‘ IN THE THICK OF IT ‘

April 2020

RELAX, ITS ONLY YOUR NERVES 

We have a baby. Our little Page. She looks more like me, but with a slight semblance to you. [Translation: I have a poetry page that I share with someone very dear to me, and I may or may not have flooded it in this our nauseating time of quarantine.]

The account happens to be the closest thing to an emotional connection, pets and relationships included, that interests me right now. It’s beautifully low maintenance and tear-absorbent without complaint. Browsing my journal for something worthy of the Fab Five’s (all five incredible souls that tapped that blue button in exchange for nothing at all) shallow pocket of scrolling time typically means, in layman’s terms, that “my nerves is bad” or they been acting up at least.

Fear not people, I am only alluding to a small portion of the entire mental health spectrum with this unique grouping of words. I can see why generations past have relied heavily on this statement; rather than rattle off a series of potential diagnoses, this is a quick way out.

Them: “You going to that funeral?” 

Us: “Now, you know my nerves is bad.” 

Them: “How you been lately?” 

Us: “Started taking something for my nerves.” 

Them: “So you never gonna get on a plane?” 

Us: “Nah, no way…my nerves.” 

Gradually, this umbrella statement or some rendition of it has evolved into one’s “mind not being right” thus, insinuating that one must “get right”. Many could say I’m trying to do this very thing, and failing miserably. My effort has pulled me in every which way, but chiefly into the ears of any and everyone deemed worthy of hearing my grievances (I’m not as self-righteous as I seem — believe me).

At what point does a person accept the fact that their mind is not right, proceed to tuck the emotional baggage under the bed or in the closet or behind the dirty clothes hamper? The old out of sight, out of mind approach. I haven’t reached such a point, so I’m chest deep, and the air is thick asf down here. 0/10 would not recommend.” 

May 2021

Update: mind still not right and my nerves still bad.  I am undoubtedly divinely favored and hyperaware of the gifts bestowed upon me for reasons beyond my comprehension; I hope G hears my uncomfortably frequent “thank you”s. These blessings, however, seem to come at a price that I’m peeved about paying. My blessings, or at least how they manifest in my daily, looks something like forgetting how to inhale. It begets a numbing sensation on the left side of my face and fingers; renders me incapable of performing ordinary tasks like homework or my hair; insomnia; suppression of emotions until my systems begin to overload; dissociative tendencies; and an uncontrollable need for a sensation of any kind, amongst other things. It means that I refuse to go anywhere without my journal, and/or spearmint gum, or some other snack, so as to not panic when my hands sweat profusely, or when I’m sure that all of my senses are somehow failing. I have stopped speaking to friends because I didn’t have energy to expend on conversations and consolations. My blessings sometimes drag my tears out before the melatonin kicks in, and keep me up at night freaking the hell out. Do you ever wake up in a panic? I like to keep the blinds drawn, and lay as still as possible unless of course I start to shake uncontrollably for a few minutes whenever I do. 

This essay is an experiment in holding nothing back. Please be reminded that I’m sharing because this is what it is and has been for a while now, and I’m no longer interested in holding this secret if my truth can help someone else: New York Tough doesn’t feel so tough more often than one might believe.  

‘In The Thick of It’

Have you ever committed to something and more than halfway through didn’t think you could last? Summer ‘19? I questioned it. Summer ’20 compounding my turbulent freshman year and a year from hell mentally? I for damn sure questioned it; January 2021, I was singing the same song. Confession: In the thick of it, I didn’t think I could last. The girl in 12th Man Productions’ Unified Voices Series recorded on February 5th, 2021 couldn’t open her mouth to speak more than she was obligated to on more days than she’s comfortable admitting. She felt trapped under the weight of her commitment to maintaining student-athlete status—maybe that’s why the air was so dense in her bedroom, her hotel rooms, in the gym and anywhere else a season’s schedule took her. The me I saw in the aforementioned video was the girl who wrapped her arms around her mother, and cried the day before recording. On the morning of 2.4.21 both wanting to keep quiet about the things troubling me and my mom/bestest friend not having cell service 30,000+ feet up brought me to my usual practice: writing while streaming Bobs Burgers. Something about the Belchers calms my nerves and writing is cathartic (I love this word by the way). No matter how much I’d like to believe that things have changed, that girl is still very much alive and fairing for the most part. 

I’ll hopefully always remember the day my then freshman teammate, Kenyal, walked up to Aaliyah and I, grabbed her fupa and said, “Look at this…you see this? This proves that depression is real. I didn’t have this before I got here.” 

Girl, say it louder for the people in the back because they may have missed it. 

Depression and anxiety plague me, and given Kenyal’s humorous commentary on the topic, I’m clearly not the only one. By definition, anxiety is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”. Angst is part of our daily lives, but Anxiety, that *insert swear word of your choice*, is intrusive— she’s much like a disconcertingly consistent and spontaneous friend. She will find a way to ruin a date with the person you can’t stop thinking about, a meeting for the job you’ve been dreaming of, a family gathering, or any other positive experience. I didn’t know her personally before July 5th, 2019 around 2 am; I had only known that we had mutual friends. She barged into my life and brought me outside in a full-fledged panic. There I was about to travel by plane only a few hours later to Colorado Springs for the start of training camp for the USA U19 team unable to breathe, or rather, convinced of this—she’s quite persuasive that one. She’s annoying and persistent. It also seems that she has separation issues for she shows up wherever no matter the circumstances. We’re a couple of years into this toxic relationship (she’s been showing red flags since night one) and it still feels relatively new— probably because she switches up at all times without warning. I often call her out of her name, and that…that female has no shame.  Needless to say, she is no friend of mine, but my hints have been ignored. 

A question I often get from different people who have heard my melodrama is, “What have you to really worry about? You are blessed” or some iteration of this. You may be wondering the same at this point, and I don’t have an answer as to what makes me dreadfully unhappy at times. That’s the thing about it that I think most people don’t see: you cant explain why you feel how you feel all of the time. Note: you sure can feel it and try your damndest to alleviate the burden even just a little bit. 

My best effort looks like grabbing my pen, and going to work in my little black book, LBB for short. I might even sketch, go for a walk or scream rhythmically. Either way,  homework, or any other “I should” act, is not an option in this “choose all that apply” multiple choice question. Why?  The mere act of typing “ecampus” causes my heart to race and my breathing gets erratic. I cannot focus for more than a few minutes nor can I remember things. I should mention that it wasn’t always this way; somewhere in between leaving South Bend and arriving in College Station something that I have yet to put a name to changed. On the flip side, not committing to my “I should”s or logging on enough times earns me a call from my academic advisor and the cycle persists. Now sometimes my efforts to establish peace of mind for a few minutes each day through self-care, exercise, socialization or anything in between prove futile and all hope seems lost. I’ve come to realize that it’s not—its not for me and certainly not for you either. Our annoying ass companions (A & D) have no intention of rolling over in the presence of productive acts, so it becomes increasingly important to remember that it’s not us—they are simply relentless. Despite this we still have to fight and claw to preserve even a small percentage of who we are; self-preservation is perhaps the important part. 

So what do you do when A & D have the reigns? You cry-talk to a trusted source in a safe space and sum up your distress with, “I’m having a hard time”. This was yours truly in Coach Kelly Bond’s office after practice on a night in January. I should add that a conversation most likely won’t solve the issue, but have it or multiple anyway when you’ve exhausted the possibilities (I’m a toe the line kind of person, but speaking up before is definitely better— don’t be like me). While I remember, here’s a pro tip: stop telling my other anxiety-ridden fellows “you need to relax” when they trust you enough to share parts of themselves with you. I find it to be an incendiary statement that people throw around freely and frequently (even more so than “thick”). Let’s be clear: I didn’t choose anxiety. None of us did. She found me and she hasn’t left despite my pleading. I don’t like feeling like my chest is caving in or that all of the air is being sucked out of my bedroom as I count my sheep.…trust. I have never sent for she, but she came for me anyway. 1 out of every 4 people in America battle some sort of mental health struggle, so please if we dump our emotional burdens onto you, keep your dismissive, belittling rhetoric to your damn self because WE DON’T WANT IT. 

I do not exaggerate when I say that anxiety has whopped my ass. It has sucked the air out of rooms, sat on my chest, and brought me on my knees in my apartment begging for some assistance in getting through the night and the other nights and the days to follow. I don’t remember exactly when it happened but it was a scary moment—she is nothing but scary sights truthfully. She has taught me to explore and embrace the depths of my truth because everyone truly cannot handle it; it’s mine to have and to hold anyway.  She tests my strength everyday. We have a long standing battle, and sometimes I think she’s winning; however, writing this is undoubtedly a dub in my column. The details of my situation are obsolete, but this cliche statement isn’t: you are stronger than you think. I have survived 100% of my worst moments, and damn am I glad; I truly didn’t know I would make it this far. 

To my brave kindred who have fallen victim to mental health issues: we have lasted this long, and there’s still a ways to go so I implore you,  even you “tough” guys, to shed some tears in the process—it shaves some of the pressure off. 

One last message: Do it despite. Your “it” might be different than mine, but whatever it may be, wear this battle with pride knowing that you’re a fighter. 

“The best part about having so many bad days is that the good days are so much sweeter.” 

-Thick-Skinned 

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