Another Thorn, Another Rose (Mental Illness as a Blessing)

I write about Roses and Thorns wherein I learn to appreciate blessings encountered in storms. Roses inevitably remind us that NOTHING stops those who won’t stop. Their fragrance and texture entice us, and if a stinging thorn is the cost, the pain is worth the prize. 

I am Liminal

I am evolution in motion, but aren’t we all? If we compare the progression of our lives to swimming, consider this . . . when we stop fighting the water, we float.

I embrace the dynamic tension present in all my rites of passage:

  • I am no longer who I was before the storm occurred.
  • I am not yet who I shall become when the storm passes over.

Mental Illness as a Blessing?

I fight against harm perpetrated both by the myth of the Strong Black Woman and the stigma my culture attaches to mental illness every day. Since 1619, America nurtures me to mute my emotions, my pain, and my fear. I stand on the fortitude and resilience of my mother, grandmothers, and foremothers, reaching beyond the middle passage back to the African continent.  

Meri Nana-Ama Danquah articulates my reality in Willow Weep for Me writing, 

“Mental illness that affects White men is often characterized as a sign of genius. White women who suffer from mental illness are depicted as spoiled or just plain hysterical. Black men are demonized and pathologized. Black women are certainly not seen as geniuses—or even labeled as hysterical or pathological. When a Black woman suffers from a mental disorder, we are labeled as weak. And weakness in Black women is intolerable.”

Success for an American like me will not suffer weakness in its narrative. So I lie. I manage. I bear my burdens in quiet. Left to my own devices, I will dissolve into nothing.

But I Do Not Have to . . .

I began decoding family narratives about so-and-so “having blues after that baby.” I then took a deeper look at the life of a family member I dearly loved who, after concluding that trying to measure up in our “perfect family” made life too hard, violently took their life. Finally, someone I refused to live without confessed that their perceived incapacity had to be their “flaw” rather than a family trait. It was time to pray and ask some questions.

I am NOT a Therapist

But I found one. I found someone who understood my life, my context, and offered brave space (known as places wherein we have hard conversations and make peace with sitting in discomfort) for me to deconstruct. 

Thorny and Verdant,

my brave space is a rose garden. Weak and broken, yet neither makes me intolerable. This admission frees me, frees us all, to move ahead, less afraid, blazing trails that the next loved one (or stranger) might see. Am I afraid of my brokenness? Not when I consider these words, 

“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” 

Eugene O’Neill

My brokenness makes room for God. I know this, and when I forget, I look back to something I wrote to myself long ago . . .

Once we embrace the Divine masterpiece we are in God, God is loosed in us, freeing us to become that to which we were originally called.

That Wouldn’t be Possible without Space Made by the Thorns that Prick Us.

Ouch. Amen. Praise God.

Chelle Wilson
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