Sick, Part I: Black Girl in the Psych Ward

Golf pencils. When someone asks me what comes to mind after my brief stint in the psych ward, that’s my response: golf pencils. I never want to see another one.  I likely won’t have to since I don’t play or even plan to play golf now or in the future. But even if I did by some chance find myself on a course pretending to care about dropping that dimpled ball into a hole far, far away, I swear I will use a crayon or a sharpie. Golf pencils be damned.

There were a series of steps that resulted in my admission to the hospital.  More phases than steps, I suppose. Survival. Functional dysfunction. Malfunctioning dysfunction. Deterioration. Denial of the deterioration. Detached zombie. Withering mess. Shaking and detached.

These are of course not technical terms.  Nor can I say that they happened in that exact sequence. I can say, however, that I will never be the same. There is something very permanent about losing your mind. Even after you begin to reclaim it, you are putting it back together using different tools. These tools reshape and reconfigure all the pieces, wires and bits differently than they began. That’s good and bad.  But you are indeed different.  Forever.

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I lost my shit approximately five weeks ago. Now when I say lost my shit, I am referring to a dismantling of the connection between my body and mind; a severance between me and the world. I was no longer an actor. I was only a recipient. Of thoughts, of pain, of symptoms and wreckage.  Nothing but contradictions: flurry and paralysis, fight and concession.

My breakdown was a mudslide of sorts. I call it a mudslide because 1) it was most certainly a natural disaster; and 2) I read this explanation on Wonderopolis:

Mudslides occur when a large amount of water causes the rapid erosion of soil on a steep slope.

And that, my friends, was like looking in a mirror. I was a disaster waiting to happen. The makings were always there, but I had managed to keep the precipitation and physics at bay. When it was getting too slippery I frantically worked to dry out.  Drying out in my case was isolation, withdrawing from everyone and everything, and escaping via words (books, writing, web) to avoid my reality. When I had retreated enough to choke back the dangers of being found out, uncovered, questioned by those who truly know me, I would re-integrate, apologizing to those I had flaked on, put off, rescheduled, ignored.

Shame is the real driver for me.  I simply hate my brain and its inability to function in everyday life. Function, independence, value-add, purpose; these are the qualities that lie at the center of my self-worth.  Even now I can’t shake the lessons of generational trauma, systemic oppression, and sexism:

  • Prove your worth through performance
  • Get up and push through
  • Us before you
  • Some things are not talked about
  • That’s something for the White folks

These phrases, along with others, run through my ill mind like ticker tape. And honestly, there is some truth to them. There are individuals who, if trusted with the truth, use it against you or very quickly want you to prove that what you are feeling is real, that you aren’t using it a s a crutch or excuse for bad behaviors. You know what? FUCK THEM. I am grateful that my brain goes to self-destruction and not violence to others because if it did, there would be some wounded ass naysayers around the 253. I would be going all Beatrix Kiddo unleashing the pain that their disbelief causing me and others fighting to remain functional. It would look similar to this:

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) I turn my Hattori Hanzo sword on to myself, ripping the light out of my own life, saving all of my compassion for others no matter how they hurt me. I refuel with reality TV, hard liquor and prayer (yes, all 3 of the things go together!). And when I mustered enough will to get through, I’m at it again.

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Nothing could prepare me for the process of seeking medical help for my mental health crisis. No amount of research, anecdotes, or second hand stories prepare you to be humiliated, dehumanized and disregarded by the system. Seriously, it’s the shit that nightmares are made of.

I’ll break the whole sordid affair down in part 2. And explain why golf pencils can go straight to hell.

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2 thoughts on “Sick, Part I: Black Girl in the Psych Ward

  1. Annie Jones-Barnes says:

    Thanks Kels! Loved this.

    [cid:image001.gif@01CCAF81.56EAC450]

    Annie Jones-Barnes, Executive Vice President
    Northwest Leadership Foundation
    1119 Pacific Ave, Ste 800 | Tacoma, WA 98402
    Office: 253.272.0771 x107 | Fax: 253.272.0719
    Website: http://www.northwestleadership.org

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