I have chronic illnesses. I have bipolar II, fibromyalgia, gastroparesis, and now something wonky is happening with my bladder (sorry if that is TMI). When you have chronic illnesses, you have to be chronically on it – taking care of yourself is not an option, it’s a necessity. Especially when you have other folks depending on you. But especially because you have you depending on you. You were put on the earth to do great things, and you can’t do them if you are always sick.
Sometimes I forget this. I don’t do things that are “bad,” like smoking cigarettes, or doing illicit drugs, but I do things that are “bad” for me, in my personal situation. I might have too much wine. I might not get the 9 (yes 9) hours of sleep that my body demands. I might drive my car to campus instead of riding my bike, removing the little bit of cardiovascular exercise I need to ward off the depression. I might “forget” to eat. I might be on the internet for hours instead of getting my work done. I might overcommit. I might say no and feel guilty. I might not go to church. Things that help me heal, I might not do.
Having chronic illnesses means being constantly on the watch. I have to watch myself, watch my moods, watch my habits, watch my bodily functions, watch my behaviors. Whenever I think things are okay, that I can back off, turn away, something happens and… BAM! I’m sick, on my ass, clawing my way back to the light. I have to be forever vigilant if I am to stay well.
It’s kind of like being a parent of color.
As a parent of color, we are constantly on the watch. I’m constantly listening to my children’s language, making sure no words of self-doubt or self-hate have crawled into their mind space. I’m constantly monitoring their daily interactions, wanting to be sure that the adults around them are affirming of their existence. I’m constantly aware of the children they play with, noting if issues of skin color come up, noting who they naturally veer toward, noting who they avoid and who avoids them. I can’t listen to the radio in the car, or watch BET, cause my own people are conspiring against them. I’m constantly thinking these days about the kindergarten that will happen next year, how my boy might be the only black child in his classroom, and subsequently, his sister left behind to be the only black child left in her preschool classroom.
Being “colored” is like a chronic condition. Just when you think it’s safe to be “normal,” to be a normal mom who sends her kid to school with no worries other than will she finally let go of my leg this morning….BAM!