About three years ago, I was diagnosed w/ moderate depression. I felt like Florida Evans after she read the infamous note about her beloved husband's death while employed in Alaska - a plot I resented because it removed an embittered John Amos from his proud & dignified role as head of their poverty-stricken household. But I digress.
The therapist I saw weekly in Gramercy Park suggested a session w/ a psychiatrist. I dutifully complied, though not happy to talk to, yet another professional about the state of my head. I was given two tests, the answers to which I made up as I went along; I just wanted to go home. After about thirty minutes or so, I was told, in an unemotional tone, I might add, by a man I would never see again (professional test taker?), I have high anxiety & moderate depression. I didn't believe a word he said, in fact, I refused to acknowledge the test results as real.
Denial is not just a river in Egypt...
Mental Illness is stigmatized in the Black community, as well as American society at large, unless you're on Oprah. Though I know plenty of folks thusly wired, in both my personal & professional life, the idea that I, too, might be similarly afflicted terrified me. I remember thinking: why me? Am I being punished by God? What will my parents think about me? How will my friends react? Can I be happy & depressed in the same lifetime? As usual, I have more questions than answers.
I refused to talk to anyone about my dilemma. The annoyingly cheerful psychiatrist quickly suggested a number of medications to "soothe my pain," though she never asked me how I felt about this newfound illness. Empathy my ass. I politely declined, boldly declaring I didn't want to deal w/ the toxic side effects of Western medicine. I can be real self-righteous (read: a bitch) if and/or when the situation calls for it.
Part of my denial was in not understanding my diagnosis as an illness, rather than a personal attack on my character. A sensitive Leo child, I grew up taking everything personally. Even when I smoked weed, folks thought I was paranoid: I defiantly responded, "I'm not paranoid, I'm Black." Whatever. I became closed-minded to new ideas because I didn't trust anyone. I thought depression was a sign of failure. I hate admitting I've been defeated. Being an oppressed Black man in supremacist white America meant competition, not cooperation, which is the African way. Still, I don't like to be wrong.
When depression sets in, I feel a number of conflicting emotions - some of which I'm only now ready to acknowledge & share openly w/ others - emptiness, hopelessness, misery, sadness & unhappiness come quickly to mind, primarily because I'm currently in the midst of my depression: I become anti-social. I don't want to bathe, eat or sleep. I have no sexual appetite. I lack positive energy. I want to escape from reality, but every television show these days IS a reality show! Seems I'm not unique.
James Baldwin said, "we know all there is to know about white people - that is the essential meaning of television." I woke up this morning feeling particularly frustrated, due to my financial unmanageability. I spent $60 on three (long-sleeved) shirts a couple of weeks ago, rationalizing I had to get them since they were on sale. Now I am flat broke, though best selling author Iyanla Vanzant would correct me (!) by saying, " I'm not broke, I'm temporarily out of cash." She got bank, I hate her.
Through grace, I'm not discouraged. I spoke w/ a few people about my feelings & they were all very supportive. Who knew? I'm uncomfortable sharing my pain, regardless of who I'm talking to & what their relationship is w/ me, yet I've learned pain shared is pain lessened. I continue to pray for God's will in my life. I am not alone, no matter how I feel.
The patient therapist - a handsome, young Black heterosexual male - who suggested I see a psychiatrist at the same mental health facility once remarked, "depression is anger w/ out enthusiasm." He told me I needed to explore healthy ways to express my anger, provided I feel safe doing so. As it relates to my emotions, I never felt safe growing up as a child. Just three weeks shy of 45, the time has come to let people know when I'm pissed off! For real.
Watch out New York City, an angry Black man is on the loose! I ain't thugging but I might be bugging.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.