By Perseverance Speaks
Recently, I have been focusing on my on mental health. After the loss of someone I knew to the hand of suicide it felt especially important. Suicide has visited me before in personal ways and with my battles with depression, self-worth, self-medicating and paranoia mean that I feel many things on a deeper level, as such I needed to unplug and reboot. However like any overworked computer, I constantly need to be reminded and usually I have had to hit a wall, face first at top speed, before I start watch where I am going. I can worry about saving the world and successfully put myself and my needs last, sound familiar? Good, far too many of us are experts at providing for the world and leaving ourselves completely incomplete. The takers amongst us seemingly swarm upon the givers and never think for a second that this endless supply of manna needs support. This is why I am not ok.
After losing friendships, jobs, opportunities with no actual reason given you begin to feel like you are in it alone. Your tears, fears and hurts are only magnified by that intense ache you get in center of you heart that doubles you over and pulls the covers over your head praying to make it another day. But as Men we are told to soldier on, Man up! As Black Men we do all we can to mask the hurt, a learned behavior of our forebears. We live for “tha Gram”, we flex for the Book. Lay thirst traps, for someone to tell us we are attractive, we flaunt our belongings, cars, jewels, even literal wads of cash for someone to see us as valuable all to cover up our damage, our shame and our hurt. I know it because I’ve done it and the ache doesn’t go away with frivolous attention and random compliments from lust filled strangers of distant congratulations from non-friends you continue to identify with because of a shared connection ie High School, College, etc. None of it matters when the emptiness you seek to fill is rooted in yourself. Did you know Black men are more likely to take their own life than to seek out help for their mental well-being. We have a stigma that if something is wrong with us we better handle it. Got you some Jesus, have a drink, maybe go out and get some and you’ll be right as rain. We self-medicate and we don’t realize that there is more healing and in seeking a real cure then in continuing to cover up a bullet hole with a Band-Aid. Yeah, this is why I’m not ok.
Church teaches us that as a Christians we should be able to rely on God for all things. That in our darkest moments God will show up and be the healer, the provider and we will be fine. What church leaves out is the actual human emotion, the feeling of loss, sorrow and hurt. Church doesn’t prepare you for the nights of fear where you are sure you will die from this hurt. They neglect to tell you how sometimes your depression isn’t your circumstance but in your head. That sometimes hope isn’t enough. And it makes sense, while the actually Bible gives both hope and direction for healing, wishful thinking is a skill unique to the human condition and many churches specialize in this brand of faith-based peddling. Conjunctively, we are more than willing to buy the magic pill that makes us shiny, new and attractive rather than have to do the actual heavy lifting to get in better shape, think of any late night fitness infomercials the proof is out there. See therapy is heavy lifting, a gym for your emotions, digging through mental and emotional scar tissue hurts. Dissecting one’s own heart and realizing that you may be your biggest enemy, your biggest enabler and your sole problem. However, the freedom gained by looking at your self in the mirror and saying wow I am the biggest asshole is scary, but necessary in order to grow from your past and build a new and improved future. We have to get into a place where we are willing to do real work and accept real truths about who we are, unsweetened sans filters. When MJ sang about starting with the Man in the mirror and asking him to make that change, it wasn’t just about healing the world but about healing himself. Think of how much greater he could have been if he truly embraced that journey. How powerful could you be if you did? This is why I’m not ok.
I am not writing this as a group diagnosis that you all need therapy or as a woe to me (My Big Fat Greek Wedding reference) pity me, notice me. I am writing this because the weekend prior to a friend from college taking his own life, he was own my mind heavy. I kept meaning to reach out as we would over social media but I got busy and I didn’t. I promised myself that if I could ever be a voice to get people of any walk of life to change their mindset and recognize that mental health is worth just as much as physical if not more then I am preventing someone else’s tears from loss. I am writing this from my perspective, that of a Black man, millennial-adjacent, Christian, educated and culturalized by western civilization. This is to say I cannot fully verbalize without generalizing the experience of anyone else as mental health is a personal journey. I am not ok, but I am working on it. I still deal with depression regularly but I am slowly unpacking my crap and figuring out the mystical why. Not to blame anyone but to free myself and move forward. In life we enslave ourselves. We learn behaviors and habits some from our parents, families and many from our peer group. We learn that to adapt to the herd, pride, pack or gaggle, that these habits help you blend in, so find a spot and get camouflaged. However, camouflage can only be maintained if you stand still and life is lived in motion. I am not ok, because I bought into the bull crap I was taught and now I am doing the work to deprogram myself from believing happiness, love, joy and success can only look one way. And while I am not there yet, I am on my way. This is why I’m not ok.