Lean on me

Last night I suffered another bout of insomnia which is happening more and more often this past year. Truthfully since the birth of the little one three years ago, I can count on one hand the number of nights I slept longer than six hours. Parenthood coupled with getting older seem to be working against me sleeping a full night….

However last night’s bout of insomnia was brought on by a conversation  I had with a dear friend who I was catching up with, part of me hesitates to write this because I’m not trying to put my girl’s business out there but I feel there is a larger piece here that needs to be shared.

My girl and I go back, way back, I’m talking we have known each other since we were like 10, this sista has always been the light and life of the party. When we was young hot things, I was always the wing-man, a role that suits me well in many way. Yet my girl was always on, shit I wanted her energy.

Anyway in the first hour of what was probably a three hour conversation, we were just catching up, doing our thing though I sensed there was something beneath the surface. True enough there was, midway through the conversation she confessed that the reason she had dropped off my radar was because she was going through some shit. Turns out she had been feeling a tad down, which then got us to talking about Black folks and mental health.

My girl’s issues are not the point here but this conversation reminded me that as Black folks, we have a tendency to not address mental health issues to the same extent our white counterparts do and truthfully that shit is killing us. I know because I have been there.

It was about nine years ago that the pressures of life had me on edge, I felt pulled in all directions, my primary care doctor put me on Wellbutrin, it helped but I sensed I need more, so I took the plunge. I went to see a therapist. This was a huge step for me, mind you at the time I was working with the homeless, many who suffered mental health issues, shit I often got them into therapy but at the time I felt shame about needing to see someone myself. In fact when I was in therapy I only told 2 people, the spousal unit and one close friends, I felt shame that I needed to see someone but at the same time, therapy gave me the tools to deal with stress.

However despite the sucess of therapy at that time, the reality is I still grapple with anxiety. I have a phobia, I cannot drive, driving gets me so riled up that while technically I can drive, truth is I avoid it at all costs. I have not driven in a long time, though this year I am actively seeking to work through this phobia because honestly its become problematic. I almost thought about not sharing this tidbit about myself, but I am at the point that rather than make excuses, I feel like I need to come out of the closet about it as I actively work through my anxiety.

That said, I find that in many Black families we all have relatives with issues but rather than call them what they are; which is mental health issues, we dance around the issues which I believe is killing us.

Instead as we stand on the cusp of history being made tomorrow, I think we need to take the time to do some self exploration and work to change ourselves. Are you eating too much? Drinking? Shopping? Maybe you engage in these behaviors because its easier that dealing with yourself….I know when I was young, I went through a year where I engaged in self destructive behaviors but didn’t know why….I know now that I was depressed.

There is no crime or shame in being depressed, in fact rather than hiding it, I feel we need to be open about it, tell someone, don’t be afraid to lean on family and friends. If they are real, they will be there for you. True change starts when we look at ourselves and then work outward.

10 thoughts on “Lean on me”

  1. This topic has come up a lot lately. Black people suffer from mental illness and depression just like any other race and I’m wondering why we tend to view it negatively when someone needs to go seek help. We need to rally around them and support those that need to seek treatment or talk to a professional.

    PS- Please stop by my blog I have something for you.

  2. Since it’s not in your blogroll, let me recommend a blog called Ephphatha at http://ephphatha3.blogspot.com/

    The author is a sister with her own mental health issues and who advocates for mental health awareness. She talks about other stuff on her blog, but it might be nice for other African Americans who need to see that they are entitled to (and should) take mental health seriously.

  3. I was going to recommend the same blog Deacon Blue recommended . . .but excellent blog.

    I was just thinking that I may need to take the plunge and go get some therapy for a phobia of mine: snakes. I can’t see them on tv or in books or anything. I was trying to do yoga with my son and there’s a pose called Cobra pose . . . snake overload. I couldn’t take it and freaked out trying to control myself . . . awful. I don’t really know what the first step to getting over that is though . . .kind of scared to find out!

  4. Great post. More black folks need to engage in therapy. As a pastoral counselor I can tell you from experience that black folks, especially church folks, are so resistant to counseling / therapy. It’s always for the other person, not me I’m okay.

    We have to break that stronghold that has warped our thinking that says that we can handle everything or “keep your business to yourself.”

    Thanks for sharing your struggle with us. I have gone to therapy and still do at intervals. I will not stop going because it’s not just about resolving a crisis sometimes we need to unload in order to think clearer.

  5. I feel you on the driving issue…I have not driven a car since I was 22….It was either stop or kill someone. It was so bad years ago that my younger brother put his car in storage rather than leave it with me when he went overseas. He was afraid that he would have dents from me running over people.

    I have been to therapy, and it has been a huge help in dealing with issues that have been generational in nature. I think what helped the most is finding a therapist who is able to see and address issues that are especially plaguing black people and who can appreciate the fact that we have had to overcome some major stigmas to overcome just to get through the door.

  6. I remember when in my 20s I had a bunch of white female friends who were all in some kind of therapy and I’m ashamed to admit now that I felt scorn for them…you know, “therapy’s a white folks’ thing” kind of thinking. The sad thing is that if I’d gone into therapy then rather than 10 years later I’d probably be in a totally different place today.

    Mental illness and how black people do (and don’t) handle it is a big theme in my (on-again, off-again) novel.

  7. You are definitely on point. Black folk continue to deteriorate because of the things we refuse to address and that for senseless reasons have been taboo or stigmatized.

  8. BGM – I’m so proud of you for putting it out there.

    I’m currently in my 4th cycle of therapy dealing with the residue of sexual molestation that happened when I was five years old. My mother (Thank GOD for my momma!) took me to see a therapist when I was seven because I was acting out. That was cycle #1. Fast forward to 2008 and although I’ve grown, there are still things to process. Last summer I met and spent several hours talking to the man who molested me. We haven’t been in each other’s presence in 35 years. Hell, who wouldn’t need therapy after that!?

    I know we don’t go there and I see the women who don’t want to go there. The pain of talking about what we’re going through is nothing compared to the pain of carrying around the weight of the hurt.

    Bless you Shay!

  9. Your raw honesty is inspirational to many, and tying it in with Barack’s new Presidency and the dawn of change was brilliant.

    BTW, I hate driving too, not short trips but the beltway. This came from seeing a horrible wreck as a child. I do it when I have to, but I never feel safe and then drive too slow – which is probably not safe.

  10. Thanks for writing that I really wish more of us would “talk to somebody” as the old folks say. You know “that girl really needs to talk to somebody”.

    Anyway I have a friend who is going through self-destructive behavior and it is so hard to watch. I wish he would think about therapy and getting real coping skills.

    Great blog!

    -OG

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