Ornithology– the study of birds
I’m learning to write again. I am learning to feel again. Suffice it to say, I am at a stage in my life where I have made peace with the fact that life is a continuous process of learning.
People have been curious about my writing. Almost every person I talk to these days keeps asking me the long dreaded question, “you still writing?” to which I’d respond, “trying to.”
At the best of times, writing has been difficult because that’s just how writing is, especially for writers. Add in mental health complications and a receding weed addiction and writing seems even more elusive than usual.
Creativity and mental illness often go hand in hand I’ve been told. People fetishize this little tidbit because they believe artists need great pain to create great art, when in actuality what we need is happiness and help, sometimes lots of help.
I am still in the process of recovering from a mental breakdown where I suffered fierce anxiety attacks, delusions, hallucinations and acute memory loss. One minute I remember being at home with two friends, the next minute I was being placed in the Psychiatric ward of the Guyana Public Hospital (terrible service) for treatment. They told me I had my break due to a weed addiction. I din know weed could’ve done the things that happened to me. I think what they needed was a scapegoat to explain my mental break.
I’m not saying weed did not have a part to play, it had a large part to play but it definitely wasn’t everything. It also had to do with the fact that I was always on my feet. Where weekdays and weekends were all spent the same way – working. I felt as if I needed to do everything all at once. The common mistake of us young folks. It also had to do with the fact that I was and still remain poor. Despite all the working I was doing and my mother’s help, I was struggling financially. Way too often, there was no food in the house and it wasn’t because I was spending money on drugs, it was because I had way too many responsibilities and not enough money to dash pon dem.
The largest contributor to my illness however, was the years of unresolved trauma I had been walking around with. Growing up in the culture of not addressing the things that scars us such as beatings, rape, molestation– things have a way of sitting on ones chest until we begin to feel as if we can’t breathe. I was walking around with both my trauma and that of others because everybody likes to talk to me about their problems. I don’t mind it much, I’m a good listener, but I had never quite learnt how to disconnect myself from the trauma of others. I feel like we are all so deeply connected that to hurt one is to hurt all. Disconnecting my pain from that of others was something I had to learn. Something I am still learning.
I spent several days in the psychiatric ward, most of which I still do not remember. My family and friends tell me of things I did and said, things that do not make sense to my now stabilized mind. I am still trying to pick up the pieces from that period because if there is something I love to do is understand. One of the things I do not understand was why when I was finally discharged from the hospital the “learned” social workers there saw it fit to take advantage of my still weak mental state and admit me to Phoenix Recovery Centre. At the time I felt like I had no choice in the matter, despite being an adult and despite the fact that these social workers weren’t paying any bills. That decision to send me there delayed my recovery and mental healing by over a month because I was not in a positive or well meaning environment. They did not know how to cope with mental health and the bad energies in that in that place ran abound.
I left there a shell of myself. In a worse mental state than I had entered. I was having anxiety attacks almost everyday where my chest and head felt like they would explode at any minute. I once again began to suffer from delusions and paranoia where I began to attack people. Nothing made sense. It did not help that I was not learning anything about my addiction in Phoenix. They use a one-stop fix all method where we were served a three course meal of religion everyday and classes that taught me nothing other than how to feign interest. It was as if they focused on every other drug aside from weed, which was not surprising given the place is more suited for hard addicts.
Despite learning nothing in rehab about my addiction, I have begun to look at weed differently and analyze the ways in which it has affected me. I am still a firm believer in the benefits of marijuana and the need for it to be decriminalized; particularly since we have so many young black men being imprisoned almost daily. However, when we begin to abuse something then it can have a disastrous impact on our health. Particularly since we are still in the process of learning about marijuana, the chemicals they are made up of and how they can impact our brain and mental health, there is greater need for public sensitisation on the drug (yes, you over exuberant potheads, it is a drug).
I have made peace with the fact that I cannot go back to smoking weed how I used to; which was almost daily. I have realized the need for a shakeup in my coping mechanisms. I’m learning how to ground myself more not in drugs but in mindfulness. Having the power over one’s mind and controlling impulses has been a journey for me. Everyday I wake up and try to focus on one positive thing about my life. I found it has helped to reprogram my mindset a lot. I am not continuously stressed, I don’t always feel the need to self-medicate, I am more open and honest about my feelings and limitations. I’ve reevaluated friends and their place in my life. I’ve been rebuilding.