Our readers often ask, “what is DE’s tie to Mental Health?”, or why do I choose to post about the subject when this is mainly an art and natural hair care based blog? Where does it tie in? Well, unfortunately, I have had my own share of problems when it comes to keeping myself mentally healthy.
Lets start with the main culprit, that good ole silent aggravation of mine, insomnia. What is insomnia, and why has it caused me so many problems over the last couple years? Well insomnia is a very common sleeping disorder. It is where you either can’t fall asleep when it is time to go to sleep at night all together, you are continuously waking up during the night out of your sleep and have trouble falling back asleep, and/or you’re waking up extremely early every morning only to still feel overly tired. My main problem would be that I am always waking up out of my sleep. I have had all types of suggestions on fixing this problem but nothing has seemed to work. I could go to bed at 6pm in the afternoon and I will still wake up in about 30 minutes. Once I wake up out of my sleep, it often takes me about an hour or two to go back to sleep fully. I may dose off but I always wake right back up. I also suffer from the whole still being tired when I wake up. I could be asleep off and on for 8 hours straight and I will still wake up extremely tired and drained, never really fully rested. This has caused problems for me when it comes to waking up on time for certain things. Imagine going to bed at like 7pm in the evening and waking back up at 7:30pm. Staying up until like 8:45pm, only to fall back asleep and wake up again around 9:30pm. You finally fall back asleep around 10:15pm and actually stay asleep until like 12:30am. You are now back up again until 2:30am where you fall back asleep until 3:30am. By now you have given up on falling asleep fully so you just stay up and occupy your time with social media or playing games on your phone until you fall back asleep around 5:30am only to be forced back up at 6:30am because you are now late for work. Yes, this is my sleep schedule, but imagine this happening daily. My lack of sleep is the biggest aggravation of my life, it could make me lose my mind completely.
Now there are two types of insomnia, along with two different duration of the sleeping disorder as well. The two types are called primary insomnia and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is where you are having a sleeping problem that is not caused by another factor. Secondary insomnia is where other things are affecting your sleep and your sleeping disorder is brought on by other factors including depression, medications, cancer, etc. At first, I thought that my cause of the sleeping disorder was just primary. You know you just can’t sleep sometimes and then sometimes you can and just can’t stay asleep. I seriously believed that everyone went through this from time to time, until it started to affect everything I was doing including my attitude towards everything around me. This led me to finally accepting the fact that maybe what I was going through really was secondary insomnia. Once this began to happen to me, I sought out professional help for my problem from two different counselors because I wanted to know what was wrong with me, and if anything was wrong with me at all, in which both automatically diagnosed me with secondary insomnia brought on by depression.
My first counseling experience was during my second semester of college during my freshman year of school after I missed an entire week of class for all 6 of my scheduled courses after one of my best friends passed away from Leukemia. It hit home. Hard. I didn’t understand what was going on fully and did not care about my own responsibilities and what I needed to get done to keep life moving forward. I would just literally stop everything I was doing just to try and get my thoughts back in order and figure out on my own what had happened to one of the people I loved and cared about deeply. I would never discuss how I was feeling with friends, not even my suite mates who lived with me during my time in the dorms in college. They knew something was wrong but they gave me my space and I loved them for it. I would just stay in my room with my door closed away from the world and everyone in the world, surrounded by my own thoughts, pretty much in isolation. My counseling visits started off very good though. I thought it would be like on television, where you go in and lay on the couch and talk about your problems while the counselor drew on their little pad and acted like they were listening. But it was nothing like that. The counselor I had didn’t even open a pad during our sessions. He didn’t write anything down. His entire focus was on me and what I was saying the entire time which brought me joy that he really was listening and made me open up more than anything. Through the counseling service with my school I attended, I was able to fix my grades over the summer and begin the process of getting back on track, along with mourning the lose of my friend in a better and more healthy way than just crying non-stop for days straight. But life has a way of just dropping bombs on you whenever it feels the need to do so. Everything that I had worked for and on with my counselor went downhill the morning my family received a phone call that my first cousin had been killed in a domestic violence dispute. My sadness turned into anger very fast. Luckily, I had already finished my college courses I needed to take in order to keep my grades up before this second incident happened, but it still didn’t make a difference because by then I had already given up on school and pretty much everything else other than my graphic designing service all together. I ended up seeking out more professional help during the summer while I was away from school which helped some. But the experience with the second counselor was not the same. We didn’t meet in a nice fancy office and sit face to face with one another and talk like regular human beings. We ended up at a doctor’s office, with a doctor based bed with tile floors and bright fluorescent lights above us. This second counselor really did have a pad this time and really was writing things down as I spoke. Not pictures or drawings to past the time, but multiple prescriptions she was getting ready to prescribe to me to take daily. She gave me three pieces of papers to give to the drug store for me to pick up and called them in for me as I walked out of the room. This was the day that I said no to counseling and proceeded to shut myself off from discussing my problems with anyone ever again. I was still a complete mess and wreck and it was becoming harder and harder for me to cover it up from family and friends around me. Instead of me asking them for help, I would pull myself away from them out of fear that whatever it is I was going through at the time would rub off on them and that they would have to deal with my problems on top of their problems, which made me feel like a burden to them all because I simply could not sleep.
Before I get into what eventually happened to me, lets take a look at that second issue of mine, depression. This is also one of those silent things that many people are going through and may not even know that they are experiencing until it’s too late. Depression is where you are down and feel sad for more than two weeks straight consecutively at a time. It is where you are down emotionally and it begins to affect your work, relationships, etc. in a negative way, along with interrupting your daily activities and routines. Ironically, insomnia is a physical symptom of depression. With this mental disorder being so common, there are many different forms of it in which affect people in many different ways.
- Major Depression – Also known as Major Depressive Disorder is where you are feeling down and bad for an extended amount of time including most days of the week.
- Persistent Depression – Also known as Persistent Depressive Disorder where your depression can last two or more years at a time.
- Seasonal Depression – Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) where your mood matches the season.
- Postpartum Depression – Also known as the “Baby Blues”, where a mother may have trouble bonding and enjoying her infant. This type of depression is dangerous though, as it could affect the baby’s well being right along with the mother’s.
- Bipolar Disorder – This is where a person’s mood goes from low to high, and then back to low again. It is also known as “manic depression”. There are many mood swings when it comes to this form of depression.
- Psychotic Depression – This is a form of depression where a person may be going through many psychotic symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) – This a form of depression that only affects women where she may become depressed during the start of her menstrual cycle.
- Situational Depression – This is where a life event plays a part in causing your depression. It is also known as “stress response syndrome”.
- Atypical Depression – This type of depression is the opposite from persistent which is discussed in number 2. This is where something positive like an event you may like would improve your mood.
For me, I believed that I was just dealing with a sleeping disorder. It never hit me that I myself could be suffering from a mixture of both major and persistent depression. My feelings of being down and out never just went away within a short amount of time. Mine have lasted years at hand. I’m pretty sure it more than likely began as situational depression at first, and then moved up to major and now at persistent. Unfortunately, I stopped going to counseling all together. I felt crazy and lost. I felt like I was being judged after awhile and was terrified of the idea that the counselor would force me into medication for it, and then I would end up in the system for the rest of my life only to be labeled as being crazy (I hate that word). Since then I have found other ways of coping and just maintaining. I’m not sure if it will ever go away, I hope it will, but as of right now I just maintain it better. Most of the time through meditation and other holistic healing methods that help a lot. I stopped drinking coffee and replaced it with pure teas including black tea and spice dandelion tea which is really good if you have never had it before. Fitness has helped a lot when it comes to my insomnia. I will push my body to the point where it is forced to shut down for some sleep. Surprisingly, my twitter followers have made this ride better. I began to re-vamp how I was using the social media site to my advantage by unfollowing anything completely negative or no longer served me a good purpose in my life. If you were one of those followers who just tweeted about partying, turning up, outlandish things about men/women, too much sexual content, or just not tweeting at all just to watch everyone else socialize, I removed you from my list. Instead I replaced those followers with more business owners, mental health awareness pages, domestic violence awareness pages, tons of artists who post beautiful artwork daily, and of course natural hair enthusiasts. The more I surrounded myself with people who have the same interests as me online, along with offline, the better off my moods became.
The reason why I decided to start #MentalHealthMondays with DE and our blog site is because I didn’t realize so many people, especially my age range (mid-twenties), were dealing with this until I began to openly talk about it and my history with it online. I realized and learned that I was not alone, and let me tell you that was the greatest feeling I have ever felt in a long time! I always feel alone, even when I’m in a room full of people. Once I learned that I wasn’t the only one going through this, I began to be more open about it in hopes of helping someone else realize that they too are not alone. We here at DE love each and everyone of you and want you to know that we are here. We hear you. We see you. And we love you. This is a safe haven for you to be as open as you need to be to help get through whatever problems you may be facing daily. Please know that not everyone understands what it is you’re going through, some may not even care but only because they simply have never been in your shoes or they are already in your shoes and have not learned and figured what their own problems are. I have had the pleasure of connecting with some great individuals online when it comes to Mental Health Awareness in general, especially in the black community and have listed them below for anyone who would like to connect as well.
Don’t give up. Keep going, this too shall pass.
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Suicide Hotlines: 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) and 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
Mental Health Resources
The Bronze Hustle
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Black Mental Health Matters