When I was younger, I worried about everything. Worry was with me in high school: Would I get into college? If so, which one? Worry was with me when I was in college: Would I pass my finals? Would I get a job afterwards?
I always assumed that I had to worry about stuff. I only later learned that what I always assumed was “just worry” was actually anxiety. My anxiety would wake me up in the middle of the night. I would feel like I was dying—gasping for air in the throes of a full-blown panic attack.
But I kept these experiences (and my worries) to myself because in my Haitian-American family, mental health was not discussed—ever. Stigma around mental illness and therapy is deeply rooted in my culture. It’s seen as a weakness or a “made up” ailment and going to therapy is a luxury reserved for those of white privilege. But by the time I reached adulthood, I realized I had to do something. I couldn't keep quiet anymore. Gratefully, I stumbled across an amazing therapist.
I’ll never forget the first assignment my therapist gave me: She told me to journal how I felt throughout the week. When I came back the following week, she read my writings out loud to me. I could not believe all the negative things I was saying about myself! I couldn't believe there was so much doubt in myself! I also couldn't believe how many negative feelings I had about others.
My mantra then was: "I’m never going to be able to do this. This isn’t going to happen for me." As you may imagine, it felt awful to live with this attitude. I thought anxiety was a life sentence, a permanent and inherent flaw within myself, rather than what it was: a life event.
Powerful Healing Takes Time
I know now that seeking out therapy or help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, from my experience, it has been nothing but empowering. But it also takes time. Therapy isn’t just this process where you take it up and if healing doesn't happen immediately, you give up. With my therapist’s care:
- I was able to get honest with myself and my loved ones. Verbalizing true feelings is powerful.
- I have stopped saying, “I have anxiety.” Instead, I affirm that I am healing anxiety for as long as it takes. Language is powerful.
- I’ve also started keeping a journal where I notate the positive things that are going on during my days and weeks. Gratitude is powerful.
I have more power than I had previously given myself credit for. There are deep-rooted things I have changed and continue to change in my life that I never thought I could. I’m happy to say that I now live StigmaFree. I want humans of all races and colors—especially those who didn't have that voice of support growing up—to feel accepted and have access to practical, effective tools they can use to promote coping and healing.
Today, I am still managing my anxiety. I’m still coping with it. Worry still comes in and sits down for a cup of tea sometimes. But my mantra now is: "Everything is working out for me. Something that I can't see right now is working out for me."
And it always will.
Tamar Lucien is the CEO & Co-Founder of MentalHappy. MentalHappy was born out of Tamar’s struggle to overcome anxiety and depression. Tamar was born and raised in South Florida and graduated from Florida State University. She currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada where through her work at MentalHappy continues to impact humans across US, Canada and United Kingdom. In her free time, she enjoys meditation, cooking and hiking.