Catch 22

Water rises up to the edge of my eyelid, falls into my lashes, and dribbles down my cheek as I watch the screen. My mind is connecting with what I am hearing in a way that I don’t yet have words for, so the tears come. Tears of relief, joy, and hope. Tears for the end of a loooong trial that’s been hard to observe with the naked eye, but has been present all the same.

I’m listening to a nurse practitioner recount the many traumatic brain injuries she’s had through the years. Concussions in many varieties that, at different times, came with a fractured skull and cheekbone, inflammation, cuts and bruises, and debilitating migraines that shock her awake and make her throw up in the middle of the night.

I explain the evolving symptoms of my own migraines, the last remaining symptom of a concussion I suffered in a car accident a few years ago. They have improved drastically despite their lingering and, often, show-stopping presence. But when I describe the deteriorating focus and concentration that has begun to affect my work and scare the crap out of me, I point to depression. Do I feel depressed? No. But since when has any of this ever made sense? One hormone decides to call in sick, or my symptoms evolve unexpectedly, and the whole apple cart turns over.

“It’s not the depression. Your medication would’ve handled that symptom like it did the others. No, it’s the concussion. I think you have medical onset ADD – the predominantly inattentive type.” I have no idea what that means. So, I say some version of a “huh?” to the screen.

“It’s common to have worsening focus and concentratration even years after suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I think the concussion has brought on the inattentiveness. Medication can help with that.” She asks me if I’ve tried “Wellbutrin”. “Yes,” I answer, and add that it made me have suicidal thoughts within hours of taking it. “I’m sensitive to medication.” She pauses, then suggests Adderall.

I listen in silence, letting it sink in. As it does, the tears come. In the next second, I wipe my cheeks, saying, “I’m sorry. I’m getting emotional because this has been so hard, and you’re telling me that there’s a way out of this?”

I don’t remember much of what happened next. I learn that there’s a national shortage and that some people can become addicted. “It wouldn’t be addicting if it didn’t work,” she says. We talk about dosage and my medical history as well as my extended family’s. We end the telehealth session with an agreement to meet again in two weeks.

When the call ends, I’m bowing, sitting on my bed, and then again with my knees on the floor. Warm tears still streaming down my face, I praise God for this, whatever it is. Deliverance. A breakthrough. A resolution to an old prayer that I had only recently begun to pray again. Confirmation that I should expect good things from my Father in heaven. Maybe it was all of the above. But whatever it was, I had to offer my gratitude in praise.

The next couple of days pass in a blur. There’s a hold-up with the medication because there’s a nationwide shortage of the exact dosage for my prescription. It takes another day for the nurse to submit a new prescription for a lower dose. But my hope helps me push through the struggle at work. On the day that it is finally ready, I decide to type “Adderall” into Google, and suddenly, my hope comes crashing down around me.

I see words and phrases like “Amphetamine,” withdrawal symptoms, risk of addiction, and effects similar to Meth, and my mouth goes dry. “What the…?”

“I can’t take this,” I say to myself. “I can’t risk addiction.” And immediately, the option was off the table. But the fears of losing my job because I can’t focus and deliver tap dance their way back into the forefront of my mind.

And this is the challenge that comes with navigating any illness, the catch 22, deciding which is worse, the suffering without the medical intervention or the suffering with it. “There has to be another way,” I think to myself.

By the end of the week, I had spoken to my therapist about it – who advised me to seek a second opinion from a neurologist, asked a mentor about supplements for focus and concentration, and most importantly, asked Jesus about it – a simple question in the journal where I write my prayers.

I also endured a rainy “migraine day” that sent me into dark room rest for most of the day. But when I woke up on that sunny Friday, I felt better, drained and tired, but much better. And on the roughly hour long drive to work, I returned to a practice that I hadn’t done often enough in the new year. I listened to audio of my own voice reading verses of scripture on health, healing, and believing.

Taken from a little purple book by Joyce Meyer called: The Secret Power of Speaking God’s Word, I have scriptures covering a few topics recorded on my phone. Why? Because when I speak God’s word out of my own mouth, things change. I change.

I needed my focus to change. So I listened to my voice saying those verses and to two of my favorite RnB songs that I’ve remixed in my head to remind me of God’s love for me… “So Beautiful” and “Yes” by Musiq Soulchild over and over again as I drove to work. All of which reminded me that my God is undefeated and that the “nickname” of Jehovah Rapha (God who heals) was given for a reason. What are migraines and concussions to an all-powerful God? Crushable ants, that’s what. And I said as much along the way, ignoring how insane I might look to the surrounding drivers.

I can’t say what for sure did it. The peace of an empty and quiet office. The joy of a sunny Friday. A grateful attitude. The remembrance of the power and faithfulness of my God. Or, more likely, in my opinion, the very words themselves. But I went on to have the most productive day that I’ve ever had at this job, probably in an entire year, if not longer. And my amazement remains.

I did the practical thing. I filled the prescription. In the off chance that the neurologist agrees with the nurse, I didn’t want to wait even longer due to shortages. And maybe that’s a failure of faith, I dont know. But do I expect to use it? No. Will I forget that it’s there? Probably not, especially if the focus of that Friday never returns.

But I do expect it to return. I believe it will and will say so every day if I have to, with God’s help. Maybe the threat of an addiction will spur my mouth into action, I don’t know. And if I have to throw the pills away, then so be it. But I have been amazed, tantalized by the power of God, and I want to, need to, see it again.

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Just Stay … please?

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…

You are not alone.


You are seen.


You belong.


You are needed.


You are no accident.


You were made with intention, regardless of what’s happened since.


You have a purpose, despite all the pain.


So, stick around a little while longer to see what it will be.


Decide to stick around for one more day.

Just one – one day at a time.

Every day.

And I promise you will get there, love.

Because, for real, you really are loved.

If you need a virtual ear, hit me up @ creatorskind@gmail.com 💜

Seeing the big picture

Have you ever found yourself faced with a challenge that is so big and so overwhelming that you can’t tell whether you’re winning or losing?

Maybe you get sick or hurt and need to undergo a medical procedure. Thankfully, you have insurance, so you’re not responsible for most of the cost to address it. So, you use some savings, take out a loan or save your pennies to pay your deductible and co-pays.

You go to the doctor and work out a plan to fix the problem. You take test after test and exam after exam. You find yourself naked in the company of so many specialists that you wonder whether you should adjust your body count.

All of this takes a while, but eventually, you find yourself checking in at the hospital. And then, you wait. Before you know it, it’s over. You’re at home and recovering. Crisis over.

But now, as you make your way back to life as normal, something unexpected happens. You find new bills in your mailbox. Bills for this test, that exam, this specialist, and those medications. New bills arrive even as you pay the latest ones. You’re in a whirlwind, overloaded with bills for something that you thought was over and done with; something you thought was covered. And in confusion and frustration, you wonder, “Am I wasting my time? Will this ever stop?”

This is how the random flashbacks and intrusive thoughts of PTSD feel to me. No matter how much progress I think I’ve made, those two symptoms remind me that it’s not over. It’s a problem that refuses to go away, and certainly, not without a fight.

My way of fighting is to go to therapy, get enough sleep, stay on top of my medicine, workout, do things I enjoy, have alone time and time with people I love, eat well, journal and talk to God. These are the practices that have made a difference for me. But those moments when I am catapulted back into the original moment of pain feel like a setback. A big one. Beyond confusing and exhausting, it ticks me off.

It makes me angry at the people who caused the trauma. Angry at the person or situation that now reminds me of that trauma. Angry at the world for being so jacked up. Angry with myself for not being past this already. And, if I’m honest, a little angry at God too. Why? “Because I’m doing my part, aren’t I? Where is God?”

My anger temporarily blinds me to God’s many fingerprints that cover my story. Fingerprints that show up in the supports I have that are helping me heal, like therapy and friendships. But this blinding anger is a feeling that arises from some hidden bitter place in my heart, though I know better. My back and forth with PTSD makes me feel like I’m failing. And that makes me angry.

I have a friend that I appreciate and admire so very much. She’s a single mom and is working hard to raise her child to be a responsible and independent person with good character. Day in and day out, she invests every resource she has into this simple, but challenging goal. Yet, understandably, she sometimes gets overwhelmed and frustrated when the same mistakes and setbacks continue to happen again and again. Sometimes, she feels like she’s in this all alone. Sometimes, she feels like she’s failing.

One day, we were talking about a recent episode that brought those negative feelings back to the surface. And I saw something in her situation that I now see is true for me too. There’s a saying that describes it well. It says, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” In other words, she’s in the weeds.

When I look at her child, I see a person who is smart, funny, kind, considerate and well-rounded. In him, I see the totality of her efforts in a singularly beautiful form. I see it all blending and working together in even the simplest things. But I am on the outside, watching her strategic parenting from afar. And she’s too close to the details, too close to every decision, to see the effects they have on the big picture. She doesn’t see that she’s winning.

I realize that it’s true for me and PTSD too. Where I am now with PTSD is not where I was 4 years ago or even last year. Though the uninvited symptoms still show their ugly faces, in the big picture, they have less of a hold on me now than before.

Today, there are fewer episodes with intrusive thoughts. Fewer random flashbacks. Less insomnia. Little to no nightmares. Less anxiety. Less crying myself to sleep. Less stress. Less hopelessness. Less need to be hypervigilant. More confidence. More peace.

In the big picture, where I am now is progress, even if it doesn’t always look like it in the moment. And as difficult as this fight has been, it is exactly because it has been so hard that nothing could ever make me believe that I did any of that fighting on my own. When I take a step back and look at the big picture, I see that I’m winning too, with God’s help.

What about you? What problem has you unable to see the forest for the trees?

©2022 Creatorskind

Words of wisdom

“Don’t let someone piss on your head and call it rain!”  These were the words that rose to the surface of my mind during an EMDR therapy exercise. I immediately erupted in laughter.

Though not in her voice, I instantly recognized the personality behind the words. Memories of my grandmother’s sharp wit and no-nonsense attitude streamed through my mind as I considered whether she would say these words to me in real life, and not just in a dream. Another laugh straight from the gut is my answer. Yes, she would… emphatically yes.

This is how she would react to my stunned silence at my supervisor’s behavior. She would want me to call him out on his garbage and get it all off my chest, professionalism and consequences be damned. She would want me to fiercely fight back in any instance where I have been mistreated. So strongly would she have felt this, that I am certain that if she were alive, she’d offer to tell him off herself.

Ma was a smart, funny, kind, and mannerly woman. Through her influence, her children (grandchildren and foster children too) were renowned for our exceptionally polite and respectful ways when in the company of adults. Visitors would say, often in genuine astonishment, that we were “so well-behaved”. When we were guests of someone else, an invitation to return “anytime” was the norm. She expected her family to be respectful and respectable. But she was also a street-smart fighter.

She didn’t take crap from anyone and never hesitated to put someone in check, if need be. For her, it was always better to nip it in the bud. And she didn’t mince words. Ever. Her epic no-nonsense and no B.S. attitude is one of our favorite topics of conversation in my family. And regardless of what the actual scenario is, it’s often hilarious, simply because it’s true. So, those initial words were no surprise to me. But as we resumed the exercise, the next ones were.

“Save yourself.” 

Now THAT gave me pause. We were using EMDR to try to break down some of the stress I’ve been having about the situation at my job, along with some particularly difficult past trauma around race and work that continues to come up.

Because I’ve been so concerned about what my grandmother would think of me and how I’ve handled these experiences in my life, my therapist thought it would be a good idea to envision a conversation with her about it. Like the one in my dream, I would meet with her and see what comes of it. I don’t know what I expected, but whatever it was, it definitely wasn’t that. But in an instant, I knew what those words meant.

“Save yourself” was a call to arms. It was a call to come out from under the strong Black woman stereotype, even if I didn’t know that I was hiding within it. It was a call to let go.

The strong Black woman is resilient by reason of necessity. She is familiar with hardship. But is expected to be hardened to all of it, racism included. Stoic. She is expected to stretch herself to superhuman proportions, unemotional about the dizzying shapes in which she contorts herself.

When presented with less than “enough” of whatever, the strong Black woman somehow manages to pull everything together. She juggles multiple plates and takes on more without ever letting one fall. She does not disappoint.

She does this at home. She does this at work. She does this in her relationships. She is the person who endures anything, gives everything, and asks for little to nothing. And that is the curse.

She appears to handle everything so well, even the hard stuff, that no-one thinks to offer her help or protection. No-one expects that she needs it. So, she grins and bears it, while her legs buckle under the weight.

Inherent to the strong Black woman stereotype is self-sacrifice. Her needs, wants, hopes and passions come last in-order to wear the crown that comes with lifting everyone and everything else up above herself.

You can argue that it’s a choice. But it isn’t always a conscious one. Without having the language for it, this kind of fortitude was built into my childhood ideas about Black womanhood through example. As a product of strong Black women, and The Cosby Show and Living Single era, I fully expected to do it all and have it all. I just didn’t know that eternal self-sacrifice was one of the trade-offs. I also didn’t know that in-order to reverse course, I would have to fight against another stereotype… the angry Black woman.

©2022 Creatorskind