Diary of An Anxious Black Woman Entry #3: Your Own Worst Enemy

When struggling with anxiety, it can feel like you are your own worst enemy. This feeling can be overwhelming when you don’t identify that anxiety is what you’re struggling with. Couple your anxiety with undiagnosed ADHD and it feels like you’re in your darkest moments. At least that’s how it felt for me.

 

Coming to college, I felt lost and incapable. I was gripped by fear of the unknown and it crippled me in the beginning. I clearly remember not understanding anything that I was learning. I was too afraid to ask for help, struggled through my homework, and failed my tests. I mistook these actions as my pride but the physical feeling I would get–even thinking about admitting that I was not meeting the standard–was debilitating.

 

Feeling incapable became so crippling that I stopped attending the classes that brought me physical feelings of anxiety. I would start my homework, get overwhelmed, and then fall asleep, which resulted in increased anxiety. Eventually, these actions dug me into a hole. I was failing 70% of my classes and I was on academic probation. I was experiencing symptoms of depression that concealed the initial problem: my anxiety. I felt lost and alone, with only myself to blame.

 

I look back at that time and laugh because now the solution seems so easy. After being in therapy for six months, I’ve learned of ways to cope and tools to use in times where I’m spiraling. I reflect and think of ways I would have been able to keep moving to succeed. I also grant myself grace. The blame didn’t fall solely on me because I just didn’t know how, where, or who to ask for help. The problem of not knowing where to go or what to do is so prevalent when it comes to addressing mental health.

 

One tool I’ve learned to use is mind-body therapy. During therapy sessions, I’ve simulated past and future events that create a stress response. Through practicing coherent breathing in these situations, I’ve noticed a tremendous change in how I manage my anxiety. I’ve also incorporated exercise into my daily routine, which has made all the difference. Mind-body medicine is an important coping strategy for those who suffer from anxiety as I mentioned in the last blog.

 

To help address the increasing community need for mental health services and access, WellShare established a partnership with Dr. Sarah Hoffman within the University of Minnesota’s Clinical Translation Sciences Institute to adapt the US military’s ADAPT program to address trauma and needs of RIM (refugee, immigrant, and migrant) communities. To date, two of WellShare’s Karen CHWs have completed the rigorous training and will implement the 14-week training program with four to eight Karen families this fall. The strategy is to expand this training program into Somali, Oromo, within the next two years. In addition, Dr. Hoffman invited four WellShare CHWs to participate in a separate 12-hour long mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program called ‘Learning to Breathe’ helps adolescents recognize and regulate emotional responses. The work done by this program is so important and something I wish would’ve been available to me earlier in my journey.

 

-ABW

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