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Busta’s Person of the Week: How full is your mental and spiritual tank?

Busta’s Person of the Week:  How full is your mental and spiritual tank?
March 31
15:12 2021

By Busta Brown

I have serious anxiety issues and I’m sure it stems from all of the violence I’ve witnessed as a child. I can’t seem to shake the visions of the brutal fights in my neighborhood and schools. They haunt me on a daily basis. One vision that stays in my head is the day my mom, my brother and I were driving home from his high school. When we stopped at a red light, out of nowhere, we see these Black teenaged guys chasing another Black male. Within seconds, we feel a huge thump! They slammed the frightened guy on the hood of my mom’s car, and then began brutally punching him in his face. I can’t seem to unsee the extreme fear in the young man’s eyes as he was running, nor unhear the pain from his loud cry as they were punching him. My brother and I are from a tough neighborhood, so we got out of the car to help, and then my mom got out and yelled, “Stop it now! Just stop it!” Remember, that was 50 years ago, so of course they stopped. As tough as teens were back then, they always respected the authority of a Black mother. That’s only one of the many visions that’s caused me to suffer from major anxiety. Without professional help, it’s an untamable beast. 

As I was doing research to find my Person of the Week, I met Terrence Barnes. As I was explaining what I was looking for, he suggested that I call his wife. “Busta, my wife would be perfect for your Person of the Week,” Terrence said with a huge proud smile. Seeing a Black man so proud and excited about supporting his wife was very inspiring. 

Terrence had no clue about my battle with anxiety, so when I contacted Dr. Keisha Shaw Barnes, neither did she. Dr. Barnes is a successful mental health therapist, sought-after public speaker, and author of “Where’s your tank?” which I’ll get to later. 

Here’s where it becomes interesting. At one point in her life, Dr. Barnes suffered from anxiety as well. Over 40 million Americans have been diagnosed with anxiety, yet only 36% of those suffering receive treatment. I’m one of those 36%. So, when Dr. Barnes shared that she had battled the mental disorder as well, I knew this article would bless so many of our readers. “I’ll be honest, Busta. I knew how to look put together, but my anxiety turned me into a mess. Now I’m walking in freedom,” said Dr. Barnes. She’s a mixture of all the ingredients Dr. Maya Angelou spoke of in her iconic poem, “Phenomenal Woman.” 

But the road to her freedom and success wasn’t easy. “I grew up with both of my biological parents that were married for 42 years. To date, they were the healthiest married couple I’ve ever seen in my life,” shared Dr. Barnes. She truly admired her father, which unfortunately became the source of her anxiety. 

“As a child, I misinterpreted something that was said by my dad, but he didn’t say it to me. Which goes to show that parents should say what they mean and don’t expect children around them to interpret or refer. My dad was an amazing athlete in high school and college, and I overheard him telling one of his childhood teammates that his mentality is that second place is a first-place loser. It was a little seed dropped in me that made me think, if I wasn’t the best, nothing else matters. At that point on, I became a perfectionist and consistently felt I had to be the best in everything. If I was in the choir, I had to have a solo. If I was on a team, I had to be the captain. If I was in a class, I had to be at the top. It was this never-ending drive that eventually turned into anxiety for me, because I couldn’t keep up,” said Dr. Barnes. 

Dr. Barnes didn’t recognize that her perfectionism was actually anxiety. As an adult, she experienced her first attack. “I remember it very vividly, as if it were yesterday. I was in graduate school and doing a lot in ministry. One day during noonday Bible study, all of a sudden I felt the room spinning. I was hot, nauseous, and it felt as if my heart was pounding out of my chest. I felt like I was about to die right there in church. As I looked around, nobody seemed to recognize what was happening to me. I was terrified because up until that day, I had normalized perfectionism so much and thought that I was handling it pretty well, and nothing seemed off until that very moment,” shared Dr. Barnes. 

She later experienced more attacks throughout adulthood. She and her husband, Terrence Barnes, have three beautiful daughters. One day while playing with the girls, she was caught off guard with another attack, “When I had to take exams, I would have anxiety attacks. Anything that constricted me would cause me to have attacks. I was at the top of my class, but I would bomb on the SAT. When I’m playing with my kids and we say, let’s time this contest with daddy that would create anxiety for me. And it wasn’t something that was serious, so I asked myself, what is my deal? Then I realized if I feel like I wasn’t going to perform at the top, it created that place for me.” 

Barnes decided that anxiety wasn’t going to be a part of her life, so she took control. Her parents did a fantastic job instilling the power of prayer, so it was only natural that her first step toward freedom from anxiety was to pray. “I was 27 or 28 when the Holy Spirit revealed to me clear as day, Keisha, you just doing too much and now you’re tapped out. The anxiety attacked my mind and body for so long, I had nothing left. The tough part about anxiety attacks, and when you’re tapped out, you never know when it’s coming. So, I started to create boundaries and learned the gift of no. Not because I couldn’t do it, but I realized that you can only do so much. You find yourself giving way more to the people that don’t matter as much, than the people that do. By then, your tank is on empty. So, you must create boundaries,” said the mother of three. 

After graduate school and during the early years as a mental health therapist, she became equipped with the tools to help her navigate to freedom, peace of mind, and well-deserved success. Dr. Barnes juggled being a single mom, student and a relationship, while battling her mental disorder. She’s now on top of her game, “I take excellent care of myself so that anxiety won’t come back to haunt me,” said Dr. Barnes. 

The book, “Where’s your tank?” was birthed after defeating anxiety. “It’s all about living a life that’s balanced. Sixty to eighty percent of my clients would come to me at their breaking point, when their tank was on empty. I used to wear my mask until one day it crumbled and I couldn’t put it back together again. I didn’t know when I was going to tap out, and neither did my clients. 

“We rarely know what’s going to lead to our tap out, and that’s what led me to be passionate about teaching people how to live a balanced life. I give them the capacity and tools on how to find the resources and pull in other people to live life well. So, the concept of “Where’s your tank?” is the same way we manage how much gas we put in our car. I’ve learned that the more I ask my clients, ‘how low do you let your fuel get?’, the same way we don’t know if a detour is coming up in the road, we don’t know when life experiences are going to come to throw us off either. This is why we must consistently take care of ourselves,” said Barnes. 

As she was speaking, I could feel my anxiety slowly leaving my mind and body. I felt my tank filling up with nothing but positive energy. Dr. Keisha Shaw Barnes is an excellent teacher. It’s clear why so many people come to hear her speak. I asked Dr. Barnes why therapy is important. “Everyone can benefit from counseling, and nothing has to be wrong. They may be proactively wanting more out of life, and counseling will help you accomplish that. I also ask about thriving over surviving. Some people don’t know there’s a difference and that’s the sad part. Because most women my age, 40 and over, have heard the story of our great, great grandmother that would have a baby and then go back into the field. And I get that. But in most cases, it was a matter of life and death, or they didn’t have other options. 

“Unfortunately, we have continued that mindset for generations as if we don’t have any other options. So, we just keep going. Fast-forward 30 years later, we have unlimited resources, but the mindset is still the same. So, survival is you keep going and going until you’re tapped out and your tank is empty. The definition of thriving is to grow or develop vigorously. To flourish, prosper, to be fortunate and successful. That’s a significant difference! We must take time for self-care, so that we can live a life that’s balanced,” she said. 

This North Carolina native is definitely thriving. Along with all of her other accomplishments, she owns Rising Hope Clinical Assistance in Winston-Salem. My phenomenal Person of the Week is Dr. Keisha Shaw Barnes. For more info or to contact Dr. Barnes, send an email to: info@nullkeishabarnes.com or visit www.Keishabarnes.com.

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