“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
-Ralph Ellison Invisible Man
If someone asks you “who are you,” how would you respond? It’s kind of like the dreaded interview lead-in, “tell me about yourself.” During this open-ended discourse, the respondent often constructs his or her answer in order to appease the questioner. I may respond by saying, “I am the oldest of two girls, proud mother of one son, and an excellent neurologist.” From that statement, you would surmise that my family is of utmost importance to me, and I love what I do. Both are unequivocally correct. Still I didn’t answer the question. Instead, I identified roles in which I serve others.
Another way I might answer is “I am the oldest daughter of Liberian immigrants.” This reflects my proud heritage. Growing up as first-generation American with African-born relatives, I was often reminded of my “privilege” living in the land of opportunity. Meanwhile, to my neighborhood friends, I was the quiet African girl with the hard-to-pronounce name. This schism created torrent emotions about my identity during the teen years, already shrouded in its hormonal rage. Despite this dichotomy, my upbringing afforded me a unique world-view. Living in a real world Wakanda household made me feel invincible. There was nothing hard work and dedication could not accomplish. This complimented my realities as a Black American which taught me about endurance and resilience in the face of racism, discrimination and bigotry.
So, who is Decontee Musuba Jimmeh? To one, I am “Mommy.” To others, I am “Dee,” “Dr. Dee,” “Teesh,” and a whole host of nicknames too embarrassing to list. Those who know me best would say I prefer to lend to allure than fully divulge. Let’s just say this post is too short to answer the question thoroughly (WINK). Many people think of their identity as something they construct as opposed to an anatomical hard-wiring. Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurologist at University of California San Francisco was part of a 72-patient frontotemporal dementia study which identified that damage to the right frontal lobe can cause dramatic changes in a patient’s identity and self-awareness [“Frontotemporal Dementia” Lancet 2015 Oct 24; 386 (10004):1672-82]. This is suggestive of identity as an anatomical construct. In contrast to the social media era where characters are feigned and created, the actual concept of identity is fascinating. While the quest toward self-discovery is an evolution, it is my belief that one’s identity is static. In other words, even though we transition to find out purpose and role in the universe, who we are is innately constant.
Dr. Dee is a board-certified neurologist with specialty training in clinical neurophysiology committed to educate the community on how to live more healthy lives.
*Frontotemporal dementia is a type of irreversible, memory disorder that is characterized by prominent behavioral disturbances, personality changes, problems with planning and task execution (associated with executive function disorder). This condition is more common in patients younger than 65 years of age. It is often confused with psychiatric disease because of the behavioral problems in previously normal individuals. #DrDeeMD