YET ANOTHER CHAPTER
It is a form of population control for African Americans, some have argued. Based on reports, African Americans will be negatively impacted by this re-opening, especially in places like Georgia. Atlanta-based broadcast station 11Alive noted that, “The latest data shows that African Americans in Georgia and across the United States are being hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.”
If the latter were true, then the former might make sense as yet another questionable practice by the peach state’s governor. Alas, this perceived lack of empathy towards African Americans does not exist in a vacuum; it is yet another chapter highlighting some of Black America’s most horrid lived experiences.
In Chicago, I experienced the horror firsthand.
Why should I have to put myself at risk for a job that will not even pay for my funeral if I die, I asked myself while working nearly every day because I did not want my family to lose our housing or not have enough to eat. Yet, when I was putting in these extra hours, my body was changing – little by little. Each day that I went to work, I became further and further disconnected from myself.
On Easter Sunday 2020, I was convinced that I was dying. In a panic, I sent out ominous text messages to the people closest to me because I wanted them to know that I cared.
When I thankfully woke up on April 13, I wasn’t myself. I looked like myself, but I didn’t feel like myself. I later found out that I was likely experiencing depersonalization as a symptom of bipolar disorder. Although I am able to articulate that now, it was terrifying to experience without that prior knowledge.
My first trip was April 18, which also happened to be the anniversary of when I was assaulted by my ex-boyfriend. At first, I thought anniversary trauma, or the feeling of retraumatization on the anniversary of a tragic event, was causing me to not feel like myself. Yet, the symptoms persisted days after this gory anniversary had passed. Now I realize it was not just one singular thing but a culmination of work anxiety, post-grad stress, PTSD, depression and other emotions one might experience growing up as a poor, Black, and perpetually homeless woman.
Although I do not remember much from the past two weeks, that comment stayed. It would be one of many soundbites that demonstrated the lack of care for Black patients, or what the American Bar Association calls “implicit bias in healthcare.” The saddest part is that this woman, and many of the other people who demonstrated this bias, were also Black.
As the saying goes, all skin folk ain’t kin folk.
This second hospital trip is what inspired me to write this story. From the lack of care provided to the general disposition of medical staffers, I knew I had to say something.
The most unsettling moment was not being able to talk to my therapist because an unempathetic nursing staff would not put the call through. Imagine that: going through a mental health crisis and not being able to speak to the one person who might have been able to help you through. After that experience, a voice inside my head said, “you have to write this story.”
In a moment of dark irony, one of the nursing staff asked, “Is she dead?” when he walked into my room while I was sleeping. I wasn’t, but I wished I was. Being in that facility was counterintuitive to any type of progress they purported to make. The only benefit was being able to get medicine, which was all I needed in the first place.
My last day there, I made attempts to open up. I was so upset by my experience that I closed myself off to other patients, until I realized we are all in the same boat.
I’m coming home
Still, that does not take away from the panic of April 12-26. That two weeks could pass, and I don’t remember anything from them is terrifying. But what’s more terrifying are the patients like Ms. Terry*, a possible schizophrenic who is experiencing homelessness. She was roomed next to me during my hospital visit, and I saw them sedate her when she became “unbearable.” However, when I listened to her speak, she was not the animal they characterized her.
She was a human being who was afraid and stuck some place she did not want to be. In some ways, she was like me.
[Name changed for privacy]
In an effort to heal the world, we must first heal the ones we’ve long brutalized with our broken systems. ~ℝ
JAVANNA PLUMMER, RWEBEL IN CHIEF
Javanna is the editor of “Rwebel Magazine,” the architect behind “Rwebel Radio,” and the pioneering force of “Xscape.” Through her words, Javanna hopes to inspire creativity, passion and forward-thinking.
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