How Kanye Saved My Life

Today, I told my supervisor “I do not feel well”, and for all intents & purposes, that was not a lie. Sure, my nose isn’t runny (at least not from a cold), no cough, no vomit, no high temperature …but, I just don’t feel …well. Which makes me quite the anomaly since I went to a wedding yesterday and was joking, laughing, dancing, and seemingly the life of the party. How one can go from that to crying their eyes out until 4am is beyond me. 

But that’s mental illness for you. It isn’t a respecter of person. You could be a fireball of a personality, and this disease will still find a way to dim your light. It’s paralyzing. It’s painful. And every so often it induces that “I don’t want to be here” feeling in me. It’s when the smallest thing can trigger immense despair. It’s when you are awake countless hours…days and days at a time… because insomnia seems to be a first cousin of anxiety and depression, and it feels left out when not invited to the party. It’s when it’s takes an immense amount effort just to get out of the bed and function or to do normal day to day activities. It’s when everything seems cloudy, and you can’t see past all of the smoke. It’s when you feel like you are drowning. Then you begin counting failures, and mistakes, and traumas, and all of those things seem to outweigh the laughter. You think of how alone you feel. And the next thing you know, depression has you right where it wants you. It has you contemplating if you, the world, and everyone in it would just be better off if you weren’t here. I don’t get that feeling very often, but when I do, it’s heavy. Typically, what keeps me around most days is the thought of potentially breaking my mother’s heart …again. And actually succeeding this time.

But that’s typically when the rationalizing and negotiating begins. You say “OK, they might be sad at first. But their lives will go on.” You start telling yourself that you’re doing them a favor. They won’t have to have complicated conversations with you explaining why you can’t figure out what makes you happy anymore. You won’t have to tell them about how you are learning to take yourself on dates & experience social settings alone and they say “I do that all the time. What’s the big deal?”. You don’t have to try to re-explain why anxiety makes some of the most minuscule things terrifying. And you don’t have to confuse them with your ability to be the most extroverted person they know, self-sufficient, and seemingly have a “good” life, yet still be depressed. You won’t have to make people uncomfortable. Family will move on, friends have plenty to keep them distracted, and men…well, none of them want you anyway…so you surely won’t be missed. No one NEEDS you.

And then came Kanye. Kanye Fancypants Morris to be exact. In May of 2012 I was on temporary leave from work after experiencing an emotional breakdown. I had a breakdown years before in college, but since then I had been managing with my mental illness, juggling multiple responsibilities, and had even moved up to management at my job. But unfortunately, somewhere in there, I had taken on quite a lot, and forgot about self care. To add on to matters, for the first time in my life I was living all alone. No mom, no roommates, just me, and space, and thoughts…way too many thoughts. And out of nowhere a note was on my door one day that included the words “we are now a pet friendly building”. Within minutes I was looking at photos of dogs at shelters. I went into my search wanting a puppy. Thought I needed something young, untainted and full of life (unlike myself). However, what I came home with a week later was a 7 year old dog that the Washington Humane Society had named “Kanye”. A miniature poodle who was grossly underweight, required expensive dental work, had a huge burn/scar on his nose, in need of a serious haircut, but one of the kindest, most gentlest dogs I had ever encountered. The puppies all had a waiting list & an adoption fee, but they were willing to give Kanye to me that day, on the spot, for free, AND throw in free food. He was extremely amicable, but older, unattractive, had health issues, and highly undesirable to most. I thought, “this dog NEEDS me”. 

Maybe I was the one that got adopted that day. Slowly but surely, this dog made me live. Whether I wanted to or not, I had to get up every single morning, rain or shine, and walk him. He was already potty trained, understood commands, and sought to listen & please (unlike the puppy I had pined for), and brought energy into a still place. This living thing, gave me a reason to not retreat. And even when I want to, he comes and sits next to me, licks my hand and gives me that look that says “If you rub me, you’ll feel better. I promise”. This little guy, that I get frustrated with, and impatient with, and may sometimes even yell at, still is excited to see me and forgives/forgets every little flaw that I possess. This creature, that despite his past, despite being neglected, despite the scars, despite his “taintedness”, wants nothing, but to love & be loved. And it makes think “maybe we aren’t all the different”.

And even when I leave him all day, come home, ignore him, cry my eyes out all night, and stay home the next day feeling debilitated, I am reminded that I can’t wither away. If it was up to me, most days I’d lock myself inside, but because of Kanye, I must go. And when I don’t want to, he’s patient. He waits. He may even jump in the bed, get close, lay next to me, and in his own little silent way, remind me that there is life after abandonment, wounds do heal, and that even if you don’t feel well…you are alive, and someone/thing in this world needs you. So take your time - cry, hurt, purge, rest, heal …then get up. 

image
— 

I had a headache. A pounding, excruciating, painful headache that wouldn’t seem to go away. I was taking over 21 college credits in an attempt to participate in a graduation ceremony that I was already 1 year behind on, I was working part time as a bank teller, I served as leadership in multiple campus organizations, I was involved in campus ministry, I had physical health concerns, my weight & physical features were a constant annoyance, I was financially struggling, overwhelmed, lonely, frustrated, and tired …so tired.

The headache got stronger with each new thought. Then, I received a call that my father had passed away. A source of much of my life’s confusion, gone before I could reconcile. Gone before I could make sense of everything. I hated myself for my mistakes. I hated myself for being ugly. I hated myself for being fat. I hated myself for the molestation. I hated myself for the sexual assault. I hated myself for never being good enough for my father, for other men, for love, for graduation, for acceptance …I just wanted the headache to end. I wanted the pain to go away…so I took some Ibuprofen. 

The next day I woke up in a hospital bed with a pumped stomach, IVs in my arm, and still in pain. It hadn’t gone away. The headache was still there. But it was now accompanied with shame and guilt. I was a Christian, I was social, I was outgoing, I was funny, I was …”happy”.  ”Too blessed to be stressed”, but now an attempter of suicide. I was afraid of what people would say. I was afraid of what they would think of me. I didn’t want my mother to worry. I didn’t want her to see her only baby in a hospital bed, not like this. But she did. A day later she flew from all the way across the country, and as visitors and doctors came and went out of my room, the only thing that I could muster in between tears were “I’m not crazy. I promise…I’m not crazy”. 

Some may disagree with that comment. I’m a gemini, so I’m no stranger to the accusation. I’m emotional, passionate, impulsive, imaginative, an overthinker, and an exhaustive lover. I love hard. I feel hard. I feel easily. I stress quickly - I am my mother’s daughter. Carrier of neurosis. A nurturer. Giver until every drop is depleted. Loving you until it hurts. It does hurt. A lot. Much of my grief is my own. And some, i’ve managed to adopt from others. I’m an emotional sponge, collecting hurt & pain of as if it were my very own.  I attempt to save. Somewhere along the line I lost myself in the process. “Feelings” turned into boulders. Massive, obnoxious, intrusive boulders that rolled down a hill and became bigger than life…bigger than myself. I could no longer carry them.

That day, the dam had officially broke, the shelf had fallen, and walls that I had so meticulously created came tumbling down. After a of culmination of traumatic events; some from childhood, some from recent events …fear, anxiety, and low self esteem had become close acquaintances. But somewhere along the line, I had also become good friends with pretending and denial. I was a pro at laughing, joking, and entertaining. I was an overachiever. I’d give & do for others excessively. A natural people pleaser. It was a way of attempting to win approval. But it also worked with distracting myself and others from things that I was going through internally. I figured if I was social enough, busy enough, and if I gave enough, I wouldn’t have time to focus on the people, situations, experiences, and thoughts that tormented me. It was easier to pretend. 

I grew up watching “strong Black women”. Women who worked tirelessly at a 9-5, raised families on their own, supported their men, moved furniture, cured ills, loved unconditionally, and carried burdens without complaining or missing a beat. And if there ever was a dilemma, sickness, or issue, the proper thing to do was to go into your “prayer closet”. Prayer solved all things, and if it didn’t, you weren’t doing it right. I believed that admitting that I had a problem, would be a sign of weakness.  It would make me a failure. It would mean that I wasn’t saved enough, or brave enough, or competent enough. I would mean I was “crazy”. I feared the gossip, judgement, and assumptions. So I pretended. I pretended until it was too painful. 

That hospital visit four years ago led to me being diagnosed with Clinical Depression . Today, I still deal with a revolving door of disappointments, heartache, loneliness, fluctuating weight, health issues, anxiety, and confusion regarding my future & purpose. However, I am also equipped with something that is far greater than all of those things: faith & knowledge. My faith is what pushes me to fight. My knowledge is what informs me how to.I’m a little more self aware. I know my triggers. I know my symptoms. I know when i’m going to that place ….or when it’s coming to me. I promised myself not to ever let my mother see me in that hospital bed again, not that way and not under those terms. 

Instead of ignoring, covering, denying, and pretending, I try to speak. It’s downright scary at times, but it is as necessary as breathing. Silence hadn’t gotten me anywhere. I’m honest with myself. I try to be honest with others. I’ve opened up to my closest friends, as well as my employer about my mental illness. This is bigger than just having a bad day, being in a not so good mood, or making excuses. Like cancer, HIV, or diabetes, this is an illness  and I recognize it as such. Although I still sometimes have trouble asking for help (and accepting help), I am fully aware that I cannot do this alone. I seek the assistance of professionals. I utilize treatment. I reach out to those who can understand my story. However, I don’t walk around with a banner. I use discretion about when sharing is needed and appropriate. Everyone won’t “get it”. Everyone doesn’t have to. I have accepted the fact that there will be many that won’t understand me. It doesn’t make me or my testimony any less real. I wasn’t created to convince. I was created to speak. I was created to be a life changer. Starting with my own.

I may not have everything that I want, I may not be where I want to be, but I am growing. I am healing. I am fighting. I am loved. I am here…and I am honored to be. I still struggle. It’s a struggle just to write this. But it’s worth it. If not for myself, then for those who are silent.

"When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak" - Audre Lorde

image

This post is in recognition of #NoShame Day, which is meant to bring awareness to mental illness within the international Black community. It was started by Bassey Ikpi:  writer, mental health advocate, and founder of The Siwe Project 

If you are experiencing something similar to the information in my post, just know that you are not alone and that there is support and resources available to you. We need you. I need you. Contact me ANY time.

If you have someone in your life that is exhibiting some of the symptoms that I listed above, be patient with them. Be understanding. Listen. Don’t minimize their feelings. Be supportive, be a friend, and if possible, direct them to a professional or personal resource that could be of assistance. They need you …and the world needs them

Theme created by: Roy David Farber. Based on concepts from: Hunson's Black and Blue Eyes theme. Powered By: Tumblr.
1 of 1