I can’t tell you when it began.
All I know is that I’d been slowly getting into this ‘fog’ that was clouding up my thoughts. This thick fog carried with it a deep sense of sorrow, sadness, despair and hopelessness. I was just going through the motions and simply existing. I lost my joy in things and just can’t be bothered with some relationships, situations and activities. I stopped running and hiking. I stopped talking to those close to me and simply shut down. That’s why I also stopped writing, I didn’t know where to begin.
I’ve been stressed and depressed seasoned with panic attacks.
Panic attacks, haa!!! Yes, people those are real. What exactly are panic attacks? A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety as defined by the NHS. Panic attacks can also have physical symptoms. It’s when your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode against a perceived threat and your body’s reaction to a stressful/dangerous/life threatening situation. In my case I was having a stressful time at work and each time I thought of work, commuted to work and was at work, I would go into meltdown.
So this is how I can best explain panic attacks. They creep up on you when you least expect it and strangle your airways. I feel like I’m being strangled, help, my airways are being crushed and I can’t get enough air in! My heart beats so fast like a drum and I can hear the rush of blood in my ears. My chest will clench so tight, afterwards I feel as th0ugh I’ve run 10k on bad fitness. The muscle fatigue and soreness will last for days afterwards. The first time it happened I thought I was having a heart attack then I realised I wasn’t dying. My poor lungs. Sometimes the World around me will tilt and shift as I feel dizzy and all I can hear is my own loud breath as I struggle to calm my emotions and remind myself I’m not dying.
You are NOT dying!!
Too ashamed and embarrassed very few people know.
I’ve found it hard to admit that I haven’t been coping with this situation I’m in. In recent weeks I’ve begun opening up to those close to me and telling them,”I’m depressed! I’ve been having anxiety and panic attacks.” What held me back you ask? Fear of judgement and being stigmatised. Most Black people view emotional, psychological and mental issues with very little understanding. Depression is the invisible sickness that is not taken seriously. I read somewhere that it’s like I’m drowning and you’re standing there shouting,”learn how to swim.” If I had a broken leg, people would empathise with me but this sickness cannot be seen. If you know me well you’d have noticed the light from my eyes fade, the gradual withdrawal, weight gain and the tiredness. I looked ‘grey’ at some point, I still look a hot mess albeit better than a few months ago. I went to my GP and she took one look at me, referred me for therapy and signed me off work.
Therapy, yes, I’m having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. I see my therapist once a fortnight and we just talk. It’s actually interesting and I would recommend it to anyone who is struggling to cope. I talk and he listens then he takes and gives an impartial view on my life. Together we work through my emotions and thoughts by way of exercises and goals. I’m also taking a holistic approach which means I’m not on medication. Instead I’ve started to exercise again and do more of the things I enjoy. I feel much better after exercise.
I don’t know why as Black people we don’t recognise mental health issues. Not just Black people but most minority groups. Is it linked to the colonial rule and oppression where we just learnt to simply grit our teeth and keep it moving? I guess if a person of another color in a position of power pushed you off your land, beat you and treated you like a piece of crap….you had to.keep.it.moving in order to survive. In my own experience through talking to different people there is this sense that mental health is ‘White Privilege’ or First World problems. If you’re Black you’re not allowed to look into your emotions. It’s taboo. What the hell is wrong with you?
Wake up, we need to talk more!! We need to do more!!
Reading this article someone will probably think I’ve gone bat-shit crazy but I’m not. I realised that not talking about something is giving it power. I got here by internalising things and acting like everything is good. We have this saying,”usafadze vavengi.” It simply means you shouldn’t please your haters or give them something to work with. I’m not of that school of thought but I kept being B.A.D to my self out of fear. I was taught people love to see you fail and you should work hard to prove them wrong. SO I covered up my emotions and smiled through the pain until my smile faded.
I’m realising I don’t need anyone’s approval to talk about how I feel. I don’t need anyone’s permission to allow me to talk about depression. Part of my recovery is openly talking about being B.A.D. I follow a you tuber called Courtney Daniella a motivational speaker who openly talks about being B.A.D. Watching her latest video titled transparency gave me the guts to talk about what I’ve been going through. Other influencers like Rutendo Denise have been discussing mental health issues, abuse, broken dreams etc. She uses her platform to inspire others. I’d like to be that somebody for someone.
If I’ve not taken your calls, I just haven’t felt like talking.Talking lying that I was okay when categorically wasn’t. If I was supposed to do something for you, I forgot. Please remind me again. If you’re finding out through this article as a loved one, this is why.
I hope by sharing we can openly talk about being B.A.D.