The year was 2010 and I had just moved into the honors residence hall at Norfolk State University. My roommate Nate was already moved in since he was a member of our marching band. I didn’t know Nate but right off the bat I could tell he was a smooth guy. Howard moved into the room a day or two later. This guy hails from Ohio and was majoring in Mathematics (such a nerd). Howard was/is a man of God so I always had the up-most respect for him and his religious practices. Him and another friend Oscar were in the process of being ordained preachers. Side note: Oscar is now an actor I believe. Google Oscar Gary and see what you come up with. Who knew I was in the presence of a star. 🙂
As the nights went by and we would stay up cracking jokes and laughing, I noticed that I had a difficult time sleeping. In our room were these huge florescent lights on the ceiling that lit up the room way more than we needed. Howard suggested that we utilize his lamp to bring the energy down a bit for when we tried to go to bed. This idea worked but it would not be the end of my sleep issues.
As time went on I acquired an internship with Norfolk’s Juvenile Probation Unit. This required me to wake up earlier than I usually would as a college student. To aide in my sleep issues I started taking NyQuil so that I could get some sleep. It worked but I was not comfortable with taking over the counter cough medicine for sleep. Then came ZzzQuil and I thought the heavens had blessed me with an elixir that would cure me of my sleep issues. It did for a while, but as you know this wouldn’t be the end of my journey.
During graduate school at UNC Charlotte I recall having the same routine with taking ZzzQuil, Benadryl, or any other substance that could help me go to sleep. My professor, Dr. Furr, suggested Melatonin. This appeared to work for a while but the insomnia monster would find it’s way back into my life. Grad school was an interesting time because there was a point when I had a full course load, an internship, a graduate assistantship, and a part-time job waiting tables at Cracker Barrel. Needless to say during that semester I think I passed out on a few occasions but refused to tell any one because of my toxic masculinity habits.
Now let’s bring you up to speed to my current day situation. I work as a school counselor in a school district that is about 40 minutes away. Typically I wake up at 4:45 AM so that I can meditate, iron my clothes, take a shower, read, and get mentally prepared to counsel the young minds of tomorrow. I’m out of the door by 7 so that I can be at work by 7:45. What I love about my job is that no one day is the same. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to assist students in their personal/social, academic, and career goals. What most people don’t realize is that once you close those counselor doors, you hear some of the most horrific situations humanly imaginable. As you would guess this takes a toll on the mind. To add insult to injury, my office has no windows. I literally never get a chance to see the sun unless I purposely make an effort to go outside. But when I do go outside it’s only for 3 minutes because I’m so worried that while I’m gone someone will be in a crisis and I won’t be available to help.
There was a time in my life where I had a healthy routine of running and meditation. But this past semester I could tell there had been a change. I would show up to work late had more trouble sleeping. I would come home from work and feel exhausted. I didn’t want to go outside because it all felt overwhelming. Every summer I had off I wanted to do something fun and be active. Instead I mostly stayed in the house feeling like I didn’t have enough money to get in my car and drive to a mountain to hike. Not once did I think about seeing a professional about these issues. I assumed I just needed to “MAN” up and get through life.
Now that you have that knowledge I will explain what happened to me this past weekend. I took a few days off from work just because I could tell that I was burning out. We had that Friday off for Veterans day so I thought this would be just the break I needed. On Thursday night/Friday morning I saw that I had an e-mail from a woman who works for Black Entertainment Television (BET). She saw an article I wrote and was thinking about interviewing me about a show on relationships. My mind became flooded with emotions of joy and excitement. I immediately started contacting people in my phone to help. I wasn’t familiar with the entertainment industry so I needed all hands on deck. I was trying to prepare for greatness.
My favorite hip-hop artist (Black Linen) was set to perform at Crown Station Pub that Friday night. I’ve always wanted to do comedy and perform raps on stage. Black Linen and I spoke briefly about me introducing him to the crowd and being his hype man. He was down so my excitement grew even more. Long story short, we performed and had that bish jumpin. I was so energized by that feeling that I couldn’t wait to get on another mic soon. I had finally found what I was looking for. I had found peace and happiness on that stage.
Throughout that weekend I got maybe 2 hours of sleep. Idea after idea of comedy would pop up in my head. I thought I had cracked the code on how to finally bring unity to Charlotte and the country and to stop the divide that had been put in motion by the recent elections in 2016. I was going to save the world. I was going to meet Jay-Z. I was going to meet Mark Zuckerberg. I was……manic.
I didn’t realize this because when you are manic you feel invincible. I felt like everyone around me were sheep and that I had the supreme knowledge that only the 1% knew about. Instead of using my thoughts for evil, I was going to unite the country finally and overthrow the government. Immediately I started reaching out to people, picking up books and magazine that I thought would be useful in my journey. During these moments I would constantly lose track of time. It wasn’t until Sunday night when my girlfriends (yes I have two girlfriends, get over it) and I were watching television and I started acting weird. I grabbed their cell phones and tried to show them how the algorithm worked with Instagram. I didn’t explain anything, just told them to watch as I began tapping rigorously at their phones. I noticed the panicked looked on their faces and Kaylee started to weep a little. She has seen the face of mania before and was concerned about me. I promised I would go to urgent care the next day.
I drove myself to urgent care the next morning. I don’t recall how I got there but once the PA called me back I started crying uncontrollably. My brain was unable to put together complex connections so I had to write down notes for myself so that I could remember. He diagnosed me with Chronic Insomnia. I told him I wanted to see a therapist because there were other things happening that I couldn’t explain. So I took an Uber to a behavioral clinic where I could see a therapist. Almost immediately the staff starting treating me differently than my friends at the urgent care. My speech was slurred and I could barely stand up. I would go from waiting room to the nurse at least twice while they asked me questions. The waiting room was not therapeutic at all. Hard chairs and crap for food in the snack machine. I got a call from the Crisis Team at my place of employment asking if I could meet them the next day to help with a situation. I told her I was in the hospital and started crying because I knew I wasn’t fit for duty. I finally understood what combat veterans experienced when they are diagnosed with PTSD. The thought of not being able to do my job shook my world like no other. I started having thoughts that I would never be able to break out of this. What if my brain was stuck like this? As I waited for the Psychiatrist I decided that I needed some good ol fashion nature therapy. I went outside and took my shoes off and stood in the grass. I gently layed down in the grass as I waited to be called. I glanced at the entrance door and could see staff members looking at me as if I was some freak show.
The psychiatrist calls me in and I could instantly tell she was afraid of me. Her body language was clinched and voice was straightforward and cold. She diagnosed me with a BS diagnosis. I was frustrated because I didn’t get a chance to explain what had been happening to me. I refused to take any medication and left out of there feeling like the medical world did not help me.
Kay and I decided to meet up with Rev. Ayya Suddhamma (Buddhist Monk at The Charlotte Buddhist Vihara). Ayya is my spiritual mother. We sat down and went over everything. Ayya smiles and says “boy you got a hold of some good stuff. Your mind grasped the idea of pleasure and liberation from your current job and life and you couldn’t let go”. Apparently if you do that too much you’ll slip into a manic state. I left there feeling like I had finally got some answers.
Since then I’ve been on the road to recovery. Eating well and trying to get as much sleep as possible. It’s a scary feeling to feel like you’ve lost your mind. Luckily my mental connections are starting to come back. I’ve changed my diet to a plant based diet and trying to walk and run as much as possible. I’m connecting with old friends to bring back my memory. I listen to music to keep my spirits up and I’m constantly trying to make a spiritual connection with the universe. The medical field did let me down a bit but I’ve made steps to get in touch with professionals that I trust to aide in my recovery.
I want to leave everyone with this. The next time you feel yourself judging someone on the street because they look “crazy”. Just know that not everyone with mental health issues are hardcore drug users. In fact many of these folks once had a healthy mind but because of their environment and lack of resources, their mental health declined. I will never forget this experience and I plan to spread the message on mental health even more than ever. Take care of your body and your mind. I love every last sentient being on this earth. Metta.