Panic Attack Diaries

Tracking the oft-forgotten triggers that lead to panic disorder.

Why reality seems so harsh (or, the sheltered ones).

TipsComix.com image

Humorous look on harsh reality, courtesy of tipscomix.com

I think one of the best things about being poor is learning how cruel life is at an early age… especially if you live within driving distance of a more affluent society.  That way, you get the full effect of what it’s like to see someone else eat things that you only thought were possible for famous TV characters or super rich people.

I never grew up in the service industry, but I did see my grandmother working the back kitchen.  She’d cook all the time there and then at home, as well.  I remember sitting in the kitchen and just watching her and my mom cook and being amazed at the chemistry involved with putting in “just the right amount of ingredients” to make something taste fantastic that came out of a can.

However, I can imagine that the service industry is full of self-entitled customers: those that think they are there for servants that should treat them a specific way, hand and foot.  I saw a documentary once where a teacher gave all the students on one end unlimited funds, and the students on the other had to fight and work their way to pay even the simplest bills.  At the end, they found that the students with all the money were rude, succinct, and demanding.  The other students were very docile and responded with kindness towards each other, especially if they were in the same monetary range.  When switched, both sets started the exhibit all the characteristics of the other one… often feeling regret when they’re coming from the “rich side” to the “poor one”.

But in the real world, do we have the opportunity to switch?  Given the circumstances and 80s movies where the rich are humorously switched with their poorer counterparts, do they even really learn a lesson or are they just relieved to not feel sad for 24 hours a day?  I ask myself these questions because I am not sheltered.  Neither my mom, dad, and family – nor did my environment – have kept me from learning the lessons that are present when only one side of society is allowed to show me anything about life.

No one really thought that poor people, where I lived at the time, were victims of circumstance brought on by institutional nuances to create “poor people”.  They thought they were all due to their self-doing.  Even more, they thought that poor people only wanted to be ignorant, dull, and uninformed.  That their only interest was to learn a skill that was a trade, and then move on to buying that big screen TV and having beer nights and producing more offspring to start over the process, again.

However, this is a lie perpetuated by the sheltered: the ones that won’t come out of their two-story dwellings to see anything else but what was carefully put in front of them.  And then told lies upon lies while still remaining in their households and fake realities.

Sounds conspiracy theorist, doesn’t it?  Sounds laden with jargon about how the “man’s trying to keep us down”?  Well, it’s that and it’s not.

Sure, there was an institution setup to create this kind of havoc.  That is absolutely true.  However, what isn’t true is how pervasive it might be.  For instance, yes… there are schools that will only accept people based off their race or, moreso, socioeconomic status (a nicer cover).  However, there are places where this actually doesn’t exist and since people of a lower income status are so used to being segregated against, they usually go about with just complaining that they’d never actually “go anywhere” within that system nor even come close to being accepted without a great deal of angst and resentment while they’re trying to get the help, encouragement, and knowledge that they need.

I’m more of the latter half.  I’ve used “institutionalized segregation” as an excuse more than once and on more than one occasion.  It doesn’t help to be surrounded by people who think, act, and believe the same.  I’ve tried taking myself off that race and onto the other side, only to discover that just as much as those other people I left believed in the institutionality of it all, the other side was so deftly blind against it.

So, if it isn’t one side, it’s the complete opposite.

What is one to do in this matter?  Do you just sit in the middle, carefully avoiding both sides without making them angry at you? Or do you expose the truth to both and flash it in front of their faces without even a care?

I’ve seen people do the latter and all it got them was people hating them.  Yes, they saw the truth, but the EXECUTION OF THE TRUTH is what mattered.  No one wants to be told that their butt looks fat in jeans… but they do want to be told that those jeans aren’t flattering and to have help with finding another pair that are.

What’s in it for most people who are not in either side, but somewhere in the middle? Peace. Sure, resounding, pleasant peace.

I know there are stories about the angels or entities that lie in the middle when there is a conflict going on, and that those who are non-action are as guilty as those that take undesirable action.  But the key to fighting is: Know WHEN to fight.  Sometimes sitting on the sidelines and watching what’s going on is the best strategy that money cannot buy.

I’ve waited on the sidelines.  I’ve watched as battle after battle has been fought and won… or loss.  I’ve seen people cry, yell, scream, rejoice, dance, and antagonize over every little detail.  But the best thing I’ve ever seen or done for myself is to wait.  Wait it out, see what happens, and calculate my next move.

Reality is about skill and structure. Carefully analyzing your steps are most important. That’s where the harshness comes from.

As a black person, this is going to come off sounding mean.

Courtesy of popscreen.com

I get mistaken for an angry black woman… a lot.  Mostly because I’m an introvert… like a good portion introverted.  And when I have my glasses off, I tend to look piercingly at people… because I can’t see.  Or maybe it’s a stereotype.

I also have depression, as you may know by reading my blog (which is filled with stories about how much it gets on my nerves).  As a result of the depression, I tend to look somber.  I’m in a funk most days if I’m not feeling well.  And sometimes being depressed in itself makes me not feel well and thus I’m in a funk and feel even more depressed.  See, that’s why I don’t like it… depression is its own spiral.

But more than these things, I hate the stereotype that I am forced to live out in people’s mind that I’m an angry black person looking to blame someone for the way I feel.  Actually, I don’t.  Most people don’t even know me, or they see me one time and think these things because of a single blog post or a picture they saw me post or like once on Facebook.  I’m a varied individual, but you’d think otherwise with the way people portray folks of color on the stage and screen.

If I were, per se, to look at gay white men and say “Oh, they must all be flamboyant and love pink and feather boas” I’d get boo-hoo’d to kingdom come.  I’d be quickly pointed to the nearest Log Cabin Republican and told to study up more and stop being such a dumbass.  And if I did do that, they’d be absolutely right.  So why can’t America get with the program about black women?

I think most still see black women as the domestic head of household.  The mammy.  The one to take care of me.  The one that brings me to her bosom and tells me that she’ll secretly take care of me and has a smooth way about the method she uses to do it.  I learn a life lesson and its on to commercial break.

When mammy is sick, everyone cries and they put her away in a home.  The majority of Americans think this, and they go about their way of doing exactly that.  If ol’ mammy isn’t up to snuff, they put her out to pasture.  I’ve even been told that that is my role in several jobs that I’ve had, eventhough it was never my intention.

I’ve been through illness of a parent, illness of a sibling, poverty wars, and highfalutin expectations.  I’m expected to be black, be a woman, be strong, be gentle, be nice, be assertive (but not too assertive), be bold, be loving, be understanding, and to be caring.  All. At. The. Same. Time.

I have no life… I spend it trying to fulfill these expectations that society has placed on me and it’s quite tiring.  I’m up awake at 5am… sometimes from dreams of my teeth falling out, horrible emails from my work place, and emotional rejection from people I care and have cared about.  My mind tells me that I am doing the best job that I can, but my emotions never match up to that… they feel like I’ve let everyone down, including myself.

And then, I go through another funk.  And then I feel like dying is the only option.  And then I feel like I can’t talk, that I’m suffering, that I’m struggling through moment by moment.

But then, I write.

I write away my feelings.  I think away the way that I feel and I put it on paper or, in this case, blog.  And then I hope to share with others who also feel this way, who are also black, who are also feeling separated and segregated from a world of love and pure acceptance.  But black people aren’t supposed to feel this way.  We’re too disenfranchised to really have any feelings that are considered “white people problems” like depression.

But wouldn’t you expect that from an oppressed race of people that are still underneath the systematic oppression of a nation built on the backs of their very own ancestors.  Why aren’t we regaled?  Why didn’t white people say, “We did bad, and now we need to do everything we can to make up for all the stupid stuff we did”?  Why instead do white people marginalize us as though our ancestors came here of their own free will and stole everything from them?

I’m not white.  I can never be white, but I can just guess.  My guess is that white people played the victim.  They played the victim because they were saying to themselves “Well, it’s not my fault I feel this way about blacks.”  I mean, from the very, very beginning.  Like from the first days of slavery.

If I were white, I’d probably think:

There’s surely some reason why we’re using these Africans to do our work.  I mean, there’s got to be a reason why they want to do this work.  They were probably criminals in their own land, stealing from their own people, so I really am doing them a favor by bringing them to a new land to work hard and gain an honest living.  They should thank me.  I mean, if they continue to do well, they’ll probably get what they deserve in life… I did.

If I thought that way, then I’d pass those same thoughts on to my children, and them to their children, until the 1950s and 60s.  And then, my descendants would think: These are the people of criminals.  They were begat by criminals and, no doubt, they would probably be criminals, themselves.  Why would I give them rights?  Why would they even deserve to vote?  Only to get their own criminalistic people into office? We’ve got enough of our own corrupt people to work with… why would I even let someone else into our government?

Of course, I could never say it to my children that way.  They would say, “Well, Papa… how do you even know that they’ve stolen something?  I’ve known Timmy Brown for most of my life and he’s a good, honest black person.”  My poor son wouldn’t know a rock if it hit him in the head, so I’d have to pull out the facts and statistics that show that people like Timmy commit more crimes against our kind than even our own kind do.  I’d have to pull out all the regulations that Timmy’s folks clearly see printed out in plain English and how they’ve still refused to follow the rules.  That should put my son back in the right mindset.

After years of slight indoctrination, I’d have myself surrounded by family members who have passed on this legacy of criminality in association with skin color.  Not directly, I might add.  Nothing would be so poignant as to point out the specificity of my actions, but only the subtlety to suggest that people of a certain background happen to share the same characteristics, just like associating a certain animal breed with a particular behavior.

Again, all this diatribe and I’m in no way near white in either skin color or (completely) in culture.  I think that the only way we can get to a consensus is to finally address everything the way that it is… whether it be my origin story above or some other genesis topic of racism.  The fact that people still associate racism with a person distinctly not liking another person because of the color of their skin is old hat.  No one comes up to me and touches my arm and says “Ewww!” (well, unless I’ve been in the St. Louis summer humid heat).  No one really hates a person because of the color of their skin, it’s what they think that person’s culture – and more particularly, that person – represents.

Some white police officers are afraid of black men because they think that they’re strong and wanting to overpower them.  It has nothing to do with the actual pigment of the skin that the officers dislike.  They dislike what the association of it means to them.  But how can we have an open discussion about this in order to open up these wounds and address them with these officers?  How do we sit them down and say:

“Really, really… don’t give me bs.  Just tell me what you’re actually thinking when you see this black, male figure with a southern drawl, hat cocked to the side, and pants sagging?  And don’t tell me gangster.  Don’t tell me that you think he’s a criminal.  Tell me what you think his personality will be and how it will conflict with yours, because that’s what you really have the problem with.  It wouldn’t matter if he looked like that everyday, as long as you knew that you could talk to him and that he would understand that you’re out for his best, then you would have never drawn your gun, would you?”

I wished that we could do this.  But we live in such a cloak and dagger society that everyone works on hiding themselves, from everyone.  How do we ever get to know each other?  Facebook?  Half the people on there don’t even use their real name or pictures of themselves.  As one person said to me, “All I see is a chihuahua or a tree.”  My point is that we hide ourselves too much.  We don’t talk and we certainly don’t know each other and we always feel in competition with one another.

Some days I wish that I could go back to living in an environment where everyone was good at their own individual thing.  No two people were trying to compete to be the best cook, medicinal person, or anything.  Everyone had their strength, and that was the only thing that people in the area would exercise to them.  I want people to see me as what I’m naturally good at… I’m exhausted with competing and trying to be the best at something I have no innate talent for.  It feels like a tremendous waste of time, energy, and resources.  I’m not angry about it, just tired.

College Students and Mental Health: An #Act4MentalHealth #NationalDayOfAction post

National Day of Action on Mental Health image

Sept 4th is a National Day of Action on Mental Health. Find out how you can help at http://www.nami.org/act4mentalhealth

 

Look for these signs/occurrences:

  • Conversations about suicide or homicide
  • Sleep problems
  • Bulimia and Anorexia
  • (Excessive) alcohol and drug use
  • Expectable life stresses (including but not limited to): loneliness, financial stress, and even graduation

These may sound like typical issues for anyone, and many students in colleges each and every year experience a mental illness for the first time, and often alone, while exhibiting these signals.  I was one of them.  And I’ve meet many who were just like me.

Of the five bullet points above, I encountered a person who fit four of them.  And unfortunately, that person never sought further help for the very reason that many of us don’t: we don’t want to be judged.  This is one of the biggest blockers to accepting mental health assistance for students who desperately need it.

Helpful solutions are often echoed in the same voices throughout campus by academic counselors and resident assistants: seek help (there’s often an onsite counseling service), offer helpful websites, and above all – approach the person needing the help with concern and NOT judgement.  I can’t even express how much the latter happened to me and how crushing it was to my ability to get help. Usually, I was being judged by a person who obviously did not have a mental illness or a person in their life that suffered with a mental illness.

On the other end, countless reasons are given as to why students never get help.  I’ve heard everything from “I don’t trust the counselors on campus” to “I don’t want my parent(s) to know”.  As a result, I end up helping out those that refuse counseling, but I continually insist that they must seek help on their own as I cannot be around all the time.  I, myself, have my own counseling and therapeutic methods to execute so I, sadly, cannot always be there to help out others.

This often falls on deaf ears.  Sometimes the inability to get these students to seek help becomes so pervasive, that they will do anything to avoid having any issues addressed.  I’ve seen students flat-out lie about their conditions, and refuse to acknowledge that they are in such a deep depressive state, that it has affected their schooling, work ethic, and decision-making processes.  Combine this with a non-supportive or limited-supportive environment, and you have a recipe for emotional and mental sabotage.

I know this all too well.  My own past has been laden with times where I didn’t seek help because I didn’t think my problems were “all that serious”.  I took my mental health for granted.  I thought that if I tried hard enough, for long enough, that I would pull through.  But often, that is not ever, ever the case.  Sitting alone in the darkness is what got one person I know in a mental institution.  It got me sent home from school (despite having a full scholarship).

I want to make a plea out to universities to please, please consider taking serious action on mental health issues with college students.  Whether you’re a staff member and see it in a work-study student, or a faculty member that suspects that a student in their course is showing all the warning signs, do something.  Even if it turns out to be nothing extremely serious, it’s at least an awakening to the student that they are seen and someone does care.

 

DO SOMETHING

The bullet-pointed list above and more information on the various symptoms that college students may exhibit (and what to do to help) are available in the document Mental Illness on Campus – What You Can Do To Help from the NAMI website.

Become a Mental Health Expert on your campus by knowing the signs for common mental illnesses like those described above, and learn some wellness tips at NAMI’s Mental Health Conditions in College Students website.

 

Post-Ferguson Talks

People Cleaning After Ferguson QuikTrip Fire

Community members help to clean up Ferguson QuikTrip. Courtesy of stlouis.cbslocal.com.

Over the past week, I’ve attended two different types of post-Ferguson events: one formal for business leaders, and one informal for community members.  The stark contrast doesn’t need to be explained, but I did find some takeaways that I felt were exemplary of the growth we’ve gone through as a society:

  • At the business-focused one: The question of “should we talk about this as it has nothing to do with work” was asked, and addressed.  The answer? Yes.  Overwhelmingly, yes.  This is an issue that effects the minds and hearts of people in the surrounding area.  Trying to pretend that it didn’t happen will only make people feel isolated and delay work activity. The event was held in a conference room of an office building during traditional office hours.
  • At the community-focused one: The small gathering of about 30 heard every viewpoint under the sun about what the problem was with the people of Ferguson, the St. Louis metro community, and the county divisions.  We “heard” each other.  We didn’t argue, fist fight, or cut each other off… we listened.  And everyone got a chance to speak.  The event was held in a local bakeshop after hours and offered baked goods for a donation.

Despite the differences of the two events, both focused mainly on the task at hand: How do we cope with what is happening, and how do we fix it? For some, it’s learning how to appropriately facilitate a discussion and avoid shying away from any difficult subjects.  For others, it’s getting out there and making sure that community members not only vote, but also have the means to attend the polls when the time comes.

We talked about leaders, methods of communication, how to deal with those who are emotional and angry, ways to prevent an uprising when the final verdict is heard, and in both events, the community’s desire to help, provide, and be supportive is what stood out the most.  I am proud to be part of a city that has taken the time to not only address an issue as it as happening, but also to try to find multiple methods to keep it from happening again in a healthy light.  Some protested, some painted, some talked, some made mobile apps, some recorded every instance, and some were just there in spirit.

Every aspect of anything that can be done must and was considered.  I am glad to have had a chance to be a small part of history.  When someone asks what I did during this time, I want to sit down and tell them the story of Ferguson, and how its beginning reaches all the way back to Africa.  I want to tell them how we fought, sacrificed, and prayed until we accomplished something that was worth our and our children’s lives.  This will be the new story of America: One where we were divided, and working to heal the lines that had been so heavily drawn.

 

{DISCLAIMER: I was never at any of the Ferguson protests.  I never drove near Ferguson.  And for me, the reason is much more personal.  I decided, instead, to be there when the cleanup and healing began.  That’s my strong point and I’d rather give Ferguson my real strength rather than a pretended one.

I’m originally from Illinois, right across the border, and when I hear about riots and unjust practices, all I can see is my own neighboring city being torn to pieces.  People have always associated my place of growth with violence and unruliness, so I don’t really feel the need to tell people anything otherwise, most times.  It often feels too overwhelming and like climbing up a hill that was designed to make you fail.

So instead, I’ll tell you the story of Ferguson… “a” story of Ferguson.  One perspective and one view of an entire movement that changed a region and shifted the consciousness of a nation.}

Different Kinds of Honest, Or, How to Lose Friends Fast

lmlewis517:

Brutal honesty is not what everyone *needs*. You are only hurting a person as sensitive as I am. This lost does a great job of looking at it from someone who has a sensitive person in their life.

Originally posted on So Tuachair:

I recently noticed someone saying that they felt they were losing their friends because they were too honest.

I have a similar issue, but I know now that the problem was actually with brutal honesty. But, where’s the difference? Where’s the line? As a certain musical number points out, there’s a fine, fine line.

No - but it is your fault that you're brutal.

No – but it is your fault that you’re brutal.

Brutal honesty is when you’re harsh with your delivery of news. Say a friend asks you if a pair of jeans makes her butt look big. Do you answer:

a. DAMN GIRL, YES THEY DO
b. Let’s try some others and see what works best.
c. Take those jeans off right now, your ass is the size of Montana.
d. No….No. Not at all.

If you chose A or C, you might be too harsh. I won’t lie – there are always going to be people who are…

View original 271 more words

I am racist, and so are you.

lmlewis517:

She gets it…

Originally posted on Being Shadoan:

And the sooner we both acknowledge this, the sooner we can begin to address the problem. So let’s talk.

“Wait just a minute here, Rachel. You’re like, the least racist person I know. You’re always sharing stuff about race and racism. You couldn’t possibly be racist.”

Here’s the deal. Racism isn’t just guys in white robes and Paula Deen shouting racial slurs. Racism is subtle, racism is insidious, and our culture is so deeply steeped in it that it’s impossible to grow up in the US and not be racist. It’s a kind of brainwashing: a set of default configuration files that come with the culture. It’s a filter, built up from birth, that alters our perception of the world. (Literally–racial bias makes people see weapons that aren’t there.) Racism isn’t just conscious actions; it’s judgements that happen so fast that we may not even be aware of…

View original 2,137 more words

Michael Brown, Depression, and how they’re related.

I haven’t talked much about the Michael Brown situation sans a commentary I left on my Facebook.  The reason I stopped short of saying my two cents is because we’re still a racially-divided country with each segment only understanding what they grew up with.  A lot of that stuff was wrong and based on adults who didn’t know how to teach their children right from wrong because they didn’t know it themselves, either.

On the one hand, we’ve got this young child that was on his way to college.  I’m sure he did stupid and crazy things, but made the right decision with a major factor of his life.  That’s pretty much all you can ask for from a late-teen boy.

Then we’ve got Robin Williams, a consummate actor/performer/legend, who suffered from a horrible disease that took his life.  No, he didn’t kill himself.  He was suffering from a disease.  The disease ALLOWS it to be easier to kill yourself.  There’s a stark difference.

The last paragraph is why I am afraid to go back to work.  A lot of people don’t understand depression.  They think that I just make these decisions on my own accord.  It hurts me to say to so many people that I can control it only so much, and that I have to take a break from society every now and then to get myself together.  That’s all I needed was a break.

With Michael Brown, he grew up in a community where depression was rampant.  Look at the events that have unfolded.  They are all telltale signs of a society being oppressed.  And with oppression comes depression.  But the main problem is that the people doing the oppressing can’t see that… and since depression is already discounted as “stubborn sadness”, no one is really going to listen.

One of the ideas I had was telling people how depression can lead to violence, but I think people aren’t advanced enough to open themselves up to understand.  Don’t get me wrong, some people do know the difference, but that’s few and far between.  The issue comes in that when we try to explain to people what’s going on, they hide behind their religion, angst, and non-personal experience of what’s going on.

Take for instance some of the psychologists that I know.  People who have studied the human mind, behavior, and full-well know what depression is and how being privileged, they cannot possibly understand what its like to be black, male-looking, teenage-looking, and living in a city that’s mostly black and having many white people who feel that black people are over-exaggerating the issue.  I walk outside fitting the former criteria most days not to offset someone but because that’s just the way I dress and look.  My pants aren’t sagging to the ground and I love wearing t-shirts that display my fandoms.  I don’t like wearing makeup and I prefer the more comfortable shoes that are typical to most butch-esque lesbians.  I’m not doing it to make a statement to anyone else, just out of regularity.

The first thing I get is a look.  A lot of people look at me to determine my gender and age.  That’s okay… it’s been over ten years and I’m kind of adjusted to them doing it, now.  It still disturbs me every now and then and sometimes I wished they were taught not to stare at people, but I digress.  I get to the point where I’m going to wherever my planned destination is and sometimes I’m called out asking if I’m a man or a woman… other times, I’m called out to ask what high school I go to.  It doesn’t happen as much anymore, but that’s something that’s always irked me.  And then since most people don’t get it, they assume I must have been doing something to “ask for it”.  That’s called victim blaming and there’s a link there in case you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about.

So we talked about me… now I need to talk about how this comes into play with Michael Brown.  Do I think he had depression?  I don’t know for sure, but I’m telling you based off his surroundings, I wouldn’t doubt it if he had a mild version of it.  The stereotype, if you didn’t know, of black young men is that they are dangerous.  That they want to rape, kill/murder, take, and take, and take, and take, and take what’s yours.  Oooooo… scary!!!

Ask any white woman in the region if there was a friend, family member, or news story about how dangerous black men are in an indirect or direct manner and I’m pretty sure they’ll tell you yes but “they didn’t pay attention to it”.  As a result, white men feel its their duty to protect people from the dangerous black men… and the black women that let them attack due to their weak disposition against them.

You think I’m joking.

That, right there, is what many of them really feel.  They’ll do anything to take this thing off the subject of black people.  They’ll concentrate on the cops.  They’ll concentrate on their own white family members who are “accepting”.  They’ll say that they don’t feel the same way but think that some of those “are to blame”… and they won’t say “black people” but they’ll mean it.

I see through their disguises and the best thing for them to do is to say, “I’m white and I don’t know what it is to feel what you all must be going through… and by ‘you all’ I mean black people.”

Stop deflecting.  Stop being a d*ck.  Stop putting your white privilege out for display.  Sit down, shut up, and understand that you are ignorant in this situation.

{Disclaimer: As of this posting, no one knows exactly what went on with the Michael Brown case.  No official release has been made with all applicable information included, so we’re all ignorant in this mess.}

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