Wednesday Reflection

wp-1477490520422.jpgOften times when discussing our feelings, thoughts and experiences with friends or loved ones, the responses can vary.  When it comes to dealing with mental illness, there is no exception to the rule, however, it is more brushed off or ignored than most topics of discussions.

When telling people close to me that I have suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my adult life, a lot of people were shocked. I always wore a mask when being around people, always tried to keep a smile on my face and try to be the life of the party. Yet, when I finally decided to tell those closest to me what was going on, I was a bit taken back by the responses. Responses like, “You’ve just been doing too much, you’re fine”, and ex of mine long before I married responded that “I just wanted attention, and nothing was wrong with me.” The most annoying response was “It can’t be that bad, people are dying, don’t have families or a place to live. Trust me, it could be worse”.

People need to understand, having a mental illness is NOT A CHOICE. It’s not like you wake up one day and decide that you want to battle with yourself. Also, there are many different mental illness that have many different stages and layers to it. For example, when it comes to depression, one does not have to be sad all the time and go through an emotional rollercoaster, sometimes a person can function and do a daily routine. Sometimes, one has really great days and some days not so much. There is not a  certain way to be when living with a mental illness.

I’ve said it once before and I will say it again, until people can get clear and separate the person from the mental illness, people will lack understanding. People need to listen without passing heat or judgment. People need to understand the way that one may handle their struggles are different from others.  An the most important thing that people need to understand that everyone has their own story and for one to have an opinion on another’s story is not a good look. No one can tell the other how they should feel, how they should think and conduct a comparison of other things and people. Everyone has struggles, hardships and breaking points and all are not the same. My truth is validate, my story is valid, the things I may go through in MY life is valid, my struggles with mental illness is valid, My road and ways of healing is valid. No one can tell me or make me feel any different.

 

Be Blessed,

Essence

 

Returning Guest Writer: Kamisha G. Johnson, LGSW

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Illustration by: Kiara Illustrations

 

To wrap up Suicide Awareness Month, I have invited Kamisha Johnson back to inform us about the severity, realness, and seriousness about Suicide, especially in communities of color. It can no longer be ignored or swept under the rug. We need to recognize the signs and do what we can to save ourselves and each other. Thank You Kamisha!

 

“The Seriousness of Suicide & Stigma amongst the African American Community”

“Black people don’t commit suicide.” This is a stigma that is not easily discussed amongst the African American Community. It appears that there is some unspoken rule book that exempts us from having dialogue about suicidal ideation and actual suicide. According to The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, “Suicide is the 3rd cause of death amongst African American Males between the ages of 15-24, behind homicide and accidents. Also, suicide death rates among black men are 5x that of Black Women.” Not all people who consider suicide have visible symptoms of Depression. Some people have made a concrete decision to end their life and have a plan to execute (in the literal sense). Warning signs to look for listed by WebMD include:

  • Always talking or thinking about death
  • Clinical Depression-deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping or eating
  • Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death such as driving fast
  • Losing interests in things One use to care about
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless and worthless
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
  • Sudden unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing happy
  • Talking about Suicide
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

In our community we ostracize people that suffer from mental illness, specifically those who suffer from suicidal ideation. We are programmed that killing one self is a “Supreme Sin.” Which further alludes to people suffering in silence and as a result Suicide amongst African Americans is an epidemic that continues to increase. According to the Surgeon General, African Americans from the ages of 10-14 have committed suicide at 233% more than our white counterparts. These are astronomical numbers that we need to be aware of in our community. Not to mention that AA are more likely to suffer from life and environmental stressors that exacerbates symptoms of Depression that result in suicide. So what do we do? First, we acknowledge that suicide is real. We start to embrace mental illness and decrease this misperception that M.I. is a sign of weakness. No! We all have faced adversity at some point within our lifetime. It is imperative that we educate ourselves, raise awareness and advocate for those who suffer.

If you know someone who struggles with thoughts of suicide:

  • Acknowledge and validate their thoughts and feelings. Rather you believe it or not, it is THEIR reality
  • Ask if they have a plan to harm themselves. This has to be done very careful. The person suffering may be guarded and have a fear of that level of transparency. It is vital to ask these questions with compassion in mind. This is an essential question because it may help you understand the intensity of their thoughts.
  • Assist them in seeking professional help. This will not be easy, but is important in saving One’s life.
  • Actively listen, put down the phone, give eye contact and paraphrase so they are assured you are hearing them.
  • Provide supportive language. Tell them you are here for them and they do not have to suffer in silence. You could be their glimpse of hope.
  • Come up with a plan for safety. I would plan to be around them for the next 48-hours. If you cannot, make sure a loved one is near.
  • After, self-care is essential and needed. Vicarious (Secondary) trauma is real. You might find yourself just as depressed. Make sure you meditate, listen to calm music, speak with your support system or do something that distracts you from what you might have experienced.

BONUS SUGGESTION: If you know someone or yourself that struggles with depression. Suggest creating a Gratitude Journal. Normally, journals are a place where we keep our deepest, darkest secrets. Well, what if it was a place where you placed all of life’s joy? This is a behavioral technique that can reprogram the mind from focusing on the negatives. This in turn, can lead to a more positive way of thinking.

 

If you or someone else struggle with thoughts of suicide please use the below resources:

Call 1-800-SUICIDE

COPE (Hennepin County)

Mental Health Emergencies: 612-596-1223

http://www.hennepin.us/residents/emergencies/mental-health-emergencies

 

Always Be Light,

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Kamisha G. Johnson, LGSW

Psychotherapist

President Amani Counseling & Consulting Services

 

 

Its Ok

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Greetings everyone, I hope everyone is in good spirits and having a great week so far. I wanted to share something personal with you all. The other night I had the worst panic attack that I ever had in my entire life. I don’t know what quite triggered it but it was something that I hope will never happen again, at least not that bad. I felt the walls closing in around me, shortness of breath, body wanting to shut down, excessive crying where I could not stop. As it was happening, my husband just held me and whispered ” Let it go, let it out, you got this. BREATHE with me”, he had me focus on the one thing that would calm me and keep me, my son. The attack lasted for about 30 minutes yet I only remember bits and pieces of it.

The next day, I was able to reflect on what happened and things I can try to do (or do better) to ensure I do not allow my mind, body, and spirit to go through this experience again. Overall, we all have anxiety from time to time  and sometimes there may not be a way to prevent it and you know what, ITS OK. You can be the most happy, put together person in the world, and still have anxiety. Yet, they are ways to help lesson the affects of anxiety.

For me, like so many of us do, feel as if we carry the world on our shoulders and everything that is in it. We need to find balance in everything we do whether it be family life, relationships/marriage, work life, social life  and most important, within ourselves. I will be the first to tell you, I tend to beat myself up over things, especially when it comes to my past. Some of the decisions that I have made affected a lot of people and has definitely altered my life in many ways. Yet, one thing I am learning everyday the past is just that, the past. There is nothing you can do to change it so you must learn to accept, embrace, forgive, and move forward. Most importantly, WE MUST FORGIVE OURSELVES. I know first hand that it is something that is easier said then done, but once you allow yourself to forgive, only then can you move forward and live a healthy and happy life. Only then can you understand the true definition of love. Someone once told me that your past is just a small wrinkle in time and larger things that are meant to be remembered are the things that are meant to stay in your life, which for me are.

I also worry for others, especially when it comes to my husband. Yet, I had to remember that he is the man of the house and there are things that I cannot control. Me being a woman, I am a nurturer and problem solver. I don’t want my man to hurt or worry so I try to take on his burdens while caring mine. That is something that simply cannot be done. Being married is a partnership, yet you have to allow your spouse to take on their role. You cannot change someone nor can you fight their battles. All you can do is encourage and love them from where they stand and love them for who they are. Most of all, be a better person for you, when you are doing better for yourself, it reflects in those that love you. It influences others to want to do better for themselves, especially your spouse.

A lot of things were put into perspective for me the other night. It let me know “sistah girl, you are doing too much!!”  It’s ok to take a rest. Live for today, tomorrow is not here not and the past days are no longer present. I have to do better.

 

Be Well,

Essence

 

This is Personal

In honor of Suicide Awareness Month, I just want to speak (type) from the heart (freestyle words unspoken)

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I remember when I got the news, the news of something I couldn’t wrap my head around.

The news that you, my family, my little cousin had jumped off a bridge, and my heart hit the ground

What could you possibly have been going through your mind at the time, what kind of pain could you have been feeling?

reeling… my head has constantly done since that day although its been 6 years.

Exactly 13 years to the day lost our grandfather, now you. True, people were cruel, mean, and unworthy of your time and love

yet and still love is what you continued to show to everyone that was ever was blessed with your presence

beauty was the essence of your being and existence.

20 years old, full of life, strived to be better than you were before. Now, no more laughs, smiles, just silence and questions.

Questions like should we have talked more? Could I have done more? Why wasn’t someone there more? Why didn’t anyone see the red flags more? WHY?

As if things couldn’t get any worst, the worst was yet to come. Another part of my family, found in the slum of the river, my older cousin was found,

had been missing for months and a person found him for he had drowned. My cousin who was like a brother, always looking after me yet teasing me when I was younger,

I wonder what you were feeling, was the healing not coming fast enough for you? If I knew this would happened, we would have talked more, hung out more.

I could have protected you from those who claimed to love, honor, and cherished you but instead took advantage and left you when you needed love the most. Now, 6 kids are without a father, a sister without a brother, a mother without her only son.

Thinking of the both of you, I don’t focus on how you left us, but how you lived and loved us

We must and will continue to keep your legacy alive, for I am dedicated to making change and getting the conversation started about some of the things you may have gone through

for of you I ask that you continue being my angels and help me along with God to guide me in helping others so no one will have to suffer or wonder why.

I love you and thankful for the time that time that was given, and the laughter that was shared.

Know that Protect Your Crown is dedicated to you,

RIH Ari and Dre

 

Day in and day out, we hear about people, young and old, taking their lives. Whether its depression, PTSD, substance abuse, bulling, “coming out” to family them showing no support and not feeling accepted or simply feeling alone. We NEED to pay attention and we need to recognize when something is wrong. It cannot just be prayed away, it can not be ignored, mental illness, mental disorder and suicide IS REAL and is happening much closer than you think. We can no longer wait or pretend things are not happening, we can no longer allow our loved ones to suffer in silence.

If you observe or you yourself have the following warning signs:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities – seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life

 

PLEASE CALL the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number

  • 1-800-273-8255

Guest Writer: Kamisha G. Johnson, LGSW

Greetings! I have the pleasure of having the President of Amani Counseling & Consulting Services and my sister/friend Psychotherapist Kamisha Johnson to bless us with a topic that a lot of woman of color can relate to. Thank You Kamisha!

 

 

Black Women & Bad Nerves: The Truth about Generalized Anxiety Disorder-By  Kamisha G. Johnson, LGSW

For many generations young African American girls have been told “don’t do that, Mama got bad nerves,” or “Mama gotta take her nerve pills.” We have been programmed and prepared for “bad nerves” well before we could define the meaning of this saying our elders referred too often. Many decades later there has been a paradigm shift within the African American culture and we are beginning to have dialogue about the real meaning of “bad nerves.” Now, we have learned that “bad nerves” is the equivalent of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. According to Anxiety & Depression Association of America “Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects 6.8 million adults and women are twice as likely to be affected as men” (www.adaa.org). As a therapist what I have seen through both my personal and professional experience. Specific statistical data is null and void on African American women due to being understudied. Further, I have observed many African American women live with some form of Anxiety Disorder. Society and our culture have created this ideology of the Strong Black Woman that perpetuates and increase the symptoms of anxiety. We get caught up in being the matriarch and caregivers of our families at the expense of our mental health. As a result, this exacerbates our anxiety and makes us more susceptible to medical ailments including high blood pressure, chronic pain, diabetes, obesity, and depression. According to the DSM-V (2013) Generalized Anxiety Disorder’s symptoms that have to be present to meet criteria include:
  1. Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).
  2. The individual finds it difficult to control the worry.
  3. The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms having been present for more days than not for the past 6 months):

Note: Only one item required in children. 1. Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge. 2. Being easily fatigued. 3. Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank. 4. Irritability. 5. Muscle tension. 6. Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep).

  1. The anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  2. The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).
  3. The disturbance is not better explained by another medical disorder (e.g., anxiety or worry about having panic attacks in panic disorder, negative evaluation in social anxiety disorder [social phobia], contamination or other obsessions in obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation from attachment figures in separation anxiety disorder, reminders of traumatic events in posttraumatic stress disorder, gaining weight in anorexia nervosa, physical complaints in somatic symptom disorder, perceived appearance flaws in body dysmorphic disorder, having a serious illness in illness anxiety disorder, or the content of delusional beliefs in schizophrenia or delusional disorder).
To help alleviate symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder includes a combination of the following:
  • Behavioral techniques including deep breathing, meditation, yoga, mindful walking (focusing on 5-senses), prayer, journaling, and daily positive affirmations.
  • Healthy support system of family and friends.
  • In severe cases psychotropic medications that can minimize (but may not eliminate) symptoms. Medications are more effective in combination with the techniques listed above.
In the African American community we tend to turn a blind eye to mental illness. It is my ethical duty and passion to raise awareness. 1 in 5 adults experience some form of severe and persistent mental illness in any given year. Specifically in the African American community we have placed such a high stigma on this illness and we believe we can pray it away. However, us who have spiritual enlightenment and education understand that prayer without work is DEAD. We must embrace that mental illness is real and with psychological openness and awareness we can help those that suffer seek help. Most importantly, live a fulfilled life through recovery. NO ONE deserves to suffer in silence.

 

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”- Maya Angelou

COPE (Hennepin County)

Mental Health Emergencies: 612-596-1223

http://www.hennepin.us/residents/emergencies/mental-health-emergencies

 

Always Be Light,

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Kamisha G. Johnson, LGSW

Psychotherapist

President Amani Counseling & Consulting Services

Kiara’s Words Part 2: To The Ones Like Me

Happy Sunday! Here’s another from the talented Kiara, enjoy!

To the Ones Like Me

I am here for you
To the ones that are always messy
To the ones that don’t hide their rage, discomfort and sadness
To the ones that rant one minute and sorry the next
To the ones that only post sad things
To the ones that only post angry things
To the emotional ones
To the unemotional ones
To the ones that is always angry
To the ones that is always sad
To the ones that scream fuck you
To the ones that screams I am hurting
To the bitter ones
To the petty ones
To the always negative ones
To the mean ones
To the ones that always fighting
To the invisible ones
To the ones that can’t find nothing positive to talk about
To the ones that embrace the darkness
To the ones that wear their heart on their sleeve
To the ones that wears armor even in their sleep
To the ones that don’t hide their mental illnesses
To the ones that are quiet storms and loud hurricanes
I love you
You are loved
Don’t change for anyone

Kiara Ford-Writer, Poet, Artist

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Kiara Illustrations

Kiara’s Words

My talented and amazing sister has given me permission to post some of her innermost thoughts to share with others. I am sure there are others that will be able to relate. Hopefully, see is willing to share more of her work with us. Thank you Kia!!

Healing From a Turtle’s Perspective

When I was small, I had dreams and goals. Like most kids back then, I believed I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up even if it changed over time. I was more brave and determined back then. I wanted to be somebody. I was going to be somebody. Nothing was going to stop me.

But I am not small anymore. Those dreams that this child had back then seems like memories from a stranger now. Memories of a time so long ago that it no longer feels real to me anymore. I don’t know this child anymore.

It is hard because most of the time I forget who I was then. That was me, but it doesn’t feel like me.

This is what mental illness does to you. This is what almost twenty years of severe depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts do to you. No one who has never suffered from any form of mental illness will ever understand what it feels like. What it feels like to have a shitty memory. All those childhood memories you made stole from you. You wanting to cry because you don’t remember faces of those you loved and cared about.

No one will ever understand what it is like to want to die but being too scared to die. No one will understand what it is like to watch yourself fade away. You wanting to sleep but never wake up because you don’t want to face the fact that your life is shit.

Your health starts to fall apart and there you are just looking at your house of cards fall.

This is my life. My daily existence.

This is what hell feels like for me. When your body is your prison and you can’t escape.

In two weeks, it will be my birthday. A day of celebration. A day to celebrating surviving and existing. A day when I came to exist in this world.

I already know it is going to be hard for me. I will be reminded of my past and an uncertain future. I will have to face the elephant in the room. I will have to accept things that I could not control. I will have to forgive myself for the mistakes I made and time lost. I will cry. I will be angry. I want to scream at the top of my lungs and unleash all the trauma of my life. I will feel like I have been hit by a bus after all the feelings rise and go. I will have to pick up the broken pieces of me.

But I made a promise to myself and only to myself. My promise was to face the trauma and choose healing. I chose healing for myself. Anyone that has ever hurt me will not matter because I am more important.

I want to make it to 30. That will be a big age for me.

I am not in denial about my mental state. To be honest, I believe everyone around me are in denial of it. But just because I smile doesn’t mean I am happy. Sometimes it is the only way I can make it through. But I no longer will fake it. Instead I will have to make people uncomfortable by showing what it looks like.

Ableism, Mental Illnesses, Racism, Capitalism, Ageism. These things have been trying to kill me constantly in these years. It makes it hard to navigate this thing called life. They make it hard to be honest about my needs and healing. Being mentally ill can be ugly. Really ugly. It is not pretty or fun. It makes me feel small. It makes me feel like a freak at times.

This past full moon, I made a list of intentions for this year. I try to look at this list as much as I can so I can remember what I need and want out of this life. Remaining focus on a goal or two is my way of taking control of my life. I remain optimistic that I will be able to be better for me.

So I will be turn 27 years old soon. It has been a journey.

If someone was ask me where do you see yourself in five years, I would say I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball nor can I see the future. I can only see today. Tomorrow is never promised.

What do you want to be when I grow up? Don’t know. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter anyway. What matters is navigating life at the best of your ability.

I just started to heal at 25. I am learning new things about myself everyday. It feels like I am a teenager again. I am being the teenager that I never got to be. This teenager is angry, stubborn and determined. I have to calm them sometimes. But I love it.

My personality is finally starting to form and that beautiful, broken mind is starting to shine. I am feeling emotions I never allow myself to feel. I am thinking and saying things I would always hold in or hide.

Depression stole my memories and emotions from me. But I am slowly taking them back. Little by little. I will probably never recover all that I lost. But that is okay. What matters is that I am choosing to fight back. I am doing my best right now.

This week was bad for me. But I survived it. I hope to continue to for years to come.

Healing will take my whole lifetime. It will not be quick. I will not be ready for everything all at once.

Instead, I have to take my time and focus on one thing at a time.

At the moment, I am a turtle surrounded by hares. But I can only go at my own pace.

So to anyone suffering like me, you are not alone. I am here for you. Take all the time you need.

I love you.

Kiara Ford- Writer, Poet, Artist

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Kiara Illustrations

Me

In two weeks of blogging and vlogging, I have posted a lot of great tips, tools, and resources when it comes to supporting your mental health in a positive way. Yet, I will tell you it has not worked EVERYTIME and I would be lying if I said it did. I still have not so great days, I still get upset and cry about things and situations. I still have days when I want to stay in bed and let a day or 2 pass by. There are still “shouda, coulda, woulda days” or “I wish I would have know better days”. There are still days that I question myself and some of the decisions that I’ve made. There are some days where my depression and anxiety try to get the best of me, some times simultaneously. I have days when I don’t want to be bothered with anyone, including my support system.

On those days, I take a deep breath, sit in silence and say to myself “You got this, you are ok” over and over in my head. I also think about something my sister from another Miss Kamisha told me who is a Therapist “You have depression, depression DOES NOT have you!”. I think of the fact that I am never given more than I can handle and they is a reason for everything, even when I don’t fully understand. I try not make excuses or use “my issues” as a reason not to deal. I also keep in mind that it is OK for me to feel the way that I feel and try not to suppress my emotions and thoughts because if I do, it could cause me to crash and burn.

I also think of my biggest reason for defeating depression and anxiety, my son. Our kids see and hear everything even when we think they don’t. They are like sponges so they absorb everything, including your energy. Although my son is only 4, he can still sense when mommy is not ok without me saying a word or shedding a tear. I try to keep in mind that even in my darkest hour, my son needs me but little does he know mommy needs him just as much. When I travel by air, I have the highest anxiety. I sweat, my heart races, I begin to feel light headed at times, I go into freak out mode. Now, what I try to do is focus on a video or picture of my son in his happiest moments and think about the fun we will have when we come back together. I will say that my husband has gotten me through some tough times by simply holding me and not saying a word which can be very comforting. Although he does not fully understand, he knows sometimes his presents means more than anything.

Lastly, when I have one of those days, I think about all of the times I have walked away from situations or people or they walked away from me and the blessings that have come out of it. I look at the fact that in spite of everything, choosing me is always the best choice when it come to being happy. I also look at how far I have come and if GOD hadn’t put certain things or people in my path of life, I would not be who I am. I was given my name for a reason and I have a lot to live up to by having it 🙂

Be Blessed,

Essence