This Too Shall Pass!
My journey through my own mental health story
I know some of you have heard someone say “this too shall pass.” I remember being a little girl in church with my mom, she’d be upset or sad about something, and an elder of the church would hug her so tight and whisper “this too shall pass!” My mom would cry a little and shake her head like they had a secret, they just knew she was going to be alright.
Now my mother was always and still is a strong, beautiful, and inspiring woman. When things got a little hard for my father, she got two jobs to take care of me and my two siblings until he got his footing back in the trucking industry.
I always envied my mother. She didn’t cry much; I think I can count how many times I saw her cry as a child. So when I got older and tried to be like her as a teen, I totally failed. I was very emotional, I was quick to anger, and would fight someone if I felt disrespected. I’d never seen my mother get violent. That same fighting rage in me would melt like butter if my feelings were hurt. I used to cry myself to sleep at night for the smallest things. My emotions were all over the place and I would wait on it “to pass,” but it wouldn’t.
I was really good at hiding my shortcomings though. I had anxiety about almost every aspect of school, and felt I never fit in socially. But for some reason school work came easy, so I excelled academically. I joined extracurricular activities like JROTC, where I became a dominant force. What pushed me was not wanting people staring at me, or telling me I was doing something wrong, so I used my overachiever attitude to rank up quickly, which lessened my anxiety for some reason.
When I started to date, I hid my insecurities with a fake cloud of confidence. I pretended I was this confident free spirit when in reality I was anything but that. It worked for a while until I met my future husband at 17. I don’t know why I felt so comfortable with him! I didn’t have to fake like I didn’t care if he liked me for ME. He was my comfort, he was my calmness, he was my first love. He would say things like you don’t have to be “perfect all the time.” And my insecurities started to be some of the things we could talk about and relate to. We would talk for hours, and I could be my true self. Quirky, awkward, comedic, and imperfectly beautiful! This was my “this too shall pass” moment. Finally I could breathe for the first time I could remember. I mean, of course I still had issues I had to get addressed, but with such newfound clarity, I acknowledged I had problems and went and got help.
Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time at 20 was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I was then married to my high school sweetheart, and we had just had our first child. The anxiety came back with a little friend called PANIC ATTACKS. I worried about everything, was the baby OK? Was I producing enough milk? Am I a good mother? Am I a good wife? Am I still beautiful?
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. At first I hid the fact that I’d even sought out a psychiatrist. To most people I was LaLa, the “smart, cute” girl who married her first love, and was super confident and positive all the time! How was I going to keep up this persona if I admitted to mental health issues? I mean being a black Caribbean woman we were supposed to be so strong. In most minority communities, church was the answer to almost any problem you had. We didn’t go to psychiatrist or head doctors, much less have to take medication for mental issues. So for a while I kept this in my house, and only with close friends /family. It was my dirty little secret. “This too shall pass… “
One day while sitting in the waiting room to be seen by my psychiatrist, I started to think of why I was ashamed of getting help I needed! So once I was called back I spoke about it. I asked her if it was normal for me to feel this way. I told her about how I was as a child, and how, in high school, I transformed myself into this uber-confident young lady whom I never truly was. She actually made me feel so good about talking about this. My doctor was a young, beautiful black woman, and she was basically who I used to pretend to be like! And she floored me with her response. She said that she herself struggled just like me with anxiety. She told me how her mother got into psychiatry because she saw so many people of color, who were ashamed or too proud to go get help, suffer. Also some even fell into addiction to bury their pain. So in their household they talked openly about feelings, thoughts, and emotions. When she told her mother about her anxiety, she had her start seeing a colleague that helped her to understand and control it better.
My doctor opened up something inside of me that never closed. I felt a pressure release from my chest, and not only was I no longer ashamed of seeking treatment for my emotional issues, but I wanted to help others like me as well. Once my own disorders were in control, and therapy was working (because it’s a process.) I started to take psychology courses, and became a Life Coach. I was totally open in person and online about my struggles with mental health issues, and my goal was to reduce the stigma of mental illness, especially in minority communities. My clients consisted of mostly women of color. And I made a big mental illness page on facebook where I encouraged open dialogue about mental health issues, not being ashamed to get help, and ending the stigma about mental illness. This wasn’t something we asked for, it wasn’t a white problem or a rich person issue. Mental illness didn’t discriminate, it affected people of all races, sexes, and classes. And it was something that we didn’t have to hate about ourselves or be ashamed of.
Being imperfect is one of the most beautiful things about human beings. We are all unique, we all handle things differently, we all have some kind of issue, and THAT’S OK. When we come to the realization that things in our lives, or us as unique individuals don’t have to be perfect, we then can truly be at peace! This too shall pass… If you’re having money problems, and feel it’s not going to get easier, stop, breathe, and think. Maybe there are ways to save money on things that aren’t a necessity until things get better financially. Or maybe the universe is trying to tell you that there’s a better paying job out there that you don’t think you’re qualified for, but they’re waiting for you to apply! If you’re having issues with your mental health, don’t be too shy to seek help. Whether it’s a psychiatrist which your insurance pays for, a Life Coach who does affordable therapy, or one of the many free mental health clinics around the country. Remember that you are special, that you have a purpose, and that you are loved. So no matter what you’re going through, or how long it’s lasting this too shall pass!!!