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  • InFocus

    Bursting the Bubble: Black Writer Battles Her Anxiety and Husband’s Depression

    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.

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  • InFocus

    To Those In Need: Your Mental State

    Photo Cred: She Lives Deliberately 

    Denial.

    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.

    Social Media:

    Instagram- @malika.tiye, @malikas.story

    Facebook- Malika Tiyē Benton

    Twitter- @ssevensunflower

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  • InFashion

    My BudgetBabe Style

    When I was really young (about 10 years old), one of the designers that I was familiar with and that stood out to me was Coco Chanel. She will always be my favorite designer ever! The simplicity and the beauty of everything that was ever produced under this powerhouse of a brand, it just spoke to me. One thing that she said that I will never forget is that Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” I wholeheartedly agree with this; FASHION IS EVERYTHING. It’s so much more to it than just looking good though. 

    I’ve always been obsessed with style and fashion now that I look back on the course of my life and how I grew up. I was super spoiled y’all. My parents made sure I was always fly and I guess that carried into my young adulthood. So much so that I started my own online boutique back in 2012 and happily named it Krissy’s Klozet. I initially sold pieces from my actual wardrobe (hence the name lol) and from thrift and vintage stores and then worked my way up to purchasing new pieces in bulk. It gave me such a thrill and fulfillment to see my customers in their KK pieces, rocking them so effortlessly. My love for style also turned into personal styling alongside two of my girls when we started up Cirkiss Life (shoutout to Chrissy and Candace). Ahh, I’m getting such nostalgia as I’m writing this! Ultimately though, my procrastination, inconsistency, depression and fear/self-doubt all contributed to the closing of Krissy’s Klozet. *ugly cries* 

    Since then, I’ve had to stick with shopping for and dressing myself. It kinda had a big role in me starting Debt Free Black Girl. Over the past few years, I’ve had to really cut back on my spending since I was trying to do better with managing my coins. When I started Debt Free Black Girl, I wanted my ‘budgetbabe’ style to be heavily incorporated. Somewhere along the way this vision was blurred. That’s the reason I’m writing this now. I want to document more of my personal style and live out my motto that you don’t have to sacrifice style while on a budget and paying off debt right here on this blog. I’m superrrr excited for this new chapter!

    My Personal Style

    So I’m a huge tomboy and it’s often reflected in my wardrobe. I like oversized, sporty, chill pieces for the most part. You can also find me in a crop top and something black about 90% of the time, regardless of how cold it is. My style evolves with whatever mood I’m in and that’s the beauty of it. Prints. Minimal. Vintage. You name it, I’ve rocked it at some point or another. Some of my favorite places to shop are thrift stores, Zara, my mother’s closet, and Forever 21. Quite honestly, I can pick up something off of the rack at Walmart for all I care…as long as it’s dope to me. Thrifting will forever be number 1 for me though. I love sifting through mounds and mounds of clothes to find those treasures in the mix. You gotta be patient for thrifting bruh, especially if you want to leave out of there with some worthwhile pieces. 

    Recently, my signature style has been this: an all black fit with a red lippie. Dressing in all black gives me the most confidence and has me feeling like a true BAWSE. I feel my absolute best when I wear black for some reason. A few years ago, my Pastor had to have an intervention with me because he was concerned that I wore black all of the time, thinking that something was wrong with me LOL. But nah, it simply just makes me look and feel good at the same time.

    I’m really glad that I’ve finally been able to get this post out…it’s been a long time coming. But stay tuned for more personal style posts and tips on how to look fly while on a budget and paying down debt without breaking the bank.

    Now let’s talk about it. What would you like to see from me as it relates to style and fashion? Sound off in the comments, I wanna hear from you!

    xo,

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  • InFinance

    How I Paid Off $5,000 in 3 Months

    “When I first started getting serious about paying down my debts, I had to really think about why it was important for me to get out of debt as soon as possible,” said Kristin Sutton, founder of this platform Debt Free Black Girl in a recent newsletter.  

    Good question. Why is being debt free important to me? Well frankly, I am tired of dealing with the emotional consequences that come with debt such as stress, anxiety, shame, depression, low self esteem just to name a few. Since I started this journey I have had to constantly remind myself why I am doing this in the first place. It has helped tremendously to keep me focused and remind myself of my purpose and changed my outlook on my finances.

    Here’s what I did to accelerate my debt payoff in no particular order:

    Read more

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  • InFinance

    The Journey That Led Me to Start DFBG

    It was the summer of 2003; I was 17 years old and was gearing up to attend school at North Carolina A&T (Aggie Pride). As soon as I stepped onto campus, they had a table set up for students to sign up for credit cards. Bruh! I was like a kid in a candy store as I approached the table and signed my name on the dotted line. I just had to get my hands on one of those cards! Mistake #1.

    I knew nothing about how credit cards REALLY worked, and how much trouble they would ultimately get me into. So picture me, a young naive ‘carefree black girl’ with a credit card. A CREDIT CARD! I would just ball out with no remorse; frequent shopping trips to the local mall and going out to eat and footing the bill for all of my friends was the norm. I must have thought I was Diddy or something. Like who does that? Just being RECKLESS! Not realizing that I actually had to pay all of that money back plus extra (just kidding), I was living the good life as a poor little rich girl (I was spoiled SMH).

    Read more

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