BLACK MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

Throughout this entire week, I’ve been saying “my nerves are bed” which for me means, I’m anxious. I’ve been unable to sit still. I’ve felt very uneasy. I’ve felt like screaming.

I haven’t been able to pin point exactly where all of this anxiety is stemming from. I think it’s just… everything. Everything that I’m dealing with personally. Everything my friends and family are dealing with. Everything that my people, black people, are dealing with. Everything my patients are dealing with. Just everything.

It’s a lot and I know I can’t be the only one feeling this way or some type of way. I’ve compiled a list of various mental health resources that could be helpful. In this list I have chosen to highlight resources that were created/founded by Black people with the intention of assisting Black people.

Want to find a mental health professional? check out these directories…

Black Mental Health Alliance – This mission of the Black Mental Health Alliance is ” to develop, promote and sponsor trusted culturally-relevant educational forums, training’s, and referral services that support the health and well-being of Black people and other vulnerable communities”. After completing a brief questionnaire on the site, someone will follow up with you within 24 hours providing referrals for licensed mental health professionals.

Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective(BEAM) -This non-profit organization is comprised of yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists. Their mission is to “remove the barriers that Black people experience getting access to or staying connected with emotional health care and healing. We do this through education, training, advocacy and the creative arts”. The site offers a directory of black virtual therapists as well as tool kits, worksheets, videos, and articles.

Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation – This non-profit organization was founded by Taraji P. Henson, in honor of her father who suffered with mental health challenges. This mission of the foundation is “to provide support and bring awareness to mental health issues that plague our community”. On the website you are able to search through a directory of mental health providers and programs that serve the African American community.

Therapy for Black Men – Founded by both Vladimire Calixte and Benjamin Calixte, this site offers a safe space for boys and men of color to seek the help of a professional, and become educated on all things mental health.

Want to listen and learn? Check out these podcasts…

Therapy for Black girls – The host of this podcast is Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed psychologist. She focuses on mental health topics with the intent of making them more accessible to black women.

Minding My Black Business – The host of this podcast is Dr. JaNae Taylor, a therapist, who talks about all things business, self-care, and mental health.

Fireflies Unite With Kea – Created by suicide survivor, T-Kea Blackman, this mission of her podcast is to “bring light into darkness, encourage people of color to seek treatment, end stigma and raise awareness”.

Is reading more of your thing? Check out these books…

Dear Suicide – Written by Devaunier’ Cannon, a licensed clinical social worker. Her book not only provides information about suicide, but allows for the reader to engage in writing activities that encourage reflection and essentially safety planning to aid in suicide  prevention.

Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Woman’s Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety, Panic, and Fear – Written by Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett, a psychologist. Her book focuses on what can contribute to anxiety, panic, and fear in Black women and offers various healing methods to use in order to combat them.

AN IMPORTANT NUMBER…

If you are in distress or in a crisis, 1-800-273-8255 is the national suicide prevention hotline. Please call this number 24/7 in order to recieve free support.

I Still Remember the Days Where I Prayed for the Things I Have Now

The other day my friend sent me a tik tok. There are different variations of it out there, but most importantly it’s a voiceover of Nene Leakes (if you don’t know who that is, it’s ok lol). The context is that Nene visits someone’s home and is disgusted by what she sees.

 Nene goes on to say “They had a white refrigerator. I was like ughhhh ooooo, not a white refrigerator. Girl please put your shoes on, let’s go find you a home”. Now, I find Nene to be hilarious so of course I laughed, but I also had a moment where I thought to myself… damn, I used to have a white refrigerator.

It was actually only in February of this year that I moved into a renovated unit in my apartment complex that came with wood floors, granite countertops, and yes…. A STAINLESS STEEL REFRIGERATOR. I distinctly remember living in my old apartment and just waiting for the day I could move into something like what I have now. 

I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now

I began to reflect on where I am now in life versus where I was 1-3 years ago. I remembered first moving to the DFW and not being able to find a job for about 3 months. I remembered being so frustrated that I had a bachelor’s degree but apparently still wasn’t qualified enough. I remembered working at different jobs for $10, $13, $15 an hour. I remembered working for no pay at all (unpaid internships should be illegal). I remembered long days of working then heading to class at 7:00 PM. I remembered being worried about rent. I remembered getting a credit card just to pay for necessities. I remembered using that credit card for things I didn’t really need. I remembered looking at people on Youtube and Instagram who went on trips and had gorgeous apartments then thinking “Why can’t that be me?” or “When will my time come?”. 

I’m not trying to say that I struggled oh so hard nor am I trying to say that my life is perfect now. I am saying that I feel blessed that the things I mentioned above are no longer my reality. Those things mentioned above are important aspects of my journey in life that have played a part in making me into the woman I am today.

I don’t know where you are in life right now, but if you are wishing and praying to be some place different, I want to tell you that it’s coming. Keep working, keep striving, keep praying. When you do get to that place you wish to be, don’t forget where you once were. Use the past chapters of life as motivation and reminders. Keep working, keep striving, keep praying.

The Emotional Rollercoaster that is COVID-19

Trying to process everything that is going on right now is like being on a rollercoaster. In a single day I am liable to experience anger, fear, faith, happiness, sadness, hope, confusion and so many other emotions. It’s exhausting. If you are feeling the same way(s) then let me tell you…

First off, it’s okay. Whatever it is that you’re feeling, it’s valid . This is a lot and it’s affecting us and the world in ways we probably didn’t really or seriously anticipate.

Second, I encourage you to use this time to self-reflect, educate yourself, meditate, pray, tap into your creative side, discover. By no means am I saying that this pandemic is good, but it is forcing us to slow down and you are able to choose what you do with this time.

Third, appreciate and be grateful for any moments big or small that bring laughter and happiness.

Here’s some small tips that I have for maintaining wellness during this time:

TAKE A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE NEWS. I feel most of the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on comes from me scrolling through twitter/instagram. There’s so much breaking news, information, thoughts, and opinions that can be hard to keep up with, let alone process. Give your mind a break.

STIMULATE YOUR MIND. Not just with Netflix shows either. It’s important to find other stimulating things to do like read, color, draw, do puzzles, write, learn about something new.

TALK TO SOMEONE. My fellow introverts, this may come as a surprise, but we do need connection. It’s a core part of being human. Social distancing is needed right now but that doesn’t mean you can’t call, text, face-time your family, friends, and loved ones.

GO OUTSIDE. Even if it’s just on your balcony/patio or you take a walk to your mailbox and back. We need fresh air and sun.

BUILD UP THAT IMMUNE SYSTEM. Vitamins, fruits, vegetables, supplements… you name it.

Of course these small tips won’t solve all of our problems, but they can help.

Wishing you all peace, happiness, and health.

What are you willing to do?

I really wish I could sit here and say that I enjoy going to the gym…. but I don’t lol. I don’t know when I’ll reach that point of excitement about working out, but until then I guess I’ll continue spending 30 minutes moaning, groaning, and debating about going.. until finally forcing myself to put on gym clothes and getting in the car. There are even times when I have to call my sister so she can motivate me to go because I know if I don’t call , I’ll stay on the couch re-watching The Office. I wish that I liked to work out because that would make things so much easier, but there’s also this sense of pride that I feel when I finish a work-out knowing that I fought against being tired, unmotivated, or just plain lazy. The point of this post is that sometimes the things we want require a lot from us. Hard work, discipline, consistency, and sacrifice are what separates people who reach their goals and accomplish their dreams from the people who don’t. I also think that the people who reach their goals and accomplish their dreams accepted that they would at some point have to be uncomfortable. For the longest time I struggled with not wanting to do something if it made me feel even the slightest bit inconvenienced or uneasy. The issue with that is… we don’t grow when we are comfortable or when things are easy. The challenges we experience in life are what force us to evolve and uncover strengths and gifts we didn’t know we had.

“Growth is uncomfortable because you have never been here before, You’ve never been this version of you”

Kristin Lohr

Whatever it is that you want to achieve; whether it is losing weight, gaining weight, starting a business, obtaining a degree, buying a house….

What are you willing to do to get it? If you had to go through a period of discomfort to get it, would you?

Imposter Syndrome???

Imposter Syndrome. It might sound silly but it’s SO real and has been a reality for me for the past couple of months. I’m still working on dealing with it, so this is not a “how to get over imposter syndrome” post , but instead I’ll describe what it has been like for me and how I’ve come to deal with it so far.

According to Wikipedia, “Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent interanlized fear of being exposed as a fraud”. On a daily basis at work, I deal with feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and general anxiety about my work performance. These feelings are pretty new for me and that’s because I recently got my first “big girl job”. I got a therapist position right out of grad school and prior to that, I had never had a job in my field of interest or with real benefits lol. What I noticed really quickly after getting the position is that I felt like a fraud. I felt like I wasn’t a REAL therapist and only got the position because of my mentor, not because I deserved it. I wake up worried about how my therapy groups will go. During groups, I worry about if what I’m saying even makes sense. I wonder if my patients think I’m an idiot or a bad therapist. In meetings I worry if other staff think I’m an idiot. I beat myself up over mistakes both big and small. I get annoyed if I don’t know something.

Sounds miserable and exhausting huh? IT IS.

I’ve realized that if I want to be of the best assistance to my patients AND maintain my well-being, then I need to get a handle on imposter syndrome.

One thing that I do to combat my negative thoughts is actually something I have told my patients to do (WOW, look at that, a therapist taking her own advice). Basically, if I think to myself “I’m a horrible therapist”, then I force myself to challenge that thought…

So what evidence is there that I am a horrible therapist?

Well… none.

So what evidence is there that I am a good therapist?

Well…. actually my patients often tell me that I’m very helpful and a good therapist.

What would my manager/mentor say about this thought?

Well… she literally sent me an email telling me how often patients rave about me, so she would probably tell me I’m trippin.

Is this thought based on facts or feelings?

Well… I noticed that I tend to have this thought more so when I’m feeling stressed or when I feel like my group didn’t go the way that I wanted.

After I have gone through these questions or similar questions, I tend to realize how silly that thought actually is.

Do you suffer from imposter syndrome? Share your experience with me! Tell me what you’ve tried or done to get over it. I’d love to hear from you!

20/20 Vision

First off…. it’s been awhile, but for good reason. Here are some major things that happened for me in the year 2019…

  • I graduated from grad school
  • I spent 3 months post graduation studying for a licensing exam and passed it….like really passed it
  • I got my first “big girl job”as a therapist
  • I got a new car

I share these things for two reasons. One, I want y’all to know that I didn’t just forget about my blog, I’ve just been busy. Two, I want y’all to know that all of the things I mentioned above, I put on a vision board back in 2017. For two years I kept that vision board on my bedroom wall and slowly witnessed as most of what I put on there, became reality. So here we are in January of 2020, and I decided it was time to make a new one.

I’m really not an artsy or creative person, but give me a glue stick, posterboard, magazines, and scissors…. and IT’S ON. My method for creating a vision board is pretty simple. After I have gathered my materials, I take some time to really think about what I want for myself. I think about each aspect of my life and decide what it is that I really want to achieve or what changes I want to see. I then spend some time going through magazines, and cutting out pictures or words that can put together a visual representation. After I’ve cut and made a complete mess on the floor, I arrange and re-arrange the cut-outs on the posterboard until it looks cute. When I’m satisfied I glue eveything down and hang it on a wall. Boom, vision board.

I believe in vision boards simply because I believe in the law of attraction. Whatever you focus on and put energy into will manifest.

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

― Lao Tzu

So here is my vision board and I’ll briefly explain a few things that I put on there and why..

“Consistency Queen” So I’ve decided that the theme for my 2020 is consistency. In the past I have had trouble with remaining consistent with things like; going to the gym, eating healthy, and even this blog. If I can remain consistent, 2020 will be very successful for me.

“Yes, New Friends” and spending more time with the friends I have now Despite my introverted tendecncies, I want to be more proactive in meeting up with and talking to my friends. I don’t have many friends (yikes) so I also want to be more open to meeting new people. Making new friends as an adult is kind of scary to me, but I think there’s also so much to gain from more amazing women in my life.

“Feel Sexy” In 2020 I want to serve looks. It’s that simple.

What do you want to achieve in 2020? What changes are you trying to make? Let me know!

Chapter 25: The Glow-Up

On March 30th, this picture was taken of me. When my boyfriend handed me the phone so that I could look at it my first words were “Wow, I’m beautiful”, and then I immediately started tearing up.  Of course he didn’t understand so I explained that I hadn’t felt beautiful in awhile. Seeing this picture was like having a major epiphany about myself. My epiphany didn’t stop there though.. in this picture I saw so much more. I saw the woman that I had always known myself to be deep inside. I saw a woman that was confident in who she is and what she has to offer the world. 

Confidence is an attribute that I’ve always strongly admired in other people. I’ve always admired it because for some reason It has not always come naturally to me. I distinctly remember in Jr. high and high-school hating myself and how I looked. From the shape of my nose to my frizzy curls to my teeth…I was deeply unsatisfied. In college I distinctly remember not having confidence in my ability to lead or speak up. Throughout my college years I slowly began to develop confidence, but I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. Post-graduation, I had gained some weight, struggled in a couple different areas of my life, and slipped back into that Jr. high/high-school mindset. 

So what recently brought me to my great epiphany? I think a major part of it is doing what I’m passionate about… 

Throughout my MSW program, I’ve had the opportunity to work with women in recovery from substance abuse, as well as with children with different mental health diagnoses. I currently work with adults dealing with various mental health diagnoses in a psychiatric unit. Never in a million years did I think I would have the confidence to get up in front of such vulnerable populations and not only educate them but HELP them. I seriously get up in front of people older than me and offer guidance. I can’t explain the feeling I get when a patient or client tells me “You’re going to do great things” or “That was such a great group” or “This really helped me”. Through pursing my passion, I’ve been able to see who I am and what I’m capable of. I’m a bad-ass. 

On my birthday one of my sorority sisters said “You got you a voice!” and that is the truth. I’m no longer afraid to lead or speak-up. Realizing that I’m beautiful in my looks is one thing, but slowly becoming the woman that I’ve always dreamed of being is another. What’s crazy is, I’m only going to get better…

How Do You Cope?

Coping skills was a very big topic this last week for clients that I work with, and it got me to thinking about how I cope with things. I want to challenge my readers to think about what coping skills you use, and better yet are they healthy or unhealthy? It’s no surprise that the clients I work with tend to use a lot of unhealthy coping skills, but they are not the only ones. I believe people everywhere, inside and outside of mental health facilities, use unhealthy ways to cope with this crazy thing called life. I, myself use unhealthy ways of coping sometimes.

So what are coping skills? Simply put they are things we use to deal with uncomfortable, difficult, and stressful situations.

So what determines whether a coping skill is healthy or unhealthy? Well to give some examples..

Unhealthy; over-eating, excessive sleeping, self-harm, procrastinating, withdrawing, giving up, blaming others, drinking and drug use, excessive spending.

Healthy; journaling, exercising, listening to music, developing a gratitude attitude, yoga, deep breaths in and out, taking a hot bath or shower, talking to friends/family, seeing a therapist.

I believe a lot of unhealthy coping skills provide temporary relief, but no long-term solutions and can even be detrimental. More importantly, I believe unhealthy coping skills do not help us get to the root of the problem. It’s like when you have a cold, and you take medicine. The medicine is great and helps to relieve symptoms, but the actual cold is not cured. Unfortunately, since there is no cure for the cold, we continue to get them. 

I wanted to touch on drinking and drugs because some of you may be thinking, “Isis, some of that is legal!” Yes, I’m aware lol. I drink and I enjoy it! Marijuana is slowly becoming legalized and I think it’s great. Drugs and alcohol is a very big part of our society and again, I just want to challenge you to think. When you drink or use drugs; what is your goal? Do you set limitations for yourself? Are you trying to forget or avoid something? Are you trying to numb yourself?  Do you fail to meet obligations or handle responsibilities due to use? Are relationships in your life becoming strained due to use? You can even apply some of these questions to other coping skills to determine if they are unhealthy.

 Deep reflection about what you do and why you do it, is key. 

To end on a lighter note, I thought I would share some of my favorite healthy coping skills. “Developing a gratitude attitude” is one I use a lot.  When I’m feeling down, stressed, or really negative I like to come up with a list of things in my head that i’m grateful for. I also sing or listen to music. My go-to song to sing is “Tell him” by Lauryn Hill. Two of my personal feel-good songs are “Pop Thieves” by Childish Gambino and “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison. Cleaning my entire apartment is also something I do to cope with stress.

What are some coping skills you use? Which ones would you like to stop? What new ones would you like to try? I’d love to hear from you!!

It’s been awhile…

Wow, It’s been awhile since my last blog post. I don’t feel too too bad about it only because life has been very busy, and I’m trying my best to adjust. I do feel that writing is and can be a great coping strategy for me, so I will work on setting aside time for this blog.

Anywho…

I feel like I’m constantly on the go. Going to work (I just got a new job, yayyy) going to class… going to a meeting… going to a training… going to my internship. I’ve never really experienced this before but believe I’m handling it very well.

One thing about me is I’ve never liked feeling uncomfortable. When I say uncomfortable I mean, I’ve never liked not getting enough sleep. I’ve never liked having to drive too far for anything (example: work). I’ve never liked feeling overwhelmed. I’m sure a lot of people don’t like these things but I would go out of my way to avoid all of that. I should have known that there would eventually come a time when I would really have to “grind”. There would eventually come a time when I would be uncomfortable. I guess I’ve matured because even though I don’t get enough sleep, drive all over Tarrant County, and do a million things….I know this season won’t last forever. I know that when we are uncomfortable that’s when we learn the most and really grow.

My Plate Is Full and I’m The One Who Fixed It

It’s the second week of the spring semester and I already feel overwhelmed and annoyed. I thought I would have at least made it a month before these feelings showed up. In my defense I have a lot going on. I’m balancing three classes, an internship, two jobs, my blog, going to the gym, and maintaining a social life. 

Today I got home at about 4:00 PM and went straight for an unopened bottle of red wine that I had in the fridge… it’s only Wednesday. 

Alright, I’m done venting and complaining so now here comes the good stuff…

I don’t remember where I saw this quote at but it goes “I can’t complain about having a lot on my plate when the goal was to eat”. I’ve pretty much been reciting that quote over and over again to myself because it’s so incredibly true . My goals include graduating, learning more in the mental health field, advocating for mental health and wellness, inspiring my peers, losing weight, and living my best life. Everything that I’m doing is a step towards each of those goals in some way or another.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed or negative, I try really hard to replace those feelings with an attitude of gratitude. I can’t thank God enough for the opportunities that I have been given to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. I look back on last year when I was working at a job that I HATED and it’s like how could I complain??? LOOK AT WHAT GOD DID. Everything that I’m doing right now, I prayed for at an earlier time. Everything that I’m doing right now is preparing me for greatness. 

When I start to have that attitude of gratitude (and have some wine) I feel a heck of a lot better, and it’s like I’m excited about my goals all over again.

If you can relate to this post in any way I just want to say that; 

You’re amazing. 

You can do anything you put your mind to. 

Be mindful of how you’re doing mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Take care of yourself.

You got this.