Fear and silence. These intimate, yet overbearing forces consumed not only my mental health but my entire life for years. Coming from a Southern Black family who has experienced generations of oppression and, moreover, has developed an unwillingness to discuss taboo” topics such as mental health, I was completely alone in managing and understanding my own mental health. My journey began in the 6th grade, when my depression and anxiety started to surface. As an 11 year old and dealing with the suffocating weight of everything that I was going through at the time, I felt as though I was being uncontrollably consumed by pitch-black ocean waves.
While I was dealing with these horrendous feelings and the weight of my misunderstood mental illness, my parents had no idea that I was struggling. The fear I had of them having them go through a fraction of what I felt during that time paralyzed me into total silence. Also, because my parents are not very emotional or affectionate, I struggled to find a place where I could put all these big emotions in a way that was healing to me.
The only thing that lifted the weight of the universe from my shoulders was this: my Hunger Games Mockingjay journal. I remember that I bought the journal at the Scholastic book fair with money I saved up for weeks. It was in this journal where I wrote all my feelings. This journal was my outlet — and it saved my life.
From writing song lyrics, drawing what I felt, or jotting down my struggles, writing granted me the voice that I yearned to have. Living at home during that time, I felt as though the gift of my voice taken away from me, as I rarely spoke at home. Without my voice, I felt that I became a shadow in the background that was so close to finding me, only to be caged inside of my mind again. Writing not only allowed me to break that cage, but it also allowed me to find the courage to confront and understand my anxiety and depression.
This past year has given me the courage to get diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, attend weekly therapy sessions, as well as weekly support groups. The feeling of being swallowed up in that monstrous ocean wave has since transformed into a tranquil floating feeling. I now know how to listen to my mental health. I now know how to take a breather when I need to or write in my journal to get everything out. And although I still struggle with allowing people in — and I have developed a speech impediment over time — it is all part of my mental health journey.
Although I know it is sometimes hard to go through life, especially with some of the added struggles of mental health issues, it is imperative to always remember that you are never alone because there are people there who love and support you no matter what. If you do not feel that anyone supports you 100% right now, The Yellow Tulip Project team and I are so proud of you. You can get through this, and I believe that you can conquer this fight because you are a warrior. Always remember, there is always the light of hope even if things seem pitch dark right now <3. By Breanna Kennedy