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@KrisNichole Celebrates Her Life Anniversary!

The Pain.   God Saving Me.  Me walking to become the me GOD had planned

When you first look at these pictures of  Kris you may see a beautiful young Black woman.  In speaking to Kris, you will sense she is sweet, intelligent and kind.  What you won’t see are the scars that are healing, from several suicide attempts. (Yes there were several)  Kris had been diagnosed with depression, sever panic attacks and anxiety.  She has been admitted to what she refers to as a “Psych Prison.” Dealing with all of the things that life can throw at us is difficult.  Dealing with all of these things while suffering in silence with mental illness can take a toll on even the strongest person. On August 11, 2011 there was another suicide attempt, however after this one Kris made a decision to fight and fight Continue reading “@KrisNichole Celebrates Her Life Anniversary!”

3 Signs It’s Time To See a Therapist

The was originally written in 2014, and posted on a personal blog.  Kara of  The Frugal Feminista came across the post on Twitter and shared it on her site.  This is one post I will continue to share because the question of ‘should I see a therapist?’ is one that continues to be asked.

The energy of the mind is the essence of life~Aristotle

     Someone asked me last night, “So how did you know you needed to go see a therapist?”  To be honest, I couldn’t remember the exact moment I said, “Let me find a therapist”.  I remember I did have a close friend that I discussed the topic with, but I don’t know if she suggested it or I mentioned it first.  The important thing is that I knew it was time to get help…. but what was it about THAT moment?  My answer, I was tired of feeling how I had been feeling and I wanted to get back to being myself.  Despite appearing to be content with my life at the time, I wasn’t happy.  I was actually very sad, over eating, taking EVERYTHING personal, crying often, and either not sleeping  or sleeping my days away.  That is not the life I wanted for myself.

 My answer was “I tired of feeling how I had been feeling and I wanted to get back to being myself.”  Despite appearing to be content with my life at the time, I wasn’t happy.  I was actually very sad, over eating, taking EVERYTHING personal, crying often, and either not sleeping  or sleeping my days away.  I also had the same issues or feelings resurfacing; feeling insecure,  issues with my family and allowing the wrong people to be a part of my life.   I was exhausted mentally and emotionally, and that is not the life I wanted for myself.

     After I finished a lengthy phone conversation with my friend, the questions stayed in my mind.  “So how did you know you needed to go see a therapist?  “When should I find a therapist?”  In the end, I gave an honest answer, but it didn’t stop me from thinking about how I would answer the question if I were asked by someone else. After much thinking, I composed a list of MY top three suggestions.DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional, a doctor, nurse, life coach (though some people may disagree)-I am just giving my opinion. 

After the death of a loved one.

     I would encourage people who have lost a child, a parent, a sibling, a best friend or a spouse to talk to someone, about their feelings.  If the person you lost was extremely close to you, or if there are feelings of guilt or extreme sadness, I would suggest grief counseling.  Everyone deals with death in different ways, you need to make sure you are coping with it in a healthy way.  Many times we have feelings of guilt, thinking about what we could have done to prevent it, or we often think about things we wish we would’ve said or done before they left us.  Talking through those feelings with a professional can make the difference between letting their death consume you and letting their life inspire you.

If you are a ‘bag lady or bag man’.

     Did you have an unstable childhood? Have you had several failed relationships?  Do you have anger issues?  Do you blame your failures in life on other people?  If so you should consider seeing a therapist.  Many times the feelings from a bad situation stay with us, and we don’t realize it.  An absent parent can often lead to abandonment issues and a lack of self-love.  Staying in a bad relationship can destroy your self-worth, and make you question everyone’s intentions, preventing you from developing healthy relationships.  Many people think they are justified in feeling how they do.  They believe it is normal because they have lived through these bad situations.  At some point, we have to place those ‘bags’ on the ground and walk away.  Carrying around those constant negative feelings, leave no room for love and happiness in your life, and everyone deserves to be  happy and loved.

When things are changing (or you want them to)

     I feel like this statement may be too broad, but it is the best phrase, to sum up,  my point.  Although change is inevitable it can be difficult to initiate. Even if  changes are being forced upon us they can be difficult to accept.  What do we want to change our lives, but for whatever reason, we cannot?  Many people are in the processes of changing or want to change their job, their relationship, their lifestyle, their religious beliefs but find that it is difficult. Many people want to get rid of anger issues, trust issues, abandonment issues, body image issues, feelings of guilt, and feelings of insecurity.  Many people stay in their current state because they don’t know what lies on the other side of change. There is an element of fear of the unknown. Often we settle in  our unhappiness because that’s part of life, right??  I believe it doesn’t have to be I think if you want to change, you can, but not always on your own.  A therapist does help those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, or those who have not been diagnosed.  A therapist can help you deal with the pains of change in a healthy way.  They can help you look at life with a different perspective, but you must be open to it.  It is such a great feeling to sit and talk to a professional who job is to just listen and help.  This person doesn’t know your family or friends; this person does not judge you so you can speak freely.  While finding the right therapist may not be easy, once you have found him or her, you will know it.  So if you are considering getting a therapist, take the first step and understand why you need one.  Success in therapy requires you be totally honest with yourself and your therapist, and that you are open to getting help.

It is such a great feeling to sit and talk to a professional who job is to just listen and help.  This person doesn’t know your family or friends; this person does not judge you so you can speak freely.  While finding the right therapist may not be easy, once you have found him or her, you will know it and you will find yourself suggesting therapy to other people and answering the same question I often do, “How did you know you needed to see a therapist?”

Dignity &Mental Helath

Dignity & Mental Health; Why awareness matters!

I wrote this last year for  The Frugal Feminista, but I felt it was important to share again.  Saturday,  October 10 was World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme was Dignity and Mental Health.

Dignity is defined as “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect”, and one of the least respected groups of people in our society are those who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.  They are often the butt of jokes and we believe that we should be afraid of them.  They are pushed into a corner and not discussed until a tragedy happens.  Although mental illness affects 1 in 5 Americans, it is still one of the least discussed and underfunded health issues, especially in minority communities.

Words like “crazy”, “psychotic”, and  “lunatic” are often used to describe people that have been diagnosed with a mental illness.   Many people do not know that serious mental illness is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.  Just like any other major organ can become defective, so can the brain.  Sometimes this imbalance is due to biological factors, sometimes due to environmental factors.  Can you imagine forever labeling someone as “lazy and undisciplined”  that had a heart attack as a result of bad eating habits and lack of exercise?  No matter what the cause of the illness, the fact remains that members of our society that have become ill.  We often sympathize and hope to cure lung cancer, even for the person that smoked a pack a day for 20 years, however when it comes to the person with paranoid schizophrenia we want to lock them up throw away the key.  The ability to empathize and support those with cancer, heart disease and even some mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s came from being made aware of these illnesses-the who, what, & whys.  It was because of knowledge, understanding and maybe personal experiences that we all came to know about the dangers of breast cancer and heart disease.  Let’s begin to increase our knowledge of mental illnesses. Continue reading “Dignity & Mental Health; Why awareness matters!”

An Open Letter to Moms & Dads

An Open Letter to Parents

Parents are the ultimate role models for children.  Every word movement and action has an effect.  No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than a parent. ~Bob Keeshan

Dear Parents (mom, dads, and those who take on the role),

You have the pleasure of having one of the most important jobs, you’re a parent.

You are your child’s first teacher, friend, and confidant.  

Your children have changed your life ways you never imagined.

Your children have shown you the true definition of unconditional love.

Parents did you know that your child could have a mental illness, by as early as 14-years old.  According to the National Institute on Mental Health, “…half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.”  If an illness has an onset at 14 years old, it is highly likely that a diagnosis will come years later.  The symptoms of a mental illness may be difficult to notice for 3 reasons:

  1. They are teenagers!  This is a time when your child’s body and brain goes through so many changes.  Puberty brings not only physical changes but emotional changes as well.  Ask almost any parent that has a child that has been diagnosed with a mental illness and they will tell you that they thought their child was just acting out, or that they would grow of the behavior.  
  2.   Parents don’t know what they don’t know.  Often parents do not know the history of mental illness in their own family and are unaware of the early symptoms.  We may think that since children are resilient that they are immune to trauma, they are not.  Many parents are unaware that mental illnesses has an affect the brain, and there is no amount of punishment, spanking, talking to or prayer  that can change that.  
  3.   Mental illness carries a stigma.  The stigma of mental illness is so great that many refuse to believe that their child could be ill. It is natural that any parent would not their child to face discrimination and be shunned by friends and family.  There is also a natural fear that they will be shunned because they have a child w/a mental illness.

Continue reading “An Open Letter to Parents”

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Mama has “the blues”? The Carmichael Show gets serious about depression

Many families share the good, the bad and the ugly with each other, especially spouses.  But how do often do spouses speak about their mental health?  Some moms and daughters and sons and fathers are best friends, but would they open up about being depressed?  In this week’s episode of The Carmichael Show, Cynthia, the wife, and mother (Loretta Devine) is caught crying while she is in the kitchen alone.  While this is a comedy, the response of husband and father, Joe, (David Alan Grier)  is that she has “the blues”, which he describes as some crying, sadness, and excessive sleeping.    

 

Maxine, the girlfriend of Jerrod Carmichael (one of the shows creators), pushes back and the family has an open conversation about depression.  Surprisingly, well maybe not actually, all of the responses are common in the African-American community;  “only rich people get depressed”, “your mom isn’t depressed, she is strong”, and there is an “uncle that hasn’t left home in 15 years” that gets swept under the rug.  The episode goes on to discuss therapy, shows how the Carmichaels deal with the news that mom is depressed.  Jerrod Carmichael, encourages his mom to seek help.  He and Maxine are in the minority as other family members chime in on the subject.   

According to the National Institue on Mental Health, “Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States“.  Depression is defined as “A period of two weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image”  according to the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).  It is understandable that many parents, especially moms, feel like they cannot open up or even address their own feelings or needs.  It is accepted that parents are supposed to be the strong ones, and be the “backbone” for their children and sometimes the rest of the family.  Parents are supposed to be an example of  perfection and strength, right?  Not all of the time!! Children need to know that sometimes mom and dad need their own time and that mom and dad have rough days too.  They need to see examples of self-care and self-love!  Letting anyone believe that you have it together 100% of the time is a disservice to your family, as well as yourself.  The better we take care of ourselves, the better we can continue to take care of our families.
The Carmichael Show tackles this sensitive topic with truth and laughter!  Tune in each Sunday for new episodes of this great comedy!  NBC.com has full episodes of season 2 online.  The link to the full episode is here.

ALEX

Could you survive Schizophrenia?

Imagine seeing black spots on a wall, but no one else can see them?  What if you heard someone calling your name, but you were home alone?  What if your family was trying to poison you or your friends were trying to harm, or so you thought?  This is the reality of someone who has schizophrenia.  Literally the reality they experience, the sights and sounds, are not real at all.

Learning more about his illness changed my life.  Growing up with a family member with this illness wasn’t easy, but Surviving Schizophrenia changed my life.  NIMH, the National Institute on Mental Health, describes schizophrenia  as “a chronic, severe, and disabling, brain disorder that has affected people throughout history”.  While I don’t have the illness, I am at risk  for it.  I had to learn  about it and learn to live with Schizophrenia because my mother has it.  The challenges a family goes through trying to support a loved one with this illness are difficult to describe.  I believe the only way a family can survive these trying times, is to first learn about the illness.  There are many books that help you understand this disorder.  Also, learn about local resources: your local NAMI chapter, your local hospital, and even reach out to a therapist. Once I learned more about the illness, I had I began seeing a therapist, and I would recommend it for  anyone that is close with someone suffering from Schizophrenia. There will be incredible highs and lows, and self-care must be a priority.   I strongly suggest that if there are children involved, they are educated on the illness given additional support.   What I’ve learned about the illness so far: Continue reading “Could you survive Schizophrenia?”

Kevin Breel Speaks about Depression #NSPW

Would you rather make your next Facebook status:

I’m having a tough time getting out of bed because I hurt my back.” OR “I’m having a tough time getting out of bed because I am depressed.”

That quote is one of  the most powerful questions asked by Kevin Breel during an inspiring talk for TEDxYouthTalk.  During the talk he discusses being depressed and his struggles with suicidal thoughts. The question is a powerful one because it a perfect example of the stigma associated with mental illness.  To add to Kevin’s question, I ask what would be your thoughts if your best friends Facebook status was  “I’m having a tough time getting out of bed because I am depressed.”? Your answer to that question reveals how you feel about mental illness.  Would you question their claims of a hurt back or offer up a “Feel better soon!” reply?  It’s time to really consider how we view mental illness.  Check out the video below and share your  thoughts, so we can begin to speak away the stigma!

FROM LUMBERJACKBLOG

7 Tips for a (Menatlly) Healthy Freshman Year

FROM LUMBERJACKBLOG

It’s a time for new beginnings!

It’s a new chapter in life, but it feels like a whole new book!  

Freshman year is a year of first and forevers. This is a time when new friends will be made, and experiences will yield life-long lessons.  This year of learning and transition will be exciting, yet stressful. One thing that needs to be maintained is during this time is your mental health.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, As you head off to begin the next phase in life, here are 5 tips that will help you have a mentally healthy freshman year.

Designate your support  system NOW!!

You will have happy, sad, and WTF moments the entire year, have a person to call and share these moments with. Real life situations will happen and you may not have your family and close friends close by.  Get your family up to speed on using how to use Facetime, Oovo or Glide and email if necessary.  Set up group chats if your close friends that are going to different schools because sometimes they will be the only ones that will understand those WTF moments!

Exercise!

Exercise is an important habit to work into our daily routines.  Not only will a regular routine help keep the “Freshman 15” away, but it will keep your mind fresh.  Balancing a college workload, a social life and sleep can be stressful, and one of the best ways to alleviate stress is to get moving.  Head to your schools gym/rec center to shoot some hoops, treadmill time, or a Zumba class.  SN-This is a good way to see and meet upperclassman too!   

Learn your school’s resources!

During orientation is a great time to ask about the services on campus.  Some schools may offer counseling with professionals while others may offer peer-to-peer counseling.  Some services may have a fee, but there should be some services that are covered by the cost of tuition. Your residence hall staff is a great place to ask questions about available resources.

Be Social!

More than likely your school as social media accounts, and that is a great place to find out what events are happening on campus!  Join interest groups, attended meetings, form study groups, and volunteer.  Ask when your roommate or neighbors are having lunch or dinner and ask to join them!  Your professor may offer or know of study groups, or campus organizations, so don’t be afraid to ask.  One of the most important things you need while in college and once you leave college is your network, so work on building a good one.  

Journal

Keeping a diary or journal can be therapeutic during tough times.  It is also a great way to keep those college memories forever!  Do a recap of your week, or write about your frustrations.  Physical journals that require the use of pen and paper may seem outdated, and if you’re one of those millennials, then there are a few journaling apps available.

Just say no to drugs and alcohol

Maybe this should have been number one, lol!  As we all know drugs are illegal and so is alcohol by those under 21 years old.  What many people don’t understand is that drugs affect the chemicals in your brain.  Different people have different reactions to drugs, plus if there is a history of mental illness in your family, using drugs can increase the chance you may develop a mental illness as well.  People drink for various reasons, if you drink because you are stressed or because you “loosen up” after a few drinks review the tips above.

If you are reading this have passed your freshman year, what tips do you have for upcoming freshman?  If you are a freshman, what tips will you use to increases your likelihood of having a mentally healthy freshman year?

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The story of Alfred Postell

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The photos first caught my attention, then the title of the article.  The pictures were of a Black man, one from years ago and the other present day.  The title: The homeless man who went to Harvard with John Roberts.  I’ll admit seeing a Black face in a major news publication makes me stop my endless scrolling, but seeing this man went to Harvard, probably before I was born, was definitely worth a click and a few minutes of reading.  I wasn’t prepared to  discover the reason for his downfall. Not to give away the entire story (because I want you to read it too), but Alfred Postell was diagnosed with a mental illness.  Even though Mr. Postell was VERY accomplished at the time of his first “break”, he still ended up homeless.  Maybe it is the optimist in me, but I’d like to think if Mr. Postell and those around him at the time had more information on his illness and more resources available he may not be homeless.

I share this story and ask you to read it because any of us could be the next Alfred Postell or we may know him (or her).  I hope this story will show how important it is to, at least, be aware of mental illnesses, and the importance of paying attention to our mental health, as well as our loved ones mental health.  I want people to notice that Mr. Postell is not violent.  This is important point out because the media tends to only cover stories about mental illness  when violence is involved.  Finally, I believe that this story will provide hope; hope to those suffering from any mental illness that you can get support, and people will want to help you.  While Mr. Postell is homeless, the story describes how a local pastor took him in when his mother could no longer care for him.  I know many of us have so much going on in our lives, however ,I ask that you take the time to read about mental illness and mental health whenever possible, encourage others to do the same, and TALK ABOUT IT.  Together we can speak away the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Click here to read the story written by Terrence McCoy for the Washington Post.

Black. Female. Bipolar Disorder

Black. Female. Bipolar Disorder.

Black.  Female.  Bipolar Disorder. A story that is long overdue.

Nina-“I can’t even describe it…It was  like his d**k just talked to me”

Josie-(with a dazed look) “What did it say?”

Nina-(whispering loudly) “Ninaaaa”

Josie-”Dammmnnnn”

-The cab scene from Love Jones

The conversation between Nina and Josie in the cab is one of my favorite scenes from Love Jones.  This conversation is the epitome of “girl talk”, in my opinion.  Josie, who was my first hair crush, was played by Lisa Nicole Carson.   She also starred in Ally McBeal and ER and also had roles in Jason’s Lyric, Eve’s Bayou, and Life. Sadly, Lisa would disappear from the spotlight.

A week or so ago a friend sent me a link to an Essence magazine article.  It was a story about Lisa Nicole Carson aka Josie opening up about her mental illness.  The article will appear in the July issue of Essence, just in time for Minority Mental Health Month.

Lisa opening up and speaking candidly about her mental illness and how it has affected her life is HUGE!  Today we see more articles, more new stories, and more about mental illness in the mainstream media, but the sharing of her story is different.  The sharing of her story is important.  The sharing of this story is necessary.

Many of us have heard of and know a little bit about bipolar disorder.  In the hit Fox series Empire, it was revealed that the oldest son, Andre, had bipolar.  While it should have been praised that mental illness in the Black family was a part of the storyline, there were many debates about the accuracy of the symptoms displayed.  The Essence magazine article doesn’t leave room for debate.  It is Lisa telling Lisa’s story.  Continue reading “Black. Female. Bipolar Disorder.”