30 → California, USA → Teacher → Anxiety & Depression → Staying occupied, medication.
R: Tell us a little bit about yourself…Where do you live? How old are you? What do you do? Do you enjoy it?
E: Hi my name is Ezi and I am 30 years old and I live in sunny southern California. I am currently a substitute (sub) teacher for a public school district. I’ve been doing it for three years and I enjoy it! You know, I’ve worked with kids from preschool to twelfth grade and it’s interesting how they develop skills both academically and socially and I often asking myself, “Was I like that?” At the same time, the experiences and skills I have attained as a sub is preparing me for being a teacher. I am currently in school to earn a special education teacher credential and it’s kinda hard. I say this because I use to be instructional aide and different because I’m used to having an instructional aide mindset and now, I have to switch from that mindset to a teacher mind set.
R: What makes you happy?
E: I have most of the things to keep me occupied and happy. I love blogging, reading novels, comic books, manga, and coloring in my adult coloring books. Engaging in these activities make me happy and help me regain the focus and energy I need to make it through the day..
R: How would you describe having Anxiety in your own words?
E: Living with an anxiety disorder is very jarring.
R: When did your anxiety begin?
E: I have been living with this disorder, I want to say….since I was five years old. Most my childhood was filled with domestic violence and unstable housing, so due these traumatic events it has impact my mental wellbeing more than you know…the anticipation of dread, rattled nerves, unsettled thoughts…
R: Do friends or colleagues notice you’re anxious? Does it affect your relationship with them?
E: As I have grown, I noticed how it has impacting my performance at work and school. It has also impacted the way I make relationships inside and outside the workplace. And sometimes people know it. Growing up my peers called me “crazy” or “yo-yo”. With my colleagues in the past would think I was “crazy”, “two-faced”, “untrustworthy”…it was hard to work while overhearing those words. And when I dated this guy a couple of months ago and while we were talking he was telling me how “off” my energy was. Every time that I hear words like the ones he said, it makes more withdrawn and more nervous approaching new people.
“People would tell me, “Oh, well, there’s people who had it worse.”
Really??? Phrases like that get me po’d”
R: Do you think your life would be different without anxiety?
E: The fact I feel that people can’t trust me, because I can get sensitive, unnerved, and/or paranoid saddens me. I know that people are going to judge me no matter what, but I think my “anxiety aura” can turn people away. And to be honest, I think I’m a pretty awesome person with or without my anxiety. Speaking of people, it is a great way to know who cares about you, who takes your feelings into consideration… For example, I hate it whenever I have problem that legitimately makes me worry (cause sometimes I can worry about things that I should worry about and/or have no control over), people would tell me, “Oh, well, there’s people who had it worse.” Really??? Phrases like that get me po’d because it’s like they discounting me and my fears. Not to mention, if they really didn’t want to listen to my story, why not say that or change it to another topic?
R: Have you found any positive aspects of Anxiety?
E: If it wasn’t for the fact that I wasn’t so oversensitive to things and to people, I think it helps me develop awareness and helps me to trust myself. Along with the antidepressants, I am beginning to little by little trust my instincts. And in doing so, I am developing a better relationship with myself. My anxiety has also taught me to be more organized especially with my schedules. When I’m anxious, I become a total scatterbird thus leading me to forget appointments, work schedules, and assignments. So, I use my iphone and monthly planner to reduce my anxiety and plan better for the time ahead.
R: If you had the option to lose your anxiety would you??
E: I am kinda mixed about getting rid of anxiety, because even right now with my medication, I don’t know how not being “overly anxious”. So, to be honest, I don’t have an answer for that right now.
“Depression feels like a really fat two-ton cat.”
R: How would you describe depression in your own words?
E: Depression feels like a really fat two- ton cat. I know it’s a weird way of describing depression, but that’s how I define it. I can feel the weightiness of “it”, causing my muscles to ache and replicates pain similar to a sinus ache. When I try to move, it causes me to move sluggishly. Heck… I am even lucky I can get off my bed sometimes.
R: How does Depression affect a normal day?
E: Its paws touch my eyes, causing me to feel tired and eyes sore. Also my eyes feel puffy. I wouldn’t cry, but I would either get either get very, very sad or get very, very irritated. But thanks to the meds my antidepressant medication, I don’t feel the strong effects of that anymore. The biggest thing I experience is every now getting sad and/or get sluggish. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but for me it’s a big accomplishment. However to the people in my life, it’s of great concern in my performance and my relations with them.
R: Do friends or colleagues notice it? Does it affect your relationship with them?
E: My family, friends, coworkers have seemed to notice something being “off” with me, but my symptoms either come up as being insecure, lazy, standoffish… So I get misunderstood a lot and I become very timid. I mean, why try to relate with people, when they’re just going judge in the end anyway right? This furthered to difficulty of making more relationships and taking charge of my life.
“So now whenever I get depressed, I know it’s time for me to step away from whatever is that is causing me distress and/or find something that will bring me back to my old self again”
R: Do you think your life would be different without it? If you had the option to lose your depression would you??
E: I have wished to not have depression, because I feel it holds me back both mentally and physically. I have always hated how it makes me feel limited and enchained to the depression. At one hand, I feel like there are positives; I am learning for one how to take care of myself. See, when growing up I have been always been always been taking of my siblings and mom. However, I never knew how to take care of myself which has been an obstacle for me. So now whenever I get depressed, I know it’s time for me to step away from whatever is that is causing me distress and/or find something that will bring me back to my old self again. Secondly, depression helped me to become more aware Which brings me to this: I would want to be rid of depression because I feel like it holds me back. When I get depressed, I can’t get into the hobbies and exercises I love doing, I withdrawal from people and when especially I am working towards a goal. I have a lot to offer to myself and the world, but I feel it prevents it. Not mention the physical effects of depression can be brutal! Fatigue, muscle pain, oversleeping… To be honest, I’d rather deal anxiety than depression any day! So, yeah, I would say I am better off without depression.
From Ezi’s blog — Living Resiliently — Click to read
“The portrayal that Black women always have to be strong, can hinder a black woman from looking after her mental health and her emotional self.”
R: Referring to your post — “Black Celebrities With a Mental Illness” on your blog, can you tell me your experience as an African-American woman with a mental illness?
E: As an Nigerian-American/African- American, we know ourselves to be a resilient community with mental, physical, emotional and spiritual strength capable of dealing with any obstacles that comes our way. Our community has undergone slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination, poverty…you name it, we have overcome it. So, to think how anyone would not have mental health issues is beyond us. So when you undergo depression and anxiety, you feel weak because you have to ask for help, when you are so use to doing things on your own and you don’t want to feel that…you don’t want to feel helplessness especially in a world that negatively views Black folks. I know at feel that way anyway. I mean, there was a time where I had to be to the caretaker for my mom when she was sick and my younger brother and sister…and even around that time I knew I wasn’t well enough already. But I knew I had to be strong for me and my family, so thinking for myself was unconceivable. And now after many turmoil, I have finally broken down and then well now…here I am living with anxiety and depression. Also, the portrayal that Black women always have to be strong, can hinder a black woman from looking after her mental health and her emotional self. It’s hard to remember to look after yourself. I know for me after I was diagnosed and started pursing mental health treatment, it was weird looking after myself. I was use to looking after my family but not use to looking after myself. It was foreign to me. I think at end we as Black women should look after ourselves so we can look after those we care about better I think it’s essential that we do so.
“Media representation of mental illness constantly excludes, ignores and silences people of colour”
– Huff Post
R: What are your thoughts on this HuffPost statement?
E: I have not experienced any (that I know of) discrimination, because this is my mental health we are talking about! I have had for the most part good therapist and psychiatrists and I am thankful. I have always been worried because of the cultural views that it might affect my treatment and the relationship I have with my mental health provider. Most of my therapists and psychiatrists have either been white, Asian or Arab, so I do my best to understand they may not under the Nigerian/African-American culture, but if they say something I find useful for my mental well-being, I take that. For most part, me and my therapists and psychologist have been able to meet on common ground which is help me obtain optimal mental health.
R: How do you think mental health care and awareness improve within the African/American community?
E: There are many ways I think that African Americans can get better health, one is reduced insurance. Out here in American cost an arm and a leg! Check this out…between 1996 and 2010 mental health medications rose from 150.3 million to 396 million. And that’s not even including the amount the medications may cost now! Therapy sessions cost about $60 to $300, while it will cost you about $500 for a psychiatrist to at least provide consultation and then after that is like $100. That not even including the cost of the medications the prescriptions they give you. It’s ridiculous. But now with the threat of the loss of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”, it will displace a lot of people pursing mental health or are currently undergoing treatment. That also includes me.
R: What was your inspiration for launching it? What was your primary aim for launching? Have you received any great feedback / response?
E: I started the “Living Resiliently Blog” because I saw little information on mental health and mental illnesses. However when I did, the information was ev-ry- where! It was overwhelming. I found psychologists and therapists just from browsing the internet or calling my insurance provider. It was a lot of work that I had to do on my own. And there is a LOT of information on mental illness out there, but you have to go to their social network sites like on twitter, Instagram, facebook, pinterest and Tumblr. So what I did was to put the most recent news and resources on mental health so it would all be found in one place, than like everywhere on the web.
An additional reason was most blogs that I found were depressing. They were really descriptive with their pain, but at the same time it waaay to depressing. I am fighting my own depression. I don’t need any more depression on top of the one I have. So when I created my blog, I made sure to include positive journals and quotes, in addition, of course my bouts with depression and anxiety.
A final reason was to show what it’s like to live with mental illnesses and how it affects your life, especially your loved ones. It’s easy to find, for example, what some of the symptoms of general anxiety disorder are:
→ Constant worries running through your head
→ Feeling like anxiety is uncontrollable; there is nothing you can do to stop the worrying
→ Inability to relax to relax, enjoy quiet time, or be by yourself
→ Difficulty concentrating or focusing on things
→ Feeling tense; having muscle tightness or body
→ Feeling edgy, restless or jumpy
“I have come to find it to be soothing and very reassuring when reading upon other’s lives, because in some ways it’s kinda like looking at mine too.”
But when living with GAD, it’s not going to look exactly like that. When I have read stories with people living GAD or any other anxiety, I feel like “Oh, they know what I feel” or “Wow, I am not the only one.” So reading other people’s stories on their journey with recovery, indirectly teach me that I need to take the time to develop self-awareness while living with GAD and MDD. Our stories may be different and so may be severity of our respective disorders as well; however, the story is the same: “This is my pain, this my struggle and I am not the only living with it.” I can see how it [mental illness] can impair me in my life, but I can also see that it doesn’t define me either.” I have come to find it to be soothing and very reassuring when reading upon other’s lives, because in some ways it’s kinda like looking at mine too.
R: Have you been officially diagnosed by a health professional?
E: Yes I have been officially diagnosed by a health professional, particularly by a psychologist that had diagnosed me for major depression disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Originally I started with therapists, because I thought they would best help me deal with the behaviors of my actions. However, no matter how many times I attended sessions. I just seemed to be going no where…I was not in a sense “applying” what I learned from them. And usually I do good with that…except when I was depressed and/or anxious. So I best thought I needed medication to help me in a sense “connect the dots” when I was depressed and/or anxious. I knew I needed the “big guns” to help me deal with those two mental illnesses.
“I needed to know which mental health provider would be best for me: Did I need more therapy? Or should have looked into seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist? So I did some research”
R: How did you figure out what was the best way to handle your Anxiety & Depression?
E: First, I needed to know which mental health provider would be best for me: Did I need more therapy? Or should have looked into seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist? So I did some research:
→ In therapy, different types of mental health providers could be a therapist such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, life coaches and social workers in addition to traditional therapist like family, marriage and/or individual therapists. They can hold a wide range of degrees of various studies like a master’s degree, PhD, MD or certificate in fields such as social work, substance abuse, clinical psychology, psychiatry or family counseling. Regardless of the forms of degrees or certificate the mental health provider has their job is basically is help patients make decisions and clarify feelings, while also providing support and guidance.
→ As for psychology, they must have an advanced degree in psychology. What they do is to study human behavior and how they process people and situations in various research or clinical environments. Based on what the psychologist sees in the environment, then they are able to find the best treatment by working along a psychologist. While at it, the psychologist will still help their patient make appropriate decisions, better help them understand their feelings and help provide their patient support and guidance.
R: If you could go back and give your younger self some advice about Anxiety & Depression, what would you say?
E: I would tell my younger self to be first kind to yourself and give myself props for staying strong in spite of generalized anxiety disorder. Don’t let people calling “crazy” or “yo-yo” get to you; they don’t understand your pain. Focus on being your taking of yourself and do what makes you happy.
R: Do you tell friends, family and colleagues that you have anxiety & depression?
E: Telling my family, friends and colleagues is very hard, because of the ups and downs (mostly downs) that comes with it. I have told my family, but that didn’t sit too well with them. I have told my colleagues– -one of colleagues– -when I use to work as a job coach at a school district., but that didn’t go well either. I thought if I told her, since she’s a special ed teacher and has worked with adults with autism and emotional needs and because I had a panic attack that day on the way to work. Unfortunately, ever since I told her she became distant from me. And well as for friends, that has never gone well for me. For example, I had a friend I invited to last year’s OC NAMI walk as well as her friends. But they basically flaked on me. In fact, she hasn’t stayed in contact with me since.
R: How do you educate yourself on management and resources? Do you read specific blogs, magazines or news articles?
E: I educate myself mostly by staying informed on mental health through social media sites like twitter and facebook. Sites like, NAMI and Mental Health America– -in addition to their websites– -provide more detail on mental health awareness.
R: Have you read any great books about anxiety & depression? Or seen any movies?
E: Book I’ve read (or still reading) on anxiety and depression include
→ “It’s Not Your Journey” By Rebecca Lombardo
→ “Safe people” By Henry Cloud
→ “The Dance of Fear: Rising Above Anxiety, Fear, and Shame to Be your Best and Bravest Self” By Harriett Lerner
→ Anxious in Love: how to Manage Your Anxiety Reduce Conflict, and Reconnect with Your By Carolyn Daitch
Then there are some books that kinda touch on mental health as well as they are fun:
→ “Family Don’t With Blood” Edited by Lynn S. Zubernis
→ “A First-Rate Madness” By Nassir Ghaem
→ Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight By Travis Langley
→ “Of Two Minds”
→ “Infinity Polar Bear”
→ “Call Me Crazy”
→ “The Secret She Kept”
→ “Unmasked” (online)
→ “This Is Crazy: Criminalizing Mental Illness” (online)
→ “Buried About Ground” (online)
→ “To The Bone” (Netflix)
“There are tons of resources out there to inform and help individuals living with mental illness and their love ones better understand mental illness and find out the different methods that lead to recovery. And some of them can assist in referrals to mental health recovery.”
R: Can you recommend any therapists / doctors / specialists / coaches / mentors / clinics / foundations?
E: There are tons of resources out there to inform and help individuals living with mental illness and their love ones better understand mental illness and find out the different methods that lead to recovery. And some of them can assist in referrals to mental health recovery. The sites I have listed are sites I too have used to better understand my mental disorders in addition to mental illness in general. Here are a few of them:
→ Active Minds
→ American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
→ Anxiety and Depression Association of America
→ DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)
→ The JED Foundation
→ Mental Health America
→ NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness)
→ National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
→ National Institute of Mental Health
→ SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
→ Superhero Therapy
→ Under The Mask: A deeper look at heroes and villians
→ Veterans Crisis Line
U.S. and International
“I like reading other posts or websites that can help me see how the symptoms look like and how others have learned to live with it.”
While yes you might know what the symptoms– -in my case general anxiety disorder– -but what about how does that look like day to day? How does it look like when you interact with others? Or when you go to school or work? That’s why I like reading other posts or websites that can help me see how the symptoms look like and how others have learned to live with it.
→ Psychology Today
→ The Mighty
R: What’s on your horizon for 2016? What’s next for your anxiety & depression?
E: For 2017, the goal for me is to take one day at a time. It may not seem like much, but it helps me better deal with anxiety better. While I am hoping to get off my medication, I am planning continue going to therapy or at least go to group therapy, like a “Celebrate Recovery”. And to continue focus on earning my teaching credential.
R: Good luck! — Thanks Ezi!