Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blog Series: "Crying Over Spilt Milk" - One Crazy Black Woman's Guide Through Bipolar Disorder

I HATE anecdotal stories on my life. I feel like others have suffered worse. My life has not been bad. I come from a loving two parent home. My father is a dentist, my mother is an educator. My grandfather was the president of Bethune-Cookman University for 28 years! My grandmother was an educator, herself.  To say, I came from a crime-ridden, gang-infested, destituted as a Black child growing up in Southern California in the 1970's and 1980's, would be a lie. I grew up well. I attended the best schools, I graduated from them. I had the best education and excelled at it.

But this is not a story about how well I grew up and all the opportunities my family afforded me. No. This story is no matter what, of all the external things my parents could afford to give to me, I suffer from Bipolar Disorder - Manic-Depression. I wanted to kill myself and I attempted several times as a teenager, before I was caught...

However, I am getting ahead of myself...

Most of my young adult life was spent... "Crying Over Spilt Milk"... I am a crier. I am a crybaby. I cry. My tears could feed a river. I have such powerful emotions when I feel bad, when I hurt, when I have hurt others, when a sad part of a movie shows--or even a less than 5 minute Youtube clip appears like this one below, that I WILL CRY--the waterworks are on! I AM A CRIER!

Needless to say, I have learned with my condition, that I am probably an empath that is secretly sent down here to Earth to help those make life-transitions to better place -- oh wait, that's my Star Wars addiction feeding in...

But let's go back to my youth and not rehash the bad thing of considering suicide, but when I decided on my own at 18 years old, that it is time to incorporate professionally licensed healthcare providers into my lifestyle.

Back in the late 1980's, young people did not suffer from bipolar - manic depression. That everyone who was "mentally ill" was crazy. Those who were hospitalized in a mental institution would have a lobotomy and come out an invalid in a straight-jacket. Those were the GROSS stereotypes rampant in my community at the time - many still are today!

But I decided to seek help anyway.


Because of her:

Mama Lucy

My grandmother, my mother's mother, Mama Lucy. In the early 1980's, my mother had to make the VERY HARD DECISION to take my grandmother and relocate her to San Diego to take care of her. My grandmother was SERIOUSLY ILL. She had atherosclerosis, breast cancer, thyroid problems and was in an out of hospitals in Atlanta, Georgia. Then... She had Alzheimer's... In 1983, the understanding of what Alzheimer's was and the devastation of how it impacted everyone, was ABSENT! There were ZERO support groups, ZERO trained medical professionals and caregiving-attendants...WHATEVER!

My grandmother lived a VERY HARD LIFE! She was poor, uneducated, had way too many kids, with no male-fathers present...but she LOVED! That's ALL SHE HAD WAS LOVE! In the segregated South, impoverished, with no one but her children, in the midst of it all, she had my mother who learned from her love how to love...

Once my grandmother got to San Diego, California, it was my first exposure to what health disparities look like and the inhumanity of it. Not only that, my watching my mom learn on her own how to best navigate a piss-poor medical system, I learned that I would NEVER EVER WANT TO BE IN MY END DAYS LIVING LIKE THAT if I could help it.

My grandmother had to be placed in a nursing home mother is NOT a healthcare provider -- it was too much for her, with a full-time job, two children, doing what she had to do, and then my grandmother was sleepwalking, doing strange activities by herself, yelling at objects my brother and I left in our pool, it was too much! My family watched the slow death of a fully-functional human being dwindle to a catatonic state in her last days. NO ONE SHOULD EVER LIVE LIKE THAT! IT IS INHUMANE!

Don't ask about hospice care because in 1987, that did not exist or was not fully functional in San Diego.

Some of what happened to my grandmother is due to substance abuse due to stresses in her life. Let us be real, several kids at a young age with different fathers - with what child support exactly in the segregated South? Because one of the fathers was not Black... Poverty. Sicknesses and diseases. What healthcare, exactly? Abusing substances took the pain away from a bad life. Unfortunately, it also causes several serious chronic conditions that made the end of her life painful.

The sad part is these were all spoken in whispers to me because I was young. I could see the stress it caused my mother because well, what support did she have back then? And no, let me be clear, this story is NOT about my parent's fault for my issues. This story is why I decided to get help for my mental health condition.

My grandmother died at the same time I had tried to kill myself in college. I took close to 60-tabs of something. Then my heart started palpitating and I got scared. I called my aunt from my father's side, who called my dad and my dad told my mother. My dad said that my mother walked upstairs into her room and cried...I hurt my mother.

Then my parents tried to get me professional help, because they were trying so hard to understand.

I remember the psychiatrist asking me, "If you wanted to kill yourself, why did you ask for help?"

I said, "Because I thought I might die this time..."

A few days later, Mama Lucy, died. 

The funeral was lovely, all my mother's brothers and sisters showed up in support. One brother, my uncle to this day, was the greatest supporter. And I think it was the fact that the entire community came in support of my mother by sending so many flowers that the funeral home needed another room. My mother broke down again, and just cried. 


That meant, I needed a professionally licensed healthcare provider. But where do I start?

That is the subject of the next chapter.