Previously written blog post from TheBoujeeRatchademic, reflecting on my 2017 mental illness diagnosis:
I’ve officially been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Initially, I thought I’d feel elated to finally know this, to know that I wasn’t just imagining this stuff, but I quickly became so confused all I could do was cry. Yet in that cry, came a sort of clarity. This was depression. That feeling of hopelessness was no longer an abstract feeling. I could now name the manifestation of a thing I knew existed. I could call it out by the ways it showed up in my daily life.
Reflecting on the state of my life and my diagnosis
I remember watching an episode of Criminal Minds where Dr. Reed pointed out that a messy room could be a sign of depression. I felt convicted when I heard it, and as I stared down at the floor I haven’t been able to see in at least 3 weeks, I finally understood my pain. I took pity on myself for having to deal with my own lack of understanding and pushing myself too hard as a result. Academia is marked by productivity. Everybody around you is producing, so you should be too. I thought about all those unfinished projects, all the things I desperately wanted to do but couldn’t bring myself to see through. I thought I was merely careless and unmotivated. Reconciling perfectionism and depression? That battle is too ugly for words.
The Journey to Seeking Help. (Again)
I searched high and low for a black woman who did psychiatry who would also take guhhment insurance. It took weeks of digging through broken websites, dead ends, and googling everyone’s names until I could find a picture. Whatever it took. When I finally walked into this polished black woman’s office I knew my work had not been done in vain.
It was there that I learned that not caring if you wake up in the morning definitely puts you on a “we gotta keep an eye on her” list. Previously, I thought you had to think about carrying out the act to be considered suicidal. I’ll be honest, this alarmed me. I was just genuinely confused and hurt that it took this long because I’d been wishing I were (peacefully) dead on and off for a long time.
Hearing about the anxiety was the part that seemed brand-new to me. I’d never conceptualized my anxiety symptoms as anxiety. But, now that I’ve had the space to reflect on it, my physiological responses to stress are quite noticeable. Getting people to understand how to accommodate this has been quite the challenge.
Why this diagnosis is important
Clarity is key. If I can have a name for a thing and an idea about how it works, I can proceed to be aware of its presence and act accordingly. Truthfully, I also needed the validation. I needed to be able to summarize my life into a word instead of a long fumble of confused and rambling sentences.
This was also important for understanding my academic career. I found out afterward that I could receive some accommodations to buffer the effects of my psychological situation. All those unfinished assignments and days I couldn’t bring myself to show up to class… or those days I forced myself to get ready for class in tears. I could have done things differently.
Get Yourself Started
I’d like to recommend the Therapy for Black Girls directory. It includes a listing of Black women therapists across the country. The founder of the site also has a podcast that I recommend you check out. I’ve also been listening to the AFFIRM podcast. Both can be found on iTunes.
This Mental Health Awareness Month, I want everyone to get a mental health checkup just like you would check anything else.