We had a mental breakdown. The internet search had proven fruitful, and we
could safely diagnose ourselves. Most definitely, we were depressed. Quite possibly, we suffered from bipolar disorder one and two. Perhaps, we might even have schizophrenia.
Or maybe, we are neurotypical “brain-builders”.
I have battled with depression since the age of nine, the age at which I wrote my first suicide note. After spending a year hating every waking second of my life, my unchecked trichotillomania had forced my fingers to pick a bald spot the size of a large moth out of the back of my head. I was nine and hadn’t cried for an entire year, until I came home from school, sent early on cause of aforementioned “letter”. My older sister, in town from college, was coming down the stairs as I ascended until I fell at her feet and dissolved into a cloud of body shaking sobs. Nothing specific had happened, but no matter how hard I tried or my sister cajoled, I couldn’t stop. The first rains in a year and they turned out to be floodwaters. Words from the oldest language of humanity flowed from my lips: infantile screeching, too young for my slightly chubby frame, shook my core with their vitality. I was much too old for so much life.
And nine years later, it would seem we have all come to the altar. Offering our strength, our melanin, our magic, hoping to receive a break, some sort of manna. Yet, for all of our forced smiling in high school hallways, and standing at kitchen counters on autoimmune broken legs, and ignoring the daily loss of one part of our mental machine, and the attempt at conformity to our societies’ wills, we receive mental breakdowns and destroyed physical health.
I heard the title of this essay in a popular afrobeats song. And I have never related to a song lyric so completely in my life. The phrase is really saying that I cannot go out of my way and cause myself discomfort in order to please someone else.
But as a black girl raised in a black family in Amerikkka, I am expected to give of myself until nothing but the dehydrated strands of my DNA lay bare on a road to be picked up. I am meant to be the backbone standing in front of bullets, nevermind the eternal brokenness of said back. I am meant to fly in on my bloody wings and pluck dying canaries from the grasp of every oppressive system on this planet. I am supposed to love those who ride my back reopening wounds with their betrayal, wounds that I have been trying to heal for the last half millennia.
But, this black girl is tired. Tired of waking up every day to fight. Waking up to fight a black man or a white man or a non-black man of color, or a white woman, or a non-black woman of color, or a light skin black person. Tired of ignoring the violence everyone chooses to inflict upon me and living to call them the fragile ones.
The world almost succeeded. Almost brought me to that place, where I could so easily have given one last step. Taken my body over the edge, and let my world heavy body plummet towards the only thing that has never asked anything of me, the warm bright Earth. In my descent, I could’ve plucked every last feather from my head, sang alto until my voice gave up its purpose of soprano, smiled until my boyfriend believed the cracks in my cheeks were from joy and not subsidence, danced before vultures pretending we had an understanding that I wasn’t supposed to be their meal. How easy it could be.
Too bad for it, this world has made me a fighter. You believed my fists could only beat my wrists and my hips. But I have slowly unshackled myself from your capes. My debts to you have long been paid, seeing as how they never existed. I don’t owe this world my civility, my beauty, my intelligence, my joy, my unrequited love, my acceptance of abuse, my conformity, my religiosity, my faith, my loyalty, my bitch, my Lassy, my cheerleader, my yellow sundress in a field, my goddess, my daisies, my healing waters, my lilacs, my ray of sunshine, my poplar, my Nina, my Mya, my Michelle, my any damn thing. And I won’t give any of it to you.
This life is my ancestors wildest dreams; we will live it for ourselves. It may have taken me 18 years to learn how not to commit a daily suicide, but it is a lesson well learned.
Aysha Gray is a senior in high school, but soon graduating. She's been writing stories and essays her whole life. She's currently working on a full novel. Literature has helped her get through some of the worst times in her life and has ushered her into the best.