Smashing the Stigma


Whew! What a 2020 thus far, March to now has felt like 5 years. We did not expect any of this and there is no way we could have been prepared. It's more important than ever to make sure your mental health is balanced given the series of unfortunate events we have been experiencing in the world. Mental health affects your emotional, physical and psychological well being so let's all commit to making changes that lead to a healthy, happy and balanced well being.


I teamed up with my girl Lauren (@elledeedubb) to chat a little bit about our own mental health journey, why it's important to share stories and some things that have helped us during this interesting time.


How We Would Rank Our Mental Health Pre-Pandemic


Lauren

I was feeling pretty good pre-COVID! I had just transitioned to a new position and being in school full-time, and was looking forward to spending more time with my daughter and working on my personal pursuits. Little did I know…


Amber

Pre-pandemic I was on the up and up. 2020 really had a new energy (little did we know what real energy was coming!), people were ready to live their best lives but COVID had other plans. I was working out, getting life in order, eating better then BOOM COVID. So overall I’d rank myself an 8 out of 10 pre-pandemic.


How We Have Been Coping Through the Pandemic


Lauren

At first, not great. My daughter and I have very similar personalities, and that didn’t serve us well during the first month of lockdown. Also, trying to balance my school work, my work work, her school work, and just general life demands while being stuck in the house was not doing it for me. At. All. However, being able to visit my parents for a few weeks helped both of us a LOT, and made it easier once we did go back to our apartment.


Amber

As many, I went into the pandemic thinking this too shall pass. Here we are in July now and it's not done. So in the beginning I was like okay cool we'll make it through. As we really got into it I was not well because I couldn't do anything I usually do and everything I looked forward to in 2020 was cancelled. Starting Sippin' Sunday and putting more thought into The Adulting Queen has helped a lot. I also check in with friends/family and remind myself it's okay to do nothing and just rest. Because whew chile this is a lot.


How to Stay Positive & Find Joy Daily


Lauren

Creating has been KEY for me. Doing something creative almost every day has helped me tremendously in staying positive in the age of #ThaRona. Plant parenthood has been one of my ways to cope, whether I’m repotting, watering, pruning, or reading/watching videos/learning more about them. Also, creating has been a huge outlet, too, whether it’s painting, crafting, rapping (yes, rapping), or making funny videos about my plants for The ‘Gram.


Amber

I tried to be more mindful of what things were making me feel good during this time and what was not. I started watching Transformation Church online in March and haven't missed a Sunday since. I watch tons of trash shows like Married at First Sight, Tiger King, Love is Blind, etc. I use my daily gratitude journal and tried to start using my calendar again to set personal deadlines to create some sort of structure. Trap music, reggae/soca and gospel also help me make it through the day.


Unexpected Things that Affected Our Mental Health


Lauren

Whew chile...you want the long or the short? LOL. Something that has really impacted my mental health at several points throughout my life is the failure to meet the very high expectations that I set for myself. I also struggle to deal with things being canceled or changed, especially when I’ve put a lot of time and energy into them. And we all know how Ms. Rona has been out here cancelling things left and right.


Amber

Past relationships that did not end well. Lack of work life balance. Not focusing on myself. I’m an overall positive person and just push through bad things. But lately it's become harder as the world progressively gets worse, especially for Black people.


When did you realize you may need help from a professional?


Lauren

I first realized that I needed help at the end of 2013/beginning of 2014, after my first attempt at graduate school. Although, if I really reflect thoroughly, the signs were there even in high school and undergrad. It really hit me again in 2017; I just felt really off and decided to seek professional help - that’s when I was diagnosed with bipolar II/bipolar depression, and that’s also when I decided to start my blog, on the LEAUX, to help me come to grips with my diagnosis and try to help others in the process.


Amber

I didn’t have a significant moment that made me think I should try therapy. In Student Affairs it's definitely became a buzzword and we recommend for our students to try it to work through their thoughts so I decided to try as well. For me, I feel like I was being told things I already knew so I stopped going. I also didn't feel that connected with my therapist. I tried 2 different women.


Why do you feel it’s important to share stories?


Lauren

- Because no one should have to struggle by themselves.

- While each person is unique, our struggles often are not, and there can be comfort in knowing that others have had similar struggles and persevered, or are similarly struggling and can relate.

- For Black women, especially, there is often tremendous pressure to put on a cape and be strong, all day, every day, for everybody and anybody. I’m here for those of us who cannot, who will not continue bending and breaking ourselves in order to fit into that limiting stereotype.


Amber

Even though you feel like you’re the only one going through something, you aren’t. It can feel uncomfortable to share a part of your life that makes you feel vulnerable, but if it’s your truth no one can take that from you. You have to own your experiences. Some things in our lives we truly didn’t choose so we’re doing the best with what we’re given. Something helpful for me is thinking about the people that will feel confident to live their lives positively after they see the way I go about things. Self-awareness if definitely key in this process of vulnerability to share your story.


How does identity play into mental health?


Lauren

Being a black woman who is a single mother and feeling pressure to break stereotypes. Also being a black woman and supporting your community and feeling tired and angry and defeated by the daily news cycle.


Amber

I didn’t really grow up talking about mental health/therapy. It wasn't until undergrad when I became a student leader that I began to learn more. The millennial generation and specifically Black people are all about breaking generational curses and stopping the cycle to create better lives for those that come after us. When you haven't been taught how to talk about it or there is a negative stigma attached to it you keep to yourself which can make things worse.


Resources

About Lauren

Lauren D. Wilson is a mother, educator, mentor, writer, and creator who believes in the power of story sharing to create community. She currently works and attends graduate school at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and she is a loyal alumna of THE University of Arkansas (Go Hogs!). Lauren’s experience in higher education has been shaped by her diverse experiences over the past decade, from teaching high school English for three years to working towards student success in the campus library. When she isn’t at work or in class, you can find Lauren hanging out with her ten-year-old daughter. The fleeting moments of free time that she can find are obsessing over black women-owned stationery shops and her plant collection.

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