In this particular series of blog posts, I have chosen to delve into an area of my personal life that I have not shared with many people. I have debated within myself when and even IF I should open up to the world concerning my personal connection to mental illness. I have decided that at this point, and at the rate that our people are suffering and succumbing to mental-health ailments, it is imperative – a life or death situation even, that my story be told. If this segment can help just one individual escape the additional negative effects accompanied with mental illness, (a condition that is a monster in and of itself), then what I am about to share with you is worth it.
Melanin Therapy has been in an incubator since 2008. That’s the year my educational journey into the world of mental health, particularly black mental health, began. Over the years, I’ve experienced both the subtle and overt nuances that define and differentiate the distinct disciplines of mental health and black mental health.
My decision to become a mental-health professional was personal. Nearly fourteen years ago, my family and I walked through the anxiety and fear that accompanies a formal mental-health diagnosis for my sister. We were living our normal lives when my sister became ill. We were without experience and proper resources to tackle this beast. Like many other black, Christian families, we did not discuss mental illness. We were taught to pray about what was bothering us—to call on the elders of the church and have them lay hands on and pray the prayer of faith, and this would take care of the situation. In fact, after we received the diagnosis and following hospitalization, we were asked to examine the level of our faith and to seek God concerning what was done by my sister to bring this level of punishment into their life. I was devastated – both emotionally and spiritually overwhelmed. This began the long list of questions about faith and the relationship we thought we had with God. It was during those lowest hours of despair that I started researching the diagnosis for a better understanding of the intricacies of the illness. I looked for the latest research on treatment options – from medicinal and herbal regimes to holistic and therapeutic care. In the days and months that followed, I realized how difficult it was to find treatment and care options that met the medical, psychological, cultural and spiritual needs of my family. It became almost impossible to find a cross-section of treatment options that took into consideration the historical, cultural and spiritual needs of my black family in conjunction with traditional treatment options. For the first five years following the diagnosis, my sister would have several extended hospitalizations and we knew this would be a fight for the longevity of my sister’s life.