I smiled not because I was happy, I smiled because it was expected ~Etta D. Richards
This is the first of my two-part series of speaking about my own partnership with mental health. I don’t call it a battle because battles are won or lost. With partnerships, you come to a mutual agreement.
Growing up in a society where mental health is a HUGE taboo wasn’t easy. You’re either possed by the devil or your drugs (Weed, Cocaine) was laced. I remember seeing my uncle wrestle with his demons and everyone calling him crazy, I remember how lucid he was whenever he came back from the “crazy hill” that’s what they called the rehabilitation centre back home. We kids never knew what that place really was, we only know if you went “crazy” you went there to get better. Years later when my uncle resisted going to the “crazy hill” I tried to talk him down, tried to convince him it was the best place for him because it made him better. He looked at me with wild eyes and he said that place didn’t make him better, then he explained to me what really went on there. The solitude, the blue pills that made you wet yourself even when you didn’t want to, the white pills that made your mind so quiet you forget your own name. The place where the reward for good behaviour was an extra roll on your dinner plate and the reward for non-compliance was a padded cell with a gift of a jacket with buckles and belts.
That stuck with me. If your mind works against you, you grin and bear it. I smiled not because I was happy, I smiled because it was expected. At the age of twenty, the quietness became more frequent, my love for solitude grew into a need. Looking back, my awareness of confusion, the mental fog, the need for a coping mechanism and my fascination with the freedom of death, came way before I was twenty. I was never good with relationships, with myself or anyone else. It took too much effort to look in the mirror each day and say “I love you” to the person staring back and even more energy to say it to someone else. Trust me it takes years of practice to learn self-love, even more, to learn to love another.
You’re Not Crazy, Depression Is Real
It’s amazing how mental health only becomes popular when a celebrity claims it or doctors and scientist feels it worthy of studying or worthy of gracing the pages of some medical journal. Depression is not prejudiced of age, race, creed or gender. It creeps in, settles quietly while sending you on an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes you survive that ride, sometimes you don’t. Losing the battle doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means the freedom of death was more appealing than the suffering of living and not succeeding doesn’t mean failure, that are no failures in suicide, it means you have a greater purpose, it means you get to fight another day!
This as my contribution to Debbie’s Forgiving Friday series, where she writes about and invite others to share their thoughts on Forgiveness, Self-Love and Personal Growth. Debbie, thank you and I am so grateful the opportunity to contribute to your blog.
©Etta D. Richards