It began with forgetting little things. I could not recall what I ate for dinner the other night. It took me a minute or two to sort through the fog in my head and excavate the memory from my delusion. I stopped writing in my favorite new planner; it was splashed with bright watercolors, and successfully cajoled me into a spinning black hole of perfectionism. Three months in, I decided to rely on emails and text notifications instead. I missed out on many assignments, due dates, and opportunities after that. I scrolled through social media and desperately smashed like buttons, excessively dished out comments in need of an immediate response. I selected Facebook emoji’s without actually reading posts because I was desperate for interaction, for a sense of consistency, for security. I was not safe or comfortable in my own head, I was slowly dying. I still am.
It grew to forgetting big things. Like the concept of time. A week would go by and I would think of things as if they happened only a day ago. I would lay in bed and suddenly forget that five hours had gone past. I would feel my body aching from sitting still for so long and wonder why. I’d miss big meetings by accident because I thought they were scheduled for another time. An entire day passed me by and I was on my back staring at the ceiling but never really looking at the ceiling. My energy was consumed by imaginary scenarios, mostly tragic, most of which resulted in my untimely death. Getting up was a full time job. I felt tired walking a mere five feet to my bathroom. Tired in the shower. Tired putting my clothes on. Tired trekking to class after sleeping for 13 hours. This was draining me. It still is.
As a child, I was an attention seeker, the oldest, and the most spoiled according to my mother. Spoiled because of my need for her to overcompensate in other areas of my life. To replace what she was incapable of giving me in those moments; safety, security, and comfort. I wanted material things. I wanted reparations for the emotional neglect and verbal abuse I endured throughout my adolescence. I admit, at times I was extremely ungrateful, narcissistic, and rude. But now I realize that those were all defense mechanisms, I was protecting myself in the only ways I knew. By building a wall of hurt so high, I was unable to empathize with or care about anyone else.
When I was around thirteen years old, I thought I had the worst life in the world. I thought my family hated me. I thought the universe revolved around me. I would be an asshole just to feel bad about it later and hide in the bathroom committing hate crimes against my flesh. Punishing my wrists, thighs, and lower legs for my bad behavior. My mother would sometimes catch me and angrily rebuke me. She even kicked me out once because she believed I brought demons into the house. She’d yell at me to pull up my sleeves, inspect my arms, and threaten to send me away to a “crazy home”. She invaded my privacy and brought personal issues that I thought were between me and her, to church. I had people coming up to me to pray for me, mentioning things I didn’t know they knew. I felt betrayed.
I never realized how much my mother’s actions (or inaction) toward my issues impacted me later in life until I found out she started going to therapy. All of a sudden words like “anxiety”, “depression”, and “bipolar” became a part of her normal vocabulary and I didn’t know how to adjust. Once again I felt betrayed. Something she looked down on me for obviously needing is now her saving grace. When she spoke about her therapist (and recommended them to me) I’d fake aversion in a futile attempt to appear resilient and mentally strong, something she never thought I was. Every time I think of telling my mother the truth, I’m embarrassed by my inability to be as strong as she is. I’d think of the times she’d comment under her breath about how she was never weak enough to think about suicide. I was putting on an act for nobody, I was only hurting myself in the process.
I don’t really like to say I have depression, I don’t know if I have it or something else. I don’t like to say I have anxiety either, but the amount of google searches and “Do You Have ____?” quizzes point me to these two terms every single time. I’ve never gotten professional help. This year, I’m closer to seeking help more than I’ve ever been, because I’ve finally reached rock bottom. Not hit, reached. I’ve been waiting for all of my problems to pile up, to explode, so that I would have no choice but to go. That’s what it takes for me. I risked my own life letting all of my stress, pain, and past trauma build up like insurmountable debt because I was too afraid to take initiative while I was in a clear headspace.
Each episode becomes worse and less easy to manage, yet I convince myself that each time would finally be the last. I try to stick it out, thinking I just need a good monthly cry. But the breakdowns began to come weekly, daily, sometimes more than once a day. Still I convince myself: I’m strong, therapy and meds would make me worse, I don’t like waiting rooms, I don’t like speaking because I stutter, going to therapy means I have to make a lot of eye contact, if my doctor is white I’m doomed, if my doctor is black they still won’t understand me. These are excuses I continue using to this very day. It wasn’t until I found myself calmly searching through my parents’ collection of prescribed medication that I realized I was in danger and needed to snap out of this mindset immediately.
I’m happy that the black community, and society in general is becoming more open about mental health and things like therapy. But I don’t think people truly understand that there are still many of us who have to fight and win our own internal battles with stigma before we even take that first step. In all honesty, I’m proud of my mother for taking her first steps. Our relationship has blossomed since the days of my childhood, and it is only me who holds onto those spoiled memories. I have no reason to blame her or to continue to direct my anger towards her. It’s time for me to move on.
I wish I could end this with a happily ever after, an inspirational message that encourages you to get the help you need. But I know how it feels, I’m still going through it y’all. I’ve read posts like this before, liked them, and shared them, only to return to my bed and cry. All I can say is don’t give up, take advantage of this moment. If you’re reading this and struggling with stigma, insecurity, childhood trauma or all of these things and more, I hope you don’t wait to reach rock bottom like I have. I want to warn you, to scare the shit out of you, whatever it takes to get you out of bed, to get you believing in your ability to change again. You don’t need to cling onto the remnants of stigma to protect yourself anymore. There are plenty of great people out there waiting to meet you, going through the same thing as you, yearning to help you succeed. Not everyone is out to get you. Your dreams and goals are waiting for you. There are creative projects, ideas, and plans swimming inside of you that cannot reach their full potential until your mind does. Don’t get in the way of yourself.
And if you’re reading this and happen to know someone going through a tough time, support them. Even if they don’t want to get help just yet, support them. Bring it up gently, but don’t overwhelm them. They know what they need, they just might be fighting right now. Protect them and nurture them along the way. Offer them your company, your touch, or whatever thing that makes them feel better even if for a split second. That could mean the world to them. You don’t need to be a savior, you just need to be a good friend.
This message is for me as much as it’s for those who might be reading. I may not have gotten to where I need to be yet, but I’m almost there. I’m not really a big fan of rock bottom; it’s time to get out of here. And if there’s one thing I do know now, it’s that even the rocks will still catch your fall.