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Campus Echo

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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2011

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true stories from the lives of ten students

Strange voices almost erased my identity

Sex: Not all it’s cracked up to be

Stubborn unto death? Maybe I’ll reconsider

BY MAYANJA MORRIS

BY TASHA HUGHES

BY HENRY HENRY-AJUDUA

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

ECHO STAFF REPORTER

ooking at the person I am today, no one can truly say they know who I am, that I was always happy or always sad. They can say that I was “normal” (whatever that means) for the first semester of my freshman year. For the most part, I lived a typical teenage life. I was a star athlete and very popular -- outgoing, outspoken and confident. I never would have imagined my conceit and confidence would dwindle before my eyes. “Mom, I can’t do this anymore. I just don’t want to live. You just don’t understand -- he scares me. He doesn’t like me.” How do you even begin to explain to your mother that you’re afraid of a voice in your head? That you constantly hear

t was something of a tradition for the women in my family to lose their virginity in eighth grade. But here I was in the ninth with no chance in hell of losing mine. I felt unwanted and lame because I wasn’t like all the other girls. I felt they were better than me because all the guys seemed to want them, not me. If only I knew then what I know now: sex is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Sex doesn’t mean love and acceptance, it doesn’t symbolize a guy’s love for you, and it damn sure doesn’t solve your insecurity or self-esteem problems. In elementary school, a peck on the lips was something big. In middle school, a peck on the lips no longer did the trick. It was all about using your tongue and fingers.

y mum told me when I was born the words stubborn, defiant and troublemaking were born into the world too. As a matter of fact, those words and I came out of the same belly at the same time. She told me I came out head first, looked around, went back in and got my neck tangled in my umbilical cord. I know this sounds funny but it really isn’t, because my mum said the doctor told her most babies in this circumstance die within 10 minutes from suffocation. My case was different. I was in there for another 50 minutes, and I’m here today. One morning in October 2008, I was getting ready for school in Lagos, Nigeria, when I got a call from my sister Ifi in London. Nonchalantly, I took the

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Stories written by students in English Composition II taught by Dr. Lisa Carl


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A NEPHEW’S HERO DISAPPEARS His uncle disappears for three days. Slowly, the mystery unravels.

‘He is dead, Momma,’ I told my grandmother. ‘Don’t say that,’ she said, and ran in the house yelling, ‘Mommy!’

SayQwan Stabler NEKA JONES/Echo staff photographer

BY SAYQWAN STABLER CONTRIBUTING WRITER

knew a man who was a retired Army paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne.

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When he retired, he helped other veterans get their benefits and financial support. He was always there for us to talk with, laugh with and pray with. He was like a rock, strong, faithful and true, guiding our family the right way. His great intentions and kind, giving heart kept our family strong and together.

He attended all the family cookouts and reunions, and took us kids to the state fair and the circus every year. But if you are thinking he was a good man just because he had money, you are wrong: Money was purposeless to him. Charles “Butch” Chavis was a son, a father, an uncle, a hero. He was everything you would imagine a god to be like. Butch Chavis worked hard. He had his own trucking company. TLC, with numerous employees. TLC stood not for tender loving care, but for Tandra Lynn Chavis, his oldest daughter. He made more than $10,000 a

week, and he always gave the church ten percent. He spent every Wednesday and Friday at church for his own projects, returned Saturday for the children’s activities, and then be back at church at five in the morning for Sunday school, men’s fellowship, and church service. Afterwards he would go to his fiancées house and have a nice meal and fellowship with family and friends. And no matter what time it was when he left church, he would stop by his parents’ house and check on them. June 2010, was the summer after my junior year of high

school. My cousin and I had just left the movie “The Wolfman” when I received a call from my uncle’s fiancée, asking when I had last spoken with my uncle. I had watched his dogs the weekend before, and met him on Monday at the gas station near my house to return his house keys. Monday was the last time she had spoken with him too. I called everyone from my grandmother to my uncles’ secretary and no one had spoken to him since Monday. When I heard this I didn’t think the worst, because my uncle liked to drive out of town without telling anyone other than my great-grandmother. When I called my great-grandmother, she knew something was wrong. She asked me to go down to his house and look around. It was 11 p.m. and his house was dark, but all his cars were there. I thought maybe he had gone out of town, and someone had dropped him off at the airport. Over the phone, my great grandmother told me to come back the next morning. I walked to the back yard to speak to the dogs, but before I could get there they started barking and acting crazy. I turned on the light on my phone to check the dogs’ water and noticed the water was disgusting. My uncle always kept the dog water clean. I went home, wondering what had happened. The next morning my grandmother and great grandmother insisted on going with me to my uncle’s house. We pulled in the driveway and everything looked fine, but the dogs were still acting funny. The alarm wasn’t set. I checked the office and it looked fine. I checked the kitchen and it looked fine. I checked the living room and it looked fine. I open the door to his downstairs bedroom. A man is lying on the floor, and there is a weird smell in the air. The man’s head has hit his

briefcase on his way down so he has a big dent in his head, and he is lying in a puddle of blood. He is lying there as if he is asleep. He has his hand balled up into a fist. He has used the bathroom on himself, which is what the smell was. I blanked for a minute, thinking, the man who used to pick me up from elementary school every day is gone. The man who used to take me out of town every other weekend is gone. The father figure in my life is gone. I screamed his name: “UNCLE BUTCH, UNCLE BUTCH …” When I didn’t get an answer, I shook him, trying to wake him up. But, when I touched him it felt as if he’d just come out of the freezer. I walked out the front door crying, forgetting about my greatgrandmother, waiting on the porch. When I looked up she had gone in already. “He is dead, momma,” I told my grandmother. “Don’t say that,” she said, and ran in the house yelling, “Mommy!” Back in the house my great grandmother had exploded in tears. After the funeral home came to receive my uncle’s body, I went downstairs, where I noticed a hole in the wall where he must have fallen backward while coming up the stairs. Beside the bed were the remains of a dinner from the Barbeque Lodge: fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni, potato salad, and hush puppies. My uncle was a diabetic and wasn’t supposed to eat fried foods. Beside his bed was his cell phone with 200 missed calls, and his TV was paused three days ago. He had been lying there for three days after suffering a heart attack. Nowadays I wonder, “What if I had gone into his house the night before. Could I have saved my uncle’s life?” I’ll never know.

HENRY-AJUDUA CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 call. “ What?” “Hey, little brother, how are you?” “Fine. What do you want?” “I see you still crazy in the head. Anyways my friend is coming back on Friday to Nigeria. I brought you a new phone and a PSP for [our brother] Ogom.” I was so happy. Shouting, “Thank you!” to Ifi, I cut the phone before she even tried saying anything else, and off I went to her friend’s house, got my package, and took my new phone to my mum’s office to show it off. Seeing my excitement, Mum said the phone was beautiful. Then she put my brand new phone back in its box. “What are you doing?” “Son, it’s a beautiful phone but you can’t have it now.” “Why can’t I get it now?” “You’ve got a big exam coming up very soon, and this phone is going to be a big distraction. You are already a distraction to yourself as it is.” “What the hell, ma. Have you lost your mind? Have you been drinking? How do you expect me to survive?” “I survived in my time without those privileges.” “Mum, you lived in the Stone Ages. This is the time of new and better things.” But my tantrums were not working. I got the reality of the situation when I saw her put my new phone in her office safe. I thought, the best thing to do is to act out, which will eventually get the people in her office involved. Unfortunately for me, that was not effective either, so I thought, well we will be going home together. I have lots of chances.

I ran and stood in front of the car and said she was not going home until she gave me back my phone. Before I could finish my statement, a 6 foot 8, 400-pound-man picked me up by my waist and tucked me into the car, then stood there and gave me a mean look. I sat back in the car, looked at him and thought, “I guess I will just stick to fighting my mum at this point, because trying to be the David to this Goliath might just not be the best move right now.” When we got home I started with my mum again. When she headed downstairs to the car, I followed her. I could see the tension in her face, but still I followed her, shouting, “Give me my property.” While I was saying “my property,” she turned around and slapped my face so hard it knocked me to the ground 5 feet away from her; I couldn’t feel the right side of my face. I sat on the ground thinking, did I just get knocked down by a woman? While I was on the ground still speechless because she had just rearranged my vocal cords, she said, “You are sleeping outside tonight,” and walked inside. I sat on the ground thinking, is my mum really ready for my worst behavior tonight? There is no way in hell any woman can take me all at once. So I climbed the walls of my four-story house, got in through a little opening in the roof, and marched straight to my mum’s room, thinking, yeah, I’m back. I didn’t know Mum had heard the metal plate covering the opening slam when I jumped in. She jumped off her bed screaming, “I will kill you tonight. I

brought you into the world and I’m taking you out tonight. I’m totally tired of you.” I was scared, but refusing to look like the loser, I shouted, “I want my property.” When she got to me she slapped my left cheek, twice as hard as before. On my way to the ground she kicked my legs together so I couldn’t land properly and punched my nose, increasing my speed to the ground. I couldn’t imagine where she’d gotten those fighting skills. I lay there crying with a tooth knocked out and blood pumping out my nose, thinking that once she saw me in that state she would stop. Then I saw her reach for a glass soda bottle, slam the bottom of the bottle on the ground and walk to me with the broken other half, shouting, “I will kill you tonight.” Seeing her approach me with that bottle and no pity, I knew my time was up. If I didn’t run, then she wouldn’t feel sorry for me until after I was dead. I ran for my life, shouting, “I’m sorry, Mummy, I’m sorry, Mummy.” She chased me down four flights of stairs shouting, “I will kill you today.” I ran, praying, “Please lord don’t let me die this way. What would I say happened to me when I got to the gates of heaven?” I locked myself outside, pleading, “Mummy please forgive me, don’t kill me, I’m not ready to die.” Fortunately, my brothers and sister saw me speed past them with my mum right behind me. They pleaded with my mum for 30 minutes. One said, “I know he deserves to die but please not this way. Kill him in his sleep -- that’s better.” Finally she calmed down and

Henry Henry-Ajudua and his mother, Vivian. NEKA JONES/Echo staff photographer

dropped the broken bottle. After an hour she asked me to come inside, but I said I would rather sleep outside. She said, “Fine,” and went to bed. Scared out of my mind, I shook the whole night, still terrified, covered in blood. I had almost made my mother commit murder. If my stubbornness could drive my own mother insane,

imagine what it would do to people outside my family. I could get killed acting like this, and if I took it to college or any professional setting it would destroy my future. From that moment I decided to stop my repugnant behavior and get my act together. My ugly attitude was going to bring me way more hurt than good.


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FEELING FAT AT 90 POUNDS A teenage miscarriage led Montrena Carter to a severely distorted view of her body BY MONTRENA CARTER CONTRIBUTING WRITER

was always hungry, but I never ate. Looking in the mirror I no longer saw the beauty of myself and the person I was destined to be, I just saw “her.” My collar-bones stuck out far more than they had a few months ago, and it seemed as if the scale was stuck permanently at 90 pounds. I was allowing this disorder to be my murderer. “A sandwich here, a bag of chips there” was what I used to always tell myself that was enough to last for the rest of the week. Through it all, my best friend still didn’t know. I was alone and nobody understood my pain. Why was it like this? “Breakfast is ready, Lucy!” she yells from the kitchen. The aroma of bacon, eggs, and grits fills the air and makes my stomach make angry growling noises. I sit down, and begin to pick over my plate. I am beyond starving, but I am convincing myself that I’m not hungry. She was looking at me smiling, lend over gave me a kiss on my forehead while turning to walk out of the room. How come she still hadn’t notice I was unhealthy? Why didn’t she put forth any effort to ask if I even okay. I was battling this anorexic disorder head on, but yet it was still winning. Stress had taken its toll on me. I was unhappy with the way my body looked and there was nothing else that I could do about it. I was weak all the time, and my body was barely able to do the functions it was set out to do. I was losing all the motor skills that a normal person would have, all because I wasn’t getting the right nutrition for my body to stay healthy.

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I was upset with what my body had turned into and for some reason I turned to this horrible disorder into my friend. But it wasn’t. It was my enemy.

I no longer moved like the cheetah in the jungle, I was now the turtle in the swamp. Slow, and unsteady. I had a fear of gaining weight and I didn’t look pretty enough whenever I looked in the mirror. I was upset with what my body had turned into and for some reason I turned to this horrible disorder into my friend. But it wasn’t. It was my enemy. People with anorexia disorder have a fear of gaining weight, and are unhappy with the way their bodies look. This disorder is a common invader of some teenagers’ life. They restrict the intake of food by dieting, fasting by excessive exercise. My mother always told me that I was beautiful in every way, and that nothing and nobody should make me feel any different. She was always my motivator whenever I was going through a tough time, no matter what the situation was she was always right by my side. It was safe to say, that my mother was my rock. She always protected me from all hurt, harm and danger — like a bear protecting her cub from a hunter. She was like my superhero and no one would ever replace her. Not only was she my mother, but she was also my best friend. She knew everything about me, but I still hesitated to tell her that I was sick. Maybe that’s because I was waiting for her to notice. But she never did. When you have someone who you can always go to about problems, someone who never judged you, it should be easy for you to

talk to them. But I was afraid that she wouldn’t be proud of me any longer. With the fear of disappointing my mother always being thought about, I thought I would be able to change and overpower this disorder alone. Instead I still was being defeated. I no longer knew what I was even going to do with myself, but I could see each day my young life slowly slipping away. Well, that’s what I believed anyway. Living no longer seemed to be important after being pregnant at the age of seventeen and losing the baby two months into the pregnancy. The image I saw while looking in the mirror only made me more disgusted and made blaming myself seem easier. I didn’t think I was beautiful anymore. I no longer thought I had a reason to live. In my eyes I was ugly, and my troubled pregnancy was my fault. That’s what really drove me to have an eating disorder. I had changed forever and this unwanted intruder was in my life for five long months. When I no longer could take the pain of my stomach touching my back bone anymore, and of being weak and tired all the time, I realized that’s when I had to be strong and overcome this disease. In April of 2011 I finally realized that I was unhealthy and I that I needed help. But the only way I would get the help I needed would be by telling my mother the truth. When you look at yourself in the mirror and you can no longer say you’re beautiful or that you are

Montrena Carter MORGAN CRUTCHFIELD/Echo staff photographer

proud of the person you are, that’s when you finally realize that something has to change and that somebody needs to know your story. It was no longer fun being in a

dark room, and having no way out. I was tired of going through this pain alone and not getting better. Someone had to hear my silent cry.

A SECRET I DIDN’T DARE TELL Sexually abused at age 10 and fearing for her safety, Brandyn Pettiford told no one BY BRANDYN PETTIFORD

Even though I knew this was wrong, I couldn’t tell anyone because he had told me had told me not to and because I was scared of what he would do to me.

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

ow do you keep a secret from the ones you love the most?

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From birth to age 8 I lived with my paternal grandmother, Grandma Lucy, and her daughter, Aunt Nene. My aunt, who I loved and admired, helped Grandma Lucy raise me while my mother went off to an ECPI School of Technology. My mother came to visit or brought me to her house some weekends. My relationship with aunt and grandma could be described as motherly. Aunt Nene and I would watch TV shows like “A Baby Story” and “A Wedding Story.” We went to Disney World and Universal Studios, or just had fun doing ordinary things. The only sad moment I recall is the day I left my grandma’s house and moved to Durham with my mother and her boyfriend when I was in second grade. In the beginning it took some time to get used to my new surroundings, but I adjusted well. After I moved to Durham, Aunt Nene got involved with a man who was no good for her but whom she later married and had three children with. I knew he was shady (he had a violent past), but I gave him the benefit of doubt. After my aunt married, she moved with her husband and Grandma Lucy to the country, which made visits to more rare. One night when I was about 11, I was up late playing solitaire on the computer when my uncle-in-law came in, rubbing his private parts. At first I simply wondered whether he was cold. Then he asked me to rub his private area for him, which I did, out of respect. He was an adult and I always did what I was told. While I was touching his private parts my mind was racing, wondering what was next. Just as I hoped

Brandyn Pettiford MORGAN CRUTCHFIELD/Echo staff photogrpaher

this would be the end, he told me to lie down on the couch and remove my shorts. Once I got settled on the couch he told me to never tell anyone of what happened that night. Then he began to touch me and use his mouth to violate my young, developing body. I cried, squirmed, and silently prayed for it to be over. It seemed that prayer didn’t reach heaven because as I got up to run away he grabbed my arm and tried to force himself on me, but I broke free and ran into the bathroom. Even though I knew this was wrong, I couldn’t tell anyone because he had told me not to and because I was scared of what he

would do to me. If he could hurt other people, he could hurt me. It was years before anyone knew. The secret had finally escaped through a text message left in my cell phone when I was 16. My mother was devastated. She drove me to the grocery store to talk about what I wanted them to do. I told her to do nothing and to tell no one, but she told both my paternal uncles and my father. Neither of my paternal aunts nor my grandma was told, because I didn’t want them to feel different toward me. I didn’t want anything to hurt my aunt’s marriage and I didn’t want to see her get hurt. Little did I know that this image

would never go away and would haunt me and change my outlook on life. After my uncle molested me, my self-confidence and attitude changed drastically. I started not caring about school, and I began having sex. These things happened because I thought of myself as ugly and unworthy. I thought if an older man wanted me then there had to be something wrong with me. When I was 17 I told my mom all this. She embraced me, telling me that the molestation wasn’t my fault. This is one of the best moments I can remember between my mother and me. Still, I felt ugly and unworthy of

love. Even though I had boyfriends, I could not understand why they wanted to be with me. In the first semester of my senior year, my Grandma Lucy passed away. Her passing cut me deep and made me think about my life. My grandma had raised five children and me while suffering with health problems. My grandmother’s strength in the midst of her own sickness made me want to make her proud by making something of my life. But I still felt bad because she died not knowing my secret. The day of my grandma’s funeral, my family met at my Uncle Stanley’s house. There was my molester, in the same room as me. I felt both extremely uncomfortable and nothing at all. I didn’t want the rush of emotions related to what happened to overcome my grief. During the week or so before her death I met a guy named Dorian. He was tall, brown-skinned, and very sweet. He played football. He was easy to talk to, caring and understanding — all the things I had been looking for. He accepted the real me, flaws and all. In July 2010, Dorian and I became a couple. He is my heart and a big motivation in my life, just like my grandma. They are the reasons I am at NCCU today. Through their love I have strived for better. Even though my grandma is gone and my boyfriend is not here with me, I am trying my hardest to make college worthwhile and be the person I’ve always strived to be: Brandyn Asia Pettiford — not the weak victim, but a strong survivor!


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GONE BUT STILL GUIDING ME Her mother died young — but her legacy spurs Tia Willis to succeed When I get weary I often think about the song, “I Remember Mama,” and the verse, “The people are depending on you, Tia, don’t you let them down.”

BY TIA WILLIS CONTRIBUTING WRITER

he was a petite woman full of love. It seemed as if her favorite duty was to spoil and see after me. She always took special care of me and made sure I was seen after. I was such a happy person because she was simply amazing to me. This special woman is my mother, Libby Ann Willis. Her beautiful face lightens my world. The last time w make her proud in all I do. From that day, I have done just that. There’s no doubt in my mind that mom isn’t proud of me. I graduated magnum cum laude from Dudley High school and am now attending North Carolina Central University. When I walked across the stage at graduation my academy director whispered in my ear, “Momma is so proud of you.” It was if mom was in the audience, but she had a better seat in heaven cheering her baby on. Although my graduation day was filled with excitement, a part of me was still sad because I wanted my mommy there. My auntie, who I was living with, had planned me a big graduation party. The cards I received from friends and family had encourag-

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ing messages in them telling me my mom is so proud of me. The messages meant a lot but inside I really just wanted to cry because I kept thinking about her. I often ask why did mom have to leave me so soon? I just always feel so empty. My tears I can never seem to hide. As I cried night and day after her death, my tears slowly were wiped away because I would get a comfortable feeling of knowing that she is near in spirit. God saw a need to make me a strong woman in his image through my mom. At this time in my life I could’ve easily gave up but I realized that wasn’t the plan God intended. I believe this was the moment that structured me into the strong woman I am today. I consider myself as a strong woman because I kept going on in life instead of letting go. When I get weary I often think about the song “I remember Mama,” and the verse “the people are depending on you, Tia, don't you let them down.” This song was sung at my mother’s home going service and I still think about it every day. It hurts living life without mom but it’s a sweet feeling I have that lets me knows she still lives in me. As I walk this journey of life I know I’m highly favored because I have my personal guardian angel

Tia Willis MORGAN CRUTCHFIELD/Echo staff photographer

watching over me. Thinking about the memories and love she left to cherish, I am able to better deal with her loss. Memories of her I cherish include how she loved her children and family. Being surrounded by her loved ones was her favorite thing in the world. One of my biggest memories of my mom was when she told a guy who claimed that he dated me,

“my daughter would never date no one like you.” The guy was not my type at all and meant no good to me; so of course she wasn’t having that. At the time I was like my mom is crazy, but I now realize that mom only wanted the best for me. If I had a chance to spend with my mom I would tell her all about my accomplishments and how different life is without her.

My mother will always have a special place in my heart. I love my mother so much and she is the reason I am the woman I am today. I would like to encourage everyone who has ever lost their mother to stay strong and do everything that makes her proud. You may face many sad times but you can overcome them by thinking about the good times you shared with her.

Morris CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 I was too ashamed to explain that I had been distant because of a voice that only I heard. I wanted to escape — but where could I go when “Frank” was everywhere I went?

Mayanja Morris MORGAN CRUTCHFIELD/Echo staff photographer

an array of voices and sometimes feel like a different person? It’s impossible. This was the beginning of the demise of the Mayanja Morris everyone knew and loved. Ultimately, I completely lost touch with who I really was. Soon, my life took a turn for the worse. I began smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol and getting into trouble. I was even almost kicked out of school and lost my on-campus housing. I developed strange symptoms. I had trouble sleeping and concentrating in class. I had recurring nightmares about places I had never been before. I didn’t understand what was going on — but I used marijuana to “fix” my problems. Of course, I was only worsening my situation. In hindsight, I should have gotten help when my mother suggested it, but I was a college student, making my own decisions. I started my fall semester at N. C. Central University just as I had finished my senior year at Thomas Dale High School. I was bubbly, talkative and conceited. I hung out with new people each day. College life was nothing but a big party. I partied hard every Thursday and smoked every day. I did homework when it was convenient and

never turned down the opportunity to get “fucked up.” My life was so fast-paced that I gave up joining the track team. By the end of fall semester, I had failed two classes and barely passed the rest. Second semester, I noticed another strange change in my personality: I didn’t enjoy being around people anymore. I no longer trusted anyone. I was too ashamed to explain that I had been distant because of a voice that only I heard. I wanted to escape—but where could I go when “Frank” was everywhere I went? Frank became a frequent voice and my fear of him intensified. A prisoner of Frank’s thoughts, I shut myself off from the world. Frank distracted me in class, making it impossible some days to concentrate. I began skipping class to stay in bed all day and cry. I pondered suicide and wondered if I was crazy like my grandmother. Twenty years earlier my grandmother was diagnosed with major depression and bipolar disorder. By the end of Spring semester I was hearing six voices. I was forced to attend both sessions of summer school because of my poor academic performance. I thought things couldn’t get

worse. I was wrong. I now had eight personalities, I lived in constant fear and shame, and I felt so alone. I started going to counseling and seeing the school psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (also known as multiple personality disorder). I was headed down the right path — until I got a call that changed my life. My grandmother had died, and I had to get there quick. I sat on the Greyhound bus certain I was going to miss my grandmother’s funeral. Why did the bus have to run late? Why couldn’t my sister find a bus station she drove past every day? Why did a highway accident have to back up traffic for miles? My grandmother had recently told me she loved me for the first time. It felt so unfair; now a month later I’m dressed in black, preparing to cremate her. I wished I had called, visited and told her I loved her more. In her casket, Nana looked terrible, nothing like the vibrant woman she was. I was floored, and couldn’t stop my tears. I had always been very familyoriented, the first person everyone went to for comfort or advice. Now I was withdrawn, mourning on my

own. My father didn’t understand. Unable to control his anger and hurt, he lashed out at me in front of everyone, accusing me of having an attitude and making me sit in the car by myself. I didn’t talk or think—I barely blinked—I just cried. I was no longer in reality. People say everyone has their breaking point. I had reached mine. After the post-funeral repast, my sister Vicky took me to her house. When she couldn’t get me to stop crying, she passed me a bag of weed. Taking weed to mask my heartache felt all-too-familiar. I relaxed, stopped crying and started talking. In the shower, I suddenly felt tranquil and safe. Though I didn’t know it, I had experienced a personality split. Frank had come back, but he no longer scared me. He heard my suicidal thoughts and told me he would take away all my worries if I let him be in control. So I let him take over. I called my mother and told her that “she” was fine and that “I” had “her.” I spoke in the third person, refusing to answer to Maya. When my mother asked who she was talking to, I just laughed. I told her that my personalities were taking control. The more I talked, the more

weary and crazy I began to feel, as if I was watching a movie of someone else’s life. “Maya, you need to come home.” “I can’t, Mom. Mommy, help me — I don’t understand what’s going on with me.” Mom, panicking and worried, spoke calmly. “OK baby, where is Vicky?” “She left to go get her boyfriend. She said she would be right back.” I was beginning to calm down. My mom arranged for me to spend the night at Vicky’s house. That night I got very little sleep. All the voices wanted to “come out” and see what it felt like to be in control. All night I fought a silent battle with nine personalities. I knew if I lost this battle for my sanity I would end up at a mental hospital just like my grandmother. I won. I woke up drained, as if I had physically fought a war by myself. I called my mom, and what she told me brought tears to my eyes. “Maya, I called your psychiatrist. She thinks it may be a good idea to do a medical withdrawal from school and skip a semester to go to a hospital.” Did she know how hard I had fought to stay out of that place? She couldn’t have. I was pained by the thought of going to a mental hospital. After a long conversation, my mom agreed to let me decide for myself. I decided to fight this battle on my own, every day if I had to. I decided to pursue my education so that I could achieve my dream of becoming a photographer and owning my own photography studio. I wouldn’t let a few voices stop me. I would live as if I had no symptoms and had never been diagnosed with DID. I continue to see my psychiatrist and continue to take my medication. Medication, meditation and prayer have changed my life. No longer a victim to my circumstance, I am living proof that you can overcome mental illness.


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MY SISTER’S SILENT KILLER Tilah McDowell’s sister Monique dies under surprising circumstances “No! Not my sister!” ... The moment was so unreal. Speechless, I ran to my room, loocked my door, and cried in my bed for two hours.

Tilah McDowell NEKA JONES/Echo staff photographer

BY TILAH MCDOWELL CONTRIBUTING WRITER

remember November 16, 2008 like it was yesterday. I could not stop thinking about our soon-to-be president, Barack Obama. I was so excited, watching the news on any network I could find. Back then, my life focused on school and friends. When the phone rang that evening, I said “Hello?” three or four times before I got a response. It was my father. His voice was

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a quiet mumble that I couldn’t understand, and I got scared. Thinking he was hurt, I rushed to my mother’s room, scared out of my mind. “Mama, wake up! Something is wrong with my dad … I think he’s hurt!” Mama grabbed the phone. “Robert, what’s wrong? Are you okay?” Ten seconds passed. Then she yelled, “Oh no….Robert, it’s going to be okay! I am so sorry Robert, please call me back.” My stomach turned. My mom hung up and balled up in her bed,

crying. “What happened, what happened mama, please tell me.” Finally my mom uncovered her face. “Baby, I think somebody killed Monique. Your father called from the Greensboro Police station. Your sister has been missing for two days now.” “No! Not my sister!!!” Speechless, I ran to my room, locked my door, and cried for two hours. I did not want to see or talk to anyone. Finally, I let Mama in to com-

fort me. As I cried in her arms, she kept telling me she loved me. The next evening, the police found my sister’s body. The craziest feeling in the world was thinking that someone would murder my own sister. I was wrong, though. Hers was a silent killer. Monique died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The police said they found Monique in a house in Greensboro. They also found her boyfriend in the house, deceased. The strange thing was, no one in my family knew about the boyfriend. Her boyfriend had a wife and three children that my sister hadn’t known about. Also, six months before her death, Monique had lost a son due to complications with her pregnancy. Right before Thanksgiving, I went to see Monique’s body for the first and last time. I was terrified. All I could do was pray to God on the way there and ask him to protect me and take the fear out of my heart. As I stepped out of the car, I felt a protecting spirit surround me. I wasn’t afraid any longer. When I entered the room, Monique was laid in a beautiful white casket. But I was pissed off then and I still am today about what a bad job Gilmore Funeral Home did on my sister. Her hair and make-up was a mess; streaks of foundation ran down the side of her face. I could have done it better my damn self. I almost didn’t recognize her, with her pale skin and her swollen face, probably a result of her two autopsies. My mother told me that Monique didn’t look like herself

because her body was now a shell. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” she said. Every day I think of Monique. I also think of her friend and his son and two daughters. His son is only two years younger than me. It’s bad enough that I lost my sister, but he lost his father. I think about reaching out to his family but feel I might get shut down, so I’ve never tried. After my sister’s death I became angrier than ever. My therapist and psychiatrist diagnosed depression, and I was put on loads of medications that eventually stopped me from eating well. Everything around me was falling apart. My social life went downhill and I felt I couldn’t trust anyone. In 2010 my family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the landlord, heating company, and the owner of the heating company, alleging that the heating company and others failed to fix a furnace in the house, leading to my sister’s and her friend’s deaths. His family also filed a lawsuit. My sister came into this world November 14, 1981 and left on November 14, 2008. If I had a chance to speak to Monique again, I would say, “Even though it is strange that you had to leave this world the exact day you entered, I know now your soul is at peace. I love you, sis. You are my inspiration and everything to me. “God was ready for you and I have to accept that. He does everything for a reason. I will miss you. Rest in peace, Monique Latrice Carpenter.”

Hughes CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 I felt cheated. My books described sex as spectacular. But here I was, feeling like it wasn’t worth a thing. In high school, sex was “the thing to do” — nobody was a virgin anymore. It seemed all the girls who had lost their virginity had boyfriends and confidence for days. For me, sex symbolized beauty and confidence, and was necessary for popularity. But sex was an uncomfortable topic for me, as one of the very few virgins left on the planet. So instead of talking to people about it, I read erotica books. Before I read those books, I had no idea what a penis looked like, much less what was done with it. After reading descriptions in books, I considered myself a sex professional. I wanted to lose my virginity just to see if what the books so vividly described was accurate. Still, I wanted my first time to be like a scene from a movie — flowers, music, and a gentle, loving man. Sadly, that’s not how it happened at all. Halfway through my sophomore year, my mother died suddenly of heart disease. After her death, I was bounced around between family members weekly, and everyone was too busy dealing with their own emotions to pay attention to mine. That’s where “Little Bit” came into play. He was a childhood friend with whom I had played dryhumping and kissing games when we were younger. Around the time my mother died we came back into contact. I wanted to feel loved so badly that I nearly handed him my virginity on a silver platter. I lost my virginity to Little Bit 23 days after my mother died. The whole experience was

Tasha Hughes NEKA JONES/Echo staff photographer

depressing. For starters, he pulled down his pants to reveal toddlersized equipment. If that weren’t enough, he pounded into me as if I were a piece of meat and he hadn’t eaten in years. To add to this grand experience, three days later he got back together with his on-and-off girlfriend of two years, someone I had known nothing about. I didn’t feel the pleasure, pas-

sion or love that the books described; I felt dirty and used. A month later, I had a fling with a friend from ninth grade. The topic of sex had come up between us back when I was a virgin. Now that my virginity was gone, things were different. One day after school, we had sex at his house after his dad went to work. While not as bad as my first, this experience was nowhere near good. I felt cheated. My books

described sex as spectacular. But here I was, feeling like it wasn’t worth a thing. It finally dawned on me: there was no way a guy’s dick was going to change how I felt about myself. I would have to work that out on my own. That’s when I started to read books like “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” and “Souls of my Young Sisters,” which encouraged me to respect my body and know

my worth. Looking back, I wish I had known then what I know now. First, sex is a gift that should be earned, not given away. You’d be surprised how many women wish they could take back their virginity. Second, sex comes with more responsibilities and emotions than you would ever know. Last, take your time. Sex is not all it’s cracked up to be.


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I SURVIVED A BROKEN HEART When a girlfriend repays his loyalty with betrayal, Charles Gray discovers hearts do mend. BY CHARLES GRAY CONTRIBUTING WRITER

I was dating a beautiful girl last year. She was short,

Puerto Rican, and had skin so bright that it lightened the day. Her long hair blew in the breeze, and her smile that reached from one side

of her face to another. It is beautiful when you truly care about somebody, but it feels even better when you know someone cares about

you back. I went go out of my way every day to drive her to and from school despite the strain it put on my car and on me. I would surprise her with a caramel frappachino from Gloria Jeans in Hanse Mall, since I knew she craved them. I wanted to help prove to her that not all guys are just out for sex and one-night stands. One day, I was sitting in Spanish class, more bored and confused than usual, when I overheard a classmate say that my girlfriend had been trying to seduce some guy by text message. I didn’t believe it; I trusted my girlfriend not to do something as rude and trifling as that. After Spanish class, a distant friend told me that my girlfriend was sexting another guy I have known since middle school. I started getting suspicious when I heard this from other people as well. So I respectfully confronted my girlfriend. “You’re always so worried about what other people say,” she yelled. “You’re a bitch for that.” I didn’t understand why she would retaliate so disrespectfully against a guy she claimed she deeply cared about, especially in front of my peers. Weeks passed with frustration and anger. My girlfrien started not to show as much appreciation for the things I did for her. She even began to talk crap about me to my closest friends. One day my girlfriend’s friend’s boyfriend told me she was hanging out with the guy people accused of her sexting. When I asked the guy about this, he tried to stand up to me as if he wanted to pick a fight. I tried to talk it out with him. Later that night, the bas-

Charles Gray NEKA JONES/Echo staff photographer

tard called me and said my girlfriend wanted to have sex with him, but that of course he had told her no. I called my girlfriend, who claimed that this was a lie. “You always believe what everybody else says about me,” she yelled. “Grow up!” After two weeks of constant bullshit, I attended a basketball game with some buddies. I was enjoying the action when I saw my girlfriend walk in. Then, the guy who people accused of her sexting walked in right behind her, smiling and talking to her. She and the guy sat right across from me. I had never felt so disrespected in my life, especially with my friends sitting there making comments. When she made eye contact with me, she acted as if she didn’t know me. Sometimes you feel there is no reason to do good unto

others because the favor is not returned. After the game, my girlfriend and the guy rushed off together. A friend called to tell me he was standing outside the guy’s room, which he and my girlfriend had locked themselves into. This news left me no choice but to break up with my girlfriend, to end the madness. I beat myself down about this situation -- until I thought about how unworthy of anger this girl was. There are many good girls in the world, and I refuse to change for anybody. Many people expect commitment and trust, but then are not trustworthy. Relationships are trial and error. When someone breaks your heart, take it as motivation to do what you can to prevent it from occurring again.

In First Person - November 2011  

Campus Echo, NCCU