Its no secret that once October rolls around I get on a holiday high. Yes, Halloween marks the start of the holiday season for me. Call me weird if you must, haha. Typically the holiday season for me is spent cleaning, reorganizing, shopping and decorating with some commitments with friends and family sprinkled into my already busy work schedule. It’s a lot! So you can see why I honestly I roll my eyes when I see articles about “How to Have a Stress and Anxiety-free Holiday” that are published once the season begins because realistically there really is no such thing. The best thing you can do is manage it so it doesn’t affect you as much. Which is why I decided to take some time to share 5 tips for managing holiday anxiety. I hope that it is helpful to those who may be struggling like I am right now.
Regardless of what many people may think, mental health is just as significant as physical health. Especially within communities of color there is a stigma associated with mental illness and asking for help. I grew up in a household where depression and suicide was deemed issues that only affected privileged and non-religious people. In fact when I revealed to my family that I wanted to see a therapist at age 16 because of a recent suicide attempt, rather than getting any guidance, I was reprimanded for not having faith in God and told to pray for forgiveness.
This is actually just one reason why I have yet to be officially diagnosed with depression, however, I have been for anxiety back in middle school by the school counselor who recommended that I go see a mental health professional after she witnessed me having a panic attack by my locker one morning. For some context I should note that by age 10 I had already attempted suicide three times. At the time I was struggling with self loathing, part of which had to do with my negative body image at the time, but it was also linked to my family’s homelessness. I don’t usually talk about this mostly because (until quite recently) I believed that this would reflect badly on my family. I became an overachiever, and a perfectionist that would break down at the mere idea of failing because in my mind I had to prove that I deserved love and to live. Failure meant that my existence was a mistake and I was a burden.
This was also when I was introduced to the alternative metal band, Linkin Park. Having songs like By Myself, Don’t Stay and Numb made me feel like someone understood – something that I desperately wanted at the time. Lyrics like “I can’t hold on to what I want when I’m stretched so thin /It’s all too much to take in / I can’t hold on to end things watching everything spin / With thoughts of failure sinking in,” gave a voice to everything I was feeling that I couldn’t find a way to share with anyone. (To say I was obsessed with the band would be putting it mildly, their music and genre lead to my current taste in music which I will talk about in a future post.) It may sound cliché but the emotion behind those songs just helped me kept pushing even at my lowest points because it proved that my feelings were valid and that I wasn’t alone.
Through cognitive behavior modification, I did manage to work through my anxiety, during which time I actually moved on to listening to other bands, only going back to Linkin Park whenever I really needed them. After all, anxiety and depression doesn’t just disappear and there are times when your mind will take you right back to the same dark places you once left as if no progress was ever made. Fast forward to July 20, 2017. I was eating lunch with some co-workers when the news broke that the lead singer and songwriter of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington had committed suicide. We were devastated. Here was a man that opened himself up in order to help others not lose themselves in the dark spaces of their minds, who ended up lost himself.
That day at the office was the first time that I had the urge to cry at a celebrity death which is why I was happy that I had like-minded people around me that day to talk through the news. In our discussion the topic of mental health-care came up. Sure, talking things out with family and friends is helpful, yet there are times when you just need that extra professional help, which was something I always believed myself to be priced out off due to my low income, but, as I learned that July afternoon, it turns out I was mistaken. So I sat down with my friend and co-worker, Marjorie, who actually worked in health insurance for two years, in order to learn more about what is covered for those of us that may not have the means to pay for services out of pocket. I hope that this information helps anyone that has been looking for resources to get the treatment and care they need.
I’ve never been good at making friends. For one thing I come from a conservative religious background that can sometimes make it hard for people to relate to me very much, bu more importantly I suffer from social anxiety. In my mind I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be my friend. After all, who would want to be friends with someone who doesn’t go out on Friday nights? Someone who struggles with slang and preferred research in the library over shopping?
Growing up, I made the effort to be the friend people would want even though the people I befriended didn’t provide me with the friendships I deserved as most of them would take advantage of my generosity for their personal gain. I had conceded to the idea that I just should take what I was given if I ever wanted to have any friends. Looking back it honestly was a subtle form of self-harm (which is not surprising to me given my deliberate self -injury behavior as a teen) that stopped once I met my best friend Jaden* during freshmen year of high school, who really got me out of my shell by encouraging me to just be myself to the point that started to open up more.
Now as an adult friendships are a bit more complicated with the added responsibilities of family and making a living, yet I have found that these mature relationships, especially with women, are more significant as it isn’t about being a part of an “in-crowd” or anything like that, instead it is about building life-long relationships with purpose. From gaining real world mentoring from the women of 4 Real Women International, INC (4RWI) while working to empower women both in the US and abroad to meeting and collaborating with influencers that I had long admired from my computer, I pretty much a member of quite a few “squads”. Granted adulting results in people entering different life stages and/or reaching significant milestones at different times that could lead to envy and/or competition, nevertheless, when you meet the right people that is never an issue.
Let me take this time to confess something: ever since I was a pre-teen I have suffered with severe social anxiety. I have been known to have a panic attack at just the mere thought of doing any kind of activity in front of a crowd, like public speaking. I have gotten ill. I have even literally run away. I would blush severely and break out into sweat whenever I raised my hand in class or even when speaking to someone outside of my immediate circle of friends and family.
Growing up I constantly received so many negative comments about my weight, hair and overall appearance that I became more than content at being behind the scenes because that is where I was told I belonged. I developed a warped understanding of beauty and self-worth to the point that I told myself that only those that were conventionally beautiful were meant to be photographed. I wasn’t, so I didn’t need to be. So how does a person like this become a fashion blogger? With much difficulty and purpose-fueled drive. For example, whenever I go out for blog shoots I am very self aware of what I am doing mostly because half the time there are people around. I get self conscious as to what these passersby may be thinking especially when there have been times that they have stopped to watch. I’ve only managed to follow through because my blog photographers are so enthusiastic about the entire process and my body positive mission that it becomes so easy to forget about the curious looks from those around.