“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”
–Robin Williams (1951-2014)
As a New Yorker, there’s a list of things you pray will never happen to you involving the MTA. Things like rushing to an empty train car for a seat just to get smacked in the face with an ungodly stench, getting kicked by one of those “Showtime!” dancers or being scared that you might fall into the track because the platform at rush hour is just too damn crowded. As outlandish as these may seem, one or more of these “fears” creep into my mind every time I step foot into the subway. It wasn’t until a regular Wednesday in March that I added one more fear to the endless list.
An anxiety attack.
Yup, I remember like it was yesterday. I was leaving work on the Upper West Side heading to Astoria on the Q train. It was during rush hour so of course the train was not only delayed but over crowded. Could you imagine? I was two stops away from the apartment before I realized what was really happening. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time.
It was the third attack.
I remember each one vividly. The first one when I was 17. The pressure of trying to choose the "right" college while preparing my salutatorian speech for graduation was getting to me. The second one came when I was 23, attempting to balance grad school, work, bills and a relationship. I knew something was wrong but I was the girl that had everything figured out. I’ve always been the “problem solver”, the one that everyone can confide in, a sturdy shoulder to lean on. While I was being solid and present for everyone else in my life, I wasn’t present for the most important person. Myself. I was falling apart with no one to catch all the pieces.
My first time walking into the therapist’s office, I picked a seat in the waiting room way in the corner because I didn’t want anyone to judge me. The first words I blurted out to my therapist were “I’m not crazy by the way...” Would you believe me if I told you those twice a week, four week sessions were my saving grace? By the end, I couldn’t wait to get to therapy and let it all out for once. I was finally selfish enough to talk outloud about MY issues and what was going on with me and it felt so good. I no longer felt like I was bothering her with my issues but that I too, finally mattered.
One of the most important attributes humans don’t have is the ability to see themselves the way others do.
Recently, both singer Kehlani and rapper/producer Kid Cudi have come out publicly about their struggles with mental health. Hell, if you listen closely some of your favorite rappers have been spitting bars about their personal struggles with anxiety/depression for years. Creatives naturally tend to think more, to the point that they overthink their every thought. Although this may seem like the latest discovery, it’s been happening since Charles Darwin. From an evolutionary view, depression is a psychological desire to be better, to be stronger, to reflect on where we’ve made mistakes and to find ways to improve ourselves overall. Researchers Andy Thomson and Paul Andrews confirm that depression is an evolutionary way for us to tightly focus our attention on what needs changing in our lives. For creatives, it means you have to do more and do it the best. It’s empowering if you can make it through that rut and to that burst of energy.
But how can you help?
Realize that your loved one isn’t seeing the world the same way you are. Logic and practicality doesn’t help in these situations. Tough love doesn’t work either. Validation and encouragement is key. Listen. Be there. Avoid making comparisons to yourself or others and try your hardest to be patient. You honestly don't know how grateful we are when we have someone to just show up. For more ways to help your friend, visit halfofus.com.
For those of you in the struggle, remember that you are enough. This storm is temporary and it does not define you. Take a second to step back and breathe. Embrace the changes and we’ll be waiting for you on the other side. Most importantly, remember to put yourself first. You're worth it.