Mental Illness in the Black Community – Bipolar Disorder
I had a pretty decent childhood. My mother had us very young and took care of us on her own until I was 12 years old. It wasn’t until then that my Manic-Depression started to rear its ugly head. See, all my life I went to pretty decent schools. But that year money was rough so we were placed in public housing. I went from extracurricular activities to being surrounded by kids that were already exposed to street life and sex. So naturally from peer pressure (and maybe starting my menstrual), I was drawn in. The girl that read every Harry Potter book had now smelled her own cooch…
I started being extremely rebellious. First not listening to my mother. Then it moved on to sneaking around to be around boys. I would have these episodes to where I would swear that I could care for myself if I left home. Then I’d run. My mom would man the streets looking for me, loving me telepathically until she saw my face again. Even though I could feel her heart beating in my chest every night as I inflicted the pain on myself, I wouldn’t come home. Stubborn… and afraid of what would happen if I got caught and thrown into a facility. Every time I was caught there was a man there waiting for me to squat and cough. Embarrassed, I proceeded to follow directions, hoping one day I’d be free and he could never see my lady parts again.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to understand the destruction of the impulsive behavior I was expressing. It wasn’t until I had my second daughter that I understood how crucial it was to learn about these explosive and impulsive episodes that were ruining the relationship between me and her father. I would cry uncontrollably and blame it on being pregnant. But after I gave birth the episodes continued… I had to get help.
In the black community, Mental Illness is seen as a “white people thing”. No one understands chemical imbalance. Most Blacks feel… If you are a bad child, you need your ass beat. No one tries to understand what is really going on in that child’s head. Psychology doesn’t exist. When you are troubled in the mind you feel like it’s you against the world. The only record that matters is the criminal one not the history of pain and abuse that may have triggered these episodes to begin with.
I was asked, “If there was anything in this world you could do what would that be?”. Still till this day, I cannot answer that. Every day I struggle with where my place is in this world. I mean I know my obvious place, I’m a mother so I know that I am here to that. But what is my real purpose? Sometimes I feel like I am alone in feeling this way but I know for a fact that I am not.
I know that I have talents but which one am I to pursue? This all becomes even harder to figure out when you have bipolar disorder and are having emotional roller coaster rides. I’m extremely unorganized and even reckless at times. I lose everything important that I own. This makes it very difficult to focus on one thing. I remember my mother saying that I needed to learn how to stop digging holes for myself and climbing back out. She said I need to not just climb out but learn to stay out. I was very good at getting myself out of sticky situations many of them I put myself in to begin with.
Staying afloat and ahead is the hardest part. Some days I feel like anything I want to do I could get it done no matter how ridiculous. I over book things, and later forget because I’m no longer in a manic state. Then I will beat myself up for not accomplishing all of the goals I set for myself. When I’m good I’m GREAT but when I’m down things slow down tremendously. I don’t want to get out of bed because I’m exhausted. I forget to eat. I don’t want to take my children to do fun things that they deserve to because I don’t want to be seen. Depression…
See I used to deny these things. I’m still not perfect with being able to handle my flaws. But I’ve come to a point in my life where I no longer have time to pretend that I am a perfect person and that I do not have an issue. I am a black woman in the United States of America, in a relationship with a black man, with three black children and the womb strength to make more. That’s a huge problem right now if you haven’t noticed. I need to get myself together because I have a family to provide for and every member is going through the same thing that I am. A racist society that is out to exterminate them or exploit them in some way. That means if I don’t help us live we will die.
Our black women are depicted as angry for having genuine rage towards the things being done to them. As any human should and would. Don’t you think you’d be pissed off a little if you had to teach your children to behave a certain way in public or else they could be killed because of the color of their skin? But not only is that an issue, society acts like black women do not get postpartum depression or any mental illness at all. If they do acknowledge it, it’s for all of the wrong reason. To over medicate us and fix one of the problems but not the others all while the meds attack our livers and kidneys. To make us look like we don’t have the sanity to speak on the fact that the system was not built for us. To exploit us on television for the world to see.
Quite frankly, I’m over it. That is why I am writing this, to let other black women know that it is ok for us to hurt. We are known for taking what we are given no matter how much that may be and make it WORK. We climb out of impossible positions and rise and make it better. We owe It to ourselves, to be honest, and not have to live in pain. We can’t let the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype scare us so much that we are afraid to show any emotion at all. We have a whole lot to do, a whole lot to help prepare for babies we are raising and the people whose lives we influence every day. We have to try to be the best us.