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


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


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.

Read More


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.


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?


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.  Read More