Two years ago, I was medically separated from my Peace Corps service in Guatemala. I had developed anxiety and I returned home in hopes of finding ways to complete my service. As a black woman, mental illness is usually swept under the rug. We are told to be strong, told to pray, and some people even believe that mental illnesses simply don’t exist. Well that’s a lie, and I was suffering bad.
When I returned to my home in Georgia, everything scared me. I was paranoid, and wasn’t sure if I would ever shake the feeling. I was assigned a psychiatrist and psychologist. First of all, I’m all for getting help, but you must find someone who is trained to help you. We all come from different walks of life, so it’s easier to identify with someone of a similar background.
My counselor was a white woman and she was not helping at all. Since the Peace Corps was paying for my therapy, I was limited to facilities that accepted PC insurance. Eventually, I stopped going because this lady made me feel crazy. She insisted I take medicine for my anxiety. Yes, medicine does help some people, but in my case, I did not want to become a zombie. I did not want to develop an addiction to medicine. I wanted to feel, understand, and heal my anxiety.
Luckily at the time I began working at the Davis Bozeman Law Firm as a paralegal. I was surrounded by strong, intelligent, black people, and boy was I motivated. I was inspired to see an office filled with support and love that flowed through each employee. I was encouraged to “PUSH” anytime I felt anxious or had self-doubts. I was blessed enough to be mentored by black women who poured life back into me. Anana, Candice, and Roodgine taught me about self-care. These wonderful women prayed with me, encouraged me, and supported me through my transition back to a healthy self.
They shared with me that self-care was all about balance. The SisterCARE Alliance divides self-care into different categories based on different needs:
Spiritually/Emotionally: What centers you when your emotions and environment feel chaotic?
Economically: Economy is the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services. HOWEVER, it is also careful management of available resources. (time, money, bartered services and goods)
Artistically: Creative expression of emotions and thoughts that help you process what happens in your day, week or life.
Physically: Physical self-care is based on your body’s needs. Find out what your body needs by asking a professional, getting a checkup and creating baby steps to improve or maintain your health.
Educationally: Learning requires identification of areas of weakness. Courage and support help you to execute educational self-care goals.
Socially: Social self-care allows us to address a need that being around others helps to satisfy. It takes us away from magnifying our problems long enough to receive from and give to others. “Isolation can breed illness”, Unknown.
Always remember to take baby steps once creating a new routine. Baby steps are meant to build confidence and reduce anxiety around the task. Find a self-care buddy to help encourage you along your journey. We all need motivation as we travel, or live our daily lives. Even keeping a journal and logging your thoughts are steps to improvement.
For the past two years, I have been practicing self-care and I have never felt so alive. I have been able to recognize my trigger points, and how to relieve my anxiety. It keeps me encouraged throughout my travels, and daily life in Puerto Rico. Remember to always find ways to stay motivated, because life aboard isn’t easy, but it sure it worth it.
If you want to keep up with my life abroad please subscribe and my follow me on IG/ Twitter at @EssahCozett, or you can read my poetry at https://essahcozett.wordpress.