It’s been a couple of months since I last logged into my Cheaper Than Therapy blog, and that’s because honestly and truly I felt I didn’t have anything to talk about. Of course there were things going on in my life – some meaningful, some benign, some random nonsense that i thought was funny – I just did not feel that it would matter to anyone else but me. I called it Writer’s Block, but it was more paralyzing than that. It was the sincere feeling that nothing I wanted to discuss was important at all. Period. I mean, not every post is going to be profound and deeply introspective. Sometimes I just wanted to log in, write some stuff, then go on with my day. But then I would feel guilty at the idea of wasting everyone’s time reading my nonsensical dribble or for using the blog as a personal site to vent my frustrations, so I would do nothing. Write nothing. Create nothing.
I would sit at home staring at my laptop closed on my dining room table, and then pour myself another class of Cabernet and absorb the latest news cycle with a tightness in my chest. I would sit and brood over future uncertainties, both personal and professional, and have to do deep breathing exercises to stop my anxiety attacks before they took over my entire body. I would suffer from migraines and spend my evenings or days off on the couch in the dark not really sure how to stop them from happening in the first place and freaking out about the frequency of my headaches. And after about a month or so of forgiving myself out of my weekly posts and suffering from the physical manifestations of inward psychological torment, it occurred to me that maybe I don’t *not* have anything to say after all. That maybe I was feeling a little bit bluer than what could be considered ‘normal’ and I was slipping into a full-on depressive episode coupled with crippling anxiety attacks. That maybe I should try and get some help to snap out of it before I become paralyzed in other areas of my life and it becomes even harder to pull myself out of the darkness. I needed to see my general practitioner and I needed to speak with my therapist. Immediately.
Mental health is a very hot-button topic today, but in the Black community there is still a heavy stigma and shame surrounding the matter. We expect more from ourselves, from our psyche, than we should and it is not fair for us to do so. We put so much pressure on ourselves to always have our shyt together, and then beat the hell out of ourselves and each other when the facade slips. When the person behind the curtain peeks their head out, and we are faced with our own shortcomings or those of someone we know. It makes us uncomfortable as fcuk and nobody likes to feel uncomfortable.
I have suffered from anxiety ever since I was around four years old and it is physically and emotionally exhausting to deal with on a daily basis. I don’t feel like I should have to hide that part of myself all the time just to pretend that there aren’t days where I feel like I am falling apart. To make myself or someone else more comfortable with my faux perverted and distorted image of reality. My anxiety attacks as a child used to give me stomach pains, migraines, vivid nightmares, and a feeling of hopelessness that no child or adult should ever have to endure. Now as an adult it still does all of the above to me, but now you can throw in being anxious about going out to certain places or with certain people, not succeeding to my standards in my career, never getting married, never having children, not being sure if I even want children, where will I live in the next 12 months, etc. I do not typically call my friends or family during these episodes because I don’t want to drag them into my negativity shit-show, and I have always reacted very negatively when someone tried to tell me ‘everything is going to be alright’ when there is no way to fcuking know that for sure (sorry Mommy…). I have been experiencing all the fun of the anxiety from my youth, but now with fun adult-sized problems and consequences. Whoop! Whoop!!
Now take that anxiety, top it with just a dollop of mild depression for good measure, and you have the headspace in which I have been existing over these past few months. I tried seeing my psychologist, but he couldn’t squeeze me in on a day when I was feeling particularly anxious so I don’t think I will be going back to him. He answers his phone in session anyway, and I deserve more than that for my copay of $70 for 50 minutes. I tried making an appointment with a psychiatrist after my primary care physician suggested that I might need mild anti-anxiety meds so that I stop putting so much pressure on my heart, but the doctor he recommended does not take insurance and told me that psychiatry in Miami is mostly a cash-only business. I have no cash and lost my motivation to research the matter for myself any further, so I never got the help that I really needed. All the while I felt myself falling deeper and deeper into my anxiety hole, but did not feel like there was anyone who could help me other than myself so I said nothing. I did nothing. I wrote nothing.
I still feel that way today, but I am attempting to pull myself out of whatever headspace I have been occupying by my own self-determination. I am one of the lucky ones who can do that. I am not a danger to myself or others, I can still function normally on a day-to-day basis without medication, and I have a strong support system for the times that I choose to reach out for help. My asking for help never sounds like asking for help, but those who know me really *know* me, and always make time for their friend when called on.
There might be someone reading this now who feels the way I have felt. The way I am feeling right now. I am really not great at pep talks, but I will say that allowing yourself to slip deeper and deeper into your anxiety or depression will not make anything better. Your problems tend to magnify the longer you focus on them and can paralyze you into inaction where you look up and months have gone by without anything getting resolved. Each day is precious – we have no time to waste making sure that we are emotionally and psychologically healthy and fit to take on the challenges life throws our way.
I offer no advice or parting words of wisdom on this post. I named this blog Cheaper Than Therapy because I was hoping that somehow sharing my insecurities and shortcomings and traumas through writing would reap the same benefits as visiting a mental health professional. There are days where that is more true than not, and other days where I am almost embarrassed by the hubris of it all. Sometimes talking to someone with a bunch of letters after their name is EXACTLY what you need, and if that is your truth then you should never feel one moment of shame about it. Other days allowing your friends to bear witness to your vulnerability will help remind you of how strong you really are, and give you a safe place to not have to be strong if only for a moment. And that is fine too.
Do what you need to do to be ok. Never apologize for needing time to yourself. My dear friend told me just yesterday that it is imperative that I put MYSELF first in whatever I do, or I will have nothing to give anyone else when called upon to do so. This is advice I will take immediately, as it is also advice that I give other friends of mine fighting similar battles as myself. Taking the advice that you know you should take can be one of the hardest things you do, but do it anyway. Like the old adage says, “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who do mind don’t matter.” I believe that was from Dr. Seuss. Very smart man indeed.
And once you recognize that you are spiraling down a dark path, forgive yourself for failing at pretending to be normal (there is no such thing) and then allow yourself to move through your feelings. Recognize what is real and what is a manifestation of your anxiety/depression. Confront it, don’t hide from it! Put action behind actionable items, and let go of the shyt you can’t do anything about. Recognize your triggers and try avoiding them if possible. Let your friends and/or family members know what is going on with you, but only when or if you think they will be a source of support and strength during your darker days. Try and eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. This is just good advice period, but when you’re busy freaking out about everything else at least you don’t have to feel guilty for eating a gazillion calories in the process. And know that it will pass. It always does. And that should give you just a moment of peace in the midst of your storm.