A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

Tag Archives: Depression

Happiness in Depression

It has taken me a long time to work up the courage to write this.

In the past, I have talked about issues surrounding mental health and I have even shared some of my personal struggle with anxiety and depression. Most of the time I have done this from a comfortably disconnected point of view and I have tried to stick with writing objectively when the worst of an “episode” was over with.

In this instance, things are different and it has taken me a long time to work up the courage to write this.

Currently, I sit in the reality that I’m a Black Woman with Clinical Depression.

And it’s hard. And it’s heavy. And it weighs on my chest. And my back. And my spirit. Just about my everything because being Black is hard enough. Struggling with mental illness is hard enough. Couple the two? It is a heavy “cross to bear.”

However, this is my truth.

The “mental illness” isn’t even what makes this so hard. It is not the fear that people will shun you because you acknowledge that you sometimes feel that God has forgotten about you. It is not that people are uncomfortable being around you when you are “like that.” It is not the awkward silence after being completely honest about the fact that even though you smiled when you said hello, you feel empty as hell on the inside. That’s not what makes this hard.

It’s the happiness.

Most people view depression in a very stereotypical way. They picture someone who can’t/won’t get out of bed and take care of their most basic needs. They think of someone who won’t wash their hair or brush their teeth. They think of a person who cries constantly. They think of someone who wears all black and isolates themselves from the world. They think of an energy vampire.

They think of the type of person they would never want to become emotionally — the person that is so overwhelmed that they just shut down. And that’s wrong.

Clinical depression, or any kind of depression for that matter, can be those things. But that is never what makes it hard, at least not for me. It is the huge disconnect between my mind/logic and my spirit/emotions.

It’s being able to laugh from my belly. It’s being able to tell a story and get others to do the same. It’s being able to smile. Or sing my favorite song. Or dance around. It is that even though I can wrap my day in a million happy moments, at the center is this one thing that I can’t “fix.” This feeling. This….ugh.

And if you ask me what that “one thing” is, I would never have a real answer for you because it changes in the moment.

Which is what makes all of this hard to talk about.

As I sit here trying to piece my thoughts together, the question I keep asking is, “What do you want them to know?” I want the people who love me to know that depression and happiness live in the same space and that it’s hard to explain it. You get it if you’ve felt it; and if you haven’t, you’ll know it if you ever do.

But what I want people to know is not the same thing I want people to understand.

I want people to understand that depression is not void of happiness. I want people to understand that people go on living every day as though nothing is wrong, even though it seems their outlook is bleak. I want people to understand that while I laughed a minute ago, I was in just as much pain as I am when I don’t. I want people to understand that sometimes I want to be taken care of sometimes and not the person that takes care of others all of the time. I want people to understand what it means to embody and practice compassion and patience.

I never have enough of those things for myself.

Most of all, I want people to understand that happiness and depression can inhabit the same breath.

And that’s what hard about it.

My Depression Is… (#31WriteNow)

Yesterday, news that Lee Thompson Young had died spread across the internet. Cause of death: suicide. People say, “I wonder what he was going through” and “You never know what someone is going through…” And this affected me. In a way I didn’t think possible but it was a simple statement that brought me out of my element and hit me at my core:

“Suicide is a selfish act. People should think of their loved ones and the pain they would cause.”

And those words, that idea, that feeling and sentiment got to me in a way that made me feel I was personally on trial. And I just wanted to share something…anything at all…that would get other people to understand what it’s like. And no matter what I said, it fell on steely resolves and unreceptive hosts. By the end of the day, I felt worse than I thought I’d feel so early in the week.

So I wanted to write something (writing is starting to be my go-to for a lot of things and if you can imagine, I don’t even share the personal-personal on here).

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with a persistent heaviness. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more encompassing. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I realized I had depression and it was more than “the blues.” It wasn’t until I was 23 that I really began to understand it in a way that made it easier to explain to others.

This post is rough. It’s ragged. It’s scary to share but I want for people who don’t deal with this disease that snatches rationality to get a sense of what it is to be cloaked in this.

Daily.

This explanation or description of emotional purging is not clinical because that makes it cold. It’s not warm because this feels anything other than that. These words aren’t eloquent because nothing is beautiful about this struggle.

It just is…like I just am.

“Until you’ve had depression, I don’t think you’re qualified to talk about it.” -Geoffrey Boycott

My depression is…

Waking up in the morning and seeing a message my Momma wrote on my mirror for me. “Courtney, You ARE important!” and knowing that is still not enough to feel I’m important. Or loved.

Celebrating my small victories throughout the day. “I brushed my teeth.” or “I didn’t excuse myself to go to the bathroom to cry.” or “I didn’t have to remind myself to breathe.” or “For a moment, it didn’t hurt to keep going.” What’s habit for you is a challenge for me.

Exhaustion.

A weariness that’s so pervasive it’s palpable and other people feel it. And because they feel it, they don’t want me around or they don’t want to be around me. You see, those things feel the same? And it is hard to distinguish between the two. But if I did something to hurt myself, these are the people who would call me selfish. Or say they didn’t know how I felt.

40 hours a week. Stability. Direct deposit twice a month. And leaving this job because it contributed to my misery.

Hearing the whispers of loved ones say “I didn’t know she was a troubled soul.” and “She was so bright.”

Being able to understand the struggles of another but being met with confusion about my own. I can’t explain this feeling; you’d have to feel it to really know. Or why? Or what could make it better?

Sitting in church and feeling like God forgot about me. Seeing beautiful things around me and feeling like God forgot about me.

Praying for peace. A real peace and a soul that’s finally quiet.

A constant struggle. In the midnight hour, I remind myself that tomorrow can be a little better. That the Baby Steps are all that’s required.

Feeling like something’s wrong with me but having everyone around me shrug it off.

“She just wants attention because Black people don’t get depressed. Our God is too big for that!”

Tear-stained notes of goodbye. Rough drafts of suicide letters. And exercises where I write all of the things I wish people would say to me.

“I don’t know what it feels like Courtney, but I really do care. I’ll listen. I’m here to listen.”

Cleaning my entire apartment and writing out instructions on where my things should go because I took a bottle of pills. Wondering if I truly have a greater purpose or if it’s a cruel joke because I only slept for a long time.

Wondering who can I call?

Crisis lines. And inpatient stays in a behavioral health unit.

Being the joke or the one that’s talked down to.

Being told, “If you’re going to worry, then your faith really isn’t that strong.”

This isn’t worry…this isn’t worry.

The expectation to think rationally and hearing other folks speak dismissively of something that twists my soul and breaks my spirit without ever knowing how it got there in the first place.

Telling your counselor at 11, “One morning, I just woke up really sad and I don’t know why.”

Is this my cross to bear?

Being on the Honor Roll and being lauded for your academic ability by the same administrators who treat me unkindly for being homeless. Or rather, my depression is remembering this.

Being reminded I’m less than by the society I live in.

And having to name the people to myself, out loud, who want you here.

Scratching some of those people off of my list when they express their opinions about someone like me.

“It wasn’t something I did. I’ll wonder that. But they should know they are loved anyway.”

Sometimes we don’t.

I just wanted to feel loved on my birthday. You showed up late. Or you didn’t call. Or you didn’t text. And you laughed it off later with a, “Well girl you know!?”

Sometimes I don’t know.

Warning signs. All of the warnings signs. Other people see them but ignore them. Because there’s no way I could have that “issue.”

Being the one that my family leans on…and adding their burdens to my pile. Only to sink.

Sinking.

Sinking lower.

Sinking lower still.

Playlists of “Feel Better Music” and sing-alongs through tears. It’s never enough but somehow I make it.

Keeping everything inside. No one wants to hear this. Except the people you pay and even still, they only medicate you or tell you how you made this mess.

I didn’t ask to be here.

A tattoo on my wrist. “Dream. Hope. Live. Be.”

Remembering my potential as a way to fight off the heaviness and then the heaviness returning as I wonder if I’m meeting my potential.

Setting alarms to eat and asking friends if they could remind me to eat. Expressing gratitude for the ones who remembered to tell me to eat.

Because sometimes, most times, I forget to eat.

Being alone with destructive thoughts.

Being alone.

An additional 6 pills a day and no insurance to cover this treatment. It’s expensive. An expensive reminder that I’m miserable. So I take them only when things are really bad…if I have any to take. Which means it doesn’t work like it should.

Everything being too much.

Feeling like I’ll break at any point.

The lowest of the lows…

Being in a place so dark, I wonder which beast swallowed me whole.

This time.

And I pray a prayer to be spit upon a shore, any shore no matter how cold and lonely and destitute, like Jonah from the belly of a great whale…

So I can see a sunrise.

Just one more sunrise.

And feel its heat as it sends a visible glimmer of hope…

That never fully reaches me.

“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. 😉

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.

I Was Told “No”

There’s an innate need in every one of us to feel as though people care for and about us. Many of us face darkened periods and don’t know how to get out of slumps in our mood. For some, the slumps can be quite devastating. My most recent episode with my “problem” has scared me in a such way that I’m once again seeking help.

*Before I go any further, I’ll say this: If you experience a “slump” in your mood that lasts an extended period of time, seek help! Go to a professional, someone at your school, in your church, or wherever. Go talk to someone. If you have a friend that experiences depression, give them a hug or a message every now and then to say that you care. It’s deeper than a bad mood.

On Tuesday February 23rd, 2010, I went home and I wanted to die. I walked into my place of residence and felt like it didn’t belong to me. I felt as though my possessions weren’t mine and that I served no purpose in being here. Although there was light outside of my window, I felt as though I was standing in the darkest place that could exist. Something had come upon me and swallowed me whole. My essence. My reason for being.

I went to sleep.

I made up my mind that this was just a funk and that I was having a “bad day” because of the stress from my life. I went to sleep. I dreamt of nothing. Even my dreams were void of life. The following morning, I got up. I thought, “I just need to meditate more and I’ll be okay.” After I finished that meditation, I felt as though something had come to swallow me again. This left me in a pool of tears on my floor.

I hadn’t experienced that reaction in some time. I knew to be afraid.

But I kept going. I put on my clothes and my happy face. I made my way to class. I remember thinking, “The weather matches my mood.” It rained the night before and would continue to rain until the following day. That’s what I remember about last week. It rained. The joy that I got out of that was that I could wear a pair of rain boots that my Mom graciously bought for me. It was almost like a piece of home.

That day went by and I felt myself growing more disconnected. I started to miss little things. The smile of my brothers. My Mother’s voice. Hearing my Dad laugh. A random message from my best friend. Blindly, I tried to reach out to all of those people…hoping that maybe this would shake me back to a place of happiness. It didn’t work. That night, I prayed harder than I’ve prayed in a while. I asked for help.

Then I slept.

This night, I had a nightmare. Images that I’d imagine the mind of a prisoner’s mind flashes back to when they reenter into society. There were screams of pain, women being abused, men being murdered, and the sorrowful cries of children who were starving. Where these images had come from, I’m not sure now. I don’t want to know. It was a reminder of the suffering that exists and I awoke with a start.

Drenched in sweat and feeling as though my chest was caving in.

The following day, I felt empty. I felt so empty that nothing could fill me. And when you feel that empty, what’s your reason for living?

I went to class. I hoped that being around people would help me some. I hoped that their moods would rub off on me. That somehow, they’d be so overflowing with happiness that I could begin to fill myself again. I smiled. I joked. I laughed. On the outside. Inside, I wept. Inside, I raged. Inside, I felt as though I could feel myself dying.

That night, I went home and I thought of suicide. I had a moment of clarity while my back was pressed against the floor — there have to be some people who want me here and even IF I can’t see it, it’s only fair to try to get help.

Friday morning, I called a center. They couldn’t fit me in. I asked for a referral. That person couldn’t fit me in. I then began to talk to the counselor on-call. I felt like I was beginning to get a grip…for a moment, I felt like I had a grip. But that “Why live?” though flashed again.

I decided to see if I could be kept somewhere overnight (at this point, I was having trouble sleeping…I hadn’t made it through an entire night yet). I called the hospital. They told me to come in. I went in and was “evaluated” to be turned around and told to go home. My problems weren’t serious enough to warrant a bed and besides that, I didn’t have insurance (I’m guess their whole issue was that I was “calm” and “coherent”). I called another place, their intake period was already closed. I tried. I mean, I had tried. I had to face the darkness alone.

I began to count the minutes. The seconds that passed. I practiced breathing and I prayed. I wanted to the sunlight to come swiftly. Only then would I feel “safe”.

Well, the sunlight came. I was brought out of my shell by a good friend. We went out and a had nice time. I laughed and met new people. I felt revived. That night (Saturday), I slept. There were no dreams but I began to feel a peace. I thought to myself, I just need to make it to Monday. That’s all I’m asking for. To make it to Monday. A new week. A new beginning. A new start.

That night (I believe), a friend of mine was at work. Saw that I was up and started to talk to me. I began to confide in her. It felt good to get some things off of my chest. I can honestly look back and say that the conversation that night was a REAL turning point. It ended just as the sun was rising and it felt like my sun was rising. I was okay. I knew it and I felt it.

To know and to feel something is an entirely great feeling. To know that even if someone tells you “No” that there will be someone who will listen feels amazing. To know that when you’re hurting and can’t fully explain why that there is another person who can validate what you’re feeling while also offering a helping hand helps to make you feel whole.

I felt like a person again. I felt like it wasn’t a mistake that I was here. I felt that someone other than my Mother and Father loved me just because. It wasn’t obligatory. They don’t have to. But they do. And that’s what counts in this world.

As Bassey Ikpi would say, “Love someone and mean it.” (By the way, she’s great. Really inspirational too.)

Dream.Hope.Believe

You can follow me on Twitter: @Complex_Smplcty

© This post was originally written March 3, 2010. All thoughts contained in this post belong to that of the author. Don’t steal. It’s not right or fun or nice.

Untitled*

Imagine that you’re standing on the edge of something beautiful. You look out before you and you see the ocean sparkle as though under its surface lies a million gems. In their finest form. Truly precious. You look around you, everything is tranquil. Then you feel a slight breeze. Something, a feeling of sorts, creeps up your spine.

Quickly, that picture of serenity is destroyed as that breeze becomes a gust of wind so strong it knocks you from where you are standing. You begin to fall. That picture of beauty is becoming an illustration of destruction. You’ve been tossed into the sea. You can’t swim. And the sunlight that so gently warmed your face just a few moments before begins to fade.

Now you’re caught under the waves. You kick as your instinct begins to take over. You try your hardest to break the surface, but it feels as though something is holding you under water. Suddenly, you’re thrown from the sea of destruction that wants to claim you and you’re thrown on to a jagged rock. Something you couldn’t see from your vantage point earlier. You’re stuck here. In the darkness. You begin to wonder, “How could something so beautiful hurt you so much?” That sea that once sparkled and beckoned for you to calmly wade out a safe distance has at once become a prison.

The winds still whirl around you and in the midst of your tears, something tells you to look up. You can see something that beckons you. Something strong. Something safe. You realize it’s a person. It’s a human. Someone you’ve hoped would help you. You stand on that rock as the water continues to swell around you. You outstretch your hand, foolishly, hoping that by some miracle, that person who stands above you will reach down and pull you up. You begin to scream. You realize they can’t hear you above the winds. You wonder what you must look like to them and all at once understand. In a moment of clarity, you see this person smiling down upon you. That picture of beauty that you looked down upon must be the same image they see when they glance down.

You’re caught in the midst of  storm.

They see you surrounded by beauty.

A wind comes by and knocks you down on to the rock again. This time, it’s so strong, you can’t stand. So you lie there. You’re vision is once again blurred and this time, you can’t tell if it’s your tears or the stinging from the water as it hits your face. This time, you begin to bargain. If you make it out of this storm, you’ll never get close to the edge again. You’ll exist. You’ll cease to live, but you won’t cease to have a life.

In the midst of your bargaining, things get worse. You don’t remember how long you’ve been where you are. It can last anywhere from moments to days. But no matter how long it goes on, you struggle. This battle is intense. It’s even harder because you know that there is nothing that you can really fight. This is something that you have to go alone. Once again you look up. This time, you see the person is concerned. You wonder again, “What must I look like to them?” And you bargain still. You think, “Am I the only person here?” Again, you look up and realize that it’s now a crowd. There are those that you love. They are worried. There’s no way to reach them. You bargain still. You want this to end.

And then…..

There’s a stillness.

You can get up now. As you do, you realize you’re back where you were in the beginning. In the clearing. Standing on the edge of something beautiful. You look down at that sea, sparkling in its beauty and you wonder, “How could something so wonderful cause so much harm?” You turn around to face the people who you’ve wanted so desperately to touch. They are gone. But it’s fine. You’ve found a peace and you feel that you can go on.

So, you begin to walk. You remember to dream. You go on. You don’t lie down. You don’t die.

But you always wonder, “How soon before I come back to this clearing again?”

I’ve thought of ways to describe my daily life. This was the best that I could come up with. Most days, the storm is light. Something that I can handle. Other days, it feels like the worst thing in the world. I feel like I’m powerless over anything…even the simple things that I should be able to control. On those days, I can’t get out of bed. I don’t want to talk to people. I don’t eat. And I always wonder, “What must this look like to others?”

I have depression.

Moment of Clarity

*Note: This post is super personal in nature. If you don’t feel like reading about trials and personal (internal) battles, then by all means, take a gander over to Explosm.net or any of my other buddies that are linked in my blog roll. You still counted by clicking this page. Thanks.

The problem with setting a goal that not many people around you has attempted or accomplished is that there is no one that you trust to tell you how hard it will be. You may have an idea but to experience it is something altogether different.

Many of my friends have said 2009 was a tough year for them and I can relate. The hell that I experienced in 2009 was just a continuation of the craziness that existed in 2008. Starting in 2008, my grandparents passed away (my final living grandparents) within 3 days of one another. I never thought I would take those deaths as hard as I did. Looking back now, I realize that my pain came from the fact that my Dad and his siblings were so fractured at the funeral. They barely sat with one another. I didn’t want that for my siblings and I made a decision to attempt to bridge whatever gaps existed between us. I quickly came to realize that we were all battling our personal demons (as it concerned our parents) and that there was no way that I could help them.

Beginning with that (the realization of those issues), I slipped into something worse than a depression and I reached out to the wrong things and other damaged people. The crazy thing about a damaged person is that they don’t realize how hurt they are and that even if you are able to offer some sort of clarity, they have to want to see it. The damaged people I knew did not want to see it. I clinched and held on anyway. Those relationships going sour, I also took that hard.

To deal with that pain, I started to party. I mean, I’d probably gone out more in my final semesters of undergrad than I had my entire 5 years at CMU (which really isn’t saying much because I wasn’t a partier). But I saw a trend. I drank. I started to hang with the wrong people. I allowed people to use me. And I used other people. I started to hate myself for who I knew I was becoming but because it felt “nice” to have all of those people around, I just continued down that road.

The first turning point came in February of 2009 (it’s sad that I’m realizing this mess went on for as long as it did). I was forced to move out of an apartment and even though I still had trouble coming up with the rent every month, I began to see the people who TRULY cared for me. The folks that let me stay in their rooms, sleep on their couches, use their showers, etc. See, that shit was humbling. It reminded me of exactly where I’d come from. But it did me a huge service. I graduated because of my period of “semi-homelessness”. I started to stay in the library more and I didn’t go out as much. I was also forced to take better care of my health because I had a serious case of pneumonia (felt the effects of that cold from Feb 14, 2009 – March 19, 2009). All of the time that I stayed in the library, I worked. I made better grades my final semester than I had the two preceding semesters.

I was also accepted to graduate school, which gave me something to look forward to. Looking back, I remember the exact emotion I had when I opened my letter saying that I was a student: relief. There’s nothing scarier than attempting to move forward in your life when you feel it crumbling around you. I felt like I had trouble with everything – family, friends, health, everything. But that letter gave me life. Granted, I was graduating in May and that was a great accomplishment. But in an odd way, it felt as though someone was nailing a coffin shut. I had nowhere to go (I felt). I had no job offer on the table. I hadn’t heard from any other school (and when you apply for early admission, that makes you question yourself). I had no money. I was on the verge of losing my job.

But that letter gave me life.

I finished out my final semester and graduation was really a celebration for me (I literally danced down the aisle…I kid you not). I was going on to something better. However, when I moved out to Providence, I felt LOST. All of the people that I’d come to know for the past five years were everywhere but Providence. That’s when I began to recognize my problems for what they were.

See, the thing about a damaging cycle is that when it goes on for so long, that’s what you want to return to. It’s what you know. And you can believe that I wanted to run back to dysfunction. I wanted to run back to arguing with my parents. I wanted to run back to fighting and being belittled by friends. I wanted to run back to drinking and partying (with others or alone). I wanted to run back to darkness.

All because I was alone and I had no clue how to face the world.

My program started in June. Not a lot of people know this, but I moved out to Providence for two reasons: (1) it was my goal to get into this program; and (2) I was defying expectations and what people thought I needed to do. The sad part about that was that I let reason two guide every move that I made concerning graduate school and I planned poorly for my transition. The result: having to ask parents to pay for a plane ticket out to Providence and moving with two suitcases of clothing and “housewares”. That’s right. I moved halfway across a country with a bookbag, a carryon and my large suitcase (from my set). Let me tell you how smart that is NOT…and it was 3 days before my program began, nonetheless.

You can’t say I didn’t have guts. But remember, I’m still operating in a frame of mind that’s dangerous. With no money for books, clothing, food, or any other real simple shit, I started to play the “everything will be fine” game. It was pretty similar to the one that I played in September of 2008. Summer goes by without much incident (if you don’t count the whole fiasco of finagling money for school or the fact that I got sick) and it hit me hardest that I was alone on our summer break. We had an entire month off from school and most of my cohort (most as in ALL) went home or somewhere else. So, I was stuck. Feeling alone. And decided in my mind that I wanted to go home. I didn’t need a degree, I needed to feel like I was around people who loved me (even if we were damaging each other). Anyway, I never raised enough money to go home for the summer and I really only made it through with the help of two “counselors.” After my money was situated and I felt like I had a chance to succeed (really succeed), I began the Fall term with high hopes and (dare I say it) happiness.

However, when you have issues that you fail to deal with, they find ways to pop up. And pop up they did. I don’t think I’ve experienced so much illness or depression in one semester. I found myself hating (that’s a strong word but most appropriate in this situation) everything about myself and the people around me. I found myself questioning whether or not I deserved to be attending an Ivy League school and I felt fraudulent. I found myself wanting to drink and/or take a pill to help me sleep because that was the only thing helping me sleep at night. I found myself becoming that same person that was showing up the previous September.

I also questioned if that person was the real me.

Was I really damaging? Was I really evil? Was I really spiteful? Was I really the person that everyone dreads to be around? Did I really suck the life from others?

That person. The one that people despise in fairy tales and real life. That person that can’t be trusted. That person that will always hurt you because they hurt themselves. That person that I didn’t want to be.

My moment of clarity came while I was sitting in a library lobby and on the phone with my Advisor this past Friday. I had gotten behind on my work and I felt swamped. I had been sick and missed important classes. I was behind on some of my work for my internship and I felt that I’d let them down greatly. I was lonely. I was tired of moving forward and I wanted to leave. After sending an email to my Advisor, she called. First time that a person had done that. Called instead of communicating electronically. She calmed my fears and offered me encouraging words.  She let me know that I deserved to be here, otherwise I would not have been accepted. She told me to take one day (one task, one assignment, one minute, one moment) at a time because I could only accomplish so much. She helped me (there were others too, but in that moment, she was instrumental to my peace of mind).

She gave me a piece of myself back. The part that was shut up when the caskets closed at my grandparents’ funeral. That part that I started to give away to other people who were hurt because I wanted to help them so much. That part that I needed returned to me, yet others held onto it or threw to the side. That part that was often forgotten. She reminded me of why I was here in the first place. Why I decided to do all that I had set forth to do. She was a voice that reminded me of a whisper I’d heard once before. She reminded me of all of the people that care and aren’t here to hug me today. Her words were a salve, a balm that I needed immensely.

See, in my troubles, it became too easy for people to offer a cliché response to what I was going through. I thank them for all of their responses for I’m truly grateful. The thing that was hardest to deal with was that I knew other people had been told the same thing before. I’d been told the same thing before. And those words were just band-aids to my soul and I felt that my soul was still seeping away from me.

Painful.

The most painful experience in my mind was to be within myself and still feel as though I was losing my essence.

Anyway, I sit here. December 7, 2009 at 12:44 am and I type these words. I had a moment a clarity.

I know why I chose to continue on this road. Each day that I work, I may have to relive many painful things, but I’ll do it with the hopes that no other person has to go through similar situations. I’ll have to remember being belittled for being smart by peers that looked like me and then going on to being belittled by peers for not looking like them, and I’ll do it so that other smart children who may or may not look like me don’t experience that. I’ll have to remember the homeless shelters, the degradation for going to a school that failed to educate its students adequately, and the long trips home after school, and I’ll do it so that other youngsters don’t have to do it. I’ll remember wondering where my next meal or the next month’s rent payment while I was an undergraduate student, and I’ll work so that no other undergraduate student has to experience that.

I know what I feel. I know why I’m here. I know who I am. I know what I am.

In my moment of clarity, I remembered that I’m all things good. I’m hurt, yes. I’m damaged, yes. But I’m all things good. I’m not my circumstances or what happened to me. I’m all things good.

I can feel it. And it feels good. I haven’t felt a thing this good since before September 2008.

Dream.Hope.Believe.