I have struggled with my mental health for as long as I can remember. As early as age 3. I could blame it on my parents divorcing or dealing with bullying at school. But when you get right down to it, those things only exacerbated something that was already in me. Something I had no idea how to deal with or express in my adolescence. Something that I have trouble dealing with and expressing now, to this day.
It has been a lifelong battle. The mental and emotional strain which manifested into physical strain and pain at different times in my life has nearly crippled me. For awhile, my spiritual life helped me to cope with it. But as I look back, it feels more like my spirituality helped me to avoid it. My best friend told me about a book she was reading where something called “spiritual bypassing” was mentioned. Basically, it’s when we use spirituality to bypass or avoid very real feelings, thoughts, patterns etc. that need our attention.
Earlier this year, when my mental health took a dive and I had no choice but to finally seek out treatment, I felt like that was what I had been doing all along – bypassing the reality of my struggle with mental health. I personally treasure my spiritual path because while it may have been a coping mechanism for my mental illness, it also brought a lot of other things to the surface for me to deal with and heal. It also helped give me healthy ways of dealing with life at the time. However, after a certain point, those things no longer worked for me. I made a change. Took a different path. And suddenly, it was as if I was a stranger to myself.
I never felt comfortable leaning on others. I avoided it as much as I could. But avoidance didn’t stop the inevitable. It didn’t change the fact that I was (and still am) someone who needs help. Who needs care. After putting my trust in loved ones and being manipulated, abandoned, misunderstood and hurt in various ways, it only makes sense for me to run from needing others. This also brings up feelings of guilt because despite the ways I have not been supported by others, I still have been supported by them in other ways. Learning to accept that both of these things can be true at the same time (loved ones have helped me a lot in some ways, but hurt me a lot in other ways) helps to ease these feelings. But it doesn’t make them go away completely.
I’ve come to realize that as a Black woman living where I live, being who I am, the people who support me the most are other Black women who are also shouldering more of their share of the responsibilities in life due to people in their lives abandoning and hurting them. This makes it hard to reach out for help because while they may want to help, they simply don’t have the capacity.
And so the cycle continues.
I’m no longer laboring under the delusion that I am all-powerful and all-capable. It simply isn’t true. I’m dealing with things that require medical attention on various levels. Getting diagnosed has helped to an extent. However, I still feel like the child I once was. Unable to express how much distress I am really in and how much it affects my day-to-day life. Still feeling as though my pain is a figment of my own imagination and therefore I shouldn’t mention it.
Who am I to be in pain when I have all of these other blessings? Who am I to need help when people have already helped me so much?
Today I saw an article about Michelle Williams. She recently quit a Broadway play she was in due to her depression. As I scramble to secure work that will give me the life that I desire, feeling a sense of hopelessness at every turn, seeing that just made me incredibly sad. It doesn’t matter how far up the ladder you go and what you accomplish, the illness still has the power to rob you of the things you’ve been blessed with and rightfully earned.
I don’t have the option of giving up, seeing as I have two children depending on me. I have to do my best to take care of myself. To put myself in a position to achieve more. To improve our lives.
But what happens when that is no longer enough?
Will their futures be in jeopardy because I am dealing with something that is so much bigger than me and there simply isn’t enough help out there for someone like me?
These are the thoughts that consume me, convincing me to press on and keep trying. Deep down, I am hoping that something in me or in my life will change.