Choosing Recovery, Day After Day

Trigger warning: This post discusses sensitive topics such as rape, self-harm, and disordered eating which may be triggering to survivors. Please read at your own discretion and, above all, take care of yourself.

Let’s start with recent events, shall we? On Monday, July 29th at 1:44pm, I quit my job of almost three years. I said farewell to a steady paycheck and health insurance, but I refused to compromise my mental health any longer. 

Throughout my undergraduate years, I was overworked and highly stressed. One day, thinking I was suffering a different medical “ailment” requiring attention, I learned that I was depressed. I had learned to bog down my schedule with school and jobs. I was none the wiser about what was truly going on. Yet, when my doctor asked me what it was that I would do on a complete day off, a day without obligations or any commitments that required my immediate attendance, I would often sit in my room. It was always dark and my bed was my haven. Off and on, I would sleep or slowly lose myself into whatever I was streaming. So I saw a therapist and as I spoke, she listened. Turns out, aside from being a high functioning depressive, I also had anxiety and anorexia. 

The diagnosis of anorexia was something that I wasn’t expecting. I watched what I ate to be mindful of my body and when I worked out, I would spend a few hours at the fitness center on campus. I would freak out over “bad foods” and increase my workout by at least 30 minutes if I was triggered by watching somebody else eat them. My therapist referred me to a treatment center where I was supposed to spend 30 days. My tenure there turned into 8 months of daily therapy and for a few months, it was 40 hours a week of therapy. Within those blue walls of that treatment center, I slowly learned how to unburden myself, how to embrace being vulnerable, how to speak out, and a host of many other things. 

The biggest thing that I walked away with was that I wasn’t anorexic because I was seeking control. I was anorexic because I believed, with every fiber of my being that I was undeserving of anything, even food. It’s the belief I held after being raped by my ex-boyfriend weeks before my 19th birthday. It’s the belief I I held when I would grab a razor blade and slice through my arm drugged out on NyQuil and completely delirious. It’s the belief I held when my neighbor raped me weeks before my 21st birthday. I believed I deserved all of my misfortunes for something unbeknownst to me. 

When I told a few friends about my diagnosis. I discovered how much shame exists in the African American community surrounding mental health and the seeking of treatment. So let me share some facts. According to Mental Health America, over 6.8 million African Americans have a diagnosable mental illness. According to VawNet, approximately 1 in 5 Black women had been raped in their lifetime. Mind you, I survived it twice. Now that you have a brief history of my history, let me clue you in to my former work environment.

Due to some of my coworkers having their own healing journeys, my weight was the subject of their self bullying. When I would advocate for myself by trying to assert boundaries, I did not exactly receive understanding responses. So as the diet talk and ways to be healthy were passed around, even to the point that a scale was kept in the office for those who wished to participate to do weekly weigh ins, I couldn’t continue to fight it. When my anxiety was triggered at seeing cops arrive at our building with rifles drawn and no possible escape available, instead of safety precautions being taken, I was eventually teased for overreacting (in reality, I was crying in the corner talking to my dad to figure out what was going on and what I should do). When I would try to silence my frustrations and needed to go home for my mental sanity, I was met with opposition. So I left, gladly and freely. My recovery will always come first, before school, before my relationships, and yes, before my career.

In the advent of social media, mental health recovery seems trendy and “fun.” So let me debunk some of the BS that keeps me eye rolling:

  • No, when I’m in my depressive state, I will never reach out to you for help, so please stop posting about how you want those of us with depression to seek help from loved ones. The nature of it is that we continue to quietly spiral downwards and often, we feel like enough of a burden already.

  • Yes, I do sometimes (actually often) joke about having anxiety, but what I’m saying is truth. If you start to tell me something and then proceed to say, “Never mind” I will continue to try to figure out what it is (even if it’s my own mental process), and if I caused it.

  • When you talk about all the things to minimize in your diet, that is disordered eating, even if you were not diagnosed with an eating disorder. If you walk around feeling guilty about what you ate and then proceed to skip meals or punish yourself with a workout, that is the foundation of an eating disorder. Yes, I said it. I will not take it back.

  • If you see the scars on my arms, it doesn’t mean I’m emo, it means that I experienced some things that I did not have healthy coping mechanisms for at the time.

  • And finally, if all of this reality is too much for you to handle, maybe you should work on yourself before you proceed to share my mental illnesses with others. Only I have claims to my story and your choice to gossip about my reality just proves what kind of a person you are.