I don’t always play well with others. I am occasionally prone to outbursts. Doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s kinda epic. I feel things very deeply. I am nurturing and creative. I am generous and sometimes impulsive.
Some people call that crazy.
And…I guess it is.
During college, I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It’s is defined as” a mental health condition in which a person is often worried or anxious about many things and finds it hard to control this anxiety.” Sometimes you have panic attacks. Sometimes the worry becomes so intense you develop heart palpitations that make you think you’re going to have a heart attack. Sometimes you get so depressed that you might sleep an entire weekend anyway. Anything might make you cry. Your bowels may betray you when you’re scared. You will need something for sleep, if you want to get any when you’re going through a bout of anxiety. Sometimes, life events can trigger feelings of deep pain from the past, that manifests in the present. My weak spot is criticism. When I was growing up, making a mistake meant you were “possessed by the devil,” or that you “would never grow up to be anything,” or that everybody else’s kid was better than you.
People will judge you. Folks will tell you to just get over it. Others will tell you that you need Jesus. Some will poke fun of you and make jokes, because your faults make them feel superior. “I may be “X,” but at least I’m not CRAZY like Christelyn!” *cue gales of laughter and tee-hees*
My condition most likely originated in childhood, being raised by a woman who had an undiagnosed mental disorder herself. She yelled. She whipped me. I still feel the soft, puffy flesh on the back of my leg when she pushed me against the piano stool with a broken hinge that split the upper section of my calf open because I didn’t practice my lessons to her satisfaction. She told me she hated me. She told me I was a slut before I’d ever had sex. During one of her outbursts, she accused my father of having sex with me because he deigned to defend me. But she wasn’t always that way. Sometimes she was loving and generous. I remember her beautiful alto voice as she sang to me at bedtime. She always smelled like powder and flowers. I remember loving to tuck my head into her chest as she hummed and rocked me. She was both loving and cruel in equal and unpredictable doses. I would never know what made her happy and what would anger her, which most likely, led to a rewiring of my brain. Because I would learn later, is that the worst thing a parent can do to their child is to be completely unpredictable. The genetic groundwork was already there, but my mother’s version of “nurturing” brought the condition to fruition.
My GAD is as much a part of me as my arm, finger, or foot. I will most likely have to be on medication for the rest of my life to manage most of the symptoms. Not surprisingly, my mother and brother disapprove of this, and tell me I just need to pray more and read the bible. However, my husband, in-laws, and extended family have accepted my condition without judgement, and understand that this illness is just as real as cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure. And surprisingly, I have reduced my risk of acquiring the above disorders because I had people around me who cared enough to encourage me to seek help, not with scorn or airs of superiority, but out of genuine love. You see, there are lots of people in the black community who like to throw around the word “crazy” or even try to be some sort of arm-chair therapists and spit out diagnoses like they know what they’re talking about. And often, these are these same “perfect” people who bury their pain with food and subsequently battle with obesity, are chronically uncoupled and unable to form lasting attachments, job hop, have no financial stability, no husband, no wife, NOBODY, but think they are SUPERIOR to you because HEY! at least they’re not “crazy” like you, right?
People think that they insult me by calling me “crazy,” and that’s okay. Because my brand of “crazy” means that I’m sensitive and highly creative, bold, daring, and empathetic. My brand of “crazy” touches people. Yes; you can hurt me. Yes; you can make me cry. But you will not KILL my spirit. I’ve got my Zoloft. But you have your Twinkies. I have my husband and family, you have your vibrator and bad reality television. I have my garden, and you have your cigarettes. I have my wine sippy cup and you have your spending addiction and credit card debt.
And as an alarming number of high-profile black women are committing suicide because there is so much pressure on us to “keep it together” and “hold it down,” I’m so grateful that I live amongst people who accept the full spectrum of my humanity. We all gotta deal with pain, but I prefer to deal with it head on in healthy ways, like medication, counseling, good nutrition, yoga, and a good bottle of red wine. You will not shame me for my “crazy.” Because my “crazy” is changing the world. And this “crazy” broad wouldn’t change a single thing about herself. I love me, warts and all.
If you think you might be suffering from a mental health disorder and want to talk about it in private, feel free to email me. I’ll try to help as best I can and of course, keep you anonymous. [email protected]
UPDATE: In a matter of two hours from this article’s publication, my inbox is full of people who are also suffering from these challenges. If you’re a paid member of the forum and would like to share your story, I’ve started a thread over there. Posting is private. However, I suggest you not use your full names.