A personal blog sharing life lessons from everyday experiences
Khàlisha LaBré Smith
Of all the persons I’ve interviewed for a feature on my blog, Khàlisha is the only one I have never met in person.
We met via the inter-webs. About four years ago, a colleague and friend introduced me to a group of women with various curl patterns in their hair. Just as curl patterns vary, home lands vary and so does ethnicity and beliefs. The group communicates through our group chat on Facebook. It transcends hair matters. We discuss relationships, politics, health and wellness, our jobs and most importantly – we talk about dogs and cats.
As with many groups, there will be folks who become closer connected than others. Even though I don’t recall what brought Khàlisha and I closer, our friendship grew. I have come to understand that she has a remarkable story and with her permission, I share with you.
Khà is an advocate for good mental health and an author. Let’s hear what she has to say to the world.
I am a Fantasy Fiction author, as well as a Copywriter & Digital Marketer. I decided to take this career path after working for 14 years in Customer Service and Retail. I wanted a change and I had the desire to do what I love to earn and positively add to my life.
I am a high-functioning black woman with Bipolar Disorder 1, ADHD, PTSD.
At the age of 24, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Though it slows me down, I have never allowed any of my illnesses to stop me. They have slowed me down but even vehicles need to slow down, pause to get gas or energy and be sent to the mechanic for regular check ups and remedies.
I have a BA. in English from the University of South Florida and it took me 12 years to attain! My concentration was in Professional Writing, Rhetoric & Technology. Next to Literature and Creative Writing, I studied science subjects. Physics was one of my favorite classes and that inspiring my journey to becoming an author of the afrofuturistic world within The Visionary Chronicles.
What was the inspiration for writing a book?
I have so many reasons as to why I decided to write The Visionary Chronicles.
First and foremost, writing is a subtle means of therapy. I took a lot of the things I have been through in life and decided to turn it into a storybook because people tend to not believe me when I say my real life has been just like a sci-fi movie.
I also felt the need to write this series to inspire others who may feel like the Black Sheep of their family or peer group and remind them that…
…just because they are outcasts, they still have a purpose and they can still achieve greatness.
Also, I wanted to showcase my imagination and how it works. I also wanted to write black characters because most of the sci-fi novels that I grew up loving to read were mainly about white characters, and I felt like I and other “black nerds” could use the change. There is also a tonne of role reversals in this series, as far as gender roles, demographics, symbolisations of good and evil, etc.
So about The Visionary Chronicles…
The Visionary Chronicles currently has 2 books, I am working on the third and final novel of the series, and then I have a standalone book that I am working on that is based in Orlando. The two books of the series are Dreams of Akashaand Dreams of the Fearless. I am planning to have the third book, Dreams of a Fallen Queen published in November of 2019.
I wrote the first two last year while I was still in school. I put myself on a self-imposed “Nanowrimo” – National Novel Writing Month – last Summer and it took me 1 month to write each book, but another 1-2 months to edit for each novel.
For the third novel, I am going at a much slower pace, because writing 50,000+ words in a month drove me CRAZY!
And Dreams of Akasha can be found within the Orange County Library System in Orlando, Florida within their ePULP circulation for electronic check out.
Let’s talk about school and your mental health…
I have a severe mental illness and chronic physical ailments so I quickly learned that I had to go by a strict schedule to be able to succeed in school, and function overall. I used a notebook (to spill out everything that was expected of me) and a planner (to organize those expectations). I started a strict sleep schedule that I still do my best to adhere to.
About two years ago, I was in a world surrounded by teenagers and 20 somethings while going back to school to finish.
In the academic year 2017-18, I experienced an age gap. I didn’t have any real college friends and no one to hang out with at graduation.
I was so focused on my goal of achieving my degree, nothing else mattered. I took a lot of my courses online, and that helped a lot with my anxiety. Not having to army crawl across a huge university campus while a bunch of kids ran past me was a major plus.
I attended a PWI (Primarily White Institution) and experienced racism from various professors. I encountered a handful of situations where I had to go to the Dean to complain.
So, my last few years of college was a huge struggle with, what seemed like, all of the odds against me. I lost a tonne of hair, there was lots of crying, lots of days of feeling defeated, lots of days of depression. On my graduation day, I had the flu with a HIGH fever!
I kept reminding myself that whenever you are reaching your goals and doing something positive, negativity rears its head somewhere. The more positivity you put it, it seems the attack is even harder.
So I prayed for protection and tried my best to keep my head high. Music was my pick me up. Nicki Minaj and Beyonce were my go to artistes when I felt like the world was against me.
In sharing why it took her just about 12 years to get her BA., Khà explains that she found herself supporting her family in a time where she was not financially stable – all while attending school.
Something had to give and she sacrificed the completion of the degree (in the time that she wanted) in order to align the stars in her personal life. You can imagine as well that this period had some negative impact on her mental health.
As my grandmother always said – what is fi yuh cyah be un fi yuh. That degree was hers and she achieved it amidst all odds!
The struggle didn’t last long. She is now a graduate!
Look at her!
Feelings about mental health…
I hate when people say “Mental Health is real”. We know that.
Many people do not believe that Mental *Illness* is real. That is the phrase that we need to hear. That is the subject and the point.
As a high-functioning black woman with Bipolar Disorder 1, ADHD, PTSD and all the depression and anxiety that comes along with all of that; to have someone tell me “Oh, you don’t have that” is a huge slap in the face.
There are countless nights I didn’t sleep. I have had man psychotic breaks. There were many unnecessary suicidal thoughts and horrible intrusive visions, and I still walk and talk on the outside like nothing is ever happening. Yes, I do believe that spirituality and mental illness go hand-in-hand.
Also, I see a lot of people that are trying to come out and say that they have Depression &
Anxiety. These are the two main things I am seeing in the world of Mental Health among celebrities and social media influencers.
It’s great that they are being brave to come out about those things, but where are the people who have Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Schizoaffective disorder, PTSD, etc.? I almost feel like there is a “norm” being made about mental health. Depression and Anxiety are actually part of nearly all of the other major illnesses I mentioned, and a lot of people are not aware of that.
What’s your mental health like and how do you manage it?
It is scary. I have bad social anxiety because I always feel like someone is going to take my symptoms and try to turn it back on me, or go out of their way to misunderstand me.
Most people would never know how bad my social anxiety is because I talk louder when I’m nervous. I turn my anxiety into entertainment, and then I sometimes walk away from the event feeling like I made a fool of myself, and then I’ll get the text message that the person (or people) liked having me around and found value in all of my babbling (another hallmark of Bipolar Disorder).
My biggest fight is with doctors. Where I’m from, there are so many regulations on prescription drugs, I have to go through so much to get my medication refilled. Having to deal with chastising doctors really turns me off. I have to keep with my schedule of sleeping and eating and avoiding negative/toxic environments as much as possible. If a situation makes me feel useless, powerless, and depressed, I am prone to walk away from it ASAP.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about mental health in the black community?
That it’s a non-issue and that it is something to be prayed away or beaten out of you.
No, this is like having diabetes…it is something that has to be managed.
A homebody and a lover of music, Khàlisha credits God as her biggest support system through her highs and lows. She considers herself a broken crayon that still has the ability to colour.
Broken crayons still colour
This adds some context to a project she is actively working on called “Broken Crayonz Foundation“. Not much can be said but this project is aimed at high functioning persons living with anxiety and depression. The plans for the project are hush hush but you may follow and learn more on the dedicated Facebook page.
She dislikes when people feel sorry for her and considers her as being weak. Khà does not operate as a poor thing or a damsel in distress with her challenges. She lives with mental illness and soul sucking pain but she still lives.