It’s not a dirty word. It doesn’t make you weak. And it’s not (exactly) catchy. So why is it so hard to discuss it? Some just want to pray or exorcise it away, push it down until it floods out like a busted septic tank, or just take our frustrations out on anyone and everyone around.
Hi. My name is Christelyn D. Karazin, and I suffer from General Anxiety Disorder.
There. I said it.
I probably inherited this–after all, most creative people have some “crazy” in them. Whether nature or nurture, I have, for all of my teen and adult life, vacillated from depression to anxiety. In my early twenties, I lived alone but was a functional depressed person. I could work a 9-to-5 well enough, but come Saturday and Sunday, I would close the curtains, sleep on the couch for 18 hours, and could cry for absolutely no reason.
Then, after I had my oldest, duty did not allow me to sleep all day, and that’s when anxiety set in. I wasn’t an external basket case–I hold it in. My body tells me when I’m having an attack of anxiety, because the brain can be a wonderous and beautiful culprit in denial. That’s why I usually can’t sleep without help, and why I’ll probably have to treat this problem and manage it as if it were a chronic disease. If I didn’t manage my anxiety, it would eventually debilitate me and develop into serious high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. So it’s either treat the anxiety or risk my life.
I choose to have a good life and stay as sane as I possibly can. So I take my Zoloft, and then my heart stops palpitating, I won’t get the runs, I’ll keep my hair on my head, and my clenched jaw and legs muscles will relax. I can also be an even-tempered mother to my children–a gift that I give them that I never had myself.
Truth is, African American women have the highest incidence of anxiety and mental illness and some of us are still so backwards that we just want to “pray it away.” Meanwhile, we waitandwaitandwaitandwaitandwait for God to “heal” us when he’s already given many sure-fire treatments a la science, doctors, psychologists and pharmaceutical companies. But oh no…we don’t want that. We want the MAGIC. We want to be able to stand before the church and declare we were healed during a trance induced by the Holy Spirit or sheer force of will.
And often, a private visit to the pastor for guidance will garner you a pat on the head and a command to just pray harder, and if you just paid your tithes and went to all the services, God would bless you with sanity. Friends and family will tell you to “just snap out of it.” But, snapping out is about as realistic and holding your breath for 10 minutes.
I am CONVINCED that anxiety disorder is a key reason why so many black women are overweight, diabetic, on blood pressure medication.
You know who gave me the courage to spill it? Danielle Belton, The Black Snob herself. See, it won’t destroy you. With treatment, you can THRIVE.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder:
–Frequent worry about unknown threats, a constant feeling of being on “high alert”
–Overeating or undereating
–Muscle aches, trembling hands, ticks (my left eye loves to tick when I’m super stressed)
–Irritability, lashing out at others for mild infractions
–Jaw pain from clentching you teeth
–Frequent colds and other physical maladies
If you have three or more of these symptoms, it’s time to stop praying or hoping it’ll just go away and seek the help you need. I honestly believe it has saved (or at the very least prolonged) my life.