Article From Mens Health.Com
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. For too long, men have been silent about mental health and it’s literally killing us. We can change that. Our Healthy Mind, Healthy Body series shines a light on mental health issues that everyone should be talking about.
Charlamagne Tha God is a co-host of the radio show The Breakfast Club and author of the upcoming memoir Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks On Me (Oct. 2018). He struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. Here, he shares his story and how he learned to cope.
I have had anxiety literally my whole life. When you’re young and running the streets, you think all of that paranoia and anxiousness comes with the territory. As you get older, when you’re damn near 40, and life is good and you still have those feelings…that’s when you know something is wrong.
When I have anxiety attacks, I always think I’m having a heart attack. One time, I had an anxiety attack after I got fired from radio, and I was living back home with my mom. I was 31 years old. I had a three-year-old daughter, a soon-to-be wife, and I was collecting unemployment checks. I was just dealing with a lot. I wasn’t too sure what the future held for me. That was really, really, really terrible anxiety.
The guy checked me out and was like, "Your heart is perfect. You’ve got an athlete’s heart. Do you have anxiety?" I was like, "I don’t think so. But damn, I’ve had this before. I’ve had that tightening in my chest, that heart beating real fast. I’ve had this before." And he said, "You had an anxiety attack. You had a panic attack." That was the first time that I was actually told I had an anxiety attack.
Seven, eight months ago, I started going to therapy. Every Friday at 3:00 p.m., I do an hour-long session. It’s 100 percent a life-changer. My therapist told me, "You don’t need medicine. All you need is somebody to talk to. You just need to do some relaxation exercises."
There’s nothing like seeing your floor clear because you organized and cleared the space of all that clutter. That’s how I feel when I go to my therapist. It’s interesting how therapists will say, "Let’s unpack this." That’s really how it feels! For me, it feels like I’m unpacking a bunch of the shit that I don’t need.
I go to therapy just to push those negative thoughts out of my mind. None of us can escape thinking negatively. Negative thoughts are going to pop up in your head. You’re going to have self-doubt sometimes, you’re going to be insecure sometimes. You’re going to worry about your kids, you’re going to worry about your wife, but it’s about pushing that shit out and not holding onto it. When you hold onto it, that’s when it grows.
Black men, we have so much trauma. We constantly deal with anxiety. If you grew up in the hood, you’re going to have some sort of trauma, PTSD. But nobody is trying to sit black men down and treat us. Immediately, therapists want to put us on medicine. They want to put us on Ritalin or some type of pill that’s going to suppress us or numb us.
I think black men especially should go to therapy and seek out mental help because we need it. Even if you don’t think you need it, we need it. I walked into Walgreens the other day and it’s by a school, so a lot of kids in there shoplift. I walk in and I felt eyes on me. I’m just going in to get some protein powder!