Mental Health In The Caribbean| Korena

Hello! My name is Korena. I battle with severe clinical depression, social and general anxiety and ADHD. They all go hand in hand and work together to make things pretty difficult for me. 
`These mental issues became more prevalent when I entered high school because of the increase in triggers. High school was a little rough because I wanted to be something great but had a few more hurdles to jump than most girls in my class (I attended an all-girls school). 

  • How are /were you affected by mental health?

  I’ll start with ADHD; I think there’s a spectrum for this so some may experience it differently but basically, for me, it’s like having the attention span of a spoon. My thoughts are always all over the place and I either jump from thought to thought or elaborate a certain thought until it becomes something so drastically different from the original thought that I forget what I was even initially thinking about. Imagine your daydreams are like the energizer bunny drinking a red bull and constantly at the front of your mind. Naturally, I fidget a lot as well, I’m either unaware that I’m violently shaking my legs, or quickly pacing the room while doing something small and trivial like tying up my hair or buttoning a shirt.

 This never posed too big of a problem for me outside of school because I don’t usually have to sit for long periods of time or focus on just one thing at a time. However, we all know how classrooms work and you could imagine how it would be for me in classes that required more patience and concentration. I was always happy in my visual and performing arts classes for as long as I was able to get my hands or my body involved in the activity. If anything required me to sit and pay attention for too long, no matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t work out too well. Imagine you’re really making an effort to concentrate and then you realize you’ve been focused on concentrating that you zoned out and actually missed the whole lesson... sounds silly I know but it happened way too often.
  Next, let’s do anxiety; social anxiety basically means when I’m in public I lose my shit. I’m kidding but it’s something along those lines. Being amongst people I don’t know especially in large groups is often hard for me(if I’m sober). I always feel like eyes are on me and judging me even if nobody could care less about me. I become over conscious about everything I do and making decisions becomes hard for me. I avoid clothes shopping on my own because I’m afraid that the store clerks will judge my choices, if I have someone there to verify that my choice is ok I’ll feel a bit better. If I have to shop on my own I will often spend too much time in one store looking at one particular piece that I like. Sometimes I’ll leave and return to the store multiple times before making my purchase or even deciding to try on the piece if it’s a clothing item. Trying on clothes is a whole other situation because I’m always scared I won’t fit into something and I might damage it or I’d just end up looking ugly in everything. I’ve had full on panic attacks I’m dressing rooms because I was either scared of trying the clothes on or how I looked scared the living daylights out of me. Choosing items off of a menu makes me panic and I’ve come close to tears in lines because I can’t decide what I want before I reach the front and I’m scared that the people behind me will get angry at me. To avoid this often times I choose a food place that

I’ve tried before and order the item I’ve tried. It may not be what I was craving at that moment but at least I know what it is and what it tastes like so I can make a quick decision and get out of there. I picked up (and dropped) some bad habits to cope for example smoking cigarettes and drinking a large amount of alcohol. I’ve quit smoking since January 2018 and I’ve since eased up on the alcohol.
  General anxiety is pretty much my mind overreacting at everything or sometimes nothing at all. It’s either past mistakes or small oopsies I’ve made or I just feel anxious because... just because. I’d feel like something bad was about to happen even if I was sitting in my room at 11pm with no possibility of anything going horribly wrong at all. It’s hard to explain how the panic attacks feel because I can literally be having the time of my life in my room just chilling and then suddenly I’m shaking, my chest is tight, I can't breathe, I’m scared, I wanna cry, I did something wrong but I don’t know what... I get them more frequently when there external stress like school or a job. I may not be worrying about that particular stressful thing at the moment of my attack but I know increased stress levels can bring more attacks even when I think I’m relaxed and chilling.
  Lastly my depression; imagine you spend every single day walking through molasses. Some days it’s thicker and darker than others.

When you’re alone it rises above your shoulders and all you have to breathe through is a straw. It’s a yucky feeling and it’s way more than just being sad. Nothing really causes it. My life can be running smoothly, no worries, no deadlines to meet, nothing to frustrate me but I still wake up feeling like I don’t want to be awake at all. This coupled with all the other difficulties I experience often times makes me just roll over and go right back to sleep. Sometimes I don’t want to be around people because the energy I have either feels too low or I just don’t want to share that kind of negativity with people. It consumes my life and has ruined quite a few friendships and relationships of mine. I sometimes lock myself in my room days at a time only leaving to shower and restock my food and water when nobody is around to talk to me.  Now try fitting everything I just described into one body and imagine the war that’s happening in me every single day.

  • How are you being supported?

The people around me don’t make it any better. My mom and I don’t have a relationship and I’ve always longed for one with her but she never listens to me. She’s also very old fashioned so all of these issues to her don’t make sense and seem unreal. She also ignores me frequently for no real reason which makes my moods a lot worse. We don’t speak much and it breaks my heart. My dad is also a man of few words not just with me but with everyone. He shows more compassion towards me than my mom despite having said some nasty things about my depression in the past. I haven’t met many adults who understood how I felt. From a principal who told me that if I really wanted to kill myself I would have done it by now to a therapist who laughed in my face when I told her I was suicidal to an over religious cousin who told me to pray it all away. I’ve had many moments where I considered suicide and a few times when I’ve attempted or prepared to attempt it. I still battle the thoughts daily. I was on medication for a brief moment but voluntarily stopped because they made feel like an emotionless robot.
 I believe that there is no one sure way to solve mental illnesses. I think we can’t really cure them but help the people who suffer with them to be stronger. I also believe people with mental illnesses are some of the most genuine, creative and artistic people. It would be a very boring, dull world if we were all perfectly sane which would eventually drive us all insane right? I’ve learned to stop treating my illnesses like monsters that eat away at me but like beasts that, if fed the right things, can be useful. I use them to fuel art pieces, poetry, makeup looks and I feed them with things I love like anime, reading and music.

  • Do you feel that schools have the tools to support the youths suffering from mental health illnesses?

 I think schools definitely need to step up in the way they handle mental illnesses and not just educate their staff but parents and students as well on how to better handle and appreciate these issues. Mental illnesses are real. They need really treatments and should be taken very seriously. On that note, take care of yourselves and your loved ones, it’s tough but we’re gonna be ok.

Social handles: @korenarebecca (twitter & instagram)