As we enter into the gift giving, holiday season, I thought about the gift many of us do not give to ourselves.

The gift of good mental health.  Many of us suffer silently – refusing to see a doctor for anything less than a physical ache or pain, never realizing that the physical ailment is more often than not, connected to something mental.  How often have we gone to a doctor and he/she tells us that we need to “cut down on stress”?

We value good physical health, but somehow, many of us believe we don’t deserve good mental health as well.  That we deserve to live life to the fullest without dealing with soul-destroying depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, personality disorders, etc.  Especially People of Color.  Many of us feel that since we survived slavery, Jim Crow segregation, theft of land, homogenization of cultures and whatnot, that having good mental health is something we don’t need to talk about, because it means that’s one more stigma we need to over come, without the White Man having something else to hold over our heads.

News Flash – many times the white person is suffering just as silently as YOU ARE.

As someone who is recovering from the worst depression I’ve ever suffered in my life (and BTW, in many instances, depression can be hereditary), I’m calling bullshyt on all of the stereotypes, stigmas and perspectives that come from considering counseling, seeking therapy, or even attending 12-step programs.  Think about:

When you are in pain, and you don’t know why;

When you can’t even get out of bed because the effort is TOO MUCH;

When you feel like death is welcomed because living is just too damned hard…

I’m here to beg you – DON’T GO OUT THAT WAY.  Seek Help.  IT REALLY IS OKAY to seek a counselor, psychiatrist, or commit yourself if that’s what it takes to get well.

Even though my employment and economic situation hasn’t changed – the gift of seeking therapy has returned me to this blog.  The gift of seeking therapy has renewed my zest for living.  You can keep a whole lot of shyt bottled up inside before your physical body starts hollering at you that it can’t take any more and then, your blood pressure shoots up; your sugar levels explode and your heart races too fast for the rest of the body to catch up.

(Word to those of you who rag on the obese – how about considering that they already feel bad about themselves if they do, and consider that they might need your compassion as opposed to your lecture about how they don’t eat right and shyt.  Most Americans DON’T EAT RIGHT, so save the lecture and consider they might need encouragement to seek counseling to become mentally fit before they can tackle physical fitness.)

A few years ago, Terrie Williams wrote a good book on Black Women and Depression, titled, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting”, which should go a long way towards lifting some of those taboos about seeking help through therapy (Courtesy of Essence Magazine, January 6, 2008 issue):

ESSENCE: So what does depression sound like for Black people? Which phrases resonate most with women?

T.W.: “I’m tired.” “I’m really not a people person.” “I don’t feel like it.” “Can you supersize that?” “Nothing good ever happens to me.”

ESSENCE: Why don’t we realize we’re in pain?

T.W.: Because we’re moving so quickly in our lives that we don’t take the time to process what happens to us. That you have to work ten times harder than your White counterparts. That someone clutched her purse when you got on the elevator. That you’re underappreciated by your family. I also believe we all harbor deep-seated scars from our childhood. When we don’t talk about any of that stuff and don’t process it, it sits inside and festers. And when it does come out, it’s uncontrolled rage, the violence we witness every day, self-medication, working 24/7, shopping, gambling. Those are the ways our pain manifests itself. Even those who achieve great things in corporate America—their spirits or souls may be dead because so many people drain their lives.

ESSENCE: What’s the most common reason women hide their pain?

T.W.: I think it’s that we’re afraid to seem weak. We’re afraid to show a chink in the armor. Some of us think, I’m already coming in the door perhaps not as valued as I should be, so to show a chink in the armor would be death. What’s interesting to me is that the person right next to you is more than likely dealing with the same thing.

So, as we go through the holiday season, let’s remember that while we give so much of ourselves to help others, it means nothing if we don’t do enough to take care of OURSELVES.  One of the way we do that is to identify when our mental health is threatened and take steps to protect it.  Good mental health, as well as good physical health, are two of the best gifts we can give ourselves, our families and our friends.  Take Care and God Bless all of you.

Oh, yeah….I’M BAAAACK!  LOL

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