Category Archives: Mental Health

Bandersnatch, What’s Free Will when you’re Mentally Ill

Spoilers ahead, please watch the movie first.

Black Mirror is one of my favorite television shows, once you get past the episode where that guy had to do that thing with the pig. After that, you really learn to appreciate the show. This British drama lays the best and worst of humankind, forcing us to reevaluate what we as a species actually appreciate (I hope it’s not pigs, at least not in that kinda way). The latest and long-awaited release of Bandersnatch did not disappoint. Like many British shows, I felt as though it had a slow and mildly confusing start. I tried to watch this movie when I was about to sleep, but the interactive aspect was a bit lost on me. Once I did actually have the energy to brave this movie I ended up getting absolutely wrapped up in the characters life, so much so that I got lost in my own anxieties.

Bandersnatch follows the life of Stefan, a 19-year-old aspiring video game designer, who is living during the year 1984. Stefan lives in an ordinary town in England with his father, and frequently sees a therapist for what I assume is anxiety and/or depression (possibly a long-term adjustment disorder). In the film, Stefan is given the opportunity to bring to life his video game Bandersnatch, based on the novel by fictional author Jerome F. Davies (the genius who cut off his wife’s head). This Netflix movie mimics the storyline of the novel, and game(s) Bandersnatch creating this meta-analysis of free-will. As we progress in the film, we watch the decline of Stefan’s perceived (and actual) freedom. He becomes a victim of his impulses, a victim of our decision. We watch him lose control of his ability to choose, fighting inexplainable drives, and spiral into a pool of is own mind. He begins to question if anything is real anymore if we are all just P.A.C. (Program and Control) Men trapped in an inescapable maze.

I won’t act like I have the best explanation for this movie, but I do want to throw my hat into the ring. Bandersnatch, in my opinion, is a metaphor for Mental Illness. The protagonist of the film is living with it, and it’s not lost on me how Colin (Stefan’s idol/guide/mentor) also seems to be impacted by it (educated guess). When watching the film, some might assume that Stefan is suffering from Schizophrenia. As where I can understand why that is a conclusion some would come to, I’d like to point out that the DSM 5 outlines the below criteria must be met to make that diagnosis:

Two or more of the following for at least a one-month (or longer) period of time, and at least one of them must be 1, 2, or 3:

  1. Delusions
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Disorganized speech
  4. Grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior
  5. Negative symptoms, such as diminished emotional expression

There’s a bit more that goes into a diagnosis for Schizophrenia, but I’d like to point out that the only symptom of the 5 that I think it’s fair to say Stefan exhibits is hallucinations. I’d argue that he can’t possibly be suffering from delusions because there’s nothing false about his beliefs, and it may be ‘crazy’ from the outside looking in, but given context, we see there’s truth to his beliefs. It’s arguable that he does suffer from hallucinations because there are two separate times (that I’ve seen) that he comes across the lion in Bandersnatch, however, it’s worth noting that one of those times he’s under the influence of acid/LSD. I don’t think he has a disorganized speech at all, nor does he exhibit grossly disordered or catatonic behavior (when put into the context of his unseen reality). I think it’s debatable to say he showcases signs of negative symptoms of Schizophonia, but it’s extremely important to take into consideration that he was under extreme pressure and wasn’t eating/sleeping to meet a deadline (could also explain his hallucinations). Never the less, his therapist doesn’t diagnosis him as having Schizophrenia (or so we know), and that’s what’s most important to me.

Regardless of if Stefan suffers from Schizophrenia or not, the reference to the matrix and free-will wasn’t lost on me. We as humans need to believe in free-will, even if it is just a myth. Without it, we lose hope. I also couldn’t help but appreciate how Stefan’s impulses, his reality, and his experience was discounted because of others we unable to see it. As a Black woman, I could relate to him. My experience with racism, sexism, homophobia, etc is constantly dismissed and gas-lit in this society and my cries for help and understanding are also taken out of context. Medication is given to people like me, because either my reality is dismissed, or all I can do is try to cope with it.

My interpretation of the film is that the Audience/Netflix is a metaphor for Mental Illness, and Stefan is us. When you suffer from any mental illness, often time you feel trapped in a maze that you’re incapable of escaping. You are a P.A.C. man, trapped in this game we call life, forced to consume the bullshit that comes with it. Grasping for cherries for short-term highs as attempts to cope/escape from the demons that are chasing you. No one else but you and other mentally ill people understands and validate your reality. You’re passed off as crazy, and the only people who have an idea of how crazy you are, are passed off as crazy too or eccentric as well (see Colin).

This piece has no fair ending, much like how Bandersnatch has no fair ending. There’s no escaping Mental illness, you can only learn to cope with it. This film forces us to consider if the sense of control and security we have over our lives is false. It challenges us to reconsider if free will is actually real. Most importantly, it makes us ask the question: Who or What is controlling us?

Increasing Emotional Intelligence by Giving “Full Consideration”

Emotional intelligence, something young girls are conditioned to have, and boys are conditioned to lack. I find that when I interact with most men I often have to teach them how to be sensitive in general, as well as sensitive to me.  It’s not my duty to teach my partners how to have a healthy baseline of emotional intelligence; it can be exhausting.

 To me, it is not fair to have to over-think in order to translate how to have basic relationship skills to my partner. When I think of a partner, I think of someone who’s evenly yolked in multiple different areas (spiritual, mental, emotional, sexual, and practical). This is so in a relationship we can focus on bettering each other from a shared baseline.


What happens if you’re not evenly yolked with someone, and you have mix-matched baselines?


The way I see it, a relationship is the meshing of two people to create a partnership (one unit). Follow my metaphor:

  • Relationship = Hybrid plant
  • Partner 1 = Mango plant
  • Plant 2 = Lemon plant.

For these two individual plants to become a hybrid, each must coexist with full consideration of what each plant requires.


Well, what does “full” consideration look like?


Fair question don’t you think? I’m going to start with what full consideration isn’t. Full consideration is not selfish, nor is it self serving. Full consideration is the act of taking yourself out of your own body (metaphorically speaking), and into the perspective of an imaginary third party to then decide what is the best decision for all parties involved.  Women in my experience are taught this level of consideration from an early age. These teachings can range from reasonable considerations or to unfair considerations. See an example of both:


“I’m really stressed out, and having a drink is what I’m used to doing to feel better. But now I’m pregnant, so I have to find a new coping mechanism.”


“Damn, I really feel confident in this dress. But it’s a bit short, and I don’t want guys to think they can grope me because I’m wearing it.”


As where the latter consideration may be accurate, it is unfair to expect women to give an unfair level of consideration to others.  If men were condition to have high levels of emotional intelligence, women may not consider their safety and survival when choosing to do ever day activities. Studies show that once girls begin puberty (sexual development), they are twice as likely have an anxiety disorder than men are. A clear correlation can’t be made without further research, but I do think that it’s a study worth conducting.

Should women stop being so considerate? No, that’s not what I’m arguing. I think that our society does not raise men and women to be evenly yolked emotionally, so in return you see women having to be hyper-sensitive to the needs of others and men lacking in that area of emotional intelligence.


So what can be done to even the playing field?


In order for men and women to be evenly yolked, a desire to increase their emotional intelligence and unlearn unhealthy habits is needed. This desire should not be motivated by a girl they are attracted to, because women do not exist to be rewards for men who learn basic decency. The desire should not be motivated by the desire to have sex, because if you’re only a feminist to get laid then you haven’t truly increased your emotional intelligence (i’mma challenge y’all to think about why that is). The desire must be driven by the want to improve as a person, and to the best version of who you can be as a human being. This in turn will breed more emotionally intelligent people who are taking balanced consideration into each other’s needs, which makes it so one person does not have to be hyper-sensitive and over-extend themselves because of the other person.


So back to our plant example:

  • Semi-Consideration: Only looks at the type of environment that the mango tree is comfortable in, and developing an environment that’s best the mango plant, thus leaving the lemon plant as an afterthought.
  • Full Consideration: Takes into account what both plants need to survive on their own, and find a way to create a compromise for those plants so they can have an environment conducive to mutual growth. Only when both plants have a fair amount of their needs met can they become a hybrid plant and have a healthy relationship.


I would argue that if someone isn’t able to/doesn’t desire to give full consideration in their relationship, I do not think that they are ready to be in a healthy relationship. I also think that there are situations where no matter how much consideration is given, two people are not able to meet their own separate needs together (these people are incompatible). It does hurt if people aren’t ready to be in a healthy relationship, or when they aren’t compatible with you. But, it’s better to know that then to over-extend yourself, and eventually find yourself in a toxic or abusive relationship. I think that when we respect people, we treat them with consideration because they matter. I hope you noticed that this post was cis-normative, because now the next step of consideration for men and women is to consider the feelings and needs of people who don’t fit in the gender binary.

Consideration isn’t selfish, nor is it self serving. Consideration is going beyond yourself. I challenge you all to increase your emotional intelligence, the world will be a better place when we treat each other a little better.

Damn, I’m a Pick-Me Ass Bitch

A “Pick Me Ass Bitch,” by definition is the “woman” who tries too hard to be liked (Men can be pick-mes, but this ain’t for them right now). She will compromise her independence, her self-esteem, and her self-respect for the opportunity to be chosen. Some examples of Pick-Mes are Phylicia Rashad, in the case of defending Bill Cosby’s rapist ass, and Erykah Badu arguing that Teenage girls need to ‘cover up’ so as not to distract male teachers. “Pick Mes” are women who are conditioned to internalize misogyny and changes their behavior to fit the narratives of a sexist society. Growing up in the rural South, I was surrounded by religious propaganda that conditioned me to internalize self-hate. Statements like “Don’t be easy” and “Boys don’t want a woman who has been used” were the main motivation for me wanting to be a virgin till marriage. I felt as though that’s how I would gain a man who respected me, by being “worthy” of “respect.”

Then I was raped… I found that living in a world where I internalized misogyny became difficult for me; how was I supposed to heal when in the back of my head, I felt as though my value had decreased. On one hand, I believed it wasn’t my fault, I was completely covered up, I wasn’t a “whore.” But in the back of my head I remembered the details, I had “no business being intoxicated,” why was I even at a boy’s home? I faced a rude awakening that existing as a woman, as my own woman, meant existing outside of other people’s expectations of me.

Now as a grown ass woman living in New York, surrounded by people who are “sex-positive,” I feel as though I am still unpacking my pick-me ways. Yes, my environment has changed, the narrative has changed, but I still found myself performing the same song & dance. For most of my life, I’ve had issues with my self-esteem, and finding “self-validation.” For as long as I could remember I would talk to my friends about every single thought, feeling, emotion, and response. I’d look at them as my stamp of approval, the people to prove I wasn’t crazy. When I dated men, I tried so hard to not fit into the “crazy” or “jaded” archetype.

In my last relationship, I think I went in with the subconscious thought that it was my job to compromise who I was. I had committed to him, so I had to be comfortable with the fact that he wasn’t comfortable with me showing too much flesh. I had made a commitment to him, so I get why he wouldn’t want me to be friends with males I’ve had sex with. He was my man, so I had to be understanding of why he was uncomfortable with my sex worker past. I felt like I owed him countless explanations, I owed him undeserved vulnerability, and that I owed it to him to shrink myself. But damn Y’all, I gave that man an inch and he took a WHOLE mile. When I cut my hair, he told me I looked like a man and expressed an issue with the fact that I didn’t “consult” him first. When I had sex with someone else after he broke up with me, he expressed he didn’t understand how I could be so ‘easy’ if I had been raped. The micromanagement only increased over time, and I was punished for standing up for myself or confiding in my friends and family.

Now, I’m at a very similar place as I was when I was 18, trying to figure out how to heal. After I left him I internalize his messages: “Good luck finding someone that will deal with you.” He made me feel like because of who I am and who I was that I had something to be ashamed of. The next guy I dated I found myself trying to do everything to appease him. He was surprised when I wore a crop top, so I changed it (even though he said it was fine). I kept my past hidden from him, “He doesn’t need to know the ‘dirty’ parts of you that made you who you are.” Eventually, when it came time to commit, I truly don’t think I was ready. But so many of my friends seemed happy with him, and I figured that I was stupid for dating so many “bad guys” that why shouldn’t I give a “nice guy” a chance? Then very shortly after he asked me for a relationship, he ghosted me. Immediately I blamed myself. I figured it was because of the times I was too annoying, too affectionate, too attentive, too me.

I felt destroyed, I felt like my ex was right. I wasn’t able to keep him, and I wasn’t able to keep the next guy. I didn’t begin to snap out of my funk until I realized that it’s really hard to mess up the “right thing.” That no guy who REALLY likes you sits at home and thinks: “Damn, shawty type bad and I deadass like her, but, she was too affectionate, so I ghosted.” Maybe men don’t prefer the affectionate type, but a person who is invested in and values you won’t just ghost you. Once I accepted that I realized that being ghosted hurt not because I really liked him, but because just like he was probably using me to validate himself, I was doing the same. I allowed myself to commit when I wasn’t ready and almost agreed to a situation I felt tricked into (that’s another story) because I was seeking validation that I could keep a man. I wanted to feel worthy, and I wanted to believe that I was able to pick a “good guy.”

Y’all, just like 18-year-old Monisha had to do, 23-year old Monisha is working to undo her pick-me programming. Very shortly after I was raped, a man told me that if I had a dominant man in my life that I probably wouldn’t have been in that situation. I don’t think I’ve talked about how I internalized that things that happened to me were my fault. I don’t think I’ve owned up to the fact that in some cases I date men who are more “traditional” because I lack the self-esteem to combat my internal feelings of incompetence. I think I still have a lot of “pick-me” in me because I’m scared Y’all. I’m scared of being alone, I’m scared that I won’t have to protect myself, I’m scared that I’ll always have to be a “Strong Black Woman.”
When I have daughters, I hope I can raise them to have more faith in themselves than I did. Cause nothing for nothing, I don’t want to raise daughters, I need to raise women. I need to raise girls who don’t internalize that they are incapable of being their own person, I need to raise myself to internalize that I am cable of being my own person. It’s a process, I am healing, I am transforming.

Internalizing Self Love and Body Positivity

I’ve touched on the body positive movement before, in a way that strongly critiqued the mainstream trend (see here). Now I’m all for think pieces and opinions, but after you tear something apart it’s important to suggest solutions. When I wrote that piece I was extremely unhappy with myself, and my body. I constantly compared myself to my other friends, and spent hours obsessing over my weight (and how to lose it). In many ways I think I was trying to disappear, to take up less space, to have less of me that could be critiqued. I knew the importance of loving and accepting your body, but I was so impatient to gain results; “why?” 

Self harm isn’t limited to physically harming yourself; self harm is also allowing your head-speak to hurt you. What I mean by that is, sometimes we (myself included) will tear ourselves down before we give anyone the importunity to. We become our worst enemies, so maybe it doesn’t hurt so much when we perceive threats. “What does this mean?” Using myself as an example, I used to have someone in my life who was constantly belittling me. They’d attack my intelligence, life decisions, friendships, and even past traumas. I felt broken down in every direction. The issue wasn’t that I was internalizing these messages as true, but I think I became obsessive about attacking my actual insecurities before they could. Which as a result doubled down on the toxicity, and poisoned the air I was taking in.

I say all this to say, self love is NOT achieved all by ourselves (contrary to popular belief). As touched on my previously mentioned post, the environment we live in and the messages we receive highly impact our ability to internal positive feelings about ourselves. That means, who we hang out with, who we live with, where we live, the things we watch, and who we have close relationships with have an impact on our ability to love ourselves. “Why?” Because, humans are inherently social creatures! Which means we seek approval for others, we want to fit in, we care about what others think of us. Now do you understand why it’s important ensure that the people in our life are on our team? Do you understand why when we have people in our life we have to ensure:

  • They advocate for you.
  • They build you up.
  • They are thoughtful towards you.
  • They are considerate towards you.
  • They are patient with you.
  • They have faith in you.
  • They are understanding towards you.
  • They love you in a way that does not make you question it’s validity.

There are always going to be people who want something from you, or simply just want to be in your life. But on our quest for self love it’s important to reflect on how people impact you, and what you end up doing with that impact. I told my mother recently: “People in your life will either build you up or break you down, there’s no in-between.” That might be a bit radical, but the older we get, the less time we have for ourselves. We must be selfish with who we let into our lives, we must ensure that people are building us up. Because even if we allow toxic people into our lives, just because they can’t literally break us down doesn’t mean we won’t start helping them.

“So how do we internalize self love?” Simply put, look at the quest for self love from a Micro (You), Mezzo (People in your Life), Macro (Society) perspective. On a micro-level are you doing what you can to internalize self love:

  • Are you feeding yourself?
  • Are you drinking enough water?
  • Are you moisturizing your kinky curls?
  • Are you putting yourself first within reason?

Then on a mezzo-level, are the people in your life aiding to your ability to internalize self love:

  • Are the people in your life kind to you?
  • Are the people in your life present through the good and the bad?
  • Are the people in your life supportive of your decision?
  • Are the people in your life jealous of you?

Lastly, the level we have the least amount of control over (but one we should still consider) is the macro-level:

  • Are the shows you watch providing you with positive representation?
  • Are you in an environment where you felt seen and heard?
  • Are you in an area where you have access to products you need?
  • Are you in an environment where you feel safe to be your true self?

The more or less privilege you have will impact how much you’re able to do to support yourself. However, I still think it’s mindful to be considerate of these questions, even if you’re unable to change them. This is because we must be kind with ourselves.

“Some days I’m not able to wake up and go to the gym, because i’m tired. Some days I will keep toxic people in our life, because I don’t know where else to get support from. Some days I will continue to live in environments where I feel unsafe, because I don’t have the access/ability to live anywhere else.”

We can not allow our lack of privilege or energy to be an excuse to belittle ourselves; “Be understanding and forgiving of yourself.” Sometimes self love means accepting what we can not change and control, and celebrating ourselves for what we did have the ability to do.

So let me ask you this, what have you done on a micro, mezzo, and macro level that showcases you do love yourself?

 

How Can we Practice Self Love?

Two weeks ago I went out to dinner with an older male friend, and we spent a significant amount of time talking about love and relationships. He, due to our age difference, is at a different point of his life than I; I have a fresh pair of eyes and he carried wisdom in his. I started to confide in him about my lack of confidence to love (I’m sure I sounded like an over dramatic 20-something-year-old), I expressed to him how I was scared that I’d never figure it out (Yup, over dramatic 20-something-year-old). The more I opened up, the more I had questions:

“What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing, you’re 20-something”

“Am I unlovable?”

“From where I’m sitting you seem very lovable.”

“I don’t think he ever loved me, what even is love?”

That’s when he said something that really hit me, in ways defining love for myself never could. “I think that love is having faith.” I’d never heard love defined as that; so simplistic yet it forced me to pause and view love from a new perspective. “I don’t think he ever loved me. He spent so much time trying so change me, he never had faith in me… I don’t think I have faith in me.” At this point my friend probably felt like a guru, he had that feeling we all get when we blow someone’s mind. I think it’s fair to say that love is one of those indescribable, intangible, multi-meaning kind of concepts, but the concept of loving yourself meaning having faith in yourself hit me in a unique way.

In relationships and friendships I’ve never had issues having faith in people, I always assume the best in others. If I am slighted I like to think that people aren’t perfect, and if I speak to them then maybe positive changes will result in that. I’ve had no issues investing in those I care about, because I believed in them as well as the bond I have with them. So much so that I really started to compromise myself; I gave so much to others that I forgot to give to myself. I think I’ve always struggled with believing in myself, and having faith in things outside of my control. When I was in school I would obsessively apply for jobs because I had so little faith that I would have one post grad. In relationships I’d try to hard to adapt to the needs of my significant other that I rarely voiced the things I wanted, until the end.

I am making conscious changing to invest in myself more, and I am practicing the act of having faith in myself. I go to the gym everyday now, even if I don’t feel like it, because I do believe that I can consistently commit 30 minutes a day to the body I want to have. I created this blog and stopped posting on thought catalog, because I think it was important for me to believe I have a message and it’s worth investing in my dreams of being a writer. I am also being more mindful of the friendships I commit myself to, I wrote down a list of friends who seem like they mesh well with me and now I am going to be a better friend to them.

I think it’s easy to fall into a pattern. If most of our lives were were used to feeling like we messed things up, it will take conscious decision making to raise our self esteem. I think having faith in myself, having faith in my ability to have healthy relationships, and my ability to achieve my dreams is an act of radical self love. Failure is inevitable, but in order for my to increase my self love I think I have to view myself as someone to have faith in.

Maybe you’re struggling with the ability to love yourself. Maybe your self esteem isn’t where you’d like it to be. I challenge you to think about the one dream that you have, or one aspect of your life that you’d like to change. Thought of one?

Change it.

How Do We Fill the Empty Feeling?

One of my best friends texted me last week expressing that she was “Sick and tired of being sick and tired.” That quote resonates with me all too well, both from experience and observation. Life is hard, and when you’re young it can be so overwhelming because you’re just starting to figure things out (I don’t think we ever totally do). In high school we might be facing difficulties fitting in, and social relationships might seem intimidating. In early adulthood we are a bit more self focused, trying to chase enjoyable moments and career prospects. In young adulthood, I’ve found that now life seems to be a balancing act. I am juggling my personal health, relationships and dating, friendships and social relationships, my career, my free time, and a ton of social responsibility. Admittedly, I am still trying to figure it all out.

For most of my life I found that I seemed to be carrying this empty feeling inside of me. I felt like an ominous Black hole that was unwilling to be fed; and even if it was hungry I didn’t know what to feed it. I carried that feeling with me when I hung out with my friends; “Do they really want me here?” I had the feeling when I was with lovers; “They are all just going to leave me, right?” I think I even became familiar with that feeling when I was around family; “I’ve always felt pretty alone.” I’ve tried to fill the feeling with food, sex, money, shopping, and alcohol; “I think these things make me feel worse about myself.” I did try less dysfunctional ways of fulfilling myself, I would confide in friends, attend group therapy, individual therapy, take medication; “I still feel so f**king empty.” Depression was something I’ve faced for the majority of my life, then with age came anxiety. College and graduate school were difficult for me for a number of reasons, I felt like I wasn’t represented and I felt misunderstood. With experiences though, came the ability to put words to my frustrations. I could pinpoint what made me feel empty:

  • Lack of representation
  • Lack of community
  • Being around toxic people
  • Not making enough time for myself

Then I learned the importance of self awareness, understanding self, and expressing self. I realized that yes I may not have control over the circumstances I am under, nor may I have control over the events that unfold before me. But what I do have control over is my ability to exist in the present, and my attempts to plan for the future. I realized that a lack of representation and community went hand and hand, so I decided to intentionally befriend more Black women around me. Being around toxic people in many cases is inevitable; “Sometimes you just have to grin and bare it at work.” But other times you can either cut those people out of your life even if it’s difficult; “Call it radical self love.” Which led me to not making enough time for myself, this was something I could control. I’ve been filling my space with plants, which requires me to take time out of my day to care for them. I find it peaceful, when I give to them it feels like I give to myself. I am also learning not to make solid plans on weekends, and I am forcing myself 30 minutes every day (sometimes I skip) to exercise. Even though it seems like a small amount of time, the time we allot for ourselves adds up, and I think that pieces of our self esteem do as well.

It’s been 3 months that I’ve made changes for myself, and I don’t feel so empty anymore. I don’t feel so depressed, and I don’t have such high levels of anxiety. Mental health and wellness isn’t an easy, and I’d argue it’s a life long effort (as we change the way we love ourselves may have to as well). There are going to be days where you’re going to be rocking it with mental health; “I’m so happy for you!” Then there are going to be days where you’re just too tired to heal yourself; “That’s ok, there’s tomorrow.” But I hope that you start to see yourself as worth putting other aspects of your life on hold, and deserving of treating yourself with the love you are seeking to receive.

I welcome you to comment ways you can exercise loving yourself; “what’s worked for you?”