An Unholy Trinity: Aging, Illness & Race


I am aging. I am ill. I am a Black. It’s not all I am but some days it feels like that is all I will ever be.

For some of us, it is the unholy trinity of being. It is for me. There are stigmas to getting older, being mentally ill and being a person of color. If you happen to be all three, then your work is definitely cut out for you. I haven’t even added the extra layer of being a woman; I don’t have the strength to blog about that this evening. From any angle, the struggle is very real, very painful, very isolating and very exhausting.

I don’t like to talk about it. It’s taboo. I’m supposed to be strong and not dwell on any of those three things that affects me every day I breathe. I’m not supposed to talk about the highs and lows, or the feelings of being crushed by anxiety and fear whether real or imagined. Or how my world has a sheen of gray over the bright colors of the physical world around me, a world I know has colors beyond imagining to be enjoyed if it were not for some vague fog that plagues my vision even with visual aids and it’s a rare joy when that fog clears. I feel new…but, I can’t remember the last time that happened.

I’m not supposed to count my days, wonder why age hasn’t brought me much wisdom and wonder when it will all be over. I’m not supposed to be honest or be a burden. I’m only supposed to be strong, poised and happy. I’m supposed to live my life like a catch phrase because that is more palatable than, “my thoughts feel like shards of glass turned inward” or “I sleep with anger and fear so when I awake my whole body hurts because I’m so tense.” Or the days when you feel like you are under a microscope and you are sure that everyone can see how small, weak and insignificant you are and even the air you breathe feels tainted with failures and bad decisions, and so on and so on. That is not what I am supposed to do and much of the time I don’t but, it can be lonely and I don’t ever like FEELING lonely. That in itself can be so harmful.

In this great, abundant land of America, my resources and my options are few and any of my unholy trinity of “isms” can and will limit me further. Not, because I do not try but because I am simply getting tired of reaching out and no one is there because…I can’t afford it. Yes, despite my hard work, education or skills, I can’t afford it. As I mentioned before, it can be exhausting and isolating.

To clear up a few things, I’ve been medicated. I hated it. I didn’t recognize who I was. I was driven but mechanical. I was base line but never up and when I became acclimated to the dosages, I fell right down. I couldn’t feel much of anything at first but, I was always hungry–side effects, they said. Then came the medication cocktails, the constant blood tests so that my kidneys wouldn’t fail due to the high dosages and then my body didn’t know what to do so, I became perpetually tired and hungry. The process itself was draining and cyclical. My fear increased. I hate addictions and I did not want to become an addict. I stopped. That was over 20 years ago. Eventually, I figured a glass of wine and a Black and Mild cigar did the trick just as well, right along with a ton of therapy, praying, meditation and education. It’s not a flawless path but I’m happy to say, it’s not the way of the zombie. Still, I long to be so much better!

As for being a Black woman looking for healing…we don’t have too many “safe places” and the ones we do have seem to be constantly invaded by individuals of ill-intent (who knew my existence could be such a threat?). Or, health providers are not interested in our uniqueness and provide blanket responses that are bereft of real solutions or effectiveness as if we are some sort of blank paper doll. It’s hard to seek help if you don’t have trust that the help you seek will be beneficial.

Finally, aging. Pain and stress can dull a brain, rob you of brilliance, motivation, joy and all the while you just keep getting older. I know. I’ve made this sound so grim and unhopeful. It’s not. It also does not negate the dreary facts but it is not without hope. I write this because at the very least, I am trying to be brave enough to create a dialogue of beneficial purpose and efficacy even if it is a dialogue I only have with a few which, is better than not being heard or understood at all.

And…I’m moving on with my unholy trinity in tow. Peace.



2 Replies to “An Unholy Trinity: Aging, Illness & Race”

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