Published By: RallyUp Magazine
Mental Health Warrior Zone
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. There were many times when I was going through that I questioned my faith in God. Even now when I need reassurance I go to this scripture. God is always with us and even though we can't see him we can feel His presence. If I didn't have faith, I don't know where I would be." ~Hebrews 11:1
I was always a fighter; I didn’t let anything bring me down. But my faith and life were put to the test. When I was 17 years old, I was diagnosed with a chronic mental health condition called schizoaffective disorder. I suffered from anxiety, depression, hallucinations, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Although it was the toughest and hardest thing I had to go through, thanks to medication, therapy and God of course I am doing much better. I was told that I was going to end up in a mental health facility or worse. I have truly beaten the odds. Despite what I was going through, I was able to not only graduate from high school on time, but I graduated from college with honors. I have written books, films, performed One Women Stage Shows and started my own production company, Pro'ta'jay Productions. Out of all my accomplishments, being a mental health advocate is what I am most proud of. I have been spreading mental health awareness for many years because I believe that I have gone through what I’ve gone through to help others. I just released my fourth book, “The Struggle Is Real” which is now available on Amazon. The story is based on my story being a teenager going through mental health challenges. I wrote the book so readers could see what it feels like to start showing symptoms of a mental illness and how you can overcome it. I want people to know that just because you suffer from mental health issues, doesn’t mean that you can’t accomplish great things and that there is nothing to be ashamed of. As I said, my faith and life were put to the test, but I ended up passing with flying colors.
RUM: What was lifelike before your diagnosis?
JB: Before the diagnosis I was what you would call a "normal teenager" if that's possible. I was always creative, and I loved to write and make music. I was in high school, and I was known for being the funny and sarcastic one. I had lots of friends and I was having a good time. When I wasn't home or at school, I was always at church. My life was great, I felt like I was on top of the world. Honestly, I would have never thought that I would end up with a mental illness.
RUM: What changed and alarmed you and your parents that you needed help?
JB: Everything was going good until one night that changed my life forever. I woke up in the middle of the night and I started seeing flashing lights and the room was spinning. I didn't know what was going on. Shortly after, I had my first anxiety attack, and I went to the hospital, and they said that nothing was wrong. For me, when I started having auditory hallucinations, that's when I knew that I needed help. I reached out to a social worker at my school. I believe that my family knew that something was wrong because of the way I was acting. Even my friends knew something was wrong. I went from being funny and full of life to deeply depressed and hopeless.
RUM: During college, who was your support system and the things you did to cope and achieve your goals for graduation?
JB: It took a lot of tears and prayers for me to get through college. Through it all, my mother was my support system. I have seen where a lot of parents' "release" their children once they go to college but not my mother. When I graduated from high school, I went to Hudson County Community College and my symptoms were still severe. I really thought that I could handle a full college load, boy was I wrong. I was so overwhelmed and depressed. My mother supported me the best way she could. One day we went to the school, and she told them my "situation." The school sent me to disability support services, which was something that I didn't even know existed. Through it all, we all decided that it would be best for me to go part time and only take two classes at a time. I believe that was the best option for me at the time. I even took my tests at the disability center, and it was better because I was able to take as much time as needed. After a few years there, I picked my grades up and I was accepted to New Jersey City University. Even when I went there, I went to their support services and it was the same thing, they allowed me to take my tests at the center and I only took two classes at a time. That was also a great support system for me. After many years of hard work and almost giving up, I finally graduated with honors with a Bachelor's in Media Arts. That was one of the proudest moments of my life.
RUM: What are somethings you now have in place to help you when "life gets difficult?
JB: When things get difficult, I now self-talk and I say to myself that things could be worse. Being grateful for what I have helps me to realize how blessed I am. I also have a great support system of people that I can call or talk to when life gets difficult.
RUM: What advice would you give to a young adult who may be experiencing mental challenges but unsure of the first steps to get help?
JB: The advice that I would give to a young adult that may be experiencing mental challenges is to first "accept' that you have a problem. Once you accept it, then you can get help. Make sure you find a professional that you feel comfortable talking to because they can't help you unless you are honest. Don't be ashamed to get help, we all need help sometimes. If you were physically sick, you would go to the doctor to get checked out so why not get help for your mental health. It is just as important.
RUM: In closing, what words would you like to leave for our readers?
JB: Just because you face mental health challenges or any obstacles in your life, it doesn't mean that you can't accomplish great things. Let's end the stigma on mental illness so that more people can get help. We are in this together.