One Brown Girl’s Journey to Mental Health and Healing

2There are so many things that I could tell you about Natasha Cobb but I’ll let her tell you herself. I just want to say, though, that Natasha and I were the best of friends in middle school and one of my biggest regrets (which I shared with her) was that I wasn’t a part of this journey with her. I didn’t have the tools. I wish they taught us important shit like this in school more. Seriously.

Natasha Cobb

I stood in a lightless alleyway with a street on either side unable to decide which direction to turn in. It was sometime between 2-4am in Cambridge. The streets were empty and most of the shops were closed. I didn’t have my ID to get back into my Harvard dorm. I really had nowhere to go but that didn’t stop me from escaping through the Emergency Exit at University Health Services. I had no idea what was happening to me, or what would happen to me, but I knew I wanted to go home. I knew I needed my mom.

But in the ten seconds it took me to realize my helplessness the nurses came and escorted me back to my room. The ambulance was on its way. When the paramedics arrived I didn’t put up a fight. I let them strap me in. I listened to the sirens that told everyone I was in the midst of an emergency. But then as we drove a bit further they turned the sirens off. It marked the beginning of my new life as a person with Type I Bipolar Disorder.

I wish I could say I accepted my diagnosis right away and moved on to immediately begin working towards getting better. But I fought the diagnosis every time someone brought it up. At first since I’d never heard of Bipolar Disorder I claimed the doctors made the whole thing up to keep me in the hospital. Once the mother of a friend of mine came to the hospital and told me that Bipolar Disorder was an actually thing I began to fight back with the claim that I did not have it. I believed I had no family history (the family history was in extended family and not immediate). I believed it was a one-time thing brought on by extreme stress my freshman year – working two jobs, a full course load, and extracurricular activities at Harvard might cause anyone to have a minor breakdown.

And yet my breakdown was not so minor – hearing voices, delusions of grandeur, hallucinations, mania, psychosis – all in a matter of weeks. There was a larger problem I refused to face. And so precisely when I was doing well taking my meds and back in school I decided I didn’t need the medication anymore. My relapse proved to me that there was a larger issue. This was something I would have to deal with for the rest of my life. I had to be careful. I had to change how I imagined my future. Doctor’s visits, medication, blood work – all the new normal.

So after I graduated from Harvard (taking 7 years instead of 4) I set out to find the best doctor and get on the best medication. But in the transition to my next level of health the stress of my personal life led to a relapse of my mental state. Two major hospital stays in a matter of months left me feeling like the fight was over and Bipolar Disorder had won.

Gone were most of my mental acuity and basically all of my physical agility. Gone was the personality I’d cultivated for almost thirty years. I could not write. I could not hold a conversation. I could not read for any extended period of time. I could only watch television but nothing was interesting or entertaining. I had no sense of myself and all of my confidence was gone.

I was already on disability from my job and I did not think I could return to be a Claims Analyst at John Hancock even though the job only required a high school diploma. I started to look into Medicaid and being thankful that I’d worked long enough to have enough credits to get a disability check. I dropped out of the day program I was in at McLean and started to look for long-term programs. And then I just did nothing.

After my paycheck was cut because I’d been on disability so long I went back to work and did a half assed job and almost got fired. And then I began to think of how death must be so much better than the life I was living and nobody would probably care if I didn’t exist. I convinced myself no one cared and I began to plan my death. I decided that I wanted it to look like an accident. Getting hit by a bus seemed tragically accidental so I decided to find the right bus, the right spot, the right time. There was a bus that turned left on the corner outside of John Hancock and all I had to do was cross the street at the wrong time on my way to lunch. It all seemed logical to me and I thought no one would ever figure out my plan. But I was shocked when I went into see my psychiatrist and he asked me if I was planning to kill myself. I thought how could he know. But then I thought how could he not know.

All it really took for me to change my mind was for someone to notice that I was suffering. It didn’t really matter to me who that person was. I really just wanted someone to care. And then I began to realize that there were other people who cared. This knowledge allowed me to begin to heal.

Natasha is the founder of the blog Brownsville2Concord. You can email her at brownsville2concord@gmail.com.

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