That's Just the Wave...
Bird can't fly in a cage (turn me up!)
Even when somebody go away (turn me up!)
The feelings don't really go away
That's just the wave (yeah)
Word to Kanye. I've heard this song countless times but for some reason today, I interpreted it a bit differently. My wave came at approximately 8:45am this morning while filling out an application at the DMV to get a new license. I hadn't expected such a pleasant experience as I talked to the attendant about North Carolina, her children's education, and escaping to places unknown. It wasn't until I was casually putting the final touches on the app when I saw the box asking if my license had been suspended. I flinched and it seemed as if my energy had immediately been wiped out. It had disappeared and it was nowhere to be found.
For her, it was a simple answer to a standard question. For me, it was a reminder that life isn't fair. It had opened up Pandora's Box and left me to clean up the aftermath. I immediately thought back to nearly 6 years earlier and the feeling of loneliness that had been inflicted on me after my accident. My hospital room was constantly filled with visitors and cards wishing me well but it seemed as if I was the only one there. The loneliness of those first few nights could have swallowed me whole and I was convinced that no one could stop this from happening. The loneliness eventually spread a comforting blanket over my life and I laid under my pain, fully embraced by the new reality it had provided.
I didn't look like depression. I didn't look like post traumatic stress disorder so people didn't treat me as such. I socialized, I went to school, and I still was Kamil at least from the outside looking in. I was the walking dead. I was there but only physically because in my mind, I had already lost. At this point, there were no waves but full blown tsunamis that sought to damage anything in sight. The intangible pain was unbearable yet I had no words to fully describe how I felt. I often responded to people's inquiries saying that life was tough for everyone and mine was no different and nothing special.
Except mine was different and extremely special. It was mine and I had to fight for it. There were nights where my eyes spilled over with emotions that I couldn't explain. There were days where I believed that if I prayed hard enough that I would wake up from this extended nightmare. Tears and regret deemed inconsolable that came from the pit of my stomach almost as if I had inherited them from an earlier generation. I had inherited a trait that didn't allow me to process my pain but forced me to sit and be content in it. I was carrying centuries worth of stigmas that had made it unacceptable for me, a black woman, to admit my defeat.
I would eventually speak my truth on my mental health but this was often at the expense of my relationship with others. Particularly other black people who didn't understand, didn't want to understand, or feared they may see their own issues in my eyes. I was reminded time and time again that for us, weakness had never been an option and could land you at the bottom of the Atlantic or beat dead in a field. We had internalized years worth of torture which resulted in our own mental angst for things that were completely out of our control
At the DMV, I was reminded that I too am sometimes still a bird. I yearn to be free but at times, a cage forms around me restricting flight and confining me to a narrow space. A space with only enough room for me and barely enough light peeking in. No light to provide even a sense of direction for which way is out. I'm reminded that no matter how brilliant life can seem at times that hurt never dissolves at least for me. It's there as a constant reminder that I've been through something and made it to the other side. It's a reminder that the wave did it's best to take me under but I was able to find my footing.
This is what it has been like the past 6 years... a never ending series of waves that vary in intensity. Venturing across the world at 36,000 feet in the air only to hit turbulence and realizing that you have no control. It was like reading a set of directions with a missing step and still having to complete the task; confusing and frustrating. It was the gift I never wanted but have had to accept in order to see the value of its presence.
Since that fateful day in 2010, I've met countless black people,strangers and loved ones, who I believe suffer from some form of mental illness. I'm obviously not trained to diagnose anyone but I recognize it in the emptiness of their eyes, their cold hearts, faithless prayers, and stories that envelope you almost as if they'll suffocate you at any moment. I encourage everyone especially my brothers and sisters to really be a friend even if it is for that complete stranger. Encourage people to seek help which usually equates to more than a call for prayer and more frequent church visits. Encourage self care and provide an environment that allows people to feel safe enough to share their vulnerabilities. It's time to open the cages and set ourselves free.