As part of Mental Health Awareness week, I wanted to take a couple of minutes to make best use of this time and space.
So I recently decided to speak about my struggle with anxiety on Facebook, the closest circle of my friends know about it, but the bigger circle didn’t and I felt it so important to speak on it, especially as many suffer with it in silence.
My post was written in the form of a note I had wrote and saved on my iPhone back in November 2014 (Winter time is always the worst)
Now was it because I feared I would be judged or people would think i’m crazy? Maybe, but my intention wasn’t wholly based on what I felt, it was more for those around me who I knew were suffering in silence, other Males, especially people from non-White communities, but as a whole, men of all races are probably the ones suffering most in silence because it’s seen as something that only affects women, ‘real men don’t get depressed’!
Speaking from the perspective of a young 3rd generation British Asian kid, I was aged 17 when I first felt anxiety to an extent where it felt there was no return. The panic attacks, all the feelings that come with it, feeling sick, feeling worthless, a bit ashamed about the whole situation, thinking i’m going crazy and feeling an impending doom that never quite came but I felt every minute of that shit, like the tremors after an earthquake teasing my mind, ‘any minute now you’ll lose ya shit, any, minute, NOW’
But the NOW never came and after nearly a year of not understanding my condition, refusing medication and not being offered counselling from my GP , I felt somewhat ‘okay’
Until it happened again, only now I was told it was just anxiety and I was not losing my mind. I remember feeling a wave of relief, ‘just anxiety’. Suddenly none of the crazy thoughts and self doubt I had experienced meant anything, it was just anxiety, a weird condition that occassionaly fucks with your head. Yet I still didn’t accept it as a ‘Mental illness’, I aint mental! But I did accept it as a part of me that I had to deal with and prioritise it just like you’d prioritise your health in any other situation.
I have since dealt on and off with anxiety, but there was no real reason for it. I’ve done some crazy shit in my life, anxiety never once surfaced but I could wake up one day and get in the shower and BAM, it would start for absolutely no reason.
The stats show young British Black and Asian men are not dealing with mental health issues, nor are their families, nor are our communities. Some will take a religious or cultural route, assuming the condition is the result of black magic, curses, and simply not praying enough. Now I wont negate the latter, praying as well as meditation has helped me massively and according to Buddhist Monk Mingyur Rinpoche, meditation and mindfulness helped him deal with his anxiety as a child. Check out one of his videos here; https://youtu.be/pJs9Y2eqLuE
However even today, we constantly see mental health as a taboo, something that only concerns crazy people who are injected and put to sleep in an insane asylum, as for depression, ‘well you need to snap out of it as that’s just self created’, NO IT IS NOT!
Our mind much like any other part of our body can fall ill and stop working as well it once did, therefore we nurture it back to health, the mind is the same! The way I see it, Anxiety is like a sprained ankle, bipolar or schizophrenia we could say is like a broken ankle, both need their own forms of nurturing, one being more serious than the other in most scenarios.
As I’ve got older I have realised I am so much more vocal about my anxiety and everything it brings, because I have a responsibility, I have felt the beast face to face, I have known it long enough to know all I do is persevere and it will leave me alone. The fear is what cripples us, fear of the unknown because anxiety isn’t a thing or person we can walk away from, it lives in our minds, in the amygdala part of our brain which is responsible for emotions, survival instincts and memories, as you can guess it’s the part responsible for ALOT of mental health issues. I remember once wondering if I could take the amygdala out of my brain, I was desperate! 😂
It is important to understand there are different types of help you can seek, some will use medication, I haven’t, but don’t feel ashamed if that is what you want to do. Others feel good just to talk to someone and some will take the slightly harder route, depending on your perseverance and willpower, where you literally rely on just you, you meditate, you exercise more, change your diet, whatever it will take to get you 100%.
If you know someone is suffering from anxiety, depression or any other mental health issues, speak to them, be open and best of all, give them space to breathe and get their shit together.
But remember it doesn’t have to be a negative, use the energy, use that downtime to get things in order, re-evaluate your life, most of things we worry about are not real or will never happen and sometimes those feelings don’t and won’t always go away forever, usually because you become paranoid about your anxiety, always double checking if it’s come back (this is me to a T), but you have to try and channel that shit, own it and know you are going to be okay!
Here’s a little something I wrote and performed a few months back, it was dedicated to anyone who has been here or knows someone who has, but doesn’t understand the condition, it’s called ‘I am Me’, inspired by the feelings of depersonalisation that occur during extreme bouts of anxiety, but it’s all good, in the words of Kendrick Lamar, ”we gone be alriiiiiiiiight”!!