Guest Writer Jhas Williams-Wood, Eagle 97.7
In the past hour since I’ve begun writing this article, I’ve had two minor panic attacks. That’s one for each half hour. Having not written anything in four months out of fear that my voice is not enough, the same questions tend to resurface: “How can I tell this story in a way that I haven’t before?” and “What makes me qualified to tell it?” But I already know the answer to both of those questions.
For one, packaging my story just to make it more palatable for others is not only unimportant but additionally, it is unhelpful. In fact, diluted transparency will always be unhelpful. Furthermore, I decided that what makes me qualified lies in the reality that after I’m done with my depressive meltdown of self loathing complete with tears, disappointment and second-guessing that I’ll ever be anything at all, tomorrow morning, I will go back to work; and per usual, with sass and love, engage my listening audience as if none of this ever happened.
Oftentimes I can’t tell if this makes me hugely fraudulent or incredibly superhuman. But perhaps I am neither. I’m just human. Although I open up about my struggles with mental health on Eagle in the Morning with Petch and Jhas, I can’t recall a time when I spoke about what it’s really like to work for the public when you battle with your own anxiety and depression. I’d love to do that now in the event that someone needs to be reminded they are not alone.
I should start by pointing out that anxiety and depression are both incredibly real and they don’t stop because you have a platform. In fact there is an incorrect assumption that the happiest people in the world are either the ones with large platforms and big bank accounts. Few statements are more untrue. Not to imply that I am miserable or by any stretch of the imagination wish I’d chosen a different career path. To say that would be a lie. I love my job! And for the most part, I love my life! There are, however, days when I struggle more than others and it takes everything in me to keep it together while the microphones are on. In the mental health community, a common message I see passed around self-care forums declares, “If you have to cancel a commitment in the name of self-care, do so guilt-free.” And trust me when I say that theories like this will run you the risk of getting fired. Because the truth is, we all have responsibilities.
If you’ve never seen the NyQuil commercial where a sick dad speaks to his two year old baby requesting a sick day, I’d advise you to look it up on YouTube immediately. While the commercial is hilarious, the idea behind it is sadly true. Sometimes, even when you’re sick, you can’t afford to cancel that important meeting or just disappear the way you may need to.
Mental Illness is a physical illness that attacks the mind. But just because it is invisible, does not mean that its symptoms don’t manifest in visible and tangible ways. There are days when sitting in the studio with my co-host is more difficult on him than it is on me. If you can imagine, working in close quarters for eight hours on a day when your partner is immensely sad couldn’t possibly be the easiest. As for me, there are other moments when smiling in and of itself is plain difficult; Because despite internal struggles, the fear of coming off as rude or edgy to listeners and fans of the show exists. And after all, who wants to be known as the moody radio jock? Not I.
But these are some of the realities. Unavoidable realities at that. So how do I manage them? One day at a time. One moment at a time. In addition to the preemptive measures that I take like exercise, diet and medication I have learned to ask for help when I need it. I will unashamedly seek out my boss or a co-worker should I find myself needing to talk about stresses that can afford to go. If I need to distance myself for five minutes to regroup and gather my thoughts, I will do it. The bathroom is a great hideaway when you need two minutes to catch your breath. And as of late, stress balls have become some of my best friends.
But finally, and most importantly, when I know that I’m having a day where I need a little more space than usual, I try to communicate this to my work partner and others so that they know whatever energy they feel from me, most likely, has very little to do with them. Believe it or not, open dialogue heals a lot more than people give it credit for. Thus the need for articles like this one and others that continue to break the stigma associated with Mental Illness.
It is my belief that with more dialogue and conversation, the more lives we can save. And if telling my own story helps to further that cause, I don’t mind using my platform to do exactly that. Talk a little more.
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