My entire life, I have suffered from extreme anxiety. It ebbs and flows, some years are worse than others; it's always there though. Extreme anxiety that has not only kept me from big opportunities but often keeps me from doing minute, everyday things. For many years I thought anxiety was my struggle alone, but that's simply not the case. In 2020, everyone is dealing with some sort of anxiety. How can you not when our government is failing in the middle of a pandemic and people are constantly losing their livelihoods?
So while it wasn't a surprise to read that Gabrielle Union suffers from anxiety, the severity of her disorder struck a chord with me. Like many, it's rooted in trauma and has been "on 10" for the last few months. We're all grasping for coping mechanisms, ways to heal, and hope for the future we're not currently in. Gabrielle details how she's finding her way through in the October issue of Women's Health, and it's the voice we all need right now.
"The combination of a pandemic and this racial reckoning, alongside being inundated with [images of] the brutalization of Black bodies, has sent my PTSD into overdrive. There's just terror in my body."
This newly-acquired inner peace, she later details, was necessary after she filed a discrimination complaint against America's Got Talent in June - citing a "toxic" work environment. The overwhelming support and testimonials set her nerves ablaze, and she had to figure out the next steps for making this bigger than herself.
"How do I create a larger movement to address all this trauma and all this harm? I can't just swallow the information I now have."
Djeneba Aduayom for Women's Health
"I feel different in my body. I feel freer."
This freedom is something we want to give to her community, especially black women. When recounting her rape in 1992, Gabrielle highlights the discrepancy between being raped in an affluent neighborhood versus in a low-income community. A stark reminder that black women are the most disrespected, unprotected, and neglected people in America.
"The fact that one can be grateful for such things is goddamn ridiculous…I know this now because I have spent time lobbying Congress and state legislatures about the treatment of rape victims. I've seen the worst-case scenarios, and they are devastating. Now, I can appreciate the care with which I was handled. Now, I know it rarely happens that way. And it really rarely happens that way for Black women."
But, through all of this, Gabrielle is hopeful for the future we are building. Gabrielle and her family have been on the forefronts of many civil rights movements, including but not limited to Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ. Gabrielle's inner peace is constantly being worked on, but she sees the forest for the trees.
"Maybe it's just about looking at a bee or a hummingbird that's trapped, and thinking, 'There's another way,' and I've got to find it, because my soul won't rest until I figure it out."
For Gabrielle's full feature story with Women's Health, click here.
Featured image via Djeneba Aduayom for Women's Health