I had an entire game plan down as to how to publish my new blog post. I was going to talk about my motto for 2016 which is #WinTheGame2016. But honestly, I just feel like being real and raw on this post right now.
This Saturday I will be graduating from The University of Alabama at Birmingham with a degree in Marketing and a certificate in Social Media Marketing.
You would think that statement alone would be worth shouting about but the truth of the matter is that I have been having trouble getting excited about this huge accomplishment. It was literally only a couple of months ago that I went to my academic advisor and told her that I decided to walk the stage after telling her back in August that I had no desire to.
When I moved to Birmingham in January 2014, I had no clue what was ahead for me. I came here working for a bank and knew that I wanted to go back to school eventually. These last two years (almost three) have been life changing to say the least. I eventually got back into school. The goal was to receive my MBA however that did not happen. I took the GMAT twice and still could not get my scores high enough to gain full entry into the MBA program. However, the school allowed me to take graduate level courses and I could still leave UAB with something in my hand to show that I haven’t been here in Birmingham playing around. I realized that I was no longer being fulfilled working in the banking & finance industry. Yes, I made pretty good money for my age but I would go home after work and just feel miserable and defeated each day. My first semester at UAB I landed an internship at iHeartMedia. I always had a thing for media and entertainment so I knew if I wanted to switch my entire career path then this is what I had to do.
In August when I met with my advisor I told her that I had no desire to walk the stage. I felt somewhat embarrassed and disappointed. Here I was not graduating with my full MBA like I had hoped. I felt like I came to Birmingham for no reason and had nothing to show for it. She tried her best to encourage me and tell me that I had no reason to feel ashamed and that my work outside of school proves that I have not been playing around in Birmingham.
My baby sister Arnisha called me one afternoon and I was balling my eyes out just telling her that I felt like a failure and that I let her, my sister Crysline, and Mom down.
“Jas stop! You are not a failure. You may not be graduating with the degree you had hoped for, so what. You have been working your ass off in Birmingham. Who else can say that they will be graduating with a SECOND degree, but also has worked for a top radio station and built relationships with dozens of people across Birmingham and the whole country? Who else can say that they work for Rickey Smiley and actually have a solid working relationship with him? Who else can say that they have MULTIPLE clients that they consult with about social media and get PAID for it. Who else can say that they also held a part time job at Publix that was PAYING for you to go to school?”
Within the next month I went back to my advisor and told her I wanted to walk the stage. Her face lit up so much. I think she was more excited than I was.
Magic City Classic Weekend had come upon us at the radio station. This is the biggest weekend in the whole city of Birmingham. Millions of dollars are invested into this weekend. This is known as the biggest HBCU game in the country. I was excited to be a part of this amazing tradition. Throughout the whole weekend I probably got about 5 hours of sleep. Me and my good friend Krystal who also worked at the station were prepared though. We had a strategy on how we were going to conquer Classic Weekend. Each event we worked we gave it our all. By the time Sunday night got here we could barely feel our legs. That is just how worn out we were. Relieved that Classic Weekend was over I couldn’t be too excited, I had two exams and a presentation for class the following week.
By that Tuesday night I was so overwhelmed and exhausted I couldn’t even think straight. It was a thousand things going through my mind and I couldn’t get a grip of anything. My body began aching, I started to feel nauseous. I just wanted the pain to go away. I realized that I was having breakdown in the middle of the computer lab. I began debating if I needed to go to hospital. I did not like how I was feeling. And that is when the suicidal thoughts came back. My friend Omar had tweeted me randomly and I told him to call me immediately. He stayed on the phone with me for hours just listening and telling me that everything is okay. The thoughts went away for a moment and I was able to leave campus and go home and try to get some sleep since the exam was in the morning. I am not even sure how I managed to get a B on that exam but I did. After taking it I tried taking a quick nap before heading to Publix. I woke up feeling even worse and very irritable. While at work everyone kept asking me if I was okay. Of course I’m like yeah everything is fine but knowing I was dying on the inside.
Within two hours I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked up to manager and told him I need to go home. He asked what was wrong and I simply told him that I don’t like the way I’m thinking or feeling and if I don’t get home I am afraid I’m going to hurt myself and others around me. Walking out I went straight to my car and called my sister Crysline. She told me to go the Emergency Room. That drive to the ER was horrible. I couldn’t focus on the road. The pain that came over my body was unbearable. My mind was completely shattered. I walked into the emergency room and gave the receptionist the phone so that my sister could tell her what was going on. They got me checked in immediately. Before I knew it I was being carted off in a wheelchair down a dark hallway and saw a sign that said “Psych Ward.”
The moment I walked in they asked me to take off my clothes and anything else that I could harm myself with. Afterwards I had to give away my phone. Luckily I was able to send a couple of messages to my sister, a few friends in the Birmingham area that I know could come to the hospital. After being stripped of the little dignity I had left, I was carted into a room where there was an older lady. The nurse told me this would be my room mate until I was discharged. She looked so sweet and nice. I couldn’t imagine why she was in this place. But around 2:00 AM I found out why.
I couldn’t sleep at all. It was dark and cold in that room. Then I heard foot steps. This lady was walking back and forth and looking at me the whole time. All of the sudden I heard screams. They grew louder and louder. I went outside to get a nurse. The nurse then told me that this lady was bi-polar and had other health issues. She was having an episode. She eventually calmed down but I knew I couldn’t fall asleep. I watched her hoping to God that she wouldn’t touch me. I cried and cried and cried until I had not a tear drop left. The nurse came in to check on me. I asked her when could I go home and she told me she was uncertain and that before leaving I would need to be evaluated by the hospital psychiatrist. Great another psychiatrist.
I felt so helpless. Other than a couple of pain attacks this year I had been fine. I did notice a change in my moods beginning over the summer but I blamed it on my raging hormones and just general stress. Morning came and the nurse told me that I can make a phone call. I called my Mom. She could hear the fear in my voice. I just wanted to go home and pretend this never happened. But I knew something was wrong and that I needed to see someone.
There was group session that was going on that I had to be a part of. I met several other patients who had conditions ranging from bi-polar, schizophrenia, drug addiction, and many others. Here I was thinking to myself that I don’t nearly have it as bad as these people. Some of their families dropped them off and haven’t been by to see them at all. Some have no control over themselves. There was a man who was nominated as a Rhodes Scholar while in college and now he is here because of addiction. I went back to my room and just laid there. Just me, my thoughts, and the good Lord. Our conversation was intense. I felt as if God was telling me that he placed me here to sort of wake me up. But I told him that something was wrong. My mind isn’t the same. I could feel something was just off. That’s when Dr. Thomas walked in to do my evaluation.
“I’m sending you home today Jasmine.”
Those words brought me nothing but joy. But I knew we were about to have a serious discussion. I began telling her about my feelings. The bad mood swings, the irritability, one week I am on fire and achieving all of my goals, and the next week I feel like someone has burst my bubble. As I mentioned everything, she stopped me midpoint and asked if mental illness ran in my family. I told her yes. She asked particulary about anyone with a mood disorder, I told her that I think there were a couple of people in my family who had something like that. After some tests she begins to tell me about a mood disorder called “Cyclothymia.” It is a mini bi-polar disorder but not as aggressive. She told me that with the right therapy sessions and medicine that we should be able to stabilize my moods.
Hearing the words “mood disorder” was frightening. I knew something was off but I didin’t expect it to be a legit illness. I had to come to terms with it. I was discharged finally. I got home thrilled to be in my own bed but I had problems sleeping. The nightmares that came were unbearable. I slept in the living room a few nights after I got home because I was afraid of being alone. My roommates were very supportive and would always come and sit and check on me. The medicine I was taking made me sick as ever. I hate medicine in general but I knew I needed to give it a chance to at least if it would benefit me.
Within a week I back in class and work. Still trying to recover but taking it day by day. The following Monday I received a call that my best friend’s grandmother had passed on. She was very near and dear to my heart and hearing that news really had me low. Here I was trying to recover and be strong for myself, so how was I was going to be at my best friend’s side during this tragic time. But I did. Ms. Deb was an amazing woman with such a sweet spirit. She always made me feel like family. I was able to see her literally a month ago from that day and we talked for a few hours. I was able to go home for the funeral. Being around family and friend during this time was just needed although I wished the circumstances were better. I spent the majority of November back home in Mississippi. Being in Birmingham was a bit overwhelming but after the Thanksgiving break I came on back.
So here it is December 15th. Graduation is in two days. To think that months ago I had no desire to walk the stage is mind blowing. I am here. Still alive. Still breathing. I have some amazing things in store (can’t say right now what but God has definitely been amazing). There are new friendships brewing in my life. Just overall I am in a much better place.
I know this a very long post but I hope that this serves as a reminder about just how good some of us have it. There is so much to be thankful for. Trust me hearing all of this sometimes goes out one ear and through another but it is true. Those people that I met in the psych ward are probably still there. They spent the holidays alone with no family around. That overnight has changed my life and given me a new outlook on life.