As I sit staring blankly at the screen, I find myself reflecting over the last few months that have evolved into the turbulent last few years and even further back, into an introspective study of every, last crystallized shard of childhood innocence shattered—scattered—and embedded within adolescent wounds left to fester long into adulthood scars that cannot be healed by simply kissing them better.
I lament over growing up in a Black Community that has rejected me since childhood, and continues to do so to this very day for “talking and acting like a whitegirl”.
Every, single day—and in more ways than one—I fight for the right to exist and be acknowledged within my own community that seems adamant on forever denying me of my Blackness because of my “white” hobbies (ie, my love of reading, enjoying rock music, playing video games, reading manga and watching anime, etc), or how my skinny and unthick body has forever been evidence of my total of lack Blackness in the willfully blind eyes my “fellow” Black People.
By Jacqueline-Elizabeth*, AFROPUNK contributor
I sit here and reflect upon the days of growing up having to shoulder the denial from literally everyone around me who refused to acknowledge that I was clearly demonstrating the earliest signs of mental and emotional illness and instability from as early as four or five years old; and how their denial became my reality as I continued to force myself to believe that there was nothing (read: “everything”) wrong with me and that I was ‘fine’.
The issues manifesting and consuming my essence from the inside-out were even more of an indicator of my lack of Blackness; leading only to further lifelong rejection and ejection from the Black Community—
“Black Womyn can’t / don’t Cut/Self-Harm.” v “Black Womyn can’t / don’t get Depression.”
“Black Womyn can’t / don’t get Bipolar Disorder.”
“Black Womyn can’t / don’t get Schizophrenia.”
“Black Womyn can’t / don’t get Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).”
“Black Womyn can’t / don’t/ (are too strong to have)/get Suicidal thoughts or commit Suicide.”
“Black Womyn can’t ‘catch’/ don’t get/ have Mental Illnesses, period; it’s a white people thing.”
Like days gone by in a dream, I find myself reminiscing about the seemingly endless abuse of all calibers I’ve endured over the course of twenty-seven years of life—from physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and of course, abuse of self.
I think back to the first slap I’d ever received—A gift presented to me the morning of my sixteenth birthday—for my frustration at and with one parent forgetting it was my birthday.
I think back to the first time I felt hands sworn to protect me—hands that belied the audacious boast of “never hitting my children”—clutch tightly around my throat as punishment for rolling my eyes.
I recall the days of being rejected and hated by another parent for being a failed attempt at keeping the other around--left to stand in the cool shadow of my exalted, brilliant, younger sibling whose birth seemed to outshine my entire existence--and the days spent nursing the thoughts of questioning my useless and worthless existence that stalked me relentlessly into adulthood.
I find myself lost in the countless reveries of the physical and sexual abuse I’ve endured—from (certain) men in my family (on both sides), to (certain) boyfriends who could never take “No” for an answer, onwards to (certain) “trusted”, predatory authoritarian figures, and even beyond perfect strangers who would (on more than one occasion) touch me or grab me inappropriately in a public setting, only to play it off with feigned dismay and disgust that I'd ever be “worth” touching (such as the grown man who used the exiting crowd of a church’s congregation to pinch my backside; or the disgusting sleazes that have utilized the rush-hour commutes to feel me up on various forms of public transportation).
I bitterly muse over my own sickening, self-righteous delusions that I certainly would “never” become “that” type of person—
You know; the type of person who is abused and becomes abusive. I arrogantly believed I was “so much better than that”.
I sit stewing in shame and disgust of my condemnatory hypocrisies and judgements that I’d spew at my loved ones (as well as perfect strangers), in order to deflect any and all attention from my own deeply-seated insecurities and contradictory thoughts and actions.
As I sit before the computer, I decide to close my eyes; hoping desperately to shut out the memory of that fateful day I decided to end my life. It wasn’t my first suicide attempt; perhaps had I been successful at the age of nine, when I first attempted to kill myself, I wouldn’t be left with a lifetime of failed attempts that would span the next eighteen years of trying repeatedly—
And that also includes the manifestation of impressively self-destructive habits I never thought myself capable of, and all to take hold of — even for one, fleeting moment—the pitiable illusion of peace.
When I opened my eyes once more, I find myself standing in the bathroom of a one-bedroom apartment on the Westside of Aurora, Illinois, on a sunny day back in August, 2015. I felt happier than I had in a long while; and the serenity I’d felt poured from within my soul came flowing from the knowledge that in just a few moments, I’d no longer have to deal with this sick joke called life.
However, I was determined to have the last laugh.
Perhaps that’s why as I stared down my reflection in the mirror, I didn’t question why I was smiling—laughing, even—and blissfully singing along to the two songs that would ferry me out of this life: “Center Of The Sun” by Conjure One, and “Breaking The Habit” by Linkin Park.
I chugged as much of the vodka in the freezer as I could stomach to chase the countless cocktail of various (stolen) Tylenol, sleep aids, allergy pills, and extra-strength (nighttime) cold medicines. I turned on the shower to the hottest I could stand it; utilizing the hot water to pump my cures through my bloodstream. I even danced around a bit to hurry things along. I shaved, scrubbed myself down, and went about business as though I were just preparing for another day.
As I exited the shower, I took a few more Tylenol, knocked back a few more gulps of vodka, and smoked a couple of the same cigarettes I’d been trying to get my old man to quit for years. Swathed in only a towel, I breezed into the bedroom riding on the calm of the manic optimism that comes with being effectively smashed, and comfortably numb—all the while still singing along to “Center of The Sun”. I read over the six-page suicide letter I’d written in my diary and addressed to my loved ones before placing it neatly for my father to find.
By the time the pills and alcohol fully kicked in, I was emotionally and mentally detached from any lingering situational—and conscientious—awareness. I laid down on the green air-mattress I’d been using for bed as I witnessed the encroaching darkness that began to set in with my eyes wide open.
My last thoughts were a blur, but I can promise that none of them were of remorse—only the peace I’d been desperately seeking for twenty-six long years.
I don’t remember my father coming home to discover me naked and in a pool of my own vomit. I don’t remember being transported down the five stories of our apartment building and to the hospital by the EMT’s.
However, I certainly remember the horror of waking up in the ICU. I remember my life—the very same of which I no longer wanted—plummeting into even further chaos following my suicide attempt; something I was desperate to believe wasn’t possible.
From falling back into drugs and prostitution, to surviving an explosively violent and abusive boyfriend, and even the abortion I had following my escape of him, it became painfully clear that, yes, while I may have survived suicide, my life hadn’t (almost) ended back in 2015—I had, in many ways, lost myself and died a long, long time ago, and was now a soul trapped in a very mortal purgatory that had replaced daily life.
This is why, in an effort to move forward, I finally decided to share everything that had transpired up until now in a Facebook Liv....
(Trigger Warning: The following video discusses Sexual Assault, Mental Health, Suicide, Domestic Abuse, etc, etc)
It took me reviewing the full video several times in its entirety to understand exactly why it was my countenance visibly changed over the course of the video in a way that had nothing to do with bad lighting or my phone’s failing battery life, and why, by the end of the video, I’m noticeably far more exhausted than when I had initially begun—
Up until that point, I was unaware that I had been experiencing an unusual combination of Extended Grief and Absent/Delayed Grief—when typically, you would experience one or the other, particularly in the cases of loss and bereavement. In those fifty-eight minutes alone, I’d also effectively experienced and reconciled with all Five (or more) Stages of Grief—typically associated with Grieving process. Perhaps not “symmetrically”, but they are all there in full effect: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
What’s more is that in finally confronting so many past issues at once (and in such a short time frame), I had to experience the undoing of the psychoses of Extended Grief as well as Absent/Delayed Grief. I’d been wanting to discuss my experiences for the longest, and had every intention of doing so with my writing—which, was easy enough to put off for “another day”, in the form of countless articles that had gone long unwritten despite my desire to get them done.
I’d been so afraid to write on these topics because that meant having to come to terms with (and accepting) all that had transpired after a lifetime of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression.
I chose to utilize Facebook’s livestream by first announcing across my Instagram and subsequent social media accounts that I would be going live at a certain time that same day. Once the announcement was out there—and while violently shoving aside my tendency to starting things I overwhelm myself to the point of not finishing from a persistent fear of failure—I sat down to work on a written draft of everything I wanted to discuss. I found myself frustrated and filled with anxiety when I began having difficulty putting into words everything I wanted to discuss, even while using basic bold points.
Finally, I just decided to scrap the entire draft, sit down, press “Go Live”, and just talk—hoping, and praying everything I wanted to get out and across would just come out.
By the time the livestream had completed, I was left with the same type of numb, exhausted, and almost freeing relief that follows a funeral. I knew of utilizing the Stages of Grief to cope with the loss of a loved one.
But never had I ever imagined that I would unconsciously employ those same stages of grief to recover from the complete and total loss of my own self.
Everything was finally out in the open. All the things I’d dreaded and kept from everyone out of fear and judgement—the same judgements of which I’d so freely and callously hurled at others in the past—of knowing who I truly was, what I’d done, and the very same acceptance I’d been so desperate to receive—and at the same time, terrified of not receiving after a lifetime of rejection which only drove me further to vehemently reject genuine acceptance and love…
Well. At this point, all that is left is for me to rest; to pull myself together and finally—truthfully—move forward. I’ve been attempting to move forward without addressing my past, and in the end, it almost cost me my future—a future I’m still very uncertain about, but no longer feel the same desperation to escape in the way that I was trying to escape and cloak my past and keep buried my not-so-beautiful true self.
I want to keep going; to use the remainder of my life to help educate others (especially the Black Community) on the dangers of ignoring Black Mental Illness; to use the daily struggles I face as a Black Femme to help others who also face those same struggles they may very well feel so alone in.
After years of selfishly taking, I want to learn to selflessly give back. I still do not fully understand what it is that I have to offer the world—only the vaguest concept, and I will continue to shape and mold it until it becomes clear. And I can only hope that I truly possess the courage to understand and embrace that clarity—along with all the painful truths and responsibilities therein—that come with the conscientious decision to continue on a path I cannot fully see before me; a path that fills me with fear (and acceptance) of falling backwards—
Just not enough fear to keep me from walking forward.
I want to apologize to those, whom, in order to protect themselves, had no choice but to distance themselves from me to escape the venom and pain I’d injected into your lives, and I hope you will eventually forgive me—even though we may no longer be in each other’s lives, or even if our paths are never meant to intersect again.
To those who have hurt and broken me, I am slowly learning to forgive you, whether you are still within my life or no longer are. And to those who aren’t, I hope—should our eyes meet on a crowded street in the not-so-distant future, and within that fleeting moment of eye contact—I am able to convey to you my forgiveness instead of hatred and anger, before we part, never to see one another again.
And finally, to my loved ones, who have stayed by me from my earliest years (or have recently entered my life), and to those who remain at my side long into a future yet unseen—despite my attempts to shove you away in my fear, ignorance, bitterness, and with all that is venomous within me—thank you. Thank you for allowing me to stay in your life; thank you for remaining in mine.
And now, please allow me to introduce myself to those people for the very first time:
Hello! My name is Jacqueline-Elizabeth Cottrell. My Gender Identity is Genderqueer (Androgynous/Ambigender), and I while I embrace my Sexual Identity of being Queer (Pansexual/Omnisexual), I personally refer to myself as being a Carnivore—I’m attracted (romantically and sexually) to men, womyn/femmes, transpeople, genderqueer/non-binary, etc, etc, because what can I say; meat is meat).
I was born on February 3rd, raised on the Southside of Chicago, Illinois, and have moved around more times than a pawn on a chessboard. What has been consistent in my otherwise inconsistent life, thoughts, and actions, is my lifelong love of writing (everything from short and sweet poetry to long, lacivious erotica), reading, modeling, music, dance, and educating the Black Community (and others) about the world of BDSM from my experiences of being an (active) Professional Dominatrix of ten years (having first forayed into The Lifestyle with a little more than just a “burning curiosity” at seventeen or eighteen).
Along with playing video-games, watching anime, reading manga, and enjoying all things nerdy, I have a laundry list of other interests and hobbies that I’m sure are “socially/racially/etc” questionable and unacceptable”, I’m sure, but I’m learning to be perfectly content with being socially/racially/etc questionable and unacceptable.
For my entire life, I have fought with, denied, ignored, and have come to accept that I live with mental illnesses (Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), etc, etc), along with many insecurities (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc) that I’ll eventually either come to embrace, or work to adjust and change them until I feel welcome and at home in my own body.
Every day is a struggle to keep persistent suicidal thoughts at bay, and this will likely continue for the rest of those days. And, while I can’t promise that I’ll forever continue to endure, I can promise than I will try.
From the way I look, my illnesses, my insecurities, my way of talking, my hobbies, and anything and everything that embodies my very essence, and emboldens my trials and triumphs, I am proud to say that I have finally come to understand—above all else—that it’s perfectly fine to be a Black Femme and embrace, enjoy, endure (for better or for worse), acknowledge, and accept all that I have shared with you, and all that makes me. Me.
*Chicago-born and raised Androgynous AltModel and Pokemon Master, Jacqueline-Elizabeth (AKA Kurosune Suicide / JaxJax Attaxx of the SuicideGirls, and Cosplay Deviants) developed a lifelong love of reading and writing at ages two and three, scored her first big writing gig as Nerdy But Flirty's first, Black writer, and was later recruited by the Jace Hall Show (now TwinGalaxiesLive!) as also not only their first Black writer, but their first female one as well.
Her interests include watching anime, cosplaying, modeling, reading manga, gaming, 420 shenanigans, surfing, increasing her number of tattoos, rainy days in bed journaling, and writing about anime, manga, and hentai for Jamie Broadnax's site, BlackGirlNerds.com
Website: thetempest.co/author/jaxjax-attaxx/ Blog: http://blackgirlnerds.com/?s=Jaxjax