Society throws so much shit at Black folks that it is no one wonder we have mental health issues. We come from less than favorable conditions and we are constantly making magic turning something out of nothing. We turned pig entrails into chitterlings, family out of fictive kin, and created an Underground Railroad way before mass transit was a thing!
We are always dealt the shitty hand and are asked to be complacent with no obvious regard to how this uphill battle fucks us up mentally. My mom lost her job a few years back and her health declined. This took a toll on her and she became depressed. Steadily I watched my super hero struggle to fight to keep her mental and physical health. I never thought she would be as sick as she has gotten, but what child sees their parents as fallible? She was always the one who got me right after heartbreak or when I needed some sound advice, but now she clearly needs me more than ever. A cruel role reversal was taking place. As Black folks we are touted for our strength through adversity and are frequently called “strong.” We get called this so much that we adopt these monikers, “Strong Black man” or “Strong Black woman” with a zealous pride. If you are strong “you cannot be weak” so we move around as if everything is alright and let things fester to the point where hospitalization and medication is the only salvation. As a Black man, as an empathetic heart, as a son, I feel like I have to take care of EVERYTHING for my mom and I put myself on the back-burner. Who will step up to make sure my mother is alright if it’s not me? This is not a rhetorical question, but one born out of genuine concern for my mother because it is a reality. The reality is that NO OTHER FAMILY will come to her aide!
At work in the shelter, I’m a therapist of sorts and soother to those who undoubtedly are depressed and keeping up the “strong” façade and I do the same thing at home. At one point long before I started working as a Case Manager I was talking (romantic fashion, but mostly platonic) to a young lady who admitted she was depressed. All the while my mom was dealing with her own depression. Again I was getting it double! The lady I was sweet on and my mother were both suffering from depression and there was nothing I could do about it to “fix” it. Both would frequently lash out at me or otherwise be upset with me without any logical reason from my perspective, but this was just depression rearing its ugly head. I would tell this young woman about what my mom was going through and tell my mom about what the young lady was going through. They both told me on separate occasions that they weren’t the other person.
I did my best to motivate and give to this woman freely and genuinely as best I knew how because I foolishly thought that my love, my spirit, my energy, my time would be enough to heal her, but in the end she resented me for it. Even my mother would say things like “you can’t fix me” which hurt like hell! If I can’t fix them then I am forced to watch them both suffer. The thought of this brought me to tears many a night followed by long talks with the Universe (God) about it. The woman I was diggin’ and my mother both failed to see the suffering in one another, but as someone on the outside I could see it clear as day! As someone on the outside looking in I saw all of the suffering in them for sure, but the suffering I didn’t fully acknowledge was my own.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for Pt. 3!