“You guys I’m so tired of being so angry and exhausted”
“It’s horrible and I’m so mad all the time”
“My mental health stuff is bad again”
“I’m exhausted, too”
I pulled a couple of quotes directly from texts I have gotten in the last couple of days. I don’t know what to do with this. Except I read this piece by Toni Morrison and it helped. Maybe it will help you too.
This blog was supposed to be about mental health and humor but this entry is mostly about race. Specifically, it is about me being black.
Did you know I was black?
I’m black. My parents are both from Jamaica and so I have Chinese-Jamaican mixed heritage. It’s something Americans tend to find fascinating but is pretty common in Jamaica. It’s not something that I thought a ton about until I went away to college, a lot of Caribbean people in South Florida have mixed heritage. My best friend from middle school (hi Annique!) was also Chinese-Jamaican and we just happened to live in the same neighborhood. While I am proud to be Chinese I have always felt more black. So much of Jamaican culture was built by black people. Plus, in the United States if you look even a little black you are considered it. My parents have instilled a lot of pride in me and I love talking about our family and cultural identity.
Last night I was at a very nice dinner party and a guy started trying to justify blackface to me. I was the only black person there and he was trying to play devil’s advocate due to some local recent events. For some context, a lot of my friends in Richmond are posting about something that happened at a restaurant and bar called Balliceaux. A man who worked there wore blackface during his shift. This man also posted pictures of himself on social media. He claims it was deliberately provocative and supposed to be shocking.
For those that don’t live in Richmond, Balliceaux is a hipstery bar known for their cocktails. I have spent many evening there dancing or going to events. It is slightly fancier than other bars in the vicinity but definitely has a younger crowd.
Balliceaux later posted an apology that has now been deleted. Honestly, I found the apology incredibly insulting. While they did say sorry they also made sure to mention that the man who did this was a nice guy and not a racist. It seemed like they were more interested in protecting that guy’s reputation than reaching out to anyone they may have hurt.
If you are sorry and condemn something just say that you regret it. That’s it. Maybe reach out to the community you have offended and see if you can do something to repair this if they are open to it. Anything else feels like you are justifying your actions. Don’t add in that someone is a nice guy and not a racist. That is not the point. Racism is more complicated than that. Plenty of people who are deeply racist would be perfectly nice to me in public. I probably know someone who has racist beliefs that I think of as a nice guy. You probably do too. These things can exist together.
The thing is, I like talking about race and racism. It is embedded in our culture and history. But it is still a weird feeling to be the only black person in the room and have to explain why blackface is wrong, always wrong. Somehow, you become the representative of all black people. I am not in pain over this or someone’s decision to wear blackface. I am tired. I am tired of people not understanding that when racist stuff like this happens other people do not realize that it is attacking my humanity. I am tired of people thinking that I am the “right kind” of black person because I am an otherwise nonthreatening nerd and listen to Fleetwood Mac.
I am so incredibly proud that I have seen so many friends condemn this. I have been the only black girl in the room so many times. So many times I have been the only person of color in the room and have felt scared to speak up.
Depression is a place. For some people it is a place they rarely visit. These people are vaguely aware of depression, like the way you think about Delaware. Others have never gone there. Some people are permanent residents. I don’t live there but I have racked up quite a few frequent flier miles.
I have had to learn the same lessons over and over again. First, I feel good. I love feeling good. I am mostly a happy and cheerful person.
Then, something happens. I sleep too much. I don’t sleep. Either way I am always tired but restless. I make excuses and stay in. For awhile, I power through even though it is creeping back in. I am treading water. I tell everyone I am fine.
I am not fine.
I know depression well. Neglect becomes the rule. I stop cooking for myself and the apartment becomes messy. I am suddenly convinced that the medication I take has stopped working. I can’t write.
I have done a lot to try and shift myself out of this state. I have tried many things that people say to try. Some stuff, such as talk therapy and exercise, has been helpful. I love therapy, even when it is hard. My therapist is who I go to when I need help sorting all of my emotional stuff out. I also think this self-care flow chart is helpful. Think of it as mental triage.
Other stuff not so much. For instance I have never noticed a shift in my mood based on my diet. My guess is that I am basically healthy and unless I start suddenly eating all junk it really isn’t going to make a difference. Most anxiety medications make me super drowsy and spacey so I have learned to stay away from them.
I started this blog intending it to be funny. I don’t think this post is very funny. Oh well.
I’m in the middle of a panic attack, again. I just tweeted, “Having an actual panic attack. Will a walk help? Journaling? Yelling?” and got a lot of helpful responses. My friends remind me to go outside, to walk, and to breathe. Instead of doing any of these things I go to a coffeeshop and I order a breakfast sandwich and the biggest latte they make. Before my order comes I grip the side of the table with my left hand because I feel a little like I am going to float away.
Maybe starting a funny mental health blog is a horrible idea. Will you like me better or worse once you see how crazy I really am? Maybe I am on the cusp of slipping back into a deep depression complete with episodes of dissociation and depersonalization. Maybe I need to get my medication changed or adjusted. Maybe I should listen to my wonderful therapist who tells me that she thinks I am more likely suffering from burnout and mental exhaustion rather than a depressive spell. Maybe I need to start working out again and cut back on all the caffeine. Should I go paleo? Vegan? Try hypnosis or a float tank? Maybe I should go back to bed. Or work on my dissertation. Definitely I need to work on my dissertation but this coffeeshop is playing Interpol and it is reminding me of all the ways my crazy messed up my last relationship. Probably my crazy will mess up my current relationship too.
Except, it might not. Maybe therapy really is giving me the tools I need to communicate or whatever. Maybe this panic attack will pass like all the other ones have. Maybe this blog will help.