I Took A Two-Month Leave From Work For My Mental Health

To all the black women pouring from an empty cup: Take a break. It is so necessary.

Her Voice

When I was 19, I lost my father, the only caretaker I'd known my entire life.

Growing up in Brooklyn, NY in the '80s, it was common for black children to be raised by drug-addicted parents. My mother abandoned my sister and I while succumbing to her addiction to crack cocaine. But my father, he stayed. And that man loved me fiercely for the years we had, while battling his own addiction to heroin. Despite his own pain, he took care of me. Losing him is still the worst pain I've ever felt in my life.

Throughout my 20s, I was excessively drinking, crying uncontrollably, and thinking of ways to cause myself harm. It wasn't until 2015 that I was finally able to put a name to the despair: I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder at 27.

For as long as I can remember, I soothed the painful experiences of my life with achievement.

As a child, it was E (excellent) and G (good) marks on my report cards, perfect spelling test scores, and Student of the Month awards. As a teenager, it was acceptance to every college I applied to, thanks to my 1800 SAT score. After my father died, I kicked that soothing into high gear with college and starting my career. I loaded my school schedule to the brim. I pulled long nights at the college paper. I brought home A's and B's. I interned at VIBE Magazine, and nabbed an editor job. I worked 14-hour days on weekends. From VIBE, I landed at BET Digital and became the Entertainment Director. I worked and worked––all day, and all night.

After my diagnosis, I was in and out of therapy, wholly unprepared to tackle the roots of my gripping sadness. By 2017, I decided to commit to the work: I began weekly sessions, started learning coping practices and adding two-and-two together between my childhood traumas and my current behaviors. I began what was, and still is, a necessary and exhausting crawl towards my own healing.

While doing this healing work, I had to face some tough realities. The first one was that I simply could not handle the external workload I'd piled onto myself anymore; I began to find it more and more difficult to get through the day with dry eyes. Secondly, but more piercing, I had to face the fact I had made success a mechanism of distraction and a marker of my self-worth. I wasn't just achieving all my life to numb pain, I was achieving to find reasons to love myself.

My inner work was showing me my unhealthy relationship with my outer work.

Ultimately, I had to put one on hold for the other. Without a healthy mental and emotional state, I was not able to perform at work, and was asked to take a short-term disability leave. Disability? I struggled with the term for weeks. But according to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety cost the United States $1 trillion in lost productivity, and is one of the leading causes of disability filings.

For the first few weeks of my leave, I grappled with feelings of failure. How dare I not be strong enough to cry and work? I wrestled with anxiety by putting pressure on myself to "figure this out". I wept on the phone as I told insurance reps things I had never said out loud: "I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning," "I ask to work from home when I'm crying and can't figure out why," "I'm having a hard time focusing," "Some days I'm really sad and have a hard time being around people." I felt useless. Defeated. Unworthy.

But as the weeks went on, a necessary detachment from achievement took place. I started to muse over who I was outside of all the gold stars. I started to find things I liked to do that didn't include my job. I found things to be happy about that didn't equal "success". I cried––a lot. I made room for myself outside of the hustle and bustle. I slowed down.

And when I did all of this, I learned something that I will never forget for the rest of my life: I am not a superhero.

Black women are groomed to be super. We are groomed to carry heavy weight, to endure––all while still getting shit done. But we are human. Humans who deserve healing. Humans who deserve to be extraordinary without being left on empty. And I am glad I afforded myself that space and time. I don't have anything figured out. But I feel more prepared to continue the fight.

To all the black women pouring from an empty cup: Take a break. It is so necessary.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Originally published June 20, 2019.

For the past 20 years, Target has introduced us to new and emerging designers from around the world, all at an incredible value. In the latest installment of their upcoming designer collection, this fall, Target features rising Haitian-American designer Victor Glemaud as one of four designer collections dropping today. Launching his eponymous leisurewear collection in 2006, the NYC-based designer expresses iconic and fun fashion through statement knitwear, designed for women of all races, sizes and personalities.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

This is something that I've been wanting to write about for a while now. There are a few reasons why too. One is that I grew up hearing that happiness is an emotion — and a fleeting one at that; that's why the focus should actually be more on being in a state of joy. Secondly, I can't tell you how many times I have looked a husband or wife in the eye as they told me they were leaving their marriage — not because of infidelity or abuse; it was simply because "I'm not happy anymore" (more on that in a bit). And three, I also can't tell you how many times a day will go by without me hearing or reading some variation of "do whatever makes you happy". LAWD.

Keep reading... Show less

So, here's the deal about store-bought lubricant. Oftentimes, when people think about using it, it's in reference to "treating" vaginal dryness or making sex easier post-menopause (when our vagina walls tend to be thinner and our natural lubrication isn't as much as it once was). However, as you're about to see in just a few minutes, it really doesn't matter how wet you're naturally able to get or how old you are, everyone should have at least a few tubes of lube in their possession — an oil-based kind for non-penetrative sexual stimulation; a water-based one for sexy toys (or if you or your partner's genitalia is naturally sensitive) and a silicone-based one for intercourse.

Keep reading... Show less

Cuffing season just got a little bit hotter! This fall, Ready to Love is coming back to our screens for an all-new season, just in time for us to screen and cuddle up with potential baes in real life. For its fourth season, the hit show is trading in their popular Houston and Atlanta backdrops seen in previous seasons for the nation's capital: Washington, D.C. And as host Nephew Tommy Miles tells it, it's all about "location, location, location," baby!

Keep reading... Show less

We all know the feeling. You plop down in a stylist's seat excitedly waiting for your slay to begin, only to be met with a look of panic when they actually lay eyes on your hair. As a woman with thick and coarse 4C textured hair, I know that gaze well. Sadly, so do most Black women, and it's been an ongoing problem in the entertainment world for decades.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Exclusive: Lucky Daye Is Doing It For The Culture, From The Soul

Every so often, an artist comes along who seems to be a physical manifestation of all that we are.

Latest Posts