Are You My Mental Health?
It started as a joke with one of my co-workers and after she said it I responded, “Oh that sounds like a blog.” I was not serious at the time, but I spent this weekend looking for my mental health.
This is what happened. On Friday, 10 April 2015, three of my co-workers and I left an event put on by some pretty unsophisticated—yet successful—poverty pimps. We hopped into one of the co-worker’s car and I explained that I needed to go to my core mental health agency. They all had to go back to work, but I, (as I announced), needed to “Go get my mental health.”
The response to this statement was laughter and then my co-worker/lead caregiver said, “You’ve gotta go get you’re your mental health? Hmmm. Are you my mental health? That sounds like a Dr. Seuss book.” All four of us laughed. Then we chatted some more and I said other inappropriate things about the event we had just left and so my lead caregiver/co-worker said it again, “Are you my mental health?” To which I responded, “Okay it was funny the first time but it’s not funny any more.” I laughed and she said, “Yeah but you’re laughing.” And I was, because it was really funny.
Then on Saturday I had brunch in the Commonwealth with a woman that knew of me in high school, but I did not know her back then, because she was not a cheerleader and we did not hang out. She was a friend of my older brother. Anyway, since I came home from prison (Yikes!) she has made a point of letting me know that she wants to be in my life and offer support and give to me in whatever positive ways I might need. This was my mental health
After brunch, I met my niece. We met at the Apple Store in Pentagon City Mall. The place was packed and I needed a free service that involved my 30GB (yes you read that right 30GB) iPod, my iPhone and my MacBook Air. It became a bit of a shit show because this Apple girl told me that my 30GB iPod was “really old.” Then she said, “This is vintage,” and had the audacity to turn up her nose. So, I said to her, “First of all I purchased this for a lot of money in 2008. It is not vintage. I am vintage!” Then I said some unsavory things and was told they couldn’t help me for free or otherwise. Her boss actually came over and I said, “Why is this man standing here?” Then she told me who he was and I realized she had called for back up and this was not my mental health and so my niece got me out of there before I became a bigger jackass.
My niece and I went to Harris Teeter and I used my food stamps to buy some nice food. As we were leaving the store I dropped a bunch of stuff from my wallet and my niece said, “Auntie stop. You need to get everything together.” I smiled and said, “I have special needs.” She gave me her sideways look and sheepish smile that I love and responded, “Admitting it is the first step.” My niece has dedicated her life to working with people with special needs and she loves me just the way I am. When I am inappropriate and loud and snarky and angry, and when I am smiling and cracking jokes (because it turns out I am very funny)—she loves me. My niece is my mental health.
On Sunday I got up and went to church. After the service I chatted with a few people. One man from the vestry said, “I turned and saw you during the service and smiled and thought ‘I’m glad she made it today.’” Then he offered to loan me his copy of, The Warmth of Other Suns, when the church group he is in finishes reading it. Another person from the vestry, a woman, told me I needed to get a name tag. I told her I wasn’t a member yet and she said, “You still need a name tag.” I laughed, because I do not like name tags for lots of reasons. Then I told her about my blog and she pulled out her iPhone and made me tell her the web address so she could follow me (hint hint). I left church smiling and this was my mental health.
I arrived at the Coupe, which is a really nifty coffeehouse, bar, restaurant, Internet café kind of space. I ordered a mimosa—because it was Sunday and this is what every good woman deserves on a warm sunny day—and grabbed a spot on a couch next to a very lovely looking mixed heritage woman of color. She too had an Apple computer. I applied for a job (as I sipped my mimosa) that I am pretty sure I am qualified for technically, but probably unqualified for because I am looking for my mental health.
Then I started chatting with this young white woman sitting on the couch to my left. I noticed that she was reading Bonhoeffer a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I read this book in prison and so I chatted her up. Turns out she is from Austria, but her mother is American, and she recently graduated from UVA. She said her dad had been bugging her to read Bonhoeffer’s biography and then we discussed the book. We talked about religion and the city and gentrification and solved the problems of housing for the poor and working poor in the city. She is really young and smart and she told me about the church she attends.
This young woman explained to me that she is looking for friends—young people who are not married and who do not have children. I do not qualify, but I invited her to the church I attend and told her about the 20’s and 30’s social group we have. She typed the name of the church into her iPhone and asked the address and I told her where I sit. This was kindness and community that happened randomly. This was my mental health.
I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I have complex PTSD with acute anxiety and panic disorder, which means that I do not always know how I will react to the unknowns. I do know that I have to make an effort to let those who have the ability and desire to help me do so. I am learning and trying to internalize the belief that I no longer have to always fight for myself alone. I am realizing that there are a million jagged pieces of me from a lifetime of trauma. Slowly, I am learning that my mental health has been cracked into a million jagged pieces, but I can find it in different places, people, activities and inside of me. What I see for myself is that I can take these jagged pieces—with the help of community—and step-by-step fit them together, smooth them out, and find my mental health.