The other day, I told a surprisingly ballsy baby beauty blogger that I hadn’t had a relaxer since August and transitioning was murder (extra-dramatic, always), and she actually said this:
BBBB: It’s not murder for you. It was murder for me. I have nappy hair, your’s is down to your ass. I had to deal with a ‘fro. Whether it’s curly or straight, you’ll always have good hair. And that face. You have “prettiest girl in the room” swag, no matter what. It’s always gonna be easy for you.
I resisted suggesting she seek therapy for her self image issues, because yawn.com — I’ve been hearing versions of this forever. How I got something because of my looks. How it’s all so easy breezy for me, ’cause of my looks. The thing is, the universe has a way of balancing everything out. Pretty doesn’t equal a perfect life. I give you Halle Berry, the most beautiful woman in Hollywood. She look happy to you? Does Kim? Admittedly, she’s in a hell of her own making, but still.
No one thinks black women suffer depression. Black women don’t even think so (girl, get your ass to church). But we do. I do. Chronic, incurable pain will do it to ya. Since I was in fifth grade, I’ve had debilitating migraines. It was a secret. What sixth-grader cares that if I go upside down on the monkey bars I’ll end up in bed for three days? I remember being in the school cafeteria at 13, my friends tittering about Ricky Merced making unh-unh-unh sex noises in social studies, and I was staring at a potato chip, focusing on it with every cell in my body because if I didn’t, I’d surely disintegrate under the weight of the agony…
From a young age, I was doing two things at once: living my life and managing the pain, a demon with claws and fangs that was actively trying to kill me.
I’ve tried everything — acupressure, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, yoga, Easter medicine, biofeedback — and I’ve been to the best migraine doctors everywhere. Once, a very famous one yelled at me in his office: “Why aren’t you responding to my treatments, Jesus Christ, woman!” They all give up, and I end up at pain clinics with cancer patients and toothless vets in heroin withdrawal, just hoping that a shot of morphine will get me through the day. My migraines have been labeled “intractable,” which means nobody knows what the fuck to do about them.
Some years aren’t so bad; some are hell. Right now, it’s the worst it’s ever been — a blur of pills, week-long hospital stays, more pills, and ER docs injecting me with massive doses of the shit that killed Michael Jackson. I spend most of my time paralyzed in the demon’s clutches or paralyzed in a fuzzy drug haze, hollow-eyed and haunted. Sometimes I can’t even see properly, it’s like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope.
But I do all my stuff, swan around, go to parties and lunches and events, and no one knows that seconds before I arrive I’m shooting myself in the thigh with a Sumavel injection or taking a cocktail of pills that could fell John Carter. I hide it well, I’ve been doing it forever. As migraneurs know (how I love and loathe that word), you can hide in plain sight. You’re not bleeding, you’re not limping. Save for my terrible undereye circles, no one can tell how off I really am. No one notices that I’m barely even there, just an apparition. A ghost in fringed booties and bright orange lipstick.
And Lina Bobina. On kinda-bad days, I sit on the floor and passively let her drape me in veils and dresses and sashes, like the mice in Cinderella. Hoping she doesn’t notice my hot tears of shame because I’m so disengaged I should be arrested. On really bad days, she’s with her father because I’m useless. The worst? She’s on constant headache watch. If my hand goes anywhere near my forehead, it’s “Mommy your head hurts? You need a doctor? I Dr. Cabezas, I make you feel better.” The second worst? At bedtime, sometimes she says, “Mommy I don’t feel so well. I think I have a headache…”
After she goes to sleep, I take another pain pill and lurch to the coach. Laying there, I watch the colors slowly seep out of everything, the room turning gray and receding, receding (demon disappearing, too, but not entirely..he’s hiding behind my ‘Sign of the Times’ concert DVD, watching me, waiting for me to wake up). On the way down, words like “terrible mother” “unlovable” “defective human being” float through my head and then there’s nothing anywhere. Just me and my prettiest girl in the room swag.
This isn’t a woe is me moment. I have wonderful things in my life, this is just my assigned cross to bear. Everyone has one. All I’m saying is that you never know what’s going on in anyone’s world. It isn’t “all so easy for me.” It isn’t for anyone, no matter what they look like. Don’t judge and don’t dismiss. It’s tacky.