This past week, I completed my practicum under the North Carolina Institute of Public Health where I received the chance to create three products as part of my practicum requirements. I hope my contributions prove to serve as meaningful additions to the Behind the Numbers project. It was a pleasure working with my preceptors, who created a fun and welcoming environment for me during these difficult times.

Although, I managed to complete quality work in a timely manner, admittedly a portion of my experience was bogged down by external happenings. With the consistent and open oppression of Black people due to racism, I honestly suffered from poor mental health this summer. During the early stages of my practicum, I possessed little to no energy, I hardly ate, living in a predominantly white area I constantly experienced paranoia throughout the day and night (despite public notices of Black Lives Matter signs), and I barely slept due to insomnia. Therefore, everyday posed an internal conflict. Should I give myself the space and time to process these intense emotions or put those emotions aside for the sake of productivity? At first, I always chose the latter given the pressure to perform well in a new organization. However, I noticed these attempts at work and emotion suppression produced the opposite effect, and caused me to procrastinate.

My energy and productivity remained in this problematic cycle for several weeks until I reached my limit in terms of dealing with my poor mental health. As a way to alleviate this, I tried embodying a “treat yourself’ mentality. I allowed myself to experience any and all emotions associated with Black oppression: anger, anxiety, fear, sadness,etc… In addition, I constantly reminded myself that it is absolutely OKAY to be in this state, and that it is okay to function with little to no energy. At first, I thought this would lead to overindulging and excuses to not do work, however as the days progressed, I found that my spirits began to ease and my interest in my work began to increase. By July, I felt like myself again and began to function at my normal and familiar levels. In the end everything turned out well, however it was certainly a journey.

Normally, I do not share my inner feelings to this extent nevertheless I aim to normalize the concept of balancing work and mental health. In my opinion, it is foolish to push yourself for the sake of productivity if you lack energy and the will to do so. The ultimate strategy is practicing and showing yourself kindness and grace. Hopefully, this post inspires others to do the same, because you certainly deserve it.

Brandon