A Mental Break

A blog dedicated to mental health

Tag: depression

Change

“Change is inevitable: change is constant.” 
– Benjamin Disraeli

 It has been a few weeks since I have written anything new or updated my blog, and I wish I had some profound reason for not doing so. I wish I could say I was halfway around the world on vacation in France. Or that I was doing something selfless like trying to solve world hunger, but the truth is that I have been caught up in the whirlwind of change. I remember this infomercial (from the 90s) with Ron Popeil selling a rotisserie oven. Throughout the infomercial, he used the tag line “Set it and forget it.” Sometimes I wish my life could be that way! I could figure out how to do everything right then set it, forget it and have life on autopilot. Yes, I know this sounds lazy but sometimes life can be too much! I hate change!! I hate the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty that come along with it. It feels like the year of my life has been filled with change.

It feels like it has been one change after another with no time to stop, reflect and plan. In the last two months, I have had to face some major changes in my life. I have had to face the end of my relationship and separate from my partner of Seven years. I have had to leave my home for the last four years and move into my own apartment (my first time living on my own). I have also had to deal with the deterioration and end of friendships with those I would have called my family. This may all seem trivial to most but this has been difficult in ways I never imagined.

The truth is that I am used to long-term situations. I thought I had my life figured out when I moved to the U.S. four years ago. I was excited about that change! I would get the chance to build a life with my partner. We would get a house, a car and get married, but none of that happened. I am now faced with starting over from the beginning on my own. When I dreamed about my future I always saw his face, but now when I dream he’s not there.

I was surprised to hear coworkers talk about moving to a new apartment almost every year when I started my first job in the US. It seemed like this was the norm to apartment hop around town. This boggled my mind because I lived in one house since birth back in St. Kitts. I was born in that house, I grew up in that house and I lived in that house on lover’s lane for 30 years. I spent the last four years in the US in one apartment, so the thought of packing up my life again (so soon after leaving St. Kitts) was not easy to stomach. I thought I would have my partner with me on this journey. My life has been filled with fear, heightened anxiety and restless nights trying to cope with the changing landscape. At points, I felt like I would go insane! There were the moments at work where I would have emotional break downs in my cubicle. I knew I had to work even harder at sustaining my mental wellness during this time of change.

    Coping with Change

I started meditating early in the morning when I couldn’t sleep. It seems like my mind would run nonstop especially at nights. I would cycle through every possible scenario of what these changes would bring. Meditation helped me to quiet my mind even if for a few minutes. I found that short guided meditations worked best for my situations. I also decided to work harder on my diet and eat better, I wanted to feel my best as a way to lessen boost my mental state. I made a conscious effort to eat healthy more days than not. Making sure my water intake was high was another goal to help my physical state. Usually, I drink one gallon of water but I increased that to two gallons on some days. Lifting weights have always been a hobby of mine, but I was neglecting cardio. I added cardio back into my routine for three sessions a week and I immediately noticed a difference in my mood. I had more “happy” energy to get through the day. I also found comfort in those relationships that were genuine and without judgment.

It has now been two weeks since I have separated from my partner and I moved into my own apartment. Those final days of living together left me tired, not just physically tired but emotionally drained and mentally exhausted. I am still scared of what change may come next, but I have to remind myself to look at as a journey and an adventure. This is a new chapter of my life and a blank canvas. It’s now time to create an amazing story.

 

17 Songs That Improve My Mood

If you know me then you know that music plays a huge part in my day to day life. From a young age I grew to appreciate music and several of its genres. As a queer man fighting anxiety and depression it’s difficult not feel awful a lot of the times. In these moments of feeling trapped in my head by my thoughts I sometimes turn to music to escape. There are a handful of songs that always improve my mood, put a smile on face and they even get me dancing.

Evidence shows though several studies that listening to upbeat music can improve mood. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) reports that music therapy programs can help with managing stress among other ailments. Over the last couple weeks I have been compiling a list of songs that make me happy. These songs usually put me in a good mood and I have been using them as a part of my therapy recently.
These songs:

• Span several genres that I love

• Are upbeat and make me dance.

• Have themes of overcoming life’s setbacks and persevering

• Have themes about love and being in love

• Remind me of specific times in my life when I was happy.


Check out my list below and follow the link to listen on Spotify. Or you can click on the song titles to be taken to Youtube.

Top 17 songs that improve my mood (and make me dance)!

1. “Breathin” – Ariana Grande

I can relate to this song so much “Some days things take way too much of my energy. I look up and the whole world’s spinning.” This reminds me to keep breathing through whatever is happening because things will get better.

 

2. “These Words” – Natasha Bedingfield

This song reminds me of my nephew and those times we shared. I remember he would help me sing this song (even though he didn’t know how to pronounce the words). I would sing the verses while he would “sing” the chorus.

3. “Live For Today” – Natalie Grant


Most days I get overwhelmed when imagine my future. This song reminds me to live one day at a time and enjoy every single day for what it is worth.

 

 

I love the way Rebecca St. James sings/talks in her Australian accent throughout. This song references Matthew chapter 6 verses 25 – 34 (some of my favorite scripture verses).

 

5. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – Kelly Clarkson


Even though this is a break up song I still use this as a part of my music therapy. The title says it all for me and this song reminds me that I am stronger than I think.


 6.”Ain’t Got No, I Got Life” – Nina Simone

I could write an entire entry on Nina Simone as she is one of my favorite artists. This song encourages me to be thankful for what I do have. I may not have much but I have life and with that I have the chance to make  my situation better.

7.”O-o-h Child” – The Five Stairsteps.

This song has seen its fair share of covers over the years, but the simple reaffirming message makes this one of my go to when I’m feeling less than encouraged.

                         




8.”We Got Love” – Ryan Shaw

Who doesn’t love to be in love?? This song is the perfect love song. It makes me think of finding my partner and sharing my life with that person.

 

 9.”Sometimes” – The Brand New Heavies

This is one of the songs that remind me of a simpler time in life. I remember seeing this video playing on BET while growing up, but I never knew the name of group. Years later while searching through the discography of The Brand New Heavies I rediscovered this gem.

 

10.”Love Will Never Do” – Janet Jackson

I have been a Janet Jackson fan for as long as I have been alive. If you see me wearing headphones and my face turns into a smile then song playing. Another video I grew up watching.

 

  11.”Show Me Love” – Robin S

I LOVE house music! I consider this song THE ultimate 90’s house track and anyone who disagrees can square up. This timeless song with its pulsating synths will forever make me dance.

 

 

12.”Just Fine” – Mary J Blige

Like Mary says at the beginning “This joint right here….” It’s so happy and all about loving yourself. Its repetitive hook reassures me each time.

 

13.”Day like Today” – Out Of Eden

I always enjoy the storytelling in this song. We have all had those days where it feels like nothing is going right and it’s problem after problem. The hook reminds me that even though today is a trash day it won’t always be this way.

 

14.”Life Me Up” – The Benjamin Gate

This song always gives me a rush of energy! It’s the perfect song for when I’m lifting in the gym or when I’m going down the highway. It’s so euphoric!

 

15.”Pushing the Senses” – Feeder

Don’t tell anyone this BUT I secretly want to be a part of a rock band and this song helps me fulfill that fantasy (in my head). This one also gives me a boost adrenaline.

 
 

Another song that helps me to take a look at everything I have. Everything may not be perfect but I should still be thankful for what I do have.

 

 17.”Bom Feeling” – Sara Tavares

Bom feeling means good feeling in English. Even though this song is in Portuguese I have always appreciated the essence of the message in this song. Over the years I have learned parts of this song so I could sing along while enjoying the good feeling.

                             ———————————-

So that’s my list for 17 songs that help to improve my mood when I have those difficult days. I included 3 more tracks to make this a round hefty 20 track playlist (you’re welcome). The playlist is available on Spotify for you to listen and enjoy. Now that I have shared my list it’s your turn to sound off! What song improves your mood? Comment below……

 

sources:

American Psychological Association

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/11/music

American Music Therapy Association Mission

https://www.musictherapy.org/

Anxiety : My Chronicle

Hand pointing at a Anxiety word illustration on blue background.

I don’t ever remember hearing the word “anxiety” used in regards to mental health while growing up in the Caribbean.  As I have mentioned before, mental health wasn’t openly discussed – of course, I would hear family and friends make jokes about that one “crazy” neighbor that went “off.” Growing up, I could always tell that there was something different about me and the way my mind was wired, but I could never really explain it. I was always different in social settings; a little awkward and quiet, constantly fearful or worried in general, but I thought that was just a trait I inherited.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when I began working in a medical information call center when I was able to identify by name the little quirk I grew up with. I spoke with several patients who described their symptoms, which were similar, if not the same things, that I had been experiencing for as long as I could remember. These patients were being treated for anxiety. Imagine the relief I felt when I finally realized that I was not alone. This led me to do some research and reach out to my doctor for some help.

Roughly 40 million American adults, about 18% of the population have anxiety disorder with women being more likely to be affected. Surprisingly only 1/3 of individuals seek professional help. Globally 1 in 3 suffers from anxiety and The WHO reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide
Maybe it’s due to the stigma or lack of knowledge? I’m not sure…

I’m sure everyone has been anxious before at one time or another. I’m sure you have experienced anxiety while heading to a job interview or going on a first date but that type of anxiety is temporary. When anxiety is constant and does not resolve, then it becomes a problem. At this point, it can be considered a disorder, which can interfere with life and can make living difficult.

The American Psychology Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

They go on to describe someone with an anxiety disorder as usually having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.
Unfortunately, anxiety disorder is a broad heading that covers several other disorders including panic disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive

 Quite a few persons battle several of these disorders at once, and I am one of those individuals. Over the next few weeks, I want to share my experience with two of these disorders and how I have been coping with anxiety and its effects.

Sources:

One:Introduction

It was a particularly trying day at work, I mean every day was a trying day at work for me (like most work days for most working adults). Working in a high volume call center was mentally draining but working in a call center that is medical in nature added an emotional element that not many can take.

It was about 1 p.m. when I answered the phone and greeted a caller, from the tone of her voice I could tell that this call would be emotionally heavy. She told me her name was Pam, and she wanted to schedule an appointment to see her primary care practitioner to discuss some “issues” that she unsuccessfully ignored for the past few months. I explained to her that I would like to include a note to her doctor briefly explaining the nature of her “issues”. I asked if she felt comfortable allowing me to include that note, and she said: ”sure, no problem”. She sighed deeply and went on to explain that she was the primary caretaker in her family, but she had not been feeling herself for some time. She said that she had been overcome with sadness and many days were difficult for her to ”move.” She said, “ I don’t know if you understand what I mean but it’s a struggle to get out of bed and the things I enjoyed doing I don’t anymore”. I softly responded, “yes, I understand exactly how you feel”. She went on to say that she tried to convince herself that she was capable of managing, but it was time to speak with someone. With her voice almost breaking she told me that she felt ashamed because she was always the strong one in her family. Her mother, disabled sister and her children always depended on her for support. To that, I responded, “you need to make sure you are okay before you can make sure your family is okay.” I assisted her by booking an appointment to see her doctor and I concluded the call with words of encouragement that were said to me in the past, words that truly helped me.

Over the last two years, I have spoken with several people like Pam over the phone and in person. Many struggling silently because they were afraid of being judged and ashamed to seek help. Many of these people looked like me and shared many commonalities with me and my background. Many of them felt hopeless, ashamed and alone in their struggle. I wanted to help, but how? I wasn’t a qualified professional and I couldn’t afford to become qualified. I knew the one way I could help was by sharing my story and my struggle through writing. Yes, my struggle – My doctor diagnosed me as clinically depressed in the summer of 2017. Along with clinical depression came the diagnosis of anxiety. This wasn’t a surprising diagnosis for me since I knew something was always “off” but for the first time, I was forced to face my deteriorating mental health.

Throughout my life, I have experienced several sad moments but after moving to the US 4 years ago I experienced true moments of darkness that resulted in thoughts of self-harm and in the darkest moments those thoughts became reality. I grew up in the Caribbean where I never felt safe to speak about my emotions & the sadness I often experienced. I was taught from an early age to deal with life, pray about it and keep my business to myself. I grew up believing that admitting one was depressed was a sign of failure and weakness, therefore, I never wanted to admit that I was depressed. As a black, queer immigrant man, the last thing I wanted to be seen as is weak!

I often wondered why I was raised this way and why my community felt this way. I think it was ingrained in my parents and their parents that showing emotion and addressing mental illness was a sign of failure and weakness. Maybe it’s because history taught them that showing emotions meant weakness and the weak ones were left, they died and families were separated and broken. It took me to almost killing myself to see that I needed help. At that moment of being broken, I was able to prove my strength by admitting that I had a problem.

I hope that through my story someone is able to start the discussion surrounding mental health with their family and friends. If you are struggling or think you may have an issue, reach out! If you know someone who is struggling or may have an issue, be present! Sometimes advice or answers aren’t necessary but a present person makes the difference.

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