I am in the middle of my ninth week of graduate school. You know, it was much easier telling people I was a graduate student than actually being one. Wait…so I actually have to do assignments? This isn’t just an aesthetic? This isn’t just something I can casually bring up at dinner parties to spark a conversation? Wow, who knew? Of course, I’m kidding, but as I would proudly explain to people that I would be attending the Counseling program at Northwestern University, I truly didn’t know what this chapter in my life would consist of. Juggling graduate school work and my research assistantship proved to be quite a bit. I tried to work six hours a day, and study equally as much. I started to run myself ragged; getting two to four hours a night and trying to function. My assistantship has recently ended, and I am currently trying to find a new one. I’ve applied to a couple research positions…haven’t heard anything from them. You need money, especially if you’re me; a black woman in her 20s who would like to move out of her parents house at least by the time she is 25. I have always had this obsession with living in a New York City high rise with a perfect view of the city skyline. My apartment would be spacious with artwork on the walls and plants to accompany the corners of my room. I am nowhere close to being at that point, and a part of me feels like a failure because I haven’t gotten there. You can find me when I’m taking my breaks from studying scrolling through Pinterest envisioning myself in the place of those in the pictures I’ve pinned. I don’t know who they are, or how they got to where they are now, but I have a tendency to romanticize their experiences. My semi-solution besides work smarter not harder is to romanticize my life from day to day…which can be hard when your life is not the most glamorous. I sometimes feel like I am the character of some coming-of-age drama. After struggling and enduring hardships during my undergraduate collegiate years, I, the awkward, quirky, slightly mentally ill black girl decides to actually apply herself in academia, and somehow she was accepted to grad school at a pretty good institution. Now, I am maneuvering the next chapter of my life, continuing to grow as a young woman while simultaneously feeling like I am still 16 and asking my parents if I can buy Starbucks. This is the fun part they say, working toward the goal, but quite frankly, it has been annoying me for the most part. I know that one day I will look back at this journey and reminisce about the level of uncertainty I had during this time. In a way, it is kind of exciting not knowing what comes next, but also anxiety inducing at the same time. Guess we’ll just have to see…
In August 2019, singer/songwriter Summer Walker, announced that she was going on tour. Me, a relatively big fan, freaked out over this news. Now, I can’t say that I knew about Summer before “Girls Need Love Too” hit the radio waves, but if you look at my Apple Music, I guarantee Summer Walker is always an artist that I have recently been listening to. I think I’ve listen to her latest album Over It a million times…no, a million and two times. When I first heard the song, I was greeted with sultry and soulful tones; her voice reminds me of old school rhythm and blues. I was sold. Since then, me, and many other music lovers, have followed Summer’s career, and when she announced that she was going on tour, I immediately tried to gather my coins together and go see my girl sing “Playing Games” in person. The name of the tour, however, was a little interesting. The First and Last Tour…well, it’s pretty self explanatory. It sort of reminded me of The Eagles Hell Freezes Over Tour. After fourteen years, the band came together after they claimed that they would perform together…when hell freezes over. So I was assuming that by her title, this would most likely be the only tour that she will have for a while. Maybe she doesn’t like touring. Michael Jackson, although he did it, he hated it. Maybe she just thought it was tiring. Touring is exhausting, but it isn’t just physically exhausting for Summer, psychologically, it takes a toll on her.
During Summer Walker’s Tiny Desk Concert debut, people noticed that Summer didn’t seem to be acting “like herself.” She seemed nervous and she looked annoyed; singing stiffly into the microphone placed in front of her. To me, she looked tired, but her voice overpowered that. You can’t deny that her voice is three steps towards angelic, but she did look uncomfortable. I wasn’t the only one to notice this. There were so many news publications, people on Instagram, Twitter, and Instagram, and YouTube talking about how Summer Walker didn’t want to be there and how ungrateful she was acting, when it was actually a much deeper underlying condition.
Summer Walker has spoken out a numerous amount of times about her social anxiety. Social anxiety is the fear of situations where a person has to interact with others. Social phobia is the third largest mental health care problem in the world. Social anxiety effects around 7 percent of the population. This condition is chronic so it can’t just go away, however, there are definitely ways to manage it; medication, meditation, therapy, and etc. A lot of the time, people may confuse social anxiety with shyness or aloofness, but many people who have social anxiety are very friendly, open, and relatively happy people, they just can’t act that way freely due to their disorder. Once I learned about Summer’s dilemma, I could see some symptoms manifest. In a few of the videos that I’ve seen from her tour, you can see Summer standing there almost like a deer in headlights or sitting down very still. Even if you didn’t have social anxiety, picturing what’s going on through her eyes sounds a tad bit terrifying to me. You’re standing in front of a crowd of thousands; people yelling and screaming at you. There are bright flashing lights around, the music booming through the surrounding speakers and you can feel the vibrations of the bass through your feet and up your body. Wouldn’t that trigger some nerves? I get nervous when I go to arcades for that very reason. People are running around, people are loud; talking over each other, pushing, and shoving. It’s typically dark, and there are bright flashing lights from the games that are around. I can empathize with Summer, although my anxiousness is not as severe as hers is.
Recently, Summer Walker has cancelled most of her remaining tour dates due to her social anxiety, and it has a lot of people talking. For those who do not have anxiety, it may be difficult to understand. Many people on the internet are claiming that Summer is acting and that her social anxiety is not that bad; exaggerating her condition for…ugh I hate this word…clout. I didn’t know Summer was a stripper prior to singing, and that’s a big reason as to why people are claiming that she is lying. I do not personally know Summer (I wish I did though); I cannot read her mind, but it is kind of disheartening that so many people are shaming Summer. It’s not the weirdest thing in the world to be a person in that type of industry and have an anxiety disorder. Just think about how many people know her and how popular she is and how many instances she is confronted with having to surround herself with people now; the anxiety factor might have gone up a notch. After accepting her award at the Soul Train Music Awards, the topic of discussion came up once again with people dragging Summer through the mud. Summer has come out defending herself. In an Instagram post, she says…
One of the reasons I started this blog is to shed some light on mental health in the black community…and this kind of solidifies how desperately we as a community need to educate ourselves. Summer is stating some good points with her Instagram caption. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and all of the mental health disorders that are in between can affect anyone…that’s right…even you! And it will really hinder a person if they show signs of something, and they are told to ignore those signs; thinking that they will go away or that it can just be suppressed. It seems like we never take black people seriously; especially black women. If we have anxiety or exhibit any emotion that isn’t pure joy and happiness, we are seen as bitches or God forbid angry. We are told that we are faking it. And what’s sad is that it’s other black people that are trying to regress the black mental health discussion. A lot of it has to do with just not knowing and being ignorant to the fact, but there are literally people out there that think that black people just don’t suffer from mental health conditions. I will say, when you have a condition, it is your responsibility to get the help that you need if you are of legal age. My anxiety is…anxiety. I used to feel like someone else was controlling me when I would get into these little mental fits; sometimes I still do. I’ll give myself some credit; I am at a much better place mentally. That came with a lot of self reflection, hard work, more reflection, getting out of my comfort zone, more reflection, a great support system…did I say reflection? If you have done the same and can see some progress, no matter how little, you should pat yourself on the back. Seriously, I hope you’re doing it right now. I think with Summer Walker speaking more candidly about her condition, she can not only start a discussion about anxiety and other mental health conditions in the black community but she can set limits for what she can and cannot do, as well as pinpoint certain methods of healing that may work for herself.
I feel like when people are famous, their fans expect them to be somewhat superhuman. What we forget is that they too are human beings as well. They can get social anxiety; they aren’t immune to these things. There are so many people who look at their friends and family member’s social anxiety, depression, panic disorders, and so on and don’t see it for what it is. They tell them to get over it or to suck it up; not knowing that what they are doing is more harmful than helpful. Anxiety isn’t a little bout of nervousness, it can really affect a person and what they deem to be reality. Instead of pointing fingers and stating that other people’s (emphasis on other people’s) mental health conditions are exaggerated or fake, maybe we can educate ourselves a little better on what some of our peers may be going through. Okay? Thanks.
*this post keeps deleting itself…and I have no idea why….but here it is!*
It was a whirlwind; a tornado of conflict. I was fine one minute…not the next. I was sitting in the front of my classroom trying to focus on a Sigmund Freud documentary in my Theories of Personality class. My heart was racing, my mind was wandering, and I was sweating from my palms. The room was shrinking as my breaths became more labored. I felt as if I sat in that chair any longer, I would have fell through the tile. I grabbed my bag, a cute tote bag that I collected during my trip to New York (a story that I will tell soon), dropped my phone on the floor, and fled what felt like a near death situation. I remember sobbing and wailing in the Psychology office, sniffling on the shirt of the woman who had been behind the desk. I felt pitiful. This lady probably thought that I was insane, but she was in the Psychology office, so I’m assuming that she was a little more equipped than someone from say the Biology department. I was shaking like I was struck with hypothermia. This was a side swipe; it hit me out of nowhere. What happened? What was that? That, my friends, was an anxiety attack, and the largest one that I had by far. I’ve heard people detail their episodes and they sounded like nightmares; something straight out of a horror film. Over the course of about a year and a half, my anxiety had skyrocketed. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m forcing myself to heal in a toxic environment, or because I’m piling too much on my plate…or a mixture of both.
Anxiety is commonly caused by external and environmental factors. In my case, an act of trauma on a college campus. An anxiety attack can spur anywhere at anytime. It’s also very common too. According to DoSomething.org, around ten percent of teenagers and forty percent of adults suffer from anxiety. I’m not good at math, so bare with me, but that’s more than three million cases. Anxiety is very much so treatable, but around two-thirds of the population There are so many different types of anxiety: GAD (generalized personality disorder, social anxiety, panic disorders, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), agoraphobia, specific phobias, and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Because I am not a licensed professional, here are some definitions of each one according to Beyond Blue (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/types-of-anxiety):
Generalized Personality Disorder:
A person feels anxious on most days, worrying about lots of different things, for a period of six months or more.
A person has an intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, being assertive at work or making small talk.
A person has panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Someone having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration. Sometimes, people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or are about to die. If a person has recurrent panic attacks or persistently fears having one for more than a month, they’re said to have panic disorder.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD;
This can happen after a person experiences a traumatic event (e.g. war, assault, accident, disaster). Symptoms can include difficulty relaxing, upsetting dreams or flashbacks of the event, and avoidance of anything related to the event. PTSD is diagnosed when a person has symptoms for at least a month.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD:
A person has ongoing unwanted/intrusive thoughts and fears that cause anxiety. Although the person may acknowledge these thoughts as silly, they often try to relieve their anxiety by carrying out certain behaviors or rituals. For example, a fear of germs and contamination can lead to constant washing of hands and clothes.
I will try my best to define agoraphobia and specific disorders. I use to think that agoraphobia was just being afraid of going outside, but it is a bit more intricate. Wide open spaces can trigger some type of anxiety. I would assume because you’re worried something may happen to you and you have no one to alert…but I am not a professional I wouldn’t know. Some people are startled by large crowds, or being in an enclosed space. Panic attacks and agoraphobia may go hand and hand, especially if a panic attack ensues in a public space. Specific phobias are phobias on one particular thing. For instance, my Mother is deathly afraid of snakes. Small snakes, big snakes, poisonous snakes, non-poisonous snakes…it doesn’t matter. I think it started when she was a child and saw a garden snake in her backyard. When my Grandmother was pregnant with her, a snake slithered across her foot, so I thought that was rather interesting that she developed this phobia. My friend will have a conniption fit if she sees any type of insect, even a ladybug. I remember I use to terrorize her when we were younger with cicadas that I found around my house when she came over. I didn’t think about the severity of it all, I was seven. Thankfully, cicadas don’t come back until I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’m pretty sure I have grown from that sense of immaturity. Sorry girl, I love you though. These phobias can be compartmentalized into different categories, some common ones are: situations, animals (like my Mother and my friend), natural disasters, injury, and miscellaneous like clowns or vomiting.
I think as a person, it is normal to worry, but over time, I can clearly see that it is becoming quite intrusive in my life. During the end of my freshman year and my sophomore year, my anxiety was through the roof. One thing that I was really nervous about was walking to the dining hall to get food. My dorm was literally a hop, skip, and a jump away from the dining hall, and I would not go because I was afraid of people seeing me outside. I lost a lot of weight around that time. Now, it has subsided a little bit, but there still is a surge of uncertainty when I leave my house. I can’t really pinpoint what I’m worried about, but I get those butterflies in my stomach that fly up through my throat.
To help calm these nerves down, I have tried carrying notebooks around with me (you can learn more about that with my Guide to Journaling post). I also take deep breaths, or I try to focus my thoughts on a particular scene that I made up in my head. I always like the one where I’m wandering around Paris around the Louvre. The sky is infused with purple, pink, and a hint of blue. I’m in nice clothing and I’m exploring the city, eating macaroons and living freely. See? That’s a nice image to picture in your head right? Sometimes that’s not all you can do though. Trust me, if we could dream about out our fantasies as a way to aid anxiety, people wouldn’t need to be prescribed medication. However, medication is a way to get a bit of solace. There are also natural remedies. I have heard that incense and scents like lavender help calm the body down. Some people carry around crystals (and I actually have a few which I may do a post on one day). The same friend that I terrorized with cicadas actually offered me some CBD oil that her mom had bought her. I plan on trying it out quite soon, so maybe I’ll do a review on it later.
Whatever way works. there is a way to ease anxiety. One way may not work for everyone. Anxiety can get better over time, and it can also get worse. It depends on the person. There is a way to heal of course, but it may take some time to find the right method. There is a way to manage it.
Pittsburgh native rapper Mac Miller (born Malcolm James McCormick) has been pronounced dead due to an apparent drug overdose. Miller had just released an album, Swimming, August 3rd. He was scheduled to go on tour October 27th.
Miller is not the only rapper who has fallen victim to drug abuse. Fredo Santana succumbed to drinking Lean in January. In 2017, music artist Lil Peep, was found dead on his tour bus from a drug overdose. The amount of people who have died due to drugs can’t merely be counted on fingers and toes. Lil Peep was said to have suffered through depression and anxiety. I don’t know what Mac Miller went through, or if he went through anything a long those lines. The main thing is that he’s gone, and that his death could have been prevented.
Drug culture has skyrocketed over the last decade. Percocets, Xanax, molly…each one of these has been mentioned in a rappers song at least once. It’s definitely being pushed to a wide audience. Trust me, I understand the feelings of depression and anxiety. I understand wanting to do anything to make the pain that you’re feeling go away; many people do. Drugs isn’t the answer. It really isn’t. It’s a mask. It’s a distraction. You pop the pill, drink the lean, whatever you may do…and it makes you feel numb to what’s bothering you. At the end of my sophomore year of college I spent many a weekend drunk, making a fool of myself because I wanted to forget some of the things that have happened before. Wine was my drink of choice, but I would have drunk anything if it was there. Your bad memories fade, but only for a little while. You hit that high and you feel invincible, but only for a little while. Once that feeling fades, you’re craving for the high, and the cycle begins. It scared me because I wanted a drink, but soon I needed one. I would think about the weekend and how there’s some party out there that will serve me a close to unlimited amount of alcohol. I would think about this every time I would feel like I’m at a low point.
This becomes a crutch. A crutch keeps you up, but it still makes you that much slower. Most people when they break their leg they don’t stay on a crutch the rest of their life. When they’re ready, they try to move on their own. You can’t go your whole life like that. There are so many people who don’t think that life will get any better, and that Xanax bars and oxycondone is what will take the sorrows away. They will come back.
Check in on your friends. The quiet ones, the funny ones, the ones you haven’t spoken to in a while….see how their doing! They might expose their deepest darkest secrets to you then and there, but it let’s them know that someone is thinking about them. Being surrounded by others and still feeling alone hurts. There are always ways to feel better, even if it feels like there aren’t. Talking to someone may help. Hell, if it gets to be that bad, go to a professional if you can. There is always a way out of whatever you are going through, but you have to start it. You have to want it. You have to try to want it. Drugs aren’t cool. They don’t do anything for you. They are a toxic friend that you can’t get rid of. There’s always a way out, always. I’m still trying to get out. It’s not something that happens over night. It takes time. But when you’re free, it’s going to be life changing. You just have to be patient. Anyone can do it. I pray for Mac Miller’s family and friends at this time. I pray for their strength and healing. God bless.