“Cry, Jay Z, we know the pain is real
But you can't heal what you never reveal.”
When I had my first manic episode, I didn't want anyone to know. I dished out the information like stingy servings at a Baptist church cookout. Telling my story to only a select few. But even then, I would bury it in the back of my mind. Focusing my attention instead on my emotional journey—one where I would gain control over myself and my emotions.
Still, like a shadow, it stalked my thoughts. Haunting me in a million different ways. See, I haven't been completely honest here. Yes, the story is true that one day while driving to work, I had the realization that it had to be more to life. But what truly started my "healing journey" was having this night where I was ultimately out of control. I wanted to ensure that it would never happen again. So I went on this quest, learning any and everything about holistic ways to heal myself. I tired: Energy work, bodywork, acupuncture, reiki, crystals, sounding healing, hot yoga, and regular yoga. You name it. I have done it, and it did make me feel good. It felt like I was taking strives to heal myself. Six years later, no manic episode, and I was sure that I had mastered it all.
But the thing about healing is, it’s not all positive vibes and happy times. As I was healing and learning about myself, I also understood how I got to where I am today. I took an honest look at my past. I didn't like everything that I saw, and for everything that I did like- it seems like God took it away. It felt like I lost everything that ever made me comfortable for four years. The cherry on top was my job was becoming toxic. Despite it all, I kept moving, doing more yoga, journaling, and finding meditation groups. I was stumbling, but I didn't fall. I was proud of myself until May 2020.
I had another manic episode. This time it was worse than before. Weeks before it happened, I remember telling my therapist that I was feeling trapped. I was experiencing that same suffocating feeling that I felt in public accounting. Just like last time- it was too much. But instead of recognizing it was too much. Or taking time for myself. I pushed on. Because I was working at home, all I had to do was log in, answer some emails, and deal with rude ass project managers. That wasn’t hard. It wasn't like I was putting my life on the line like essential workers. But the mind can be a powerful thing. Since I refused to take a break, my mind decided to take one for me.
It was like one-minute life was normal, and then the next, I was on an adventure. Unlike last time, I didn’t have the common symptoms. I wasn't hyper-focused on my goals. I was sleeping, ok- maybe not the best. Ok, my sleeping habits were off but weren't everyone with the pandemic going on? Nonetheless, it wasn’t until I was back home safe, logging into my work computer, that it hit me that an entire week had passed. To this day, it still freaks me out: What if those girls never found my sister on social media? What if someone drugged me, kidnapped, and raped me? What if something terrible had happened to Cudi?
Those questions were floating in my mind like a tornado. But underneath all of that was a deep sadness. See, the thing about a manic episode is that you think what you are experiencing is real. It’s as though you are in your own movie, and everyone around you is just playing along. You have a completely heightened sense of reality and yourself. I’m not going to lie: it can feel very fucking powerful. It feels like the world is yours, and there is nothing that you can't do or say. Despite your brain being on vacation, your body is very much aware. This time around, there was no shame.
I found myself telling any and everyone that would listen about my manic episode. Including my mail lady when she inquired about my absence. After checking my email that day, my next step was to call my therapist. I was calm until she came on the phone. Then it all came out. It felt like the bubble popped at that moment, and I was forced to deal with reality. When I finally calmed down, the first thing that I said was, "I can't believe that it happened again." I “thought I had it under control” was something that I found myself repeating for weeks to doctors. But this thing was one thing I couldn’t control on my own. This time it felt like everyone around me saw me as me. Not as some crazy person but as a human.
One doctor listened to my entire story, and when it was over, she took my hand. She told me that it was a miracle that I was alive and unharmed. But this wasn’t something that I could control on my own. She told me all about the great artist who struggled with this condition and helped me understand the medicine's purpose. It wasn't to stop me from being me. But to help me be me, and there was nothing to be ashamed about- talking to her helped me understand that this was something that was simply a part of my life. But with the right tools, it didn't have to control my life. For me and Cudi's sake, I was ready to do the right thing.
I spent the entire summer trying to recover from the manic episode and fighting for disability. This episode made me question myself and everything that I was doing. At one point, I was ready to walk away from it all. Because who the hell was I to tell anyone anything? Was I truly healed? Is this a path I should be taking? I nearly threw all the work I've done for seven-years away because of this week. But I couldn't be mad at the episode or throw away all my hard work out because the truth is it wasn't all bad. As scary as that week was to everyone around me. At not one point did I feel like I was in danger. In fact, that week was a life-changing one for me.
The conversations that I had, the people who helped me, and the advice I received are things that I will never forget. The experience, as scary and crazy as it was, also felt divine. It felt spiritual, and a part of me hated that it was not "real." The things that were shown and revealed to me were profound and change how I view life. My Aunt walked me outside after my conversation with my therapist. We sat by the water, and I couldn't stop crying. I cried because a part of me wanted the illusion to be real. I wanted to be on that adventure, and being back home was like a slap of cold water in the face. My Aunt wiped my tears and told me that it was real. No matter what wrapping it came in.
The entire week reminded me of that scene with Harry Potter in the train station with Dumbledore after Voldemort killed him. "Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry. Why should that mean that it's not real?" I may never know why I was given this condition. But I do know that I am done fighting it and hiding it in the shadows. I have a mood disorder that can play out as a manic episode. But I have meds. I have a team, and as scared as I am to admit this here. It feels necessary. I could not go into another year, keeping this a secret. During the episode, I met this older woman who said something that stuck with me: “God learns from his mistakes. The devil doesn’t.”
We all have our cross to bear and things that we want to hide. Or keep to ourselves out of fear of judgment. But how can people ever get to know you? Help you? Love you? I believe that secrets and lies create shame that can later manifest as physical ailments. When we keep all our secrets insides, it only fuels the belief that we are alone. But that is the greatest trick of the enemy. Watching the fall of Kanye has been heartbreaking because, on the one hand, it was brave for him to admit his truth. It truly allowed me to accept my condition because I shared something in common with my hero. But on the other hand, there is no denying that he’s wilding and needs help.
Recently, I listened to my favorite podcast host: One who just sold a television show to HBO and who just wrapped up his late-night talk show- reveal that he has been struggling with thoughts of suicide. Then a writer that I admire- Jaz Fly, took her own life. All of this was awake up call that "achieving my dreams" wasn't the answer to my problems. I had to find a way to be happy now. When I first began working on my book, a big part of me was doing it out of ego. I wanted to be a famous New York Times bestselling author. To have my book turned into movies. But this "journey," my book, my life, all humbled me and turned my search for validation inwards.
The more that I looked within, the more I realized my dreams have nothing to do with fame. I want to tell stories for a living. To heal and show other black girls that they are not alone. Fame was just my inner child looking for love and acceptance. My creative thoughts and urges are something that has always been inside me. But it took a while for me to remember that taking this path is my birthright. Storytelling and creativity is my path. I'm learning to enjoy every single part of it and I refuse to wait for the accolades to come- to recognize I won.
I have been dying to my ego and slowly opening my heart back up. Secrets, lies, unspoken truths have a way of poisoning our perception and blocking the things we truly desire. That can't be my life. I don’t have an answer or even a cute conclusion to this letter. Because this is all something I'm still wrapping my mind around. But if you can take anything from this tale, learn to listen to your body. Health is such a fragile thing and in the blink of an eye, your life can be changed. So listen when it says it needs a break, rest, or less junk food. Don't wait until it's too late.
If you're suffering mentally, let someone know. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is nothing wrong with seeking help. As crazy as this summer has been, it restored my faith, taught me to stand up for myself, and helped me overcome my self-doubt. I now know without a doubt-
GOD IS REAL.