I tried to think of all the things that I could write about. There is Trump, Standing Rock, the prison system, the Russia investigation . . . I could go on. Truth is there is no shortage of topics affecting us all as American citizens. Considering all the things going on it will be no surprise that what I decided to talk about my mental illness. It may seem small when we factor in all the things going, but everyday is a battle. Some mornings are harder than others, there are days when I can’t seem to get out of the bed and I wonder how people deal everyday with the troubles of life’s burdens. As a child no one discussed what mental illness was, I just remembered being so lost and in despair at age seventeen that I needed to see the pain that I felt by cutting up my arm. I spent days in the hospital being questioned with doctor’s assuming that I wanted to commit suicide. It had never occurred to me that this was even a thought. All I knew was that I was in pain and didn’t know how to vocalize it. Even then I didn’t respect that I was suffering from some sort of mental challenge. I lived life filled with anguish thinking that was normal, quintessential insanity; doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting a different result. And it would take over a decade to come to a place of real respect for what mental illness could do.
I suffer from PTSD, OCD, Major Depressive Disorder, TBI, ADD and Anxiety Disorder. For those who don’t know what those letters stand for, they stand for everyday a journey. But just in case you would like to be technical I can explain each of the diagnoses. I require medication daily to function as what most people consider to be normal. Imagine always being angry, always feeling like a fish out of water, like no matter what you do it would all end the same way, thinking that life would be better without you in it.
Some days are like today, as I write this there is a feeling of emptiness and loss. There may not be any reason but there are surrounding things that add to it. As someone who is black and female and homosexual and “Christian” all my days are not utopian, those very labels alone can be cause an assortment of mental challenges in this world and especially in this country. A day in this skin and suffering from only one or two out of the four issues, neither beginning with an h or a c, are traumatic enough. Between instances of driving, walking or living while black there’s also the assault on the psyche of women as second-class citizens and black women as fourth. Days in black skin are filled with competing with outworking someone that may not even be your equal educationally, ethically, or experience wise. Days are filled with assumptions that you are the retail associate at the local Target or retail store simply . . . because you’re black. People make assumptions that all you know is Trap music and it’s because you’ve lived that life. And if you’re poor it’s because you deserve it, and not because the odds are stacked against you educationally, economically, socially, politically, and medically. And if you’ve made it, it must be because you were a product of affirmative action, giving you a place that you never deserved to begin with, at the expense of some poor white student whose life you ruined in order to do so.
So, the truth is most of us suffer from mental illness, mental challenge whatever you’d like to call it, it’s there. And like me most of us think we can fix it ourselves. I wasted years thinking I can change whatever this is. It never occurred to me that some things are beyond our own expertise. After going to therapy I realized I probably suffered from OCD since I was a child, it was the reason I failed to turn my assignments in. Even the most attentive parent can miss things, teachers too. Not until seeing a Neuro-psychologist did we realize all the years I suffered in math class was due to a mathematical disability.
For some depression runs in the family. 1 in 5 people suffer from mental illness. About 42.5 million people a year suffer from depression, and bipolar disorder schizophrenia to start. In our jails we are not housing convicts, but we are housing the sick, about 24% of our inmates have met the criteria for a psychotic disorder. The only difference between me and them is the grace of God and chance. Because God only knows I’ve been in some positions where my PTSD and TBI have had me out of my right mind.
Did law enforcement know how to handle me? Did they know they were dealing with someone that suffered from mental illness? No! It is one of the reasons that I think it is imperative that something be done where law enforcement is concerned. They need to be given the proper tools for dealing with the mentally ill. Tools that don’t involve shooting first and asking questions later. We’ve seen this by how officers have been caught in situations where they have shot and killed the mentally ill, the misunderstood, the people who probably know more about pain and suffering than any jail can teach you.
There is nothing like not being able to escape your own mind. You live with it, get up with it, bathe with it, love with it, talk to it, all to find a better moment, possibly a day, an hour, looking for a release where you don’t have to feel like the world is caving in on you. There are days you can’t breathe. And when you are mentally ill you have convinced yourself that you are the only one that can solve your problems. That we know is a recipe for disaster and insanity. When I describe mental illness, I describe it as white noise. There is nothing that makes sense or sounds good, but there is hope, if we try to understand it, if we understand that we at some point either have suffered from some sort or know someone we love that has or does currently. Listen and be attentive don’t let life convince you that white noise is the only soundtrack to life.