“In the end, I understand his desire, the self’s desire to silence the self, and thus the world. Ronald looked at his Nothing and saw its long history, saw it in all our families and our communities, all the institutions of the South and the nation driving it. He knew it walked with all of us, and he was tired of walking.”
This is an excerpt from Jesmyn Ward’s The Men We Reaped, a memoir which I’m currently reading. The Men We Reaped delves into the stories of Ward’s brother and her friends who died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that nurtured drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Ronald who is referenced in the quote dealt with depression which led to a drug habit that caused him to become estranged from his family and feeling like he let the most important people in his life down. Eventually giving up on life he committed suicide at the age of nineteen. This book resonates with me because I can relate to certain feelings of hopelessness that comes with being a Black person in America.
Depression is a precarious thing. In undergrad I believe I suffered bouts of depression. I wasn’t clinically diagnosed but I know exactly what it was. One Friday night my mannerisms and attitude combined with what I’ll describe as buzz words caused my friends to believe that I might attempt to take my life. I needed to clear my mind so I took a scenic walk around campus and it happened to be eerily empty. My friends found me sitting on a bench in front of the dining hall. After my friends made sure I was fine one of my best friends and my eventual line brother stayed behind to talk to me. We had one of the realest and rawest conversations I have ever had in my life. His sister had recently committed suicide and he finally opened up to me how much her death hurt him and continued to hurt him. He couldn’t imagine going through that much pain again. He called me selfish. I had so much to live for. So many people would love to have my life. That’s the thing about depression. None of that matters.
What did matter is how I felt after that conversation. I don’t know if he or any of my other friends remember that night or that conversation but I think about it all the time. I was embarrassed by my feelings because I have a lot to be thankful for. Many people would love to trade places with me. I don’t want to be selfish so I don’t talk about it. I don’t talk about it with my family. I don’t talk about it with my friends. I don’t talk about it with my lover. The simple fact is that I still suffer from depression from time to time. I’m embarrassed by it. It doesn’t make me special. It doesn’t make me needy. It doesn’t make me different. It’s something that many people my age, my color, my gender suffer from yet it’s still taboo within our community.
September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day. This is something I didn’t know because it’s something that I didn’t want to know. I don’t like thinking about suicide. When news of Robin Williams’ suicide was plastered everywhere I was consciously silent on the issue. I usually share blogs that I find interesting on twitter or facebook. A favorite blogger of mine recently wrote a piece on suicide. I didn’t share this piece but instead I sent her a private message.
This leads back to my embarrassment. I’d rather not discuss it, especially publicly, because I think that if I don’t talk about it then I don’t have to deal with it.
Black people aren’t supposed to suffer from depression. Africans definitely aren’t supposed to suffer from depression. It’s impossible for Africans who were born and raised in America to even consider it because imagine if you were still back home? I should be grateful. The thought of bringing up the issue of depression with my parents is as far fetched as me discussing my sex life with them; far from likely.
I still deal with what I believe is mild depression. I’m trying to be less embarrassed by it. I’m trying to be less ashamed by it. It’s something that I cope with.