black women are expected to hold up the world, but who holds US up?
- Dr. Althea Conley
my belief: black women run the world. even if you don't see us in prominent leadership positions - but especially when you do - know that we will go above and beyond to ensure the excellence of whatever endeavor we are supporting / undertaking. sure, not all black women do this, but as a black woman, i feel a responsibility to my community, my family, and myself to hold it all together when everything is going crazy. i am a mother who is single. i am a teacher still learning my trade. i am a daughter and a sister trying to positively contribute to my family. i am a friend to few, mentor to many. i have many roles in this life, and i have supernaturally high expectations that i should be super at all of them. some may call this "Superwoman Syndrome," but i have a different spin on that notion.
even when i’m a mess, i still put on a vest with an S on my chest, oh yes, i'm a Superwoman...
-A. Keys, 2007
i do not consider myself Superwoman. she's cool and all, and i am not trying to invalidate anyone who admires her, but i don't find Superwoman relatable to my life experiences. instead, i relate more to my girl, Storm. Ororo Munroe is the daughter of Kenyan royalty who goes on to become Queen of Wakanda. however, the time period between the two roles was marked by both internal and external struggles. what stands out for me about Storm is her resilience. after making a deadly mistake when first learning to control her powers, she sought help in correcting it instead of rejecting her abilities. many times, she was nearly killed, yet she retained her leadership role within the X-Men and stood side-by-side with Black Panther to rule their country. in short, Storm and her abilities of weather control and flight are incredible.
like Storm, i can use the tornadoes, hurricanes, and lightning within myself to help those in need or to rain down destruction on those who i deem deserving. i can even fly above my own expectations and the expectations of others, astonishing myself at times with my power. however, unlike Storm, my inner weather systems are metaphorical. yet, when allowed to roam freely, they are real enough and strong enough to spark my destruction from the inside out.
up until a few months ago, i didn’t realize that these metaphorical storms were the manifestation of my bipolar disorder; i just figured i had some weird type of depression. "in the eye of a hurricane, there is quiet for just a moment...” (Miranda 2015). this song from Hamilton: An American Musical, is sung by Alexander Hamilton as he contemplates the calm before deciding to destroy his life. during the calm eyes of my own hurricanes, i would do something similar: contemplate how mellow my mood was while piling on responsibility after responsibility, never realizing how much pressure i was putting on myself. then, a month or so later, the storm after the calm would come crashing down around me. i would withdraw into a cocoon, emerging not as a butterfly, but as a pitiful caterpillar who never even began metamorphosis.
it wasn’t until my mother noticed this self-destructive cycle of behavior (paired with an emotional near-breakdown) that i finally went to the psychiatrist and was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder, on top of the Clinical Depression for which i was already on medication. before, my inner Storm had let my pride get in the way of my mental health. however, i am continually learning how to control the Storm (and the storms) and come to terms with the fact that (1) i am not a superhero, unfortunately; (2) i have limitations, unfortunately; and (3) i need external aid for my internal issues, unfortunately. i may not like it, but it is what it is, and i am getting better at managing it, as well as asking those closest to me to HELP me. yes, i think that asking for help is very un-Storm-like of me. but my friend ACF has a different perspective on it. as she wrote:
"Realizing that your powers can also destroy you and asking for help is the epitome of Storm's (i.e.: your) character development [toward] happiness and success. There are many times she could not control her powers and she needed help from others; without it, she would destroy herself and everyone around her. The goal [is] not to eliminate this super power, but to own and control it. You mentioned you use your Storm Syndrome to help those in need, as well as cause destruction. What's more Storm-like than being aware of your own strength and learning to control and channel it into healthy behaviors? That's authentic ownership of yourself." (A. Finch, personal communication, June 6, 2017)
i never would have thought about asking for help from this perspective, but even Storm has the X-Men by her side. i may not be Storm, but the people in my support system are definitely X-Men. they have to be super to help me deal with my Storm Syndrome.
❤️ lauren dee.
Keys, A. (2007). Superwoman. As I Am. New York City: J Records.
Miranda, L.M. (2015). Hurricane. Hamilton: An American Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording). New York City: Atlantic Records.
Storm (Marvel Comics). 2017. in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_(Marvel_Comics).