For the last five years, I have worked in the mental health field. Being young and new in the field, it was hard for me to understand how people could be seeking “treatment” for their mental health while not really accepting the fact that they had an “issue.” I just didn’t make sense.
That is….until I had to confront my own mental health issues.
Let me set the stage: February 11, 2013 I went in for what I thought would be a normal 4 week check up with my ob-gyn but this appointment wasn’t so normal. The words, “I can’t find your baby’s heartbeat” fell off her lips so effortlessly. After multiple attempts with the Doppler and multiple ultrasounds, she confirmed my worst fears; my baby was no longer alive.
The next week was hard, as I had to prepare myself for surgery. The surgery came and went and I quickly made my life return to normal. The doctor wrote me off of work for four weeks, I went back in two. I thought I could force myself back to normalcy.
But I couldn’t. As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, I found myself battling tears almost daily, I felt worthless, hopeless, some days I just felt like giving completely up.
And it wasn’t until I was meeting with a pastor for another situation that I was encouraged to seek counseling. But how could the person giving help to people with mental health issues need help for her own mental health issues?
Something that I struggled with then, that I still sometimes struggle with now, is that I have to take care of myself first. But I was so fearful of the stigma that comes with mental health that I was slowly killing myself mentally and emotionally.
All too often, it seems that mental health is the forbidden topic, especially in the black community. We feel that if we don’t talk about then just maybe it doesn’t seem to exist. And even if we do talk about it, it’s just a temporary situation and “eventually” it will go away. And for some it will, but for many others it won’t and it will take things like counseling/therapy, medication, but most importantly acceptance of your issue along with the support of family and friends for things to get better.
It took a long time to realize that my mental health matters. I had to realize I can’t others if I can’t help myself. Recognize that your mental health matters. Don’t let stigma and fear keep you from being the best you you’re supposed to be. Your mental health matters, too.