Op-Ed

Op-Ed: Why Do I Have "White People Problems"?

I'm African and I’m black and I suffer from anxiety. Why do I have “white people problems?”

Why do I have “white people problems?”

It was 3AM on a Sunday morning and I could not bring myself to sleep. I had been lying in bed for a few hours going over some terrible scenarios in my head. Basically my brain had decided it was a great time to contemplate all the improbable ways I could have died at that moment.

Yup, I was having an anxiety attack.

It was not my first one, so I eased into it. I took a few deep breaths hoping it would go away and that soon I would fall into a deep slumber but it wasn’t to be. I was still there, eyes wide open.

Desperate for a distraction, I reached for my phone. I discovered that two of my friends were still online, bingo!

“Why are you awake?” one of them asks. I answer that I couldn’t sleep after watching back-to-back episodes of Narcos. We caught up on various areas of our lives and then about an hour later, he inquired again, “so why are you still up?”

Annoyed, mostly at myself, I quickly typed out one word, "Anxiety."

“Why do you have white people problems?😂” he asked with ‘a tears of joy’ emoji adjunct.

I froze for a few seconds as I searched for an answer which I could not seem to find at the time. This led to more frustration and I bought into his line of thought for a while.

 

What is so bad about my life that I should be going through this? I mean people are out there with real problems. I had spent my Saturday relaxing, mostly researching on the kinds of protein shakes and smoothies I could make with my new blender. I was not particularly worried about anything significant at that time like exams or bills, so what was my problem? Let’s just say I had given up on falling asleep that night and instead I focused my energy on figuring out if I was entitled to having such problems.

Every time I have experienced an anxiety attack I have felt utterly alone, as if no one else around me could understand or possibly relate to what I was going through. It took me a long time to tell anyone that I had a problem, partly because I did not want to seem fragile in front of my family and friends.

This is linked to the fact that in African or black communities, mental illnesses are generally viewed as a non-issue. Being strong is valued and voicing out your inner pain is seen as a sign of weakness. Anyone suffering from anxiety right now will tell you that it’s definitely not made-up. There is a perception that depression and anxiety are not African problems, insinuating that perhaps we are not privileged enough to face them. There is also a stigma associated with seeking treatment and it is mostly seen as a last resort. These are the kind of negative stereotypes that prevent many people from acknowledging their psychological problems let alone getting help and actually conquering them.

I will admit that occasionally I get these anxiety attacks when I am under pressure or feeling stressed, even subconsciously. What I will not do, however, is pretend that it did not happen. I am African and I’m black and I suffer from anxiety. I am pretty sure I am not the only black person out there who is going through this and it makes no sense for us to act as if these problems do not apply to us. These mindsets towards mental illness only interfere with the recovery of so many people in our communities who could instead be choosing to self medicate with drugs or alcohol.

According to the Kenya Mental Health Policy, which was published in 2016, about 20 to 40 per cent of those seeking outpatient services in hospitals have one or more mental disorders. There are a number of organizations in Kenya working to dispel negative attitudes on mental health and offering support to those who need it. But as of now it’s difficult to know what progress they are making in that quest. I suppose it should all begin with us as individuals. Depression and anxiety do not discriminate as to whom they affect, and we should try to be honest and open about these issues with ourselves and the people close to us as well.

If there’s anything that helps in the moment, though, it’s music. I love to listen to “Quiet” by John Mayer, a song that any person with anxiety or insomnia would instantly relate to. It is soothing, like a lullaby. He wrote the song more than fifteen years ago but it still sounds brand new in all of my sleepless nights. The fact that John Mayer has openly discussed his own struggle with anxiety and panic attacks also helps me feel less alone in this battle. After all, we are just humans with “human people problems.”

News Brief

Stormzy Snags His First TV Lead Role in BBC Drama 'Noughts & Crosses'

The series is set in a world where black people are the ruling class, while white people deal with discrimination and prejudice.

Stormzy has landed a lead role in a drama developed by BBC and Roc Nation, Variety reports.

He's set to play Kolawale in Noughts & Crosses, an adaptation of novels from Bajan-British author Malorie Blackman. His character is a newspaper editor and was created solely for the TV series.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Listen to Ibibio Sound Machine's New Album 'Doko Mien'

A blend of electronic sounds and '70s West African disco.

Ibibio Sound Machine are back with their latest album, Doko Mien.

The UK-based group, fronted by Nigerian singer Eno Williams, expertly blend electronic sounds with West African influences, taking cues from '70s West African disco.

They just dropped their latest single, "Wanna Come Down," which the band describes as an "infectious jam from the album that mixes disco, '80s electro with English and Ibibio language lyrics." Doko Mien, the title of the group's new album. means "tell me" in Ibibio.

"Music is a universal language, but spoken language can help you think about what makes you emotional, what makes you feel certain feelings, what you want to see in the world," mentions Eno Williams.

Listen to Doko Mien below and catch Ibibio Sound Machine on their North American tour (dates below).

Keep reading... Show less
popular

At Least 60 People Killed In Fatal Bus Collision In Ghana

Several people are mourning the victims as well as the tragic loss of life that has occurred throughout the continent this month.

A head on collision of two buses early Friday morning in the Bono East region of Ghana has killed at least 60 people, according to the AFP.

The fatal accident took place on the Kintampo-Techiman highway in Kintampo—an area just under 300 miles north of Accra—after which one of the buses caught on fire.

The devastating accident has left several others with serious injuries. "Most of the passengers in both vehicles died at the spot. A number of them with varying degrees of injuries have been rushed to hospital," a police spokesperson told BBC Africa.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.