There are two things I am finally coming around to accepting: mental health is serious, and mental health is wildly misunderstood.
These last few years, during my most intense ups and downs, I have found myself struggling to articulate what exactly is wrong. I have struggled accepting the fact that there is something wrong, and it is not being negative to say so. I have struggled to believe that acknowledging my pain and the state of my mental health will be better for me in the long run.
One of the most rewarding things about going to therapy is the fact that for an hour, once every other Saturday, I am free to speak about me. I can laugh, I can cry, I can say my most disturbing or low thoughts, because afterwards, I will have received some kind of guidance or uplifting reminder to set me right back on path.
Being raised in a society that expects black women to endure struggle after struggle, and somehow continue to hold the weight of the world on our shoulders, a religion that tries to “check” mental illnesses with the cape of “praying it away,” with no action or professional help otherwise, and an environment where a lot of my bad mental health days translates as laziness or anti-social behavior, meant that it took me a very long time to accept that I wasn’t okay, and I was no longer cool with not being okay. Acknowledging that you’re not okay or that your mental health is not where you’d like it to be doesn’t mean that you’re being negative; it means that you’re speaking it out loud, looking it dead in the eye, and proclaiming dominion over it.
There is a wave of people starting to come out as supportive of friends and family with mental illnesses, but this wave is undercut strongly by the amount of people who are unwilling to call mental illnesses out by their names. These people interject when their mentally unwell friends or family start speaking about how they feel, and suggest that they instead look at the bright side, or try doing things the way they do them. I had a talk with my cousin last week about this, and explained to him that in my opinion, if you don’t know what to say when someone talks about how they feel, it is better to state that you hear them and are there for them, than to say a blanket cliché, and risk having that person feel unheard or misunderstood. I know that for the most part, “Things will get better,” comes from a good place, but it does not change the fact that people still need to feel their feelings, sort through them, and come up with a way to conquer them. Mental illnesses are a battle in an era that constantly feels like we are at war; none of us gain anything by glossing over it with hope for better days that is not actually rooted in hope.
A lot of the time, I am mentally unwell. I am also actively fighting to emerge on the other side of that. I no longer feel weak or negative for acknowledging my mental illnesses, I feel brave, because I’m calling them by their name, taking medication, and going to therapy regularly to ensure a better future than my past. I am giving myself space to do things the way I need to do them. I’m okay with looking lazy or antisocial, and I’m okay with people being off-put by my openness. I am no longer afraid to live in my truth, and I am committed to healing.
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