I think I came out the womb stressed. Well at least it feels like I’ve always been stressed. I was sitting in Mr. Dolan’s 8th Grade English class doing group work when all of sudden I felt my body starting to shake. My chest was tight and I couldn’t catch my breath. My teammates started to stare and of course at that age people assumed I was just being dramatic ass Jess.  I didn’t know that day would be the beginning of my battle with anxiety. I mean come on, black people don’t have anxiety, right?! I just thought my blood sugar was low.

I learned that I had a panic attack and that I was unclear about what that really meant. I dealt with anxiety into my adulthood. In high school I was prescribed medicine to help with my anxiety but was advised against taking them. I didn’t want to jeopardize my chances of getting into college or getting a good job because people thought I was crazy.  I flushed the pills down the toilet.

On top of dealing with anxiety I was sad. Not the happy-mad-glad-sad you learn about in preschool but the sad that made you not want to get up in the morning. The sad that made it hard to do things you once liked doing because you had so much on your mind you knew you wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. In college the sadness got so unbearable I decided to seek out help. I sat in the waiting room of campus health waiting to see a doctor. After being seen I was advised to go to Counseling and Wellness Services. I met with this white lady who listened to me talk about how sad and overwhelmed I was and at the end of the conversation she diagnosed me with clinical depression, suggested I took the rest of the semester off and wrote me a prescription for anti-depressants.

I couldn’t process what I was just diagnosed with and the fact that she tried to tell me to go home. I thought only white women got depression; at least that’s what I would get from all those medication commercials. I had never heard of a black person being depressed, just they needed more Jesus. When I mentioned I was prescribed meds again I was given the same advice, “You better not take them damn pills! People gon think you crazy and you won’t be able to get a job!” So because I thought it was in my best interest I let my prescription sit at the pharmacy and ignored the 50 million calls and voice mails to come pick it up.

Now here I am at 25, now a mother still battling my anxiety and depression. I never liked talking about it before because I felt like it was a sign of weakness. I figured people would wonder how could I be a good mama, teacher or partner if most days I was trying to figure out how to keep myself going enough to make it to the end of the day. 

Since the birth of my daughter and moving back home to teach I’ve gained about 60 pounds. People who didn’t know I was somewhat of a slender stallion back in the day think I’m being dramatic when I talk about my weight gain.

This year my anxiety had grown especially with being single and having to find a new person to get to know and share all the deepest parts of myself with. Let alone share this plush chocolateness with. I get anxious about being bigger which fuels my depression which leads to me eating my emotions away and the cycle begins again.

Of course I always hear, “If you want to change something about yourself just do it!” or “You lack motivation! Once you get motivated you can do it!”. In my 6,934,457 attempts to lose weight I start off focused and determined. By my 3rd night in the gym Jaziya ain’t having it and is ready to go home. When I try to explain to people that it’s nearly impossible to take care of myself, heal and really make a commitment to losing weight while being a mother and teacher I hear so much how I’m making excuses. Mostly from people without kids but that is neither here nor there. 

Time after school runs later than expected or either I’m so emotionally exhausted from trying to figure out ways to co-parent with someone that sometimes seems impossible to deal with; going home to eat and cry seems a lot more fulfilling than trying to encourage myself to do one more set of wall balls.

To help with my anxiety and depression I went back to the doctor in hopes of finding a more convenient solution. I asked to find therapist to help me find ways of coping and dealing with stress. I couldn’t find anyone available after 5 o’clock so my doctor suggested prescribing me medication. My initial reaction reflected what I’ve been told my whole life I said “No, thanks I don’t want people to think I’m crazy.” By the end of my appointment and some encouragement from my Stay Schemin chat I convinced myself that I would give it a try. I know that it isn’t a permanent solution but I felt like I was taking a step to trying to better deal with my anxiety and depression.

I’ve been on antidepressants since July and they actually make dealing with my mental health easier. I will admit they make me tired but again this is a temporary solution. I really went back and forth about sharing this part of of myself for many reasons. Obvious reasons. But I know that dealing with this is a part of my journey. This is my attempt to let other black women know you aren’t alone. To let them know that it’s okay to get help and some things you just can’t pray away. You don’t have to be ashamed of the parts of yourself that aren’t the most appetizing. You are still a wonderfully made Unapologetic Warrior!

Unapologetically Me,

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