written and shared by JaShunna Boykins
My name is JaShunna.
I’m from Logansport, Louisiana. I was raised by an amazing God-fearing single mother.
Watching my mother, I noticed an unspoken pressure. To live up to the label of being “the strong black woman” who always has it together.
I watched my mom handle whatever life threw at her. She never gave any indication she was struggling or needed help.
As a young teenager, I equated my self-worth to my accomplishments which led to me be involved in many extracurricular activities – band, dance, basketball, student council –all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. I cried if I had anything lower than an A on my report card. I put a lot of unnecessary stress on myself and it caught up to me.
I didn’t realize I was enough.
In 2015, I experienced my first anxiety attack and it was one of the scariest moments of my life.
My attacks continued on and off for months causing back-to-back doctor’s visits because they were so frequent and extreme. Eventually I was diagnosed with pseudo seizures which are like an intense seizure where I lose the ability to control my muscles. The difference is I am alert the entire time.
My mom and her friends became my prayer warriors. While I needed their prayers, something was missing. I met a few counselors and tried to make it work, but we didn’t connect.
I felt stuck and I didn’t know where to find help.
It was on my high school campus that I met two amazing Volunteers of America counselors – Miss Jenesis and Miss Kristal. I felt as if they were God-sent.I didn’t go looking for them, yet they ended up at the right place, at the right time, right where I needed them.
They gave me a safe space and taught me so much. I learned my triggers, how to micro-manage my stress levels, what to do when I feel overwhelmed and I learned ways to calm myself down during an anxiety attack. I went from having multiple attacks in one day, to just 2 or 3 in one year. For the first time in a long time, I felt seen, heard, and understood.
After high school graduation, I started college in the fall. But it was a rough time and I felt a shift inside – something wasn’t right. This wasn’t anxiety attacks – it was much more. And I was scared.
In April of 2021, I called Miss Kristal and she connected me to another counselor, Miss Kasey.
I trusted her with my mental health – and with my life. Together, we worked on my treatment plan. I started taking medication and over time, I felt healthier and stronger while coping with depression.
Because of Volunteers of America – Jenesis, Kristal, and Kasey I have a strong support system – especially strong women in my life – who love me and want to see me win. They’ve inspired me to pursue an education in psychology and help others the way they do.
3 things I’ve learned:
First: Have difficult conversations.
There is a stigma about mental health, but as a young black woman of faith, I don’t compromise my beliefs in order to care for myself mentally.
I want other believers to know, you can have Christ and counseling.
Second: Find your passions.
I love spending free time using my gifts of dance, music, and poetry to care for myself and inspire others.
Third: Take care of your mental health AND your physical health.
I am proud that I recently celebrated one year of not feeling suicidal.
I am a testament to what getting help looks like.
I no longer feel the pressure of having it all together. I am free to feel what I feel without guilt or shame. I am a young black woman who can handle whatever life throws at me, because I acknowledge when I need help. I take care of myself first, and understand asking for help is a sign of strength.
Thank you to Volunteers of America for caring for people.
My life is better because you do.