1. How old were you when you realized mental health was a thing?
· In my childhood, I’ve witnessed certain things but didn’t know there was a term for it. Once I got into high school, I found myself in a very dark space. I had never really been so low and down and out until then. I remember not being sure how to explain myself and when I did, no one understood me. My family didn’t get it, my friends didn’t get it, and my teachers didn’t get it. Once, my aunt tried to have a talk with me because my mom was at her wits end and I can tell she was disappointed in me but at the time I sincerely didn’t know how else to explain the sadness, darkness, and anxiety I felt. When I realized that no one would ever understand, I made the decision to hold it to myself. Sadness was meant for bedtime which meant my nights were going to be long. Full of pain and crying.
· I took Introduction to Psychology as an elective when I transferred high school. It wasn’t until then that I realized that there was a term for what I had been feeling all along. Depression. Anxiety. By then it was too late for me to tell my parents. I didn’t trust anyone at this point. So I held onto my own thoughts, my own feelings, and I would still let the nights take over.
· When I was a sophomore in college, I began therapy. I had 1 teacher/counselor who I was able to talk to and it was solely because he saw the signs. He saw me struggling to keep it together. He called a meeting with me and reached out to a therapist he knew personally. I ended up doing sessions at least once a week and it helped me get better. It was difficult, but it was the best thing I could have ever done.
2. Did your parents have any mental issues from your knowledge?
· Yes! In fact, I found out that mental illness is in my family. I have close family members who were diagnosed with clinical depression, schizophrenia, OCD, and a few other illnesses. I’m very much aware that there are some mental health issues within in my family which is why I do my best to reach out and speak up when I feel myself spiraling downward or am simply mentally and emotionally overwhelmed. I even check up on them from time to time to make sure they’re doing ok.
3. If so, how was it growing up?
· When I was a child, I wasn’t aware that mental health was a thing. I didn’t know there was a name for it. When things were great, they were great. When they weren’t so great, then it just wasn’t great. I’ve had many of days/nights of crying and not understanding why and what was wrong. I’ve witnessed certain behaviors as a child that left me clueless at the time. Overall, my childhood was ok but when mental illness isn’t treated, those around you suffer with you. So if you’re a parent, friend, or partner, please seek the professional help to get better for those who truly love you and most importantly, for yourself.
4. What hobbies do you practice to keep your mental intact?
· I’m into so many different things but something that helps the most is reading. I read self-care book, fictional books, or story boards. Reading books or stories gives me access into another world. It temporarily takes me away from my reality. I listen to music that is uplifting, I write (poetry, stories…), play games, and recently I’ve been getting more into the fashion and cosmetology world. Learning a new skill keeps me on my toes. It’s safe and fun for me.
5. What does mental health awareness mean to you?
· Acknowledging that everyone is not ok and that is ok. Being conscious that someone’s “funny acting” behavior can potentially be a cry for help or a symptom of a mental illness. Be patient. Be kind. Be empathetic. Be sympathetic. If it were you, you’d want and need those things too.