Hey! How are you? Well, this is kind of awkward…l hope things have been good; long time no see. Life has been busy to say the least; completing a bachelors degree in the midst of a pandemic is a sure fire way to induce a week long depression…well, almost year long it seems like, huh? Throw a few panic attacks in there for fun. Once I complete these two college courses in the summer, I’ll begin preparing for the new journey that I will embark on in the coming months; graduate school. In the Fall of 2021, I will be a mental health counseling graduate student at Northwestern University…I know, I can’t believe it either. I won’t lie to you, I have been reading the congratulatory messages that people have been sending me on Facebook over and over again after I announced my decision, not to boost my ego, but as a mental pinching of my own skin…this is all still surreal to me; Northwestern has been a school I dreamed about attending ever since high school. Fourteen year old me is speechless, which was a rarity when I actually was that age. I hope to be able to document some of my graduate adventures, as well as some of the lessons that I will be taught. Of course, I will continue to write about current events and my two cents on them, as I enjoy doing the research for posts like those. I want to take my writing a bit more seriously, whether it be opinion editorial writing, features writing, interviews, or even more creative pursuits like short stories and poetry. The hiatus from my blog has made me realize a very simple fact about myself…I love writing. No matter how many people come across it, it’s something that I innately must do. When speaking becomes too onerous, writing words are there to soften the blow. Trying to piece together cohesive sentences off the top of your head can be monotonous. I feel this blog will be one of the only things to keep me sane during my time in graduate school; I hear these stories about the rigor of higher education and they terrify me. However, with the hooks and jabs I’ve dodged during Covid-19, I feel I can endure anything. Mentally, I am preparing myself, but it’s hard to do when you’re not sure what to expect. I know things that I was able to get away with in my undergraduate years won’t fly in graduate school; this is a whole different level. This is yet another part of my continuous self evolution, as 2020’s events have led me to want better for myself. At this time in my life, I am actually proud of myself…like honestly. I know what my dreams and aspirations are, and I am confident that I can reach them. I’m excited for the rest of the year, anxious, but excited. I am blessed to be able to move forward in the mental health field, as it is a passion of mine. I am only one person, but I am hopeful that I can help promote diversification within the profession, even if it is only amongst my fellow peers.
I had a whole article written before I decided to scrap it and be completely transparent. In that one, I was talking about how I, the great mental health blogger that I am (I’m kidding), keeps calm during a time like this. I had bullet points on the basic things that people do like cook or take intermittent naps. I was going to make it seem like I was automatically processing everything correctly and in a healthy manner. I was going to make it seem like I had all the answers. As much as I would love to be the knower-of-all…I’m not…I’m human just like all of you. I ponder things religiously, and sometimes even after I’ve given every brain cell I have to try and connect how things operate, I still don’t understand. On top of quarantine and living through a pandemic, there have been some looming thoughts in my head. My Grandmother passed away about a month ago, and every time I think of her I begin to cry…I’m tearing up a little now that I mention it. My summer class just ended, my internship, something that I’m very grateful for, is relatively demanding, and I’m trying to write more content on this blog. Then, if that isn’t enough, take a look at the news! If you’re black or a person of color, hearing and seeing the stories of your people being slaughtered in the streets can psychologically distress the strongest person. At one point, Twitter was in a frenzy; exposing countless rapists and abusers around the country. Thoughts of my own attack flooded back to the corners of my brain like a dam. I relived that anger, that hopelessness, and that sense of sudden numbness. I remembered the people who told me it was my fault. Hearing someone say that an act you’ve never asked for is your identity strikes you like a freshly sharpened dagger…I don’t know how else to explain it. I’ve had crying spells where it felt like they would never stop; where my eyes would swell like a bee sting and wither like a drought. It was a lot, and I had to take a break from it all.
I’m guilty when it comes to using my productivity as a means of feeling valuable. I also try to ignore any mental pain or fatigue that I feel because I think being perceived as strong is better than being stable. Today, I laid in bed, typed this, and watched Netflix, and I actually felt good about it. Usually, I would engage in some tender-loving self care for about thirty minutes, and then go right back to doing some type of assignment. If I tried to practice self care, I would immediately counteract it. I would surround myself with the countless messages swirling through the media that my life was not welcome and I have no place anywhere. As much as I am proud of people of all shades, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, genders, and so on coming together…it’s draining that we as a collective are still doing this. Black people and people of color deserve to be respected. Marginalized groups deserve to be loved. We deserve to live a long and healthy life. We don’t deserve this bloodshed. We don’t deserve to live in fear. I’m exhausted. I’ve had a headache for the last two days, and you can tell I’m stressed by the slew of pimples that have accumulated on my cheeks. My brain felt like it was swelling; I felt nothingness one minute and then every emotion known to man the next. I was going insane…staring at the wall and letting my thoughts run rampant insane. Enough was enough, I had to do something in order to regain and maintain some type of sanity. So…this is what I did.
I started a new day and set my intentions. As crazy as the previous day might have been, this is a new one, and there is always a chance that this day will be better. First, I always give thanks to God and the universe that I am able to see this day. There are so many loved ones who didn’t, and I am grateful that my journey is to be continued. I am a firm believer in manifestation and prayer, and I honestly think that these two things have really saved me in terms of my mental health. The pen is mightier than a sword, but combining the power with a strong voice… you’re unstoppable. I am slacking on writing down my manifestations, so I need to get back into the swing of things. Sometimes just waking up and stating how you want your day to go will make you feel that much better. To piggyback off of giving thanks for waking up in the morning, I pray for the things that I would love to take place in my life, like me and my family being protected against evil forces sent to kill, steal, and destroy and achieving every goal that has been set. Then, I thank God for everything that has happened; that it happened, that I learned from it, and that I made it through. If I write down my prayers and manifestations, I always read them out loud. Never say negative thoughts aloud, or at least try not to. It’s normal for negative thoughts to come about, but don’t speak them or write them down. When you speak or write out negative thoughts, it is almost like you are decreeing them into existence.
I took deep breaths and tried to meditate…it is harder than it looks. As people, we are quite shallow breathers. As we mature into adulthood, we change the way we breathe. As infants and children, we all breathe deeper. We took big, extensive, belly moving breaths, and now we more so breathe with our chest. Try it; take a breath in through your nose for ten seconds, and then breathe out for ten out seconds through your mouth. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot lighter. Your heart rate increases a little when you take a breath in, and slows down once you breathe out. When it comes to meditating, I have always had difficulty. I’ll roll my yoga mat out, get down, hit my criss-cross applesauce position, close my eyes, clench my thumb and pointer fingers together, and try to focus on one thought peacefully. I last probably for a good thirty seconds…I wish I was kidding. One thing I feel I need to work on is focusing on my breathing; remaining still and reminding myself that whatever I have to do will get done once my meditation session is over. Maybe one day I’ll be able to get past the minute mark. According to the Massachusetts General Hospital, breathing, mindfulness, and meditation changes brain regions that are associated with memory, empathy, stress, and sense of self like the brain’s gray matter. When I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, sometimes the simplest thing to do is to take a deep breath.
I drink water and eat fruits and vegetables. Water is my favorite beverage. It is the elixir of life. The fact that there are people around the world who don’t have access to water while there are people who freaking swim in it for a living is ridiculous to me. For those who have the privilege of having clean drinking water…don’t take it for granted and donate to give others the opportunity to have the same access. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine states that an adequate amount of water intake per day is between 11.5 cups and 15.5 cups. I have a gallon jug that I keep beside my bed. I try to drink half of it every day, and I’ve been keeping up with it. Water lubricates your joints and muscles. It helps cushion the brain and spinal cord…those are pretty important parts of your body. It helps eliminate waste, helps you stay energized, promotes healthier skin…the list goes on and on. Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent some cancers, give you a beneficial dose of vitamins and minerals, and so many more factors. I know when given the opportunity to chow down on a donut versus a stalk of celery, it can be hard to choose the healthier option. It’s okay to indulge in some Krispy Kreme from time to time, but believe me, you will feel much better after gnawing on an apple. I’ve been eating a lot of peaches lately, as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, and baby carrots. When I’m craving a bowl of chips, I try to replace that with a mix of all three vegetables.
I pay a visit to my seven year old self. The reason I go back to my seven year old self is because that was the age when I started feeling insecure. Seven year old me was when I started to kind of lose the confidence I had. It took a few years to gain it back, and I know that little me would be beaming with joy. She would be proud of the things that I’ve accomplished. At the age of seven, I would give anything for my hair to be straight. All the other girls seemed to have their hair that way, and I wanted to be like them. My hair was straightened every four weeks until I was about eighteen years old. I was chubby, with a name no one pronounced right, glasses, and a gap in between my buck two front teeth. My two year anniversary of my big chop was last week, and I am currently rocking a growing fro. I would have never thought that I would be comfortable with my curls and coils. When I was younger, I wanted to be skinny and at least be the same height as my Dad, who stands at 5’9. I am six inches below that, and I’m about a size ten…well, during quarantine, I really have no idea what the hell I am. As shocked as she would be, she would be proud that I am happy with who I am. If I was able to speak with her, well, I wouldn’t speak at first. I would embrace her; the road that is ahead is treacherous, but beautiful at the same time. She learns so much about who she is, the flaws that she has and the things that she needs to exemplify and praise. She wouldn’t cry once being held because she thought tears were a sign of weakness, but I would, because I know it showcases quite a bit of strength to do so. I would tell her that I love her, despite that person telling her that no one didn’t. I would tell her to love herself more…and then more than that, and then more than that. I’d ask her how she’s feeling right now and maybe give her some advice on how to resolve it. I would tell her that being quirky and weird is what makes her special, and that she is not alone in the unique way that she thinks. What would you tell your younger self?
I fell back in love with things I used to enjoy doing. I’ve taken some of this time to just explore. I began to play the viola again. I played in a conservatory in high school. As I held the instrument in one hand and the bow in the other, I almost felt whole. I played The Swan, the 13th movement of Camille Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals. It is one of the prettiest pieces of music I think I’ve ever heard. When I listen to it, I envision myself in Paris…he is a French composer you know. As stupid as they may have sounded, I wrote songs and poems. I have a piano right across from my bed, and when I get an idea in my head, I’ll move my chair in front of my keyboard and just let my creative juices pour out onto the keys. For a lot of you creative folk, it may be hard right now to create. It was for me too, and I kind of pressured myself to make something that I deemed as worthy enough. Sometimes you find your best work within a dry spell, and I just created…whether it was good or bad. The act of writing poems or music was more so supposed to be therapeutic, and it was. Whether it made sense or not, I just wrote about what I felt. Art is such a good form of therapy, whether it be singing, dancing, drawing…anything. It made me realize that I want to incorporate more of those talents into my daily routine. If that made me feel better then, I’m hoping it will do so from day to day.
Fine…I will include intermittent naps in here. Napping is one of my favorite past times. A nap has become an integral part of my daily routine, my only flaw is that a thirty minute nap will turn into a five hour snooze. Sleeping is crucial for your physical health. It rejuvenates you. It heals and repairs your heart and blood vessels. It can help improve concentration and productivity and help your immune system. In my case, sometimes I don’t know what to do, and I stress myself out trying to come up with an answer for whatever I’m going through. Sometimes the only thing I can do is take a nap, rest on it, and save the mental effort for another time. I got out of my house. Just sitting outside on my porch letting the sun hit my face can be the therapy I need. I watch the trees sway back and forth as they waltz with the leaves. The fresh air reinvigorates my senses, and I picture myself in different scenes of nature. I was on a beach in California. I watched the snow fall in the Poconos. I rode bikes down the streets of Toledo…I was there. I go to my happy places, whether they be close by like my Grandma’s room, or somewhere on the other side of the world like the time I made paella in Barcelona. I appreciated the things that nature does for us; offers us sunlight, nourishes our plants and crops, gives us shade and oxygen…I am so grateful for these scenes.
Don’t batter and abuse yourself; pushing your brain to the brink of insanity. No matter what, your mental health is important. When your mental health is in the right place, your body follows suit. We all thank you for your continuous fight in trying to end racism and white supremacy. We all thank you for working hard and making moves in your career. We all thank you for risking your life to help others. We all thank you for being here another day, but sometimes those days can be too much. It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to feel joy during this time. You need to remember the good things that life can offer, and we want you to be here when these good things finally come about.
With the Coronavirus causing people all around the world to panic, I think it’s time for some healing prayers and manifestations. There isn’t enough information on the virus, so no one really knows what its true impact could be. All I know is that we need to stay safe and serious about our health. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, carry hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, distance yourself from people (especially if they are coughing or exhibiting any symptoms of the virus). People can appear asymptomatic, so steering clear of large crowds is a must. With all that being said, we want God to allow this outbreak to pass over us, as well as our friends and loved ones. Can this be a lesson? What can we learn from this? These prayers/manifestations are not just for this pandemic, but for anything that does not give us a healthy and happy body.
- I pray that this virus or any virus, disease, or illness of any kind passes over me
- Anything that is not meant to go into my body will not infect me or come near me
- I manifest healthiness for me, my friends, and my family
- I pray for the doctors and scientists studying this epidemic
- I manifest that they find a vaccine, as well as a cure
- I pray for the strength of those who have already been infected
- I manifest a quick and speedy recovery for those who are infected
- I pray for anyone who has been exposed to any illness and let them not be affected by it
- I manifest common sense for myself and others
- I pray for those with anxiety; I pray they are able to stay calm
- I manifest that everything will be under control sooner than later
- I pray that people who still have to go to work and/or school stay safe and sound
- I pray that people are able to find the supplies that they need to stay clean
- I manifest people having enough to eat and drink
- I pray for the people that live in shelters, in their cars, and on the streets
- I pray for the people that have to quarantine in toxic situations with toxic people
- I pray for people who don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from due to businesses being shut down
- I manifest that the people traveling at this time will not be infected or spread anything to others
- I pray for the small business owners that are being affected at this time
- I manifest the economy not taking as big of a hit as it looks like it will
- I manifest that there will be more people who are able to be tested for the Coronavirus
- I pray that the events that have been postponed due to the illness spreading around are even better than they originally would have been
- I manifest mental sanity for all
- I manifest nothing else disastrous happening to our earth
- I manifest people living long, healthy, and happy lives
I tend to ponder in thought quite a bit, as many people do. The mind can take us to some pretty chasmic places; rewinding scenarios in our heads that make no sense, whether you have created them or not. Since Sunday, I have been doing this as I’m sure many other people have. This makes no sense…none at all. When unexpected and unexplainable situations occur, we try to rationalize what’s unfolding. We’re in disbelief and we’re in shock. We empathize with the victims and their families. We think about how something could have been prevented. We claim that what has happened is not real. We think about the situation if it were us in their shoes. We may link together other times when our feelings took a turn for the worst, making our experience that much more unbearable. Our emotions aren’t linear; in complete and utter shambles one day, feeling invincible the next, then back in shambles again. There is no clear way to express your emotions during certain situations.
Grieving is the multifaceted response typically for loss. Grieving has no standard image or action. When you have developed a deep bond with someone or something, it suddenly being taken away can feel like we lost apart of ourselves. I remember when my Grandmother passed. The moments during the initial shock differed so much. My Dad was in hysterics. He wasn’t in town at the time, so his wails and cries were transferred through the phone. My Mom, somewhat stoic in nature, sighed as she processed the passing, not because she was annoyed, but because she knew how impactful his mom (my Grandma) was in his life. My parents work well together. While my Dad starts with emotions first, he works through them so at the end of the day he can use his logic. My Mom is the opposite. Whatever she needs to do, she’ll get it done, only to process her emotions after it has been completed. They are able to lean on each other when the other needs to.
You may want to cry. You may want to scream your lungs out. I took a six hour nap yesterday after incessantly bawling. Some want to be left alone, while others want to be surrounded by close friends and family. As long as it’s not hurting you or anyone else…
…grieve the way you need to.
Loss can feel like a heart attack. You feel like you’ve stopped breathing, your heart palpitates, and tears may start to well at your eyes. It can feel like the end of the world. You feel numb; on earth, but not apart of it. It feels like your mind is dissolving. Memories flood back like a tsunami, and it almost feels like you will never be able to reach a homeostasis. Denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance…sound familiar? These are most commonly known as the stages of grieving. Of course, most of us know what denial is; refusing to believe that whatever took place happened. Isolation commonly goes along with denial. We like to remove ourselves from other people’s company. Maybe it annoys you being around others who don’t feel the way you feel, and that’s okay. Maybe you just want to be alone because you just want to…that’s okay too. ￼We may start to feel tension build up. Our muscles clench as you grit your teeth and try to ignore the seething displaced pain that’s felt. We may get mad at ourselves for responding the way we are when grieving. Maybe you’re upset because you physically lost something and you forgot for a brief moment that you’re human and things happen. Anger can be directed towards another person who was involved; a lot of the time, the person who was the victim if there is one. We may garner a sense of hope with bargaining. If I do this, then this will be the outcome. If I stop doing this, then they will come back and this, that, thus, and so. It’s like trying to make a deal with the universe. We may begin feeling overwhelmed and saddened at the fact that whatever it is we are going through…not much can be done to change the outcome. And once all of this passes, people can finally accept the changes that have come, and begin your journey of healing. Does it always start at denial? No. Maybe you get angry at first. Maybe you all of a sudden feel this wave of melancholic energy. There may be some stages that you don’t even experience, and then there may be some stages that are added to your personal grieving process. There isn’t a time frame to grieving either. It may take someone years to heal from something, while for others it may take a couple of days. Take as much time as you need.
What happened was tragic, and your brain might not be able to compute what has just taken place. Disconnect from the world for a little bit; take some time amongst yourself. Analyze and acknowledge your feelings…every single one. Take things slow for the day. Deep breaths; in through the nose and out the mouth. Move around; do yoga, exercise, take a walk…be around nature. There’s something calming about fresh air; being among the trees, the very vessels that give us oxygen. If it’s too cold to go outside, curl up with a warm blanket and an inspiring book. Go pick up a pen and write. Write everything that develops in your brain, no matter how random the thoughts may be. When bad thoughts begin to burgeon, stop their growth with words of love; for yourself and for others. Love, that’s the key thing. Love those whom you’re closest to, and don’t forget to love them out loud. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, and work on forgiving others for theirs. We have been reminded that life is inevitable and it is sudden. That doesn’t mean worry about when your life may end, it means celebrate it and all of its little wonders. You made it to class on time, congratulations! Your boss brought donuts to that 8 o’clock meeting, that’s amazing. The little things can be the most important and enjoyable parts of life. You’re alive, it’s okay to act like it.
Appreciate the time you have.
First I want to give thanks to God and the universe for allowing myself to make it this far in my life. 2020, a new year…a new decade. Let 2020 be a spiritual and mental cleansing. Let goodness overflow and saturate the twelve months that make up this year. Let negativity be cast out and not infiltrate our spaces.
- I manifest healing any trauma from the past in the new year
- I manifest a stronger sense of self
- I manifest getting rid of any insecure or doubtful thought I have in my mind about myself and my abilities
- I manifest making better decisions in the new year and the years to come
- I manifest happiness and joy
- I manifest security in all ways possible
- I manifest focus in everything I do
- I manifest patience and perseverance within myself
- I manifest discipline and establishing healthy boundaries as well as enforcing them
- I manifest solid relationships in my life; whether romantic or platonic
- I manifest letting go of things that no longer serve me
- I manifest the greatest love for myself
- I manifest a clean bill of health in the new year
- I manifest breaking bad habits in the new year
- I manifest clear, even, firm, and glowing skin
- I manifest positive energy surrounding me at all times
- I manifest all my goals and aspirations coming into fruition
- I manifest maturity
- I manifest wealth and good fortune
- I manifest a greater love for myself
- I manifest a sense of calmness and serenity
- I manifest more opportunities to express my talents
- I manifest protection
- I manifest growth in all forms
- I manifest happiness and prosperity
- I manifest change for the better
When I walk alone to the train at night, my mind begins to race. With each step that I take; one foot in front of the other, I think about the moments before my last breath. Will it be tonight? The days on the calendar bring about new opportunities and new experiences…but I fear what these new experiences entail. Some may call me dramatic, but for me this is a normal thought that my brain goes to…and it really shouldn’t be. As the sunlight hibernates and darkness saturates the almost evening sky, I become more cautious than I was before. Every figure begins to distort. The friendliest looking person could be a threat to my safety. When I walk alone to the train at night, I clutch my pepper spray inside my coat pocket. My pace begins to accelerate, and I begin to look behind me every few seconds; left and right. I take one earbud out of my ear so I can hear my surroundings, then I take the other one out because my paranoia gets the best of me. Still, even my senses don’t put me at ease. When I walk alone to the train at night, I think about the last goodbyes that I’ve said to my family. My Dad was working on his construction project in the basement, so he probably wouldn’t have been able to hear me. My Mom was asleep in the kitchen after finishing up dinner. My brother was upstairs, watching YouTube videos and playing video games…that would be the last memory that I would have of them. The last message that I sent to my friends would memorialize me. The videos and pictures saved of me in their phones would be the only way they could see me again, besides the images that they have stored in their memories.
I shouldn’t have to have these thoughts; so morbid and perturbed. The pathway to my destination should be smooth sailing. I shouldn’t have to think about my every move, because one slip up could cost me my life. I shouldn’t have to be on high alert all the time; analyzing every person that crosses my path. Sometimes I wonder if there were any times in my life where I was close…close to being harmed. Has anyone seen me walking down the street and thought that I was a good target? It makes my anxiety rise to an all time peak. What really goes on in the dark?
The Ruth George case really has me thinking. That beautiful young woman had a whole life ahead of her. She had a family that adored her, friends that cherished her, and all of that was taken away just because she didn’t want to converse with a man who was catcalling her. She went to UIC, my parents alma mater; a school that I was thinking of attending. I have walked past the very car park where her murder took place. I just don’t understand how you could kill someone over YOU’RE disrespect. She did not owe you her time, and certainly not her body. How could someone get that angry from rejection? You were so upset that it made you homicidal? How can someone be so evil? All she was doing was walking to her car. How many people have walked to their cars alone at night? That could’ve been anyone, unfortunately it happened to someone, and it happened to her.
The fear is so apparent it’s paralyzing. The prayers that have passed through my lips for my friends, fellow loved ones, and myself I’m afraid will fall flat. The world can be such a beautiful place, but it truly looks like turmoil and tragedy is prevailing. I don’t want it to win. Sex trafficking is real, and it happens all the time, and we are starting to realize how common this crime is. Be smart and be safe; always be aware of the things going on around you. Do what you need to do to protect yourself. Carry pepper spray or maybe even a little pocket knife. Make sure that the blade of the knife is within the law requirements. If tasers are legal in your area, I would keep that on me as well. In Chicago, tasers are illegal unless you have a license in the state. It has gotten to the point where more and more women are getting gun licenses, and I may become one of them. Guns scare me; they always have, but with what is going on, a firearm owner’s identification card doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. You should never stunt the lengths of your protection.
I don’t want to be another story on the news; The Chicago Tribune’s first page headliner. I don’t come home for hours, days, weeks, months…maybe I’m never found. I don’t want my family to go through the agony of putting on search parties, passing out flyers, losing half their minds wondering where I’ve gone, only for me to be somewhere with my throat slit inside of a dumpster in an alley way, or strangled in my car, or tossed to the side of the road like a used tissue; battered and bruised. Will they identify me by the red head wrap I wore, or the shoes on my feet that I bought a week before? How will you tell my story? I don’t want my family to have to plan my funeral because I didn’t acknowledge a guy for making an explicit comment about me and my body. I don’t want to be brutally attacked just because my “hello” becomes a response that corrupts your judgement. My kindness should not make me a target to be violated. My silence should not cause you to become irate.
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.
We have now made it towards the end of the year. We watched the weather heat up during the month of May, letting us walk around through out the spring and summer season with our arms bare and our skin glowing with the sun’s rays. Then we transitioned into the fall. The leaves on the trees changed their mood; showcasing red, orange, yellow, and brown hues as they fell to the ground. We saw families put pumpkins in front of their windows, getting ready for the night when ghosts and goblins walk from house to house collecting their sugary loot. With the shift in seasons, the air shifts in tune as well; with the weather calling for jackets and gloves. At the moment, it is about fifteen or sixteen degrees; a stark contrast from the seventy degree weather us Chicagoans were still getting in the middle of September. We were practically begging for the weather to get colder. Well now it’s here, and while some of us are embracing the slightly bitter cold with our Ugg boots on our feet and plaid scarves wrapped around our necks, others are struggling to grasp Mother Nature’s changes. Sometimes, it can psychologically bring us down. There’s a reason for that, and it has a name.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a type of depression that occurs due to the changes in seasons. Typically, it begins to set in at around late fall to early winter, but by spring and summer it usually goes away. Now, that does not mean that episodes can not take place during seasons with warmer climates…it just isn’t as common. There are a few tell-tale signs that may indicate that you may be experiencing bouts of seasonal depression, some may include:
- if your depression persists nearly every day for most of the day
- there’s a loss in the activities that you once enjoyed
- insomnia or difficulties sleeping
- hypersomnia or irregular sleep pattern
- increase or decrease in weight
- a drastic change in appetite and abnormal cravings
- feeling rather sluggish or fatigued
- heightened agitation
- having a hard time focusing
- violent outbursts
Remember, just because you exhibit one of the symptoms on this list, it doesn’t mean that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, if the symptom you exhibit is disrupting your way of life and your mental health, you may want to seek some professional mental help. There may be some other factors that may increase your chances of having SAD. For instance, if you’re a woman, it is four times more likely that you will be diagnosed with it than men. If you live further from the equator, then there is a higher chance that you may get it, or if you have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder. Also, age plays a factor too. Younger adults are more affected by SAD. Children and adolescents shouldn’t be overlooked either, they too can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder as well.
Christmas time and holiday cheer may be a positive point during the winter, as well as the whims fall brings, the growth spring attracts, and the warmth of summer, but people with SAD don’t get a chance to experience all of that, and it isn’t that they don’t want to, their brains have a hard time letting them. People with SAD may have difficulty regulating their serotonin. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes a person’s mood. This is a pretty important hormone; it practically controls your entire body. Serotonin helps brain cells and other nervous system cells communicate with each other. It is found in your stomach as well as your intestines; aiding eating, sleeping, and digestion. It even helps heal your wounds, triggering tiny arteries to narrow, forming blood clots. Serotonin is great, but there can always be too much of a good thing. Too much serotonin can lead to depression and excessive nerve cell activity. It may also lower your arousal. Low levels of serotonin can be associated with emotional and behavioral disorders such as suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and OCD. Having high levels of serotonin can lead to osteoporosis; making your bones weaker. Some symptoms of increased serotonin are shivering, high blood pressure, diarrhea, twitching muscles, high fever unconsciousness, seizures, and irregular heartbeat.
Seasonal Affective Disorder may make you feel heavy during the holidays, but there are plenty of ways to manage it.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s can be given to people who are dealing with SAD. Some take certain antidepressants like bupropion, which can also be taken to help people stop smoking. It may take a while to find the right medicine for you; all of them do not affect each person the same. Some of these medications may cause some pretty severe side effects. This article by the National Institute of Mental Health helps you understand some of your medications just a little better (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/index.shtml).
I hadn’t heard of this one before, but apparently it has been used to treat SAD since the 1980’s. This is typically used during the months that contain shorter days and colder weather. The whole idea is to mimic and replace the diminished sunlight of the fall and winter months. This helps the patient get a higher dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate your immune system and nervous system, and of course the brain. It also helps combat some of the symptoms that come with having too much serotonin, like weak bones and teeth. Some people are told to sit in a well lit area to soak up the sun or a light box for about 20 to 60 minutes. A light box blocks out ultraviolet rays. Ultraviolet rays can damage your skin creating premature wrinkles and in more serious cases skin cancer. A light box exposes a person to at least 10,000 lux, an SI unit of illuminance that’s equal to one lumen per square meter. It is more than twenty times the amount of light you would get by being indoors. You would do this first thing in the morning between late fall and early spring.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a widely used method; they even have a specific method for SAD called CBT-SAD. It identifies negative thoughts while trying to switch them with positive thoughts using a technique called behavioral action. Remembering and doing the things that make the person happy may be a positive way to let the person cope during their episodes.
It was talked about a little in the Light Therapy section, but Vitamin D is good for your body. The sun is the most natural source, but you can also buy supplements at your local grocery store.
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is or where you are, people show a wide array of emotions every single day. However, for some of us, some of those emotions aren’t so jovial, and it can be a lot harder to overcome, especially during certain times of the year. It may seem difficult, but there are many ways to combat seasonal depression and manage it, you just have to find the right method for you.
Today is not just some normal Thursday, today is much more important than you may think. Today is World Mental Health Day! As a mental health blogger, this is a very important day for me. I cannot stress enough how imperative it is for one to protect their mental health. Everyone goes through something, and no matter how small or severe, it is valid and deserves to be attended to and healed.
I can’t understand why people don’t make their mental health a priority. I mean, it’s your brain for God sakes…you know? The thing that helps you make daily decisions? The thing that is the reason why you decided to read this today? It is the control room for the body. It receives signals from sensory organs, and then sends that information to your muscles. The brain is probably the most important part of the body besides the heart; the two go hand in hand. The brain stores our memories; when we lost our first tooth, when we got our first kiss, when we got married, the brain holds all of that! Why do we just treat it in any old way?
As much as the brain is important, the brain is also quite complex. It actually is the most complex organ in a vertebrate’s body. Your brain consists of over 80 billion neurons. Neurons are specially designed to transfer information throughout the body. The brain has four lobes; the frontal lobe, the occipital lobe, the parietal lobe, and the temporal lobe. The frontal lobe is located in the…well, guess. This part of the brain is involved with voluntary movement, thinking, personality, emotion, memory, sustained attention, and intentionality. The occipital lobe is placed in the back of the brain. This controls your visual perception. The temporal lobe has an active role in hearing, language processing, and memory; it’s located at the bottom of the brain. Lastly, the parietal lobe is an important factor in registering spatial location, maintaining attention, and administering motor control. It may just all seem like a bunch of words, but your brain does all of that! That’s insane that the body is capable of doing so much.
Within those parts of the brain we have the parts that control our emotions like the limbic cortex, the hypothalamus, the amygdala, and so on and so forth. The limbic cortex impacts your mood, motivation, and judgement through two structures, the cingulate gyrus and the parahippocampal gyrus. While the limbic system is doing its thing, the hippocampus is making sure that you remember the things that you are supposed to. The hippocampus helps retrieve certain memories. It also helps out with recognizing space in your environment. The hypothalamus controls emotional and sexual responses, while the cute little amygdala helps coordinate responses that are in your environment, more importantly the ones that elicit an emotional response. Fear and anger are also ruled a lot by the amygdala. That’s quite a bit right? So what happens when these functions don’t function the way that they are supposed to? What causes it?
Having a mental illness may feel as if you are not in control of your own body. You may experience a certain emotion more than average, or maybe they experience an emotion on a lesser basis than average…some might not experience emotions at all. Professionals have been saying that chemical imbalances in the brain are the main culprit of mental illness since the late 1950s. What causes these imbalances?
Heredity and other biological factors:
Sometimes it’s all in your genes. If a loved one has a mental illness, there’s a chance that it may run in the family. However, it doesn’t always mean that you will inherit the condition. Sometimes due to injury the brain can change. Other times it’s due to prenatal damage, or just being born with abnormal functions in the brain.
Enduring a large amount of trauma can mentally affect someone for sure, especially when the trauma is endured at a young age. Our brains don’t finish developing until around the age of 25, so experiencing a certain act at an early age can damage the growth to crucial parts of the brain. Hell, experiencing trauma at any age can disrupt crucial parts of the brain. Some people over exert themselves to the brink of a breakdown. Sometimes the situations that we are in can cause us too much stress, which can create some psychological turmoil.
Certain types of drugs like psychoactive drugs can create manic episodes or psychosis and damage different parts of the brain. Narcotics such as cocaine and LSD can trigger paranoid behaviors.
Other factors may include poor diet, exposure to lead or other dangerous chemicals and etc.
How do people treat mental health? There isn’t just one way. One method may not work for everyone. I go to counseling with my therapist in a private and intimate setting; within the session, it’s just me and her. However, some people like to be around others in a group therapy session because they like to know that they aren’t alone. A support group is a great way to express your feelings and your grievances, It’s good to know that you aren’t the only person that is going through what you’re going through, and maybe you can get some extra help from someone who has been in your shoes before. I found a few support groups for different issues on PsychologyToday.com. You can also find therapists, psychiatrists, and treatment centers on there as well. I like the one on one setting personally because I feel like I’m not wasting time with the things I feel I need to get off my chest. Every session I talk about something different, but each session is working towards the end goal. I have done something called cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT helps treat the problem by boosting happiness through modifying dysfunctional moods, behaviors, and thoughts. That’s a form of psychotherapy. In some cases, medication can be administered. Remember! This does not cure the illness, but it can improve the person’s way of living. Case management can help the person seeking services find different resources that may be able to help the person live in a happier and healthier way. Many people like to turn down the holistic path. Meditation and deep breathing exercises can increase gray matter concentration, decrease stress hormones, and help combat depression…just to name a few benefits. If it is really serious, hospitalization may need to occur. It’s okay. Whatever needs to be done should have no shame behind it. This is your life, do what you need to do to stay healthy.
Some seem to think that people with mental illness are just these all ’round crazy individuals. People who experience mental health problems may fear that they will face rejection, bullying or discrimination. There are so many people who could be treated, but because of the stigma that is behind mental health, they are afraid of opening up about their situation. This can lead to the worsening of someone’s mental illness, greater destruction, and even death. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, around one million people commit suicide per year. In the States, one in five people go through mental illness. In 2017, 970 million people were reported to have a mental or substance disorder. Do you see how many people that is!? And that’s just estimated, there is probably way more. Anyone out there who is going through something mentally, trust me, it may feel like you are the only one trying to stay strong…but trust me, you aren’t. It’s a battle that a lot of people face.
Maybe you play into the stigma? Can you break it? Yes! There is hope. It never hurts to educate yourself on mental illness and mental health. Remember that the person is still a person, not their condition. Try not to be judgmental and attempt to come from an understanding place. And lastly, try to take action. If you know someone that may be going through some things, don’t be afraid to lend an ear. Sometimes that’s the best thing you can do. Support goes a really long way.
Even though World Mental Health Day is only one day, you can still promote better mental health everyday! Know your limits; take time to yourself if you need it. Don’t be afraid or ashamed when you need to ask for help. There are hotlines out there who are willing to listen to whatever you are going through. Here’s a link to a few good ones here:
Don’t listen to people who tell you that mental illness isn’t real. Don’t listen to people who tell you to just push it to the side and forget about it. Don’t listen to people who discourage you from trying to be the best version of yourself. Do what you need to do when it comes to your life. Everything will be just fine.
Santrock, John W. Child Development: Fourteenth Edition. 2013, June 18th. McGraw-Hill Education.
I have been following Tracee Ellis Ross on Instagram for quite a while. In my head, she’s an old friend of mine. I grew up on Girlfriends; watching the reruns while my Mother was asleep laughing at the chaos and lessons that ensued with each episode. I am Joan Clayton to the tee! With a little bit of Toni (I loved her character too). I admired Joan, a hard working attorney and entrepreneur who knew how to make things happen. I wanted (and still want) to be that…I wanted to be her! Tracee portrayed that character so well, probably because she encompasses a lot of those go-getter and slightly quirky traits (traits that I would like to say I possess as well).
She is the embodiment of the rich auntie that kind of does whatever she wants, and that is a major mood. I have come to the conclusion that this lifestyle will probably be my life; traveling around the world on my own dime, wearing designer clothes, and sending expensive gifts from Paris to my nieces and nephews…a girl can dream. Anyways, people have kind of looked to her for lifestyle advice, even if they didn’t ask her directly. Tracee seems to be living her best life. People (including myself) may ask, well how is she thriving so? What’s her secret? Tracee does exude this youthful energy, what makes her stay so young? Physically and mentally, at 46-years-young, she is as lively and as vibrant as ever! Well, Tracee decided to go into detail and bless us with the information on how she does it, and I think these actions can really improve ones way of life. Let’s dive in!
Number 1: Giggle As Much As Possible
Laughter is the best medicine, I can attest to that one. Laughter is a complex response and reaction. It is our physiological reaction to humor according to the popular website How Stuff Works. It all contains a set of gestures and the production of sound. Laughter is created through many regions of the brain like the sensory processing area of the occipital lobe (the back of the brain). If any of these parts are damaged, this can actually disrupt laughter and what one person may deem humorous. The higher function in the left brain hemisphere decode words and syntactical structures in a very analytical way, the right brain hemisphere understands the humor. The center of our brain creates an image of the funny idea or statement in our heads, while our limbic system releases the chemicals that promote a better mood. Laughter releases a substance called endorphins into your blood stream. Endorphins are a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides which activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect. The endorphins go through your veins, traveling through your body and eventually ending up in your brain. This gives you a more relaxed, positive, and happy feeling. Laughing gives your diaphragm a pretty good work out! Not only the diaphragm, but your legs, faces, abdominal muscles and back. According to Organic Facts, stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can be brought down significantly through laughing. Laughing also increases blood flow and the respiratory system. It also boosts your immune system. Laughing improves your health over all!
Number 2: Get Your Sleep
On average, I think I get about six hours of sleep. I’m trying to get another hour or two in there. Eight hours I think would be a pretty good amount of time to catch some z’s. Human beings are diurnal creatures, meaning we like to function through the day and take the load off at night. Owls, for example, are the opposite. They are nocturnal, they love the night time, but you probably won’t see them out and about during the day. A study by the Boston University School of Medicine states that sleeping less than six hours and more than nine hours increased diabetes risk. They say between seven and eight hours is great! And what about naps? According to the National Association of Sleep (that sounds pretty credible, right?), a twenty to thirty minute nap is recommended. Sleeping and napping helps improve focus and alertness. It can also help enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents. Now for some people, naps might be a no go. Some (me….I’m one of them) are left to feel groggy or even more tired after a nap. Sometimes it may also affect later sleep patterns. But if you are tired…GO TO SLEEP…if you can. That’s your body’s way of indicating that you need a rest.
Number 3: Drink Plenty of Water
Please! For the love of God…drink some H2O. I literally drink water 80% of the time. I just bought a twenty six ounce Manna water bottle from Meijer a few days ago, and I carry it all the time and keep it near my bedside. Water keeps your body at a normal temperature. Do you want strong knees like Megan thee Stallion? Well you better start drinking up! Water cushions your joints and lubricates them. Water helps your body protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues. Through perspiration, bowel movements, and urination, waste is removed from your body.
Number 4: Have As Much Sex As Possible
Okay Tracee! I see you girl! Besides the obvious reason why sex is good (or should be), sexual activity does have some health benefits as well. Having sex once or twice a week helps boost the immune system by producing higher levels of immune fighting antibodies. No more illness for you! Sex may protect people from heart disease; balancing estrogen and testosterone hormones. It helps lower blood pressure too. Remember to practice safe sex and consensual sex (not sure what’s considered consensual, check out my blog post on what consent is and what it isn’t. Here’s the link: https://underneaththefro.com/2019/08/18/what-consent-is-and-what-it-isnt/). And let’s not forget about masturbation (is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?). There are a load (I have a dirty mind) of health benefits when it comes to masturbation. The following include:
- reducing sexual tension
- reduce stress
- helps you sleep better
- improve self esteem and body image
- relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension
- strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic region and anal areas
If you aren’t having sex, you can get the same result from a low cardio workout or a brisk jog. Meditation helps too, as well as taking the proper steps towards boosting self confidence.
Number 5: Love With An Open Heart
You lost me there Tracee. No, I’m kidding, but sometimes when you’ve been hurt so many times, it can be difficult to love with an open heart. I took it more so as loving yourself with an open heart. Truly loving yourself is such a beautiful thing, but it is a journey; a journey that I am still on. There are people that have lived their whole lives hating who they were, and I don’t want to be that way, and you shouldn’t want that either. It is easy to love openly and freely when things are just peachy. But what about when things aren’t looking so good? It’s a lot harder isn’t it? The mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it can also cause a lot of paranoia and create more doubt and fear. Our mind and our heart seem to be on a different page from time to time (or all the time). Keeping an open heart can help heal past pain and transgressions. The heart is so powerful. The heart has the ability to heal hurting wounds. This one might be a little tricky, but it can be done.
Well, that seems simple enough, right? It’s the little things that can help us get through our days just a little easier. Thanks Tracee for the advice!