My heteroclitic dealings with depression and thoughts of suicide.

“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.”

-Jesmyn Ward

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.


11 thoughts on “My heteroclitic dealings with depression and thoughts of suicide.

  1. Wu Young, Agent of M.E.

    “I needed to clear my mind so I took a scenic walk around campus and it happened to be eerily empty.”

    Thanks for this, Doc!

    As someone who struggle with the depression the last word “empty” is the best way to describe what it’s like. “Numb” is the only other word that comes close to getting it right. It’s a rough thing to endure and I wish black folks accepted and dealt with it better. (Ifemelu’s fight with depression in Americanah opened my eyes to the fact that the lack of acknowledging depression wasn’t just a black American thing.)

    “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.”

    If I would have known what I know now I would’ve acknowledged my depression in high school and college instead of shrugging it off. Now, I talk about it. Maybe too much but it’s part of how I deal.

    *Sidenote* The Men We Reaped is a dope book.

  2. gemmieboo

    if you cant talk to your friends and family about it, you should definitely talk to a professional about it. this is something you have to carry. you can be ashamed or embarrassed to experience depression – those seem like normal responses. but now that you’ve admitted it to yourself, and to others, that this disease is likely real, perhaps you can be more active in getting help with it. perhaps this post is just the beginning of your journey to healing. tomorrow is a new day.

  3. blackmartian

    Well said. I used to try to deal with things like this on my own, and even felt like admitting it openly meant I’d be admitting something was wrong with me. In speaking with a therapist (as I try to do on a regular basis now), I have discovered that *not* dealing with depression will usually make it worse, as issues tend to compound themselves.

    If anything, I hope more people can start to see that they definitely aren’t alone in this sort of struggle, and that seeking help should be something we applaud.

    I definitely respect your courage to share.

  4. scoodle32

    Thank you for this honesty. I am currently struggling with a lot of mental and emotional fatigue and a lot of sadness, so I can identify with what you’ve written here. We (Black people) are so silent about our mental health; we treat it like a minor thing that the right amount of prayer or busy work can magically cure. It’s unfortunate and we have to do better. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be ashamed. Be encouraged. Because communicating helps. *Hugs*

  5. andressaoli

    Thank you for sharing. It takes a lot of courage to put this out there but you’ve taken the first step and I hope you continue to move forward in this journey.

  6. Tbelle

    I can’t remember the name of the study, but it found that people would rather their family member have cancer than a mental illness. Mental illness continues to be such a stigma in communities of color that it deters many of us from seeking help when we are in crisis. Thank you for sharing your story and showing others that no one is beyond the reach of depression and other mental illnesses. We need forums like this that foster open and honest communication and encourage treatment.

    Be well Tunde!

    P.S. If anyone is ever in crisis and you have an iPhone, if you tell Siri you are feeling suicidal she will ask to call the suicide prevention hotline for you.

  7. The Black Jane

    Much praise for sharing. I would have never known. There are so many people…successful people, who others would envy from their achievements…that have shared with me their feelings of anxiety and depression privately. To the outside world, they’re highly functional and productive, yet they’re struggling with an emptiness that eats away at them. I wish there was more normalcy around talking about mental and emotional stress, especially among people of color, so people didn’t feel so odd and alone.

    Side note: From talking to people, a lot of their anxiety and depression seems to stem from events that happened as kids, even if they can’t remember it entirely. If you’re comfortable answering, do you think your depression stems from childhood events?

  8. Pingback: Happiness is a warm gun. | The Native Son

  9. karie93dee

    Stumbled across this post and I thank you so much for writing it. I hope that it will definitely reach people from all across the world. You have a way with words that’s pleasant and relate-able.

    I too, have suffered from depression, and no one can tell, because I’m the girl that always has everything together, and who doesn’t need help and unfortunately that’s how I appear to the world. The thing that stood out to me most was when you mentioned that “None of that matters”, I think that’s what many people don’t understand; during that state of mind, you do not care about anything in the world, it doesn’t matter what you have or who you have, all that matters is that you know you are stuck and in a whole and the emptiness continues to consume you.

    I have totally spoken to friends about it, and sometimes there isn’t much that they can do, I have also spoken to a professional about it and that really really helps, even though it is never something continuous that I can stick to. And, as you mentioned before, I have never mentioned depression to my parents, because depression is just an imaginary thing.

    I find that I am not that great when on my own, or far from family. My family keeps me grounded, and being around positive people definitely helps me. I eliminated all the negative people and things in my life, no more stress, no more drama, just still peace.

    Once again thank you so much for posting this, this message was so important.

    I’ll be following your blog from now on,


  10. Pingback: The Point Of It All | The Native Son

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s