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9:22 AM

Except Me, The Exception

by , in

" You have all the signs and symptoms of major depression." That's what my therapist said to me at the end of November. Everything was so dark for me. Inside this black hole, I could feel the sunshine on me but I didn't see it  -- I saw no tunnel end actually. I winced in pain at the thought of getting up to brush my teeth, shower, or comb my hair. 'I'm just really enjoying how beautiful my skin looks.' I would tell people instead of sharing that it took me two hours to get myself out of bed and floss so there was no way I could put on makeup like before. I would stare out for long periods of time and laugh at the thought of an unexpected death.  And then sometimes life was an 'out' of body experience. There was no in-between.  I was in no space to acknowledge how low I had fallen. Everything looked so good (to me) on the outside but on the inside, I was crumbling. I had just enough energy to take care of my girls.  While I received many opportunities last year, I struggled. Every new opportunity I proclaimed with excitement and internalized with fear. I moved out and didn't mentally prepare for how that would impact me after living in the same house with my parents for almost 26 years. I lost a mother figure, and several family friends that watched me from infancy to adulthood and I grappled with their transition to the afterlife. Because moving out and losing them meant that my parents are getting older and I am not sure if I can handle that.

 The job that I believed to be a  'hangout for healing' turned into a war zone set in a dystopia. I woke up in tears daily, sometimes not getting up until the time I knew I should be walking in the office. My stomach in knots at the thought of having to be employed there second after second, minute after minute. If my fear wasn't directed at losing my job until I found better it was directed at the thought of losing my place... That I couldn't bear to decorate because I could lose it any month now and will my parents let me come home? Or my favorite inner-thought, "Girl you know damn well we ain't smart enough for no Doctorate! You only did that 'cause you insecure."

I had it so together on the outside but was living in pieces internally.  My mother, God bless her soul didn't want to hear it. 'You know, I used to get like that too but it's just the holidays. It's just the holidays.' I don't know what infuriated me more, my unexplainable depression or my mother -- drawing a parallel between mine and her behavior while simultaneously erasing me. I gained 35 pounds in six months bringing me to a total weight of 295 pounds. Nothing made sense anymore. Daily victories I hardly acknowledged. It was the big things that in all actuality were not big things but my anxiety and depression made me stare at everything with funhouse mirror glasses.

I shared with my job but to be honest, I received the exact reaction I envisioned. I made a note on the reaction to my depression versus my colleagues', the only white woman in the office. It was clear to me then that I was going to have to fall on everything I know and use it to get me out of the darkness. Otherwise, it will kill me and declare I enjoyed it. Nathaniel Branden defines self-responsibility as the willingness "to take responsibility for my actions and the attainment of my goals...for my life and well-being." I was willing to take responsibility and hold myself accountable to be better but first I had to acknowledge the fact that oppressive systems that impact Black girls and Black women, also impact me.

Right before the winter break, we had a training on Misogynoir from Maryland Network Against Abuse. Misogynoir, a term coined by the brilliant Moya Bailey as, "Misogyny towards Black women  where race and gender both play roles in bias." A good example? A Black mother that smokes cannabis is an irresponsible drug addict while a white mother is simply embracing a 'radical form of self-care'. If you're a white mother that smokes weed, you get a segment on 'Goodmorning America', if you're a Black mother you get a visit from CPS. See also: labeling little Black girls as 'fast' when older people prey on them sexually. The information and reflections from myself and the other Black women in my office lovingly called me in to understand the ways in which historical acts of violence rooted in Anti-Black woman reinvents itself impacting women in each generation of Black families. Through acts of sexual violence, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse, Black women were reduced down to nothing more than their capabilities and regarded as an object, belonging from man to man.

"You gotta choose yourself every day. Why would you wait until Friday to take care of yourself? Take care of yourself right now." 

One day I woke up and felt a strong urge to meditate. So I did and then I decided to turn over and pray, and I did. By the end of the week, I had drawn close again to my journal, even reading a page or two from the work of Dr. Iyanla Vanzant or my favorite Black Feminist and cultural critic Bell Hooks. I was making the choice to come out of my black hole or 'The Valley' as Dr. Vanzant says. I would complete one task and begin to add three more things to my mental checklist, exhausting myself before I physically got there. I would remind myself, "One thing at a time." And then finish my current task, each time feeling more accomplished than the last. I learned recently that survivors of sexual assault and abuse have a hard time with boundary setting. I noticed when it comes to people I love and want around -- I didn't have any. So I later learned from a dear auntie-sister-friend of mine, that setting my boundaries is a way to communicate with the people who love me, how to love me. My job was in response, to reciprocate by honoring their boundaries and continue my inner work for my well-being.

To do that, I had to point out the misogynoir is in my life. I had to put his ass on display and draw as much attention to him as I could because the bottom line is -- he doesn't belong here. I had to point out the fact that I, internalized and projected capitalism in many ways. I had to be honest that such influenced my poor outlook on accumulating things and how it fed into my greed versus my virtues.
It started at work. I said very little and when I did, I made sure my comment stuck to who it needed to stick to. Clear and direct yet without a name. I would respond with a question instead of disagreeing and most importantly, I sat back and waited for things I said several months prior start to become reality. And it did.

Every form of misogynoir I experienced, I wrote off as 'feedback' or a character flaw that others were pointing out. I didn't have it in me to make the case that the comments were grounded in colorism,  misogyny, racism, and ableism. It was hard to point out the misogynoir when it had taken a liking to other Black women around me that would usually grab it by the neck, call it a piece of shit and then do away with it. So naturally, every critique that I gave read as an attack on their 'character' and not the very system designed to make us believe we are at war with one another. The biggest culprit got to sit back -- unbothered, mediocrity still intact. Meanwhile, I didn't have enough confidence to open up a jar of pickles. So, I stopped writing, which meant I stopped blogging and then everything fell apart.

Right before the new year and my vacation (that was much needed), I wrote down five things that bring me joy and those are the five things that I will focus on this year. Continuing to grow Millennial Mocha Moms as a brand and a place for Black and Brown mamas. The second is to not only thrive in my doctoral program at the GREAT Morgan State University but excel. The other three are a secret *winks*. So here I am, in the new year learning my boundaries and making a conscious effort to choose myself. To do things that take care of me. I am intentionally less available for work and other projects that could cut into the time I set aside for myself. The things that threatened my existence have limited to no access to me and have to prove their necessity in my life.

 Everything is a choice. Being dedicated to service does not mean you forget to service yourself. Some days it's hard to say no and other days it flows off my tongue with ease.  Before the end of the year, I made a commitment to strengthen the value of detachment and find its place in my life. My work is tied up in my identity yes, but that does not mean I have to carry my work home. I am enjoying my apartment now, especially since your girl has her own racial justice and conflict management consulting firm. In a few weeks, I begin my first semester and I am excited about the opportunities that will come from my new endeavor.

Im happy to come out of my low point in my valley, to claim the things I am owed, stare the systems that oppress me down and hold them up high in shame.  I realize now there is power in acknowledging the impact and declaring victory over whatever comes my way because God made me more than the standard, I am the exception. I'll be here all 2019.

What are you stepping into for 2019?