The thoughts became darker, the unexplainable anxiousness grew, and I started to distance myself from my goals. At the same time, I was dealing with the self-imposed pressure to elevate my life overnight.
Two days after posting cute pictures and sharing a fun night out via Instagram story, I admitted myself to the hospital for clinical depression and severe anxiety. One of the scariest moments of my life. Part of me wanted to keep this experience private; another part wanted to write all about it. In the age of social media, we rarely share the battles we face behind the scenes of our IG highlight reels. But I realized that if I want to share these days, I really need to share them.
A couple of months ago, I went from celebrating my first year of living in Los Angeles to suddenly moving back to Cleveland. If you know me, whether from Instagram or IRL – you’ve probably noticed that. And you probably noticed that I wasn’t quick to post a “life update” about it either. Mental health isn’t the easiest conversation because of the stigmas associated with mental illness. And it also can be draining explaining the realities of what living with depression and anxiety looks like. I know that I don’t owe anyone an explanation. However, I want to be transparent and also do my part in destigmatizing some of the misconceptions surrounding mental illness.
Before I made my move to California, I honestly thought I was good to go in the mental health category. I spent a couple of months in therapy, was taking antidepressants, and had a solid wellness routine. I felt like all the inner work I’d done prepared me to excel in a new city. Every morning I woke up with high levels of motivation, ready to tackle my to-do list and experience something new. I even stopped taking my antidepressants because I thought I was ‘good.’
Slowly, that inner work started to diminish, and my days began to get heavier. And as the months passed, getting out of bed became the most significant task. The thoughts became darker, the unexplainable anxiousness grew, and I started to distance myself from my goals. At the same time, I was dealing with the self-imposed pressure to elevate my life overnight. I thought that my depression was stemming from feeling stagnant and not being proud of the work I was doing. However, trying to get things done when you’re extremely fatigued isn’t the easiest. So every night I went to bed feeling guilty for not doing enough.
For a while, I tried to get by, by having a “bomb self-care routine.” I’m talking: tons of aromatherapy products, CBD, early morning hikes, face masks, beach sunsets, jazz playlists, and of course, Eckhart Tolle quotes. I took myself on a ton of dates. I felt like Solange in “Cranes In The Sky,” doing any and everything to make the depression go away. But breaking news, those temporary pleasures can’t cure depression. Especially clinical depression. The real self-care is knowing when to get professional help.
Although, I have worked to destigmatize the conversation around mental health. I still struggled with believing that I was not okay. I struggled with realizing I was having way too many days filled with meltdowns, canceled plans, and 6 am panic attacks. All in all, life was not moving forward, and I needed to do something about it. I knew that I could go on Therapy For Black Girls and easily find a new therapist in LA. But I wanted to go back to the therapist I was already acquainted with in Cleveland. The decision to leave LA brought on a lot of uncertainty. And I felt like leaving would be a failure for me. But overall, I knew that the real failure would be me not reaching my full potential because I let depression take over my life.
I left LA in July.
In August, I started seeing my therapist again, and I got back on antidepressants. I thought after a few therapy sessions, I would feel significantly better. But the fatigue continued, and I didn’t have the motivation to do anything. I felt hopeless after a month or so because I didn’t see any change in my energy. And the thing with battling depression is medication and therapy isn’t a quick fix.
Treating depression comes with a lot of lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet, exercising consistently, meditating daily, and making sure you’re getting quality sleep. It honestly feels like a full-time job when just getting out of bed can feel like an impossible task.
I went through a phase of feeling ashamed that I had to take medication to feel better. I started self-stigmatizing, convincing myself that I should be able to control my symptoms without meds. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t try to heal myself if I had a broken bone – I’ll be quick to get surgery. If I had diabetes and I chose not to take insulin, what will happen? Or say I had an infection, I would make sure I take all of my antibiotics so that the infection won’t get worse. Despite all of the research that shows that chemical imbalances in the brain cause depression, we have a hard time viewing it as a medical illness. Mental health is just as important as physical health. You have to seek medical help, and that help may be antidepressants. And you shouldn’t view it as any other medicine you would take if you were sick. (Things I had to tell myself.)
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.
Throughout the week, I was feeling more anxious than usual. I’m pretty used to feeling uneasy in my stomach; however, I was feeling it all over my body. I also was having one of those “what I am I actually doing with my life?” moments — questioning the past, the future, my purpose – being really hard on myself. I missed a couple of doses of my meds (because I didn’t get my refill in time), which added more fuel to the fire. And I was drinking, which triggers my anxiety.
Thursday, I started having weird crying spells. At one point, I started crying while watching Married to Medicine during a scene where the ladies were arguing about absolutely nothing. I knew something was off.
Saturday morning, the crying turned into an anxiety attack, and I knew that it was time to seek medical help because I felt like I couldn’t control the crying, the dark thoughts, and the trembles in my hand. I was scared.
Sunday morning, I had the worst panic attack of my life. It was my first panic attack where I felt like I was going to die; I couldn’t breathe, my body felt numb, and I couldn’t stop shaking. In that moment, I knew that I needed to check myself into the hospital for inpatient treatment. On the way to the hospital, I felt alone but relieved that I was finally going to get a higher level of support that I needed. Although I had my worries about going to a mental hospital, it wasn’t like anything I expected.
Voluntarily admitting myself was the best decision I’ve made this year. I stayed in the hospital from Sunday to Wednesday afternoon. I started feeling better by the second day; a team of psychiatrists, therapists, nurses, and dieticians managed my treatment. They made sure that I had the tools and skills to be mentally and physically healthy in the future. I left the hospital confident that I was going to be okay.
Currently, I am in IOP (4 times a week) and cognitive behavioral therapy weekly. Once again, it feels like a full-time job. I’m not complaining because 30-year old Shyann is going to be grateful for the work I’m doing right now. Having a therapist doesn’t make me weak. It takes strength to confront your inner battles healthily. Reframing your mindset and addressing negative self-talk isn’t easy work. I went back and forth with posting this because I thought that I was oversharing. However, I decided to go through with it because we need to start normalizing the conversations surrounding our battles with mental health. For the majority of 2019, I dealt with sleepless nights, no appetite, and extreme fatigue because I didn’t want to accept the fact that I needed help. And part of the reason was that I was embarrassed. I suffered in silence and let things build-up to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore.
During this experience, I have been grateful for the support of my close friends and family. But I have also realized how little people know about mental health and the dangerous misconceptions that people have. There are so many articles, interviews, documentaries, and books on what mental illness looks like and how to be supportive. Don’t be that person that’s choosing to stay ignorant. Also, don’t make someone feel guilty for being depressed and anxious. I had to distance myself from a lot of people who got mad at me for declining and canceling plans. It’s my job to make them aware that certain situations are triggering for me and sometimes it’s hard to make it out. But it isn’t my job to get them to understand; they either choose to or not. Lastly, don’t make statements like “just be positive” or “stop being lazy.” If it were that easy, you wouldn’t be six minutes into reading this.
By the way, if you’re still reading this, I appreciate you.
Finding my way back has been my theme for the past months. I am focused on finding my way back to the girl that knew she was capable of doing whatever she desired. On the days when my anxiety starts dancing with social pressures and comparison, I tell myself that it’s okay to pause but don’t quit. I am reminded of the quote by a writer named Lalah Delia, “keep taking the time for yourself until you’re you again.” I am using this time to build the best version of myself so that I can show up as her for my goals + my personal and professional life. I genuinely believe that to get to the outer work, the inner work comes first.
Depression and anxiety don’t define me, and it isn’t my narrative. I look at it as a little piece of my journey that God created for me to collect some substantial life gems. So, when life gets hectic, I’ll be there with my toolbox filled with therapy, boundaries, self-awareness, and willingness – ready for whatever!
Thanks for reading and allowing me to share my journey with you! Feel free to comment or share your story if you can relate. I’m excited to get back consistent on my blog. Let me know if there’s anything you want to hear from me!