I use to say all the time, that life was “Weird”…but it was really because I was feeling “Weird”. “Weird” became my safe word. A word even into adulthood, I use to describe how I feel when I’m feeling off. Most will never understand, but it’s a word that describes exactly how I’m feeling because that…that feeling is hard to put into words. Overall, there it is in the back of my mind and stomach and heart…feelings. And man do I have some feelings. I’ve often felt that my whole life has revolved around how I’m feeling and the way I’m feeling, for the most part, has guided my decisions in life. Now it’s true, the feelings have guided me but they’ve also hindered me. So I start another deeply personal post by saying that with the feelings…has come some admissions and revelations, especially recently.
I’ve often reflected after a traumatic event (mine or others) about how serious and important mental health is. Mental Health…I mean even saying it sounds serious. It’s always been right after a school shooting or upon hearing of a crime where an innocent lost their life, the Orange dude running the country doing something even more racist than the day before or a friend telling me about a cheating boyfriend or girlfriend or a family member passing away or one of 10 million other things that this…again feeling comes over me. That one…I call “Worry”. Worry has never been my friend. Never something I could shake but instead driven me to sleepless nights, which developed into my Insomnia, which developed into my paranoia, which developed into a serious case of PTSD. Now, I’m sure reading this…you’ll question, how a situation like the ones described which seamlessly, has nothing to do with me can or could ripple effect into all of that, but man…worry is my arch nemesis. Worry has created another friend…I call her stress. I’ll talk about her later.
With my friend Worry, I make comments about the mental health of the shooter. What they were thinking, why they did it, how’d they pick their targets? Then after a death, I almost always feel a moment of intense sadness, even if I didn’t know them, well because, life has ended for someone and I think and worry about those close to them and how they are dealing. How it must feel and when I’ve lost someone close, how I got thru. Now thinking about this death, makes me think about my own death or death of one of my parents.
When I had Morgan prematurely, I spiraled. No one knows how deep that hole went, except me and I refuse to share that piece of me with anyone. But I will say this…disappointment in my body, body shaming, PTSD, worrying, stressing, crying, mental breakdowns alone, seething anger, fear, pure happiness and then some joy…rocked my entire world for 1 whole year. I smiled…I looked normal but inside…I could have jumped off a bridge from how shitty, I was feeling. How shitty I felt for what my little one had to endure. Having to watch it all was a tremendous heartbreak for me. With her and her NICU stay and everything attached to that…my PTSD became absolutely unbearable at times once she was home.
(I will share one story of my PTSD so that anyone who doubts me…may understand)
While in the NICU, the babies are all hooked up to monitors. These monitors become LIFE in the NICU. One sound, one buzz, one red light versus a green one, could mean life or a code. No one wants a code. I became obsessed with watching the monitors…and if you are unsure of your neonatal lingo, like what a “Brady” is and what a “desat” is or an “episodes” then click the link to learn. But those words, those became my life. Anyway…Every baby in a neonatal intensive care unit is monitored on something called a cardiopulmonary monitor. Basically, this is a system that consists of wires with electrodes that stick to the baby; two on either side of the chest, and one on the lower abdomen. These electrodes are attached by wires and detect every activity of the heart and transmit it to the monitor where it is recorded and displayed as a waveform on the screen. The system also measures the baby’s respiratory rate, (how fast the breathing is), the oxygen saturation (O2 sat) within the blood, (measured by a probe that is either attached to the hand or foot) and also measure the baby’s blood pressure; either by cuff reading or by a real-time reading through the artery in the umbilicus, (UAC) wrist, or foot. An arterial reading is translated into a waveform that can be seen on the monitor. From the minute Morgan was hooked up, I learned every single term related to that monitor. One of the things that drove me insane, and I mean literally insane is if the monitor alerted the Nurses and I that Morgan was having a “Brady”…Bradycardia is the slowing of the heart. When a baby’s heart begins to slow, there is decreased blood flow to the lungs and oxygen to the tissues drops. Bradycardia in a premature baby is defined as a heart rate lower than 100 beats per minute. So it would beep and beep and beep until someone would check her and usually that took only a second or two but for me…every beep was panic. The feelings of “Is this it”…”Is this the last time”…”Did her heart stop”…those questions would pop in my mind every single time that monitor beeped. This went on for 137 days. Morgans entire stay. I would come home in between my all day visits and try and nap but what was happening to me was indescribable. I would be in a very light sleep (I couldn’t sleep hard anymore – too afraid that I would miss a call from the NICU) and though I was home…I would hear the beep and immediately jump up. Disoriented…I would realize I was home and that was it. Nap over and back to the hospital I would go. This happened almost every day. I refused to speak on it because I didn’t want anyone thinking I was crazy but I swear…the sound of the monitor was ingrained in me. Finally, when Morgan came home, she was attached at night to another type of heart and respiratory monitor that basically did the exact same thing. But this beep…was LOUD. SO LOUD that it woke everyone up, every time it beeped and honestly, it always beeped because she would move around and knock the probe off or it got stuck to her clothes. But the sound…the beep…the connection to what that sound meant…made me paranoid. I couldn’t sleep. I was on constant alert. Constantly checking on her. I didn’t sleep fully again until she was almost a year old.
I still sometimes hear that beep…It wakes me up…and then I remember…she’s fine. No monitor. Hasn’t been on it in years…But the PTSD from the NICU, from the monitor, from the experience, has stuck with me…even 3 years later.
Again, worry takes over and controls, everything…my mental health specifically.
But it was never until I was dealing with my own personal worries and feelings on things that I would take a second to think about the state of my own mental health and I realized that you have to take a moment and really dig deep and admit that you aren’t Exempt from issues of your own. Then the worrying I was doing about the shooters and Mr. Orange and death and everything else made me have this…”Oprah”….”Ahah” moment.
It’s no joke when people say that Mental Health is one of those “suffer in silence” issues. So many people never tell anyone they are dealing with things for fear of judgment and ridicule. I’m just now learning that…honesty and acknowledgment are ok. They are the hardest to do especially on your own. But I finally had to sit and admit it to myself that what I was feeling and going thru in my own little personal hell was ok now…because I finally realized what was going on with me. I realized that admitting it to others was ok but would take time and that I didn’t have to share unless I wanted too.
But I’m in all honesty, I didn’t really want too. I didn’t want to admit it or say it out loud or feel it. I was comfortable saying it to myself but not to anyone…at first. I’ve never been shy to admit that I don’t focus on myself like I worry about everyone else. No one was looking out for me so I would have to finally do it.
I will admit…at 31, my issues are so much deeper now. My fears, my emotional state, everything is deeper. But one thing I love, is therapy! The power behind therapy is just that…therapeutic. People around me are the type folks that say unknowingly “Why would anyone pay to talk to some stranger…it’s crazy” but they don’t know that at one point, I’d been in therapy as a teen and then again a few years ago. I would leave work at lunch and go to my sessions and I kept that secret for almost the entire two years I was going with the exception of one person knowing. Regardless, those “Why pay a stranger” folks don’t know how “those stranger folks” have saved lives, saved sanity, helped us feel normal, made us overcome, etc. I may not have even been here, if I hadn’t gone to therapy as a teen…I was a whole mess with all the things going on with my parents and relationship drama and teen shit. So I bow down to counselors and therapist cause I know the struggle. I know that without them…some of us wouldn’t even be here.
This whole post was for me to get some important things off my chest and admit…It’s been apart of my realization period, self reflection period and self awareness period. So…as if you couldn’t tell by the topic and stories above but I’ve suffered silently from depression off and on for years and anxiety for even longer. When I say I’ve suffered, no one would believe by my exterior that I was suffering but all along…it’s been there. Eating at me. Depression…Man I remember when my doctor first threw it on me and I was so loud yelling in the office…”I DO NOT HAVE DEPRESSION, AINT NOBODY DEPRESSED IN HERE”…but that was my cover up! That was my exterior cover. My interior was breathing a sigh of relief that someone understood and put a name to what was wrong. Put a name to all the icky, I felt. Put all the things I described above in to two words.
Years before…I’d done the same annoying outburst about anxiety. But calmed down quicker because my anxiety was damn near killing me. I wasn’t sleeping. I was scared all the time. I was eating everything in sight because that was the only self soothing I knew . But when I walked out with enough information to fill a binder on what I’d been diagnosed with…I felt such a huge weight lift off me. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety with Acute Social Anxiety and Panic Disorder. The shit was a whole mouthful! But I own it today and when I say that it fits…it fits!
I’m socially awkward in every situation. I hate crowds but I hate close and personal interactions with people also…especially people I dislike or don’t know. My facial expressions and body language give it all away. I immediately turn rude or become extremely quiet and walk off. I usually feel shitty alone but at least then, I’m not uncomfortable. As I’ve gotten older, I refuse to put myself in situations that will cause me to freak out or make others look at me like I’m a freak.
Self Esteem and Insecurity has been the issue most of my life. It’s so deep that I’m still not even comfortable with letting everyone know about why that is. It’s gotten better but there is still so much work to do.
Here’s why I never say anything…
Being a Black Woman…
I personally feel like I am suppose to be a pillar of strength and the epitome of being unaffected but (affected) by things like “Mental Health” issues because well as I’ve heard other Black Women say “We just don’t deal with that type of shit…that’s a white thing”…Well as I’ve learned and already knew…it’s not a white thing or a black thing…it’s a human thing. It affects millions and it’s not defined by color.
I’m the type of person that isn’t easily embarrassed by much but I must say being open with those around me about my suffering hasnt been easy. I still hide a lot from even the closest of people to me. Shit, no one could understand my inner tickings…I don’t even know all of them.
Trust & Respect
I rarely trust anyone enough. I also respect my own privacy and my own heart and mind that I don’t want to explain things to someone – who won’t really understand because they aren’t suffering like me. I’ve tried and it ends badly and only makes me feel worse.
That what many fail to realize when it comes to mental health and illnesses like depression is that management is a lifelong process. The first step is recognizing the problem. The second step is finding a way to deal with it. And the third step is maintenance and in that order.
I hope that someone reads this and feels…Freed. Feels like they aren’t alone. Because…they aren’t alone.
Peace, Love and Ain’t Nobody on this Earth Perfect,
(P.S. – I found these amazing pictures online about different mental health issues and I just had to post them. They aren’t mine but I’m also not sure who the artist is…Whoever they are…THESE ARE PHENOMENAL.)