Mental Battles

I was born in the Ivory Coast some forty years ago. I have lived a blissful life by some appearances. However, it has been an appearance. The actuality of my life seems more complicated to me than all appearances. I am proud to call my the Ivory Coast my birthplace, but I also don’t want to return there. Here lies the rub, some might say. How come this person claims to be proud of his birthplace, but does not want to return there. Well let the journey begin.

I have dealt with depression and anxiety for many years. I also can recall things and events in my life vividly. There has not been a year in my life when I did not deal with some form of sadness. There has not been a point when I felt this sense of hopelessness in my life. There is also this stupid fear of being medicated, and misdiagnosed by a so called mental health expert. However, I am digressing right now. I recall the first time I felt this overwhelming sadness. I was eleven years of age. My brother had moved to my uncle’s house in Winston Salem. We had moved to a new house, and my grandmother was determined to pass down the traditions she had grown in to her grand children. I was also starting secondary school, and my father had sent us my brother and myself to a boarding school. I did not stop to process every event happening in my life. I also don’t mask my emotions. My father said to me since we have moved into this house you are always sad. I blamed it on not having friends in the new neighborhood. I somehow pulled myself out of this funk, but only for a fleeting time. I had my first thought of suicide at thirteen years of age. I was not doing well in school, and life at home was not any better. My father was often yelling after a bad day at work, so I had learned to be on defensive for the most part. I developed certain behavior to deal with my father’s moods, and I still used this techniques as an adult. My caring mother saved me at thirteen years of age. Most people don’t tell anyone about their suicide. Sometimes suicide is an impulsive action; sometime it is a methodically planned action. My mother worked in the health unit at the American Embassy in Abidjan. This unit had a psychologist. One morning, my mother decided to take me to work with her. During the car ride, she told me she was taking me to work to have a conversation with Dr. Davis. Dr. Davis treated the majority of the diplomats at the American Embassy with their mental health issues. I told Dr. Davis what I felt comfortable telling him, but I did not tell him about my anxieties and my worries. He then spoke to my mother, and I started finding refuge in books for the most part. Years passed in my life. I had episodes of depression, but they were not too paralyzing. They were not too paralyzing, because I was functional enough not to alarm people around me. I made it through college and the military. I would drawn myself in work as a coping mechanism, whenever I felt overwhelmed. I thought I had outgrown depression and anxiety. Things came back with a vengeance at 32 years of age. I started dealing with insomnia because I became anxious what was the chapter of my life. I was receiving my DD-214, but I had nothing lined up. I had a mortgage, and Siberian Husky, but no source of income. However, I found employment within six months. I worked at the company for two years and some change, but I worked myself out of a job. I took this period to deal with what I perceived as mental issue. I went to the VA and I had a battery of assessments to determine whether I was a danger to myself and other. The battery determined that I needed counseling. I was doing well with the counseling, then my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I became paralyzed and I hit some financial difficulties. My relations became messy and I actually wished to be dead a month before my mother’s passing. I stopped attending counseling when I relocated to North Carolina for a year. Then I became overwhelmed with life again. I began talking to a Licensed Clinical Social Worker again till I started working, but while working I started noticing patterns in my life and I concluded that I need to continue speaking to a mental health professional.

I believe that if I return to my birthplace, the culture will not allow to seek help when I have episode. As stigmatized as people are in the West for mental health. It is worse in Africa, and I am avoiding my birthplace because I have seen a bigger world. I know that people assign label to what they do not know and understand. I don’t need anymore labels. However, life is not as black and white as I see it.

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