Today I learned that Kayrn Washington killed herself. Before today, I didn’t know who she was. I didn’t know about her website, For Brown Girls. But I did know her struggle. I’ve struggle depression and anxiety for most of life. I didn’t get help for it until I reached breaking points and the first two times I was actually forced to get help by the schools I was attending. I’ve never tried to commit suicide but I have thought about before. Thought so much I had a plan but chickened out because the end result would have been messy and I didn’t want my mother to deal with that. I was lucky that I had enough sense of self to get help. I don’t know if Karyn Washington was getting help. People commit suicide even if they do go to therapy. But I know a lot of us don’t and we don’t have a good reason not to.
I’ve seen some friends share their story. I figured I’d share my own. For the past four months I’ve been in pretty intensive therapy. Two months ago, I started seeing a psychiatrist in addition to my therapy. I can’t begin to describe the improvement in my mental health. I’ve actually started to value my mental health. I value it to the point that I take breaks (week long if I have to) from my dissertation. And for the first time ever, I’m ok with taking breaks that I need. [Now I will admit having a chronic disease that breaks your body down when you get really stressed has helped in recognizing the value of my mental health. I'd rather take a day off and chill than be blind for a week, which is what happened last time.]
Sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m in therapy and taking anti-depressants. But then I see friends who clearly would benefit from therapy not going because of misconceptions they have about it or because they don’t believe in it, and I realize that I have to put my ego aside and admit that I get a lot of help. And I’m fortunate to have it.
I went through many therapists before I settled with my current therapist. Most weren’t good fits and so I shopped around until one fit and I felt ok. I avoided anti-depressants for years because I felt like having to take them was giving up, I now realize it’s just taking getting help to the next level. They aren’t a miracle drug, but I know they are working because I don’t have melt downs like I used to. I’m better able to react to life.
Friends say they don’t want to be analyzed and judged by someone. That’s not what therapy is supposed to be. My therapist doesn’t judge me. He actually helps me understand the reasons why I think the way I do. It’s been really interesting to learn about myself and readdress issues that I thought I had dealt with. My friends and family have noticed in a difference in me, and for that I am grateful.
I’m not saying that therapy and psychiatry are instant fixes. I’m sure I’ll be in therapy for a long time before I’m where I want to be. But this feels much better than lying in bed all day because I can’t find the energy to move. Or being so stressed out that I can’t sleep. Or crying for hours because it feels hopeless. I do hope that Black women can reach out and get help. I hope we don’t lose anymore Karyns. Rest peacefully.
Last month, three of my cousins were murdered by one of their ex-boyfriends/children’s father. It still doesn’t seem like real life. This is some murder porn* stuff.
The day started normally enough for me. I woke up late and my mom said she wanted to talk to me. I remember being really annoyed that we were going to have to have a serious talk right when I woke up. I don’t think I hide it well.
“You heard about the triple murder suicide last night in [town]?” “Uhm, no.”
I feel bad, because my first thought was of my brother M, who lives in that town. So now I’m really scared.
“Well, I think K and B were killed by B’s ex-boyfriend last night and then he shot himself.” “What? No.”
And then I left because K and B are the last names I thought she’d mentioned. But a quick check to facebook showed that their friends had already heard the news and that confirmed it for me. Later on in the day, I would find out the third person who was murdered wasn’t just a friend of theirs, but actually another cousin of ours.
At first I couldn’t believe it. That doesn’t make sense. Why would he kill her? And why he kill the rest? And then why would he kill himself? And what about the baby? (The baby thankfully is ok and is too young to ever remember any of this (hopefully).) So I started digging for details. Turns out the reasons were the increasingly common reasons a noncustodial father kills the mother of his children – child support and because she was moving on.
Now that I could believe it, I was angry. Why is this the solution? Why is it when a relationship doesn’t work out, violence is the next step? What was his plan if the cops didn’t stop him? I actually don’t want to know.
I was only angry for a little while before I became sad. My cousins K and B were young. Both under 30 and both with children. They hadn’t lived life yet. My third cousin, T, was older, and to be sure, I feel sad for her too, but at least she got to live most of her life. I was much closer to K and B than T.
And then the guilt came. I hadn’t seen them since the last funeral we all were at, which was K’s mom’s in April. I had done a terrible job of staying in touch with that side of the family. Even since I had moved back to CT, I only was ever around during times of tragedy. That and I had gone into super hermit mode for most of the first year I was here. Do I have the right to feel devastated over deaths of people I wasn’t close to? I still vacillate between “they’re your feelings it’s ok” and “you don’t have a right to feel this way.”
The only thing I felt I could do now was to help. B’s sister had come into town and was doing most of the funeral preparations. I had to help her; I felt like it was my duty. Some small way to make up for not being around while they were alive. Man, did she put me to work. It was difficult to watch everyone’s coping mechanisms, which ran the gamut from working instead of feeling and feeling so much they wound up in the hospital. It felt good to help, it felt awful to witness the families sorrow increase as they learned more details. The murderer’s very long and disturbing history of domestic violence, my cousins’ last moments, how if the stars had aligned a little differently another cousin could have been involved and if they had aligned another way, it would have been the family matriarch instead.
But then there were good moments. People volunteering food and space for the funeral. A toy drive set up for the kids. Donations of clothes and other things babies need. People coming to share a laugh and good (but really bad for you) food. And although I’m not into Church, I even appreciated the many prayers shared. But the best was the baby, who was just as happy as he always. Hard to feel down when he smiles at you.
We planned a double funeral. We had to find clothes for them to wear. Something that seemed easy enough but quickly turned into a three day project while we worried about what they would wear, would they have liked this if they were alive and still getting something to cover up all the things the family wouldn’t want to see. Because everyone was so emotionally beat down, I wrote the two obituaries.
And then the funeral happened and it was terrible and beautiful. Two white caskets next to each other, surrounded by flowers in their favorite colors, in front of a packed Church in the middle of a snowstorm. People were sobbing. Some had the decency to do it in the bathroom and not on the family who was already barely holding it together. Thankfully, I kept it together through the funeral and the burial. Me, my mom and my brother had to do readings, but again, I felt happy that I could do something. In the end, K was buried next to her mother and B was married next to her. Best friends to the end.
We worried if there going to be conflict within the family since T was just visiting and because she had died trying to help her cousins here? But of course there wasn’t, because this is family. My mom married into the family when I was little and I used to still be around even after her divorce. K and her brother used to always be at my house and I have many found memories of us terrorizing my step-father with our antics (and bad and much too loud singing). The one thing about that family that I always admired is that they always stood together, even when one was acting a complete fool. ”The Mills!” I would say and laugh. And so, when I learned that my cousins died because they were protecting one another, I was not surprised. It seemed so fitting that this tight knit family would literally die for one another. I could not be mad at that. I don’t think they would be mad either. I don’t think they would have even thought they had a choice. And though I am still really sad and mad and guilt-ridden, I take small comfort in family and the things we do for each other.
*murder porn is not actual porn. It’s those murder shows like Snapped, Fatal Encounters, anything on Investigation Discovery. Basically real life Law & Order.
Ok so I know it’s only the pilot but I am in love with Twenties. Lena Waithe, of Dear White People fame, created Twenties because she felt it was a universal story and because she needed to tell it. While networks love the script and premise of the show; they don’t think there is an audience for Twenties. Now we have to prove them wrong. Lena’s call to action is simple, share Twenties with twenty of your friends. I have already raved about this show on my facebook and my twitter but this feels like a better way to do it. I mean, we can’t let Tyler Perry be the only voice of Black people, and especially Black women. Ugh, can we really handle more The Haves and The Haves Nots? shudders.
Although many people have been calling Twenties a “Black Girls”, I think it’s more than that. Sure they are twenty somethings struggling in a city, but Hattie is no Hannah and that’s a good thing. Some of my friends have said the characters are annoying, but to me that makes them endearing. The tampon vs. pads scene was something I have seen played out many times in real life. I wasn’t in love with the down low angle but I do know that’s a fear many women have while dating. I love all these familiar situations finally being shown on a screen. These aren’t your typical Black girl characters. But what I loved most about Twenties was the way the show dealt with Hattie’s sexuality. She’s not the gay friend, she’s the friend who having problems with her ex, who happens to be a girl. It’s not a big deal. But it was hit home in Hattie’s breakdown that she was in love with an emotionally damaged straight girl. (Nope, that couldn’t have been a vlog from one of my own exes.)
So check it out and let me know what you think.
Thank you Lena, I really hope someone picks up this series soon because I need much, much more twenties in my life.
I’ve been holding off on commenting on this for a while, but since people are asking, here’s my two cents.
well, some light is being shed on domestic violence in the black community. We are actually acknowledging it exists and speaking about it with our friends. We are seeing that it can happen to anyone and we are seeing a lot of people talking out how this has affected them personally – men and women. And hopefully, we will see a beautiful young woman strong enough to walk away and a young man secure enough to get some real help and learn to deal with his issues.
Most likely we won’t. And it will be heartbreaking to see them together again, and more heartbreaking when he does this again. I understand that it is not easy to walk away from an abusive relationship. I know even when women leave it is emotionally draining to press charges.
The way young people are reacting to this situation. Reading the comments on Black gossip sites and on Rihanna and Chris’s myspace pages is horrifying. Some young people think this is ok. Some people think being provoked is a reason to beat a woman (this comes straight from Chris’s sister AND cousin).
for real? Is this requisite line of every black chick on reality shows?
Last night I watched the premiere of Real Chance of Love. Yes, the show is as terrible as its title and horrendous wardrobe. Who dresses theses guys?!
But please slip me the number of real’s hair dresser because I WISH my hair had that shine.
At any rate, the show is basically Flavor of Love (my fav) but with two clowns and too many angry women. The black women were so angry. The white women were so “color blind.” The show was absolutely ridiculous but one part struck me, the mandatory “I’m not here for friends” line that somehow turned into a really huge fight. It went like this.
White woman: We should be buddies. Black woman: I’m not here for friends. White woman: Ok *walks away*
Black woman immediately starts talking shit to other women about how the White women wanted to be friends. She threw in the “She’s here for the wrong thing, she’s not real” line and the others giggle. White women: *over hearing this (because of course the Black woman was extra loud)* Are you talking about me? Black woman (yelling): YES! I AM NOT HERE FOR FRIENDS!
Uhm, what in the world? Don’t believe me, watch it here. That was annoying. What was more disturbing to hear it in real life in my office yesterday. Someone was in my office and we were talking about the drama that is grad school and she told me she didn’t have any friends at school. She then named three women who are acquaintances and was really proud of her self.
“I’m not here for friends,” she said as she leaned back in here, a proud smile pasted on her face. [editor's note: edited b/c it was causing drama in my real life]
Ladies, lemme break something down for you. You need friends. You need friends at school, you need friends at work, you need friends in your life. I know this macho “I don’t need friends” bs makes you feel like you’re an independent woman, but for real, you sound foolish.
Why do you need friends? Well besides the fact that friends are awesome, they can benefit you. You can study with your friends at school. Friends at work can help you with your projects, they can keep you from putting your foot in your mouth at meetings. Friends at both can support you when people start acting crazy (it’s inevitable). I love friends.
If the friends at work and school aren’t awesome, perhaps you aren’t choosing them wisely. The office gossip, probably not the one you should be a bff with. The loud mouth who’s always playing people in class, while funny, is not the one that you want to share your insecurities with.