Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria: Ep. 2 | M is for Mental Health

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My sister bestie and I recently started our very own podcast, called Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria! We are both educated brown girls, & bloggers.

Here’s our second episode! We discuss the importance of mental health, the stigma of mental health in the African American Community, & how we maintain our own mental health! 

Ep. 2 | M is for Mental Health

Grandmother, the Alchemist.

 

“Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands…’I had my ups and down, but I always found the strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”- Excerpt from Beyonce’s Lemonade.

I have to be honest, I have been avoiding completing this blog post for months. Grief is such a strange thing. There is no recipe for “How to Deal With Grief”, & despite all of the self-help books, articles, etc. the fact remains the same–people deal with grief differently. & guess what that means? You have to learn how to navigate through it in a way that works best for you. So that’s what I have been doing, & I can’t tell you that I have figured it out just yet.

My Granny passed away in March of 2016. I thought I prepared myself for her death, but I was way more unprepared than I could have ever imagined. I can’t even describe the audible sounds that escaped my body when my mother called to give me the news. I immediately felt an immense sadness, & wished that I would be able so see her one more time. Hold her hand one more time. Roll her hair or get her dressed one more time. Watch her say her prayers before bed one more time. Give her something sweet for a snack one more time.

So now almost a year later, I still have those same wishes. I often think of all of the memories I have of her & the things she taught me. I’ve picked 3 pearls to share with you.

  • My Granny taught me the importance of prayer.

When her body was able she would get on her knees & say her prayers before bed every night. No matter what time it was, no matter where she was. Sometimes, because of the disease (Alzheimer’s) she would say them over & over, but she would always pray. One of my fondest memories is just watching her pray & wondering what it was she was talking to God about. She also prayed over her meals, even if it was as simple as “Jesus wept”. But regardless of the twists & turns of her life, her relationship with God remained constant. Her faith & her dedication to Him have inspired me to be much more intentional about my walk with God.

  • My Granny taught me the true meaning of unconditional love & that it is okay to “need” it.

Unconditionally loving someone is a remarkable thing, & I truly loved my Granny. As a child, I used to think that love was based on what people did for me, what they said to me, & even how they loved me. But during the last few years of my Granny’s life, I learned that love is not subject to a condition. When you love someone, truly love someone, you just love them. There were times where my Granny was sweet, I loved her. There were times when she was not so sweet, I loved her. There were times when she needed me, I loved her. There were times where she didn’t want to be bothered, I loved her. Because I loved her, I was willing to do anything to make sure that she was happy & well taken care of. If that meant feeding her, I did it because I loved her. If that meant repeating things to her twenty times, I did it because I loved her. If that meant staying with her all day & spending endless hours in a hospital, I did it because I loved her. There were times when I would get so frustrated with the situation & the things she would do or say, but I still loved her. I would be angry, disappointed, & sometimes even annoyed…& yet my love for her never changed. There was no “if this occurs, then I love her” or “I love her when”. That’s when I realized what love was supposed to be. 

Some of the most precious memories I have are when my Granny would ask me or my mom to stay with her when it was time for us to leave. It would break my heart when she would cry & ask us not to leave her. My Granny was a strong woman, one of the strongest I know, but she still needed love. She needed us, our love, our companionship, & it was okay. I think we sometimes feel guilty for wanting other people to love us. Yes, our love for self should be sufficient; the love God has for us is always more than sufficient…but never forget that it is important to feel love from the people around us. We were made to love & getting love in return, in whatever healthy form it comes, is something that it is okay to say that you need.

  • My Granny taught me how valuable time truly is.

Time is really one of the most valuable things we have on Earth. Once it’s gone, you cannot get it back. It is so important to treat every single day as a blessing, & you have to try to make the best of every moment. There were times where I didn’t slow down to appreciate some of the little moments with my Grandmother, & a part of me probably thought that I had a little more time. But one day I didn’t, she was gone, & all I wanted was a few more moments with her. You have to be present in life. Be intentional. Show up for people & always be mindful that tomorrow isn’t promised. 

What did your Granny teach you? Grandparents are extremely special people, & I’m blessed to have been able to have time with all of mine. We learn so many life lessons from them, some that don’t even “hit” us until maybe years after they are gone. Take some time to reflect on the time you’ve spent with your grandparents or even just your grandmother. I recently wrote a letter to mine that was therapeutic in my healing process. It’s also a great way to exercise your memory & remember some things you may have forgotten. My Granny was remarkable, magical, even. There were times where I was just in awe of her & everything she was. She was beautiful, she was honest, she was loving, she was strong, she was faithful. She lived life to the fullest from beginning to end. & I am blessed to have been able to know her in such a special way. 

 

What About Anxiety?

 

In my last post I introduced a new concept/way of thinking when dealing with depression. The same concept can be applied to experiences with anxiety, as well. If you aren’t familiar with the concept I am referring to, read my last post “Hello, My Name is Anaston…” first, then come back to this one. In this post I am going to talk about my own personal experience with anxiety and what it means for me, instead of explaining that concept again.

Honestly, I am not sure when I first started experiencing anxiety, but I realized within the last year or so how it affects my life & that it was time for me to actively deal with it.

So, what is anxiety? Here’s what Google says:

anx•i•e•ty  

noun

“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome” 

I guess that gives you a nice, “ice cream” idea of what it can include…but here’s what anxiety is like for me.

Anxiety is over thinking. It is having little to no peace of mind some days about any and everything. Sometimes it is second guessing things that I was originally sure about. It is panic attacks, having trouble breathing, feeling like the walls are closing in on me. It is having trouble sleeping–my brain never takes a break. It is feeling self-conscious in social settings, feeling nervous and out-of-place. It is self-doubt. It is the creation of & asking of questions that revolve around my self-identity. It is questioning if I am making the right decisions, or being worried about my future & the days ahead of me. It is having to know things 100% one way or another & feeling completely uncomfortable with the unknown. There is no gray area for me. It is having to be in control & have a plan. It is feeling anxious at times & being unsure why. It is wanting to be alone & isolating myself, because I cannot juggle both the world and the anxiety I am feeling. It is being trapped by the unescapable–my  own mind.

I think the most important part of dealing with anxiety has been accepting that I actually deal with anxiety. Now that I have accepted it, I deal with it in a healthy way & don’t include it as a part of how I identify with myself. Sounds complicated, but I just look at it the same way I look at depression. The moments when I feel anxious are temporary, no matter how long they last. They are not permanent nor do they consume my entire being. I didn’t choose anxiety, so I don’t have to choose to let it control my life. 

Anxiety does not mean that I am dramatic or that I’m being ridiculous. I can be an extrovert (which most people seem to think I am, although I wonder if I am an introvert, truly) & simultaneously experience social anxiety, which may come off as me being “stand-offish” or reserved with an attitude. Anxiety does not mean that I am paranoid. For someone who is a free spirit, I am also cautious about things, & that is okay. The anxiety that I experience is not the same as the anxiety the person next to me experiences, & that is okay too. Anxiety does not mean that I need a pity party or for “you” to feel sorry for me. Anxiety does not mean that “you” can make me feel like a burden or an inconvenience, no matter how frustrated or irritated “you” may be with me. 

Another important part of my experience with anxiety is how it affects my relationships. I no longer apologize to other people for my anxious moments. If someone wants to be a consistent part of my life, it is something that she/he simply has to accept about me & then act accordingly. It is important that my loved ones possess a level of understanding when I am having an anxious moment. Meaning that, even if a person doesn’t understand or agree with my experience, said person just has to accept that it is real to me. It means looking at me as the human being that I am, not a crazy person or a person with a problem. Said person has to be willing to work though the moment with me, or lovingly give me the space that I need to work through it on my own. I am also learning that I have to take the time to explain to my loved ones what I am experiencing, & that I have to be open enough to give people the opportunity to walk with me through the journey. 

I am learning that I cannot control every aspect of my life–sometimes it is okay to not have control over every single detail. I practice a lot of deep breathing, & I am learning how to meditate. I haven’t had a panic attack in a while, but when I was having them I would breathe through them & then go outside afterwards to lessen the “walls closing in” feeling. I also try to express myself more & let important people know when I am feeling anxious around them. I pray a lot, which doesn’t help all the time, but it does help a lot. 

Do you experience anxiety? It is important that you know that there is nothing wrong with you. More people experience anxiety than people realize…most just don’t talk about it. Take every day as it comes, one step at a time. Develop some self-care practices to take care of yourself in those anxious moments & surround yourself with people who will love you through your walk, not judge you through it. It is important that you have people who will not make you feel guilty for being a person who experiences anxiety; find people who will grow with you. That also means that you have to be strong enough to walk away from the people who cannot rise to the occasion. Recognize that what works for one person may not work for you, but you must stay dedicated to your growth & trust your own process. Remember that God will never put more on you than you can bear.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts & minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

Hello, My Name is Anaston…

 

…& I am not depressed. I simply experience depression. There is a difference, & here’s why.

I recently watched a video on Facebook, posted by a gentleman named “Prince Ea“, where he talks about this concept “you are not depressed“. He said that what he was about to explain would change the life of the person viewing the video, & he was actually right.

He describes the person as the sky & depression as a passing cloud. Clouds come & go, but the sky is permanent–it lasts forever. Clouds always come & go, because they are not the sky. If clouds were the sky, when they “went” the sky would too. So if I am the sky, that means that I am always here. Depression, as the cloud, is something that comes & goes, but is not always here forever. The cloud may be frequent or rather large, but the fact still remains that it always goes…and as something that is always here, I am greater than anything that comes & goes. (It’s a short video, but definitely enlightening, so I recommend that you look him up on FB and watch it!)

Prior to watching this video, I recall conversations with close friends & family about how I was depressed or feeling like I was falling back into my depression. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning on a “down day” & think to myself: “Today, I am depressed.” By starting my “down days” that way, I was affirming so much negativity & it would follow me, like a cloud, throughout the duration of my day. Over time, this pattern caused the depression I was experiencing to follow me not just through my days, but through my life. Because I claimed it I became attached to it, & for a while it was all that I was.

After watching this video I have realized how important the things I identify with are. I no longer identify with depression. I have accepted that it is something that I have experience with, but I realize that doesn’t mean it has to be my entire being. It is not my story–it is simply one of many chapters in the book. 

Everyone experiences depression differently. My experience may be very similar or dissimilar to your own, & that’s okay. I am not a spokesperson for all things depression–I am simply sharing my walk with it & the self-care practices that have helped me along the way. For me, changing my mindset has helped tremendously. Because I can separate depression from who I am, I am able to get through the “down days” better & have hope that the happier days will return. 

I am no longer ashamed that I have experienced depression, though others have tried to shame me & call me crazy. I am not, & have never been crazy. Depression does not automatically mean you are crazy. It means you are human & sometimes life is challenging for you. I challenge you to Google the word “crazy” & refrain from using it to describe people just because they experience depression.

Mental health awareness is something that is very important to me, & I am so glad that more people are starting to talk about it. Working through my challenges & learning why they occur has allowed me to love myself fully. My experiences have made be a better person, a stronger person, & I believe they were all necessary for my journey. 

Do you currently identify yourself with depression? If so, I want you to watch that video & make this the last day where you lay claim to depression. Make an effort to separate what you experience from what you are or who you are, & I know that you will see a positive change in your life. There are many ways to go about ensuring this separation, one being that you can name the depression you experience. I’ve heard it works for some people, so if you try it, let me know! You can also develop a mantra or a daily affirmation to remind yourself that you are not your depression.

P.S–It is also equally important to know what it is you are dealing with. Please do not accept a diagnosis that you are unsure of. I honestly self-diagnosed myself when I first noticed the signs of depression, but within the last month or so it became extremely important for me to be evaluated & learn exactly what I was dealing with. There are therapists that conduct assessments/evaluations, which are separate from therapy if you’re not interested in that. So I do highly suggest that you consider having an assessment done to learn what is affecting you. Once you know, it will be much easier to deal. 

 

“Remember, sadness is always temporary. This, too, shall pass.” x Anonymous

 

Authentically, Anaston.

Over the last few years, I have been taking steps to live an authentic life.

Looking back on my childhood/middle school experience (& probably even some high school & college years) I tried to hide parts of myself out of fear of what others would think of me. In elementary school, I was teased because I have big lips. My head was big, I was small, and here I was with big lips to top it off. I remember my first grade teacher sat my entire class down & told them how they would all regret not having lips like mine & how people got surgery to get them (we see how that trend has progressed, right?). Even though I was young, I think that was my first introduction to the lesson: it is important to be proud of everything that relates to who you are.

So what does it mean to be authentic, exactly? Well, according to Merriam Webster, it means:

  • Real or genuine : not copied or false
  • True and accurate

Hiding parts of myself to make others feel comfortable cost me a lot, & it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college where I first began my battle with depression (I didn’t recognize that I was experiencing depression at that time, but years later I believe some of my experiences that year triggered it) that I realized just how much. The trade-off for trying to make others comfortable was that I was uncomfortable. I was insecure, anxious, & I often felt alone & misunderstood. 

Once I realized what I was doing to myself, I began taking small steps to ensure that first, I was comfortable with me; & second, that I was able to just be myself, no matter who I was around.

So here we are today–I’m 23 years old, & I am still on my “authentic journey”. I’m still figuring out the ins & outs of Anaston & still learning that its okay to be transparent about who I am. This blog is a way for me to be transparent. Those who cannot accept me or handle the things that come with me will lose out on me, & that is something that is out of my control.

As I am progressing on this authentic-self journey, I try to remind myself to focus only on me & the talents God gave me. I stay in my own lane. In a society that is full of IG models, lifestyle bloggers, & fashionistas, it’s easy to want to change things about yourself to fit in with other people. It’s also easy to get discouraged when you see other people doing things you are doing or want to do. The reality is, there will always be someone better. There will always be someone doing something similar. But what sets you apart, is you. God made one you, & anything you do will be special because of who you are. 

I’ve also learned to not let people convince me that I need to change things about myself. Although I am a flawed person, I try to not let negative opinions about my personality sway me. If there is something that I really need to work on, I know exactly Who to turn to & how to do the work. For example, most people suggest that I am too outspoken. I tend to be the person that talks about things others are too afraid to, & over time, I have realized that I have to own it. I remember sitting in chapter meetings in undergrad., being the person who would say the things no one else wanted to, & feeling like sometimes I said too much…but I later realized that I actually gained respect from my sisters because I spoke up. As long as I am respectful & cognizant of the things I say, I see being outspoken as a huge asset. If everyone is too reserved to say the things that need to be said, do you know how many people’s stories will never be told? 

So what can you do to start living your life as your authentic self? I think the first step is to “have a little talk with Jesus”. God created you to be exactly who you are & He makes no mistakes. Whatever & whoever you are came from Him, so why not turn to him first when it comes to you? Are there things about yourself that confuse you? Ask God about them. Are there things you want to change? Tell God about those, too. Once you’ve consulted Him, it will become much easier, but it takes practice every day. The next thing you can do is be honest with yourself. If you can’t be honest with your star player, then it will definitely be hard to be honest with other people. Once you’re honest, just accept who you are & be open to growing as a human being. Before you know it, you’ll be living your life as your true, authentic self.

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” -Nelson Mandela