Learning to Not Be Ashamed of Our Mental Illness w/Alé Diggs

Learning to Not Be Ashamed of Our Mental Illness w/Alé Diggs


– Hey everybody, happy Monday. Since I’m always saying
it’s with your experience and my expertise that we work together towards a healthy mind and a healthy body, today I wanted to invite
my close friend Alé to share her inspirational story. I’ve known Alé for a
very long time, and she has such great advice to share. She’s going to walk us
through how she knew she needed help, how hard it
was to get that help because her family didn’t believe
in mental health treatment, and how show she overcame
all obstacles in order to do what she knew was best for her. So this is my good friend
Alé, and she has graciously made time for us, because
I really think that she has a great story to tell and I wanted to give her a platform to
share it, and what better way to do it than on YouTube? – Hey! – And if you guys don’t
remember, if you haven’t watched my DrawMyLife from like, eons
ago, I talked about how I was a sales rep for a while, and
that’s how I met Alé, I used to call on her office and we
became good friends and have more stories to share that
we won’t about Stagecoach and extravaganzas, but we’ll save those– – And the hotel. (laughs)
– Yes! (laughs) We’ll save those for,
that’s a whole nother video. – That is a whole nother video. – But today I wanted to
talk a little bit about your experience with mental health,
mental illness, especially, she works in a psychiatrist’s
office, just so you guys know that, and I’m curious
’cause you grew up in LA. – I did, literally, good
old-fashioned south central, went to Crenshaw High, so C-House, so yeah. – And was mental health ever talked about? – It wasn’t, it wasn’t, I
grew up in what some would say is a good old-fashioned
African-American household. When there was an issue we’d
go to church and pray about it. You know, if you’re sad about
something, you pray about it, you talk to your mom, you talk
to your aunties, if you’re a little bit too much of a
crybaby, you’re a drama queen. – Oh, so even if you’re
sensitive and things hurt your feelings,
they’re like, okay. (claps) – Tough it out, come on,
you’re a big girl, you know. Stop all that crying.
– Yeah. – And that’s how I was
raised, so for the longest, I thought I was crazy, I
did, I thought I was crazy, I thought no one understood
me, and I was, I was labeled a crybaby, I was labeled a
crybaby and sensitive and don’t joke with Alé, she
gonna be in the corner crying, you know what I mean?
– Oh yeah. – And then sayings like that– – Just make it worse.
– Almost made it worse, ’cause now it’s like, oh
god, I can’t even be upset about whatever I’m going through. So that’s how I was
raised, and it doesn’t mean that my family wasn’t
supportive, they always were– – Yes, and you have a wonderful family and huge support system.
– Huge, huge, abnormally so. But it was never discussed in
the context of mental health. Maybe she needs to see a
therapist, maybe things like that, so that was never discussed
when I was younger, yeah. – Okay, and then flash forward,
I know all the answers but I’m gonna pretend I don’t.
(Alé laughs) Flash forward to I guess maybe
five or six or seven years ago, I don’t know when,
but when did you realize that maybe you should see a professional or even understanding what that was? – It wasn’t until, I think,
when I started working at the psychiatrist’s office,
it’s been 10 years now, so I started in 2009 and oh
god, it has been 10 years. It’s 2019!
(Kati laughs) And I would see the
different patients coming in, young, old, black, white,
orange, green, everything with every different issue,
and sometimes when I learned what they were going through, I’m like wait, that’s called depression? I always thought that meant
you were a crybaby or you’re just a drama queen or things
like that, so that’s when I started to educate myself
on it, once I start seeing at work, so it was really
my office, and seeing these aren’t crazy people,
it’s everyday everybody. – Yeah, from businesswomen–
– Teachers, doctors, mothers, fathers, students, just
literally everybody. Not just ugly people (laughs)
you know, beautiful everybody. – I think there’s a lot of,
like, that’s the stigma, right? Is we assume that mental
illness looks a certain way when it doesn’t discriminate,
it’s anybody, everybody, and now that you’ve recognized
at that point when you were like, oh, so that’s depression, huh. Did you look at your
family and be like, oh! ‘Cause that happened–
– Well a conversation was had, so my mom’s older sisters,
and I can say this because they’re totally
okay with me discussing it, I talked to them about it
because my mom passed away back in 2010, so it was something
that I’ve never talked to her about, I never got a chance to. So I talked to her sisters,
and then they explained to me about my grandmother
who would literally go into the room, close the
door, and be there for days and not leave, and remember
there were seven of them. So they just knew mommy
is going through whatever she’s going through, but
they never knew what it was. – ‘Cause she never talked about it. – She never talked about it,
she never had a therapist, she never had psychiatrist,
Gammy is what I called her, would check out; she would go
into her room, lock herself in there for days, they said,
and then they were all kind of raising each other,
taking care of each other. And so when they explained
that it made me cry, I’m like, (fake sobs) I’m not crazy,
you know, this is real! – Yeah, and we know there
is a genetic component. – For sure, for sure.
– It’s not all that, but there’s definitely, you
can always track it back. – Yeah, for sure, and
it made so much sense. It made so much sense, and yeah. And then you know my story, how
my mom became a quadriplegic when I was 12, so between all of that– – Honestly the stress of
that and the grieving– – All of that, learning to take care of my mother 100 percent,
learning to become more independent, and then
also dealing with regular being a 12- and 13-year-old.
– Which is the worst. – Which is just because it’s
Tuesday, so dealing with all of that, you know, my aunt
she told me once, we went because it was at a time
when everyone was busy, everyone had kids, everyone
had gone on, the adults in my life, I mean my aunties, uncles. She said she wished that
they had maybe got us some therapy then, us being
my twin brother and I. – Yeah, especially, not are
teens hard, teenage time is shitty and horrible,
but going through the stuff with your mom, that’s a lot. – It is a lot, and I
wish we had done that, it would have been so
helpful, because again, I have a huge family,
they were supportive, but just that extra stuff,
you know what I mean? The being angry, I was so mad. – Of course. – At everybody (laughs) I
was mad at everybody I knew. I was mad at my twin
brother, why doesn’t he have to change mommy’s diaper, you know? – Yeah. – I was mad at maybe an
auntie, why isn’t she over here taking care of her sister? Why is daddy working two
jobs, well duh, he has to work two jobs because
mom was like this, but when you’re 12 and 13– – You don’t get it and it seems unfair. – You don’t get it.
– You’re like angry at the world and God and–
– So I’m angry at everybody, I’m sad and I’m just
this nutcase in my head, I just feel crazy, yeah.
– Yeah. And I think that’s how a lot
of us feel, though, because especially if it’s not talked
about, we don’t have any words to explain, that’s why when
people say, oh, how do you talk to your kids about it, I’m
like, exactly like you talk to anybody about it, because
we don’t know anything, so there’s no judgment
or stigma, kids are like, oh, depression, so you’re sad, got it. And that would have
been so helpful for you. – Well the word ignorant
has been bastardized to be this mean word,
but it’s a real word, the term means not
knowing, like I’m ignorant to fixing a car.
– Yeah, same. – I was ignorant to mental
health, I was ignorant to verbiage such as depression
and what it meant, you know? So I had to become educated
in it to help myself, to encourage friends
and family, and I still, it’s a daily struggle, it’s
gonna be, I hate to say forever but you know, it’s a thing.
– Yeah, it’s a thing. And so when you finally
started to see someone, what was that like?
(Alé laughs) – She’s funny ’cause she
knows the real story. So I had what I guess we would
call a pretty bad episode. I don’t remember the year,
this had to be 2000– – 15, 14?
– 15, this was, yeah. And the doctor I was
working for, he said hey, he was seeing it already,
he was seeing it coming on, he had saw my mood change
at work and I was still functioning, that’s another
thing, there are so many functioning people–
– Oh totally, we talk about it all the time, ’cause people
assume it means your grandma– – No, I was still going to
work, I was still kicking ass at work, okay, I was still
being amazing, but people who knew me, especially the
doctor was seeing it, and he suggested hey, why
don’t you call this man? I’m like okay so I called the
man and I make an appointment. – And he’s lovely by the
way, I really love him. She asked me about him,
(Alé laughs) and I was like, I like him.
– And she did, yeah. So I walked into his office
and I said, and there, sitting in the chair, you have this
little, short, older white man with glasses, I’m talking
older as in like, 70’s, and I’m like,
– Completely white hair. – Why the hell would I sit
here and talk to this man? What is he gonna be able to
tell me, a 20-something-year-old African-American woman who
grew up in South Central, whatever I’m going through,
so I literally walked in with an attitude, I did.
– (laughs) you? Whatever.
– Me, I did, I walked in, I said, oh lord, I’m about to
waste my time with this man. And I promise you, ten
minutes into the conversation, I’m like (sighs) you
get it, I’m not crazy! All I had to do was explain
to him how I was feeling, what I had been going through
over the years, and he got it. He made everything I felt make sense. I explained something and
he helped me to understand what I was feeling, and it
just was the best experience of my adult life. (laughs)
– Yeah, and that relief. – It was a relief.
– Like that weight that you’ve been carrying, you’re like, (sighs). – Oh my god, it was just the
talking, someone who doesn’t know me, who is unbiased, who can tell me when I’m right and wrong. – Which is so helpful, I think
that’s why therapy is helpful for me, ’cause people
are like, why do you need to see a therapist, I’m
like, ’cause I can’t do it to myself, ’cause I always
say that I win or I’m right. – Right, hello? I’m team Alé, so uh.
(both laugh) Sometimes you gotta have
somebody drag you back, she’s done it, I went back
to an ex-boyfriend once, and Kenny was like, all
right girl, look here now, this is what we’re not gonna
do, and you need people whether it’s a therapist,
whether it’s a good friend to be 100 percent honest, and
so this is not gonna work, this is not it, you’re
wrong, you’re wrong. – And here’s how we can fix it, maybe. – And I love you enough
to tell you you’re wrong, in the therapist’s sense,
I care about you enough to tell you that you’re wrong.
– Yeah. And so you stuck it out, you
still see him, Frederick? – I do not see him anymore,
and that’s just good old-fashioned insurance
change and things like that, and so I did start seeing
someone else within my network who I did love as well, and it
has just been a life-changing experience to this day,
it’s almost a safety net. You know you can talk to
your therapist about things, whether it’s relationships,
whether it’s work, whether it’s finances, it’s
somebody unbiased who can honestly help you sort
through the things, give you coping mechanisms to
deal with some of that, ’cause life is hard.
– It’s hard, it’s really, and it’s always changing,
that’s the thing. As soon as you get comfortable,
something else happens. – Exactly, if it ain’t one
thing, it’s gonna be another. So that’s why I like the
term coping mechanisms to deal with coping things,
we don’t have to let everything make us spiral
downward, okay, it’s a new issue. Okay, how do I deal with
this in a healthy way? – Yeah.
– Yeah, so. – I like it, it’s like
you’re watching my videos or something.
(both laugh) – I mean, you know, you get
to turn Katy on sometimes when you’re brushing your
teeth, just let her play. And we gotta tell them
the story about when I was in the airport, too,
and with that one time. – Well I wanna finish up
this, because I’m curious, did your first psychiatrist
recommend medication? And were you nervous, or
how did you get over– – Yes, yes and yes. So he did discuss an
anti-depressant with me, and I was very hesitant, I was, I was. It also, for me in the
beginning, it didn’t help that I worked in a
psychiatrist’s office, I’m like, I’m not one of my patients, you know? I don’t need to take
this, and I tried not to. And then it got back to where
I had another bad episode, and then I went ahead and
tried taking it and it was almost immediate, it was creepy
how quickly things started to change, how my mood started to change, and thankfully I never
had any side effects. The whole part of psychopharmacology,
sometimes you have to play around with what works for you. What works for me might not
work for her and vice versa. But I didn’t have any negative
issues or anything like that, but I did end up taking an
anti-depressant and you know, it changed my life, I was super happy. Not happy because of the
medication, but just happy because I was finally feeling better. – Yeah, you felt like yourself, probably, without the burden and the fog. – And I stopped being embarrassed,
I stopped being ashamed because at one point I felt
embarrassed. I’m like dang, I can’t function like a regular
person without medicine? – I know, a lot of people
think that and feel that way, ’cause you’re like, but
would we say the same, so this is, I always
push back, would you say the same if it was heart medication? – Touche. – Like would I be embarrassed
’cause my heart doesn’t quite beat regularly, you’d be like,
no, of course you’re gonna take that, and it’s no different, right? – Exactly. – I don’t know why, but it’s
funny ’cause we do think about it differently and
talk about it differently. – We do, yes, but it is a
condition or a medical issue, it is, 100 percent.
– That’s why insurance, yeah. – It’s the same as cholesterol. – Exactly.
– Yes, and thankfully the laws changed with insurance,
because before it was harder to get appointments at the
psychiatrist’s office because of pre-existing conditions,
and when all of that changed, we were able to see people
without having to deal with the pre-existing condition
drama and all that jazz, so that was really good.
– Yeah, yay. And so by going to this,
going through your process and learning about it and
coming to your own realization, do you think, over this
time, things have changed in your family with your support system, or do you think it’s
opened conversations up? – 500 percent, I’ve had it
where I’ve had my aunt has come with me, different aunts,
my cousin has come with me, literally, and it’s become
a thing that’s like I said, not embarrassing, you know,
there was time, I’ve been pretty good for a while now,
but every now and then if I get a little down, hey girl,
you call your therapist lately? And it’s totally not
weird, it’s totally not you’re the weirdo in the family. – No, it’s like, I’m
noticing you’re not yourself, let’s get you some help.
– Yes, it’s totally accepted, even in my church life,
you know, they talk about, my pastor’s wife is a licensed MFT. – Oh, hey!
– Yes, exactly. – I love it.
– So it’s definitely becoming more and more discussed, the
stigma around it is becoming less and less, you see
celebrities talking about it more often now, and again
in my personal life, on the contrary, everybody
is so supportive, it never ceases to amaze me,
it never ceases to amaze me. I don’t feel uncomfortable,
I’m open, any situation, I encourage young girls
I meet, women my age, like girl, get you a therapist, you know? It makes a difference, it
makes a huge difference. – And so if looking back,
obviously telling people to get help earlier, is there
anything else you wish friends of yours or cousins, aunties,
what they could have done to make it better for you at that time, do you know what I mean? – Yeah, I know what you mean,
but the answer is the one that you just said, it’s
let’s discuss it earlier. Let’s see the signs and
start encouraging each other and working on it now, let’s
not wait until someone’s in their 20’s, you know what
I mean, to discuss this. Let’s make it okay. I support you, you wanna go
to a therapist, you want me to go with you the first time, sure I’ll go.
– Want me to help pay your copay, I’ll, yeah.
– Yeah, want me to help you pay your copay, it’s a real
thing, it’s a real thing. – ‘Cause that can be the
one thing stopping you. – It is the one thing that
stops a lot of people. – Totally. – Let’s not be uncomfortable
to discuss uncomfortable things and finances is always
uncomfortable to discuss. – Yep, pair that with mental
health, and it’s like– – Oh my god, hello,
it’s the perfect storm. – Nobody talks about it, yeah. – But yes, that’s what it is. You see the signs with
someone, and we don’t have to embarrass you, let’s pull
you to the side, hey girl. I’ve been thinking about you,
noticing you look a little, you know, down lately,
wanna go out for coffee? Let’s talk about it, I
got some suggestions. There was one girlfriend,
I said, you know what, Can I see your insurance? I’ll call for you. – Oh, you’re so nice!
– And get a list of the doctors and email them to you. – Oh, yeah.
– So stuff like that, yeah. – Ways to help out.
– Let’s stop ignoring it, we see it, we know our friends
and family, we know it. The kids, you know what I mean? Not saying that every kid,
you know, is something, but if you notice something
specific about that one 10-year-old all the time,
hey let’s talk about it. – Yeah, agreed. – Let’s not ignore it. – No, sooner the better. – Let’s not chop it off to maybe, ugh, she’s just a drama queen 13-year-old. It could be something else.
– She’s too sensitive, he’s too sensitive.
– Yeah, all that, so. That is what I would say,
just acknowledging it earlier, paying attention to the
signs, if you don’t know, educate yourself, it’s so
much information out there. – Oh, it’s so much easier
to access that now. – It’s so much easier now. – It’s not like you have to
go to Encyclopedia Britannica, you can like, just Google some stuff. – You can look at Katy’s
page, hello, that’s a big one. – Let’s tell the story
of the airport, then. Let’s not forget.
– Ah, that was so cute. (laughs) It was a red-eye, so
it was literally the middle of the night–
– Weren’t you flying east? – I was flying east, I
used to go to D.C. often, my best friend lived there. – Now she’s here. – Now she’s here, hey
Daphne, so what happened? Oh, so you’re half-asleep in the airport, not paying attention, and
then I started hearing Katy’s voice, I’m sitting
here like, why do I hear my friend talking, and so
I turn around, and I turn around and behind me, this
teenager girl is sitting there watching her YouTube videos,
like, that’s my girl! And so I text Katy in the
middle of the night, Katy! I’m in the airport and this
girl is watching your videos and it was just so cute, it was so cute. – And she was like, she
probably thought I was crazy. – Not probably, she did.
– So if you’re watching, let us know in the comments, ’cause
that would be really cute. – That would’ve been super
cute, that would be really cute, so it was so nice and it makes
me so proud, and it’s also helpful to have a friend
that there’s nothing that she doesn’t know that I can tell her. (both laugh) Absolutely nothing, and
I definitely encourage us to surround ourselves with
friends and family who support everything, good, bad and ugly. – Agreed, we need people in
our corner ’cause life is hard. – Life is hard, yeah. – Well thanks for sharing your story. I hope that that helps some
of your, because I think there’s a lot of different
stigmas and different cultures, people grow up in a whole
different way of thinking, and a lot of us, it’s important
to remind ourselves of that and to know that having a
support system is important and talking about it
early, so great, thank you. – You’re welcome! – And we’ll see you guys next time. – Take care, bye. (light electronic music)

One thought on “Learning to Not Be Ashamed of Our Mental Illness w/Alé Diggs”

  1. Yesss!!! Thank you Katie for having ale on. It was so encouraging to see a sister talk about mental health. The narrative of black women having to stifle their emotions and keep working till they break is so common. I started seeing a therapist for 5 months now and it is life changing.
    Thanks for the video Katie and Ale!

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