On Sunday Feb 21st, 2021, I woke up complaining to my husband of a mild headache. As someone who has had migraines for close to a quarter of a century now, it was not nearly worth mentioning but as someone who has had some neurological issues since May 2020, my husband took it seriously enough to bring me two pain med tablets. That was around 10am and the next thing I remember was lying in the hospital bed on the afternoon of Feb 23rd, waiting to be wheeled for an EEG test.
Between my husband and two daughters, there are various versions of what happened after I went into a full-blown seizure shortly after ingesting the pain killers. There was a 911 call, paramedics having to use a defibrillator to revive me and fire fighters wheeling me down three flights of stairs to the ambulance. Given then my weight loss plans have been feeling miserably, I am guessing I must have given the poor fire fighters quite the workout ☹.
I have no memory of any of it, or of being hospitalized on Sunday, Monday, or most of Tuesday morning. As with the prior minor events that I had experienced, I have had memory snags since then of both current and past events. It literally feels like a big chunk of my RAM storage was deleted or altered; only this time is much worse than before, and the medics still have no idea what is causing it.
I was released home on Tuesday evening, to follow up with several specialists and continue with tests from home. As I have been working from home during the better part of the last year, I logged into work on Wednesday morning which in hindsight was total foolishness.
Or was it? I have lived in North America for close to 20 years now, every day looking over my shoulder. I was top of my class in Primary school, middle to top of my high school class and eventually squeaked a spot in the highly coveted public University admissions back home. For all intents and purposes, I was smart enough to get through life on that. Moving to US, then Canada however destroyed any feelings of intellectual superiority or I daresay adequacy that I had previously held. I quickly learned that I was first and foremost a black woman and as such, there were certain often unspoken expectations of inferiority of people like myself and I needed to quickly learn to stay in that lane. I could have fought these stereotypes but with three children under 10 by my 32nd birthday, I deliberately chose not to. I learned to dumb myself down, to not question whatever was said or not said about me because well, I had bills to pay. I took job positions that did not require a BA degree, let alone the MBA Honours degree that I had attained while baby number 1 and 2 were 5 and 3 years, respectively. I was ok to play dumb because well, I knew I was not really, but it paid the bills to do so.
So, February 21st, which is a culmination of some unknown illness that I have been suffering since May of 2021 was troubling for several reasons: I am finally dumb. I have found myself unable to recall names of people that I interact with all the time. I am struggling at work to recall mundane tasks or worse still analyze out of ordinary tasks. I logged into work on the Wednesday to cover up my ‘failures” in not having been able to work on Monday and Tuesday for the puny reason that I was hospitalized in a semi-coma. I have learnt in 20 years to be seen and not heard, to perform at a higher level than most so as not to draw undue attention to myself. The image I have worked so hard to cultivate was destroyed by the wiring in my brain deciding to dance to its own tune.
So, did the music really die or did I finally start listening to the right chords?
20 years down the road, I know that whenever I walk into any public spaces, the immediate assumption is that I don’t belong: be it the store clerk who follows me on the store CCTV camera, or the security guards at my (recently) numerous hospital visits who goes out of their way to loudly relay to me the instructions that are written on the entry for all to read and follow, but somehow something about my face requires further elaboration. To the department manager at one of my jobs in Canada to whom I made an application for a lateral move, and after speaking to my direct manager somehow decided I was no longer as qualified for a lateral move, but they would keep me in mind for clerical openings in the future- I am sorry what? It was a lateral move in a position that was already a hair above entry level but somehow, I was only qualified for a lower position?? To the HR manager who somehow never responds to any question that I ask her unless I CC my manager or basically anyone else in our company: I am just not worth her time solo. There are too many instances to recount them all here, but they all point to the fact that even as I dumbed myself down to make others comfortable, they still found a way to take me down a notch or two further; it is no wonder I completely stopped hearing the music playing.
My recent medical woes have been both a freedom and an imprisonment. I need to get healthy- whatever this is, I will fight it with all my might, and I know I will prevail. In the meantime, I have opened my eyes to the fact that I cannot keep playing the foolish game of ‘make them comfortable” because it does not serve anyone any good. I can’t even be mad at anyone because I brought this all on myself. I have two daughters and a son who deserve better than what I have shown them so far. I look forward to getting past whatever temporary madness I am currently suffering through so I can go into the business of taking over the world: in whatever tiny or large corner that I will find myself in
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
– Alice Walker