A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

Category Archives: Mental Health

Happiness in Depression

It has taken me a long time to work up the courage to write this.

In the past, I have talked about issues surrounding mental health and I have even shared some of my personal struggle with anxiety and depression. Most of the time I have done this from a comfortably disconnected point of view and I have tried to stick with writing objectively when the worst of an “episode” was over with.

In this instance, things are different and it has taken me a long time to work up the courage to write this.

Currently, I sit in the reality that I’m a Black Woman with Clinical Depression.

And it’s hard. And it’s heavy. And it weighs on my chest. And my back. And my spirit. Just about my everything because being Black is hard enough. Struggling with mental illness is hard enough. Couple the two? It is a heavy “cross to bear.”

However, this is my truth.

The “mental illness” isn’t even what makes this so hard. It is not the fear that people will shun you because you acknowledge that you sometimes feel that God has forgotten about you. It is not that people are uncomfortable being around you when you are “like that.” It is not the awkward silence after being completely honest about the fact that even though you smiled when you said hello, you feel empty as hell on the inside. That’s not what makes this hard.

It’s the happiness.

Most people view depression in a very stereotypical way. They picture someone who can’t/won’t get out of bed and take care of their most basic needs. They think of someone who won’t wash their hair or brush their teeth. They think of a person who cries constantly. They think of someone who wears all black and isolates themselves from the world. They think of an energy vampire.

They think of the type of person they would never want to become emotionally — the person that is so overwhelmed that they just shut down. And that’s wrong.

Clinical depression, or any kind of depression for that matter, can be those things. But that is never what makes it hard, at least not for me. It is the huge disconnect between my mind/logic and my spirit/emotions.

It’s being able to laugh from my belly. It’s being able to tell a story and get others to do the same. It’s being able to smile. Or sing my favorite song. Or dance around. It is that even though I can wrap my day in a million happy moments, at the center is this one thing that I can’t “fix.” This feeling. This….ugh.

And if you ask me what that “one thing” is, I would never have a real answer for you because it changes in the moment.

Which is what makes all of this hard to talk about.

As I sit here trying to piece my thoughts together, the question I keep asking is, “What do you want them to know?” I want the people who love me to know that depression and happiness live in the same space and that it’s hard to explain it. You get it if you’ve felt it; and if you haven’t, you’ll know it if you ever do.

But what I want people to know is not the same thing I want people to understand.

I want people to understand that depression is not void of happiness. I want people to understand that people go on living every day as though nothing is wrong, even though it seems their outlook is bleak. I want people to understand that while I laughed a minute ago, I was in just as much pain as I am when I don’t. I want people to understand that sometimes I want to be taken care of sometimes and not the person that takes care of others all of the time. I want people to understand what it means to embody and practice compassion and patience.

I never have enough of those things for myself.

Most of all, I want people to understand that happiness and depression can inhabit the same breath.

And that’s what hard about it.

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Realization: I Wasn’t Mad at My Mom

Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse/Molestation

Once upon a time, I was very angry. For a long time, I just assumed I was angry with my parents, specifically my Mom. You see, when I was very young, I was left with an older cousin who was tasked with the responsibility of watching me. This wasn’t out of the ordinary as she had done it before. On this particular day, she decided to tell me about strangers and how “bad” some of them could be. She wanted me to be sure that I would tell when someone touched me inappropriately. She demonstrated the particular acts on a stuffed bear first, and then me. She wanted to be sure that I knew what to look out for.

Since then, I felt ashamed. I told and it was handled but I still felt “not right.” An already quiet child, I became even quieter. I would choose to spend time with my books and fall into stories such as “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” because those spaces were safer and folks just left me alone. The more I developed, the more intense my need to be alone became.

The other day, while meditating and working through one of my sessions in the Unlimited Abundance program, it hit me out of nowhere that much of the shame I felt over not being good enough was a result of that molestation. In this session, Christie Marie Sheldon spoke on where we felt aches in our bodies. If they were on the right side, we had problems with masculine energy or men. If they were on the left, we had problems with feminine energy or women.

The moment she mentioned this, it felt as though a hot iron had been pressed into my back. Following her directions, I thought of my Mom and worked to delete the story there but to no avail. Then I thought about all of the other women in my life right on down to my first fifth grade teacher (who did not like me very much).

Still…nothing.

Then I thought of the first time I ever felt insignificant and realized it was because of my cousin’s action. Since then, I’ve followed that meditation to continue to let go of that and I’ve felt great. I know that I still have some work to do with respect to ever being around her (I doubt it will happen) and the other issues that were tied to that episode of molestation. Perhaps the greatest thing was realizing that I’m not upset at my Mom. For a long time, I couldn’t place if I was angry with her since she was the custodial parent.

I now understand that I was angry in general because I was hurt and ashamed. It feels good to say that. I wasn’t angry with my parents, especially not my Mom.

Everyday Compassion

One night not too long ago, a thought flashed through my mind before bed. Life gives us the people we need to create balance in the world.

It was a simple thought but it made me pause and think of my Mom. You see, my Mom is a military veteran who suffers from a few mental disorders because of her time served. In addition to that, she was an alcoholic and addict most of my childhood. For a long time, I’ve been angry at my Mom, or rather the version of her today. When that thought flashed through my mind though, I realized that we (my younger brothers and myself) are here to create a certain kind of balance in her life.

For all of the chaos, we were her constant stability.

Now she’s in a dangerous place (and one day I may talk about it) and I’m learning what it means to show compassion every single day. When I realized that I had harbored a certain anger towards her and this hindered my ability to really be compassionate, it almost dissipated. I thought, “What if it were me? How would I want to be treated?”

The answer? With dignity.

I haven’t done that but I made a personal vow after my realization to start. In a world that tears down people just because, the least I can do is show compassion towards the woman who is the reason I’m here. I’m letting it (the pain) go. I forgive my Mom, myself and by extension, my Dad. In (unknowingly) refusing to serve as a constant of stability, I’ve created more chaos in my life.

If you take nothing else from my words take this:

You may be justified in your hurt and it may all make sense. Just remember though, after a while, you are the only one who continues to hurt by reliving whatever pain. Let it go and live with everyday compassion.

Dedicated to: My Mom

 

Daily Reflection – 292

Today I meditated and I felt pain in my entire body.

I wasn’t surprised that the pain was there. I was just surprised that it felt as bad as it did. For a while, I feel like I’ve been floating or being pushed through life, almost like a pinball in an arcade game. Currently, it feels like things are just…I don’t even know really how to describe them. They are and I am. And it’s not good. So many thoughts ran through my mind and I physically felt sick.

I felt used up. I felt unloved. I felt forgotten. I felt like people only recognize me when they need something (whether it’s a laugh or money or whatever).

I guess now is the time that I get real about these things. But how do you move forward?

Today I meditated and I felt pain in my entire body.

Gratitude as an Act of Kindness

On Wednesday during Day 2 of the 21-Day Mantra Meditation Journey, I had an epiphany! As the organizers of the mantra meditation journey prepared listeners for Day 2, which focused on Inner Peace, they asked the question, “What does peace mean to you?” My first thought was that peace meant being able to focus on a given task with no distraction and if you are distracted, then you don’t punish yourself for being distract. Then I thought that peace meant I would have loving relationships and that those who loved me, like family and friends, would support me.

But then something sorta weird happened and I thought, “Peace is helping my Mom with tasks now because she helped me when I was younger. It’s my way of saying ‘Thank You’ for what you’ve done and recognized in me.”

Peace is gratitude. Gratitude is an act of kindness towards oneself that you express because some other Energy has recognized something amazing in you.

You tell the Creator (be it God or the Source or however you choose to acknowledge it) thank you through acts of gratitude toward yourself and others because the Creator has blessed you with certain gifts. These gifts allow you to give back. When you compliment someone, it’s an act of gratitude because you recognize something in them that another source of energy recognized in you. When you give chance to a homeless person with a good spirit and good hard, it is an act of gratitude. Why? They recognize that you have a source of energy that allows you to manifest wealth in a way that makes you comfortable. You “pay” your gratitude by giving away your excess (sidenote: this thought on wealth is something that I learned about while listening to a 45 minute talk given by Bob Proctor who shared that we only need wealth for two reasons: (1) to become comfortable and (2) to give in charity to others).

I will share that I was astounded at how simple this realization on peace and gratitude was and as I went into my meditation, I actually FELT different. My energy was stronger and less anxious. My breathing was slower. My heart wasn’t beating out of my chest and for possibly the first time ever, thoughts weren’t running through my mind at the beginning of a meditation period. The feeling in this particular session was almost blissful and even when I was done, I still felt the same.

It was great.

“The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.”

-Eckhart Tolle


Click here if you would like to learn more about this particular journey or if you’d like to join the 21 Day Mantra Meditation Journey.

Honesty Is the ONLY Policy

The past nine days have been intensely emotional. That’s the sentence that captures exactly what I’ve been going through. For the past three years, I’ve been on a personal journey to clear myself of negative energy and release toxic emotions from my being. It’s not easy and at times, this process of clearing energy moves way slower than I want it to.

On Sunday night, I had a particular experience that led me to watch a recorded episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass (this one had Bishop T.D. Jakes as a guest and took place at MegaFest). After about 17 minutes, I found myself asking, “WHY DID I THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?” While the focus was on “fatherless children,” there was something that struck me about the pain of having an absent parent. For a while (and this is a story I won’t get into — gotta save something for my tell-all autobiography), I’ve buried the pain of being the child that was overlooked and abused and forgotten about. The thought that came to mind about why I’ve remained wounded in life was that, “Even if people do the best that they could have done, it doesn’t lessen the hurt.”

That statement is true. It doesn’t lessen the sting of being at a Family Reunion (on my Dad’s side) and having to be introduced to family members only to overhear one of them say, “I thought he only had one daughter.” To be an outsider was hard.

And I have spent the majority of my adult life trying to feel the opposite of that. I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve essentially done things because I knew that for a fleeting moment, I’d be the one that they (my parents) would have to pay attention to. Then I read something on Monday morning that talked about letting go of hurts and the biggest impediment to doing so. Before I got to the end of the paragraph and had a major “AHA!” moment, I was sure that the impediment was going to be something like, “We can’t get over our hurts because people won’t acknowledge that we can feel the same way.” That thought process is something like, “You want me to extend my empathy to you but you can’t do that for me.” That’s blaming. That doesn’t work.

That was also NOT the answer.

The biggest impediment to getting through our hurts is that we ask the question, “Why?” The answer is very simple, “Because they could.” It doesn’t mean that they meant it intentionally. It doesn’t mean that they thought less of you. It doesn’t mean that they set out to contribute to the misery in your existence. It just happened. And it happened because they behaved in a way that they could.

With that being said, I’ll share that this realization brought about the biggest sigh of relief and then the largest cloud of panic I’ve been engulfed in since I watched an apartment burn to the ground. For me, I felt good because it suddenly clicked that I’m amazing and that I’ve always been amazing. On the other hand, it was absolutely terrifying because I realized that (1) I haven’t been living in my fullest potential AND (2) if I live in my potential and embrace the amazing and succeed, it would mean that I was the reason life has been so difficult in the past few years.

I decided to call this post “Honesty is the ONLY policy” because it means that I can do things that I’ve always wanted to do because I approach life with a zeal and understanding that I deserve the good things. And that’s okay. But I also realized four things:

  1. I am at an exciting time in my life.
  2. I choose to stand in my authenticity.
  3. I am all of that and MORE!
  4. My past gave me the foundation to be great. Not mediocre. GREAT!

With this new policy, taking on my baggage doesn’t seem as scary. I can only come out better anyway.

Have you had a moment that changed the way you thought about yourself? If so, share in the comments.

Reflections On the 21-Day Meditation Challenge (#31WriteNow)

I did it! I’m so proud of myself for completing the 21-Day Meditation Challenge on “Miraculous Relationships” hosted by Deepak Chopra with the assistance of one of my FAVORITE personalities, Oprah Winfrey. While this wasn’t my first meditation challenge I’ve signed up for, it was the FIRST one I’ve completed and did the days in order (read: I didn’t skip or miss days). This challenge was three weeks of internal work to build Miraculous Relationships and I believe that it was well worth it.

Relationships, in general, are something I struggle with. Even with my closest ties to people, I feel inauthentic in many of my interactions. There is always a mask to be worn because I fear that I won’t be accepted if I truly share with people who I am, how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking. The older I get and the more I choose to do some internal work, the better I understand that I’ve developed this style of interacting with others as a coping mechanism. This stems not only from the abuse I endured when I was younger but also as a result of witnessing how people treat others who are vulnerable.

Ultimately, I want to get to a place where I KNOW I can be myself and this challenge was the first step. It’s exhausting (for me) to pretend to be someone I’m not. It’s hard for me to play the “I’m alright” card when I know I’m not.  At this point in my life, I’m starting to grasp that I have no more expendable energy to keep up a façade so that others feel absolutely comfortable with me. But that’s not what this post is about (I’ve actually scheduled a post for later this week on expectations and acceptance). This particular post is about finishing a challenge and the BIG thing I learned.

I just have to say this again – I FINISHED a 21-Day Meditation Challenge and this makes me proud!

What doesn’t make me proud is that after turning a mirror onto myself, I realized that I have a problem seeing things to the end. I can set an awesome goal and even outline a very doable plan but for some reason, the follow-through isn’t quit there. This realization is scary because I have major dreams and goals that require a precise attention to detail and most importantly, following through.

The good news though is that I’ve decided to kill two birdies with one stone (sidenote: I do not like this saying but it fits). From now through the end of September, I’ve chosen to focus meticulously on (1) understanding myself and the way I function and (2) developing new techniques and habits so that my goals are reached. I’ve asked three people to be my “accountability buddy” and I’ll be sharing with them my goals on a weekly basis and the progress I’ve made on each one. In addition to that, I’ve decided to seriously study just about every aspect of myself using various tools like spiritual reading plans, astrological information (at some point, I’ll share my reactions to my Natal Chart) and good old trial-and-error.

Moving forward, I want to build a foundation that best protects me from extra stress in my life while I reach for my goals (I mention protection here because setbacks and failures are inevitable). I’m absolutely glad that I made the decision to stick with this challenge because I can already feel a difference in how I relate to myself. I’ll use the excitement and confidence I got from completing a challenge to begin this process of self-actualization and I’m eager to share what I learn along the way.

What challenges have you completed that you are proud of?

Battle Scars (#31WriteNow)

Every Tuesday, I watch Catfish: The TV Show with the rest of Twitter. Usually, people share some very witty reactions to the show but there was something about last night that made me uncomfortable. There is this internal dialogue or belief system that people seem to hold where a person who struggles with mental health issues (1) deserves to be lonely and (2) should not speak up about it in public. What came across as a heartfelt concern for the young woman was built upon this idea that the young man in question was so messed up that there was no way he could ever be “not crazy.”

That’s…scary.

Selfishly, I thought of myself when I read the tweets/comments from folks who talked about that young man. While I’ve always been open about my challenges with mental health as an adult, I am always hesitant to share what it was like being the child of two service persons who were diagnosed with service-connected mental health disability. I’ve seen firsthand what “crazy looks like on an ordinary day” and I continue to live that existence.

Daily.

But I called this piece “battle scars” because what I dealt with daily (child abuse, mental and emotional abuse, paranoia, etc.) was brushed off as “oh that’s just how they (my parents) are.” Even recently, I traveled with my Mom to a family member’s funeral and a relative made the comment, “Girl! Your Mom has always been crazy. But you take care of her.” That comment made me pause. It made me want to scream, “No! She’s not crazy! She’s experienced trauma and you’re being dismissive of it by calling her crazy.”

But I didn’t.

I went on. And I thought of the quiet scars my parents carried. Long before they joined the military, they both went through traumatic experiences that others expected them to shrug off and move on from because “that’s what Black people do.” I thought of how those wounds festered and every now and again, we could feel those hurtful experiences in how they interacted with us. I thought how the military and its lack of support in the mental health arena (possibly) made it worse.

Because I think it did.

I thought about the time I saw my Dad hold a gun to my Mom’s head because “everyone was out to get him and he just wanted to see his kids” after returning home from Operation Desert Storm. He didn’t pull the trigger but what if he had? And I thought about how I’ve lived with that memory…and it haunts me today. So I understood the comments about the concerns of the safety of the young woman but there was no concern for the young man.

I sometimes wonder if my parents would have been a little less damaged had they not joined the military but I don’t have a time machine or any way to know that. But what I do know is this — people could help with the healing of others if we just examined our bias and damaging beliefs that we hold about the Unacceptables who struggle from mental health issues.

Trauma.Invisible scars.And there is no help.

A Purpose Driven Life (#31WriteNow)

For the past year and some change, I’ve struggled with being able to identify my purpose in this life. To make things more confusing, I’ve had trouble with being the person that other folks came to for advice. To me, it would seem like these people would ask a question, I’d give my advice and then something GREAT would happen to them almost immediately after our interaction.

Yet, I was still stuck…in whatever “rut” I was in. I guess you can call it a rut.

Then yesterday, I was trying to take a nap and it suddenly hit me. It was almost as if my Spirit responded to someone who asked me, “Why is it that you do what you do?”

In a brief moment, I answered this question very matter-of-factly:

“I do what I do because I want people to see who they truly are and KNOW that they are more than capable of doing whatever they want, which is in contrast to what society has convinced them they are. I know that this understanding of one’s self only comes through self-exploration, but often we have to be pushed to that point to begin with. For us to do that, we have to get a different point of view and that comes from being exposed to new information. Ultimately, with each project, job or task I undertake, my goal is to education and share information with people so they are equipped with the tools to better their lives.”

And why?

The “Why?” is what really tripped me out but things started to make a lot more sense to me. The “Why?” do I do this is because I have struggled with feeling like this has been lacking in my life. As I’ve gotten older though, I realized that it wasn’t so much that I lacked the support necessary to understand this about myself.

That was actually a hangup due to my expectations and being quiet (more on that tomorrow).

Recently though, people have been placed in my life where this message is reaffirmed for me. As I begin to understand my greatness and live in my brilliance, I know that I’m being equipped to share this with others.

For a purpose as great as this, my challenges (while difficult) are a bit more comforting.

My Depression Is… (#31WriteNow)

Yesterday, news that Lee Thompson Young had died spread across the internet. Cause of death: suicide. People say, “I wonder what he was going through” and “You never know what someone is going through…” And this affected me. In a way I didn’t think possible but it was a simple statement that brought me out of my element and hit me at my core:

“Suicide is a selfish act. People should think of their loved ones and the pain they would cause.”

And those words, that idea, that feeling and sentiment got to me in a way that made me feel I was personally on trial. And I just wanted to share something…anything at all…that would get other people to understand what it’s like. And no matter what I said, it fell on steely resolves and unreceptive hosts. By the end of the day, I felt worse than I thought I’d feel so early in the week.

So I wanted to write something (writing is starting to be my go-to for a lot of things and if you can imagine, I don’t even share the personal-personal on here).

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with a persistent heaviness. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more encompassing. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I realized I had depression and it was more than “the blues.” It wasn’t until I was 23 that I really began to understand it in a way that made it easier to explain to others.

This post is rough. It’s ragged. It’s scary to share but I want for people who don’t deal with this disease that snatches rationality to get a sense of what it is to be cloaked in this.

Daily.

This explanation or description of emotional purging is not clinical because that makes it cold. It’s not warm because this feels anything other than that. These words aren’t eloquent because nothing is beautiful about this struggle.

It just is…like I just am.

“Until you’ve had depression, I don’t think you’re qualified to talk about it.” -Geoffrey Boycott

My depression is…

Waking up in the morning and seeing a message my Momma wrote on my mirror for me. “Courtney, You ARE important!” and knowing that is still not enough to feel I’m important. Or loved.

Celebrating my small victories throughout the day. “I brushed my teeth.” or “I didn’t excuse myself to go to the bathroom to cry.” or “I didn’t have to remind myself to breathe.” or “For a moment, it didn’t hurt to keep going.” What’s habit for you is a challenge for me.

Exhaustion.

A weariness that’s so pervasive it’s palpable and other people feel it. And because they feel it, they don’t want me around or they don’t want to be around me. You see, those things feel the same? And it is hard to distinguish between the two. But if I did something to hurt myself, these are the people who would call me selfish. Or say they didn’t know how I felt.

40 hours a week. Stability. Direct deposit twice a month. And leaving this job because it contributed to my misery.

Hearing the whispers of loved ones say “I didn’t know she was a troubled soul.” and “She was so bright.”

Being able to understand the struggles of another but being met with confusion about my own. I can’t explain this feeling; you’d have to feel it to really know. Or why? Or what could make it better?

Sitting in church and feeling like God forgot about me. Seeing beautiful things around me and feeling like God forgot about me.

Praying for peace. A real peace and a soul that’s finally quiet.

A constant struggle. In the midnight hour, I remind myself that tomorrow can be a little better. That the Baby Steps are all that’s required.

Feeling like something’s wrong with me but having everyone around me shrug it off.

“She just wants attention because Black people don’t get depressed. Our God is too big for that!”

Tear-stained notes of goodbye. Rough drafts of suicide letters. And exercises where I write all of the things I wish people would say to me.

“I don’t know what it feels like Courtney, but I really do care. I’ll listen. I’m here to listen.”

Cleaning my entire apartment and writing out instructions on where my things should go because I took a bottle of pills. Wondering if I truly have a greater purpose or if it’s a cruel joke because I only slept for a long time.

Wondering who can I call?

Crisis lines. And inpatient stays in a behavioral health unit.

Being the joke or the one that’s talked down to.

Being told, “If you’re going to worry, then your faith really isn’t that strong.”

This isn’t worry…this isn’t worry.

The expectation to think rationally and hearing other folks speak dismissively of something that twists my soul and breaks my spirit without ever knowing how it got there in the first place.

Telling your counselor at 11, “One morning, I just woke up really sad and I don’t know why.”

Is this my cross to bear?

Being on the Honor Roll and being lauded for your academic ability by the same administrators who treat me unkindly for being homeless. Or rather, my depression is remembering this.

Being reminded I’m less than by the society I live in.

And having to name the people to myself, out loud, who want you here.

Scratching some of those people off of my list when they express their opinions about someone like me.

“It wasn’t something I did. I’ll wonder that. But they should know they are loved anyway.”

Sometimes we don’t.

I just wanted to feel loved on my birthday. You showed up late. Or you didn’t call. Or you didn’t text. And you laughed it off later with a, “Well girl you know!?”

Sometimes I don’t know.

Warning signs. All of the warnings signs. Other people see them but ignore them. Because there’s no way I could have that “issue.”

Being the one that my family leans on…and adding their burdens to my pile. Only to sink.

Sinking.

Sinking lower.

Sinking lower still.

Playlists of “Feel Better Music” and sing-alongs through tears. It’s never enough but somehow I make it.

Keeping everything inside. No one wants to hear this. Except the people you pay and even still, they only medicate you or tell you how you made this mess.

I didn’t ask to be here.

A tattoo on my wrist. “Dream. Hope. Live. Be.”

Remembering my potential as a way to fight off the heaviness and then the heaviness returning as I wonder if I’m meeting my potential.

Setting alarms to eat and asking friends if they could remind me to eat. Expressing gratitude for the ones who remembered to tell me to eat.

Because sometimes, most times, I forget to eat.

Being alone with destructive thoughts.

Being alone.

An additional 6 pills a day and no insurance to cover this treatment. It’s expensive. An expensive reminder that I’m miserable. So I take them only when things are really bad…if I have any to take. Which means it doesn’t work like it should.

Everything being too much.

Feeling like I’ll break at any point.

The lowest of the lows…

Being in a place so dark, I wonder which beast swallowed me whole.

This time.

And I pray a prayer to be spit upon a shore, any shore no matter how cold and lonely and destitute, like Jonah from the belly of a great whale…

So I can see a sunrise.

Just one more sunrise.

And feel its heat as it sends a visible glimmer of hope…

That never fully reaches me.