Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken”.
– CS Lewis (The Problem of Pain)
I’ve been trying to shirk from talking about mental health especially on social media, for fear of simply putting my story out there. However, I got to thinking – what would it hurt to share? What would it hurt to help someone going through same or who is searching for answers?
At the end of 2018 to the first few months of 2019, I went through what I’d call the darkest and most terrifying moment of my life. From feeling generally off, to being weary of food, stressed out, having high anxiety and scary thoughts, being weak, getting sad for no reason, losing interest in everything, having insomnia and fear for the things that had never scared me before. I felt so broken, and most times felt like death. The situation got crazy at some point, that I had to be rushed for medical attention. It all further led to me taking multiple blood tests, being rushed to the hospital again on other occasions, taking an EEG test, an MRI brain scan, being misdiagnosed with a seizure disorder, and finally getting to see a neurologist who then gave the right diagnosis and explained to us what was going on. He said I was suffering at the time, from anxiety neurosis (a mental health disorder) and mild depression.
Prior to that doctors diagnosis, I personally had an idea of what may have been going on – but I didn’t want to accept that it was what it was, because I didn’t want to believe that it was actually happening to me.
I know in this part of the continent, or maybe Africa as a whole, we treat this topic with levity. But truth is; people actually go through this stuff and they live among us. My firsthand experience made me understand that nervous breakdowns, emotional health situations, panic attacks, mental health situations are real life things that actually happen to people – real life people like me, so I shouldn’t be too quick to judge them or whatever – it really put me in a place of empathy. And truth be told, I’d have never taken this topic seriously myself if I didn’t go through those moments.
So right now, I’ll be sharing a few things that helped me cope, and maybe could help you as well, or an affected loved one (Just a gal giving her 2 cents 🙂):
- Remember things come and they go: As is evident with seasons. The rainy season isn’t yearlong; it comes, and then gives way to the sun, so also, no situation will stay permanent. I never in my wildest imagination thought I could ever come out of that dark place. I remember thinking “so this is how I’m going to feel forever?”. I felt like the negative thoughts were going to haunt me my whole life, it was like I was in a room with no exits, and it was exhausting. I was TRYING to have hope, I literally toiled to keep hope by my side. All I’m saying is, it felt hard to actually believe that all the anxiety was just going to end. But look at me now, writing this!
- Be vulnerable: The funny thing about anxiety and depression is that in most cases it doesn’t show on a person’s visage, someone might be all smiley and even laugh with another, but deep down they’re dying! So open up dear, because people won’t just naturally read your mind. Don’t conceal your situation. If you need to scream, scream for help! Talk to people you can trust. Honestly, it’s good therapy. There’s something that vulnerability does – It reduces the weight on your chest. It helps you see that you’re not alone.
- Stay intentional about what goes into your mind: “You’re the only one going through this, and nobody would ever understand” – I wrestled a lot with that lie, maybe you are too – but don’t believe the lies. Be conscious about what goes into your mind. In a dark place, it may feel quite hard to take control of negative thoughts that run through your mind – at least in my case it was, and I felt overwhelmed to the point where I’d just cry, because I couldn’t fully comprehend what was going on. But I kept moving inchmeal anyway! And you should too! Guard your heart and your thoughts – even if you have to do it aggressively, do it! Those moments taught me that the mind is the core of my being, and I’d either have to protect it, or lose myself.
- Physical rest and food: I would never have known that lack of proper physical health care could greatly affect ones mental health. During my first meet with the psychologist, one of the things he mentioned was that ‘accumulated stress on my body’ could be a contributing factor. He explained that not getting proper sleep and food for a recurring period of time could affect a person’s physical health and subsequently their mental health. And I looked back and realized he may have been right! I wasn’t really taking care of myself food-wise, sometimes I fed on junk in a whole day and would tell myself “I’ve eaten, I’m good”, but was I really? So these things help. Eat well, rest well, take care of yourself physically – Exercise! I remember in those moments I had to intentionally go for Saturday jogs and stretches with my friend and with family, and it helped me.
- Seek Counsel: You may need medical counsel, religious counsel, psychological counsel and help in this season, so please go for it! Like I said talk to people who can help you. Don’t stay alone in fear, there’s help out there, seek it! I sought help in that season, I talked to my pastors, my parents, my sisters, my friends, and I had sessions with a psychologist – and all these helped me in getting better. So seek help!
- Change your environment, maybe? A change of environment could be helpful in this season too. Go out, hang out…I remember then, I had to leave my home for about 2 weeks to live in another home – and I loved it! I loved the change of environment, the people, I loved not having to see the same walls that I was used to seeing. Did it automatically take away all the anxiety I was feeling? No it didnt. But did it make me feel a little better? Yes, it did.
- Love will heal you: You are loved by God, your family and friends. Actually, It’s the knowledge of God’s perfect love for you that can drive out whatever fear there is inside of you. Keeping in my mind that I was actually loved by God and that He had good plans for me was what definitely kept me 100% sane in those moments. Also, love from my dearest friends and my family kept me going and helped me feel greatly encouraged.
- You’ll learn something in this dark place: I was listening to Joel Houston the other day while he talked about a very dark season of his life. He said, and I paraphrase “I was in a dark season of my life where I do not wish anyone I know to ever be in, and where I wish I would never be in again. But also, it’s a season which I do not regret, because I learned a lot from that dark place.”
So you see, you are gonna heal out of this – you will. Our minds are so powerful and there’s nothing we can’t heal from. Nothing has the power to hold us bound if we fight and believe. You can learn through all the anxiety, the fear, the darkness, and come out a stronger version of yourself! Yup!
Lastly, I’d like to add some sort of advice if you’re in a place of suffering right now: It would be good to just document in this season – write how you feel every day, maybe in a journal or something. The essence of this is GRATITUDE. Journaling helps you stay grateful. When you get out of this situation, you would want to go back and read through all you wrote. It would help you see how far you’ve come, and it would honestly keep you in awe of God’s goodness. I didn’t journal much in that dark season and it’s something I wish I did, but at least, I documented a little, and these days when I go back to read those things, I’m usually like “wow! I really got out of that situation, insaaaane!” – and it just helps me stay grateful. So there’s that!
Don’ t forget to keep that smile on, and always try to live your best life. Hang in there. You’ve got this! 😉. Xo.
Edited and reposted from iamhappyblacky