PTSD to Purpose
You all said I can keep it real, right? I remember being a senior in college and feeling as if the world was swallowing me whole. I was suffering but in silence of course because I had to make everything look good. It had been less than two years since my accident and I hadn't fully taken the time to sit down with a mental health specialist. My injuries left me in the hospital for weeks back in 2010 but there was no physical damage done that would be more overwhelming than my broken mental state. I remember in mid 2011, I started to question if maybe I had brain damage that had been overlooked. I consulted several specialist in the area that came back with several answers but not the one I had expected to hear.
It was easy to explain to people that my knee needed several staples because you could see the open wound. It was easy to explain that my seat belt had burnt my skin as it protected me because you saw where my old skin had once been. It was easy to explain my bowel resection because my stomach now displayed a slim cut down the middle with 18 staples creating the perfect railroad of survival across them. My physical pain and injuries resonated with people because then they felt that my suffering was validated. It was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I had been injured mentally.
The doctor's words hit me like a bag of bricks and a kick to the gut. Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Acute Stress Disorder seemed almost like a foreign language as he told me what had been causing my memory to fail me and my mind to be so anxious. Before my accident I had been so carefree and overnight I had become crippled by my own mind. The first step would obviously be getting medicine because I'm sick but because of the stigma around mental health in the black community...I steered away. I assumed that if I denied these conditions that eventually they would go away or better yet, God would take them away. I prayed feverishly that God would find a way to heal me and all would be restored. I lied and said I was okay when I knew I wasn't and I did my best to shy away from anyone who could see through my lies. I was dying. Right in front of my own eyes, I saw life passing me by and knew that mine only had but so many days left. I woke up reminiscing on my former days and truly believed that there would be no up from where I currently was.
I remember finally deciding to own my illness even though it was only a ploy to make my loved ones more comfortable. I started taking medicines that were supposed to make me feel better but because of my careless and sporadic consumption, left me with nightmares that seemed fresh out of a Stephen King novel. I didn't just think I was crazy at this point but I felt crazy. I felt as if no one in the world especially in my personal life could grasp this invisible disease that had preyed on me so suddenly and expeditiously.
In 2013, I remember life caving in on me. I was in a big city, in graduate school, out of a job, ended a hot summer romance, and completely out of my mind. I assumed that my bachelor's degree, my smiles in pictures, my relationships, my admirable friendships, my eagerness to pursue a new degree, and willingness to venture out was a good cover for my broken spirit. What a lot of people didn't realize is that my intention to move to DC was not rooted in continuing my education but escaping NC. NC had made me but had subsequently broken me. I wanted to start fresh without the whispers of being that girl or without people questioning my reasoning for choosing to live again.
What I didn't realize at that time was that sickness was sickness regardless if other people could see it or not. Fast forward, I have owned the fact that I suffered and still suffer from mental health issues. I have come to terms with the fact that certain things can trigger me and serve as a downward spiral into a dark place. I have realized that although it is often not talked about and at times, even shunned...black folks need to speak up about their mental well being. I have realized just how powerful it is to not assume and offer a listening ear because you never know what someone is going through. I've learned the value of actually taking care of myself and listening when my mind says that something isn't right. Life isn't always fair and it damn sure isn't always fun but it does go on with or without you.
I really encourage you to be just as intentional with your mental health as you are with your physical health. Do things that pour into you and make you feel more alive and refreshed. My outlet is writing and even if my thoughts don't always make sense, it's a healthy outlet for me. What are different practices that you utilize to keep your mind in tip top fighting condition? Drop a comment and let's share with one another!