Don’t Be Ashamed of Depression, Don’t Be Afraid To Live
In my last blog post for 2013, I Kicked Her Butt, I wrote about some of the darkest moments of my year and how on reflection, I realized that those dreary days were outshone by the unconditional love, invaluable time spent with and unwavering support from my family and closest friends. Above all, it was my relentless faith in God, long instilled by my devout Christian mother, that enabled me to appreciate the blessings amidst the storm. The latter was the mindset I adopted as the dawn broke on 2014. Like for many other people, the start of the year signaled exciting new possibilities, dreams being fulfilled, a spirit of invincibility, renewed hopefulness. I felt armed and ready for what I declared was going to be the best year of my life yet. But before I could even celebrate my birthday at the end of January, everything that could go wrong in every sphere of my life started to go wrong.
By early February, I found myself in a state of unimaginable depression. I penned an email to some dear friends expressing how I felt and asking for their prayers. At times like this, one is made aware as to who really cares. While some people never even bothered to acknowledge receipt of my message, others immediately responded and a few called – even from overseas. Much of what was going is far too personal to share via this medium, but like never before, I felt utterly clueless about solutions. I needed to be in a space where I could think clearly, to be both introspective and futuristic in my cogitation. I unplugged from all social media, avoided anyone bringing negative energy into my space, and spent hours discussing with those that showed they care, how best to overcome my circumstances.
It was a challenging two months. Try as I might to fight it, I lost all motivation to do the things I love most, the things that feed my soul. I stopped writing. I stopped running. I hardly read. I stopped baking. I scarcely cooked. I no longer turned my Reggae music on. I felt sad, agitated, frustrated, hurt, helpless, lost, I started to question God’s will for my life. It was through the latter that I began focusing more on my spirituality. In doing that, instead of questioning God, I found myself talking with God, listening to God. It’s as if he was also speaking to me through my mom and some of my friends; the type of advice they were giving, the tough love, the encouragement, the time they were making for me. Soon enough, through a combination of inner strength, will power, faith, family and cherished friends, I was finding the answers to move past the tears.
I recently met a young lady through professional circles, who turned out to share a close mutual friend with me. We spoke about the things we admire in our friend and I noted how this friend is an integral part of my life in New York. My newly met acquaintance made the oddest remark. Referring to our friend by name, she said, “If I were considering suicide, I would not call her. She would tell me to it.” This was totally unrelated to anything we were discussing and I quickly came to my friend’s defense: “Well, our friendship is not like that. On the contrary, she’s one of the people that’s always checking up on me.” The comment lingered with me and it brought to mind a sad incident reported earlier this month – the news that 22 year-old Karyn Washington, the celebrated creator of the For Brown Girls blog, had committed suicide.
Subsequent stories attributed Washington’s depression (caused by the recent loss of her mom) as a possible reason for her ending her life. I can’t imagine what she must have been feeling. Neither can I fathom taking my own life. But I know what it feels like to be depressed. More importantly, I know what feels like to have someone, rather several people there for me. I know what it feels like to have faith so strong that even in my darkest moment I hold on to a belief that my God will bring me through. I know what it feels like to have an indomitable will to live.
Many of my friends don’t relish public acknowledgement, but I have to thank certain ones for really being there for me as I was going through my depression: Shawn; Trevor; Uncle Mac; Tonie; Jackie; Judy; Shevon; Leona; Rev. Abraham; Fr. Armstrong; Emmerson; Vin; Jenny; Cassandra; Anthony; Julie; Allan; Clara; Kumutha, Fabien, Gail, my Uncle Cyprian, and as always, my mother. One day, Julie sent me the following message:
“New York is a great city, it has the best of everything and the worst of everything. I have always described New York as a city that is spinning on a paradoxical axis. In saying that, she can give you tons of energy, creative and otherwise and she can just as easily drain you.
Don’t get stuck, or feel that New York is the only city in which you can live. You don’t want to just survive; you deserve to live, to live fully. You deserve a satisfying career, a beautiful home, a healthy relationship that’s fulfilling with someone worthy.
If you’ve tried everything, turned every leaf in your New York book, then look elsewhere for opportunities. You never know what God has in store for you and believe me, he’s got a plan for you.
Get quiet, centered, meditate and ask for guidance as to where you should be, where your soul needs to dwell.”
This was a poignant reminder, not just that I have beautiful and caring friends, but that life is a gift, a blessing, and meant to be lived. My heart breaks to know that the world has lost Karyn Washington. Not everyone has a “Julie” in his or her life, but at some point we all go through a storm. Today, while I give thanks for the angels God has placed in my life, I urge you to be a “Julie” to someone and or to find a “Julie” you can call on in your time of trouble. In the black community, there remains a taboo about mental health issues; be not afraid to ask for help, be not be afraid to live.
Last week, I got a call from Kyle, who I’d not spoken to since last fall. On hearing some of what I’d endured, he said, “Make sure you take time to live life.” I realized my truth and shared it with him, “Yes, Kyle, I’ve been doing that. Sure, I have my moments when I feel down, but I can truly say I am living life and loving it.”
I Will Not Die an Unlived Life
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
Of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
To allow my living to open me,
To make me less afraid,
To loosen my heart
Until it becomes a wing,
A torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
To live so that which came to me as seed
Goes to the next as blossom,
And that which came to me as blossom,
Goes on as fruit.
by Dawna Markova
~ I Keep it Irie ~