I never really had much information or much exposure to information on mental health and the effect it has in the African-American community. I never really experienced it first hand, at least I didn’t realize that I have until after seeing what signs to look for. May is Mental Health Awareness month. It is a time when people who live with different mental illnesses find a way to bring about awareness to them and help other people who may not be aware or sure of themselves. And I want to talk about someone, I admire who has overcome what she has been through, and her fight to end the stigma over bipolar disorder, and also my own bout of depression.
Throughout my 29 years, I have gone through periods of depression, short-term and short-lived. From bullying in school, to watching violence between my mother and father in my early on childhood. I was sad, confused and misunderstood. When I was around four-five years old, I remember watching my father hit my mother on several occasions. It wasn’t something a young child should bear witness to, traumatic and damaging. It took me years to get over the things that I saw as a child, and even after several years later, when I confronted my father over it, He played it off as being a part of my very vivid imagination. He didn’t even want to admit what he had done, I managed to forgive him and his alcohol abuse and move on. Depression wasn’t something that was spoken about freely in my family. It still isn’t. You kind of had to tell your feelings in moderation. It wasn’t until high school I was able to mask a lot of what I felt and get over the things that would upset me. Laugh it off and pretend that it didn’t affect me any and for the most part, it hasn’t. What people say about me doesn’t bother me because I live in my truth and I have accepted (for the most part) what I’ve been through. But there has been life situations that not a lot of people know, and I know that there will be questions and people will expect answers, and I just want people to just respect that I am sharing bits and pieces of my life in the order I feel most comfortable.
The last five years has been a lot of high moments and a lot of low moments for me. I have managed to fight off depression for a good portion of those five years because I felt that I had to be whole for my child, in which resulted in me putting myself second and third to a lot of people. That caught up with me. I lost the one place that I have known and grew up in for almost 16 years, and that was devastating to me and my family. I moved there when I was nine years old, a tall, slinky black girl from the Bronx, moving to Manhattan, the upper west side, in a neighborhood that had a lot of hopes, and dreams. Yes, the neighborhood started off well, but it didn’t always stay that way. There where drugs, crimes, and criminals were feet away from children. But just mere blocks away, you had what Manhattan was known for, Central Park. A large monumental park that was around 40-45 blocks long and 15 blocks wide, and stretched from the East side to the West side (where I lived). The building I lived in til I was 25 years old, was known as one of the worst buildings in the neighborhood. And even as a child, I stayed to myself and kept my head down. I don’t miss the bad memories there, but I do miss the times when things were good. Like graduations, birthdays, Holidays, the birth of my two sisters and my son, Michael. Shortly after losing my home of sixteen years, I lost my grandmother. She passed away literally 3 months afterwards and that was probably one of the most worst pains I have ever felt. All through out my pregnancy with Michael, I was visiting my grandmother between the hospitals she was in, rehabilitation center (nursing homes), etc. It was so hard for me to see her in that way, with a tract, not being able to eat solid foods, being so small in weight and not being able to walk. It killed me each and every time and yet, I still had to be strong for the child that I was carrying. I had Michael in the late part of August of 2011, and she wasn’t able to see him for the first couple of months because she was in Isolation ward. By the following year before Michael turned 1 years old, she was granted the right to come home, she was showing signs of getting better. I was even able to stay with her for a weekend, while my aunt when on her honeymoon (after 10 years) with her husband and children. *Another blog for another time.* Two months after that, my family and I lost our home and we moved in with my grandmother and she passed in December of 2012.
I looked to find comfort in my friends who I felt most comfortable sharing–what was going on in my life–with. And for the most part, it was of some help. However, I started to feel like everything around me was tumbling down, things that I have worked so hard for, things that I knew I deserved. I would come online and look to distract myself from the outside world, only to get tormented and harassed by people who had no idea what was going on in my personal life. When I tell people today, what I have been through and they ask me why I never spoken about it, I just couldn’t allow myself to be vulnerable at that time, to put myself in that position. I started paying closer attention to Yashi Brown and the sense of courage she shown telling her truth, her story. It brought comfort, but not enough for me to share my story, until now. I remember reading one particular story of hers, which came out probably around the time I needed to hear it the most. Read here: Yashi’s story.. Yashi has done public speaking events, she has been featured on TV and shared her story with millions in written interviews. She has also released a book, called “Black Daisy In a White Limousine: 77 Poems:the Art of Life, Love and Family“. A book of poems she chose to share that she has written through times she started to overcome her feeling of hopelessness. I have respected Spoken Word Artists for their rawness and honesty, and their talent of articulating their thoughts into art. Yashi’s book and her story came around the time where I was trying to make life decisions that I just wasn’t ready to make, I felt like the whole world was sitting on my shoulders and yet, I still put on this front because I knew that people could not handle me being at my worse. Megan had to be strong for everyone else around her. I couldn’t be weak, I had a son who needed me, a family who relied on my wit and strength, and friends who needed a shoulder to cry on. I needed to be STRONG, even when I wasn’t. I was never able to thank her for sharing a story that most people would have never bounced back from, I missed my opportunity of meeting her and thank her personally due to my living arraignments. That is one of the reasons why I am writing this today, to thank her. I fell into a deep depression during that time and I ate almost everything that wasn’t nailed down. I threw pity parties for myself , I feel sorry for myself and took my anger out on the wrong people. I allowed the wrong people to bring me down to their level and I allow my pride to keep it all in and just internalize EVERYTHING that I felt. I was a sad and angry person during that time and I couldn’t figure out how to get myself out of that hole. And on top of all of that, I felt like one person in particular tried to take control over the one thing that I did have control over and I just went into overdrive. Yashi said that “[Poetry helped] tap into places and leave behind the horror of hopelessness I never fully understood … ” and with that I had to find something that would help me heal from all of the things that I have suffered from and kept to myself for so long. I took to writing. I wrote short stories and I started to blog again–which helped me in the long run. unfortunately, people thought I was being vindictive for sharing what I had been through, but it was (and still is) a healing process for me and I don’t apologize for it. When Yashi wrote her poetry, she wrote with no barriers, no obstruction of her freedom of speech, her freedom of expression and that’s all I wanted for myself. Freedom of expression.
It took me getting BACK into astrology, re-learning about myself again, re-aligning myself back to the things that made me happy at one point. There was a disconnection there, and it would have gotten worse had I not stopped it, accepted it for what it was, and make the turn around for me and my family. I stopped seeing myself as damaged goods, someone who was broken beyond repair and I started seeing myself as a woman who had life knock her down and she is finally getting herself back up. The strength came from within after listening to so many people finding triumph after the storms in their own lives. It was a matter of who had the worst bruises, or who went through the toughest struggles, it was all about people choosing to make a change in their lives. I don’t know if I will ever get a chance to meet Yashi in person, but I hope that she knows that she has helped more people than she realizes, because there are people like myself, who suffers alone. People such as myself, who manages to put on a FRONT because they didn’t want people to worry about them, they didn’t want to have to explain to people why they feel the way that they feel. They feel as though they are a burden on their family and friends. But I don’t want to feel like a burden to anyone, anymore. I want to be able to write all of this out and move on from it, and I am working on that one day at a time. Each and every day, I take the time that is needed to never slip back into that dark phase ever again. I meditate, I lean on crystal healing, I try to keep my chakras aligned and I laugh a lot, because laughter is still the best medicine. So I wanted to end this piece with one of my many favorite poems from Yashi called, “Creator“.
I feel this deep longing for you
As if you’re not there
This space stretching from nowhere to nowhere
So wide and deep
In all directions and dimensions your circle of longing is spreading
Shaping and reshaping
Soft and so weak
Pliant and succumbing
I love you with this wrenching need
Don’t you feel it???
Can’t you see?
Of what I have no idea
The force of failure?
The force of greed?
The force of nature couldn’t compete
As if I have something to prove
But I am good!
I swear…I really am.
Pain go away, quit compounding and rebounding – let me get on with it
I guess this is a time for gratefulness, thankfulness
Bow down to the earthfulness
Everything is as it should be
I am okay
And will let go