Yesterday, news that Lee Thompson Young had died spread across the internet. Cause of death: suicide. People say, “I wonder what he was going through” and “You never know what someone is going through…” And this affected me. In a way I didn’t think possible but it was a simple statement that brought me out of my element and hit me at my core:
“Suicide is a selfish act. People should think of their loved ones and the pain they would cause.”
And those words, that idea, that feeling and sentiment got to me in a way that made me feel I was personally on trial. And I just wanted to share something…anything at all…that would get other people to understand what it’s like. And no matter what I said, it fell on steely resolves and unreceptive hosts. By the end of the day, I felt worse than I thought I’d feel so early in the week.
So I wanted to write something (writing is starting to be my go-to for a lot of things and if you can imagine, I don’t even share the personal-personal on here).
For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with a persistent heaviness. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more encompassing. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I realized I had depression and it was more than “the blues.” It wasn’t until I was 23 that I really began to understand it in a way that made it easier to explain to others.
This post is rough. It’s ragged. It’s scary to share but I want for people who don’t deal with this disease that snatches rationality to get a sense of what it is to be cloaked in this.
This explanation or description of emotional purging is not clinical because that makes it cold. It’s not warm because this feels anything other than that. These words aren’t eloquent because nothing is beautiful about this struggle.
It just is…like I just am.
“Until you’ve had depression, I don’t think you’re qualified to talk about it.” -Geoffrey Boycott
My depression is…
Waking up in the morning and seeing a message my Momma wrote on my mirror for me. “Courtney, You ARE important!” and knowing that is still not enough to feel I’m important. Or loved.
Celebrating my small victories throughout the day. “I brushed my teeth.” or “I didn’t excuse myself to go to the bathroom to cry.” or “I didn’t have to remind myself to breathe.” or “For a moment, it didn’t hurt to keep going.” What’s habit for you is a challenge for me.
A weariness that’s so pervasive it’s palpable and other people feel it. And because they feel it, they don’t want me around or they don’t want to be around me. You see, those things feel the same? And it is hard to distinguish between the two. But if I did something to hurt myself, these are the people who would call me selfish. Or say they didn’t know how I felt.
40 hours a week. Stability. Direct deposit twice a month. And leaving this job because it contributed to my misery.
Hearing the whispers of loved ones say “I didn’t know she was a troubled soul.” and “She was so bright.”
Being able to understand the struggles of another but being met with confusion about my own. I can’t explain this feeling; you’d have to feel it to really know. Or why? Or what could make it better?
Sitting in church and feeling like God forgot about me. Seeing beautiful things around me and feeling like God forgot about me.
Praying for peace. A real peace and a soul that’s finally quiet.
A constant struggle. In the midnight hour, I remind myself that tomorrow can be a little better. That the Baby Steps are all that’s required.
Feeling like something’s wrong with me but having everyone around me shrug it off.
“She just wants attention because Black people don’t get depressed. Our God is too big for that!”
Tear-stained notes of goodbye. Rough drafts of suicide letters. And exercises where I write all of the things I wish people would say to me.
“I don’t know what it feels like Courtney, but I really do care. I’ll listen. I’m here to listen.”
Cleaning my entire apartment and writing out instructions on where my things should go because I took a bottle of pills. Wondering if I truly have a greater purpose or if it’s a cruel joke because I only slept for a long time.
Wondering who can I call?
Crisis lines. And inpatient stays in a behavioral health unit.
Being the joke or the one that’s talked down to.
Being told, “If you’re going to worry, then your faith really isn’t that strong.”
This isn’t worry…this isn’t worry.
The expectation to think rationally and hearing other folks speak dismissively of something that twists my soul and breaks my spirit without ever knowing how it got there in the first place.
Telling your counselor at 11, “One morning, I just woke up really sad and I don’t know why.”
Is this my cross to bear?
Being on the Honor Roll and being lauded for your academic ability by the same administrators who treat me unkindly for being homeless. Or rather, my depression is remembering this.
Being reminded I’m less than by the society I live in.
And having to name the people to myself, out loud, who want you here.
Scratching some of those people off of my list when they express their opinions about someone like me.
“It wasn’t something I did. I’ll wonder that. But they should know they are loved anyway.”
Sometimes we don’t.
I just wanted to feel loved on my birthday. You showed up late. Or you didn’t call. Or you didn’t text. And you laughed it off later with a, “Well girl you know!?”
Sometimes I don’t know.
Warning signs. All of the warnings signs. Other people see them but ignore them. Because there’s no way I could have that “issue.”
Being the one that my family leans on…and adding their burdens to my pile. Only to sink.
Sinking lower still.
Playlists of “Feel Better Music” and sing-alongs through tears. It’s never enough but somehow I make it.
Keeping everything inside. No one wants to hear this. Except the people you pay and even still, they only medicate you or tell you how you made this mess.
I didn’t ask to be here.
A tattoo on my wrist. “Dream. Hope. Live. Be.”
Remembering my potential as a way to fight off the heaviness and then the heaviness returning as I wonder if I’m meeting my potential.
Setting alarms to eat and asking friends if they could remind me to eat. Expressing gratitude for the ones who remembered to tell me to eat.
Because sometimes, most times, I forget to eat.
Being alone with destructive thoughts.
An additional 6 pills a day and no insurance to cover this treatment. It’s expensive. An expensive reminder that I’m miserable. So I take them only when things are really bad…if I have any to take. Which means it doesn’t work like it should.
Everything being too much.
Feeling like I’ll break at any point.
The lowest of the lows…
Being in a place so dark, I wonder which beast swallowed me whole.
And I pray a prayer to be spit upon a shore, any shore no matter how cold and lonely and destitute, like Jonah from the belly of a great whale…
So I can see a sunrise.
Just one more sunrise.
And feel its heat as it sends a visible glimmer of hope…
That never fully reaches me.