You Have Choices, Okay? 5 Mental Health Lessons From the Roller CoasterRide Of An ‘Insecure’ Episode
This article originally ran in Essence Magazine on December 16, 2021.
See what I’m saying? Just last week, when I first unpacked the mental health issues the characters of Insecure are dealing with, I was writing about decisions…and healing from decisions. And this week, the episode was really called “Choices, Okay?” You probably think I am a psychic or know what’s coming next but I don’t. But what I do know is that I love how the writers and producers are taking us on a journey of mental health awareness through very common life experiences like intrusive thoughts about an ex, fear or trepidation about the future, moving too fast (Issa and Nathan) or moving too slow (Molly’s parents), and the reality that we don’t even know what the future holds but whatever it contains is a response to our decisions.
So, let’s get into it.
1. Good friends matter. The kinds of friends that will sit next to you when you have to hold your parents accountable, and take care of them better than they took care of us (role reversal at it’s finest). Friends who will send wine and chicken so you don’t have to be alone (physically alone, yes…but emotionally alone – NOT), and friends who will tease you when you are falling in love. Remember, love is an emotion and an action. If you keep chasing the feeling of love, you will be alone for a long time, and that’s a whole ‘nother piece for another day.
But shout out to the seemingly easy, yet tough ways, the characters showed up as friends during Episode 8. See, good friends know when you need something because they have been listening and watching you. They know when something is going to be too tough for you, or when you are moving too fast. Good friends have studied you and
know the difference between your needs and wants. They are your life partners and when your mental health is challenged, as it will be, you need that good friend that sees you, feels you, and loves you. Good friends are protective factors AND coping mechanisms to your mental health.
2. There is actually such a thing as “moving too fast.” It’s less about the external and observable actions and more about the internal space to process, sift through, make a decision, and be ready for the short-term and long-term rewards and consequences. So yes, Issa and Lawrence have been broken up for over a year (reference point: last
episode and that big ole baby that was in the stroller) but that doesn’t mean that she processed all the things. In fact, we didn’t even see her process all of the things because the episodes skipped a year. But what we did see is the internal dialogue and instructive thoughts in which Lawrence kept popping up at futuristic pivotal moments of her life. And by popping up, I don’t mean when we have a fleeting thought or memory of the past (that deserves a head nod and quick prayer that they are ok…or burning in hell, your choice – again…choices) but it (popping up) does mean when we have a thought about what they could be doing in our life at this moment. Which means they are no longer part of the past…but part of the here/now and even the future. And this may be a reflection of a lack of grieving the relationship, healing from the relationship, and channeling the energy. It may also mean that the relationship is not over…but let’s see how the season unfolds.
3. “Because I was on my way to the bridge.” Yes, sis said it. And it was skipped over a bit but let’s address it here. Suicide is a real-life thing. I was doing work with SAVE.org and we talked about the fact that there is a disproportionate rate of Black women who commit suicide. Basically, we don’t really do it often. And the research says it’s because we have more protective factors and coping skills. But an additional factor is that it’s never an
option for us, until it is. And for this sis, suicide was an option until she experienced divine intervention from Issa. And here’s the thing, we need to have the space to feel a range of emotions to include the lowest of the low. And we need divine intervention to remind us that we have a choice. We always have a choice (Choices, Okay?). Sometimes life gets so hard and we just want the pain to end. Pain, obstacles, challenges, recurring trauma, etc. And here, the choice is not about life and death, the choice is about allowing or MAKING something end, so you can live. So, here we are, back to choices.
In this place, I often see people who run from the IT, but at Onyx I see clients who are willing to address the IT. See what I did there? The average person will run, and the extraordinary person will go to counseling, which on its own, can be divine intervention because anything related to healing is related to the divine, no?
4. The fear of the future will cause us to stand still. Listen, Molly’s parents weren’t being negligent they were ashamed and scared. Pops said he didn’t want to see his life on paper because it wouldn’t reflect all the hard work he’d put into this life. 50 years of work. But that’s not a foreign experience for us Black folks. We work. We work hard. We work long. We put our hearts into our work. We put our lives into our work until our work betrays us (another piece for another day). But we also avoid things because we don’t want the reminder that we have worked hard and don’t have “nothing” to show for it. We don’t acknowledge that we may have actually broken a cycle, blazed a trail for another family member, learned things the hard way, or just found a sense of happiness and
satisfaction that is uncommon in our family. So, instead of giving ourselves grace, we beat ourselves up because we don’t have a house, or a thick savings account, or a will. But fear will do that to us. Fear will paralyze us. But what I’m telling you is, you are doing a great job. I mean, you clearly care about your mental health because you are reading this piece.
The next thing I’ll tell you is, write down what you have on a piece of paper, draw an arrow and say who you want it to go to. Then make a copy and give it to a friend. Is it a will? Not yet…but it’s a start. And we all need to start somewhere. Take one step at a time.
What we saw in this episode is that one choice will affect the next choice. That’s how life works. Everything is connected. So, I want to encourage you to just sit for a second and think about your choices. Instead of being emotionally rooted, emotionally led, and/or impulsive, sit and think about your decisions, write them out and draw lines to “what could be.”
For those of you that overthink, limit yourself to five potential outcomes, then three, then two, then one. And if you want an accountability partner and processor, hit up a therapist near you.