Having A Mental Illness Is So Much Different When You're Black

Having A Mental Illness Is So Much Different When You're Black

We force ourselves to hide our tears, to mask our sadness, to not allow ourselves to stray away from the one dimensional role of a black person in this country.
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You may recognize us as the people who always say funny jokes; who are brutally honest; who are physically strong; or who have stayed strong through all of the struggles life threw their way.

What we do not present about ourselves, however, is the mental and emotional stress that we, too, have to cope with. If we allow our mental illnesses to reveal themselves, we may no longer be viewed as the funny, strong, or talented person anymore. We're scared that others will view us as weak and invaluable because of our mental illness.

Black mental health is a different kind of discussion.

We see black celebrities like Rihanna, Serena Williams, Beyoncé, and Lebron James who exude such a strong and powerful persona.

Rihanna seems to be bothered by nothing; she always snaps back with a snide remark and powerful smirk. When we see all of these images of seemingly emotionless and incredibly powerful and inspirational black celebrities, we feel weak for allowing such an intangible thing as anxiety or depression to cripple us.

When we walk around, we automatically feel that we have to prove ourselves.

We have countless numbers of stereotypes that we actively work hard to shut down (ex: angry black [wo]men, criminals, irresponsible, etc); however, the possibility of not following the “strong and carefree” stereotype is terrifying; so terrifying that we would rather blame ourselves for feeling vulnerable than actually allow ourselves to sometimes just feel vulnerable.

We, as black people, already have to prove that we are capable, so to have another attribute that others may perceive as “inferior” or “weak” sets us at a level so incredibly low; a level where one's self-confidence and social comfort can tumble.

Because of the “strong black person” mentality, little boys are taught to be as strong as an iron man.

Black boys are taught to rise up and defend the women of the family –– black men are never allowed to cry. Black women are taught to have an intense emotionless guard. Black women have to be self-sufficient and never depend on anyone other than themselves to take care of themselves. While this strength and carefreeness are great and vital qualities to possess, it sets us up to hate ourselves when a mental illness –– one that we cannot control because of the chemical imbalances in our mind –– is imposed on us.

We force ourselves to hide our tears, to mask our sadness, to not allow ourselves to stray away from the one-dimensional role of a black person in this country. We all want to be as carefree as Rihanna; we all want to be as strong and inspirational as Lebron James -- but we don’t feel like this when we are sitting under our covers having a panic attack or crying about how sad and hopeless we feel.

As a black person, the idea of being "complex" doesn't seem to apply to us.

We have to either be the “token funny friend,” the “token brutally honest friend,” the “token sassy friend,” the “token strong friend,” the “token activist,” or the “token athlete.”

We have to only partake in things that attribute to our label because people simply do not care about the other aspects of our personas (or at least, that's how we feel). We are treated as if our only purpose in this world is to obey, entertain, and fight; but we are so much more than that.

Being anxious while black is an incredibly overwhelming experience. We feel as though society has no place for us. We feel as if we’re disappointments to our elders who fought for our spot in this country. We feel as if we’re falling behind on the road to defy the odds of systematic and social oppression.

But we never tell ourselves that it’s okay to feel anxious. It’s okay to suffer from depression. If we already have this chemical imbalance influencing us to act against our own interests, we cannot take that side of the illness –– we have to keep fighting for ourselves, not surrendering to our mental illness.

The best way to cope with a mental illness is to get help, but many people of color do not have access to the support that they need.

Some of our parents or family members will probably tell us to “man up”, that we are only suffering from our illness because we have “too much free time”, or to just, “get over it” because it’s “all in our heads”. And not everyone has access to a licensed therapist; when one does have access to a therapist, they may not be able to automatically develop a bond in which the client feels supported. Local and affordable rehab centers may also not provide the needed support, leaving the person stuck with their non-understanding inner circle.

We, as a society, need to shed more light on mental illness within the black community. Almost every black person in America can name at least 5 people in their lives (or even just in their family) who suffer from some degree of mental illness, yet our community continues to act as if this issue doesn't exist. This issue is HUGE, and we need to treat it as such.

Rappers like Lil Uzi Vert, Tupac, and Kid Cudi (just to name a few) do a great job in displaying the natural vulnerability of people of color. Songs like “XO Tour Life3” (Lil Uzi Vert), “So Many Tears” (Tupac), and “Illusions” (Kid Cudi) remind the listeners that what they’re feeling is normal, and expose non-mental illness sufferers to the radical idea that black people feel too.

While these rappers work hard to maintain a “thug” persona, they, too, can feel vulnerable and weak sometimes.

Mental Illness does not make you weak, but we have to remember that we can fight this. The black community often stands together to defend ourselves against branches of our government, but we also need to stand together to defend ourselves from our own personal demons. We have to remind each other that although some of us want to assume the position of the “strong activist”, we have to make sure that our inner selves are at peace as well. We saw what happened to Edward Crawford, and we cannot allow this to continue.

Black people are strong.

Historically, we have fought through slavery, segregation, oppression, and racism(and sexism) that still exists today. But that doesn’t mean that we have to be strong all the time. Being black in America is difficult, and being black with a mental illness is even more difficult. Let’s do better in providing a space in this world for black people to allow themselves to feel. Let’s do better in allowing black men to cry. Let’s do better.

Being black with a mental illness raises societal flaws, but it also raises personal flaws. We cannot keep punishing ourselves for not fitting the slot that society has determined for us. We need to give ourselves and each other the permission to feel, and to struggle. We need to show the people around us that we can be strong, funny, and woke, while still possessing the emotional range of a normal human being. This bravery is certainly a process, but the longer we allow society to control our mental health, the more we allow our mental health to consume us.

Black people cry, have panic attacks, get suicidal, and feel weak, too.

It’s okay to feel weak sometimes. Even Rihanna and Lebron James aren’t made of steel -- we all feel. We are all going through something; we should not be ashamed of our battles. Ignoring a mental illness does not magically make it go away -- it just allows it to grow into a larger problem. And in times where you feel alone and isolated because of your mental illness, just remember that the people around you are probably secretly suffering from the same exact thing.

Cover Image Credit: whoislimos on unsplash.com

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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In Real Life, 'Plus Size' Means A Size 16 And Up, Not Just Women Who Are Size 8's With Big Breasts

The media needs to understand this, and give recognition to actual plus-size women.

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Recently, a British reality dating TV show called "Love Island" introduced that a plus-sized model would be in the season five lineup of contestants. This decision was made after the show was called out for not having enough diversity in its contestants. However, the internet was quick to point out that this "plus-size model" is not an accurate representation of the plus-size community.


@abidickson01 on twitter.com


Anna Vakili, plus-size model and "Love Island "Season 5 Contestant Yahoo UK News

It is so frustrating that the media picks and chooses women that are the "ideal" version of plus sized. In the fashion world, plus-size starts at size 8. EIGHT. In real life, plus-size women are women who are size 16 and up. Plunkett Research, a marketing research company, estimated in 2018 that 68% of women in America wear a size 16 to 18. This is a vast difference to what we are being told by the media. Just because a woman is curvy and has big breasts, does NOT mean that they are plus size. Marketing teams for television shows, magazines, and other forms of media need to realize that the industry's idea of plus size is not proportionate to reality.

I am all for inclusion, but I also recognize that in order for inclusion to actually happen, it needs to be accurate.

"Love Island" is not the only culprit of being unrealistic in woman's sizes, and I don't fully blame them for this choice. I think this is a perfect example of the unrealistic expectations that our society puts on women. When the media tells the world that expectations are vastly different from reality, it causes women to internalize that message and compare themselves to these unrealistic standards.

By bringing the truth to the public, it allows women to know that they should not compare themselves and feel bad about themselves. Everyone is beautiful. Picking and choosing the "ideal" woman or the "ideal" plus-size woman is completely deceitful. We as a society need to do better.

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