mental health

Protecting Your Mind During a Time of COVID-19 and Social Justice Turmoil


I knew the COVID-19 pandemic was having a profound, negative effect on my community when my own therapist told me that she woke up in the middle of the night having a panic attack. I had requested an emergency session with her because I was having a tough time, and it seemed as if she needed one just as much as I did.

My therapist does not make a habit of telling me about her personal mental health struggles, but this was a few weeks after national attention was brought to the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and a week after then Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd. The country was in an uproar. Though my therapist is a white woman, she seemed immensely relieved when I decided to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement—so she could emphatically agree on how abhorrent those situations are and how distraught she felt about them.

You know something is wrong when you want to pause your therapy session to ask your therapist, “You okay, sis?”

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Abstractly, I knew there were people struggling with financial issues, relationship stress, mental illness, and more, but as someone who’s prone to negative mood – pandemic or not—, I couldn’t exactly use myself as a bellwether for how my community was feeling emotionally. I knew my therapist and I weren’t the only ones struggling, but I wanted to know to what extent everyone around me may be experiencing negative emotions, so I sent this survey our to my friends, family, coworkers, and others from my community to see how they were doing.

Survey Results

It turns out my therapist and I were not alone. I asked my community how often they feel sad, angry, or irritable, and while it wasn’t a surprise that no one checked “never,” (we’re not robots after all), I was a bit surprised to see that no one – not one, single person – marked “seldom.” The survey was anonymous, but I made sure to ask some of my more happy-go-lucky friends to take it.

How often to you feel said/anxious/irritable?

Often: 43.75%

Sometimes: 31.25%

Every now and then: 25%

Seldom: 0%

Never: 0%

However, I figured that these negative feelings could be unrelated to COVID-19, so I asked if they had been experiencing sadness/anxious/irritability more since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the results were to be expected. Most respondents said they definitely were! No one said they were less sad/anxious/irritable.

Have you been experiencing sadness, anxiety, and/or irritability more since the COVID-19 pandemic?

Definitely!: 62.5%

Somewhat: 18.25%

It’s about the same: 18.75%

I’m actually less sad/anxious/irritable: 0%

Social Justice & COVID-19

What I really want to discuss is how COVID-19 and the subsequent outcry for social justice reform has impacted out collective psyche, and what we can do to ensure we’re taking care of ourselves.

The COVID-19 lockdown set the stage for social justice outrage like we’ve never seen before. Half (50%) of respondents said their negative mood was brought on by social justice issues, and 44% said their negative mood stemmed from COVID-19 itself. While these two topics were already stressful enough alone, together, they created a perfect storm.

Intense social unrest started with the shooting death of Ahmaud Aubery, and calls for justice skyrocketed in a way I’ve never seen after the killing of George Floyd. We were enraged, infuriated. But unlike in the past when protests fizzled out in a week or so, or remained isolated to a couple cities and towns, these protests set fire to the entire nations, figuratively and literally. Most people couldn’t scroll down their social media news feeds without seeing posts calling for justice or seeing blacked-out image of profile pictures.

The hosts of Code Switch, in their episode “Why Now, White People”, theorize, and I’m summarizing, that when people are placed on lock down, a bunch of energy is built up, so the first spark that comes along sets people off like an explosion. Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent feelings of hopelessness and emotional turmoil, people used that energy and frustration to take to the streets to fight to justice.

But the result of this call for social justice meant that no matter where we looked, we were confronted with our troubling circumstances. We couldn’t get relief from our funny memes and video, and every time we stepped in a grocery store to get supplies for our lock down, we were confronted with masks reading “I Can’t Breathe.”

I feel like I can’t even breathe writing and recalling this; let’s jump to the coping strategies, shall we?

Strategies to Protect and Preserve Your Mental Health:

I’m no therapist, but I have been seeing one for a while, and we are constantly working on coping strategies to prevent negative emotions from impacting my quality of life. Here’s a breakthrough I’d like to share, which is the main reason I wanted to write this post. When I feel sad, anxious, or irritable, I follow these steps to understand myself more and put myself back emotional homeostasis:

Step 1: Realize When You’re Upset

Idle minds naturally wander, and sometimes, they don’t take us to places we want to be. The first step is realizing when there has been a change in your mood. This may seem obvious, but it can happen so subtly and incrementally, that we don’t even notice when our thoughts have affected our mood.

One second you’re washing the dishes, humming a song, and the next you’re extremely annoyed with your significant other. You didn’t realize you’d been ruminating on the annoyance you feel at your significant other for their having left you with the dishes, which led to thinking about past arguments, which can led to thinking about other relationship issues. So, the next time your significant other does something small, like set a dirty plate on the counter, you’re more annoyed or angry than you probably would have been otherwise.

The goal is to catch those thoughts when they’re budding. If you’ve already had this conversation with your significant other, and they promised to do the dishes next time, all these thoughts do is make you upset. Stop your negative thoughts in their tracks replacing them with self-soothing thoughts like, “We’ve already discussed this, so the situation is handled.” If you haven’t discussed it, your self-soothing thought would be, “I will address it with her/him when I am less upset.” We will discuss this more in Step 3.

Step 2: Ask “How did I get here?”

Many times, I am guilty of completely being unaware of my rumination period. Social media has the ability to make our brains hop from one issues to the next, and sometimes, we completely miss our rumination period.

I may have been going through the motions of my day, thinking about how my professor has pissed me off. Then, I share some passive aggressive but funny posts. Then, I read an inflammatory comment in the dreaded Comments Section (dom dom DOM), so I have an imaginary argument with this person in my mind — or worse, actually comment back!

(We all know Internet arguments are a great way to stress ourselves out, right? Okay. Good.)

Then, my friend sends me a funny meme, and we banter, and I laugh for the next hour or so.

But later that night, I feel distraught and unhappy even though I just finished laughing and having fun with a friend, so what could possibly be the problem?

When I realize I’m sad/anxious/irritable, I mentally rewind my thoughts that day to remember what I spent time thinking about. It is usually then that I realize all of the problems that I may have ignored that have been causes me subconscious stress because I didn’t address them.

Guys, watching funny videos is not addressing your problems, but sometimes, this can give you some much needed emotional distance, so you can have the clarity to address them.

Step 3: Assign Solutions to the Problems

Once I realize the issues that are really bothering me, I assign solutions to each one. First, I put them into categories:

  • Problems that can be solved now
    • Plan to take steps toward the solution.
    • Self-soothing internal dialogue: “I should take a break from social media.”
  • Problems that can be solved, but not right now
    • Remind yourself that this problem is a temporary one.
    • Self-soothing internal dialogue: “The semester is only a couple more weeks long; then, it will be over, and I can decide if I want to take a semester off.”
  • Problems that I have no control over
    • Change the way you think about the problem. This may seem like you’re ignoring it. You’re not. Again, you’re temporarily stepping away from the issue for self-preservation purposes.
    • Self-soothing internal dialogue: “We survived slavery, fought Jim Crow, stood up for Civil Right, and continuously make progress in our demands for fair and equal treatment for everyone. As track records go, we have a habit of positive progression, and I don’t know why that would stop now.”

I usually journal this process to keep my thoughts in order and avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Worrying is our brain’s way of telling us that it’s working on a solution. Sometimes, it makes us feel like we are being productive, when all we’re actually doing is upsetting ourselves. Our brains lie to us more than we think, so it’s important to train our minds to monitor our brains. When we’re slipping in to negative thinking, tell it to stop, and replace it with self-soothing internal dialogue.

This is easier said than done. Guided mediation or apps like Calm can help you learn how to build this skill of replacing negative thoughts, so you can use it more effectively.

Respondent Tips

There are many things in life that are out of our control or difficult to change. It’s easy to let them consume us, leading to negative feelings. Fine the coping strategies that work for your, but I hope you can use mine as another one for the mental wellness toolbox. Here are some other tips you might consider.

Here are the solutions respondents had. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with any of them. Different people have different solutions. But perhaps you will find solutions you may not have thought of previously:

  • Acknowledge that your feelings are valid, and allow yourself to feel them for a moment. After the moment has passed, make an effort to feel better.
  • Talk to a friend / a professional / a confidant
  • Pray
  • Micro-dose using psychedelics
  • Express yourself instead of bottling it up because that will cause greater anxiety sooner or later
  • Find what makes you happy, and do it. Putting your mental health before everything else is necessary a lot of the time.
  • Engage in a favorite hobby, create a video blog, create a collage with pictures of good times, pet a dog, go bicycling
  • Lean into your feelings! Feel what you feel when you feel it. It’s okay! Also, go outside and take a walk.

Well guys, I hope you were able to take something from this blog post. There was a lot more I could have said, but this is getting find of long. Lol. More posts coming in the future!

Good Luck, and Happy Adulting!





When is it Time to Consider Medication?

Art by Nicolette Schultz

When Is It Time To Consier Medication

What would you do if a friend told you they didn’t want to live anymore? That they were actively considering suicide and probably would commit suicide if a significant other or parent were no longer in their lives?

What if they told you repeatedly that they were unhappy, and no matter how much they exercised and ate healthy foods, they still felt miserable? What if they told you they drank plenty of water and got plenty of sleep?

What if they had already moved cities and quit a stressful job to work at a less stressful job?

What if they were already seeing a therapist twice a week?

Every couple months, my friend who lives in D.C. calls, telling me she feels like she’s at the bottom of a black pit. She feels like she’s treading water, kicking as hard as she can and struggling to stay afloat. She feels hopeless, and even though her job pays well, and she’s in a field she loves, she thinks about suicide at least once a week.

“I would do it if my grandma weren’t still living,” she told me about her grandma– who is 90-years-old.

I suggested a different therapist, but she’s already tried several, and they all say the same thing. She needs to see a psychiatrist and find the right medication.

She doesn’t want to be on anti-depressants.

“What if I lose my creativity? I heard that is a side effect.” She’s a writer.

“What if I become a different person?”

“What if it makes it worse?”

I understand and I sympathize with all of these worries. And I cringe when I tell her it could make her depression worse. It could have nasty side effects. There is no one cure-all anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. You just have to work closely with your therapist and psychiatrist to find the right one.

She doesn’t like that answer.

When I first began seeking anti-anxiety medication, I had the same questions. Will I be a different person? Will it make it worse? I told my SO to watch for extreme changes in my personality and mood.

The first medication made my anxiety worse. I felt like I couldn’t breathe every time I took it, and it would make me have panic attacks all the time… especially at work.

The second medication gave me horrible headaches, so I stopped taking that.

The third medication worked because it would make me so drowsy, I would be asleep within 30 minutes. Can’t have a panic attack if you’re in a mild coma!

I was honestly happy with the third medication for a while, but it sucked if I ever needed to take it in the day time. I could say goodbye to whatever I was doing for the rest of the day.

So, I went back to my doctor again. I’m no physician, so I can’t repeat exactly what she said, but here’s how I understood it. She told me that the other medications represented certain types of anti-anxiety medications, and because we had tried those already, she wouldn’t give me any more in that category of medication.

Through process of elimination, we tried my fourth medication. My panic attacks didn’t halt immediately, but with therapy, exercise, and some lifestyle changes, I have not had a panic attack I couldn’t handle since I’ve been on the medication. I’ve been able to talk myself down from the proverbial ledge. All of the advice my therapist gives me is way more helpful.

So, yes, I admit to my friend, taking medication can produce unwanted effects, but the results can be well worth it.

I don’t have headaches anymore because I’m not clenching my jaw subconsciously every day and night. My chest doesn’t feel like a 20 pound weight is on it because I can relax my torso even when I’m awake. I don’t have weird sensations in my arms and legs anymore. No nausea or random numbness. I actually have control over my life again thanks to my efforts and medication.

Still, there’s a stigma against anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication in the Black community.

“Just pray about it,” her mother told her, convincing her to throw away the medication she was considering taking.

There’s fear surrounding it.

People will take pain medication, cold & flu medication, blood pressure medication all they want, but when it comes to mental health medication, suddenly, God and a health diet are the only answers.

I believe it stems from the idea that mental illness isn’t real—that it can go away if you just exercise, eat healthy, and pray.

I can tell you, my friend has been a devout Christian since I’ve known her. She’s been praying and trusting God. And I can tell you, I still get that call every few months.

It’s time for all of us, especially in the Black community to begin taking mental illness seriously. My friend in D.C. doesn’t exist, but her thoughts and feelings are real. She is a representation of the very real conversations I have had with several of my friends this year.

If some of you don’t start taking mental health seriously, you could lose someone close to you. Don’t be another person who makes them feel like they’re making it up or they’re weak. They will already convince themselves of that and cry themselves to sleep at night. Tell them that their feeling are valid, and encourage them to seek professional help.

Lives may depend on it.


I Am The Laziest Person in the World


I have been an embarrassing, shameful level of lazy lately. I mean EXTREMELY lazy. I will literally pay an $4.99 for an UberEats drivers to deliver a beef burrito bowl I could have driven five minutes to pick-up myself.

If I don’t order food, I’ll scrounge around for some semblance of a dinner in my refrigerator or pantry. Someone on Reddit finally made me realize the reason we repeatedly look in our refrigerator even though we know what’s in there and have already rejected it. What are we doing? What a desperate divorcee’ with 3 children and a bad dye job is doing when she swipes on Tinder—lowering our standards. And lately, my food standards have been very low.

I can survive on shredded sharp cheddar cheese and water for a couple nights. This is fine.

Getting up in the morning is my real struggle. I know I’m going to be late to work. I mentally berate myself for it, hoping a more aggressive inner monologue will motivate me.

Bruh, get up. Why can’t you adult right?

We have this conversation every morning.

You said you’d do it this time! Don’t you tap snooze again!


Rarely is the aggressive voice successful. A couple months ago, it only antagonized me in the morning, but now it follows me throughout the day.

I can’t stay focused at work. On moment, I’m sitting at my desk. Then, I’m up at my white board writing a list of to-do items to keep me on track. Then, I sit back at my desk and promptly ignoring the list by repeated checking my email, dealing with small, quick problems instead of the more drawn out laborious tasks that I can’t seem to focus on long enough to actually complete. When I try to force myself, it’s like my brain shuts off completely.

Work is the only thing that really brings me pleasure in my life, though. Despite these difficulties, somehow, I always manage to push through and keep going. My boss is happy. My employees still get what they need, so no one really notices that I’ve been sucking at my job for several weeks. But I’m afraid one day, they’ll realize I’ve been faking it instead of making it, and my charade will come crumbling down.

The voice constantly reiterates this.

You’re not doing enough.

You’re wasting time.

You suck and writing now; you’re out of practice.

That email barely makes sense.

They’re gonna know something’s up if you don’t get it together.

I’m just tired. I need rest. I’ll be better and more productive tomorrow. Also, I haven’t been eating well. I need a balanced meal if I’m going to get back on my A-game. I should go grocery shopping after work.

You should.

But instead, I find myself passing the turn to Publix and rolling on home, where I lie under my cover in my dark room and turn on a Netflix show, so it can watch me while I sleep at from 6 pm to 10 pm. I wake up, eat my cheese, drink my water, and rewind Supernatural to the last episode I remember. I watch it until I go back to sleep.

I’m so lazy that I don’t even want to get up to shower half the time. My house is getting progressively messier, but I can’t bring myself to clean anything. The mess really bothers me. It makes me feel bad. Why can’t I just get up and clean?

Man, what is wrong with you? This is really pathetic. There’s a list of things you should be doing.

You need to clean the house. You need to write that new chapter of your book. You need to stop missing your writers meetings. You need to stop procrastinating and do your homework earlier. You need to cook healthy food. You need to save money. You need to do something other than lie around all day.

What is wrong with you?

Finally, with tears streaming down my cheeks, arriving completely unannounced on a Saturday afternoon, I posed the question to SO.

“I literally don’t feel like doing anything. I don’t know what’s wrong. I’ve been like this for months.”

“That sounds like depression,” he answered.

Wow… That… actually makes a lot of sense.

I should call my therapist.