What does it mean when someone compliments you on how you look with depression? What about anxiety? Bipolarism? PTSD? When someone tells you that you look good with depression or any mental illness, what they really mean to say is:
“You do an extraordinary job at hiding it so well”
But is that what we’re actually doing? Hiding our mental health illness? Or is what we do a subconscious coping mechanism? To be quite honest, it is a mix of both.
Not everyone who suffers from a mental health illness, may look the way you think they should. Allow me to go into further detail…We as human beings instinctively enjoy categorizing. We savor categorizing objects, familiar things, places we’ve visited, but most importantly people. This is not because we are discriminative or even oblivious, it is simply because of what and who we have been exposed to. Our brains subconsciously group past encounters, behaviors, and physical characteristics of people, so that we can correlate them reiteratively in the future. You may be familiar with a well known phrase, “ Don’t judge a book by its cover.” When it comes to mental health, I ask you to please be sensitive in regards to stigmas, and open to the reality of who can be affected.
I find it agonizingly flattering when someone I converse with says “I would have never guessed that you suffered from depression and anxiety. You hide it so well!”
“ Do I?”
I don’t mean to conceal my mental health illness, but at the same time I cannot allow it to consume me. Do you understand? For every night I’ve cried myself to sleep in silence, you just better believe I got right back up the next morning and pushed through. For every time I have lied to my friends and family about me being “ok”, I’ve destroyed a piece of my safe haven with them. And for every time I have never asked for help, I have become a puppet to the mental health stigma. However, some days are better than others… As a woman of color, I hold myself to a higher standard. Simple as that. I have an image which I have established for myself. You see, being a woman of color comes with automatic backlash. Society unquestionably holds black women to an ultimately lower standard. With that being said, the more I have to inform individuals about this, the more exasperated I become. People know it’s true, and yet they refuse to acknowledge it. I myself have been referred to as weak, lazy, ghetto, uneducated and my ultimate favorite… crazy. Hearing an outsider categorize me as crazy is not only infuriating, but also agonizing to the highest extreme. How the hell can you judge me, and know absolutely nothing about me? Easily… Society conditioned you. Me, as a woman of color will always have to prove myself to someone on the outside. To every ignorant person. To every discriminative person. But mostly to every white person. Even worse, having a mental health illness not only makes me the black girl… but it makes me the
“Crazy Black Girl”
Not anymore. This is where it stops. No more labels, stigmas, and passing judgments. This is where pride takes a backseat, and our mental health becomes a priority. There is where we stop pretending we are “fine”, and start asking for help. We as black women always have to be so strong. We are the foundation of our families, and the face of empowerment. Having a mental health illness does not mean we have to be incapable of asking for help, nor does this make us weak in any form. I smile on a daily basis, because for every night I cry, God gives me a new day to start over. I am able to “fake it until I make it”, because I know on the days I cannot “fake it”, my family and friends will catch me. I also know that my mental health illness does not make me handicapped, unless I allow it to. Nor does it make me crazy. As a woman of color, I have to enlighten the uneducated, and dampen the stigmas. I also have to remind myself that not everyone with a mental health illness is a hot mess 24/7, including myself. Lastly, I have to remind myself that not every day will be easy, but each day I fight I become stronger. As my beautiful mom always says, “ This too shall pass.”