West Hollywood is a diverse town made up of lots of people from different backgrounds, religions, and parts of the country—often times outsiders looking for a place to come in from the cold. Jennifer Obakhume is offering her take on what it’s like being an outsider even among outsiders.
Where should I start? I have typed and retyped, shredded notes, tossed away ideas, or just let them pass me by. Since the last blog post I wrote for West Hollywood Wives, there have been a tremendous amount of things manifesting in my life. Only in the last three weeks, with a great deal of prayer, support, and a new prescription for the antidepressant Effexor, have I felt this resurgence of stability pulse through my veins. I’m far less caustic, far less depressed, and far happier, more at peace with what the future and the present holds. This is the period that I have forever sought: a time of peace, understanding, self-love.
It hasn’t been easy; hell, it’s easy for NO ONE if people are honest enough to admit it. Just three weeks ago, the night before starting Effexor, I was at the Santa Monica Pier. I went there from a doctor’s appointment just looking to escape from everything that has always plagued me. For as much of a laugher, a humorous person, the smile and the laughs have always been a front for the constant sorrow. This is one of the reasons that I do not attempt stand-up comedy—just pour through the memoirs, unauthorized biographies, the news reports, watch specials devoted to the internationally popular comedians and you see how much unhappiness fuels their comedy. I can laugh about a lot of things I couldn’t laugh about before, but I’m not yet at the place where I can relive a number of those episodes without bottles of alcohol accessible to me. I couldn’t go back to those days without sobbing.
This is one of the major explanations for why there are such big gaps between posts. I’m hardly writing poetry as much as I used to years ago (though I am thankfully starting to get an upswing in doing what I do best), and I spent hours staring at blank pages. Today is the first day in quite some time that I have felt the courage to put my fingers to the keyboard to say anything of note. This isn’t always a bad thing, I think; it’s important for people to step back from computer screens, notepads, reality shows and go outside to LIVE, to add concrete insight to their opinions before sharing anything. I’m going outside a lot more, that’s for sure. Not to say that all my hermit tendencies have disappeared, by any means. I am a proud eccentric, reclusive, solitary being who stills needs silence to decompress and gather the strength to not knock the dogshit out of someone who enters my vicinity looking and acting like a general jackass. By the way, I forgot to add that my level of bluntness has also increased in ways that shock me, and it is not very easy to shock me.
Let’s go back to that Wednesday three weeks ago in Santa Monica, as much as it hurts to revisit that moment. In my bag was the documentation from an outpatient mental health clinic I was referred to by one of my doctors, the bottle of Effexor in my bag, the unwillingness to believe that the medication would actually help me (I have been on several others for short periods, and the side effects were so hard on me I left them alone)…I couldn’t do it anymore. I may have mentioned it in a previous blog, but I have had a number of suicidal ideations consistent with years of chronic Major Depression. I was deterred by a number of divine disruptions and there had always been some trepidation on my part in actually following through the act. On that day, in the beautiful, windy weather of the beach, I decided that I was finished with trying to stay strong with nothing that I had been working on going anywhere for me. All these years of being a “good girl,” “smart chick,” “educated, powerful Black woman” hasn’t resulted in a solid career in my chosen fields, truly. My health ricocheting from left to right doesn’t help what is already a “rock and a hard place’ situation.
I can’t steal, I can’t be someone’s prostitute, and I can’t do the wrong thing just for the sake of money, security, or success. If I have to do the wrong thing to get by, that negates anything of trustworthiness or skill or anything good that may actually be working out for me in terms of God and His infinite universe in the future. I was thinking about all of that as I sat down for what was meant to be my last meal at one of my favorite sushi restaurants and penned out a short suicide note, apologizing for being an utter failure and a weight to everyone who I know. I didn’t want to waste any more of people’s time and I was making a decision, right or wrong, to bow out of the picture.
“I’m just one little dot in a world of billions of people-let’s be honest: time will not stand still just because I’m not here anymore. I’ve never been happy in my soul, I miss my grandmother, and just let me go in peace. Take care of yourselves.”
I found my AAA card, bought a discounted Pacific Park all-day wristband and walked the few blocks down to the Pier for a last hurrah. The suicide note was tucked away into my purse and I headed for the ticket booths at one of the entryways. I saw so many happy people, so many families, and I was so jealous of those kids with two parent homes with stability. Sure, the grass is always greener, but you can feel it in your soul when something is real or contrived. I wanted in that moment what was completely impossible to have, a true acceptance that in my early twenties, my childhood has affected me in ways that I didn’t even know at first. Revelation after revelation was hitting me about all the unhappiness in my life and all it made me want to do was stop the pain once and for all. I decided that I was going to get on one more ride, walk out of the park to a clear area of the pier where no one could get to me quickly and finish myself off.
The ride I wanted to get on had a heck of a wait. I was snappy and impatient and I started to walk away, but my feet froze in the line. I didn’t know why—my answer would show up soon enough with a young family composed of a mom (who looked like a perfect Gwyneth Paltrow look-alike), her husband, and their three kids. There was a back and forth between one of the kids and their parents because he was terrified of the ride. I wasn’t looking to be nosy or anything, but the way he was expressing himself was absolutely too funny to me. I unexpectedly howling with laughter when he looked at the ride, watched it drop, and looked as if his adorable blue eyes were going to pop out of his head.
“It’s not that bad, I promise you.” I looked at him and he didn’t seem any more willing to ride, but his two young sisters seemed encouraged. Their parents looked at me very warmly and said, “Could the girls tag along with you? They’re a little too short to ride alone, but they will be on their best behavior.” I am not extremely maternal at all: as a child of seven years old, I had decided that children were just not for me as I felt that I would be too damaged to give them a normal life. I kid you not—this is from childhood that my mind has been settled in this direction, and the decision has not changed as I approach 27 years old. In the moment of looking into those children’s faces and seeing myself as a child all over again, my heart was softened enough to take the girls by their hands and lead them with me to the ride, boost them up into their seats, and push the restraints securely over them. The little boy decided that he should get on the ride and he sat between me and his sisters. Their parents ran their iPhone camcorder as all four of us rode that ride again and again. With a smile on all of our faces, I suddenly felt like riding a few more rides before moving forward with the evening’s plan. The kid’s parents looked me and I felt a warm, loving cocoon envelope me…as I looked at those two, I saw their faces transform into the faces of my church Pastor and First Lady, Mark and Bonnie. The mom made an expression on her face that reminded me so much of Bonnie in that moment…I knew that this was a case of divine intervention, I KNEW IT. I was in such pain in my soul that I didn’t want any intervention, I just wanted to go.
I smiled at the parents, told them all to be good to each other, and skipped away to more rides. I hadn’t skipped from joy since the day I graduated from USC—not because I was ready to exit because of the amazing professors and students who I had become close with, and amazingly, despite the fact that I was trying to sort out in my head how the hell I was going to pay for my student loans with no response to any of the job applications I had submitted. I was finally well on my way, I thought. I thought that I would figure out how to start working on a Master’s Degree program the following year, move on to a Ph.D. program, and move on to building my life. Nothing in the last five years have gone according to that plan, and I have slowly come to terms with the fact that life is totally unexpected and that my path is going to take me where I want to go in a way that is not my own. I have no choice but to accept that now; I literally plotted my own demise three weeks ago, so I am in a place where I have no choice but to trust that all things will work out for my good in His plan.
At that moment, though, I didn’t want to receive that message. I didn’t want to hear it anymore. I was tired, I was tired and I was hurting. All I want to do was be released, and all I got was a resounding “no.” I have never had that many people in a public place smile at me, compliment me on my love of purple clothing, remark at the warm brown of my eyes as the light hit my face AT ONE TIME. Finally, as I was ready to stop riding and proceed to the edge of the pier now covered in moonlight, the one ride I had been waiting for all day finally opened (it had been shut down due to the high winds just as I arrived). It was as if the Universe was saying, “You can’t do this now. This is your favorite ride. You’ve been waiting all day!” As I showed up and was the first in line, here comes another family of two parents and their three kids, who were visiting L.A. from Atlanta. Just as it happened earlier, I became the riding buddy with the kids who were just a little older than the first set. Those kids WORE ME OUT and that is also very unusual for me. I ended up laughing, running around, and all these things…I suddenly had a massive headache and very limited physical energy. All of a sudden, it felt like it would be even more exhausting to attach the suicide note to the outside of my purse and go over the railing. I walked all the way up to Wilshire and Ocean to ride the bus taking me in the direction of where I live, but I didn’t have the energy to muster to go over the railing. Interesting, it was to me. As I exited the pier, I looked back at the beautiful lighting on the Ferris wheel—I ripped the note up and threw it in the trash can.
The very next morning, knowing that I had nothing else to lose but my life, I took the Effexor for the first time. With my previous experiences, it’s quite obvious I have never been a fan of antidepressants for my own self with my experiences. Side effects or not, this time around has been completely different from previous events. I started mellowing out in the first week, but there was still a heaviness on my spirit and my heart. Again, constant prayer for healing became what I needed to survive and get on track to being a whole human being. I had nothing but dreams revisiting the pain that I have kept pushing down over and over again came up as if I was vomiting up poison. “Let go of the anger. Let go of the anger and be loved,” was the message I kept getting when I kept asking what I was supposed to do. All my life, I have always felt alone even when I’m in a room full of people. I questioned whether or not I should have just followed through with the plan. There have been some happenings in the last few months where I am presently living that had been very weighty and the cause of aggression I had been feeling at that point—and, a couple of days later, I released that anger. I will save that story for another post, but it marked the beginning of me letting go of grudges by intentional and unintentional harm that people have brought towards me. I am a strong believer in the Bible talking about reaping what you sow, and I have witnessed several people who have hurt me get their returns for being evil to me. There is no laughter or reveling in their suffering; I hope they get their lives together and wish them nothing but the best endeavors in their futures.
I have nothing to gain from their misery but endless fodder for humorous tales. Much as I love humor and laughing at people suffering misfortunes directly caused by obviously poor choices, there is so little time I am willing to allow for drama. In short, if it does not get me closer to God, if it does not provide me a solid living wage, if it does not guarantee anything positive in my life, I really have no space to care. The focus is finally on those who have been so good to me over there in the midst of these changes. It is often said that one can’t love other people if they do not love themselves, but I don’t think it is that cut and dry in every situation. Or maybe it is. I have no clue, but what I can say is that the depth of my love and my gratitude are going deeper every day. If anyone out there reading this knew how many times I’ve called my village of love in tears, thanking them for being active members in my life, I guess a clear answer to the question above can be assessed. In this period of time, my self-love of every element that built and builds me is blossoming. I’m not tolerating myself or tolerating the existence of anyone even more. When I love, it seeps from my skin, my heart, my breath and no one can deny it. My eyes are the windows to my soul, and my windows realize just how blessed I am to see another sunrise and another sunset. In one moment, I would have never seen it again. I only shared this story with a few people close to me in the last week or so. Two of them sat in utter disbelief that I was suffering so deeply, but never said a word to them about how close to the edge I really was. One sobbed and said, “Really? And you had a note? You really don’t know just how much you are loved. Yes, the world is big and there are many people, but there is only one you. And you ARE LOVED.” I am loved—and I can say that I am fully aware of it for the first time in years.
To all of you who are weakened in spirit, please be encouraged. Know that there is help out there, know that there is beauty in this world, know that if you do great things that it has no choice but to come back to you. If no one else tells you that you are beautiful and that your life is worth it today, let me willingly be that one.
Carpe diem, everyone.