According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 7.7 million adults in the United States live with PTSD. Women are twice as likely as men to develop this condition. Mental illness has been a part of my life as far as I can remember, starting with my mother undiagnosed struggles with mental illness. As a young child, I remember my mother not dealing with daily hardship very well and slowly isolating herself from family members.
By the time I was in my early teens, she had a nervous breakdown, abandoned me to be moved around to different relative homes. Sadly, my mother wasn't diagnosed until much later in life, which prompted me to get clinically diagnosed once I became a mother.
Many consider PTSD a soldier's illness, but in hindsight, twice as many women suffer from PTSD symptoms such as: flashbacks, dissociation, and anxiety. In the past, I was constantly fighting with past trauma and my dear husband was getting caught in the crossfire. I found myself struggling to do simple daily tasks, such as just getting out of bed and taking a shower.
It's not a phase; it's real suffering.
Now, my main priority is maintaining a positive outlook and actively decreasing trigger moments by taking prescribed medication, regular counseling, exercise, and meditation. My husband and I went to marriage counseling and slowly started to heal our relationship.
When your mental health isn't treated properly, everything and everyone you hold dear gets tossed to the side, while you try your best to climb out of that dark hole.
I had to make the decision to try my best to be happy and take full responsibility for my mental health.
I had to examine everything. I started by asking myself questions. Did I have toxic people around me? Was I engaging in anything that caused me stress? Was I actively taking responsibility for my needs, my joy, my pain?
Being diagnosed with a mental illness, such as PTSD, isn't the end of the world and I had nothing to be ashamed of.Once I started treatment, delegating responsibilities in my growing business, and learned to effectively deal with my trigger moments; everything in my life started changing for the better.
I want a happy and fulfilling life. I deserve it.
For anyone suffering from any form of mental illness, things that help me get by are:
- When you've reached your trigger moment and feel yourself sinking, give yourself time to just be! Give yourself ONE day to just feel however you feel. It's okay, we're all human. Negative emotions are still emotions.
- Do something you love to do! Catch a movie, make a spa day, go to the beach. Give yourself permission to do anything that will help you relax and be peaceful.
- Make an appointment with your counselor immediately. A lot of times it's easier to release past trauma with a counselor than it is with family or friends.
- Meditation works wonders! You don't have to be a yoga pro to meditate; it's as simple as going outside, finding a quiet spot, and being still. Think about all that you are grateful for, why you are blessed, things that make you feel happy, etc. Just be still and let God talk to you.
- Medication – my prescription has helped a lot as well. You must let your doctor know if something doesn't feel right. I must see my psychiatric nurse every thirty days for evaluation.
Being a wife, mother, and entrepreneur can be extremely stressful. I'm a firm believer that my family doesn't deserve all my baggage, they deserve the best part of me. I take full responsibility to giving them just that every day. Some days are better than others. But when I have bad days, I try my best to count my blessings and not beat myself up.
With time, I've learned to love and nourish all of me; flaws and all. I hope my story encourage others to speak out and love themselves as well.
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Originally published March 10, 2018
Featured image by Shutterstock
With the rise in mental health awareness, now more than ever, Black girls are exploring therapy as a wellness outlet. Once a very taboo topic (and still is, depending on who you're talking to), therapy and mental health have really become a topic of discussion in our community, and for good reason, too. I have personally experienced the transformative power of therapy and the power of having someone to talk to about everything from bad breakups to childhood moments, self-care practices, and more.
For some reason, we still hold on to this idea that seeking therapy is a substitution for staying positive or having a strong foundation in a Higher being, when honestly, that's just not true.
Trust me, I get it – stepping out of your comfort zone and looking for someone to talk to who you've never met is extremely daunting, especially if you're the first person in your family or friends to try it. Who tells a stranger their business? What do you even talk about with the therapist? When I first started therapy, there were many days I just sat and made what felt like surface-level conversation, until one day my guard came down and the real work began. And truly, if you can push yourself to just try it, you'll greatly see a difference in the short- and long-term.
Dr. Joy Bradford
To understand more about therapy and the perks of pushing yourself out of comfort to explore it, I spoke with Dr. Joy Bradford, an Atlanta-based psychologist prominently known as the founder of Therapy For Black Girls, an online resource and podcast that explores various topics that promote therapy and self-care.
"Some of the common reasons people come to therapy are changes in mood that significantly interfere with their lives, major transitions or losses, and assistance with having healthier relationships," Dr. Joy said. "Therapy can be helpful in these instances because you can speak with an objective party about your concerns and have a space to talk through solutions that may be helpful and patterns you may be enacting that are resulting in you feeling a certain way."
Read on as Dr. Joy walks us through the ins and outs about therapy, its cost, who to go to, and how to start:
On Who Should Consider Therapy:
"I think everyone could likely benefit from therapy at some point in their lives. I think therapy should be an obvious choice if you're noticing changes that significantly impact your typical activities of daily living (i.e. your ability to go to or function at school/work or your ability to take care of things like hygiene, dress, etc.). But I also think that therapy can be helpful in instances where you realize your relationships aren't reciprocal, or if you realize you overextend yourself in the interest of making others happy, or if you realize that you can't follow through with plans regardless of repeated efforts to do so, or if you find yourself actively avoiding places or people because you're worried about what people will say or what will happen when you get there."
On The Negative Stigma Attached To Therapy:
"I think historically it has not been ok for women of color to show any signs of weakness, especially Black women who are supposed to be Teflon and devoid of emotion. I think the strong religious and faith presence in many communities of color have resulted in people thinking that prayer was enough or that indicating you had a mental health concern somehow signified a weakened faith relationship. Additionally, I think there has rightfully been a real mistrust for medical professionals in our communities which makes people less likely to seek out help even when they feel they might need it."
On Common Misconceptions About Therapists:
"Some common misconceptions about therapists are that they are just 'paid friends,' that therapy won't help because it's just talking, and that if you try one therapist and it doesn't work, that means therapy just isn't for you. The truth is, that you may need to try a couple of different therapists before you find one that's really a good fit for you."
On The Importance Of Black Female Therapists:
"I don't personally think that it's a requirement for women of color to have a therapist that is another woman or person of color. But my experience has been that Black women tend to want to work with another woman of color. So, if that feels important to you and increases the likelihood that you will make an appointment to see someone who can help, then you should absolutely seek that out. This was the major reason I decided to create the therapist directory because I continued hearing Black women say they had difficulty finding other Black women and women of color to work with."
On What To Consider Pre-Therapy:
"I think it's important to consider what your priorities will be in participating in therapy. If cost is a major concern and you definitely want to use your insurance, you should start by calling your insurance company or getting on their website and getting a list of therapists who are covered by your plan. After that, you want to look for people who have specialities in the area you're struggling with. You also want to consider whether similarities in things like race/ethnicity, gender presentation, sexual orientation, or faith background are important. As I mentioned earlier, if any of these areas feel super important to you in having a good fit, you should seek that out."
On The Cost of Therapy:
"Most therapists offer a free 10-15 [minute] consultation to let you ask any questions you have and to get a better feel for who they are and how they work. Be prepared for this consultation with any questions you have. If cost is a concern, I suggest looking into local colleges and universities that may have training clinics where you can get therapy at significantly lower prices because the therapists are in training. I'd also suggest look into any support or therapy groups that may be in your area. These may be free or less expensive than individual therapy."
On What To Expect During Therapy:
"You should expect to feel nervous and weird about sharing some very private info with someone who is virtually a stranger. That's normal. It doesn't mean that therapy won't work. Take notes as you call therapists and browse their webpages. Think about how you feel as you listen to them or read more about them. Do they seem like someone you could eventually be comfortable with."
Featured image courtesy of Dr. Joy Bradford