases, help is needed, and there could be something more–something treatable. Today, my mother is doing just fine with proper therapy and guided medication, so there is always hope–I mean always. So I send nothing but encouraging energy to everyone in need.
Now let’s talk about it. Have you ever known someone who seemed like they needed mental health treatment but wasn’t getting the help that they needed? Sound off in the comments, I wanna hear from you!
Written by Malika T. Benton
Malika is a creative writer, photographer, filmmaker, wife and mother from Prince George’s County, Maryland. Her life experiences have led her to become fascinated with story-telling in all capacities. She wishes to inspire, uplift, and encourage her audiences. Malika has a desire to learn and to remain teachable. In December of 2017, she graduated cum laude from Bowie State University with a B.A. in English Creative Writing and a minor in Psychology.
As I scrolled through social media the past few weeks, it had me feeling like I was behind or better yet, like a “failure.” Why do you ask? Well, let me let you in on a little secret…here it was days away from a fresh, new year and I had nothing planned out yet. I would see all of these posts and memes say things like “if you haven’t planned yet for 2018, then you’ve already lost” or “I have my entire 2018 life and business planned already, what about you?” Ugh these posts irritated my entire soul. Now I’m all for a good planning session, but for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it this time around. I started to ask myself “girl what’s wrong with you?” and making myself feel guilty because I didn’t have everything figured out for the new year.
But then I had a lightbulb moment.
I realized that it was OK if I didn’t have my life and business mapped out. I thought about how I am supposed to be allowing God to order my footsteps and give me direction on what I should be doing. My plans should not be my own. This had me relieved; I’m not at all behind just because so-and-so on the internet said so. I have time. Time to listen and hear from God. Time to allow myself to live in the moment. Time to learn as I go.
I am so overwhelmed with emotion as I’m writing this. The Werk Pray Slay Weekend that I attended this past weekend was everything that I needed and more! What is Werk Pray Slay you ask? It’s a “weekend for winning women” who want to be the best version of themselves before they become a wife. It’s super packed with the information and tools necessary to level up in both your personal and professional life. Werk Pray Slay is hosted by the beautiful Koereyelle of The Single Wives Club each year. It was so dope to see all of those beautiful women under one roof who are committed and serious about doing better for themselves. I am so blessed to have been a part of the 5th annual event! I was given the opportunity to be a speaker this year, speaking on how to change the way you think about money. You know, the usual lol.
But baby let me tell you! It was such a struggle getting down to Atlanta. It all started Friday morning when me and Shamese ran through the airport to catch our 6am flight, only to be told at the gate that there were some maintenance issues and that they weren’t letting anyone else onto the plane at the time. 90% of the people had already boarded the flight. So, some time passes, and the lady still had no updates for us. And in my opinion, she was giving us the run around. Some more time passes and they made everyone that had already boarded the flight get off of the plane. At this point, me and Shamese are worried and wondering what is going on. Some more time passes (I’m talking hours) and they finally make the announcement that the flight had been canceled for the day. The flight that they offered to put us on was not scheduled until Saturday at 11 AM. Mind you, I had to be in Atlanta to speak at 11:30 AM Saturday morning. This was not going to work for us! We were pissed off and trying to figure out what we were going to do so that we can make it to Atlanta in time. We started to lookup alternative flight options for that day and we found flights ranging from $330 to over $1,000 just for a one way flight to Atlanta. A ONE WAY BRUH. Being the BudgetBabe that I am, I wasn’t rocking with dishing all of that money out for a one way ticket. After fighting to get our refund and bags back, we decided to just leave the airport.
I can’t believe that it’s November already! This year has definitely flown by, it’s crazy! I’m excited though, because November is my favorite month of the year. I know you’re probably wondering, what’s so special about this month? Well, let me hip you right quick! It’s my favorite holiday Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and it’s my birthday all wrapped up into one. I also love the beautiful fall weather and style. I luhhhh fall fashions lol. I’m super amped up about what is going to unfold throughout this month. Have so many new things in store for you guys! My focus is about to be too crazyyyyyyy.
It’s time for me to finally share with you what direction DFBG is going in. DFBG is shifting into more of a lifestyle brand. I’m still going to talk money though, but just more so of how it relates to your everyday life, on the journey to becoming debt free. The reason I am going into this direction is because I’ve been feeling like I’ve lost myself in the past year or so. My friend Quinisha told me that I was getting away from myself; she had to lay it on me thick and keep it 100 with me. She would ask me things like “who are you? You’re not the person that I’ve met a few years ago. Where is my friend at?” I would literally just laugh her out because I didn’t really take her seriously until I went through a breakup a few months back and I finally started to reevaluate some things in my life.
In 2011, I started an online clothing company called Krissy’s Klozet. It started out as a hobby, not really thinking that it would go anywhere, other than me selling a few clothes out of my closet to make a few extra bucks. I was in graduate school at the time, and I wanted to use the money that I earned to help me along the way. Krissy’s Klozet started to pick up and I actually had some real life customers LOL, I was shocked that it was actually people out there that wanted to buy from me. The reason why I was shocked is because I didn’t really believe in my ability to actually have a sustainable business and to have real customers that truly liked my product offerings. Crazy right? Just think about how me thinking in that way and having that skewed mindset held me back!
I was so inconsistent with how much I posted on social media, how much I updated my site with new products and basically everything else in life SMH. It wasn’t like I didn’t have good products, everybody loved it, BUT I wasn’t consistent! And when you’re not consistent and you don’t even believe in your brand, who else is gonna believe in you? That held me back a lot; I was fearful of being successful for some odd reason. I didn’t really wanna put myself out there because I’ve always been shy and introverted and I didn’t wanna let people into my world. Krissy’s Klozet was a [short lived] success. I just wish that I was as focused back then as I am now. But I guess everything happens for a reason. Without Krissy’s Klozet, there would have been no DFBG. I’m super grateful for all of those experiences and mistakes that I’ve made along the way because I’m using those as fuel to power what I’m doing with DFBG.
Earlier this year, just out of nowhere, this idea for DFBG just popped in my head and I ran with it! At that point, I had already started to change my mindset about how I felt about myself, how I felt about being successful and my ability to do anything that I wanna do. You literally can do anything that you wanna do in life, as long as you have the mindset to go along with it! Once I made it up my mind that I was sick and tired of just existing, it was murder she wrote after that. To see this idea come out of my head and just grow as much as it’s grown so far is amazing. That’s all because I made up my mind that I was not going to let fear or self doubt hold me back ANYMORE!
I wanted to share some of the things that have gotten me through those tough periods of fear and self doubt that I experienced. Here are a few ways that we can overcome those experiences and banish them out of our lives for good!
Make up your mind!
You have to wake up and just say “I’m sick, I’m sick of thinking like this, I’m sick of letting fear hold me back from fulfilling what I wanna do!” A lot of times, we have this stinking thinking and it cripples us so much. There are people that have been laying in their death beds who have been so regretful because they didn’t really live to their fullest potential. Who wants to live like that for the rest of their lives? NO ONE! If there’s anything that you have been trying to pursue and had some failures along the way, get back up and try again! Don’t let the past hold you back! When you make up your mind, you have to define your goals. What do you want to accomplish? You have to know what that is. Make a list of all of your goals and make it up in your mind that you are, without a doubt, going to accomplish all of these things! You have to dive all in and fully commit to this. Commit fully to yourself that you’re gonna do this by any means necessary! No one can hold you back except yourself. A lot of times, we’re our biggest enemies. We hold ourselves back from accomplishing these things and then we’re regretful years down the line because we’re like “why didn’t I take that opportunity?” You have to plant the seed of the dream inside of you and then nurture that seed so that it grows every single day; you have to be doing something towards accomplishing your goals. The smallest thing can make your dreams blossom. All it takes is you showing up and doing the work.
Detach yourself from your fears.
As humans, we’re always going to experience feelings of fear and self doubt at times because it is a normal human emotion. Make it up in your mind that although you have these fears, you’re not gonna let them control you. You’re in control of what happens. Just acknowledge that fear because you can’t just avoid it, that’s not gonna help anything. Acknowledge that the fear exists and then you tell that fear “I’m not gonna let you hold me back and control me, I have things to accomplish!” That fear will begin to go away! All you have to do is just jump right in. Once you are actually doing it (whatever you said you were gonna accomplish), you’ll start to ease up and get more confident of your ability to fulfill your goal.
A lot of times we make up these scenarios in our minds of things that most likely will never happen; we think the worst in situations. We have to think positive in these situations instead. Go into the situation thinking “I’m going to conquer this thing, I got this!” I know from experience that this is very hard to do, but one day you have to just make it up in your mind that you’re no longer gonna let it consume you. Look fear in the face, take a deep breath, and keeping moving through that fear. That fear is gonna fuel you to build your confidence even more, once you overcome.
Change your attitude about failures.
Being successful does not come easy. You have to go through some things in order to reach that level of success that you envisioned for yourself. You have to change your attitude about failure and by doing that, you’re not looking at it as a negative thing. With being successful, setbacks are inevitable. It’s always gonna be some challenge that arises along the way on your journey to success and you have to decide if you’re gonna let it defeat you or if you’re gonna keeping pushing through and learn from that failure/mistake. With Krissy’s Klozet, if I didn’t make all of those mistakes along the way, I wouldn’t have known how to attack DFBG going in. Redefine failure. See failure as you collecting information about how to do things in the future. When we’re going through these experiences, they’re just building our confidence levels to new heights! All we gotta do is get back up, dust ourselves off and try again (shoutout to babygirl Aaliyah). All of us make mistakes, it’s just about what you’re going to do when that mistake happens that determines your level of success.
So do this: allow yourself to make mistakes, learn along the way, and then press forward because those times are gonna be what makes you stronger in the end. Once you get over those hurdles, you’re gonna be like “I can accomplish anything, that’s it? That was nothing! I was scared for no reason!” YOU GOT THIS! All you gotta do is just put your mind to it and JUST DO IT!