Worth Living Ambassador Nikki Opara

Nikki is a Mental health/lifestyle blogger. She has a passion for ending the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness, while also sharing the brave stories of others as well. Nikki owns a blog called Spokenbyher ( Originally called “HerDaringThoughts”), where she has shared openly about her experiences with depression, self hate, anxiety and her passion for social change. She hopes that her writing helps one person remember that their life is worth living.

I do not want to speak for every black person. But I wrote this to really express how I have been feeling through all the current racial injustices. Although, if you can relate and learn from this as well, I have done my job.

4 Emotions We Are Feeling in the Black Community Right Now

Racial Trauma: “A form of race-based stress, refers to People of Color and Indigenous individuals’ reactions to dangerous events and real and perceived experiences of racial discrimination.” — Comas-Díaz, L., Hall, G. N., & Neville, H. A. (2019).

 Even if you were not at the scene when it happened, as a Black individual watching George Floyd’s video and having to come to terms with the sick reality of our society, it puts a psychological and emotional strain on that particular Black person and the Black community as a whole, whether they are aware of it or not. This is a topic that I think people do not take the time to be aware of and reflect on because if you did, you would keep the people around you accountable; you would have those difficult conversations with your friends and family to help challenge those hidden prejudices, racial biases and stereotypes.

I, as a young Black woman, have noticed this emotional and mental strain happen to me this past couple of weeks, as I went through a load of various emotions. I went from being in shock, to sad, to fearful, to angry, to overwhelmed with passion for change, back to being sad, to shocked, to almost wanting to put a few people in their place, if I’m being completely honest.

I thought about this scenario: imagine an abused child who is aware that his two parents are supposed to be there for him, love him and protect him. Instead, he experiences overwhelming amounts of physical and verbal abuse from them over and over again throughout his childhood and teen years. 

This goes hand in hand with the experiences of the Black community. Since you are little, you are taught that a police officer is one of the people who serve and protect. But as you get older, you begin seeing and observing, over and over again, that police officers are shooting and senselessly killing someone who looks like you and getting away with it.

“Racial trauma is unique in that it involves ongoing individual and collective injuries due to exposure and reexposure to race-based stress.”Comas-Díaz, L., Hall, G. N., & Neville, H. A. (2019). 

There are so many different emotions and feelings that occur in the Black community during this time. Everyone is different in what they are struggling with inside, but this is what I have come to observe:

  1. Confusion.

You know the role of a police officer is to protect and serve. But now, as you observe over and over again the people who look like you get senselessly murdered by police, you start to question what you have been taught since elementary school. You are trying to align it with what you are experiencing, and it does not match up. Confusion because as the Black Lives Matter movement is being pushed to the forefront, many are saying “All Lives Matter” — but that is not being carried out. That may be the goal, but it is not our reality.

  1. Fear.

You are having to deal with that unconscious fear: will that happen to me? Could that be my dad or my brother? “I am being pulled over; this interaction should not be a big deal, but if I am asked to take out my driver’s registration and I start reaching towards the glove department will he shoot? It happened to Philando Castile.”

  1. Anger.

There is the anger, knowing that a police officer raided the house of Breonna Taylor and shot her multiple times, yet still roams free. This is one of the many cases that boils the blood of the Black community; without protest and pressure, the people with power are not held accountable. Anger because of so many people lose sight of the root cause of this crisis and chaos: racism.

  1. Sadness and Exhaustion

When there is peaceful protest, it doesn’t seem loud enough, then people decide to be more reckless and loud with their protest but it is too destructive and violent. It is like running on a treadmill and not getting anywhere, and then being told how you are supposed to feel about it.

I share this to give you all a peek of the different emotions and feelings that take over the minute another video of the murder of a Black man or woman comes out. To hopefully remind you that at the end of the day, racism affects a person not only physically but also psychologically and emotionally.

But, what I found so profound is that even among the systemic racism and police brutality, the Black community comes out with doctors, lawyers, professors, creators, social workers, artists, photographers and so much more. So, do not get it twisted; we still and always will come out on top, even in the midst of injustice.

 


Worth Living Ambassador Jenna Fournier

Hello, I’m Jenna, a psychology student at Carleton University. I have been diagnosed with many things, most notably Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Phobia. I strive to connect with others and share my struggles of mental health and trauma. 

Quarter-Life Crisis

When I sat down to write this I wasn’t entirely sure what I was intending to write about. I just knew that something needed to be said. I had something to say, but I couldn’t quite figure out what. Things have been tough lately and not just because of what is currently unfolding all around the world. I just feel although I’m in an unsure period in my life. Everyone seems to be settling down more or less. People have graduated university, gotten jobs and are getting their lives sorted out. I feel ashamed to not be further than I am. Although I am in a very different place than I once was I still feel like I’m not where I should be. I’m not even sure if this pressure is purely put on by myself or not. I feel as though I should be done with school and should have a decent paying job. I should be happy… I should be. But I’m not. I face several challenges others do not face. I have chronic pain, haunting trauma and a plethora of mental disorders.

I may not be frequenting the hospital emergency like I once was or reaching for substances to numb the pain. Nonetheless, I still have complete mental collapse- just much more quietly than I did in my teens. Instead of crying out for someone to fix me, I cry to myself waiting for the only person I know to pick up the pieces and move on. And that person is me. I feel a responsibility to tell myself that I am being emotionally unreasonable, and eventually I calm down and get on with my day. The issue however is this gets tiring. It gets tiring pretending that you have things half figured out when you truly don’t. And trust me when I say I am better. Better than I once was. I have most certainly changed and grown as a person. I don’t relate to who I was years ago, I just acknowledge her and understand that we have both once occupied the same body. I plan to finish the few classes I have left in my degree. I plan to attempt to find a job that I can both find fulfilling and cope with. I plan to do a lot of things. But what I didn’t plan on doing is enduring this… what I’ve come to decide is a quarter life crisis. 

I am attempting to navigate my life as someone who has always and will always deal with some amount of physical and mental anguish. I don’t fit the typical healing journey narrative. No amount of journaling nor “self care nights” can undo the damage. I listen and nod when people tell me of their recent accomplishments and attempt to feel happy for them. Often instead I find myself wondering why I cannot measure up. What did I do wrong to be so far behind them? I often have to remind myself that my life has always looked vastly different to the people around me. Now I do understand that everyone has their share of struggles but I have had more than my fair share. I have jumped through hoops, dug through endless mounds of dirt and climbed barbed-wire fences only to still be so far from the finish line. 

Education has always had its barriers. I struggled with a learning disability since I was very young and couldn’t do basic math or learn a second language the way other kids could. My short term-memory is terrible and I have difficulty sometimes following conversations or understanding what people are trying to say to me. I misinterpret and have a hard time receiving and organzing information. My brain is a puddle of jumbled alphabet soup. I had a difficult time getting good grades for most of my schooling and had a hard time making friends. I suffered extreme anxiety and wasn’t the most likeable child. For whatever reason, kids sensed something was off with me. I dealt with bullying the majority of my childhood and teenage life. I think this was because I had always been different.

Trauma has been a recurring theme in my life that I can’t seem to find my way out from. I guess at my core I was always destined to be a victim. Victim of bullying, victim of sexual assaults, victim of abusive relationships, victim of my own mind. I don’t need to write a play by play of everything that has ever happened to me but just know that I have been the victim more than I would care to admit. I struggled in high school mentally and after falling behind in class and using substances to get by, I ended up being in a program for students with mental health struggles. I eventually integrated back into my normal high school. Towards the end of school, I had a few good friends, I began getting good grades and took extra classes so I could graduate on time. I was proud for a short period of time. I had gotten into my program of choice on scholarship and proved every school teacher and peer who ever told me I would never finish high school wrong. 

I had hope for university. I thought being independent woud be good for me. I thought I would flourish. Sadly, I was proven wrong- I was one of hundreds of students in a lecture hall listening to the professor drone on and on with no room for conversation or debate. In high school, I thrived on engaging with my teachers and the immediate feedback. University was nothing like I thought and wasn’t how I learned either. I couldn’t make friends and I couldn’t thrive in such an environment. The following semester I dropped out. That year was hell. It was a blur of madness and depression that I succumbed to further and further. When I finally mustered up the courage to return the following year, things just never really looked up for me. I took a few classes I genuinely enjoyed but I mostly just dragged my feet through the mud. I went through the motions of classes and part time work. I could never handle more than 3 classes at a time. I dropped classes more times than I could count. Come exam season, I would cry and threaten to drop out. I hated school. And despite this all I have continued to persist. 

I met some bad people and fell into dark relationships during my university years but I also met a few good friends and finally the love of my life. I found my passion for powerlifting. Before the pandemic, I was in a decent place for once. It may not have been exactly where I wanted to be but it was a step closer. Since then I have become overworked and overstressed, slowly driving myself closer and closer to madness. I dug myself so hard into the ground that I had to make the decision to take temporary leave from work. I had felt my mind recede into a previous darker place. It was a long time coming but it felt that all of a sudden the world turned entirely grey. I felt like I was suddenly living under water and every human interaction felt foreign. The ugly dark hole in me started to grow again, attempting to swallow me up. It had been quite some time since I had felt this way, the sickness seeking to pulverize my entire being. 

I did not get better overnight- I am still struggling severely. I fell back into some old habits. I considered ending it all. I was even close to it. I am now taking the time to reflect on where I am and where I want to go whilst not comparing it to the people around me. I struggle with chronic pain and debilitating mental illness that has caused me to miss school and work and go at life at my own pace. I may take 6.5 years to get my BA, I may never be able to work a full time job but that’s okay. I have no idea where I am going but I know where I have been. And I know I never want to go back there. This relapse has allowed me to take a good hard look at myself and my life and realize I didn’t get things easy and I shouldn’t act as though I have. The education system was built to see me fail. Mental health services are largely inaccessible (especially for complex disorders) and the workforce is unaccommodating. I want to take each day as it comes and hope to eventually build a life for myself that I am proud of. I am slowly getting there even though it does not look like my peers and probably never will- and that’s okay.

 


 Worth Living Ambassador Brie Koons

Brie Koons is a writer and artist based in Northern, CA. She’s working on getting into freelance writing, and currently runs a mental health blog at Resilient Brie. She plans to create fine art photos with a mental health theme that she will eventually exhibit and sell. Brie has been a mental health advocate for 2.5 years and plans to work in the mental health field one day. She currently shares her story with the public through Stop Stigma Sacramento.

How I Overcame My Mental Health Challenge

I remember the day I had my first episode. It was a beautiful day, and I had class at Sac State. I remember it felt like I was in a fog, but I still packed my car full of all my favorite things and drove to school. I managed to get to school in one piece.

 Once I reached campus, I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do, so I simply wandered around. I felt like I was in a trance. Voices were speaking to me, not very loud, but in a high whisper. I couldn’t tell where they were coming from. I thought they were telling me to follow someone, so I did. Then they told me to go into a classroom, so I did. I sat down in a chair and began talking back to the voices.

No one was around. The voices didn’t seem to be listening to me, so I got up and began to wander again. In the back of my mind, I knew I was supposed to be doing something, but I couldn’t remember what, and the voices were too loud. Eventually I found myself on the other side of campus. 

There was a school bus there, and children were getting on. The voices said I should go with them. So, I started to get on the bus. Someone stopped me. He told me I couldn’t get on. I was confused and told him I was supposed to go with them. He directed me to a nearby bench and told me to wait there. The voices continued talking. I wasn’t always able to make out what they were saying.

Two men dressed in police uniforms came over to me and began asking me questions. Have you been doing drugs? One said. They were very polite. I shook my head. I remember they escorted me to the police station, and after that everything is hazy……

The next thing I remember is sitting in a doctor’s office, but I don’t remember the conversation. He gave me pills to take home. This period of time is very foggy for me. I vaguely remember people coming to visit, sleeping, eating, and trying to read, which was almost impossible. I couldn’t watch TV at all. 

One day, everything was clear. I was able to watch television and read again. Things made sense again. When I asked my parents what happened, they said I’d been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and had had a psychotic break. I didn’t understand what that meant. In the coming weeks and months, I began to research my condition. 

What I found online bothered me. Lifelong condition, no cure, working would be difficult for me, relationships would be difficult, there’s a possibility of suicide, and I might end up homeless. I was devastated. I cried. What had I done to deserve this? I wondered. Nothing that I could recall. I looked up causes and couldn’t find any information. I found myself depressed.

Eventually, when I felt better, I decided I wouldn’t let this condition ruin my life. I didn’t want to be another statistic. I was determined to work and go to school like everyone else. So, I did. A couple years later, I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. I struggled off and on with wanting to take my meds. They made me tired, and unmotivated. I noticed I was gaining weight. 

I had two more episodes, then finally committed to taking my meds consistently. After that, things improved. Over the next several years, I worked a variety of jobs, went to grad school, and traveled to New York, Europe, and Israel. I accomplished things I never thought I’d be able to do. If there was something I wanted to do, I kept working at it until I achieved it. I’ve done commercial photography and exhibited my work locally. I attended a single’s group and made friends. I enjoyed life, all while living with a mental health condition. 

And I realized, bipolar disorder was not the end of my road. It was the beginning. There’s no limit to what I could accomplish. Yes, I would relapse. Yes, I would struggle. Yes, I would have good and bad days. That’s life. But I would go on. I would get through my bad days, and my life would continue. Just like yours will. 

Don’t be afraid to get help. Do what you need to do for your mental health. There is no shame in getting help, taking meds, going to therapy, or having a mental health condition. The world will tell you otherwise. But you don’t have to listen. Listen to yourself, and trust that you can get through this. There is hope for mental illness. You will find your way. Hold on, because your journey isn’t over yet, and your life is worth living.

You can read of Brie’s writings at her blog Resilient Brie

www.resilientbrie.com