Dear Black People, I've Been Called 'Crazy' Too
I want to scream to top of my lungs, I am not crazy.
Can anyone hear me? I am not crazy. I am depressed. The staunch stigma of being depressed while being a black women reverberates in my mind often more times than I wish. I guess I always felt “crazy or different.” Being an introvert and prone to panic attacks when confronted with social situations which now I know is social anxiety, I was seen by family and friends in my culture as weird and downright “crazy.”
I can remember as early as elementary school becoming so nervous and anxious before school that I couldn’t hold my bowels. When I arrived at school I didn’t eat for the entire day in fear that I would embarrass myself. Not being able to articulate this at such a young age caused these symptoms and episodes to continue and heighten. As a result living with “social anxiety” became my new normal. A new normal that isolated me from peers and social activities which further perpetrated the criticism of being looked at as crazy and weird.
All awhile the need to hide from the criticism and the stigma of anxiety and being different became an unwanted, unsolicited, undesirable identity. It is a challenge to maneuver your life around a dark disorder that seems never-ending; however after awhile one begins to learn nuisances that support the disorder rather than ease the pain. Never eat in the lunch room because it’s too crowded, miss the bus so you won’t have to sit next to strangers, sit in the back of class where you will go unnoticed.
All attempts towards vanishing, becoming invisible, retreating into the abyss of the depression and anxiety.
After years of hearing my peers called me crazy, it became a numbing experience. Unfortunately, at times I didn’t notice it; ignoring the fact that my name was a smear around the school and unfriendly words spewed during recess as I walked by became my own “normal.” Until I found myself falling asleep with tears in my pillow every night finally recognizing the sting words and behaviors of indifference had on my entire being-belittling my existence turning depression into something I brought upon myself.
Fast-forward years ahead towards my failed marriage the same disdain was heaved and hurled about me; “You’re crazy” resounding for over 10 years from the man who vowed to love me for better or for worse.
When I would say I was depressed in a sullen confession to him he would loudly say, “Black people don’t get depressed, pray about it.” This avoidance of my mental condition became a learned habit potentially passed down.
Without necessary treatment the “crazy” feelings were too never go away. For me this felt like excessive loneliness, sadness, crying, low-self worth, overeating, negative self-talk, isolation, hair pulling, nail biting and a host of other habitual obsessions that were part of my way of ritualistically trying to heal myself.
It wasn’t until I entered my glory 40th birthday that I began to take this seriously.
Struggling sadness, episodes of fatigue and being unable to function frankly began to wear on me. Affecting my career, relationships and physical health to the point where I couldn’t leave the house or attend to my own affairs responsibly. Yes, depression will take you there.
Now single and still aware of the stigma and the brevity of this ailment; I no longer allow the word “crazy” to linger as a way to describe myself. If others choose to do so I am very knowledgeable, it is only because of their own ignorance and lack of understanding of mental health and the impact it has on the lives of millions.
What I want to say today to my elementary self would be that you are not an embarrassment and girlfriend, you most definitely are not crazy.
You are special, valued, creative, whose kind spirit and compassion is being developed through sensitivity of one’s self. To my older self and married self; I would say once again kick the crazy talk and know that you are easy to love and beyond measure, worthy of goodness and all the pleasure and passion this life has to offer.
After carefully seeking medical attention, therapy, medication and spiritual practices that are a good fit for me and my lifestyle, the light is beginning to shine, diminishing some of the darkness.
It has been a long journey with times of self-defeating thoughts and caregivers who were not always sensitive or empathetic to the entirety of my condition; however, as an advocate, writer, poet and driven survivor, I owe it to other sisters to tell my story and unabashed truth with the badge of dignity we all so rightfully and lovingly deserve.
We are not crazy… can you hear me? We are whole creatures, beautiful and quite san,e learning to live our lives fully and as we all deserve without judgment or words of harm.
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