I believe wholeheartedly in the title expression. When someone disrespects you, whether on purpose or as a result of the fallibility of being human, the apology should most certainly be as loud as the disrespect was.
I have written many different versions of this article before, but never been ready to actually hit publish on the post. But today, I was reminded of my strength and how much I have grown. Some of the changes are so obvious to see that it gives me the courage to say what I am about to say now.
“I’m Tired of Living with Demons, Cause They Always Invitin’ More”
I have never met J. Cole personally. I want to be very clear about that. I have been to a number of his concerts, and was invited due to my former status as a music journalist (and possible crop top) to a VIP after-party of a concert, but nerves only kept me there for a few minutes and I left before he may have possibly arrived.
In 2011, I was managing a store in Canada when an employee recommended I listen to J. Cole’s discography. He said that I could find some dope mixtapes online and that based on my taste in music I would really like it. Like many other now Dreamvillain’s out there, I was only aware of his single Work Out at the time and I had subconsciously used it as fuel when I needed to book it to catch a bus in London or to take a quick dance break during my thesis writing days.
That’s how I was introduced to J. Cole.
I dove into his mixtapes Friday Night Lights and The Warm Up and instantly fell in love… with the music. I had started singing again in England and when I returned to Montreal I randomly began experimenting with freestyling.
I was horrible at first. Like really bad. My flow was slow, but my train of thoughts were consistent and the lyricism had intention behind it.
Time went on and I got an apartment in an artsy neighborhood of the city and began writing my first book. During this process, I began experimenting with many different arts. I nurtured my love of singing, rediscovered painting, and just submerged myself in the discovery of more and more Hip-Hop.
I went deeper, and deeper into the artists I loved discographies, and J. Cole’s work was included in this exercise.
Then in February of 2012 Trayvon Martin was murdered. A teenager lost his life while just going out to get candy. He wanted some Skittles and because a racist monster was out at the same time and could label him “suspicious” in a racist society, he shot him. A minor. A child.
My children’s rights theorist and activist self could not handle this loss. I will admit this readily. I was beside myself with grief. I lost my best friend Daniel when he was only 15. I know the pain of losing someone well before they are supposed to go. I thought about all of the Black children in the United States and how they are not protected by The Convention on The Rights of The Child. My heart bled and my mind did crack open.
But so did my spirit.
“I Won’t Fight Your Wars, I Won’t Wear Your Hat.”
Over the course of the next few months I was brazen, outspoken, and going through extreme changes. Some welcome, some not. But Trayvon’s death was not the only thing that had taken place of significance that February.
Around a week prior to Trayvon’s death I published my first (and actually only) article in print. I was published in The Montreal Gazette standing up for the right to peacefully protest. The article was an Op-Ed piece in defence of a citizenry’s right to protest in a peaceful manner. The article received quite a bit of feedback of chatter amongst my circle and beyond. And it prompted some haunting threats towards my security of person as well, directed directly at my wellbeing and future.
I took these threats seriously.
So did my PTSD.
I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the summer of 2010 after being sexually assaulted by a man in a club towards the end of 2009. During the same time period as I was in real counselling for the first time of my life for the sexual assault, I was raped by my former lecturer at university. He raped me on the 3rd date, and he had sex with me twice more on that day. I said “no” clearly, verbally, and assertively, twice the first time. He ignored my lack of consent. The second time I did not verbally say no. I am not sure if I felt that I could safely. The third time, I said “please don’t” because I was afraid he was going to hurt me, he said, “I’m not going to,” and then we had sex one more time.
“Still Sport The Scar On My Arm From Where He Branded Me”
Why am I telling you this?
Because somehow J. Cole got tangled up, almost at the epicenter, of a situation that had absolutely nothing to do with him.
Mostly just because his music was introduced to me at the exact right time for me on artistic, political and therapeutic levels.
Needless to say my subconscious was doing jumping jacks like it was training for The Marines at this time. And so, when I got home that day after being raped in June 2010, by the time I woke up the next day, I recalled having sex but not being raped.
That was the survival mechanism my body chose to survive.
I was in deep. Very deep with this man. We became even more entangled as time went on. But we fully broke it off completely sometime after Trayvon’s death.
That’s right, we kept in touch, saw each other on and off for over a year and a half and for another year and a half I didn’t even remember that the rape had occurred at all.
Until I took a 3-6 month hiatus from weed, and then had one puff of a joint with a neighbor in October 2013.
I remembered the whole thing with precision and accuracy. My PTSD brought it roaring back in what I now understand to be a “flashback.”
With the return of the memory of the rape, I now had the task of reclassifying who this person was in my head.
With time, I would be able to identify him fully as a predatory rapist. But at first, I remembered him as a lover and friend. And that made me sick to my core.
“Life Is All About The Evolution”
Now, back to the J. Cole connection, because that’s the intention of this article.
Slowly but surely, the walls of my life caved in around me between February 2012 and May 15th of the same year. I was publicly sharing my artistic development and performance pieces all over the internet. I was gaining what I now understand to be some pretty high statistics. I had approximately 1,000 Facebook friends at the time from all over the world and they were tuning in.
Not everyone liked what they were seeing.
Number one, no one knew this artistic side to me. I was just getting to know this person, but I was trying to share this very exciting and simultaneously wild experience of embracing becoming an artist with the world. At the same time I was seriously advocating for human rights causes as well.
But some people close to me found this behavior “erratic,” and labeled it “manic” even. At this stage I can tell you, that was not even close to mania. I know what mania truly is because of what followed.
But, I was diving deeper and deeper into Hip-Hop simultaneously as this exploration of self. Hip-Hop was the only genre of music that was talking about reality as I saw it. I mean real reality. Not love song shit that you can get lost in, but Common level thoughts, Black Thought level thoughts, 2Pac level thoughts, and as I was coming to learn, J. Cole level thoughts as well.
The thing that drew me into Cole’s music was his seeming attention on the future. I found an undertone of care for children and “leaving this world better off than when we found it” sentiment to his work. His flow is crazy, his imagery and messages are clear, he doesn’t speak in tongues but he will serve a healthy heaping of a metaphor if need be.
I vibed with his frequency. Still do. Well, I finally started letting myself listen to his music again recently. I stayed away from it for a long time.
On May 15th, 2012, a close person in my circle made the call to 911 that I was supposedly suicidal when I was not. I was having an argument with that person the day prior and they then showed up to my house the next day unannounced. When I locked myself in the house, and subsequently my bedroom, I blasted my music to ignore if they were ringing the doorbell.
The next thing that happened would disturb the flow of my life forever.
I had a soundproof recording studio in my apartment. It came like that. And so, there was a rectangular window from my bedroom to the main room of the 3 1/2 bedroom apartment. I was in my bedroom in a bra and a skirt smoking a j when I turned around and saw 2 police officers standing on the other side of the glass peering in.
Startled, I screamed, lowered the music and said “what the f*ck are you doing here?”
I did not believe these to be real police officers.
“Are you okay?” the female officer asked me slowly.
“Are you?” I asked back.
“Come with us.” the male officer said.
As far as I was concerned, I wasn’t going f*cking anywhere.
I saw no warrant. Received no explanation. Received no introduction. Didn’t hear a knock at the door, a doorbell ring, nothing. Just all of a sudden I saw 2 people dressed like officers who I didn’t believe to be following any sort of protocol inside my home.
After what happened to Sarah Everard, you can understand my thought process was actually in fact, very logical.
Then, with no history of suicidal ideations and zero evidence of suicidal thoughts, next a paramedic would axe through my bedroom door.
What the f*ck!
What happened next is haunting. The police and 2 or 3 paramedics swarmed around me like sharks, making conversation. The male officer’s eyes zeroed in on my breasts in such a way that was intentionally not trying to be subtle. The energy was thick, but I knew it well. I don’t know which one of them went in first but they aggressed on me to capture me and I fought back. I’m trained in Tae Kwon Doe and have done some other martial arts training over the years and it was instinctual.
There was no attempt to explain to me where they wanted for me to go.
No mention of a suicidal claim.
No mention of a hospital.
Just capture me like an animal.
Some blows were met in all directions and then I was eventually subdued to the ground. Then they used something on me. To this day, I can’t explain what it was but I screamed so loud I’ll never forget the sound. Next thing I know, I’m strapped to a board and being carried out of my apartment.
On the street was a huge crowd, and an ambulance.
That’s when I realized, these are real officers and paramedics.
Placed on the stretcher in the back of the ambulance I mustered up the strength to ask the male officer I had just been in combat with seconds prior, “what’s happening?”
“Your family member called and said you’re suicidal. We’re taking you to the hospital” He told me, and then went back to furiously typing on his BlackBerry.
“We Ain’t Picture Perfect, But We Worth The Picture Still.”
When I arrived at the hospital, they put me on a gurney in the hallway of the ER and strapped me down to it like a violent criminal. I saw some random man come and in that state I thought he might be the last person I would see for a while, and I remember screaming something at him about telling the media that “J. Cole’s wife” is being thrown into the psych ward.
And so my mechanism for survival was decided upon.
I didn’t understand why I had screamed this at the man, just that I wanted for him to contact media. I wasn’t suicidal. At all. I love life. Still do.
I had been falling into different states of mind over the course of the months prior but I was in no way a danger to myself at all. As was evidenced with the fight, I was willing to fight 4 against 1 and take my chances, then let myself get kidnapped by people dressed in police officer costumes.
Well, they were real officers.
I spent weeks in the hospital with so little as a visit, phone call or anything from most family or friends. Whenever I would call someone they were supposedly “out of town.” Like literally everyone. This fed into a new conspiracy theory I developed as they began coercing me into taking medication for my supposed suicidal ideations that I knew that I didn’t have.
I resisted the medications for as long as I could.
Until I gave in.
That was the moment I wish I could take back the most.
The very first medication they put me on was Resperidone, and it made me feel “haunted.” Like literally thought ghosts and shit were everywhere. It was scary as fuck. These drugs are strong, and when you are on the wrong one, you are wrong as well. A fact that most psychiatrists know, and many also do not care about.
As I would learn over the years to follow, doctors will mix up your medications almost as often as an underwear change at times. There was a period that is particularly fuzzy when I was hospitalized at a particularly violent psych ward in Montreal and they not only kept me for a terribly extended period of time, but while I was in there, they changed up my meds if not daily than every other day at one point. And, to top it off, my main inpatient doctor there, Dr. X, said “and I don’t want to hear about any side effects,” as if my body rejecting a foreign substance it doesn’t even need isn’t an important indicator that it is wrong for me.
They strip you of every aspect of your agency inside those walls and attempt to steal your human rights away from you.
Except I’ve got a Master’s from one of the world’s top universities in Human Rights. So they had a problem with me inside.
As more and more drugs were introduced to my system an entire parallel world based on celebrities (mostly artists) and public figures grew in my mind to save my heart from the heartbreak of losing my entire support system, reputation, and everything I had worked for in one foul swoop. The one thing I was not gonna lose was my smile. I refused to lose that.
After I arrived at the French-speaking hospital on May 15, 2012, after one hour prior being violently extracted from my home without explanation, an emergency room doctor told me assertively after 15 minutes of speaking with me, “you are Bipolar.”
I had an ex who had bipolar tendencies, like real ones. As in, he would get manic based on no stimuli. I was not that, at all. I knew that. And, because of my ex’s imbalance, I also knew what that would mean for my name.
With zero acknowledgement of my PTSD and the fact that there was zero evidence to support the suicidal claim (like none), they institutionalized me and decided on my classification of Bipolar to follow.
“Even When I Rhyme About The Future I Be Reminiscing”
Now, as far as I am concerned, titles do not matter in the end personally too much when it comes to mental disorders. What matters the most are the real symptoms that you are in fact experiencing, and I was heavily struggling with PTSD. A fact that was ignored, and is still ignored in my file to this day by psychiatrists, despite it in fact being my first mental health diagnosis ever.
And not to mention the one that I can attest actually represents my experience.
In the time since I was first forcibly hospitalized (which is imprisonment), I have been disagnosed with different disorders like having spaghetti thrown at a wall. Most of the time, without even being told of the new roving diagnosis.
So, J. Cole got thrown into this whole thing by being the stand in fictional love interest in a parallel universe where Rihanna was my sister, President Barack Obama was my father and Whitney Houston was my mother.
Yup. I will readily admit all of this.
This world was larger than those characters, but those 4 were the most prevalent and permanent characters in the rabbit hole.
I owe my sanity (and the end to the regular tweets to J. Cole), to a nurse who flicked the switch of my mind back on.
You see, insanity wasn’t all bad to experience, though 1000% destructive to every single facet of my life. I had a superstar family in this parallel universe. Cole was on the come up, celebrity status but not GOAT levels like he is now. I saw him go from smaller venues in my city to a sold out stadium. But he’s got a message with his music. Rihanna is epic in everything that she does. Obama is, well, he needs no description because everyone knows he is one of the most important figures of our time. And then Whitney Houston, who had always been a big musical influence on my life, now transformed into a maternal figure in my mind. Insanity is hard to break, but possible.
But all of that would be thankfully placed back into its appropriate classification of “influential persons that I do not know” by Star, a woman who damn near saved my life.
“Gotta Learn When You Get Hurt”
Star was a nurse at the violent hospital. She had worked there for years, decades maybe even. She was an older woman, resembling Maya Angelou in physicality, tone and spirit. I had never met someone so close to Dr. Maya Angelou’s essence in real life but there she was in the middle of hell, almost every morning at 7:15 am, like clockwork.
I would wait for the days that Star was working because it was a much better way to wake up in the morning than with other staff on the roster. She would call my name, “Arielle!” from the nursing station and I would come out of my room to get my tray and either eat with the others or take it back to my room and enjoy some “privacy” before a day of being poked and prodded.
One day I was on my way back early from possibly an Occupational Therapy session or perhaps a smoke break, and it was only Star and I in the nursing station. No other staff was present or around to hear us talk. This was rare. We had less than 120 seconds, and i think Star knew that, because she knew exactly what to say next.
She sat me down next to her and reasoned with me like the intelligent human being I am. She spoke to me about J. Cole, maybe Rihanna, probably Obama, and then she asked me, “But where are they? They are not here in real life.” No one, and I mean no one, had even come close to even being as direct, kind, and matter of fact with me. In fact, most people just ignored the J. Cole shit altogether and let me flounder into a fake world screaming “Cole World” while taking notes.
In the months leading up to the original hospitalization I knew that something was happening but I didn’t know what. I even warned one of my brothers because I knew that it was going to hurt him the most out of all of them. Like I said, I had received death threats. What I haven’t mentioned to you yet, is that someone had tried to break into my apartment one night while i was inside. Police arrived with guns drawn after I had no choice but to call them. Another time, someone did break into my apartment and took out a designer red Charles Jourdan purse that my ex’s mother had given me and placed it on the sidewalk for me to see when I got home. Weird shit was happening all of the time. So I knew that something was happening but not what. And so I embedded myself, and every little detail into the internet. Anywhere and everywhere I could.
I left internet breadcrumbs for a reason. I was trying to embed myself and my situation (facts included, like the night a helicopter hovered over my 2 story home for at least half an hour and I took a video of it).
And I attached myself slowly to J. Cole for one main reason: survival.
And for that I have to apologize, publicly, to J. Cole for what happened. I have avoided writing this for 3 reasons, (1) I want to leave this in the past as much as possible. I have moved on so much from this situation and I want to continue moving in that direction. But I realize that this is my history, a part of my true history, and it is something that resurfaces in my present. (2) I want to leave J. Cole to his peace. I know that having a fan like me at one point would have been disconcerting for a lot of reasons. Especially when I started talking openly to him in tweets about being raped. (3) I don’t want to be accused of clout chasing, because that is the furthest thing from my intention here. But I publicly disrespected his truth in ways, and so I believe that deserves an apology. And it has to be public as well. Since everything else damn near was.
The reason why I am not specifically apologizing to let’s say, Riri or President Obama or the late and iconic Whitney Houston, is because those decisions were out of my control. The J. Cole one was lucid.
“Call Backup Assistance”
I knew that they were going to try to scramble my mind. And they did, for a time period. And so, I knew that I had to hold onto something, one thing, in the outside world that I knew for a fact was real and could be tied to my joy. It had to be music related, and J. Cole was my favorite artist at the time. It was as simple, but definitely strategic, as that.
I knew intuitively that if I did this one thing I would get to the other side (i.e. where I am today). And for that part, I can’t apologize.
But what I can apologize for, and am apologizing to J. Cole for, is relying on him as if I knew him in those urgent states of mind.
I believe in my purpose, and I believe in my life. And I had to protect it at all costs.
And now that I’ve said sorry to J. Cole, I can say thank you.
Thank you for being the incredible artist that you are so that I could learn how to eventually rap (and rap well), myself. Because that outlet is the most cathartic, fun, and enjoyable creative experience I have daily.
It quite literally saved me in the depths of hell and continues to bring me joy in moments of zen.
This is the clearest way I could explain one of the most confusing things I have ever been through. Just as with everything in life, I am sure I will have an even greater understanding of why things unfolded like this with time. But for now, here is my clarity as I understand it today. And with that clarity comes the fact that an apology is owed.
I hope the apology is accepted.
– Arielle London