As I often tell people, what got me to finally get my life together (of sorts) was not me. I wish I was enough, but alas, for me, as I’ve demonstrated time and time again, I am not. The first time I pulled it together out of the darkness of bipolar disorder was for my family—specifically my parents—because I didn’t want to scar them emotionally. But the second time, the time where it seemed to actually stick, was because of this job.
When I was asked by my then bosses if I wanted to be managing editor (and later editor-in-chief) of The Root, I was apprehensive at first, but obviously, and ultimately, said yes. The reason I was apprehensive was that I knew, for a fact, at that time in my life I was a hot ass mess of emotions. I hadn’t dealt with or gotten over my grief over my close friend Toya Watts’ death from colon cancer in 2014, or my mother’s diagnosis of dementia which happened in 2013, or the cancelation of the TV show I was head writer for in 2012, and I was just barely keeping it together on a daily basis. Those three incidents changed me, and not necessarily in a good way. People like to say that everything happens for a reason, but unless the reason was to drive me off the sanity wagon, these incidents, all coming one after another, seemed cruel and purposeless. I was actually having a very hard time at work (I’d stopped going into the office, preferring to blog and edit from my apartment in Washington, D.C. like the agoraphobiac I am), and was shocked I was even being considered for promotion. Couldn’t people smell the crazy emanating from me?
Clearly, they were seeing something I wasn’t capable of seeing for myself at the time, so I reached out to my friend Hopi Morton for advice, asking her if I should take the promotion. She asked me if I was crazy. (The answer: Yes.) And then told me to take the position. After all, I’d been sniffing around The Root’s founding publisher Donna Byrd for a job since at least 2009, and Hopi knew this. This was my dream job. Why wasn’t I reacting as such? And I knew Hopi was right. So I accepted the gig.
The first six months at The Root were the hardest of my life, mostly because I had to move to New York City, a place which always seems like it’s trying to kill me, and I had to get adjusted to a new, more complicated role while the 2016 election was going on. It also didn’t help that The Root’s traffic at the time was terrible and I felt isolated in my struggles.
At the time, the only thing keeping me from going off the deep end was my daily dosage of Abilify, and by mid-December I’d run out of it, but didn’t have a new doctor yet in New York City. So I attempted to white-knuckle my way through January until I finally broke down and told my friend (and former Root staffer) Yesha Callahan that I was losing touch with reality and needed help. She ultimately hooked me up with a psychiatrist friend of hers who refilled enough of my meds so I could make it through January while looking for a new doctor, which I found by the end of the month.
It was then while talking to her about the struggle I was having, being off my medication, that I realized I couldn’t allow myself to get this bad anymore if I was going to run a website. It wasn’t just about me anymore. I was responsible for almost 20 other people, their careers and professional happiness. And I had a responsibility to my employers, to do my job faithfully and well, and I had a duty to those who promoted me to not make them look like fools. I couldn’t let everyone down, so I had to tighten it up.
Some people don’t do well under pressure, but it’s a place where historically I’ve thrived. Without outside pressure, I’d never finish anything, as I’m habitual procrastinator who hates confrontation, who just wants to go along to get along. And being that people were now counting on me, I knew I couldn’t just do what I’d normally do—go off my meds, be a dick, be a hot mess for months on end until my father, one of my sisters or friends yelled it out of me.
But this new me, this “borderline competent and sane” person comes with its own problems. Like, I realized that I can’t just ignore problems, or they’ll grow into bigger, more unmanageable problems. I had to learn to get over my issues with confrontation, with mixed results. (Sometimes people respond well and you work it out; other times they unfollow you on social media!) And I had to learn how to be a better friend and sister and daughter and employee and boss, sometimes all at once. I can’t say that I’ve always succeeded, (in fact, I know at times I haven’t) but it’s been a very good faith effort. I’m trying, y’all!
It’s hard work to stop hitting yourself. To stop doing the things you’ve always done to sabotage your life. To stop spontaneously combusting every six months, and being a psychological vampire to those you love. It’s hard to overwrite programming that was coded in tragedy and pain. But every day I get a little more used to this life of basic competency and learning from my mistakes, of doing the hard thing and not just the easy thing. I’m still prone to the occasional bizarro idea or obsession, but all the competing thoughts in my head are much quieter these days.
Wait? Who am I kidding? They’re as loud as ever, but at least they’re not running me.
Oh, wait, they kind of still do, but at least it’s not affecting my job!
I hope. I think?
No, I know.