a love letter to ‘crazy’ black girls
By Erin White
October 3, 2018
The one goes out to the Black girls who don’t socialize anymore, because of their anxious, intrusive thoughts. To the spoonies rationing energy to make it through the day, and the spectrum babes who monitor minutiae to make others more comfortable. You’re not alone.
When my therapists ask me how I’m doing I feel incredulous.
How could anything be okay?! Like, I’m not kidding.
My latest depressive episode has lasted one year and 11 months. I started self-harming again eight months in. And by the time Nia Wilson was killed, I lost it. Not just for her, for me. For us. She was the latest reminder that society disposes of Black women literally and symbolically, for sport. That our worth to the collective seems negligible when so much of our society’s culture is shaped by our existence. The projection of worthlessness onto Nia that is representative of an ugly, greater truth.
I feel like I’ve been “sick” my whole life. From being born with a bizarre-o digestive condition normally experienced by male-assigned babies, to the nervous breakdowns which seem to appear ever increasingly. I’ve always had problems—with school, specifically; and running my mouth and losing homework, in particular. The ADHD diagnosis was a godsend. The Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) makes it harder for me to disguise certain sounds in my head, or in writing. For example, sometimes—although rarely—I am completely unable to sound out words I’ve used in the past and recognize in the moment. My brain simply won’t ‘process’ phonetic information, and I’m left at a loss until I can hear it pronounced for me. As a writer, this is super fun.
But this ain’t a pity party. This is the shame-shedding of stigmas surrounding mental illness and neurodivergent in the Black community. It’s a call-out for the Black girls living in shame because of their Borderline Personality Disorder or Aspergers, and those still undiagnosed, confused, isolated and without resources. There is nothing wrong with you! As Black women+ we’re expected to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, providing emotional labor free of charge to most (if not all) of the people in our lives, while fewer mental health professionals are able to understand the nuances of intersectionality.
Black folks’ distrust of the health care system is historically founded and completely rational. Wise, even. If and when non-white patients seek mental health care treatment, we are still vulnerable to racial prejudice and gaps in cultural competency that can lead to misdiagnosis. (At one point I even had my segmental vitiligo diagnosed as a skin infection by a white doctor.) It’s taken me most of my life to understand and/or be able to recognize the intensity of my various divergencies, despite having had access to those who could.
Black Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience emotional serious mental health issues compared to other communities
- Black Americans are more likely to experience traumatizing life events like homelessness and exposure to violent trauma
- Black women are amongst the most under-treated demographic for depression, despite the previous stats
- Just 3.7 percent of the members of the American Psychiatric Association and 1.5 percent American Psychological Association members are Black.
As with individuality, “weakness” is not something Black women are afforded. In media, most of the representations of us are still limited to unbreakable badasses and overbearing Black man-haters. But it’s not too much strength that’s the problem, it’s the lack of humanity that seems to leave little room for anything else. It’s bullshit and “I’m sorry.” We deserve more.
Over the summer, I pulled a full Girls, Interrupted—public screaming included—and found myself faced with the reality that I was really not okay. And I’m struggling to accept the okay-ness in that. What I do know is that we’re not alone. I’m privileged enough to have a parent who has not once let me down on my side, and I know that’s not the norm.
To you, loves, who are sinking into darkness: your diagnoses do not define you. I like to think of it as extra seasoning. Just some stoner-ass creative seasoning to spice your shit up. Sure that means a lil’ acid reflux for time to time but we got Tums. The more I simmer on it, the more I’ve said “fuck it” to the notion of mental health looking any one way. We’re all kinda fucked up, I’m finding, but it’s still our job to heal and peacefully function, however that looks to you.
And I hope you realize that like with anything else, different doesn’t mean bad.
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