Journaling

When I Walk To the Train Alone at Night

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.

 

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Facts and Opinions

Summer Walker’s Social Anxiety

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.

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Facts and Opinions

SAD…it isn’t just an emotion

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
  • restlessness
  • 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.

Medication-

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).

Light therapy-

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.

Psychotherapy-

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.

Vitamin D-

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.

 

Sources:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

http://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/serotonin

UV Radiation

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