Happy Mother’s Day Sunday 🌷 I know I’m usually uplifting but today I woke up a little feisty so here’s a raw share with trigger warnings: mental health hospitalization + sexual assault.
I’ve shared both these experiences publicly, most recently the latter. But today in honor of Mother’s Day AND Mental Health Awareness Month (May is LIT), I want to share something else I never have before. It’s taboo to talk about, I feel. Because it has to do with money + resources. And if there’s one thing I know people get their briefs in a twist about, it’s that. Money + resources.
I was not employed when I experienced both those awful things. I was hanging onto M2M Gifts by a thread while actively looking for a job. I was having trouble finding something salaried, most likely because I had taken time off since Hurricane Irma + there was a gap in my resume. Valedictorian with almost 10 years of work under my belt + nobody would give me a chance - crazy right? But no, not that crazy. Steady jobs are hard to find, no matter who you are. I’ll always be thankful I found the place I’m currently at.
Anyway, I was living on almost nothing. I was on Medicaid but even with that, therapy was $50 each time. That adds up. I will say I’m grateful I had Medicaid at the time because my 2-day hospitalization after the assault cost FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Yes $15K. And if I would have been on an employer-sponsored plan, I would have likely had to pay most of that. I did not pay one cent because of Medicaid. I’m debt free from that hospital stay because of Medicaid. Lena now has a happy + whole mother (most days lol) because of Medicaid. This isn’t a share to politically comment on Medicaid or to encourage those on Medicaid to run to the ward, it’s just a share of the facts based on my personal account. So relax, Trumpets. I mean Trumpers. Typo, my bad.
All this to say. I’ve come very far since those days - emotionally, spiritually, physically, financially. Extremely far. But it’s mainly because I eventually gained the monetary resources to pay for a private practice therapist. I used to go to the hospital for my weekly subsidized sessions + although I’m grateful I had even that, it gave me anxiety every single time because I was returning to the place where I was hospitalized. Retraumatizing every...single...time. My heart would start racing whenever I was in the elevator to see the psychiatrist (who was an angel, FYI. Just the building she worked in sucked).
There is a MAJOR socioeconomic gap in access to resources when it comes to mental healthcare and that is a PROBLEM, especially now during COVID-19. I don’t have the widespread solution (M2M Gift Boxes are a VERY small contribution)— so I welcome those working in mental/behavioral health to start problem solving around that gap. Get creative.
I know some wonderful orgs who currently are getting creative, like Healthy Hood Chicago’s Get Yo Mind Right Initiative that offers free therapy to communities of color. I am also part of a free support group called A Quiet rEvolution, which supports survivors of sexual trauma. But we need more. Lots of it. Because COVID’s here for the long haul + just like my trauma from the assault + hospitalization - things take time to surface. MANY peoples’ mental health is declining right now + they might not even know it. We need to do something to catch them before they even get close to falling. I had to fall all the way down in 2018 before I asked for help. It’s not recommended. I clawed my way out of a very dark hole + it doesn’t need to be that way. For anyone.
I send love to anyone who made it this far in reading and/or who this message resonates with. You are not alone + you never were. The system we’re living in can just make you feel that way.
And lastly, you are not “mentally ill.” You are mentally uncared for. It is not you, it is the system. Seek support to counter those gaps in the system. Church. Therapy (which is hopefully affordable). Pole dance. The studio where I take classes, Flight Fitness, is offering virtual classes right now. Whatever it might be for you, seek it out. And know that you will make it to the other side. The good side. It takes time. And resources - monetary + otherwise.
📸 by the fabulous Jessica W. Levin. Taken at Healthy Hood last year during, “A MOMent for Sex” Photo Shoot. Because newsflash, a healthy sex life is good for moms. It’s also where babies come from. More taboo talk.