The Language: Crazy

"Using the same language in conversation fuels the same mentality and rarely inflicts change.” -Anthony Bartlett

The comment above comes from a conversation I had with a friend this weekend. It made me think about the words that are associated with mental health and mental illness in my own social circles.

Let’s look at the possibly the most noticeable word, Crazy. Depending on who I am talking to, this word can have number or meanings.

Crazy-a situation that is hard to believe “Did you see that game winning shot last night. It was crazy”

Crazy-the person that is misunderstood and may suffer from a mental illness BUT we as a community fail to acknowledge this and treat them like an outcast instead of a person. They may also say that this person belongs in a "crazy house".

Crazy-the person that has the reputation of having a quick temper is a live wire. This may differ from the previous definition because these individuals gain respect for their level of “crazy”. Think about Debo, the neighborhood bully.

Crazy-the person who asks you to do something that you believe is irrational. This could be at work, home, or in the community. “She just asked me to give $100. She must be crazy” (I hear and use something very similar to this a lot LOL).

Our language can be a difficult thing to grasp, but the words that we speak can be powerful, both positive and negative. I am not saying we should never use this word, because even with my own battles with mental illness, I use it but I am conscious of how I use it.

Recently, I ran into an acquaintance that is aware of my work and her first words to me were “I didn’t know you were Bipolar. I never thought of you as being crazy.I always thought you were normal”. Then she laughed.

Knowing her, I understood that she did not mean any harm by her comments but this may not be received well by others. Outside of that, we were able to discuss how mental illness affects people how she believes things need to change.

Similar to the multiple uses of crazy, we utilize many other terms that professionally defined in a the field of Mental Health, but are used loosely in everyday conversations. For example, there is a quick change in the weather. A person may say “this weather is bipolar”.

Conversations about Mental Illness and Mental Health must continue to happen but it is not always an easy talk to have. It does not have to be so formal. We can have fun with it. We must use our language to formulate a connection. Especially across generations, races, and classes to educate and help.

Does the professional language of mental illness, such as a diagnosis or medication, deter you from actually having a conversation?

Calling All Men

It is common for men to negate their feelings and emotions because we are never taught how to recognize what is actually going on, how to effectively, shamelessly express those feelings, nor are we taught how to manage those feelings. Without these lessons in dealing with emotion, men with sons often recycle these patterns, and new generations are taught to suppress their emotions to live up to the facade of always being “strong” and emotionless.

My Father taught me how to rise before the sun to knock out things you have to get done in order to have time to do things you want to do later.

My Grandfather taught me that even though you may have individuals in your ear telling you everything that you are doing is wrong (normally my grandmother yelling at him LOL), consistent hard work and dedication will produce the results that YOU are looking for.

My Uncle Jeffrey taught me the value of having your own but sharing what you have to help others. A simply joy in life.

My Uncle Lamont, by far one of the greatest influences in my life, taught me how to be cool while constantly hustling and grinding.

As a child, I learned things from the men in my life. Things you should and should not do as a man. Things that you strive to be as a man. Ways a man is a man.

They were there to set examples.

BUT…there were things that I did not learn or experience.

Feelings and emotions came from the women in my family. The hugs, the nurturing, and the “I Love You’s” came from the women - my mom, grandmother and aunts.

Never from the men.

I didn’t hear “Love you” from my pops until I was in my 20s and it was awkward. Why?

It’s not like I ever doubted that he loves and cares for me, but it is not something that was verbally said or even expressed through a hug. It was limited to a dap and half hug with a pat on the back. For a growing boy internalizing every interaction with males in his life, this helps create the norm of refraining from displaying feelings and emotions.

This is not only an issue between fathers and sons but generally characterizes male interactions between uncles, nephews, and male friends.

As we continue to recreate his emotional disconnect from generation to generation we do not realize the affect it has on our mental health.

To help break stigma associated with mental health and mental illness, men must step up to the plate and talk. This is not limited to just fathers to sons, but also with friends and family. We cannot be afraid of being perceived as weak for expressing and showing emotions. WE ARE ALL HUMAN.

A man recognizing his ability to address and manage his emotions correlates with how other men will address and manage their emotions, especially for boys that will grow up to be men.

Creating an emotional connection and harvesting a child's mental and emotional health goes beyond assuming that they know you care, tell them!

Change Is Not Easy

Last weekend, suicide claimed the life of a 25-year-old, former NFL player. I did not know him personally, but it remains a tragedy because a life was lost. Often when this happens, many questions may be asked but are never answered.

What was going on in his head? Was he sick? It couldn’t have been that bad…could it?

I am not sure of all the details of his career and life outside of the game but reading this story made me think of some of my own experiences with sports and my mental health.

Recently, I suffered an injury that required me to have surgery on my right knee and forced me to “sit down”. For people who know me, the hardest thing for me to do is sit still. But with a surgically repaired knee, I didn’t have much of a choice.

I have had plenty of injuries and a number of surgeries. As always, physical pain was not the hardest part to handle, it is the mental struggle that is overwhelming.

When the injury occurred, I knew exactly what happened and how long it would take to recover. As I attempted to wrap my mind around this ill-timed incident, I also had to deal with comments of “you should just leave sports alone”, “you are always getting hurt”, “why do you keep doing this to yourself?”.

It was like I was getting blamed for being active and doing something that I loved to do. I enjoy playing sports. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the camaraderie of teammates. I genuinely love all aspects of sports. It serves as a stress reliever. It is a way for me to cope with this thing we call life, and now I have an injury that disrupts that. It is constant reminder of failure to remain healthy to do something that I love to do.

I do not want to hear “you need to stop because you keep getting hurt”.

A lifestyle change is not something that is easy to accept and actually do. For me, the injuries that I have suffered were not worth giving up something that I have done all of my life and I’m not even paid to do this. So I can only imagine the mental anguish an athlete experiences when they are told that they can no longer play on a level where they are compensated for their life-long dedication.

How would you feel if you dedicated your life to making good grades in school, earn your degree, and cannot find a job in your desired field? Many adults, young and old, are faced with this issue daily.

As we spend time and energy to things in our life; a career, hobby, or even a relationship…we dedicate a piece of ourselves. And if that thing is gone (whether by choice or not) a part of you leaves with it. This is not always easy to cope with but we must realize that we have the ability to continue on and work towards new goals although it may take some time to figure them out.

So, as I reflect on the story about Adrian Robinson, I think about his resilient efforts to pursue his dream. Again, I saw I did not know him personally but I can relate to mental beating it takes to pursue something that you love doing and you are faced with roadblocks on your journey.

What are some things or people who help you when you do not reach a goal that you have set for yourself?

How do you cope with not being able to do the things that you love to do anymore when it is out of your control?

Children's Mental Health Awareness Week

As I stated in my most recent Instagram video, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And it just so happens that this week is Children’s Mental Health Awareness week. It’s actually kind of perfect that Children’s Mental Health Awareness is the lead in for this month’s cause, because Mental Illness and Mental Health is just as important for children as it is for adults. Believe it not, children who have their mental health neglected and who suffer from mental illness grow to become adults who continue to neglect their mental health.

Children are very impressionable and things they learn in early years help shape how they view the world. For instance, as child I was always told that crying and showing any emotion were not things a boy should do. So at an early age, I learned how to suck it up and push my emotions and feelings aside in attempts to man up. This was the more socially acceptable way for a male to carry himself, so that’s what I did.

On another note, growing up, I would often say, “I’m stressed out,” and adults would respond “You have nothing to stress about…you don’t have any bills, limited responsibilities, and you have things that your parents didn’t have.” That was true, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t experience stress on a daily basis. No matter how small it seemed to someone else, it was major to me. So like I said…I was stressed out LOL.

So as adults, it’s so important that we don’t dismiss the mental health of children just because we feel that they don’t have a care in the world. That is far from the truth. Beyond being aware of stressors, like school, friends and organizations, that can lead to a decrease in the mental health of children, it’s important to remember that mental illness is not limited to a certain age.We need to be able to recognize potential issues with children and get them the help \ they need. This includes LISTENING to them, TEACHING them how to communicate their emotions and feelings, and INFORMING them that they are not alone when they have a problem.

What are your thoughts on society’s emphasis on mental health for children? What can we do to make it better? What methods do you use to ensure you are paying attention to a child’s mental health? Comment below.

Help: Silently Asking

I am the first to get on my closest friends and family members for not asking for help. In many cases, I feel some type of way that they don’t ask me for help, especially when I am willing and able to do so. However...I do the same thing when it comes to asking for help from others.

Why?

Pride, ego and fear can hinder a person (including myself) ability to ask for help. Additionally, the problem someone needs help with can keep them from speaking up.

  • Can you help me move this couch? … Cool
  • Can you help me with my homework? … Cool
  • Can I borrow a dollar to get a snack? … Cool
  • Can I catch a ride to the store? … Cool

Depending on your personality type, sometimes even the smallest things, like the questions listed above are difficult to ask.

As a man, one of the hardest things to do is ask for help; especially when it involves things we may mentally struggle with internally.

  • Can you help me sort through my emotions?
  • Can you help me figure out why that made me so angry?
  • Can you help me understand the feelings I’ve had since I broke up with my girlfriend?

I have a strong support system, but can the members of my support system handle the things that are going on in my head? Guys don’t typically ask for help with things like this, so will I be taken seriously and supported? Or ridiculed and considered ‘soft’?

I’m not even comfortable talking about my emotions -- I can’t imagine asking someone for help with them.

Without the statements coming directly from my lips, other forms of verbal communication, along with nonverbal communication and changes in behavior patterns did scream, “HELP ME!”  (This is not an inclusive list of someone needing help, but are personal examples from my past)

Verbally: When I say "I'm cool" in response to someone asking “How are you?”, something is troubling me. Sometimes this means I don’t  want to talk about my feelings, and that I’m trying to sort through how I truly feel, OR I am not comfortable with asking for help at that particular time. I'm Cool = “HELP ME!”

Behavior: As I have mentioned in previous posts, my excessive use of alcohol is one sign that I am not mentally well. I enjoy having drinks when I go out and I’m and hanging with friends, but if you call me on a weekday and I’m on my second or third shot of Cognac during in the middle of the day, for no apparent reason… “HELP ME!”

Nonverbal: My leg twitches when I sit. Most of the time this is a secondary action that I do while I focus on something that is causing me stress. This doesn’t always mean that I am to the point of breaking down, but looking at how fast my leg is twitching is an indicator that I’m screaming, “HELP ME!” internally.

With many people, and in many situations, asking for help can be extremely difficult, especially when it comes to a person’s mental health. Although we may not verbally say it, small signs may serve as hidden S.O.S messages. We must learn how to pick up on these signs, especially with people we are close to.  A genuine question of “are you okay?”, or “can I help you with something?” can go a long way.

In the upcoming post, I will discuss How to Help and How to Accept Help in situations pertaining to Mental Wellness.

In the meantime...

What are some things that you are reluctant to ask for help with?  What are your hidden S.O.S. Techniques?  

Social Pressure and Mental Health Part 2

In the era of social media, influences have expanded beyond just close friends and family to the virtual acquaintances you acquire through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Previously, I talked about the role social pressure can have on your mental health. Now let’s add social media to the equation.

(Sum of everything that I mentioned before) + Social Media = STRESS!

Think about how many people watch Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and allow what people post, “like”, or even not “like” influence their mood, actions, and outlook on certain things in life.

“My picture didn’t get that many likes…why don’t people like me?”

“My friend has a great job, new clothes and a new car…I need a better job, more clothes and a new car.”

In most cases, following the paths of others or trying to keep up with the Joneses leads to added stress. Don’t get me wrong. I do some of this as well and I do not mean that it is all negative, because there are great things about the Internet and social media, but we must recognize the added social stressors that both have on our mental wellbeing.

Stress to live up to the expectations of others. Stress to imitate others. Stress with comparing our lives to a portion of another person’s life that we see on social media. We must not prioritize prestige and outward appearances over our own mental wellness and happiness.

Bipolar Disorder on Television: Empire (Andre)

The hit show Empire continues to increase in popularity as it addresses many issues that are not always given attention, especially not on a nationally syndicated show that receives such high ratings. Similar to almost everything in life, there are criticisms of the show and its depiction of certain things, especially the show’s portrayal of the effects of Bipolar Disorder, which was brought to a dramatic head in last week’s episode. In discussions with others, some did not receive the show’s portrayal of Bipolar Disorder in a positive manner. There have been criticisms surrounding...

-       the quick change of Andre’s mood

-       the extreme behavior exemplified  as symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

-       the lack of background information leading up to this point in his life

-       showing symptoms of a different mental illness that may not necessarily hold true to Bipolar Disorder

-       the elevator scene

I have a slightly different viewpoint.

-       An hour-long episode, or even a season-long show would be too short a time span for any writer to completely show the transition period in a person suffering from Bipolar Disorder change of mood, which totters between mania and depression. This process can occur over a period of days, weeks, months, or even years.  But for the sake of television, they had to condense some things.

-       The extreme signs of aggression were not too far fetched. Triggers for aggressive behavior can range from something as small as a word to something as large as someone physically touching you. In all cases, what you think is happening to you has a greater effect on your behavior than what is actually happening.  People respond to stimuli in various ways; emotionally, mentally, and physically.

-       The scene within the elevator not only showed Andre reacting, but it also showed the value of having a support system. Although his brother’s have never shown they were aware of his mental illness throughout the show, they supported him in his time of need and deescalated him with bringing back “good memories”.

As a person who suffers from Bipolar Disorder I did not critique the show’s ability to accurately show each of the symptoms, but praised the show’s ability to spark the interest for people to talk about it, research it, and gain more knowledge. Questions and realizations that are particularly fundamental to increasing awareness and breaking the stigma include:

-       What is Bipolar Disorder?

-       What are the symptoms?

-       How much of this really occurs?

-       Mental illness can touch anyone; no matter race, social status, or gender

-       How to handle someone who may suffer from mental illness

-       How to recognize a mental illness

I’m very interested to see how the writers of Empire will expand on Andre’s story. And whether or not you agree, understand or relate to the character, I encourage to you continue having meaningful conversations about mental health.

Social Pressure and Mental Health Part 1

“Will you be an athlete? Will you be an entertainer? Will you sell drugs? Will you be a revolutionary? Will you be an intellectual? Will you be a nobody?” The thoughts, words and actions of people in your life can greatly influence your decision-making and thought processes for better or for worse, and in a direct or indirect manner. When I was younger, I was always told that I should be a doctor or a lawyer because I was smart and did well in school.  Naturally, I also adopted this train of thought, and set out to pursue the “dream” that other people had created for me.

Looking back on things…when I was younger, many of my expectations were set by family, friends and the people within my community. From the type of car I should drive to where I should live, and definitely, what I should do for a living.

But, why should a person model their life based on what others believed they should do?

I held on to the “dream” of being a doctor throughout my years in college, despite the fact that I struggled with the required core courses because I hated them, or I was not interested or fully invested. I was miserable.  BUT I was expected to do it. So I did.

The result --

People say I should be a doctor  +  the fear of not passing my classes = Stress

I want to be social and make friends + fear of people not liking me = Stress (I know people say they do not care what others think about them… OH OK)

Fear of failure = STRESS

Stress, it seems, is a simple fact of life today. Schedules are tighter, deadlines are more urgent and an increasing amount of issues demand our attention. For many, the question has progressed from “are you stressed?” to “are you stressed enough?”  So why weigh yourself down with more stress?

Attempting to live up to the expectations and plans of others left me overwhelmed with stress and therefore contributed to the decline of my mental wellness, which evolved into moods of depression. It was too much bear.

As I began to focus more on my own interests, I began to drift away from thoughts built on the foundation of what others thought, and developed my own dream.

Yes, we will be faced with pressures from family and friends throughout life. And, yes, many times that pressure comes from a genuine, positive place. But when we find ourselves engrossed in those pressures and unable to find solace or happiness, or even satisfaction, we must learn to take a step back to ensure we are pursuing and preserving our own dreams, happiness and health.

Another Perception on Suicide: First Hand

Recently my cousin decided to take his life.   Although we were not close, family is family. For it to get to the point that he felt suicide was his last option, it hurt to hear the news. I found out that he suffered with severe depression for quite some time, and it is ironic that my initiative to spark conversation about mental health awareness missed someone in my own family.   In my attempts, I have shared my vision with some of my family but unfortunately I was unable to reach a family member that was truly in need.

When I found about the incident I was at a lost for words, especially after listening to some of the commentary from my family.

“He brought it on himself”

“It was his fault that he couldn’t get a job and that’s why he was depressed”

“I was hurt when I thought someone killed him, but when I found out he did it himself, I felt like he took the easy way out. God made men to fight through hard situations. (Eff) it”

WHAT DO YOU MEAN (EFF) IT?

This is your blood. Eff it?  He was depressed for quite some time and decides to kill himself. Eff it?   He was having troubles financially and with his girlfriend. Eff it?

So many things ran through my head as I wondered how someone could be so insensitive to the fact that this man’s life is gone.

Yes, he made mistakes. We all have. But does that make his suicide less of a tragedy?

That could have been anyone of us experiencing depression and it is not as easy to “snap out of” as many often suggest.   And when you say “nothing can ever be that bad,” I beg to differ.

So I guess that if the gun that I held to my head would have went off when I pulled the trigger, I would have been considered weak, too. I would have been viewed as less of a man - as someone who took the “easy way out.”  I would have been talked about and the personal battles I was fighting would've been ignored with head shaking and remarks that "nothing could ever be that bad."

That same suicide that someone describes as “the easy way out,” was probably the hardest decision that they ever made. That same suicide that someone describes as "an act of weakness” could have possibly been prevented if that person felt the support and strength from those close to them to make them stronger.

A person can have all of the riches and fame in the world but still suffer from mental illness.

A person can be poor, homeless, and not know where their next meal will come from and suffer from mental illness.

A person can be a model citizen or a criminal and suffer from mental illness.

A person is a person and we must not forget that it is our duty to act as such. Do not dismiss the fact that mental illness is not limited to race, gender, or social status and it affects us all.

The Highest of Highs

Television has a way to occupy a portion of your evenings.   Especially with the help of social media, it is easy to get sucked into a series as everyone connects about the storyline via the Internet.   The new craze for many is the show Empire. The latest episode introduced an interesting plot twist occurred when a key character exposed that he is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. During the episode, signs are evident that the character is experiencing a manic episode as he seems highly energetic, he knocks out a large amount of work, and he consuming a large amount of alcohol instead of taking his medication.

Bipolar Disorder is characterized by distinctive episodes, and Mania can be very problematic as symptoms include:

  • A decreased need for sleep
  • A feeling of invincibility
  • Racing thoughts

During my episodes of mania, sleep is not an option and I can function with little to no sleep.   Throughout this sleep hiatus, I feel like I can take on the world.

I am creative.

  • Writing becomes more fluent as my word flow easier
  • I come up with ideas to effectively get things done at work and school
  • I have "brilliant" ideas to change the world

Unfortunately, much of this stuff happens almost simultaneously in my head and completing one thing before moving to the next is almost impossible

I am strong physically and mentally

  • my performance in the gym becomes unmatched as I lift heavy amounts of weights
  • I am not easily phased by the opinions and use it to push me to new heights that may not really be obtainable
  • My muscles don’t get tired and multiple workouts in a day are not uncommon

High physical activity with no rest places a strain on the body and not taking heed to the opinions of others can lead to trouble.

I am emotional

  • I write notes to random people in my life at 3 in the morning.
  • I send text messages or call people that I think are up in the middle of the night and attempt to hold random conversations
  • I can be sensual and hyper-sexual

Often times there is not always someone there to talk to in the middle of the night. So I have hopped in the car just to drive. Hours later I find myself in a random place, not knowing how I got there.

I am invincible.

  • Hopping on motorcycle without a helmet and speeding down the highway.
  • Agreeing to things like Sky Diving and Bungee Jumping (Not saying that I wouldn't normally do this, but I actively look to do these things in this state)
  • I can out drink anyone when it comes to alcohol

Ever witnessed a kid run into the corner of a table and knock out their teeth and they keep playing as if nothing happen? (My cousin has done this twice LOL) Pain is irrelevant and is not a factor as I make decisions and perform actions.  There is no fear.

I AM ALIVE.

 

This feeling is very addicting. But what person does not like the feeling of being alive?

BUT...there is a downside to heighten sense of life. The body has physical limitations and if your mind does not acknowledge this, your physical being will not be able to keep up.

One thing to keep in mind with this extremely high mood; what goes up must come down.

Yahshanna's Open Letter: Part II

Last week Shannie opened up about a constant battle she endures to maintain her mental health in an Open Letter.  This week she completes the piece with Part II... For anyone who knows me, they know that I am an avid fan of music and I can almost always find a song that channels my emotions or mind frame that I am in. The song “Smile” by Tamia has parts that described my predicament exactly…

“And so I put on my makeup/ put a smile on my face/ and if anyone asks me, everything is ok/ I’m laughin cause no one knows the joke is on me/ but I’m dying inside with my pride and a smile on my face.”

And so I go around and just pretend love is not for me/ I play the circus clown around my friends/make’em laugh and they don’t see/ cuz you never let them see you sweat/ don’t want them to think the pain runs deep/ Lord knows it’s killing me

With conditions like depression it is so easy to put on a front that everything is ok. Sadly that is also why individuals fall through the cracks when it comes to identifying who needs more help.

I was never to the point that I wanted to take my own life, but when things get bad I know how easy it is for the thought to dance in your head. I cannot speak for others, but I knew that was not an option for me. I was able to identify what was going on with me and made a conscious decision to change. I just happened to be as strong as everyone around me thought I was to pull out of it.

Being able to put space between myself and the drama from home was one of the key components to help me.

Every day is a battle and it would be foolish of me to think that this is not an ongoing one. There are times that I find myself in that dark place in the back of my mind but having a wonderful niece and nephews help me stay in the light. Writing and reading help me with an escape from my every day without backtracking.

My experience with my counselor in undergrad made me realize that there was a missing link in health care.

There are few professionals that look like me and I felt a disconnection as I attempted to engage with my counselor.

My experience opened my eyes to know that our culture does not celebrate mental health and I was inspired  to make a difference.

A connection can be made knowing that you aren’t alone and dispelling the myth that those who seek out help are not crazy.

In addition to this we  must  change the mindset that what happens in our house stays in our house.

Seeking help will always be an option and should be taken seriously. Having suffered from depression, I am a resource of how to cope with it and I need to pass that knowledge along. I have come a long way from who I was in undergrad but having something to occupy my mind other than negative thought was very helpful.

- Yahshanna Scott

Twitter: Mizzscott2306

 

Ironically, Shannie and I were in college at the same time and it wasn't until a couple years after our initial bouts with a mental illness did we begin to talk about it, indirectly.  We each worked in similar fields but we did not expose our own struggles because we did not want others to think something was "wrong with me".   I am happy that we both got pass that barrier and are able to share our stories with you, with hopes of helping others. 

Yahshanna's Open Letter: Part I

The following post was submitted by a friend, Yahshanna “Shannie” Scott. I have known her for almost 10 years now and she experience working with mental illness in various settings but also has a personal story to share as well.   Check out the first of her two part Open Letter. Hello All,

I have struggled with writing this for some time. When Rwenshaun released his blog and discussed with everyone the internal battle that he had been facing, I could do nothing but be proud of him. His expression of his struggle was a double edge sword for me though. Although I was proud I was also forced to come to terms with my own demons that I have been able to hide so well for so long. He gave me the courage and platform to share. I will forever be grateful for this

College was not an easy phase of my life. As an 18 year old, I was juggling attempting to live my life but I was burdened by the life that I left behind. I had always been able to take care of not only myself but my family as well. I don’t know any other way. Unfortunately, I shouldn’t have had to.

By the time my spring semester came around I was working full time, a full time student and still getting bad news from home. It was overwhelming. By sophomore year started I felt that I was losing control of so much in my life. My grades were slipping, social relationships were fizzling and I was becoming a recluse. There were nights that I would find myself crying in conversations with God and feeling like I didn’t matter. All of this was done in the dark. While on the yard I seemed to have it all together. I was social and found myself in a maternal/big sister role to so many of the freshmen on campus without trying. I love my babies. I was dealing with an internal battle because at the drop of a hat I was able to take care of them and be their rock but I felt like I was in a bottomless abyss when it came to what I was dealing with.

After so many months of feeling hopeless and helpless I took it upon myself to use the resources available to me and went to see a counselor in the mental health department of student health.

As I sat across from this blonde hair woman who couldn’t have been but 5 or 6 years older than me to try to figure out what was going on with me. Our session lasted about 55 minutes and by the end I almost became angry. I didn’t feel as though she really heard what I was saying or understood where I was coming from. I felt more lost than when I arrived. I was told that I should make an appointment with a psychiatrist became I may be dealing with a form of depression.

‘How dare she?’

I’m not depressed I said over and over. I’m just a bit off balance but I am too strong to be depressed.

That last statement kept me from truly understanding depression and how it affected me.

I met with the psychiatrist and without more than one meeting his response was he wanted me to be placed on antidepressants. I was into psychology then and knew that the side effects of some of the anti-depressants could be worse that the actual symptoms. I was at a cross road. I took the prescription but I never filled it. I felt if my problem was genuinely my mood it could be altered with the right mind frame and I didn’t need medication.

- Yahshanna Scott

Twitter: Mizzscott2306

 

Similar to Shannie’s story, many people have felt the same way but fail to take the step to utilize their resources to become health like she has in the past.   Feel free to comment with your questions and/or comments.

All Things Considered

All three lives (the two police officers and the shooter) lost Saturday were tragedies and I cannot imagine what each family is experiencing. Yesterday while in the barbershop I saw this video about the headline story that has caused much controversy. Despite speculations surrounding motives and connections to other events that have recently occurred, there is a deeper issue at hand; Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s mental health and how it was handled.  

Disclaimer: The following is not an attack on the Brinsley family, but an attack on society and our outlook on behaviors and mental health

 

In the interview, Ismaaiyl's sister acknowledges that her brother was her best friend but when his behavior started to change she had to separate herself from him.

I get it.  I have cut people off because their lack of willingness to change or seek help would eventually bring me down, but at what point do we accept the task of helping the person that does not fit our “perfect” picture of how life should be?

News sources report that Brinsley’s mother stated that her son struggled with mental illness his entire life but refused help from family.   I can attest to refusing help from others about my mental illness for a number of reasons, but I can also attest to the nonchalant attitude people have towards mental illness in the black community. A suggestion to “just pray about it and everything will be okay” is not always the solution. Ignoring the signs will not make it better.

“He needed help, he didn’t get it” – Jalaa’a Brinsley

It can be difficult to recognize that you have a problem and that you need help; sometimes you need someone to MAKE you get help and that requires others to step up and assume that role when necessary.

  • Family and friends may suggest certain things but they are not always comfortable with challenging someone to seek help that they may need. Many times we (I say we because I do it too) revert to “they are grown”, “I told them to do this but they won’t listen to me”, and “I got my own problems”.
  • You The Judicial system, as Jalaa’a Brinsley points out, is quick to incarcerate a person but fails to coordinate with the necessary resources to determine the root of the problem as to why the individual committed the crime, especially in the case of Ismaaiyl Brinsley numerous criminal acts.

The news report also states that Ismaaiyl Brinsley made a phone call to his mother prior to the shooting but the family refuses to speak on the topic.

We have been quiet about issues that impact our community far too long and it does not make things any easier.   We must speak out on things and have open discussion in order to reach a resolution and the topic of mental health needs to be addressed to prevent some of the things that go on in the world today.

Suicidal Thoughts

 Lyrics from Biggie's song "Suicidal Thoughts"   

Lyrics from Biggie's song "Suicidal Thoughts"

 

“I reach my peak. I can’t speak. Call my [homie] Chic. Tell him that my will is weak. I’m sick of [homies] lyin’, I’m sick of [chicks] hawkin; matter fact of I’m sick talkin (BANG)” - The Notorious B.I.G., Suicidal Thoughts  

Shut up! Just stop! I hear it.

I hear It saying nothing is going right in my life.

I hear It saying I should not be here.

I hear It saying I do not deserve to be here.

I hear It saying that my life is not worth living.

I hear It saying no one will care.

I hear It saying stop playing around and just end it all.

The constant battle going back and forth with It becomes a struggle that is too much to handle at times.

What can I do to make this happen?

Pills?

I’ll try it…

 

I wake up in a hospital bed. They pumped my stomach. NO!

I can’t even kill myself correctly. Something must really be wrong with me!

 

SUICIDE is defined as the act of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.

One thing that is for certain, suicide is real and there is no coming back from it.  Despite this fact, people proceed with the act and it affects to every race, gender, age and social class.

 

Where does the responsibility fall for this act that is described as voluntary and intentional?

 

Should we blame the individual for not acknowledging their issues and seeking help? Similar to my phase of Denial And Ignorance, a person cannot wrap their mind around what is really going on inside of their head. There could be an underlying reason for their suicidal thoughts and without proper help they proceed with the act.

Should we blame the person’s loved ones for not being more aware of the person’s state? Many times people are so caught up in their own lives (including myself), they forget to pay attention to others while missing signs possible issues.

Should we take a look at how society views mental health? Often times, society does not acknowledge mental health until after something drastic happens; such as the suicide of someone famous or a mass shooting where innocent people are harmed. The perception of suicide is insensitive to those that suffer. With a failed attempt of suicide, I have heard people say, “if you really wanted to do it, you would have done it” or “you are only seeking attention”. This insensitivity places individuals who suffer from any mental illness at a great disadvantage.

 

I was once told that death is ultimate way to close your eyes to the truth.  A lack of truth on all parts contributes to the rise in suicide rates.  In order to reverse the increased rate of suicide, we as a society must raise our mental health awareness, implement preventive measures and understand that it could happen to any one of us.

I Don't Need Meds Because I Have Alcohol

It was my senior year in college, and I was not on track to graduate “on time” (many people, including myself at the time, believe that you must finish college in four years).   With my inconsistent performance in class freshman year and withdrawing from school my second year because of my hospitalization, this goal was almost impossible. Despite it all, I overloaded each semester after being reinstated to school and was on course to graduate once I completed summer school. Unlike my first year of college when my ego helped me ignore the signs of my mental illness, it helped me be persistent in completing my undergraduate degree.

Unfortunately, my ego also played another role in this process as I decided to not follow the treatment plan designed to handle my symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, and substituted the medication with alcohol.

I woke up drinking. I was drinking while in class. I was drinking while during homework. I was drinking to sleep at night. I constantly consumed alcohol. I would finish a fifth of Tequila in a matter of 24-36 hours.

Ironically, people that were around me did not see it as a problem (or they never addressed it as a problem with me) and would say “that's just Shaun”. It was such a known fact that I was considered "most likely to be drunk" during our senior class superlatives.

Drinking alcohol while experiencing symptoms such as hallucinations, or mood swings was not always a wise decision. The goal was not to drink to get drunk but drink to not feel like I was going insane. Sometimes I would experience the euphoria that one may feel when they are socially drinking with their friends and everyone is having a great time while other times or I could be a person filled with rage and fear.

The feeling when you don’t know what to do, who to call, or who to go to. The feeling when tears roll down your cheek and you really cannot explain why. The feeling when a simple yell or scream will just not cut it. The feeling when you get so frustrated because you cannot find a solution to this problem.  The ultimate fear and anger that is undeniably now a controlling factor.

That feeling that dying would be a lot easier than putting up with the million things that are constantly going on in your mind.

All of those feelings amplified with the help of alcohol…but I continued to depend on it.

Bipolar Disorder?

As the sedative begins to wear off, I find myself in a padded room, strapped in a attempting to figure out how I go to this point in my life. I glance at my family as they show expressions of concern. Unfortunately, the expressions did not include much hope, as they have never seen me so vulnerable.

Explanations from my mother and cousin of my recent behaviors were accompanied by “he was just not himself” and “I could tell something was wrong and something has been wrong for a while now”.

Prior to the medication, “I want it to stop” muffled by deep breaths and tears summed up my contribution to the initial evaluation.

I recall multiple telephone conversations with my mother as she constantly asked, “what is wrong?” and my symptoms but you mean to tell me that other people have experienced this before and there is a title for this condition?

 

Bi-Polar Disorder….

This was my introduction to the clinical term that describes what I have been experiencing for some time. It was new but it was also terrifying because I was not sure what it meant.

What does this mean for me in the future? I have to see a therapist? They can’t help me!

Does this certify that I am “crazy”?   PLEASE don’t tell anyone else that I’m crazy!

 

Bipolar Disorder is defined as a mental health disorder that is commonly referred to as manic depression. Three modes, each with distinctive features; Manic, Hypomanic, and Major Depressive episodes can categorize this disorder. (I will expound on these in later posts) Treatment for Bipolar Disorder involves medication and psychotherapy.

Welp, that’s it!   It’s official! I have been diagnosed, but what now?

Denial and Ignorance

Have you ever told yourself that nothing was wrong with you but deep down you knew something was wrong? Why did you tell yourself that?

Why was it important for you to convince yourself that nothing was wrong?

 

I have been at a point when I knew something was not quite right. I knew that some of the thoughts that I was having were not quite “normal”. But then again, what is normal? I would have thoughts about committing various acts on others or myself that would not be very good.

I attempted to suppress what was going on because like many people, I felt like I was immune to those things that society deemed as “crazy”.

I was a young black male. I knew of some people around the neighborhood that we would call “crazy” but it was just because of their behavior and not because we really thought that they had a mental health illness. I honestly thought that mental health issues only occurred in middle to upper class white people that could afford to go see a psychiatrist.

As black male, I already have multiple factors to handle; viewed by some as unintelligent, only good at sports, and just because my skin is dark and my baggy clothes equate to illegal activity. That’s a lot of stuff to keep in mind and for me to add another stigmatized category to my persona is like strapping an added target to my back.

I was an athletic guy, with plenty of friends, and I don’t have issues with my self-esteem (I don’t think). I was going on the right path that everyone believed I should be on. I was attending college, pursuing a respectable career and I made it out of a place where many may deem a trap.

I can’t let something like a couple of mental breakdowns set me back in the eyes of the community.   If this stuff that is going on in my head is true, who in the hell is really going to believe what I am saying? I barely even believe it.   How would I even be able to face the people that admired me up until now, with them knowing my weakness?

Outside of a physical injury from a sport, like a concussion or broken hand, I can’t display a weakness to the outside world. That is like displaying a chip in my armor that I have build to be unbreakable. A reputation of being strong, resilient, and untouchable will be tarnished if word hits the street that I have a mental illness.

It is common knowledge that Superman’s only weakness was Kryptonite. His enemies would use this for their own benefit. In my eyes was Superman and this was my Kryptonite. I WOULD NOT LET ANYONE KNOW OF THIS WEAKNESS!

Initial Symptoms

Hallucinations...Hearing Voices. Seeing things that are not really there. No, I was not seeing aliens or talking to an imaginary playmate. No, I was not walking around with a tin foil cap on my head, thinking that some strange creatures were trying to steal my thoughts.

I considered myself a “normal” kid, who possessed ambition to do something great with my life; not only to make my family and community proud, but to also create something positive for others. But now this…

Is this what it means to “go crazy”? I used to joke with and about people that “normal” people would consider a little off, but this is not supposed to happen to me. Right? I’ve been normal all of my life (19 years at the time).

Maybe if I just sit here and ride it out, it will go away. People will never know that I hear voices or see things and I can play it off as still being “normal”. I should just keep this to myself. No real need to be alarmed.   Yep, that’s what I will do…just ride it out.

But how long will this last? How long can I stay “strong”?