For as long as I can remember, mental health has been taboo within my community – especially as it pertains to African-American men. I was always taught to “be a man,” and to never show emotion, no matter how much hurt I was feeling inside. Bottling up certain emotions for long periods can lead to them manifested in other, more toxic ways; and can also lead to negative health conditions. The mental trauma that people of color are subjected to in America is astounding. What is even more surprising is the lack of help that many of our people seek, due to the absence of resources, and even downright neglect.
Many factors contribute to this disheartening epidemic.
No one wants to feel like they’re crazy. Instead, we maintain a straight face while struggling with an immense amount of internal turmoil. In my situation, the emotional trauma that I faced as a child was not apparent to me until I became an adult. At the time, the death of my father only seemed like the loss of a parent. While still a significant event, its impact nearly destroyed all of my close connections with other women. The way that a child internalizes life events has always intrigued me. Only 9 years of age, I viewed my father’s passing as him “leaving” me, rather than accepting the reality of Leukemia slowly killing him. This led to my lifelong struggle of failed relationships, loved ones being taken for granted, and an absence of self-confidence, just to name a few.
The beginning of 2018 led to my “Saul” moment. Although I have always had a good heart, my reaction to certain emotional triggers would lead some to believe otherwise. In only a few months, I alienated a close friend, pushed away potential relationships, and betrayed the trust of one of the most important people in my life. After weeks of turmoil, I finally decided to seek the help that I had desperately needed for so many years – I went to my first therapy session.
For the most part, I’ve maintained a moderately healthy lifestyle throughout my adult years. As I aged, my physical well-being became more important to me. I tended to neglect my mental health in the process, as many of us do. My first therapy session was an eye-opening experience. I didn’t “find myself” as some people put it, but I did get a sense of the direction my life needed to go due to my experiences thus far. Of course, I will not fully delve into the specifics of my sessions, but it is pivotal that we unpack our thoughts from time to time. Whether it be by journaling, therapy, or any other positive coping mechanisms, peace of mind should be at the top of the list when it comes to priorities in life.
This essay is also therapeutic for me. Being able to share a part of my story is a direct result of my mental health sessions. I’ve become more open, transparent in emotion, vulnerable, and more trusting with my time and energy. Things aren’t perfect, but I’ve obtained a better quality of life in the past year or so. The most difficult part of having a high level of self-awareness is realizing your flaws, but its most beautiful is the journey towards true self-realization.
As with many things in life, stress or anxiety may rear its ugly head. Just know that there are many healthy avenues to explore on your quest for stability and a serene lifestyle.
My sincerest apologies for rambling. The random moments of mental stimulation that I have from time-to-time, I once thought was a flaw, but in actuality it was a part of what makes me, me. So, always live your truth, love yourself, be kind to others and learn to let go. Implementing only few of these on a daily basis will lead to a much better quality of existence.