Edelia “Dr. Jay” Carthan, Contributing Writer,
The month of May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949. The mission of Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is to help those living with anxiety, depression, and co-occuring disorders and to help their loved ones find treatment, support and resources.
According to the ADAA, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults every year. They develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. Although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9 percent of those suffering receive treatment.
Unfortunately, most people suffer in silence. Nearly 450 million people worldwide are currently living with a mental illness, yet nearly two thirds of people with a known mental illness never seek treatment, according to ADAA.
However, despite the bleak statistics, one young woman is choosing to join the ADAA’s annual call for the public to #breakthestigma associated with mental health by sharing their story. Tameka Garrett, founder of professional networking company Stilettos on the Pavement, gives her experience as someone affected by mental illness:
Q. How did you know you had a mental illness?
A. I have always felt that something was different about me.I would often go from zero to one hundred in a matter of seconds. It wasn’t until much later in life that I felt as though I could not stop over thinking, over analyzing and questioning myself.
In 2010, I was working a very demanding job in Retail/Restaurant management. I was up for three days straight and I could no longer tell the difference between reality and what appeared to be an illusion. I called my mother explaining to her and she came right over.
…The very next day, I told her I needed to see a doctor because I was a little afraid. We immediately headed to Grady Hospital in Georgia. After several visits, I was diagnosed with a severe case of anxiety.
To hear [the diagnosis] left me with mixed emotions and so I decided to do some research.Truly, it was not much of a surprise others in my family have been diagnosed and/or display the same traits as I did at that time.
Q. What is it like living with a mental illness?
A. Thriving in spite of my diagnosis is scary, exciting, and many times a challenge. There are days I have to literally talk my way through leaving the house, but there are also days I feel the most creative.
For example, it was through those sleepless nights that God downloaded Stilettos on the Pavement in my dreams. I was able to take one thought, one whisper from him and create a platform for professional business women to build and maintain professional relationships. That’s the fun part.
The scary part is one moment you are doing one thing and the next your emotional and trying to explain why. Another scary thing is being alone and not having the support needed.
Q. What made you want to share your story?
A. I decided to share my journey with others for many reasons. First, it is a form of therapy for me. To release all my past pains, to forgive myself and others while looking forward to what tomorrow brings is therapeutic.
Secondly, too many people are walking around concerned with what others think, say or feel. The truth of the matter is, people should find reasons and ways to live their healthiest life for themselves.
Lastly, it is my prayer that by me sharing my story, others will see that indeed they are not alone. There are millions of people that face some sort of chemical imbalance daily. Once you know that and are honest then you can begin to live your healthiest life.
I recommend [National Alliance Mental Illness (NAMI)], Hinds Behavioral Health and Stilettos on the Pavement (SOTP) as organizations that provide resources including support groups which are all located in the state of Mississippi.
I know that Jehovah God is my healer, provider, and the source of my everything. Because of that, I knew it was time to step out and say, “Hey, I thrive and so can you.”
When people hear the words “Mental Health Disorders” specifically in the South their thoughts seem negative or they laugh, which can be hard. Well, I am changing the narrative one testimony at a time.
I’m no poster child. Please do not misunderstand me. Yet, there are not enough people discussing the topic. Unless it happens to be a so-called star or during the month of May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month. What happens after May?
Q. What advice do you have for others who may be dealing with mental illness?
A. My advice to others: First, to love [yourself] enough to seek help. It all begins seeing a doctor to determine what is the concern then getting a support system. The support system may be a friend, family member or support group within an organization. Such as the ones I mentioned above or even a nearby church.
Create your own wellness plan and actually execute it. My plan consists of eating healthier, seeing my doctor and therapist, taking medication as needed, traveling to relax, and regular walks for exercise.
Seems simple, but that’s far from the truth. I ask you to challenge yourself and take care of you. One thing I know for certain is that life goes on rather or not we participate.
If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness, please call 601.899.9058 to seek help or visit www.namims.org for more information.