General Snobbery
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Monday
Mar242014

I'm Not Dead.

Family photos from my grandmother's sun porch in Newport, Ark.First of all, it's been a long time and I shouldn't have left you without a dope beat to step to ... or at least some blog posts to read. Astute readers and "Friends-of-Snob" have pointed out on numerous occasions my last post here was in November. My last articles on Clutch and The Root were in January and I promised, on the Facebooks and Twitters, that I'd come back in February and now March is almost over. So, yes, that is all true. My goal was to redo my site and re-brand/re-launch on Wordpress, but Wordpress struggled to import all my old posts (I've been blogging since 2007, so there are quite a few) and I'm so busy and impatient I no longer have the energy to futz around with my own HTML and make something pretty. 

A few of you who have been reading me and supporting me the longest actually were worried I'd fallen off the wagon. (That would be the ol' sanity wagon thanks to my friend "Bipolar Disorder.") But I'm pretty much as sane as I ever was, if not more so, as 2013 was the year of serious questions, reflection and re-evaluation. This year, 2014, is the year of having a better long-term plan. 

I'm not going to lie, 2013 was rough. I did not take the ending of my career as head writer of a failed late night talk show all that well. ("Don't Sleep" hosted by T. J. Holmes was, by far, the cruelest mistress.) Shortly after the show ended and I was back in St. Louis, I fell into a pretty rough depression. Some personal relationships exploded while others imploded. I watched an idea myself and my writing partner, Yesha Callahan, nurtured go from amazing promise to crickets. I tried to get hired by a couple other shows, but neither panned out. I took one rejection a bit harder than the other, even though that show was also off the air before 2013 petered out.

I'm a commitment-phobe for this very reason. No one takes break ups well, but you know that person who pretty much becomes a hot mess when things don't work out? That's me. Even though I knew moving to New York and the TV show were long-shots, I wanted to be wrong. And since I'm incapable of maintaining emotional distance once I'm in the weeds of it all, I was hurt all the same, as if I never knew the chances of failure were high.

This side of me has always concerned my parents, as like most loving parents, they do not like to see me upset. But their not wanting to see me upset goes beyond not wanting your kids to be unhappy and melds into the fear that "The Big D" -- depression -- would return. Thankfully, that did not happen. Partially because I know the signs now and prepare myself to combat them, and the other half was the fact that we babysat my sister's son, my nephew Alexander, during the day when my sister was at work. It's hard to climb all aboard the pity train when there's a toddler demanding you pay attention to him, love him, feed him, carry him around and change his diaper. And so, it was thanks to my nephew needing us all to make his needs the priority that got me through it.

My sister Deidre, Alexander's mother, has always been a very driven person. But before Alexander came along, like myself, she wasn't exactly sure of what she wanted to do. She knew she wanted to be successful, but at what? And distractions were always around, pulling you in one direction or the other. When she found out she was pregnant almost two years ago, she was initially worried if she would be capable, but my sister beat that challenge into the ground with a determination and righteousness I'd never seen before. She got serious and then she got very good at what she did, at everything she did -- her job, her personal life, being a mother. I don't tell her enough how proud I am of her and how even though she's my little sister, I looked up to her in those moments. She was the one inspiring me. She faced a challenge and said "Challenge accepted." Then she proceeded to beat the challenge into submission. This doesn't mean every day is a paradise, or that she doesn't need help, because we all need help. But it's about how she got serious about what she wanted, what she needed and how to go about it. How pride died and she focued on what really mattered. 

And I wasn't doing that.

I've had my share of "moments of reckoning" with my illness. I had the moment when I realized I needed to seek therapy. The moment I had to ask my father and oldest sister Denise to recuse me from Bakersfield, drive me from my dusty apartment back to St. Louis where I proceeded to wallow in so much pity I almost died of drowning. I had the moment when I realized I had to get serious about my treatment and maintaining stability and holding myself accountable. I had the one where I realized I couldn't just blow my paycheck and there not be consequences to my sanity. And while most of the time I'm cool with admitting my faults and trying to work around them or improve on them or get help for them, after awhile, you get tired of yelling at yourself and telling yourself what you're doing wrong all the time. You want to be blissfully unaware like so many other people get to be. You want to pretend like everything is normal. You want to eat the entire pizza like doing this won't make you fat. Like actions don't have consequences. 

After New York, I wanted to get back to my life as soon as possible. I didn't want to be unemployed and I didn't want to be in St. Louis. But I also didn't feel like going through whatever the Bipolar Disorder version of the 12 Steps were again. I've often described how being Bipolar is somewhat a bit like dealing with an addiction, or in my case, a desire to just let my id rule my personality and do whatever immediately makes me happy no matter how bad it will set me back. I didn't feel like trying to figure out the grand mysteries of crap like "Why is my anxiety disorder so out of control lately?" or "Why am I actively avoiding most romantic relationships to the point of hostility?" or "Why am I so mad?" After all I've been through psychologically, I wanted those moments of self-reflection to be over. I wanted to be done. But with mental illness -- the Hotel California of illnesses -- you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. Even if you feel fairly well, it never goes away. It's always lurking under the surface and you have to constantly fight it, even when you don't want to. And, man, I didn't want to.

But seeing my sister choose not to fail because failure was not an option, made me wonder why I too would accept anything less than what I wanted out of life? Getting older meant I had to get better. I had to keep moving forward, because even if I chose inertia, time would keep propelling me forward anyway. Except by doing nothing, I would take away my right to have some hand in my fate. I would have to accept whatever was dolled out to me by the universe, and I seriously didn't trust the stars to make these sorts of life altering decisions without my guidance.

There's only so much you can do, can control, in this unpredictable life, but what you can do, you most certainly should.

After a few months of wound-licking in the Show-Me-State, I swallowed my pride, borrowed money from my father for what feels like too many times at this point, and moved back to Washington, D.C. to find a job and bring some sense back to what had stopped making sense. I had to swallow so much pride I feel like I gained about 20 lbs from my all ego-digesting diet. I moved into a room in a house in D.C.'s Hillcrest neighborhood in Anacostia. And, for what felt like the fifth or sixth time now, I stepped out on faith and just "believed" that I would find a way -- to make enough money, to find a place to live, to get started again. And for the second time since 2009, the last time I truly let myself down, I continued my now five year streak of not doing that. 

It's funny, but when I was younger, I was always my fail safe. I knew if everyone let me down, I wouldn't let myself down. I'd find a way. I'd finish the science project by myself. I'd write the term paper the night before. I'd put in the work and time and it would save me from my own procrastination and failures. But after my Bipolar Disorder started to manifest itself when I was in my early 20s, my own reliability became less and less reliable. It started with cutting corners. Then watering down my usual detail and quality. It ended with that day when I didn't show up and do the work. Where I actually failed. And as someone not used to failure of any kind, that was tough. 

So the fact that my word isn't just a word, but a bond with myself again, is pretty remarkable. I found a job. I took a break from my blog to focus on getting and keeping that job. And I dedicated myself to a new plan -- creating stability for myself that didn't involve the First National Bank of "Your Parents." I still have all my other dreams and ambitions, and I continue to work towards them. I still want for big things. But I can't do those big things at the expense of my health.

What good is a gaining the world if you've lost your mind?

You only get issued one of those.

So I'm back, but I'm not "back back." But I'll be writing again. And eventually I'll remodel this site and I'll talk more about culture and music and issues and what not. But for now, let's just play this by ear, shall we?

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Reader Comments (16)

Honey, we're just glad you're back... Whenever, however, whatever... I'm thrilled you're here. Your words are a gift, a feast, a thought-provoking delight. Do what you have to do for you, and know we'll be here waiting. xo

March 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVicki Mabrey

So brave of you to bare your soul, Ms. Black Snob. The painful maturing process and you are dealing with it in a healthy way. Yes, youth tends to be optimistic and picks oneself up fast. But these are chaotic times and there is no norm to fall back on. Jobs are scarce and people less tolerant. I'm relieved to be retired because I would have a difficult time in this environment. So it's not all you. It may not be as much of you as you think.

While you are moving slower these days and planning for the future, something better is in store for you. Learn the lessons and be grateful for them. Your genius is still there. Smile and know that something you probably never expected will open up for you in a far better way.

March 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarion Young

Danielle,

It’s great to hear from you. You have no idea how many people that you are encouraging through this post. So many people are living similar situations regarding work/living with relatives.

A lot of people are having to temporarily shift their goals around. I have been following your blog for years, and I found a bright spot: You got the chance to work with TJ, even if only for a little while. ☺

Thank God for good family members who are there for us even on those days when we don’t have enough money to pay our bills or enough will to push through the day. Your nephew is a blessing, in that he has given you a new purpose even in your transition time. I am glad you found a job. Do what you need to do to pay your bills, until you can return to doing what feeds your soul.

You are a brilliant writer. You always have something meaningful to say, and that is why you have been so greatly missed. Although I would rather you come “back back” sooner rather than later, I understand. You have a lot of supporters, and we’ll be here when you are ready to fully return to blogging. Who else to going to tell me what Zahara’s latest mission for SCAN is now that "Maleficent" is about to be released?

March 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterALM

I would just like to say thank you for sharing such a deep part of you. I know that you are not "back, back" but I am glad that you are back! Thank you for being so fabulous and an inspiration to so many of us creating content online!

March 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSharelle D. Lowery

Thank you for sharing with us. You are a truly talented individual and you will push through this valley.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChar

Be well, Danielle. We're all pulling for you.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnjuan

As someone who has depression I am there with you in solidarity. The struggle is real and the daily victories are sweet and much appreciated. Glad to know you are ok - take all the time you both need and want.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNikita

Danielle,

This resonated with me so much it brought tears to my eyes. I have been there...starting over again and learning to trust myself (again!) .

You have an amazing talent. We are here for you.

March 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterQuiviya

Missed you much! We are just glad you're back to you. That the attempts and efforts didn't last a lifetime or long time isn't what matters. That you stepped out on faith did. Failure to try, failure to say "yes" would've left you with so many "what ifs?" it'd have been maddening. Now you know more than you could've ever known before. Perhaps you could've guessed; maybe there were signs. So? Pursuing increase is never foolish. Welcome back to you.

March 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMeezie

So glad you're back! (That will totally do until you're ready to be "back-back.") Been checking the blog periodically and hoping you were well. I've been a reader for quite some time and just want you to know that your life, like your writing, is quite inspiring in all it's beautiful struggle. The most interesting people IMHO are those who are constantly able to reinvent themselves and always game for that challenge. Looking forward to admiring your next chapter from afar!

March 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKiyah

Thank you for writing this article. I felt as if you peered over my shoulder into my life and copied and pasted all that I'd jotted down. Just knowing that I'm not unique with how I encounter and handle life's varying degrees of highs and lows, will keep me keeping on. Please continue your journey with strength and determination, as it gives others such as myself the needed umph to do the same..

March 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMister

Thanks for posting that and sharing your personal struggles. You have definitely set your pride aside. I know how that feels. Pride is a terrible thing when you are in transition. I see bigger and better opportunities for you. Followed you for quite a while. All the best!

March 30, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkeli

Damn, that was a really beautiful piece. Your words have been missed, but do what you have to do to get yourself "back back" (in whatever form that takes). I've really enjoyed your writing over the last few years and I look forward to reading more of it in the future. Be well!

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen Jen

Welcome back. I've been a fan of your writing for about four years. I even got mad when you stop posting(You became part of my morning ritual). I would follow along as your career seem to soar to new heights... and experience the valleys. I look follow to you sharing your next chapter and thank you for being a open book with your disorder. I recognized the signs in a love one and share your blog with her. So Thanks for being you

April 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

I check the website regularly and figured that you were having a tough winter. Glad to see you back, but not back-back! Good to be reading your work again.

Take your time. Sometimes you have to permit yourself to take a break in our walk along life's road.

Material is abundant. You will have no problems whenever you are interested in picking up steam on your blogging.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSilkOne

Thank you so very much, Danielle for sharing your story. Sharing in the way you have, resonates with me and with so many others and reminds us that we are not alone in our balancing acts of self care, productivity, and keeping depression at bay.

Please know that I am sending positive energy your way, praying for you, and wishing you the very best!

Take good care.

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEnVinoVeritas
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