Earlier this week I was a part of a forum for my alma mater. A few impassioned students took it upon themselves to start a group that is working to make sure their shared space on campus is a safe space as well as inclusive. A couple of the big topics we tackled were on being BIPOC in school and in the Broadway community, and Mental Health. I’m proud of these students because back when I was in college, neither of those things were acceptable discussion topics.
Today they are. And these students are going for it.
I’d like to touch on Mental Health for a second. In the Black Community, anything mental health related has a stigma attached to it. Like something is wrong with you, or you’re broken, or (the bad kind of) crazy. Let’s go ahead and nip that in the bud right there. Having the school of thought that if you need to seek professional help something is seriously wrong with you, is DANGEROUS. It’s important for people to have outlets (especially now more than ever since the world is upside down). In fact, the more outlets a person has the better: Friends, family, journaling, working out, doing something creative, Therapy. These are all healthy ways to get out what’s been bottling up inside of you.
Talking to the students reminded me of how stressful being in school can be. The work load is out of this world (ie. Having days when you’re on campus in class and rehearsals from 8am to 10pm, with the only time to work on scenes for acting or directing class between 1 and 3AM. And somewhere in there, you still have homework for the boring classes. Oh and don’t forget you still need to sleep so you can hit that high note for Musical Theatre class first thing in the morning. The stress of trying to get into a competitive program, not flunk out of your GE classes, having a “Broadway Body” all while dying to make it look easy, being kind to the Freshmen, and for some, working a job to pay for school can be overwhelming. Where is Mental Health prioritized in that equation? Where is there time for self care?
I recently parted ways with my therapist. Ah—you didn’t know I had one of those, did you. (For starters, he was a total babe, but that’s besides the point.) He started off as such a great listener. That’s really all I wanted—an audience. In the past if I had a therapist while in a show, it was a healthy way for me to talk mad shit to someone who was on the outside. That way I can go to work and not be a gossiping little bitch. I’m able to walk into work and be pleasant. I can leave my problems at the door and not burden everyone around me with petty things. That’s the beauty of therapy. That’s also part of the reason why I love working so much—most of the time I’m able to keep my space a positive environment.
In New York, I know very few people without therapists that I completely forgot it’s taboo to a lot of people elsewhere in the country. In California, it’s something to be whispered and NOT to admit out loud.
I say NO.
It is way better for you to go and talk to someone about what’s on your mind—big and small things—than to keep it in, let it build up, and then you go leave your family, or burn a building down, or shoot up a bunch of people. This battle on earth is a mental one, and if some negative, evil spirit can get inside your head and make you feel like you’re all alone or that you should be ashamed because of XYZ, then it’s easy to hold on to whatever secret you’re trying to keep in. And then that secret has power over you. That secret can send you into a deep dark place because you haven’t dared utter it out loud. But when you do—when you have the courage to say something out loud, it suddenly begins to shift and move things. Thoughts, ideas, secrets that once had power over you no longer do. It feels ironic that voicing something you’re afraid to talk about actually gives you STRENGTH. It hands the power back to YOU. (I’m encouraging therapy but it doesn’t matter who you talk to as long as you get it out to someone!)
On the other hand, you don’t have to be going through anything life altering to reap benefits of therapy. Well, why would someone go to therapy when they aren’t going through anything?
I’m glad you asked.
That’s like when someone asked why I would read books about being broke when I’m not broke. When you’re proactive, you can avoid pitfalls that come from simply not knowing any better. (The more you know….) Same for therapy. When you go to therapy and your world isn’t crashing down on you, you can crack the code on triggers in your life that you’ve never thought twice about.
When I have an attitude—sometimes I just need a sandwich.
When I’m sad—most of the time, I need a NAP.
When I’m talking to my superiors who are white, I censor and sugar coat everything.
It kind of feels like dating yourself. Noticing the little things (that can turn into big things). Being more aware of how and why things can affect you.
Just give yourself a break. (not a mental break, lol). Give yourself whatever it is that you need. The sooner we get rid of this stigma, the sooner kids will stop bringing guns to school or doing the unthinkable to themselves when no one is looking.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing new under the sun. And if you’re going through something (like idk… stuck at home because of a global pandemic and you can’t stop eating those Doritos), that’s a great way for the devil to make you feel trapped. Like no one would understand.
You are NOT alone. You are not weird. There is someone else going through something similar to you. And the sooner you talk it out, the better you will feel.
Go to ZocDoc and find someone to give your $25 copay to and keep it pushin mama.