In honor of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Shawn Maxam shared this blog post:
Men are no more immune from emotions than women; we think women are more emotional because the culture lets them give free vent to certain feelings, “feminine” ones, that is, no anger please, but it’s okay to turn on the waterworks.
Being a Black man in America is difficult. Being a Black man in America with Bipolar Disorder can be unbearable. There’s a lot of emotional baggage that comes with being a Black man in this country. We still get harassed by law enforcement, we are disproportionately represented in the prison population and more of us die (via each other’s hands) annually than US military personnel do overseas
Now from a macro perspective that’s a heavy burden to carry. This doesn’t include whatever specific issues each individual is faced with. Now I’ve been homeless, physically abused, my brother has been murdered, I’ve been divorced and the police have pointed guns in my face but nothing compares to having Bipolar.
All of those things are external incidents. This mood disorder lives inside me! Lives with me and follows me wherever I go. Sometimes I think people forget that I have an actual medical condition. I have to take medication every day. I need pills to function just at a level that will keep me out of a psychiatric ward or a graveyard.
Black men aren’t allowed to be emotional. You’re considered a whoosh, soft or a punk if you show any emotion besides anger. If you’re a Black man who is self-aware and educated than you’re not even afforded the luxury of being angry or upset ever! Look at President Obama. He has to maintain the cool, calm and collected facade because he’s a Black man in the world’s most powerful position and yet he still gets compared to Hitler.
Society states that there’s nothing more emasculating than a man being unable to control his emotions. A man should be a Spock like individual comprised of only logic and reason. That’s how men are supposed to be. So how does a person who suffers from a MOOD disorder, an illness that inhibits their emotional control, encompass this persona?
When can I cry? Or feel disappointed, frustrated or upset? If I wanted to I would have a perfect excuse. Would anyone blame the epileptic who has a seizure or the diabetic who faints from low blood sugar? But the Bipolar Black man can’t show any negative emotion or even too much positive emotion.
If I’m too emotional people worry I’m having an episode. If I’m not emotional enough than I’m being a stereotypical man who is insensitive. What am I supposed to do? Sigh.