One of the top resolutions on everyone’s list is losing weight and getting in shape. Working out can be no fun at all, but over the last few years people have created dynamic fitness programs that are fun and effective. Below is a list of not only the most fun and effective fitness programs but they are all black-owned businesses.
If you spend enough time on social media you have most likely come across YouTube clips of Keith Thompson’s high-energy cycling classes. Thompson is the lead instructor at Atlanta-based KTX Fitness, an enterprise that specializes in helping people meet their fitness goals in a fun atmosphere. It is not uncommon to see Thompson dancing alongside cyclers as some of today’s top urban and hip-hop songs blast from the speakers. His cycling classes blend calisthenics with cycling to create a high-impact aerobic workout in which individuals burn approximately 1000 calories and ride approximately 15 miles, but cycling isn’t all that KTX Fitness does. They also have step classes, total body workout classes and a bootcamp. The majority of KTX Fitness class are held in Atlanta but Thompson also travels to bring the cycling classes to different cities such as DC, NY, Cincinnati, Toronto most recently and more. For more about KTX Fitness click here.
Mr. Shut Up and Train
Another Atlanta-based fitness expert who you may have seen on social media is Rahman Grayson aka Mr. Shut Up and Train. The Mr. Shut Up and Train moniker might be familiar to you because of your friends who participated in his free fitness challenges. Through his fitness challenges, Grayson crafts a workout plan that forces people out of their comfort zones and into the training zone. Yet he seeks not only to whip people into physical shape but he trains minds to pursue and accomplish goals that seem impossible. The free workout plans are but a small portion of Grayson’s work toward creating fit and healthy people. He also offers personal training services everyday people and athletes and celebrities alike. For more information about Mr. Shut Up and Train click here.
Black Girls Run
Black Girls not only Rock but they Run too and they have been running under the Black Girls Run banner since 2009. Founders Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks created BGR in an effort to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African-American community as well as to provide encouragement to novice and veteran runners. Six years later, BGR has expanded to 69 running groups in 30 states across the United States with over 52,860 African-American women running. The organization commits itself as much to its veteran runners as it does to new runners. On any given run they suggest that novice runners find a “running crush” and pace themselves with that person as a way to establish goals. As you can imagine, BGR fosters a sisterhood among women who begin as strangers and transform them into sojourners on the journey to optimum physical fitness. To find out about BGR runs in your city, click here.
Brukwine is not for the faint of heart nor is it for those scared of the four-letter word “sexy” as it pertains to the female body. With that out of the way we can get into the grit of what Brukwine is. Created by dancers Tavia and Tamara, Brukwine is a Reggae/Dancehall-based fitness class that provides women with a total body workout while teaching them the latest moves from popular Caribbean culture. Tavia and Tamara are both trained dancers who, among other dance disciplines, studied dancehall in its birthplace of Jamaica and have toured the world and served as dancers for artists such as Sean Paul, Rihanna, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. Brukwine is currently only holding classes in New York. For more information on Brukwine click here.
So who will you workout with this year?
This list is far from comprehensive so if you know of any other black-owned business fitness please leave them in the comments.
Dr. Shreni N. Zinzuwadia, a critical care specialist in Newark, NJ, quietly brings her faith into the emergency room every day.
“Whenever I’m resuscitating somebody in a cardiac arrest, I know that it’s not me. They’re either going to survive because God wants them to survive, or they’re not, because that’s just their destiny. I never think it’s me actually saving a life. I go into every single room doing everything I can to help them survive, and then, I know it’s not in my hands. I know it’s in the hands of a higher power,” said Dr. Zinzuwadia, a Christian and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School.
Being a person of faith and a leader in the medical industry can be challenging because the field is traditionally all about science and evidence-based medicine. People don’t talk about faith.
“I think it is frowned upon. We’re in a society that’s Christ-rejecting, so you are going to be the odd man out if you want to bring your faith into your practice. I keep it to myself, and I get a sense of each patient and see where their head is at. If I feel like there’s an opening to share faith than I do.”
Many aspiring healthcare professionals get into the industry because they genuinely want to help people. Some feel called to support underserved urban areas, others assist rural communities. But even the most dedicated professionals are starting to question whether the years of education and training were all worth it given the cut-throat decision-making when it comes to deciding who gets what care and how much is paid for it. On top of that, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that by the year 2020 the U.S. will face a shortage of 91,500 physicians. By the year 2025, that number is expected to climb to 130,600. Facing these daunting figures, it’s more important than ever to encourage Christians who are leaders in the healthcare field to boldly share their ideas in the spirit of transforming the industry to be more Christ-like – or, at the very least, to be more empathetic to people in need of care and those who serve them.
What’s really going on?
So why are doctors leaving what has traditionally been considered a highly respected and desired profession in one of the wealthiest countries in the world? In the article “Physicians aren’t ‘burning out.’ They’re suffering from moral injury,” Drs. Simon Talbot and Wendy Dean report that doctors are caught in the crosshairs between honoring their Hippocratic Oath and making a profit for stakeholders (i.e., hospitals, health care systems, insurers, patients, and doctors), often at the expense of affordable quality care. In their assessment, the need is great for courageous leadership willing to pave the way for physicians to perform their duties without the extra bureaucratic baggage draining the system.
“It’s routine for insurance companies to deny claims and make the hospitals and physicians work doubly and triply hard to get paid for services rendered. It puts us in such a position where we’re not getting paid, and insurance companies, specifically, have just decided they will not pay you what you’re asking for. Whatever you’re charging, they’ll arbitrarily decide they’re not going to pay you that. They’re going to pay you 30 percent of that. And there’s no platform or representative for doctors to fight them,” said Dr. Zinzuwadia.
The billing and insurance claims and coverage complaints are of particular concern to people of color, and African Americans in particular, who aren’t adequately represented in the medical field. In an NBC News article by Dr. Shamard Charles’ titled “The dearth of black men in medicine is worrisome. Here’s why,” Charles explains that it’s crucial for more men like him to enter the field because black doctors are more likely to serve in underserved communities where there are higher rates of chronic disease and incarcerations are rampant. He’s convinced that more black doctors in the healthcare system may establish greater trust in the system and a stronger doctor-patient relationship in troubled neighborhoods.
So how do Christians turn things around and have an impact?
People in positions of power and influence need to encourage and develop Christian business leaders who are biblically and theologically trained. Men and women of this caliber must be able to navigate the complexities of the system while embracing a deep and vibrant faith in Christ in the face of an increasingly Christ-rejecting society. Spirit-filled individuals of this nature will most likely exhibit traits mirroring what is known as transformational and/or servant leadership.
Christians in healthcare can model a positive leadership style by living a life of integrity and working to change beneficial policies. Though there are many, at least two leadership styles have proven effective in influencing job culture — transformational and servant leadership. Numerous scholars, including famed author James MacGregor Burns, affirm the power and influence of transformational leadership, a widely regarded leadership style with the ability to enact impactful social change among individuals and cultures by motivating followers to become leaders.
Another famed servant leader, research scholar, Robert K. Greenleaf, believes that servant leadership is based on the heartfelt desire to serve others. This kind of leader is preoccupied with his follower’s development as a person over the actual job itself. It’s easy to see the two traits modeled in the Lord Jesus Christ and relayed through the centuries to the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The exciting news is that Spirit-filled Christians are empowered to live out these principles practically in positions of authority because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17).
Leonard Mlodinow, author of “Why you need to become an elastic thinker,”expertly captures the essence of what’s demanded of the modern workforce. He writes about the need for contemporary workers to become elastic thinkers or employees who can adapt quickly to change and can think openly about new ideas. This principle bodes well with healthcare industry business leaders who are no less challenged by the call to adapt quickly to uncertain market conditions birthed from emerging technologies. But the question arises, does elastic thinking complement or conflict with Spirit-filled living in Christ? The call is clear for Christians to have a mindset on Christ and a passion for being led by the spiritual principle “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2). Elastic thinking involves a great deal of mental exertion and time that can potentially rob you from experiencing the “peace of Christ that passes all understanding.” Yet, at the same time, it can be beneficial in sharpening your mind to approach problems afresh with a new perspective.
Christian healthcare business leaders have an opportunity to influence and shape the future healthcare system by being the catalyst who shape the culture by personal life example, policy recommendation, and administrative posturing. Healthcare business leaders can also reinvigorate the development of critical relationships between the Bible and theological training with the health profession.
“I think we should all be faith-based. We would all treat each other better, respect each other more. We’re a little more selfless in our interactions with people when we’re faith-based. I just feel like it should permeate everything we do,” said Dr. Zinzuwadia.
Yang, C. (2014). Does ethical leadership lead to happy workers? A study on the impact of ethical leadership, subjective well-being, and life happiness in the Chinese culture. Journal of Business Ethics, 123(3), 513-525. doi:10.1007/s10551-013-1852-6
Weichun Zhu Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations College of Liberal Arts The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA 16802 Phone: (814) 865-9116 Email: [email protected]
John J. Sosik School of Graduate Professional Studies at Great Valley The Pennsylvania State University 30 East Swedesford Road Malvern, PA 19355 Phone: (610) 648-3254 Email: [email protected]
Ronald E. Riggio Kravis Leadership Institute Claremont McKenna College Claremont, CA 91711 Phone: (909) 607-2997 Email: [email protected]
Baiyin Yang, Department of Human Resources and Organizational Behavior School of Economics and ManagementTsinghua University Beijing, China 100084 Phone: 86-10-6279-6314 Email: [email protected]
This holiday season, spice up your parties, gatherings and get-togethers with a few delicious recipes from acclaimed chef, Huda Mu’min. Video Courtesy of Roland S. Martin
For many, the holiday season comes with family, friends and lots of food. As part of the Healthy for Life 20 by 20 initiative, to improve the health of Americans, Aramark and the American Heart Association tapped into their experts to assemble a list of healthy tips and tricks to help navigate the holiday season, without sacrificing the flavor or fun of celebrating.
Aramark, the largest food service provider in the United States and one of the largest employers of registered dietitians in the world, and the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, have teamed up to empower and inspire individuals and families to make better food choices every day, including the holiday season.
Whether it’s cooking for a crowd, or making smart kitchen swaps, Aramark and the American Heart Association will help you put together a winning holiday game plan.
COOKING FOR A CROWD
Aramark chefs serve two billion meals a year, so they’re used to cooking for a crowd every day of the week. Whether for a cocktail party, weekend brunch or holiday dinner, these easy tips will make cooking for a crowd a lot less daunting.
Ask around.Before you get too far with your planning, note anyone who has a food preference, allergy, intolerance, or any other dietary needs or restrictions. While some guests may follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, plenty of people are thinking more plant-forward in general. Come up with a mix of meat, poultry, seafood, and plant-forward offerings so every guest has a selection of dishes to enjoy. It’s a good idea to have at least one meatless main dish for guests who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Plan ahead.Think about what you can take care of in the days leading up to your event. Shopping is a no-brainer. Review all your recipes and check your pantry to compile one master shopping list before you even set foot in the grocery store. Again, buying in-season produce will help you save money, as will buying in bulk, which large parties often require anyway. Once home, take stock of your cookware and serving dishes, laying them out with sticky notes so you know which food will go in which dish.
Welcome helping hands (big and small). If someone offers to help in the kitchen or contribute something, take them up on it! Even kids can get in on the game: Let them toss a salad, set the table, or handle washing the pots and pans. It’s one less thing for you to do as the host, and one more way to inspire their love of healthy home cooking.
SMART KITCHEN SWAPS
There are plenty of healthy baking swaps to lighten up your favorite Holiday treats. Considering swapping out some of the items high in calories, sodium or saturated fat, for a healthier alternative.
One cup of unsweetened apple sauce can be swapped out for one cup of sugar
One cup of mashed bananas can be used to replace one cup of melted butter or oil
Greek yogurt can be used to swap out for different ingredients such as sour cream, butter, oil and heavy cream, but the ratios can vary
Instead of a fruit pie try making a fruit crisp for the holidays, it has fewer calories
Try replacing cream in recipes with regular or low-fat milk
Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes, instead of salt or butter
Include lots of seasonal, colorful fruits and vegetables.Do you decorate for the holidays with a lot of color? Treat your plate the same way. Fruits and vegetables will add flavor, color and nutrients to holiday favorites. And they help you feel fuller longer so you can avoid the temptation to overeat.
Navigate holiday parties like a boss.From the obligatory workplace parties to family get-togethers, your calendar may be bursting with opportunities to eat and drink outside of your regular routine. Make a plan that will help you resist plowing through the buffet table, like having a healthy snack beforehand.
Sprinkle in opportunities to be active.Keep the inevitable indulgences in check by staying active. Enjoy some winter sports, for a change of pace, or schedule in a quick walk or workout before you head to the next party. Remember, every little bit helps you get closer to the recommended amount of physical activity.
HOLIDAY HEALTH AND SAFETY
These tipsfrom Aramark’s safety experts will keep safety top of mind when preparing a holiday feast.
Wash your hands. Hands must be washed AFTER using the restroom, coughing, sneezing and handling raw foods and garbage. Always wash your hands BEFORE starting to prepare food and in between tasks. Handwashing is critical to preparing safe food.
Thaw frozen food properly. It is recommended that a refrigerator is used to thaw frozen food, so plan ahead. For every 5 pounds (2kg 270g) of large frozen food, allow 24 hours of refrigerator thawing time. Place the food in a tray or container deep enough to collect any draining fluids to prevent contamination of other foods in the refrigerator.
Use proper cooking temperatures. Cook raw meat products to the minimum internal temperatures as stated on the product packaging. Insert a thermometer (digital is preferred) at several spots including the thickest part of the meat. Achieving the proper internal minimum cooking temperature is critical to preparing safe food.
Store and reheat leftovers safely. Leftovers must be cooled to below 70°F (21°C) within 2 hours, and then to 41°F (5°C) or below within 4 hours. Large items should be broken down into smaller items by either physically breaking items apart or placing the item in multiple small shallow containers. Keep refrigerated leftovers for 3 days from initial cooking or freeze for longer storage and reheat leftover food once to 165°F (74°C) for 15 seconds.
HEALTHY MENU IDEAS
It’s possible to eat healthy during the holidays without FOMO, or a lot of effort. Here are some favorite recipes from Aramark and the American Heart Association that will bring new flavors and twists on holiday favorites to your table.
NeDina Brocks-Capla sits in her kitchen in San Francisco. Her son Kareem Jones died at age 36 from sickle cell disease. (Jenny Gold/KHN)
For more than a year, NeDina Brocks-Capla avoided one room in her large, brightly colored San Francisco house — the bathroom on the second floor.
“It was really hard to bathe in here, and I found myself not wanting to touch the walls,” she explained. The bathroom is where Brocks-Capla’s son Kareem Jones died in 2013 at age 36, from sickle cell disease.
It’s not just the loss of her son that upsets Brocks-Capla; she believes that if Jones had gotten the proper medical care, he might still be alive today.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder that causes some red blood cells to bend into a crescent shape. The misshapen, inflexible cells clog the blood vessels, preventing blood from circulating oxygen properly, which can cause chronic pain, multi-organ failure and stroke.
About 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease, and most of them are African-American.
Patients and experts alike say it’s no surprise then that while life expectancy for almost every major malady is improving, patients with sickle cell disease can expect to die younger than they did 20 years ago. In 1994, life expectancy for sickle cell patients was 42 for men and 48 for women. By 2005, life expectancy had dipped to 38 for men and 42 for women.
Sickle cell disease is “a microcosm of how issues of race, ethnicity and identity come into conflict with issues of health care,” said Keith Wailoo, a professor at Princeton University who writes about the history of the disease.
It is also an example of the broader discrimination experienced by African-Americans in the medical system. Nearly a third report that they have experienced discrimination when going to the doctor, according to a poll by NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Dr. Elliott Vichinsky examines Derek Perkins at the sickle cell center at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, which sees both children and adults. (Jenny Gold/KHN)
“One of the national crises in health care is the care for adult sickle cell,” said leading researcher and physician Dr. Elliott Vichinsky, who started the sickle cell center at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland in 1978. “This group of people can live much longer with the management we have, and they’re dying because we don’t have access to care.”
Indeed, with the proper care, Vichinsky’s center and the handful of other specialty clinics like it across the country have been able to increase life expectancy for sickle cell patients well into their 60s.
Vichinsky’s patient Derek Perkins, 45, knows he has already beaten the odds. He sits in an exam room decorated with cartoon characters at Children’s Hospital Oakland, but this is the adult sickle cell clinic. He’s been Vichinsky’s patient since childhood.
“Without the sickle cell clinic here in Oakland, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t know anywhere else I could go,” Perkins said.
When Perkins was 27, he once ended up at a different hospital where doctors misdiagnosed his crisis. He went into a coma and was near death before his mother insisted he be transferred.
“Dr. Vichinsky was able to get me here to Children’s Hospital, and he found out what was wrong and within 18 hours — all I needed was an emergency blood transfusion and I was awake,” Perkins recalls.
Kareem Jones lived just across the bay from Perkins, but he had a profoundly different experience.
Jones’ mother, Brocks-Capla, said her son received excellent medical care as a child, but once he turned 18 and aged out of his pediatric program, it felt like falling off a cliff. Jones was sent to a clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, but it was open only for a half-day, one day each week. If he was sick any other day, he had two options: leave a voicemail for a clinic nurse or go to the emergency room. “That’s not comprehensive care — that’s not consistent care for a disease of this type,” said Brocks-Capla.
Brocks-Capla is a retired supervisor at a worker’s compensation firm. She knew how to navigate the health care system, but she couldn’t get her son the care he needed. Like most sickle cell patients, Jones had frequent pain crises. Usually he ended up in the emergency room where, Brocks-Capla said, the doctors didn’t seem to know much about sickle cell disease.
When she tried to explain her son’s pain to the doctors and nurses, she recalled, “they say have a seat. ‘He can’t have a seat! Can’t you see him?’”
Studies have found that sickle cell patients have to wait up to 50 percent longer for help in the emergency department than other pain patients. The opioid crisis has made things even worse, Vichinsky added, as patients in terrible pain are likely to be seen as drug seekers with addiction problems rather than patients in need.
NeDina Brocks-Capla stands in her living room in San Francisco. She made a shrine filled with memories of son Kareem Jones, who died of sickle cell anemia in 2013. (Jenny Gold/KHN)
Despite his illness, Jones fought to have a normal life. He lived with his girlfriend, had a daughter and worked as much as he could between pain crises. He was an avid San Francisco Giants fan.
For years, he took a drug called hydroxyurea, but it had side effects, and after a while Jones had to stop taking it. “And that was it, because you know there isn’t any other medication out there,” said Brocks-Capla.
Indeed, hydroxyurea, which the FDA first approved in 1967 as a cancer drug, was the only drug on the market to treat sickle cell during Jones’ lifetime. In July, the FDA approved a second drug, Endari, specifically to treat patients with sickle cell disease.
Funding by the federal government and private foundations for the disease pales in comparison to other disorders. Cystic fibrosis offers a good comparison. It is another inherited disorder that requires complex care and most often occurs in Caucasians. Cystic fibrosis gets seven to 11 times more funding per patient than sickle cell disease, according to a 2013 study in the journal Blood. From 2010 to 2013 alone, the FDA approved five new drugs for the treatment of cystic fibrosis.
“There’s no question in my mind that class and color are major factors in impairing their survival. Without question,” Vichinsky said of sickle cell patients. “The death rate is increasing. The quality of care is going down.”
Without a new medication, Jones got progressively worse. At 36, his kidneys began to fail, and he had to go on dialysis. He ended up in the hospital, with the worst pain of his life. The doctors stabilized him and gave him pain meds but did not diagnose the underlying cause of the crisis. He was released to his mother’s care, still in incredible pain.
At home, Brocks-Capla ran him a warm bath to try to soothe his pain and went downstairs to get him a change of clothes. As she came back up the stairs, she heard loud banging against the bathroom walls.
“So I run into the bathroom and he’s having a seizure. And I didn’t know what to do. I was like, ‘Oh come on, come on. Don’t do this. Don’t do this to me.’”
She called 911. The paramedics came but couldn’t revive him. “He died here with me,” she said.
It turned out Jones had a series of small strokes. His organs were in failure, something Brocks-Capla said the hospital missed. She believes his death could have been prevented with consistent care — the kind he got as a child. Vichinsky thinks she is probably right.
“I would say 40 percent or more of the deaths I’ve had recently have been preventable — I mean totally preventable,” he said, but he got to the cases too late. “It makes me so angry. I’ve spent my life trying to help these people, and the harder part is you can change this — this isn’t a knowledge issue. It’s an access issue.”
A nurse takes patient Derek Perkins’ blood pressure at the sickle cell center at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland — one of only three places in California that offer specialized services for adults with sickle cell disease. (Jenny Gold/KHN)
Vichinsky’s center and others like it have made major advances in screening patients for the early signs of organ failure and intervening to prevent premature death. Patients at these clinics live two decades longer than the average sickle cell patient.
Good care for sickle cell requires time and training for physicians, but it often doesn’t pay well, because many patients are on Medicaid or other government insurance programs. The result is that most adult sickle cell patients still struggle even to access treatments that have been around for decades, Vichinsky said.
The phenomenon is nothing new — the disease that used to be known as sickle cell anemia has had a long and sordid past. It was first identified in 1910 and helped launch the field of molecular biology. But most of the research was used to study science rather than improving care for sickle cell patients, Vichinsky said.
In the 1960s and ’70s, sickle cell became a lightning rod for the civil rights movement. At the time, the average patient died before age 20. The Black Panther Party took up the cause and began testing people at their “survival conferences” across the country.
“I’m sure we tested over four-and-a-half-thousand people for sickle cell anemia last night — and I think that the voter registration is running neck and neck with it,” Black Panther Party Chairman Bobby Seale told news crews at an event in Oakland in 1972.
The movement grew, and Washington listened. “It is a sad and shameful fact that the causes of this disease have been largely neglected throughout our history,” President Richard Nixon told Congress in 1971. “We cannot rewrite this record of neglect, but we can reverse it. To this end, this administration is increasing its budget for research and treatment of sickle cell disease.”
For a while, funding did increase, newborn screening took hold and by the 1990s, life expectancy had doubled, with patients living into their 40s. But over time, funding waned, clinics closed, and life expectancy started dropping again.
Vichinsky pushes against that trend for patients like Derek Perkins. The father of four looks healthy and robust, but like most sickle cell patients, he has episodes of extreme pain and has problems with his kidneys, heart, hips and breathing. Keeping him thriving requires regular checkups and constant monitoring for potential problems.
“The program Dr. Vichinsky is running here, I feel I owe my life to [it],” said Perkins. “If it wasn’t for him and the things that he did for me, my family wouldn’t have me.”
When you see a man walking down the street talking to himself, what is your first thought? Most likely it’s, “He is crazy!” What about the lady at the bus stop yelling strange phases? You immediately become guarded and move as far away from her as possible. I know you’ve done it. We all have.
We are so quick to judge others on the surface level without taking the time to think that maybe God is placing us in a situation for a reason. Maybe it is a test and in order to pass, you must show love and compassion for something or someone that you do not understand.
Perhaps the man or woman you judge are suffering from a mental illness. However, do not be deceived by appearances, because mental illness does not have “a look.”
More Than What Meets The Eye
When most people look at me, they see a successful, 20-something-year-old woman who is giving of herself and her time. In the past, they would only see a bubbly, out-going, praying and saved young lady who is grounded in her faith. When outsiders look at me, they often see someone with two degrees from two of America’s most prestigious institutions, an entrepreneur who prides herself on inspiring others to live life on purpose, and simply lets her light shine despite all obstacles.
However, what so many do not know is that there was a time when I was dying on the inside. On a beautiful summer morning, at the tender age of 25, I suddenly felt sick. It was not the kind of sick where one is coughing with a fever and chills. I felt as if there were a ton of bricks on top of my body and I could not move my feet from the bed to the floor.
Then, there were times when I was unable to stop my mind from racing. I had a hard time concentrating on simple tasks and making decisions. My right leg would shake uncontrollably and I would get so overwhelmed by my mind.
It was in those moments when I inspired to begin researching depression and anxiety. I had the following thoughts as I read the symptoms: “This sounds like me. But, if I’m diagnosed with depression and anxiety, does this mean I am no longer grounded in my faith? Would I walk around claiming something that the Christians deemed as not being a “real” disease? Am I speaking this illness into existence?”
NAMI also describes anxiety as chronic and exaggerated worrying about everyday life. This can consume hours each day, making it hard to concentrate or finish routine daily tasks.
As the months passed, my symptoms became progressively worse and I became so numb to life. I slowly began to open up to my church family and some of the responses I received were so hurtful. I received a variety of suggestions on everything from speaking in tongues for 20 minutes to avoiding medication because it would make my condition worse.
As a result, I did not know what to do. I felt lost and alone, because a community that I turned to first in my time of trial and tribulation did not understand me. I was so deep in my depression that praying and reading my Bible was too difficult of a task to complete.
As time went on, I eventually went to the doctor and guess what? I was right. I went undiagnosed for over 10 years. Imagine the consequences if a person with cancer, AIDS/HIV or diabetes went undiagnosed.
The Breaking Point
I eventually found myself in the hospital after a friend called 911 to notify them of my suicide attempt. I was so removed from life that when the doctor asked me the day of the week and date, I could not tell him.
Honestly, I can tell you a number of reasons why I tried to commit suicide. Some of them were external factors, such as finances. Some of it was burn-out. Some of it was unresolved childhood issues and genetics.
However, after learning my family medical history, I discovered that several members of my family battled mental illness during their lifetime. Both of my parents battled mental illness, and my grandfather informed me about the time he tried to commit suicide at the age of 14. My uncle was admitted to the hospital due to schizophrenia.
A Bright Future
Over time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed. God has placed amazing people in my life from family members, friends who are simply extended family, doctors, therapists, and medication.
While my goal is not to rely on medication for the rest of my life, I am grateful that I found something that works while I work through recovery. Looking back to where I was about two years ago, I would have never saw myself living life with depression and anxiety.
I believe in the power of prayer and God’s word. As the scripture states in James 2:17, “Faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” This leads me to believe that no matter how difficult the situation is, I will have to work towards healing and recovery even though I have a strong foundation and faith.
Do you have words of encouragement for someone who is battling mental illness? Share your thoughts below.