Trigger warning: This article deals with themes of depression, anxiety, suicide
It was January 2017. It was the senior year of high school and I was balancing three AP classes, a job, and the hunt for a good college. I have no idea how I survived but somehow I did. I struggled greatly with math and still do to this day. After studying for hours, I failed another test. This time, I didn't take it as absent-minded as I normally did. This time was different. Something set me off. I went to my next AP class (AP European History) to be exact and something felt off. I wasn't feeling myself. My head was spinning, my stomach was churning, and I was getting overheated. I thought I had an upset stomach and needed to vomit but nothing happened. I remembered collapsing onto the floor in my favorite teacher's classroom and everyone was watching me. Why couldn't I speak? Why couldn't I breathe? Why couldn't I move? I didn't realize I was having a panic attack. I remembered being swarmed by administration and nurses and finally the EMTs. It was a hot ass mess, to say the least. I was losing my grip.
Growing up in a Black, Christian household mental illness was never discussed. I never heard my parents speak of mental illness in the perspective that it was a disease but some evil spirit that God could cure. As the daughter of a preacher, let me tell you how much I wasn't here for that narrative. There were symptoms long before senior year like when in the middle of the sophomore year I had a breakdown and blurted out how I wanted to end my own life. Oh yes, I said it and even then my father simply prayed over me. Not even considering that maybe he should send his only daughter to maybe a therapist to figure out why the hell she felt this way? Something about me was always off center. I knew it but my parents did not wish to know.
Rewind back to senior year, after the panic attack, I was lying on the couch, crying and sobbing and shaking. Because what the hell just happened to me? I couldn't even remember the moments afterward. You know what my father told me? "To suck it up and that I didn't need to spend the entire day on the couch."
You know how fucked up that was?
I just took the hit and got up off the couch and decided to finish the school work from the half of the day that I had missed because I left school in an ambulance.
The next day, I woke up and went right to school. I didn't even take a day off. I just swallowed that depression, anger, anxiety, stress and kept it pushing. Some of the teachers I was closest to tried to figure why in the hell was I back in the building but I had no choice. I wasn't given an option.
After that fiasco, I made a promise to myself that as soon as I turned eighteen, I was going to take my mental health seriously. My parents didn't but that didn't mean I had to continue it. I came to the University of Tennessee in July for a summer program and I was there for a month. Thankfully, I was turning eighteen and what did I do the week after my birthday? I kept the promise to myself. I went to therapy and thankfully I found a doctor who looked like me and understood me.
We worked through what was wrong with me. Which she made me see that there was nothing wrong with me. I simply was different and that's all. I learned accountability, learning how to ground myself when I felt like I was simply floating and not attached to anything. My doctor helped me when I couldn't help myself. I never told my parents I started therapy because, to be honest, it ain't they damn business.
Going to therapy helped me realize that I wasn't alone and that I wasn't "broken" or "damaged" or some "evil spirit" was attached to me. I was depressed. I have depression and I'm alive and I'm fighting and I'm thriving. Just because I go to therapy and my skin is brown doesn't mean I'm crazy. It's not anything like that.
To wrap up this hot mess of a story I'm shifting my focus to all the little black girls out there feel like this. Because God knows, I wish I had a resource to reach out for in my early high school year. Here's my favorite quote from Broadway actor Sierra Boggess. "You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are." There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I hate to sound so cliche but trust me. It's there. Fight for yourself and understand there will be ups and downs but that doesn't mean you're any less valuable. You are valuable. You are important. You are loved. We can do this. You can do this.