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Living In the Gray Area: Mental Health Is Not One-Size Fits All

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Mental Health Sides

I initially struggled with writing this without sounding like a complaint of sorts. Writing about certain experiences comes with bravery. I am disappointed in the way folks are laughing at Jada Pinkett Smith's book about HER journey.

An image of Jada Pinkett Smith's profile with the words Word worthy at the top and her name at the bottom in white text
Jada Pinkett Smith Worthy

The internet has got us in a chokehold about laughing at people who speak their truth. Especially if that truth is different. People say they value authenticity, but they criticize you for speaking your mind when it challenges their norm or makes them feel insecure. No one wants to hear it.

Healing requires so much that we forget that storytelling isn't just for kids. The courage to speak your truth is liberating. No one gets to fill the holes. People either accept it or you become content.

I shared in a blog that I had anxiety. You can read the post here. This was not the full story, and I am not prepared to tell that yet, but it was real. Someone didn’t believe that it was. They even told me they thought I was faking it for attention. They questioned whether I had received a clinical diagnosis and alleged that I was pretending to be a victim. It was a big deal that led to some years of online shade. I still have anxiety. I think I am managing it better now because I can identify triggers and I've learned to process a lot of the emotions that it carries. Just a reminder that no matter what people think about what happens, it still happens to you.

I live in The Gray Area.

Where is this?

This is the least acknowledged living space because it doesn’t fit on any end of the spectrum. I do not consider things destitute, nor are they lavish. The people who function in this space appear to have the answers. Or they seem to have it together.

Until something happens and there is the “I never saw this coming” or “They looked so good”. A few years ago, a friend of mine told me a story about her friend who told her mother that she was feeling depressed. Her mother’s response was, “You have a job and a place to live. Why are you depressed?” Nothing can stop the chaos that is life from wreaking havoc, no matter how good you look or what you have. Most recently, a friend had to take some time off due to work trauma. Even if the departure was sudden, you would think that her co-workers would be supportive. Not in the least; they claimed that her crisis wasn’t real or as serious because she was posting on social media.

Why are we policing how people process or handle traumatic events? Who decides that your trauma isn’t trauma if you’re not huddled in a corner or become a hermit? Why do we need proof of a traumatic experience to believe that it happened or is happening?

Opening-up about what hurts is brave. Especially when no one expects you to say anything. Covering up and carrying on has led us to years of built-up pain that we sometimes take out on each other. Or transform into insecurities about our lives.

After coming out to friends about what happened, the support has been unwavering. I learned so much more about my friends and their struggles to realize there are far more people living in the Gray. You know, people with successful lives who still struggle with mental health.

There are so many things we must live up to. There is this thin line that so many of us walk when sharing truths. The fear that comes with expression is why most people keep their stories to themselves. Even if it can help someone else. The internal battle is constant.

So many of us are retiring from the strong black woman persona. She has been helpful on the quest for independence but a detriment to our wellbeing. The Gray area is safe-ish. I used to tell myself that “it could be worse” but that statement alone is highly dismissing what I was going through. How can I heal from it if I never acknowledge its existence?

There will always be things to be grateful for, but gratitude is only part of the remedy. Practicing gratitude is crucial to being aware, and that includes being aware of what hurts and why.

There is no excuse for a lack of compassion and empathy. Living in the Gray is no joke. You are one breakthrough or breakdown from either end of the spectrum. The sad part is no one sees that because, as legend has it, “we never look like what we’re going through”.

You never know what people are going through. Be kind. Listen and believe them.

Take good care of yourself, till the next post.

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Oct 28, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

As an peer advocate.l this post hits . I'm so glad you wrote your story. I relate on so many levels. Hopefully this will shed the authentic light of understanding it deserves. Blessings

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