I personally know what it is like to stand over the comatose or deceased body of a loved one that has experienced tremendous pain and suffering over the course of their lifetime. I buried my mother over two years ago at the age 44, and my grandmother six years ago at the age of 55. Both of these individuals died young from cardiac arrest. They also had similar addiction issues in addition to experiencing poverty, trauma, and mental illness in America.
When I awoke this morning to the news about Lamar Odom, I was deeply impacted by his condition and utterly disgusted by the media coverage.
Piers Morgan, TMZ, and others, shaming and blaming the Kardashian family for this tragedy is not only immoral, but ignorant, especially in the wake of Mental Health Awareness Month and an America that is on the edge of a mental illness epidemic, if we are not already there.
Per Nami, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 44 million American adults experience mental illness in a given year, and 8.4 million adults have co-occurring mental illness and addiction disorders. Sixty percent of these adults go without treatment, and African Americans and Latinos use treatment services at half the rate of white Americans. These serious mental illness issues cost the United States about $193 billion per year.
Piers Morgan was right to highlight the tragedies faced by Lamar Odom over the course of his lifetime: “It’s not been an easy life for Lamar. His mother died when he was 12, his father was a heroin addict, and he lost a six-month-old child to sudden death syndrome. But many others have survived similarly catastrophic blows and emerged stronger and better from the emotional wreckage. Though they did not marry a Kardashian.”
Where his analysis takes a wrong turn is in his assumption that Lamar Odom, a Black man from South Jamaica, New York, and a superstar basketball player, knows how to handle grief management. Lamar’s addiction history alone signals otherwise.
The statistics show that African Americans are less likely to seek counseling services in time of need. For example, my mother suffered from schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder her entire life. However, it was not until her own copping mechanisms, the use of narcotics, were unmanageable that she sought psychiatric care. Like Lamar Odom, my mother experienced unaddressed traumatic events during her childhood: parental neglect, alcoholism in the home, sexual abuse and mental instability.
When I was born, I thought that my mother chose to be a drug addict. No one in my family discussed the underlying issues. This created an unclear narrative about the causes of addiction and dysfunction within our family.
I can imagine that Lamar Odom losing his mother at the age of 12, not having another responsible parent to help him cope, and immersing himself into basketball to deal with it all created a foundation of emotional instability. They say money and fame only enhance your issues, and the tragic death of his infant child possibly triggered it all.
Enter Khloe Kardashian…
It amazes me how people call the Kardashians fake. Every time I turn on the show, I see someone crying and complaining. I love this because I was raised in a household where I was told not to cry. All my life, trauma and addiction, and people pretending they did not exist overwhelmed me.
I finally decided I had enough after my younger brother was shot and comatose for two months. First, I spiraled out of control with alcohol, sex, and work addiction. When that did not help, I went to church and eventually grief counseling. My family’s drama and my own process of healing inspired my inspirational platform, The Clarissa Joan Experience. I am pleased to say I live a very healthy, happy, and emotional life, but this was not an easy process.
When Piers Morgan says lightly, “many others have survived similarly catastrophic blows and emerged stronger and better from the emotional wreckage,” it pisses me off! I worked really hard to develop a stable emotional life. Trauma and grief management are not easy feats. I think it’s time for us to wake-up to the seriousness of unhappiness and pain in America, or else we will continue to lose loved ones and great talents before their time.
Lamar Odom’s downfall didn’t have to happen. I pray for his recovery. Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, your deceased family members and mine, they did not have to die.
Maybe we should all cry and complain a little more like the Kardashians, crying for help just might be the key to saving lives.
Clarissa Joan is a spiritual life coach and editor-in-chief of The Clarissa Joan Experience. She resides in Philadelphia, Pa with her Husband, their two girls, and a yorkie named Ace. Clarissa is also an expert in impact investing. She is the Communications Associate at Impact America Fund.