By Hannah K. Moore
I thought and thought about what to write about for this month’s blog entry on the theme of mental health. Yet it was clear to me what I needed to share. I just had to sit down and properly align my mind, heart, spirit and finally my pen!
Mental health, in my opinion is so misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mistreated in our world. Yes it is complex, but the misunderstanding and mis-education of it can be damaging.
When I was a youth, a teenager rather, I was lost. I have always been dedicated to the fight for justice and I was in a social justice program at Berkeley High, however I was disconnected from my own personal justice. I skipped a lot of school, hanging out in the streets; I was wildin’ out. I had my 15th birthday at a Motel 8 in Richmond where me and my girls stayed up drinking and smoking all night, thinkin’ how cool we were. I met my ex, who at the time was sellin “D” and I became heavily involved in that lifestyle.
To say the least, my mother was concerned. She had me start therapy at Kaiser where they quickly diagnosed me with depression and prescribed Prozac and Wellbutrin (anti-depressant medication). However I continued smoking and drinking while on medication, which only made matters worse.
Then at 18 I married my ex at Santa Rita, the Alameda county jail, where he was serving time. Me, a young woman of color, born to a white skinned mother, with no contact with her father’s family during her upbringing, in an identity making maze of lies and illusion. After saying, “I do” behind the glass on the plastic phone, six months later he was released and we moved to LA.
I was so deeply lost in my storm, that although I felt something wasn’t right, I was in go mode moving too fast to take time for reflection. Moving to LA only separated me further from myself, as I isolated myself from friends and loved ones. My head was spinning, and thus my world spun. I was not taking care of myself; I was not taking care of my head.
The fights got worse; I remember jumping out of a moving car during a fight, neighbors calling the police and finally me showing up with a butcher knife to my ex’s job at “Scooter Land” on Compton Blvd.
I know, I know, “she’s crazy!” you’re probably thinking. The truth is I was not taking care of my head. In a recent interview with Lauryn Hill she discusses how our head has to remain our head. Our head has to remain strong, healthy and sure or you can easily get flipped around. Although Lauryn is referring to the music industry, I understood this as a metaphor for life.
Now ten years later, I understand this in a whole new way since consciously connecting with my ancestors in practice of Yoruba spirituality. In Yoruba tradition our heads are our Ori, this is where our Orixa lives, the Yoruba deity who is your personal protector and guide. We must feed and care for our Orixas, as they are constantly dedicated to our protection and the opening and closing of roads before us. I have fed my Orixa’s through ritual and sacrifice, though song and dance, through prayer. I often receive what are called Rogation or Ebori. A rogation is a cleansing and blessing ritual of one’s head, connecting a person’s conscious mind with their Orixa. It is used to strengthen the mind and calm the head.
Keeping our minds calm and strong takes constant work, especially in a world operated by mind control and illusion. Connecting with our history, our ancestors inevitably connects us deeper to ourselves, to our spirit.
The high rates of mental health illness in communities of color are of no surprise when one understands the historical legacies of oppression and violence.
I share this part of me to offer you an ally in granting yourself the courage and will to remain healthy in this sick world.
Don’t lose ya’ head.
Hannah K. Moore | Core Writer