Mental Health Awareness, Part One by LaurenxElle



Mental Health Awareness is something I've felt inclined to speak on, as I have dealt with mental health issues myself. I’ve never spoken about it or even shared my issues with anyone until this past year. I was afraid, embarrassed, stressed and just overall not in a place to talk about my personal life, with anyone besides my mother and best friends. Even sharing it with my best friends was hard for me to do, but I finally accepted the fact that they would be the best people to confide in and would comfort me.

My first recollection of dealing with a mental health issue was Spring of 2010. It was almost a year into me moving to New York and everything had been going extremely well for me. I was going to school full-time at Queens College studying Media Studies, working at one of the dopest record labels in the world, made new friends and started building my network; living a carefree college girl life. It was a Wednesday night in mid March, which meant finals were well on their way, and this was one of the longest days I had in my week. I worked from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Manhattan at the label then had class from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at school in Queens. My brain was on overdrive from working, classwork and commuting. I received a text from my mom while I was in class that night, asking me to call her when I was done. I didn’t think anything of it because my mom always sent me text to call her so I just texted back “Okay.” When class finally ended, I walked out and headed to my apartment and called my mom to see what was up. When she answered the phone, I immediately knew something was wrong by the tone of her voice. She then began to tell me that she had been going to the doctor the past month to do some testing. "Testing? What the hell?" I started to worry and knew why she wouldn’t have told me she was being tested all this time because I would worry, and because I already had so much on my plate. “I saw two doctors and both times the test came back positive... for Uterine Cancer.” I don’t even remember my response or my thoughts after she said that because it all became a blur. I didn’t know what to say. Only thing I do remember was my mom saying next is “I need you to come home.” My heart sank into my stomach. I literally felt it beating slower and slower and sinking down to the lowest pit of my belly. I’m pretty sure my mom said something along the lines of “Don’t worry,” “We’ll be okay,” but I didn’t really want to hear that shit at the time.

I immediately started to stress and part of it was selfish reasons. I first started to think about leaving New York at a point where everything was going extremely well for me; school, work and personal growth. I was in a good, comfortable space. But, this was something I had no control over and this was my Mother. The one person who has sacrificed everything in her life for me, loved me unconditionally, never told me “no” when I wanted to pursue my dreams-including living in New York. Being an only child and first leaving home at 18, moving away across the country, was hard for my mom and even for me. But still, she told me to go for it. Leaving again, 4 years after that, was still hard for her. But she knew that’s what I wanted. I had no choice but to pack up everything and head home. I had to take my finals early, say goodbye to my friends, leave work and my new life to come back to LA and take care of my mom. This is when I started to become depressed. I was so unhappy, stressed, sick, developed insomnia and sometimes couldn’t eat. I thought my mom was dying, I had to give up a good situation I had going for myself, stop going to school to work, get a new car, it was a lot! I became overwhelmed and very emotional.

It’s been almost 8 years that my mom had her Cancer removed and has been in remission. I believe everything happens for a reason and we did what we had to do. My mom ‘til this day still carries guilt for having to “take me away” from the life I was living in New York. I tell her that there was nothing that we could do about it and that if I had to pack up and leave everything behind again, I would do it with no hesitation. As for my depression, it never went away. I also developed anxiety. Things got harder for me as I tried to progress forward while I was in LA and I didn’t know what to do. A year and half after my mom’s surgery, I enrolled back into school and graduated with a 3.8 GPA and made it to the Dean’s List. That may have been the biggest and most rewarding feeling besides my mom getting better, that I had felt in a long time. I felt free and accomplished. Two weeks after graduation, I headed back to New York. It definitely wasn’t the same as the first move, but I was happy and was in a better place mentally and emotionally. Or so I thought.

Within that first year to two years of being back, I felt okay, not bad, but just okay. I reconnected with old friends, made new ones, still dabbled in music working and tried to get my motion back. I decided I needed to break away from the music industry and find something else to do. That was a struggle because I love music, but working in it became difficult. I’d rather have been a fan than a “minion” because that’s how I felt at the time. I wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted, so it put a strain on my admiration for it. I fell back into a dark place and no one knew. Not that I tried to hide it, I just isolated myself from people and dealt with my issues on my own. That’s what I always did. I was so good at solving everyone else’s problems except my own. I never wanted to admit I had Depression. I thought it would make me look weak, crazy and unattractive. Having these thoughts made it worse and caused me to become so withdrawn. I had to force myself to get up, force myself to eat, force myself to go outside and get fresh air. I wouldn’t answer my phone/texts, I would skip out on hanging out, make up excuses of why I couldn’t do certain things just because I didn’t want people to see me in this state. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t myself. I felt worthless and lost. I got jobs that I wasn’t progressing in and I couldn’t focus because I wasn’t being challenged. I was so drained again, mentally and emotionally and confused. I thought I was doing everything right, but I wasn’t truly happy. It was temporary happiness I would encounter. New York was driving me crazy and my anxiety was on a trillion. I was tired of that. I needed change, so I moved.

I’ve been in D.C. for a year and seven months and although I haven’t gotten back to 100%, I feel like I’m at about 80%. That’s progress. I still have my days because let’s face it, life is crazy and you never know what’s going to happen. But, I do feel like I am in a better space all around and have learned to work on myself and understanding  to let sh*t go that I CANNOT control. I’ve done therapy, done more writing, reading, meditating and yoga. I’ve worked on communicating better with friends and family when I don’t feel good and it’s helped a lot. I’m very proud of myself and the journey that I’ve been on because I’ve taken so many risks over the years and haven’t given myself the credit I deserve. I’m working on being a better person for ME everyday and keeping in mind that I am my priority, and MYSELF and my HAPPINESS should always come first.