Mental Health Matters: How Are You ACTUALLY Doing?
“You may have bad times but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to” — Robin Williams
Yesterday, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park took his own life. Going through my social media left me with such mixed emotions . Like most people in my generation I remember finding myself in the lyrics of “Numb” and other Linkin Park songs. Some people were heartbroken, they shared about how Chester’s music and his life changed theirs. Others were posting suicide prevention hotlines and messages like “Giving up on your kids, fans, and life is the cowardly way out!!!” . I was infuriated by the judgment and misunderstanding. I wanted to ask each of them if they or someone they knew had ever battled depression or considered suicide. Today, Robin Williams would have been 66 years old. This morning I found myself comparing reactions of his death to Chester’s. I know I shouldn’t have. But I did, the shock and sympathy was the same. However I noticed that because Williams was a comedian no one ever thought he experienced pain that deep. These two men impacted so many lives in ways they couldn’t ever imagine. Inspired courage, free living, and doing your thing even if you were the only one doing it. People who remind you that it’s more than okay to be yourself. That being yourself is the only way you should be. A wonderful reminder that we need to let go of societal standards and norms that keep us trapped.
Exactly one month ago today I lost one of my closest friends to a long battle with Idiopathic Pancreatitis. I never said anything to her but she’s the reason I’m alive today. After I came back from studying and living in France, I moved back to an area I’ve lived in before. Returning as completely different person in the same body. I went through a deep depression. I felt so lost, unseen, unheard, completely invisible and misunderstood . I distinctly remember when the suicidal thoughts entered my brain. December 2015. The ones that said it wouldn’t matter if I was gone, no one would care. The thoughts that caused me to isolate as much as possible. I was better off handling things on my own. Even in the midst of me not responding to text messages my friend Essence was always inviting me over for game nights or to hang out over delicious baked goods. She was always randomly baking or cooking something heavenly. I never felt worthy enough to be there but always so grateful. Her laugh would bring light to the dark cave I’d put myself in. I always felt like she just got me, whatever it was she understood. She was that friend that always saw all of the beauty and power I was too blinded by self doubt to see. Always encouraging me and congratulating me on things she “knew” I could do. I was never as certain as she was. I hold her joy and light in every sunrise. When a mentor of mine passed away and I felt like giving up, Esse was always there checking in on me. Again stuffing me with yummy desserts and incredible dishes she would whip up. We would chat about life, our favorite shows, and movies. Which included Scandal, Once Upon a Time, and our favorite Mean Girls. I didn’t want to burden her with my pain . Which I learned recently is similar to how she felt at the end of her life. We share our joy but hide our pain. We shame it. It is not shameful. We think we are burdens when we are blessings. Sharing who we are with each other is all we can do. We are human and imperfect. I found myself in people that saw me when I couldn’t see myself. Teachers, family, co-workers, supervisors, rappers, artists, friends, lovers, mentors, and even strangers. They taught me and constantly teach me to stop making assumptions and judgements. Ask more clarifying questions. Silence all of my self doubt, to not hold space for it. Even magical beings full of love and light like me are also battling our own demons. Ignite your curiosity. Trapped in our own mind, our parent’s expectations, or who the world thinks we should be. We don’t talk about mental illness and wellness. We learn to put on masks. We have to de-stigmatize the conversation around mental health. We need to learn to embrace every aspect who we are, the good, the bad, and the uncomfortable.
I’ve been incredibly blessed to have people in my life who always accepted the weirdest parts of me and encouraged me to be bold and brave when it came to what I love. People of color have been taught that mental health is something invented by white people for white people. It is not. We can all benefit from speaking to a therapist or joining a group. Sometimes we can’t afford therapy even when we need it. In that case it’s important to find someone you trust that you can talk to or if you prefer anonymity call the suicide prevention lifeline. Previously I wasn’t a huge proponent of calling a number when in distress but it’s important that we each know what works for us. Self awareness is everything . Needing help doesn’t make you weak. Knowing yourself well enough to know you need help is strong as fuck. Let’s stop measuring and comparing ourselves to others, let’s support and love each other without conditions.
For Chester, Essence, me, you, and everyone else let’s talk about how we’re ACTUALLY doing. Stop feeding each other sugar coated bullshit about how you’re fine when you’re dying inside. Laugh and cry more. Stop running from your emotions and give them space to be processed. Our mental wellbeing matters. It really does. Remember you are seen, you are heard, you are SO loved. As beings on this dying planet I’m calling everyone to hold space for community, love, and acceptance. Leave the judgement at the door. Bring your whole self into everything you do. And stop apologizing for being who you were always meant to be. Let’s live our lives full of joy and recognize when we have wounds that need to heal. Ask for help when you need it, share your story, and love with all of your heart.
National Suicide Prevention lifeline 1–800–273–8255