Shame. Hurt. Anger. Confusion. And the Power of Sharing Your Story.

 

I walked into the classroom, sat down and stared at the other 20 people.  The first thing I  noticed was I was that almost everyone was older than me.  There were about 3 of us that appeared to be early to mid-thirties, everyone else was 20-30 years older.  Next, I noticed that about 5 of the people were Black. Some people looked rich, some looked poor, some looked happy, and others looked stressed.  Do I belong here? Can I quit this class without being Add headingharassed via email? I hope I don’t fall asleep.  These were the thoughts in my head as I sat waiting for the class to begin.  Two hours later and several tear drops later all I saw were people who understood my struggle for the last 25 years. Read More


11 Things that made us talk Mental Health in 2016!

What made us talk about mental health in 2016?  The short answer is a little bit of everything!  From senseless killings to hashtags to Solange’s latest album to Myleik Teele’s podcast mental health, mental illness, and self-care are becoming more common for us to talk about.  Even though there is still a lot of stigma around mental illness and self-care, 2016 can be classified as a year of progress!  In no particular order, let’s take a look at 11 things that made us talk about mental health last year!

NYC Well & Chirlane McCray:  ThriveNYC: A Mental Health Road Map for All was released in November 2015 and gave an outline of 23 new initiatives for New Yorkers img_3189mental well-being (there is a total of 54 initiatives outlined).  The NYC.gov site gives data on why these programs are needed, and one of the numbers that stands out is 14 Billion; that is the estimated amount of dollars lost annually because of losses in productivity.  This astounding amount isn’t the only reason NYC’s First Lady Chirlane McCray made mental health her signature issue. In September 2016 Chirlane sat down with Essence and discussed promoting mental health, read it here. In the article, she is open about mental illness in her own family, which many people in the spotlight don’t discuss.  In October 2016 NYC Well launched and it is a free, confidential connection to mental health support for New Yorkers.   

The Veteran’s suicide Rate:  The Department of Veterans Affairs released a study in July of 2016 that states on average 20 Veterans a day are committing suicide.  About 18% of all suicides in the United States are U.S. Veterans, however, they make up only 9% of the U.S. population. Throughout 2016 Veterans Affairs had come under fire for various issues related to the care of our veterans, but the release of this number is staggering.  While providing assistance can be difficult if Veterans are not reaching out for help, the VA has increased the amount of mental health providers, support personnel, and established partnerships with community health providers.  

  

The shooting death of Deborah Danner:  In October 2016 an NYPD officer shot and killed img_3185Deborah Danner; she was well known Bronx resident that had been living with schizophrenia for years.  In New York Times article it states that an officer shot her twice after Ms. Danner took a swing at him with a baseball bat.  NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio and the Police Commissioner agreed the incident was not handled according to protocol. This is only one of several incidents that led us to discuss the training officers are receiving or the lack thereof.  Ms. Danner’s attorney shared an essay she wrote a few years ago about Living with Schizophrenia  (The essay IS worth a read!)

Dr. Phil’s interview with Shelley Duvall: Shelley Duvall was a famous actress and not many people knew she had been diagnosed with a mental illness until she appeared on The Dr. Phil Show.  Dr. Phil offered to get Shelley professional help, however, many people felt that this interview was exploitation.  Even though Duvall consented to the interview, those that opposed the interview feel if she were well she wouldn’t want the interview to be aired. The controversy of this episode was so serious, to date, we have not been able to find the full episode online.

Kid Cudi:  Black Men’s Mental Health captured the spotlight when Kid Cudi took to img_3187Facebook on Oct. 4th, 2016 and shared his own struggles with depression.  The post, which has 137k shares, states he has been living a lie, living with depression, anxiety, and suicidal urges. He also admits he is nervous about the next steps but he has to do this not only for himself, for his family and fans.

#yougoodman: According to the Huffington Post, #yougoodman began on Twitter during a conversation between @DaynaLNukolls & @TheCosby.  The hashtag was created for Black men to have a safe place to discuss mental health.  This hashtag is significant because men have higher rates of suicide and also because mental health in the Black community is swept under the rug and not discussed.

Kanye West:  In November of 2016 Kanye West went on another rant during a show.  At this point, a Kanye West concert isn’t a Kanye West concert without at least one 20 minute rant!  However days after he abruptly ended the Sacramento show he was hospitalized in  LA, some reports say due to exhaustion other reports say he was placed on psychiatric hold.  There was even a leak of a mental health evaluation that supposedly belonged to Kanye. Although we may never hear from West about why he was hospitalized it reignited the conversation about Black men’s mental health.

A Seat at the Table:  Solange Knowles released her third studio album on September 30, 2016.  This album was described as a therapeutic collection of soulful tunes by VH1.com and some features include Lil Wayne, Kelly Rowland and BJ the Chicago Kid.  The interludes on the album from Mama Knowles, Papa Knowles, and Master P make img_3191you really understand that this album is about the Black experience.  A Seat at the Table is Solange’s first number one album in the U.S. and the song Cranes in the Sky is grammy nominated. This song is the most therapeutic song on the album for many.  “I tried to drink it away/ I tried to put one in the air/ I tried to dance it away/ I tried to change it with my hair”, this opening verse makes you want to hear more probably because we have all had issues we have tried to deal with in various ways.  Cranes in the Sky describes a metal clouds in the sky (those things that weigh on us and that follows us everywhere).  

Bipolar Faith:Monica A. Coleman’s great-grandfather asked his two young sons to lift him up and pull out the chair when he hanged himself, and that noose stayed in the family shed for years.  The rope was the violent instrument, but it was the mental anguish that killed him.”  These are the first two lines of the description on Amazon to Bipolar Faith: A Black Woman’s Journey with Depression & Faith.  This book was published in July 2016 is “both a spiritual autobiography and memoir of mental illness” that discusses Monica’s own journey with bipolar II.  What is sure to make her story more interesting is the fact that Monica is a minister and a Professor of Constructive Theology and African-American Religions at Claremont School of Theology in southern California.  Click here to read more about Bipolar Faith and other books written by Dr. Monica A. Coleman.  

Myleik Teele asked a therapist:   Myleik Teele is an entrepreneur and does a podcast when time permits about lessons she has learned in business and in life.  Curl Box is a huge success and Teele is open about her struggles with starting the subscription-based business, previous relationships, dealing with her achievements.  One area she has also been open about is the fact that she has a therapist.   A happy, successful Black woman that discussed having therapist was bound to get a lot of questions from her followers, so she dedicated an entire podcast to questions for a therapist.  Myleik has met all of her podcast guests, so when she ran into Jor-El Carabello again, she asked him to do the podcast!  Jor-El Carabello, who isn’t Myleik’s therapist,  is a licensed mental health counselor in New York.  The interview ranged from ways to find a therapist to advise for a young woman whose mother is suffering from mental illness.  Listen here on podomatic or find it on iTunes.   A couple of Teele’s other podcasts that made us talk about self-care, self-fulfilment, and self-esteem: How I Found Peace & Happiness: A chat with Necole Kane.  Myleik and Necole Kane, of xoNecle, have girl talk about dealing with change and what finding happiness looks like.  The other was a surprise podcast sparked by a listener’s letter.  A Letter for Late Bloomers & Comparison will make you rethink your own success and question the story we tell ourselves.  Check out a listing of all of Myleik Teele’s podcasts here.

TRUMP! Yes, our President-elect Donald Trump made us all discuss mental health and mental illness.  Even though we questioned his mental wellness at times, our main concern was the way he answered questions about our Veterans and mental img_3184health while on the campaign trail.  While he acknowledges the high veterans suicide rate, he also seems to suggest that some soldiers have mental health problems because they are not strong enough to handle things they see during wartime.  His comments upset many people,  but also made us take a closer look at PTSD and the Veterans suicide rate.  Trump becoming our next president is sure to give most of American some added stress and anxiety so he may make the list again next year!

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7 Ways to Shoo the Holiday Blues

The holidays can be a depressing time for many people.  Many of us know one or more people who turn into The Grinch (or a cousin of the Grinch) during this time of the year.  The holidays for me have never been an overly joyous occasion. As a child this time of year was hoping we had a few gifts under the tree on Christmas morning so I wouldn’t have to lie when kids at school asked what I got for Christmas.  In college, this time of year was spent studying for my finals and hustling extra shifts as a waitress, so Christmas Day was my day to rest!  Since I have been working in corporate America, there are holiday parties, early days off, and a lot of holiday chatter in general.  This forces me to deal with the lack of joy I often feel around the holidays and really work at making sure I don’t get the “Holiday Blues”.

For many years I believed that this time was when families came together, enjoyed good food and each other’s company.  While I have experienced these happy times while visiting my friends’ home, I have rarely experienced this with my own family, and that lead my VERY BLASÉ feelings about the holidays.  What made my feelings worse is that I wanted to enjoy this time of year.  I wanted to be excited about spending time with people I love, giving gifts and discussing my holiday plans.  Once I let go of the holidays were “supposed” to look like, I learned to enjoy the holidays MY way.

If you are worried about having the Holiday Blues here are 7 ways to shoo away those Blues!

1.  Count Your Blessings!  This time of year it is easy to be reminded of what we do not have.  It could be the loss of a family member or the loss of a job.  It could be the lack of the ability to fulfill Christmas list or the ability to afford to go home to be with family.  Although, it is not easy, remember what you do have and think outside of the box for gift giving.  Be thankful for the loved ones that are still with you, enjoy and celebrate your time with them.   

2.  Redefine Your Holiday!  Everyone doesn’t celebrate Christmas in the same way-hell everyone doesn’t even celebrate Christmas!  You don’t have to follow the masses and put up a tree, do a bunch of shopping, travel to visit family you really don’t want to just to “celebrate the holidays”-create your own tradition.  Decide what the holidays mean to you, and DO THAT!  So what if it is different from what everyone else does, I promise you people will find your “non-traditional” holiday interesting. 

3.  Have SKYPE or FaceTime Holiday!  Being away from home can be difficult, and sometimes a phone call isn’t enough!  Thank goodness for technology!  Reach out to your family or close friends and set up a time to talk!  The beauty of using Skype or FaceTime is you can see them.  It may make you wish even more that you could be there, but you will probably end the call with a smile on your face!

4. Reach out to others.  If you don’t want to spend Christmas day alone, ask your single, childless co-workers if they have plans.  If you all don’t want to do dinner, just make plans for the movies.  It will at least get you out of the house.  If there is a small group of you all, plan a Christmas Eve happy hour, there is always a bar open, somewhere!

5.  Volunteer.  Many places will feed the homeless during the holidays, and this is a great time to volunteer.  You can also check with local children’s hospitals. Volunteer list fill up quickly around the holidays so begin your search early. By volunteering you will be out of the house, meet new people and give back to the community all at one time.  A simple Google search will give you shelter, soup kitchens, and hospitals in your area.

6. Plan a lazy day.  Yes, plan it!  To have a good lazy day one must be prepared because leaving the house will not be on the agenda!  Get any snacks and food you need, maybe hit up Rebox a day early (for those movies you never made it to the theater to see), plan your binge list from Netflix or Hulu or even grab a good book.  If you will be alone, it is the perfect opportunity turn Christmas Day into YOUR Day.  Also, you pick up some magazines and craft supplies and work on your vision board for 2017!

7. Avoid the Grinch!  Hey if you don’t like the holidays, fine.  However, when someone is constantly complaining, whether it’s about the traffic, the decorations, their lack of money to buy gifts, being single on the holidays-You do not need to be around that person because their negative energy will rub off on you!  You can’t take the chance of me catching their Holiday Blues too!

Remember you are in control of you feelings.  You are in control of your perspective.  While you may not be able to have the holidays you want,  you can’t crawl in a cave until they are over so you may as well find a way to enjoy them.  Life is too short not to enjoy your life, even if it is not perfect.


Not “Eliminate”… but “Manage”

Last week I shared my story about meeting my first therapist.  That post has become the most read post to date-THANK YOU!  Due to the response, I received via email and text, I wanted to share a blog post from mental health professionals.  I came across Dr. Amber Thornton on Instagram and I thought her blog post ‘Not “Eliminate”…but” Manage” would be a great follow-up to “Her Name was Jane”

Dr. Amber Thornton is a  licensed clinical psychologist, currently practicing in the Knoxville, Tennessee area.  Read more about Dr. Amber Thornton and her professional approach to mental health.

Not “Eliminate”…but “Manage”

Whenever I meet a new client who comes to me for mental health counseling/psychotherapy, one of the first things I say is this:

“I am not a magician, so I cannot make the difficult things in your life go away.  I cannot make your difficult emotions go away either.  But we can work together to help you manage them because they are a valuable part of life.”

Every day, both personally and professionally, I meet people who attempt to stuff and suppress their difficult emotions, with the hopes that this process will make them all go away.  Within our families, friendships, and even through the media, we are taught that we should be able to “control” our emotions.  We are also taught that if we avoid feeling our difficult emotions, that they will eventually go away.  Unfortunately, none of this is true.

Many days, I can’t help but wonder what our lives could be like if we embrace the idea that life will include both ups and downs, happiness and sadness, joy and dismay.  I truly believe that if we are able to accept our difficult emotions as being an integral part of life, then they may begin to feel and look much different.  I realize this can sound confusing or paradoxical even, but many times, the very thing we try to avoid is what we need to embrace the most.  It’s like the elephant in the room: it is big and takes up so much space while we try to ignore it, but once we acknowledge that it’s there, it’s not so big anymore.  It becomes quite manageable and we eventually learn ways to manage the discomfort.  Sometimes it may eventually fade away.  Believe it or not, our emotions operate in the very same way.

So what contributes to difficult emotion?  The list is endless, but a few of the most common contributors include:

Continue reading here


Her name was Jane

Do not give your past the power to define your future.”~ Unknown

I only remember her face, not her name, so  I will call her Jane.  She looked like a Jane. When I first met Jane she greeted me with a glimpse of a smile; that would be the most emotion she ever showed me.  I would be OK with that because Jane changed my world.

The afternoon I first met Jane, I left work early.  We had a 5:30 pm appointment, and I didn’t want to be late. I wasn’t thrilled to meet Jane, I was very reluctant and nervous, however, I wanted to respect her time so I didn’t want to be late.  It was a sunny fall afternoon, and I took the 20-minute drive in silence, that’s how I knew I was really nervous.  The drive entire I wondered what she looked liked.  We spoke briefly on the phone, but I could not begin to assign her facial features based on our short conversation.

I arrived at the address, parked, and stayed in my car.  I was about 10 minutes early and sat there for nine minutes before getting out of the car.  I was nervous.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I wasn’t completely sure why I was even doing this.  I wasn’t sure what I’d say to Jane, or what she would say to me.  I felt so uncertain in this moment, but I was here so I had to at least meet Jane.  Right?

I found the door, it was red.  The blinds in the window looked a little tattered.  I immediately thought this was a mistake, because, well her blinds were tattered.  Yes, I judge people based on how the blinds look from their window.  I always have and probably always will.  I rang the bell and I waited.  I rang the bell again  and waited.  I was growing impatient with Jane and her tattered blinds.  I rang the bell one more time, and she opened the door right away.  She was old.  Her face was soft yet wrinkled and her hair was gray and frizzy, somehow the tattered blinds fit.  She invited me in, and I stood staring at this older lady with old hair and an old face, thinking THIS is my therapist? Read More


Are we ignoring mental illness? 

Mental illness is an equal-opportunity illness.  Every one of us is impacted by mental illness.  One in five adults are dealing with this illness, and many are not seeking help because the stigma prevents that.~ Margaret Larson

Depression.  Anxiety.  ADHD.  BiPolar.  These are some common words were use or hear almost daily in our conversations, on the news, or on our favorite television shows.

We are hearing more about the importance of mental wellness, and self-care.

We see the green awareness ribbons and read the stories about our veterans’ suicide and PTSD rates.

We are hearing and seeing more and more about mental illness, mental health, and mental wellness more than ever before, but what are we doing with this information?  According to a report by Mental Health America (MHA), a non profit organization, Americans are not getting the treatment they need.  Many people may immediately say that there is a lack of access to the help they need, however the report’s findings disagree with that.  The report entitled “The State of Mental Health in America” gives facts, statistics and other data on mental health from across the United States.  The report also list the best and the worst states for mental health care, and Connecticut is at the top and Nevada is at the bottom.  Even though Vermont is the 3rd best state, 43% of adults that have been diagnosed with a mental illness did not receive treatment.  This number is just under the national average because 56%
of Americans with a mental illness did not receive treatment despite there being more access to insurance and access to treatment. Read More


I Am Solid She’s Cupcakes & Conversations: The October Edition

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Cupcakes & Conversations in an event in support of  I Am Solid She’s campaign: “Breaking Barriers to Silence Stigma…One Conversation at a Time”.  The goal of this campaign is “to encourage open dialogue about mental health which creates a platform for women to share stories, information, and empowerment through conversation.

The most recent Cupcakes & Conversation was held this past Saturday, October 22, 2016, at the Myers Park Wellness Center in Charlotte, NC.  The topic:  Silently Suffering…Can You Hear My Cry?”  The guest speaker was Dr. Arloishia Israel, and she spoke with total transparency about living with a chronic illness and how that led to her depression.  Dr. Israel discussed how at she had to accept that she had Rheumatoid Arthritis in her THIRTIES!!  She as well as many other people only know older people to diagnosed with this condition, so she had her husband began to educate others, beginning with their own family. Everyone seemed to appreciate the transparency with which Dr. Israel spoke, because it is not common to hear such honesty when discussing mental health or chronic illnesses, especially  in the Black community.  The attendees were also educated on how chronic illnesses can lead to depression and that depression often occurs in cancer, Parkinson’s and heart attack patients.  Often times people are so focused on the physical healing that little to no thought is given to the mental well-being.  One word that this therapist, wife, mother, sister and daughter had to learn to use was “No” and it wasn’t easy.  Dr. Israel shared moments when her hands were extremely swollen  or when she wasn’t able to stand up long enough to sing one song in church, people still continued to ask so much of her.  She discussed how she had to set boundaries and prioritize because if she didn’t she would not have the energy to put into her own well-being.  Through medication, a therapist, the support of her family and prayer Dr. Israel is doing much better and although she still battles with RA she was able to stand in heels and share her story!  The comments and questions from the attendees’ showed that many were deeply impacted by Dr. Israel’s story.   Read More


@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 Read More


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. Read More


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.

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