On Mental Health Awareness Month

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent van Gogh

Dear Fellow Warrior,

How are you doing? How’s your mental health at this moment?

Lots of exciting developments this past month. As you know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

The featured photo is a painting attempt of the Aurora Borealis that we were blessed to witness across America and parts of the world a few weeks ago. I hate missing these cosmic phenomena, because as you know, from my Purple Skies series, it holds a special place for the Warrior KQueen.

But alas, that’s where we allow our creativity to emerge… I’ll include this piece and other Northern Lights pieces in the future in my ongoing Purple Skies series…

In any case, there has been a lot that I wanted to talk about this month, about mental health, but obviously, with multiple competing priorities, it is very hard.

But this topic, as you know is very important to me.

And I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of posting on the “Chronicles of a Warrior KQueen.”

I told myself almost 14-15 years ago, that I wouldn’t survive past 40. I’ll be 40 in about a little over a month now, so the countdown begins! I’ll probably start the countdown from 10 days…

In any case, this is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s coming to a close, I needed to be sure to share some thoughts and reflections here and across social media.

Because as you know, it is a special month for the Warrior KQueen.

I recently wrote this piece on my Medium account: https://medium.com/@elsatalatkhwaja/mental-health-awareness-during-times-of-crisis-8974db879899?sk=fea9b10d65c4991f989fc359cf2b7af2

Earlier this year, I changed the banner of this website to include the statement: “Curing Stigmas: Championing Intersectionality, Inclusion, and Empowerment.” I really love that. I hope to add more updates to this blog another time. And I have some exciting things planned in the near future to continue the Chronicles here…

There is much to say about this conversation. I believe the conversation on Mental Health needs to be ongoing, consistent, and a constant in our lives.

I have been speaking out about mental health for a long time, for the very purpose of Curing Stigmas, which is why I needed to add that phrase in the title, the banner of this blog.

And I have faced a great amount of stigma on mental health my whole life, across many domains: academic, professional, and familial.

When it comes, the flashbacks of those experiences across these spaces, it hits like a dagger, like an ice puck across the face. It is so painful, and it brings me down. It pushes me back from years and years of progress I have been making. Why?

Because Stigma is that problematic. Stigma is that painful. And it reinforces the pain from depression, anxiety and other ailments.

One issue connected to this, is seeing how many people have shared their stories online and have received nothing but signficant love, care, and support from their networks. It’s hard not to let this bother you.

Indeed, there are a lot of people who also risk a lot to share their stories, in a highly stigma-ridden spaces, and they suffer significant consequences. I have not been able to find a sense of community both online or offline on this. And I am sure because of my various intersections, those who connect with my story within my networks have lost interest in engaging me on these topics online or offline.

That’s the challenge when your only attribute for a “target audience” is an “open mind.”

I have no doubt that identity politics has much to do with it. As I write about identity and the identity intersections, I must note this observation.

“Being able to be your true self is one of the strongest components of good mental health.” – Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy

And as I noted in the Medium piece, there is a lot of synergy with the taboo and stigma of advocacy for a Free Palestine.

I remember a time when I was conditioned to believe that I needed to be afraid to say the word Palestine. I wasn’t, but now the international solidarity and recognition for truth, justice and reconciliation has increased significantly the past few months.

The same goes for the word: Mental Health. The same for Suicidality and mental health.

I have been so unapologetically vocal about both Palestine and Suicide Prevention and mental health for a long time. I do not doubt that people in my networks have alienated me from them entirely because of my choice to be vulnerable and open about my mental health challenges. And the same for those who may be on the wrong side of history for Palestine.

But we must remain steadfast, for not only our passions, but also the truth.

It’s so hard to continue, when everything around you feels like a reminder of your “failures.”

Everything you tried to do, others are able to succeed with it.

I have stated before in this blog, that I think it is best to keep writing here in this space. And to “practice in public” and to keep nurturing authenticity in this space. And it is helping.

For me, now, more than ever it is so important to keep writing. And so that I will do.

Overall, I’ve spent many years sharing my story, my journey of survival, including through higher education, all the while believing I wouldn’t survive, as I noted earlier.

I’m still here today. Allah has saved me in many ways.

And I do thank those who saw & still see sincerity in my words, and who actually believed me, and didn’t think it was me trying to get attention. And didn’t give me the evil eyes when I shared both stories of pain and suffering and moments of joy and empowerment, aiming for balanced presentation, knowing consequences in a stigma-ridden society.

I can’t control how people interpret. I cannot allow their interpretations to dictate my mission & my calling in life.

But honestly, if your engagement, your connection, a simple like or comment on a post for a friend could help them in any way, feel connected to the world, would you do it?

To the very least? And consistently?

Would that really be so much to ask? Why would you stop, knowing that this person has obviously been struggling for a long time? If you know that a simple feeling of connection could save someone’s life, why wouldn’t you do more?

It’s a fair question. It’s not a ploy for neediness, or attention. It’s just an inquiry, about the culture I see around me. Naturally, we question when we see something troubling…

I have been an open book and an example of how social capital it so important to help save lives, keep people connected. But people have become stingy with their engagement online and how could one not be concerned about that…is you study the important of community and social capital.

We don’t have to explain ourselves to the world. I always felt I had to, because of how much the stigma shapes people’s perspectives on taboo topics, especially towards women with multiple marginalized identities who refuse to be boxed into the social constructions.

And because I was and continue to be defiant of conformity.

The conversation on mental health, in order to be truly inclusive, needs to be a dynamic, intersectional conversation, fully embracing the non-discriminatory nature of it.

That’s what I feel comes from my story. That’s why I feel I have to keep chronicling my journey, even in the darkest times of personal and collective crisis. And I’m still determined to find people willing to have these conversations openly and authentically and willing to share their stories too, without fear.

Be proud of your survival. Embrace your struggles.

It’s a beautiful thing when you accept yourself and embrace every single thing you are, without fear, and no matter the consequences in a harsh world full of injustice, indifference, and apathy. It is a tough journey, but once you push through, you won’t ever regret it.

You will fall in love with yourself over again. And you will find people who will love you too, no matter your disorder or illness. You will be Free.

I’m not there yet. So I will continue the “Chronicles of a Warrior KQueen.”

It’s important to remind yourself to keep creating and sharing, even if the people in your life are watching and dismissing everything you create.

This is very hard when you struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, and often use these mediums as a way to feel a sense of connection to the world.

It’s easy to be hurt and dismayed when it involves something that you bring to life from your heart. It’s easy to believe it’s not worthy. I know that my dismay is now turning into genuine hurt.

They truly believe that their lack of support will tire you out… there are people out there who want you hurt. There are people who will refuse to support you because they want you to stay exactly where you are.

Depressed. Damaged. Abandoned. Traumatized. Fallen. Defeated. And so on…

Too many people stop creating because of others, whether through direct criticism or lack of support. Because the pain of “invisibility” is a very real concept. And it’s one of the most painful human experiences, according to some psychologists.

Further the pain of “loneliness” that comes with “invisibility” is a very real concept. There is so much courage in pushing through this pain, in standing in the light, regardless.

It is only when you stop creating, that you fail.

I do not doubt that it is a weapon some people with use online, to watch and not engage a single thing your creator friends post. I can’t understand it. To not give you any positive reinforcement or encouragement for your own original creative work, your own original words and art.

Because what they want to see, is the silence and the crickets breaking you, and making you give up.

Make sure you take breaks, because dealing with this can be exhausting for your mental health. This is what many people have talked about, in terms of how social media can be damaging to your mental health. Make sure you take care of yourself.

“Self-care is how you take your power back” – Lalah Delia

Thank you to those who don’t do this to their friends and family.

The reason why a like or a comment is a boost of dopamine is because of “connection.”

The most important thing is the reminder to keep creating. And that your pain of invisibility is absolutely valid. It’s real. And it is okay that you struggle with it.

Push through the broken heart and let that broken heart, that vulnerability, that honesty and authenticity reflect in the art that you create…

Don’t stop creating…. let the art heal your pain of invisibility.

I don’t know how to fix it. I’ve been trying to rewrite my story for a long time. I would often say for the past three years, that the intervals of falling and getting up again, have gotten smaller.

“Fall 7 times. Get up 8.” – Japanese Proverb

Unfortunately, they keep getting smaller. And I have shared this openly, that barely anyone cares to even check in on me, or see if I am okay, knowing my chronic-long term illness.

Sometimes I think about how much injustice I have faced. What has happened to me is unfair. But then I realize it is really not my loss, the loss of the sense of community. It is the loss of others, because I have significant value that they cannot comprehend.

There are not too many things I love about myself. But there are some. Most critically, I love that I am kind person, overall. I love that I have the courage to share my authentic self with the world, and I am going to continue to practice in public, to share my life journey, and I am not going to make myself small at the level that people perceive me.

All my life, I have allowed hate to impact me, but it is really the silence that hurts the most, especially when it comes from people you have loved, admired, respected, appreciated, held closely in your heart.

This connects to what Dr. King has said, “In the end, we will remember, not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I think this is truly connected.

There are always going to be people who will dislike people who dare to be their authentic selves, to show up exactly who they are, and instead of taking inspiration from it, seeing that this person is potentially making space for others to do the same, or at least contributing to it.

In any case, concerning the Stigma that persists, we need to keep the conversation going.

On my part, I must continue creating and sharing myself with the world. I know what I am doing and I am proud of it.

I hope you can see me, dear fellow Warrior, and see my heart, and see what I am trying to do here, and sense the sincerity in it.

I have to keep creating because that is helping me stay resilient, empowered, and connected.

Please check out my recent YouTube video with some rough reflections on Mental Health Awareness Month: https://youtu.be/4a6H0SjvBjA?si=xQNyFa3i9OW-8AaS

I will continue to do this. Create.

“Walking alone” is tremendously more difficult when you are struggling with mental health challenges that are used against you, should you express it with the world.

And with that, I will remain defiant, and continue to “Persist and Resist.”

And I hope it inspires you to do the same.

Happy Mental Health Awareness Month, Fellow Warrior KQueen.

Stay Resilient. Stay Empowered. Stay Connected.

The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.– Dr. Brene Brown

In Solidarity, Peace, Warmth and Blessings,

Your Sister,

Dr. Elsa, Warrior KQueen

“She wasn’t looking for a Knight. She was looking for a Sword.” -Atticus

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