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.

A User’s Guide to Inadequate Women’s Syndrome

In our culture of categorization, there’s no shortage of diagnoses offered to a myriad of situations.  We’ve read about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, Battered Women’s Syndrome, and even Munchausen and Stockholm Syndromes.  I’m here to drop science on a new one: Inadequate Women’s Syndrome, or IWS for short.  This bullshit has tried to claim me as a victim.  I work. I mother. I drop off. I pick up.  I purchase. I mail. I arrange. I tidy. I sort. I write. I laugh. I lie. I sign. I meet. I groom. I read. I report.  I nurse. I fry, sear, simmer, scramble, stir, and strain.  This all, generally before 6 p.m.  I then move on to the demands of the evening: homework, laundry, the few friendships I’ve been able to maintain.  And the events, causes, campaigns, and headlines that keep me connected to the world around me.  This pool will never drain, people.  Nor should it.  There will always be more work, needs, tasks, terrors, surprises, and sales than one superwoman can handle.  And our pasts, as well as our present, feed us the lie that we must complete the list, cook the dinner, host the party, aspire to the promotion, attend the mixer, read the story, master the smoky eye, and of course, either snag, keep, and/or please your partner.

Really?!

Yes, really.

And the tragic part is we believe it.  We believe it, we chase it, and we literally get sick over it. Every day replaces the last as the stuff you didn’t get to.  Each project is completed only to begin planning the next. You are dumping your energy in a bottomless well.  The goal is never fulfilled.  There’s an ache, albeit dull and quite possibly tolerable, but something ain’t right.  These are the symptoms of IWS.  Feelings of inadequacy robbing you of the ability to treasure, celebrate, and more importantly, sit your gorgeous ass down and soak up your swag.

In the words of MC Lyte: Naw, I’m not havin’ it.

Here’s a little diddy that is the double-edged sword of empowerment vs. self-imposed neuroses:

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE Chaka.  This is a classic female anthem.  But we take it too damn far. I am SO not every woman.  And it most definitely is NOT all in me.

To chip away at the stinky, smelly, stubborn, veil of inadequacy, I’m devoting the next month to strategies to overcome IWS.  We will look to cause, character and community to fight back and re-claim the joy of our everyday lives.   I solicit your engagement and your input.  I don’t claim expertise, but I do commit to passion and persistence.

My lovelies, as I alluded in Healing: Part 2, our best is the mutha f@c$in’ bomb.  However, our definition of best is where we get caught up in the game.  The fault lines in our hearts become filled with the doubt and self-destructive goo that fuel the fire of inadequacy.  I know so many women who are unconvinced of their successes.  They almost chronically refuse to celebrate themselves.

Brown Betty ain’t havin’ it.

We are flippin’ that shit.  Finna do it on ‘em.

Here are some teasers on inadequacy (and the havoc it wreaks) that run the gamut from funny to spiritual.  Chew on ‘em for a spell, and join me for a ride I hope will help you destroy IWS forever.