Living Life Purposefully

Where Purpose Meets Passion

Category Archives: Mental Health

Realization Number 1: Forgiveness For Myself (#31WriteNow)

This very great thing happens when you are left alone with nothing to do really.

You think.

You think about everything. You think about everything and some more. Then you start thinking (well, remembering really) about things you thought you forgot and these are the most powerful moments of thinking because in there is a decision inside of them.

Earlier this morning, I was doing Day 9 of the 21-Day Meditation Challenge with the Chopra Center. The focus on this challenge is Miraculous Relationships and it’s been pretty great so far. The centering thought was “My loving truth shines for all to see” and I tell you that today was a particularly intense meditation.

Intense and light…if that makes sense.

At one point, it felt like I’d stopped breathing but was breathing all at the same time and I’ve never felt that before. But it was also in this point that I was hit with the thought, “Who do you need to forgive, Courtney?” See…and that’s the way my rude brain works (LOL). Here I am breathing deeply in and breathing deeply out after centering myself and emptying my thoughts and here my brain wants to be pushy-pushy with the “Who do you need to forgive, Courtney?” I finished my meditation after pushing that thought away and decided I wanted to listen to Tamar Braxton’s song, “The One” and as I am absolutely enjoying my lip-syncing moment, my brain again says, “Who do you need to forgive, Courtney? Did you ever forgive that man who hurt you?”

Uh….no.

Okay, okay, okay. So after one dramatic eye-roll, I decide to make myself up a forgiveness list. I got the idea to write on the top of paper “My Forgiveness List” and then skipped two lines and wrote the Universal Law of Karma, which says:

“Every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind. Choosing actions that bring happiness and success to others ensures the flow of happiness and success to you.”

Now, I would love to mention here that I don’t know at all where the idea to write the Law of Karma came from…but I’ve been told that one of my Spirit Angels is Athena (with the other two being Sulis and Isis) and from what I know of her/them, they are NOTHING to play with. So I’ve just gotten into the habit of following my intuition and the little nudges I get from my Spirit. After that, I decided to find an affirmation on forgiveness that I’d say aloud and write at the end of each Forgiveness Note before putting away in a box (or burning — I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet). As I’m looking for the affirmation that speaks to me, I am suddenly hit with the thought, “Find one that talks about self forgiveness. That’s why you’re doing this.”

My reaction, “Oh really?”

Now I said that OUT LOUD…and if you know nothing about Athena, Sulis, and Isis….well, know that one is like gangsta gangsta “Girl….you know what you need to be doing so STOP asking questions. Sheesh, I’m right here” and the other two are like, “We don’t take mess and we raise people from the dead and we ain’t nothing to eff with” (cue Kendrick Lamar’s “Ronald Reagan Era” because that’s the ONLY song that fits these three). After saying OUT LOUD, “Oh really?” this nudge from my spirit was like, “Girl! Don’t play with us!”

So I said, “Okay.”

But then I realized the significance of forgiveness. Like, I’ve moved from understanding to KNOWING. Forgiveness is never about the person you are forgiving and it’s all about you. It became easier to write my forgiveness list the moment I wrote down my forgiveness affirmation:

As I forgive myself, it becomes easier to forgive others.

Just getting people on the list makes me feel lighter and I am really starting to feel that centering thought is authentic to my being and personality:

My loving truth shines for all to see.

If you’d like to join the 21-Day Meditation Challenge, visit Chopra Meditation Center.

Hard Truths & Difficult Questions (#31WriteNow)

I’m writing this because I’m going to bed…and I’m hoping that by getting this out, I’ll sleep better.

  1. Most days, I’m barely happy. I can squeeze out some optimism but it is short-lived.
  2. I’m stressed out — ALL OF THE TIME. My Mom (I live with her) is a disabled veteran whose recent health challenges have left me extremely worried. Extremely (and I’m not sure anyone gets it)!
  3. There are things that I want to do in my life, that I’ve always dreamed of. There are days that the obstacles in front of me look do formidable, I’m not sure that I will.
  4. I have only recently given thought to really building the type of life I wanted for myself. I didn’t think I would leave to see 27. I’ll do a recap on that amazing weekend.
  5. I want it all. I don’t even know what “it all” is. I just know I want it and I’m confused on how to get it all.
  6. My newest health challenge? My hair is falling out.
  7. I need a financial blessing in a MAJOR way because…
  8. I quit my job and I don’t have another full-time position. Mattafack…
  9. I have $5 in my account, owe on multiple loans, found out two utilities are facing disconnection and I have to pay on my health insurance or I’ll lose coverage.
  10. When it rains, it pours.
  11. How could I have been so dumb to leave without a backup plan? But I honestly hated who I was and the work I had to do at my old job. I don’t think I could have made it to the end of August. At all.
  12. I want the job I applied for. I REALLY want the job I applied for.
  13. How do you find out your purpose?
  14. I tell myself every night that “Tomorrow will be better.”

So I’m hoping that it is.

UPDATE: I wrote this post initially at 11:09 on August 11, 2013 because I was having trouble sleeping. This morning, this was in my email:

Screen shot 2013-08-12 at 4.26.31 PM

 

Now, I know that this is an email that goes out to LOTS of folks…BUT this was exactly what I needed after questioning myself.

If you’d like to sign up for motivational messages that are delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday, visit: Notes From the Universe.

“Girl….that was a GOOD job!!!!” (#31WriteNow)

If you follow me on Twitter (@hersoulweeps), then you know that I’ve been excitedly talking about something for the past four weeks. After almost two years of working in the same place, I left my job.

That’s right! I resigned.

Now most people support this decision until they ask the fateful question, “What are you doing next?”

My answer – I’m applying to PhD programs that will start in Fall 2014. There is ALWAYS the awkward pause (lol) once it hits people that I left a job with no other job lined up. And then…they say, “Girl….that was a GOOD job!!! You are crazy for leaving!”

Yes. On both points. It was a GOOD job. And I am crazy for leaving.

But I would have been crazy for staying. I realized a LONG time ago that I no longer served that job to the best of my ability. Because of a lot of the challenging experiences and situations there, I felt defeated. I was starting to wonder if I made the best decisions for myself because I was unhappy. I was in the field that I wanted to be in (education, non-teaching) but I wasn’t doing what I KNEW was my passion. After much deliberation and a sudden dose of courage (or crazy), I made the decision on July 13th to submit my letter of resignation on July 15th. It was a VERY difficult choice to leave because that job came into my life EXACTLY when I needed it.

You see, I’ve battled depression (deep depression) for years. It became very real to me my Sophomore year in college and I’m thankful that my then RHD encouraged me to go to my University’s counseling center because I didn’t understand what was happening at all. I was smart, had friends, people seemed to enjoy my company and I was making my family proud. But there was something I just couldn’t shake. A cloud was always there…and it was suffocating. I persevered though and graduated in 2009 then went on for my Masters. When I graduated with my Masters in Urban Education Policy in 2010, I wasn’t exactly in the best place. I left Providence with no job and I moved back in with my Mom. It got to a point that after applying to more than 90 jobs in my field and 120 other service industry jobs, I was still without gainful employment.

In December of 2010, I made the decision to check myself into a behavioral health unit to keep from losing my mind. While there, I met some amazing spirits that had been rejected by those they trusted and they were the FIRST group to affirm that I was “someone special” and to keep faith. One woman even told me that if I kept a flicker of something, it would grow into a flame. I was grateful for that. After that, I bounced around jobs a bit (Associate at Victoria’s Secret AND Forever 21; Temporary Employee with TWO temp agencies; and Budget Mobile Customer Representative). In October of 2011, I got the news at my job (Budget Mobile) that they weren’t sure if the store was going to need the same capacity and because I was a more recent hire, I’d be on the chopping block. My Manager then encouraged that I look for a job right then.

I saw the listing for my job and applied. Within a week, I was offered the position and I accepted it. My first day was November 7, 2011.

If people understood all of that, then maybe they wouldn’t think I was crazy for leaving. You don’t make a decision to leave a good job after all of that has happened. But this morning, I truly realized that job was a miracle right when I needed it. While it was definitely a challenge on most days, many miracles took place. I met amazing people that I am forever connected to. I found my voice and the courage to speak up so I wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. I built a reputation as someone who does amazing work. I realized my brilliance and my abilities were affirmed. Most importantly, because I was blessed with this position at the lowest point of my life, I learned that I am able to take care of myself.

I should always take care of myself.

That’s why I left. When you realize that your purpose no longer fits the position you are in, you start to question everything about yourself. You wonder, “Did I make another wrong decision?” and “Maybe I’ll never amount to anything more than a pitiful existence.”

And that should ALWAYS be the cue to leave. The decision to leave wasn’t easy. But it was necessary. It was time to go as I’d outgrown what was being asked of me and I knew I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose while there. You are no longer serving that space and it’s no longer serving you. Open your hand to let that go so that something greater can be placed there. Release it so that it can be a miracle for someone else.

So yes, I left my GOOD job…but I’m only waiting for my GREAT job. And I released that job on my own terms — with much gratitude and on a positive note. Besides…you should always want to go out on top. 😉

Denying Others for Your Self (Crossroads, pt. 3)

This is it.

This is the piece that’s taken so long to share because it forced me to recognize a lot. It’s one thing to stand in a mirror and view your reflection; but it’s a completely different thing to feel as if your soul has been cracked open and you are beginning to spill out for everyone to see. In growing older, I always wanted to feel like I was in control of my happiness. In coming to this point, I realized that to understand what makes you happy, you have to understand you.

And I don’t mean the you that everyone has told you that you are but the real You!

For me, I’ve learned that even in my darkest and most confusing moments, music makes my soul dance. I’ve learned that silence is where I feel most complete. I’ve been shown that I’m capable of quite a few things — and possibly succeeding at all the things I wish to undertake. I’m strong and my strength isn’t like those closest to me.

But perhaps the most confusing, and ultimately the most important, thing I’ve learned is that it is okay for me to speak up for myself.

Here’s why that’s important: I’ve lived a life where I’ve always thought of the comfort of others. I’ve always viewed myself as someone whose sole purpose was to help others achieve their dreams. In my heart of hearts, I don’t mind this but lately a piece of me has been struggling to step forward.

And that’s what these particular posts have been about.

I used to say to myself that my biggest fear was being forgotten by my loved ones. Lately, I feel as though it’s to live life as a coward. I’ve stopped myself from experiencing life because I’ve been afraid to fail an I’ve been afraid to disappoint those close to me. I’ve been afraid to say no and to live and to walk away from those closest to me. I’ve been afraid to let the pieces in other people’s lives. I’ve been afraid of letting others feel the way I’ve felt for the majority of my life – unsupported.

And in that, I’ve been quiet. I’ve made myself smaller and convinced myself that I have no dreams. I’ve done some things in life simply because it was expected. I’ve swallowed my hurt and I’ve quieted my needs. I’ve been the person that people have laughed at. And I told myself it was because it would make them happy. And it would fix things.

Now I see that it won’t. That it doesn’t and that it never well. I don’t want to fix other people’s problems. I don’t want to be the one that has all of the answers. I don’t want to be the one that stayed behind because someone needed me to. I don’t want to be just that.

I find myself asking what happens when you break the bonds that have unknowingly been placed on you by loved ones?

What happens when you say “no” and your real self starts to show?

Affirmation Hour – December 5, 2012

Everything is working out perfectly for my highest good.

I find happiness in every circumstance.

I remember to find happiness through any challenge.

My happiness draws even more blessings into my life.

I am in charge of my own happiness.

I gratefully accept all of the happiness the Universe pours into my life.

I deserve all of the happiness in my life.

My heart overflows with gratitude when I recognize my happiness.

I am healthy and happy.

I am in control of my life choices and I make decisions that increase my happiness.

I cherish all of my feelings and I release that which doesn’t serve my highest good.

I am happy to be me and I express my gratitude daily!

I am a happy and successful person.

My happiness is contagious!

Others can’t help but to feel more happiness when I’m around.

Happiness comes easily to me.

Happiness is activated by love.

I have a happy soul.

Divine peace and happiness flows into my life from my Source effortlessly.

I allow happiness to fill every minute of every hour of my life.

Life supports my decisions in every way.

I surround myself with confident people who encourage my happiness.

I remind myself that happiness begets happiness.

I allow happiness to manifest into my life.

My happiness stems from my inner peace.

Happiness naturally flows from the love in my heart.

I am loved and safe and happy.

Each moment, I grow happier.

I speak health and happiness to every person I meet.

I hold the keys to my happiness.

I create my own power and I lovingly embrace my happiness.

My happiness makes my life more abundant.

My happiness makes me feel more secure each day.

I will continue to be happy.

Happiness is my reality!

I don’t try to be happy… I AM HAPPY!!!

Morning Reflections 12/03/12 – (#31DaysOfAffirming)

Today, I woke up with a calm over my spirit. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt so peaceful. In that moment, I thought to myself, “It would be great it more people got on board for the 31 Days of Affirming Challenge! I could — ” and with that, I had to pause. I started to get angry because I felt that not enough people were in on this. I started to judge others because I felt that they couldn’t take 31 days, ONE month, and cut out the craziness on the internet. DIDN’T THEY GET THAT THIS WAS BIGGER THAN THE NEGATIVITY? Didn’t they get that this was about empowering one another? But the craziest thought I had was, “I bet if I were one of those popular bloggers, that people would have jumped on board a long time ago.”

Then I had to pause. You see? That’s a spirit of judgement and a spirit of jealousy. You can’t have those feelings if you’re really about uplifting others. Besides, I began to ask myself, “Was this really about me and what I wanted to accomplish? Or was this really about lifting and affirming others as I’ve been saying it is?”

At the core of it, it is about affirming others. Today, I recognized that the self-esteem issues I’ve been dealing with AND the need to be perfect (whatever that means) started to take over my thoughts around this challenge. I wanted to touch so many people and lift them up in their troubles (not a bad thing) BUT there was a small part of me that wanted the recognition that this was successful and we all know that our society/community likes to measure the success of something by the number of people you touch. Or just by numbers. And that’s not what this is about. This is about the feelings that people get when they read the words that are typed. This is about how great a person feels when they search for “31 Days of Affirming” and find others posting positive messages. I have to remember that numbers really don’t count when it comes to the experiences that people have.

With that recognition and re-commitment, I reminded myself: “Affirming others is not about whether or not people say thank you or even remember my name. It’s not about how I could profit from this. It’s not about how I grow materialistically as a person. No. It’s about being entrusted with the vision, insight, and courage to contribute to my community in the most positive way I can. It is about others which means I have to decrease myself and my need for recognition in the process. At the end of the day, this is about how others are empowered and in turn, how empowering others reminds me of my own power. This is about raising the awareness of others and their spiritual talents. It’s not about me.”

With that simple reminder, I once again felt the peace I woke up with.

Affirmation: I AFFIRM others and they in turn, affirm me.

31 Days Of Affirmation – December 2012 Edition

What?!?!? Another month-long affirmation challenge?? It can’t be! Or can it?

YES IT CAN!

As you may or may not know, 30 Days of Affirmations came about out of a personal need to inject some positivity into my day. After expressing my goal to find and apply affirmations on a daily basis on Twitter, other people decided to join. From there, we decided it would be a joint effort and we’d tag the affirmations with a specific hashtag.

However, since it’s coming up on the end of the year, I thought it would be AWESOME that we do it one last time for 2012. Which means we get an EXTRA day of positivity and praise.

When? From December 1st until December 31st, 2012.

Who? Anyone and everyone can participate.

Why? Why not??? Everyone needs positivity and that’s really what this is all about. 😀

Where? On Twitter (mostly) but if you want to participate and don’t have a twitter, then you can post your affirmation here. Make sure you use the tag 31DaysOfAffirming so that we can easily find them in a search. You never know who can use your words.

How? Simply post your affirmation with the tag #31DaysOfAffirming or 31DaysOfAffirming. Why the need for a tag? So that we can easily find the affirmation. Also, list the source. No one likes when you take credit for their words; so if it’s a quote from your favorite author, write the affirmation and the author, if you get it from a song, write out the name of the song, etc.

It’s just that simple. Let’s close out 2012 with some awesome energy!

Happy Affirming! 😀

A Letter To My A-K-A

Dear Sorors,

Today’s date, January 14th, marks the Eve of one the most important dates in our personal calendar – January 15th (for those who are not a part of our illustrious sisterhood, January 15th, 1908 marked the birth of THE greatest Historically Black Sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated). With respect to my organization, there is only one more day that’s more important, February 18th. On the eve of our Sorority’s anniversary, I usually reflect on the principles of my Sisterhood and my actions. I always ask myself, “How did I live up to our ideal of ‘Service to ALL Mankind’?”

This year is a bit different, my Dear Sisters. This year’s reflection left me in a state of immense awe.

If you’re new to my blog, I suffer from a mental disorder. When I’m not medicated, I’m left in a crippling state. I can barely function. So why am I in awe? Because of Alpha Kappa Alpha, women who are my Sisters from Afar, came to my aide during one of my most troubling times. You all truly personified Sisterhood (I usually suffer from what I affectionately call word vomit and many days, my Twitter Stream was clogged when I’d express my angst and troubles concerning jobs and my health).

On December 2, 2010, I found myself an inpatient at a Psychiatric Treatment Facility.  This was my last resort. Before I checked in though, I felt a sense of peace. I was reassured by the outpouring from many friends, but most importantly by you all, the Women who share a love for those things I hold near and dear to my heart – leading by example, community uplift, scholarship, but most importantly, Sisterhood. Many of you reached out to me when I struggled with something that seemed simple – scheduling an appointment with my mental health practitioner. Many of you offered me resources and suggestions when it came to navigating the (lack of) insurance debacle. But many more of you were there to just say, “Keep your head up.”

For that, I’m forever indebted.

From those women who came into the organization with me (#shoutout Spring 2007, Zeta Rho chapter) to those women who are only connected to me by recognizing Ethel Hedgeman Lyle as “The Guiding Light,” I’ve come to recognize Alpha Kappa Alpha as more than just an organization. It’s truly deep in my heart. I didn’t think it could get any deeper, but someone, I feel the warmth from you all sprouting and engulfing my soul. When I think of what it means to be a part of a Selected Few, I’m almost moved to tears. It’s that serious. *wink*

It’s more than our Salmon Pink and Apple Green. We’re more than the Pretty Girls with 20 Pearls. Our collective organization is more than the Ivy. More than our Skee-Wee.

We are the personification of a legacy that was built by our 20 Founders.

We are the spirit of our Original 9: Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, Anna Easter Brown, Beulah Elizabeth Burke, Lillie Burke, Marjorie Hill, Margaret Flagg Holmes, Lavinia Norman, Lucy Diggs Slowe, and Marie Woolfolk Taylor.

We are the tenacity of the Class of 1910:  Norma Boyd, Ethel Jones Mowbray, Alice Murray, Sarah Meriweather Nutter, Joanna Berry Shields, Carrie Snowden, and Harriet Terry.

We are the legacy of our Incorporators: Nellie Quander, Julia Evangeline Brooks, Nellie Pratt Russell, and Minnie Beatrice Smith.

We are women of THE Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

We are each other’s saving grace. You all pulled me from the ledge when I so desperately wanted to jump.

We are kind words and Sisterly Deeds simply because we believe that we should strive to do things By Culture and By Merit. You all have encouraged more personal growth within me (from our Old Heads right on down to our Neos).

Our bonds are as strong as the Ivy that represents us. We’re only as strong as the weakest among us and while there were many times that I certainly felt weak, I can say that I’ll be eternally grateful for the strength that you all lent me.

For all of that, I could never say “Thank You” enough. So I’ll say “Thank You” in my daily actions. In providing that kind word. In paying it forward. In representing our Great Sorority in the best light possible. By being true to me and true to Us. By remembering that the Collective is more important than the Individual. By reminding myself that we rarely, if ever, travel this life alone. By promising to remain forever faithful to our organization.

I’ll continue to strive – upward like the Ivy Vine.

 

Sisterly.

African-Americans & The Myth of Mental Illness

This series on mental illness began with my story. I wasn’t sure of the approach that I would take for this post, but I’ve decided after very recent conversations to state (simply) why African-Americans should worry about Mental Illness.

Mental Illness? That’s a “White” thing!

This phrase is what started it all. By “it,” I’m not only speaking of this series but also why African-Americans are less likely to seek services that deal with behavior and cognitive issues. Given our history in this country, it isn’t difficult to understand the apprehension behind getting professional help (counseling or whatever). Historically, science was used by the “Majority” as a justification for the maltreatment of non-Whites. The study of evolution was used to justify the separation of racial/ethnic groups, as well as the subservient status of non-Whites (a theory known as Social Darwinism). Those who were associated with these theories were the leading voices in biology, eugenics, medicine, philosophy/psychology. Additionally, the United States has a notorious history behind using African-Americans for trial studies, health, and social experiments (see the relatively unknown Tuskegee Experiment; Human Experimentation in the US). This has led to a distrust of those outside of our community, as well as the thinking that what affects “them” can’t affect “us.” With respect to Mental Illness, this can’t be further from the truth.

Mental Illness Has a Look

Unfortunately, many of us seem to believe that you can look at someone and tell if they need psychiatric help. We believe that if you are well put-together (your hair, clothes, and shoes look nice), drive a nice car, live in a nice place, and have a job, then you are happy and have no problems.

 This can’t be further from the truth.

Mental health agencies (such as National Alliance on Mental Illness) acknowledge that as a group, African-Americans are disproportionately more likely to experience social circumstances that increase their chances of developing a mental illness (source). We need to be aware of the indicators and risk factors that lead to mental illness as it has been shown that a mental break can be a culmination of life experiences (sudden onset of a disease are often triggered by a major event but experiences increase susceptibility to disorders).

What does this mean?

Besides the obvious “any one of us can suffer,” it means that we need to be aware AND actively work to change the stigma. Some facts to be aware of:

  • tend to rely on family, religious and social communities for emotional support, rather than turning to health care professionals, even though this may at times be necessary.African Americans
  • Across a recent 15 year span, suicide rates increased 233% among African Americans aged 10 to 14 compared to 120% among Caucasian Americans in the same age group across the same span of time.
  •  

  • African Amemicans comprise 40% of the homeless population and only 12% of the U.S. population. People experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of developing a mental illness.
  • Nearly half of all prisoners in the United States are African American. Prison inmates are at a high risk for developing mental illness.
  • Children in foster care and the child welfare system are more likely to develop mental illnesses. African American children comprise 45% of the public foster care population.
  • Exposure to violence increases the risk of developing a mental illness; over 25% of African American children exposed to violence meet criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

As a community, we need to move towards a mindset of acceptance and open communication. Rmember that mental illness exists and it can happen to anyone.

Finding Our Minds: Mental Health and African-Americans

There are many things that remain unspoken in the African-American community. It’s as if these things will simply disappear if we refuse to give our time, energy, and thoughts to them. One such topic is that of Mental Illness. In our community, we operate on the belief that all that comes our way (be it good or bad) is that of Divine Intervention or Planning. It attempts to offer rational thought to many instances in our life. It’s always the answer to our question, “Why?”

 However, in my life, there has been the constant question: Why must I have a mental illness?

 This blog will be part of a series on Mental Health. My hope is that we can begin talk about these issues and break down the barriers of communication. Too many people in my community deal with a mental illness of some sort and there really isn’t the space to speak openly about it. There is no room for us to really be ourselves. To ask the necessary questions. To live without fear of judgment.

 To the reader, I hope that these posts open up something within you and that you become more accepting of others. I hope that you find the necessary strength to reach out to someone you may think suffers from a disorder. That’s all we want as people…to feel a safe connection with another person.

 ~Miss C. Jayne

My Story

 I’ve always wondered if there was something about me that just made me different. To say that I was sensitive would only have been the tip of the iceberg. As a youngster, I remember that I could pick up on the emotions of others; and it’s something that I’ve grown to feel is a gift and a curse. My sensitivity to others (and intuition to some degree) allowed me to build close relationships with others but it often left me feeling drained. As I grew older, this trait became something more of a burden. When I started middle school, I went through many transitions because of family issues. Lots of things had to be held inside because I operated with the intention to protect my two younger brothers. But even then, I noticed something wasn’t quite right.

 I became withdrawn and many of the adults that I trusted wrote it off as my becoming a “Young Lady” (whatever the hell that meant). I became angry and I wanted to lash out. I figured out ways to hurt myself because I was in pain. I would go days and even weeks feeling as though I couldn’t do anything the “right” way and much of that “down” time was spent contemplating my death. Then there were the days that I was up. And when I was up, I was way up. Most people just wrote this off as me being my regular “goofy” self. I could always find silver linings and offer great advice or tell just the right joke that made someone else feel better.

 But inside, I knew it would be a matter of time before I was thrown back into that dark space. For a while, I hid it. I hid it well. Since I’d always been the “Sensitive Child” and the child that loved to read in my group of siblings, my parents didn’t think it was odd that I would lock myself in my room. And stay there. Because I was the “Goofy Friend,” close friends and acquaintances would assume that I was simply having a bad day and that I would come around soon.

 I always did.

 I managed to float along in high school and get through life. I joined organizations. I followed a strict schedule. I worked hard. I was able to cover up my insomnia by saying that it was the school work or practicing for whatever cheerleading competition was coming up. In hindsight, I managed to handle my “illness” and I felt that I had finally overcome whatever it was that plagued me. Then I went to college. I had a break. In the worst way possible.

 Freshman year of college was when my depression started to spiral out of control. Many people wrote it off as homesickness but I started to attend counseling sessions. Just to talk it out. I didn’t want to admit to the counselor, who was white, that I, a Black woman (who is supposed to be strong and is more than capable to handle life), felt as though I was losing control of my mind. This scared me. I was so afraid of becoming like the people who I’d seen in homeless shelters coming up or the people on the street. I remember the jokes that would be told in my group of friends about mental illness and I’d hesitate to even ask if it were possible to have an illness. I remembered the many church sermons that made it sound as though the people afflicted with mental illness had committed some unspeakable sin and this was their punishment.

 My depression only got worse. It got to the point that I lived for my “up” days. I tried to cover these extremes up and bring some form of happiness into my life through organizations and other student groups.

 My final year in college, I broke. My grandparents passed away. I went to their funeral and came back a different person. I drank…heavily. I did things that I’m not too proud of. I attempted suicide (landed me in the hospital). I took painkillers. Whatever. Just to feel something other than hurt.

 I knew then that I had “something.” I just didn’t want to admit what it was. I was still in counseling and it was obvious that I was crushing from the weight of my problems. So, I looked for an out. I left Michigan. I moved to a place where there was little family around me. I went to graduate school. I threw myself into my work. I got sick. I stayed sick. I had migraines every other day. The depression was intense. In a day, I could go back and forth between depression and mania almost twice a day. Three days before finishing my courses for my program, I decided that I didn’t want to live anymore. I took 3 sleeping pills (with an alcoholic drink) and I drank an entire bottle of wine. When I woke up, I was sure that the Universe hated me.

 This thing that I had…it had to be some punishment, but for what, I didn’t know.

 I didn’t want to talk about myself anymore. I didn’t want to focus on myself anymore. I started once again to focus on others. If I could get them through the day, then I’d have gotten myself through the day. But it was hard. It was lonely. It was the scariest thing I’d ever confronted about myself. One night, I finally decided that it would be okay for me to admit that maybe, just maybe, I had a mental illness. It would be okay to admit that it was something that surpassed depression (even though this is what I felt most of the time).

 I graduated in May. I flew home the following day. When I saw my therapist for the first time, I cried. It was all I could do. I sat in a chair across from a white guy who seemed caring and I cried. Then I explained everything that I was feeling. The confusion. The depression. The fear. The almost happiness. The panic. The mania. I explained myself.

 When I left his office, I felt freer…but I was more afraid that I’d ever been in my life. I was no longer a young Black woman with an education and a bright future.

I was bi-polar.

 To be continued….

*Image courtesy of Google Search. I’m not the young lady pictured.