August 22, 2013
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Every Tuesday, I watch Catfish: The TV Show with the rest of Twitter. Usually, people share some very witty reactions to the show but there was something about last night that made me uncomfortable. There is this internal dialogue or belief system that people seem to hold where a person who struggles with mental health issues (1) deserves to be lonely and (2) should not speak up about it in public. What came across as a heartfelt concern for the young woman was built upon this idea that the young man in question was so messed up that there was no way he could ever be “not crazy.”
Selfishly, I thought of myself when I read the tweets/comments from folks who talked about that young man. While I’ve always been open about my challenges with mental health as an adult, I am always hesitant to share what it was like being the child of two service persons who were diagnosed with service-connected mental health disability. I’ve seen firsthand what “crazy looks like on an ordinary day” and I continue to live that existence.
But I called this piece “battle scars” because what I dealt with daily (child abuse, mental and emotional abuse, paranoia, etc.) was brushed off as “oh that’s just how they (my parents) are.” Even recently, I traveled with my Mom to a family member’s funeral and a relative made the comment, “Girl! Your Mom has always been crazy. But you take care of her.” That comment made me pause. It made me want to scream, “No! She’s not crazy! She’s experienced trauma and you’re being dismissive of it by calling her crazy.”
But I didn’t.
I went on. And I thought of the quiet scars my parents carried. Long before they joined the military, they both went through traumatic experiences that others expected them to shrug off and move on from because “that’s what Black people do.” I thought of how those wounds festered and every now and again, we could feel those hurtful experiences in how they interacted with us. I thought how the military and its lack of support in the mental health arena (possibly) made it worse.
Because I think it did.
I thought about the time I saw my Dad hold a gun to my Mom’s head because “everyone was out to get him and he just wanted to see his kids” after returning home from Operation Desert Storm. He didn’t pull the trigger but what if he had? And I thought about how I’ve lived with that memory…and it haunts me today. So I understood the comments about the concerns of the safety of the young woman but there was no concern for the young man.
I sometimes wonder if my parents would have been a little less damaged had they not joined the military but I don’t have a time machine or any way to know that. But what I do know is this — people could help with the healing of others if we just examined our bias and damaging beliefs that we hold about the Unacceptables who struggle from mental health issues.
Trauma.Invisible scars.And there is no help.