I battled with myself about what I would share over the last few weeks. A lot of it weighed heavily on me as I navigated how to tell my story. It was standing in stark contrast that whatever I shared would be privy on the interwebs forever. I’ve always been labeled as “the strong one”. The person you can always rely on because they are the type of people that seem to get through anything. But many people fail to realize “the strong ones” have been through some things the reason they are viewed as a strong person. We don’t ask for the task but rather it is thrusted upon us because of how we carry ourselves. We are usually loners because we don’t have an adequate support system. We must depend on ourselves because there is no one else to turn to when the walls cave in. I’ve held many job titles over the years but for the last seven and a half years, the latest title has been Bus Operator. I’m a twelve-year Compton resident. I graduated from Compton College with a degree in Business in 2019. I’m currently working on my undergrad degree at Arkansas State University’s online program. This is my present.
My life has been strange from early childhood onward. I often conditioned myself into thinking the things I was experiencing were no big deal. It became very evident the things I was experiencing were indeed a very big deal. To understand my present, we must go back.
My father died by suicide when I was eleven. He committed a series of very horrible crimes and the gravity of them weighed on me for many years. I was known in school as the kid who had a murderous dad.
My family and I lived in a small town, so the news spread like wildfire. Back then everything was in the newspaper and my father’s story made the front page. I was already viewed as being different, an outsider of sorts (inner-city transplant), but after the entire town knew who my father was, I was ostracized even more. Many parents didn’t want me to be around their children assuming the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I guess I can understand those fears now as a 32-year-old adult, but my 11- year-old self didn’t understand why no one wanted to be around me.They would often stare and whisper. They would often criticize and judge without even knowing me. I experienced severe bullying to a point where it was so dehumanizing that I almost took my own life. Peers would often throw objects at me and snicker because they thought it was funny, take my personal belongings and throw them away, or attempt to physically harm me. The circumstances greatly affected my mood and behavior and I experienced childhood depression and severe anxiety.
Many of my childhood experiences have followed me through adulthood. Many people believe that you just outgrow things or that you’ll just get over it with time. But those experiences do travel with you and imprint on you for the rest of your life. It took me a long time to come to terms with the realization that the dad I knew was the same person who committed those crimes. My mother couldn’t deal with the life she thought she knew crumbling around her that I was forced to become an adult. I had to make adult decisions and deal with adult problems far beyond my years. For years after, my mother and I had a difficult relationship full of hostility and resentment because the parental roles had essentially reversed. My mother and I moved around quite a lot after my father passed. We were never in one place for more
than a year so building relationships was nearly impossible that I often just stayed alone.
It’s hard when you live in a world that lacks common courtesy, humility, love, and understanding. I often feel alone as I don’t really have anyone I’m able to fully express myself with without feeling judged. The type of environment I work in dealing with public transportation for prolonged periods of time is often toxic, dehumanizing, and time consuming. People are so impatient, constantly screaming, or threatening violence. And when you go back to the job at the end of the day, you’re forced to deal with even more drama from people who should understand exactly what you’re going through. After spending eleven to
fourteen hours a day at a job, you are physically and mentally exhausted that you have nothing else left to give.
I ended up being assaulted at work by two individuals while others looked on and did nothing. I was seriously injured to the point that I thought ‘today is the day I’m going to die’. The assault only stopped because the individuals were tired...not because anyone stepped in and said this is wrong. That day was the day my life truly changed. I turned to drinking to cope and self-medicating to forget that I was suffering. I reached out for mental health support several times only to be turned away by time limits. It was either “you must wait 30 days” or the common “we’ll call you” but no calls ever came. No one seemed to take my suffering seriously because “the strong one” can deal with that all on her own. It was as if nobody cared. It wasn’t until I told a provider that I was considering ending my life because feeling no pain would be better than feeling this constant pain---fear that my life was falling apart more and more each day and I had absolutely no control. I dealt with severe depression and feared reentering society because I didn’t know what I would do to it.
I was already dealing with previous emotional trauma from being left alone by somebody I really cared about and feelings of abandonment when relationships I try to form don’t work out. I always tried to make things work instead of just letting them go, romantic or otherwise because I’d rather have a lifetime friend than a lifetime lesson. I still struggle with this very frequently even through my adult years, even more so because of what happened to me. I’ve had to learn to recognize when a relationship no longer serves its purpose and when to let people be people. I don’t do any relationships well. In part because I’ve never experienced one that was healthy. I’ve been in the company of people who secretly wished for me to fail, not even realizing the emotional turmoil I was already experiencing. My failures were their successes. I often have conversations with my therapist about learning relationship behaviors; that relationship behaviors that weren’t learned through childhood can be learned now—that relationships depend on how both parties show up—not just one person.
I’ve poured into many people, friends or otherwise, but those people do not pour into me. I’ve become emotionally withdrawn because many people treat me as a temporary person, a stand-in if you will, instead of treating me like someone they expect to see long term. I suppose they sense the challenges I’ve endured and simply write it off as too difficult to understand so why bother, right?
“Strong” people need people too and while we may make the task look easy, we are suffering with our own internal struggles too. We are going through difficult things too and often are faced with walking the long and treacherous road alone.
I’ve experienced many traumas; both physical and emotional. These experiences have greatly affected me more than I care to admit. Depression has changed me. Heartbreak has hardened me. The heartbreak of a child realizing her father wasn’t who she thought he was...to the people who came into her life thereafter and made her realize the ignorance of people when they are faced with something they didn’t quite understand. Many people don’t want to focus on understanding you or building quality relationships. Instead, they choose to run at the first sign of difficulty because avoidance is simply easier. People who suffer from depression often feel unworthy...unloved... when people we care about... people we pour in to leave us to our own making. We often wonder if we are just meant to be alone. We often find ourselves questioning our purpose and not wanting to share any parts of ourselves because you don’t feel like you’ve really been seen or heard.
My perspective on life now is simply trying to find peace within myself. Trying to find where I belong. It is a lonely road but one that I have come to accept may just be traveled alone. Hopefully I can once again find joy in activities I used to love. Emotional and physical traumas take a toll on your spirit and your body. They often make you feel tired and overwhelmed. Kola Boof, a Sudanese American novelist, once said, “The black woman is the only flower on earth that grows unwatered.” Being a black female speaking her truth...it’s not widely accepted because there’s a stigma that we are supposed to be strong, independent women. Often seeking mental health services is stigmatized because of the strong black woman mantra—that we can do it all. We can’t do it all and we shouldn’t have to.
Mental health is so-so important. You. Are. Important. There is no shame in seeking therapy. There is no shame in taking medication for mental health. There is no shame in asking for help from a trusted friend. There is no shame in saying “no” if it means your mental health could be at risk otherwise. There is no shame in putting yourself first. Identifying the problem and taking charge of it will aid in your healing process. There is no set timeline. There is no set approach to healing from trauma. And finally learning that moving on from disaster sometimes means learning to let go.