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Mental Health

The Tide

Mental health is so important. 2020 has shown this to be true more times than can be counted at this point. It’s also something that’s not talked about or valued as much in the African American community but it is so essential. My mental health on the other hand? Almost non-existent as of late. But I’m here and I’m trying. But to truly understand the meaning of this statement, let’s start at the beginning.. of the end (melodrama for the win).

January 2020- Like most, I was excited for this very promising new decade. I was about to finish my antibiotics that I had been taking for 14 months to cure one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through in my life I’m talking about you Lyme Disease. I used to be a carefree millennial, always planning her next brunch or outing to an art-related event or a trip to Barnes & Noble. I used to love volunteering with young girls weekly and teaching them dance and lyrical expression. But Covid took away my main escapes. Late last year, I planned a trip to Miami in January with one of my best friends and everything seemed promising, until it wasn’t. Let’s begin with the very first day of the new year (cue the signs that this was an indicator of what a mentally detrimental year this was going to be). I had gone to the GYN for the first time in three years once that lovely, you named it, yeast infection started to persist. But what I thought would be just a nagging yeast infection turned out to be a UTI & a potential cancer diagnosis on an abnormal pap smear. Note to self and every woman: Go to the GYN EVERY year. I mean it. Don’t avoid it like I did because well, no-one likes that speculum. Oh and just because you aren’t completely “sexually active”, yeah well, your vagina doesn’t care about that. So again, I repeat, GO. Okay, moving on.

I returned home from my Miami trip to find out I needed to move, again. Third time in 3 years (third time, not by choice). And then flash-forward to the end of March, after scrambling to move up my move date due to the pandemic, and I finally get settled into a place with a set 2-year lease. I had just started a new job in January in exactly the field that I got my master’s in. The sky was looking sunny and I was excited about the future. And then two days after moving, I got the CALL. My mother had passed away. And little did I know, that was only the beginning of my world-shattering. My mom had passed of Covid. No longer was this just a news story with faceless names and numbers on a screen. This had hit home, literally. And unfortunately due to this happening at a time when testing was limited, we didn’t receive an official diagnosis. But her symptoms in those days leading to her passing were evident and the confirmation was there when both my Dad and sister tested positive. And the last time I saw my mother was the days after we took her out to celebrate her birthday. I had no idea this would be the last time I’d see her. The last time we’d by Panera Bread and by our favorite souffle. The last time I’d taste her cooking. 

I returned home the night I received the call from my sister to find out my mother’s bed was still in the bed as the hospital claimed they were overcrowded and that was the best place for her. It took 10 hours for the medical examiners to remove her from her home of over 30 years and remove her from our lives. I was truly in the middle of a Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Little did I know, this would only be the beginning of the tide crashing into my world as I knew it. 

Over the course of the next several months, I dealt with countless medical issues. Even as I write this, I’m waiting for important lab results. After the abnormal pap smear ( which led to colposcopy and ended up coming up negative), my GYN issues only continued. Flash-forward to countless heartburn episodes (darn antibiotics), SEVERAL UTIs that will not stay away (and an allergy from a lovely antibiotic causing me to limp) which prompted countless visits to the GYN and urologist,, chronic dry eye prompting various visits to the ophthalmologist, countless visits to City MD to keep track of these UTIs (and Covid testing of course), visits my PCP/Lyme physician due to a relapse in symptoms involving leg numbness, an MRI of my lower body to assess GI symptoms, an MRI Brain to assess headaches, ENT visit, dental visit. It was literally like my whole body was breaking down. Although I’d visit the doctor and be told my labs and everything was okay, I felt everything but. No-one could figure out what was going on with me. This led to endless anxiety & countless sleepless nights. I still struggle to sleep most nights as I uncover my medical mystery. Countless times my throat closed up and I had to remind myself to breathe and to swallow. Let’s also focus on the fact that my room is basically an Urgent Care Center (pulse oximeter, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, and EKG reader on my watch always within arm’s reach). My entire body and mind began breaking down. I’ve barely been able to grieve because I can barely breathe normally most nights. Not to mention we are going through a pandemic. But, I’m trying to move forward and see that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Or at least I have to imagine that it’s so. So let’s move onto the positive part where I tell you how to maintain calm amidst the storm.

One thing I’m happy about is that I began therapy throughout this. Therapy has helped me realize how important it is to get things off your chest. It is very cathartic. Although even my therapist was at a loss with how to help me, it really did bring me a sense of calm on the days that I actually had enough energy.

Other things that got me through: The Shine & Calm apps, Listening to Atticus’ soothing voice and poetry on Audible, Animal Crossing (don’t judge), Taylor’s swift surprise albums, reading/writing poetry, Bella Grace (this magazine is EVERYTHING), horror movies, and lots and lots of King of Queens episodes.

My goal in writing this is to show you, the reader, that everyone goes through hard times, and many people put on a facade to pretend they’re okay. I do this almost every day. But, I’ve learned to live for my good days & to keep moving forward. I hope that my tenacity inspires others to take control of their life and their health. yes, it’s difficult. Yes, everyone won’t be able to empathize in the way you want and need. Yes, it is okay to cry. But, do seek help and do live for those positive days and find that thing that makes you smile wholeheartedly. 

I hope you, the reader, find your smile again and continues on your positive journey. We all have a place in this world. The tide will eventually break. Keep glowing <3

And to my Mother, the most amazing, strong-willed, and self-less person I’ve known to grace this earth, I love you forever and even longer. I will keep trying, for you & will continue to make your light shine. Rest In Peace and Beauty.

~JAT~

If you like this article, check out: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/move-me/

Comment
by AnaiseRose

Hi All!

I'm a Healthcare professional by day working with the pathology IT team for a cancer institution. In my spare time (pre-covid) I taught at a volunteer dance program to teach young girls. I also help to coordinate open mic spoken word events.

In my spare time I love watching thriller/horror movies, reading contemporary and mystery literature, singing karaoke, listening to singer-songwriter music, and writing poetry.

I love artsy and book-ish events and love to attend these things in my spare time while making the movie theater and Barnes and Noble my second home :). Also have gotten back to my video game roots in quarantine :). I have an obsession with anything rose gold and sentimental quotes/artsy magazines that contain them. I also love traveling in my spare time and have been to several different countries!

I love that poetry leaves an everlasting imprint and can delve into someone's emotions without always revealing too much. This also leaves room for interpretation for each person to create their own meaning which makes it that much more special. I've been through a lot of personal health struggles recently and this has been a great outlet to help me connect with those emotions.

This reminds me of a quote I love from the book Eleanor Oliphant by Gail Honeyman. It reads: "Tiny slivers of life--they all added up and helped you to feel that you too could be a fragment, a little piece of humanity". That's how I feel about poetry and how it connects us to our feelings and the universe

~JAT~

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