Submitted February 2, 2015
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder twelve years ago.
Actually, the accurate statement would be:
I’ve been seeing a therapist for twelve years, it was only five years ago that I mustered up the courage to ask the question.
“What the hell is wrong with me?”
“You have Bipolar Disorder.”
“You’ve got to be shitting me!”
I was horrified.
Now, after twelve (albeit sporadic) years of therapy, I was willing to admit that I had some issues; no one spends that much time (or money) on a therapist couch for kicks. Personally, I had chalked it up to unresolved issues from childhood, i.e. “Mommy issues”; growing up with a mother like mine could make anyone a little ticky ticky boom. I wasn’t ready to hear “Bipolar Disorder,” and I wasn’t willing to accept it.
While he was busy explaining Bipolar Disorder, the biological and environmental factors, I had already stopped listening. I moved on to questioning the man’s credentials and if therapy was what I really needed. After that session, I decided to discontinue therapy and I never told anyone about what happened.
Why would I do that you ask?
The answer is . . . drumroll please . . .
I am a strong Black woman.
What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.
I roll with the punches and I never let them see me sweat!
Those were just a few examples of a dozen clichés spoon fed to little black girls in every urban city across America. I’ve heard them, believed them, taught them to my daughter, shouted them from my self-imposed throne. I live them.
People have always told me how strong I am. How smart, capable, tenacious and how independent I am. Yet immediately upon hearing the words “Bipolar Disorder,” I felt as if he had stripped me of those qualities, leaving me with new characteristics like; vulnerable, needy, stupid, crazy or even worse… weak.
There was a time, back when I was a little girl, when I blamed myself for failing to properly adhere to those images of strength, causing me for a shorty time to be certified as prey. It was through those experiences that I learned my survival depended on my full investment into the images of the “strong black woman”; there is no room for weakness, there is a way to talk, a way to walk and a very particular way you act in order to navigate your way through the myriad of caustic forces bombarded at you. In time, I did what was required of me, what is required of all little black girls; I strapped on the “strong black woman armor” (which by the way comes in a boxset with hot combs, hair grease and doorknockers) and I set forth on a journey into this thing that I called a life.
I became Jada! Strong and level headed. Handling my business sister that was “Doing it for herself.” I was the fun loving free spirit, optimistic and adventurous; smart and funny; everyone’s everything you need me to be, the never let you down, good time, go to girl and she didn’t take no mess.
I really liked that Jada, she got stuff done; it was these other bitches always managed to throw me off.
What no one ever knew about me was that there were times when I would stay up for days, writing screenplays, drafting books, editing books; deeming myself to be the BEST WRITER EVER!! Because duh? God gave me these gifts and I must SHARE THEM WITH THE WORLD! And, hey, since I don’t really need much sleep, I may as well plan my next ten projects, write the business plans and send out flyers, because my innovative ideas will surely bless the children AND/OR save the world (PROBABLY BOTH) from destruction. Somewhere within those days I will have found the time to dye my hair, perm my hair, braid my hair; take it all down and weave my hair before deciding . . . Oh who really needs hair anyway? In the span of a few sleepless nights, I will have purchased jewelry, clothes and shoes because they were so pretty; the fact that I couldn’t afford them didn’t matter. RENT SHMENT, this dress will KNOCK THE SOCKS OFF my latest fling because if you didn’t know by now: Jada is THE SEXIEST BITCH KNOWN TO MAN! I can have anyone that I want and I usually did, although it won’t be for long, because they bore me.
I am J.A.D.A. my mind is an endless crescendo of ideas and theories and everyone loves me. I have to admit, despite all the explaining I had to do for my erratic behavior; those days were fun and it was hard not to believe it anything but normal.
But what is normal?
On occasion, my normal was also disturbing thoughts impeding on my optimistic nature. It was an overwhelming sense of dread, turning me into a recluse disappearing from all social functions, breaking promises and missing deadlines. Normal was panic attacks and obsessive compulsive behaviors, it was dark and fatigued; even after sleeping eighteen hours of sleep still . . . so . . . fatigued . . . and sometimes, normal was worse.
Thoughts of suicide, they aren’t loud. They’re whispering flirtations, echoing in your mind until the thought of careening off the side of a bridge, that same bridge you traveled over a hundred times, seems to be a reasonable alternative. Normal was one too many contemplative gazes at the pill bottles in the medicine cabinet, it was my mind engaging my body in an intense battle of live or die. It was the line between life and death fading into grey.