A Bright Light, Dimmed

On a sunny April day, 17(!) years ago, I stood along with 28 other young collegiate women and was presented on campus as one of the newest members of my sorority. We thought we were so fly in our jean shorts, K-Swiss tennis, and red and white baseball jerseys. You thought that Beyonce ran the world, well let’s just say she was 17 years too late!

 That year, the women who crossed us over the burning sand, didn’t pick very many graduating seniors for my line. But they did pick one outstanding, vivacious young lady named D. D was well known and liked on campus, a budding journalist and future lawyer. I had the opportunity to get to know her because we were both on the Campus All-Star Challenge Team (kind of like a Quiz Bowl for HBCUs). So when I found out she was going to become my line sister and soror, we squealed in delight, like young college girls tend to do.

 D’s time on campus as a soror was all too brief. We crossed in April, she graduated that May. She left to go back to the East Coast in a whirlwind, planning to tackle law school in DC. We lost touch. My line is unusually close, so it was rather odd to us at first, but things like that happen. Sometimes people leave the remnants of college life in their rear view mirrors, along with their line sisters.

 10 years passed so quickly. Careers, marriages, babies, divorces. We kept in touch through Yahoogroups and emails and phone calls and the occasional get together. We reunited at homecoming to celebrate a decade of crimson and cream fabulousness. But still no D.

 Another 5 years fly by. We come together again, at homecoming, in black bedazzled t-shirts to cherish 15 years of sisterhood. We have found D at this point and we continue to connect with her through cyberspace. We are happy. A lost sheep is back in the fold. Another line sister who lives in the DC area promises to keep up with D and keep the rest of us updated. We don’t want to lose her again.

 It is around this time that D’s emails to us become long, bizarre and erratic. She mentions needing money and potentially being homeless. We dispatch our DC based soror to find out what is going on. She connects with D.

 D is bipolar. Has been for years. She’s off her meds. She needs our help. She is our sister. We took the Oath together. We band together to send money. We scour the internet for resources to assist her in the DC area. We contact her family. They know she is ill, but because she is an adult, they can’t force her to come home to NC.

 Reconnecting with us, seems to help D. She emails us for birthdays, joins Facebook, is working a steady job at a big box store, has a place to live, even a boyfriend.

 But then in the last few weeks of this year, the emails start back up. Long, rambling, erratic. Just like last time.

 D is off her meds again. But there was a trigger. Her long time therapist took her own life as well as the life of her son. Thus begins the downward spiral for D. She gets fired, her boyfriend kicks her out, and she is couch surfing once again. She refuses treatment for her illness.  Her father advises again giving her more money this time because she doesn’t make the best decisions when she is sick and has placed herself and others in dangerous situations. He says the best way to help is to convince her to go to the doctor and take her meds. I suspect her family is hoping she will hit rock bottom so they can legally step in and take her home to North Carolina.

 My line sisters and I have decided to send a small amount of money to her for essentials. Seems like the only other thing we can do is pray.

 It’s hard for me to envision D like this. Her illness is like a fog that surrounds her brain.

 Much like a  bright light that flickers…..right before it goes dark.


15 thoughts on “A Bright Light, Dimmed

  1. I am late to seeing this but saying prayers for your line sister. This is such a hard illness to deal with. Hoping she is able to get the help she needs.

  2. Mental illness is often dismissed in our community…people think Jesus and Oprah will solve everything. I pray that your sister gets the assistance she needs. It’s sad to hear that losing her therapist was the catalyst for a setback.

  3. Wow. How sad. I will definitely keep her in prayer.

  4. I read about that therapist and her son…she was up to her eyeballs in debt and popped herself and her special needs son. Makes you wonder who was monitoring the therapist. Tragic all around.

  5. Wow. Yea praying is all one can do when someone sick refuses help. In my personal life I am dealing with the same type thing. I hope she gets back on track.

  6. My dad is bi-polar. Growing up with him was not pleasant. AT.ALL. I haven’t seen him in 6 years but he does some of the same things your line sister does. Unemployed. Impulsive decisions. Erratic phone calls and emails. Binge drug user (this has gotten worse over the years triggered by my parents divorce after 20+ years of marriage). In the past, if you saw him you wouldn’t know that he is bi-polar. My dad doesn’t like to take his meds because he claims they make him sleepy and he has no appetite. Mental illness is real and often ignored in our community. Unfortunately, I have no real advice but I will offer prayers for all involved.

  7. aww, this is so sad to read.
    keep being there for her in whatever form or fashion; you never know what a diffierence it can make.
    she’s added to my pray list.
    wow – you just never know what people are going through.

  8. Wow. Her therapist took her own life?? Man oh man, talk about some additional trauma.

    Mental illness is far too often ignored and misunderstood in our community. I’m so glad you and your linesisters are attempting to help her in some way. It hurts my heart when I hear of mentally ill individuals in need and unwilling (and in some ways unable) to get/receive it.

    Lots of prayers for her, and you and your linesisters.

  9. Can ya’ll send the essentials instead of money?

  10. Wow this is sad, but thank God for you and your linesisters staying true to your commitment of sisterhood. I will pray for D and everyone who is concerned about her and loves her.

  11. I pray that your friend gets the help that she needs. I didn’t personally know that therapist, but through circles, I was familiar with her and her son. Mental illness is such a scary disease that affects so many. And as an adult, she can’t be forced to take medication. The book “72 Hour Hold” by BeBe Moore Campbell comes to mind right away.

  12. I don’t have any personal experience with mental illness, but my best friend’s cousin is bi-polar. She lost everything! She was a VP of Finance at Merrill Lynch in NYC..she lost her job. Her husband took the kids, and her house and then divorced her. She refused to take her medicine because it made her gain weight 😦 Her parents brought her back to Florida after she was evicted from her apartment. She could pay the rent because she could not keep a job. She still refuses to take her medicine. Sometimes they wake up in the morning and found that she has left the house, out wandering the streets. They fear some stranger will pick her up, and do only God knows what to her. My BFF has tried to encourage her aunt to Baker Act her since she is now a threat to herself. Just like cancer, mental illness in the African American community is not diagnosed and treated as promptly as it should.

  13. I heard about the Dr. and her son when the tragedy took place. I wondered how her patients were dealing with what has happened. I’m praying for D…mental illness is a very serious matter. I hope she can break through her fog long enough to find the help she needs.

  14. Thanks for all you do for D. I’m praying for her.

    Mental illness is no joke! My older sister suffers and it’s difficult to help when she’s not lucid. But she’s my sister so I keep praying and trying to help without making matters worse.

  15. Very sad, but at least she has y’all. Hopefully she will get the help she needs. Sigh.

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