With two people I admire in the world, Kate Spade for her vibrant fashion and Anthony Bourdain for his honesty, adventurous spirit, and good looks, gone through the chosen vehicle of suicide, I had to speak up and out just a little bit louder.
I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say and what I wanted to share. Let me start by saying from experience, depression is hard to live with. From experience, anxiety is hard to live with. From hands on experience with mentally challenged adults, bipolar disorder is very hard to live with. I feel as though people who “just don’t understand” it, don’t want to understand it. They don’t want to take the time to understand it because Google is right at their fingertips for everything else they don’t understand. If they can read, comprehend, then they can understand depression and anxiety. There are different types of depression and anxiety.
I’ve attempted suicide at least three times in my life and I use to think about it all of the time. Society didn’t make it better. Being African American made it worse. Anxiety and Depression is “crazy talk” in my community. We are slowly coming around to understanding that many of us, many African Americans, many people in our family, past and present, lived with untreated depression and anxiety. All because of the stigma that African Americans are strong and we don’t get depressed or have these mental issues that White people have. This is the dialogue I was fed for years. I think to myself, “Right, because slavery alone couldn’t have carried any long term, generational, mental and emotional consequences. And not to add just being a part of the human race alone and living life…nah, we couldn’t possibly show any signs of mental and behavioral disfunction. We made it through slavery, civil rights fights and Jim Crow laws, of course none of that affected any of us. And if we can make it through that how could we have depression and anxiety. Right?” Wrong.
There is so much I could I delve into but, the main things I want to convey is how I stay anchored to this Earth living with depression and anxiety. I went from not knowing I had it, to denying that I had it, to acknowledging I had it but, dealing with it on my own for years to finding a good psychologist that helped me understand depression and anxiety. In the midst of all that I took a journey of self love. A true and growing, deep, deep dive into self love coupled by actions that proved I loved myself that moved beyond manicures, pedicures, and shopping. It involves making choices that reflect my love of self and always remembering that “Self love is self preservation.” Self preservation also involves preserving my peace of mind and body.
Somewhere in this journey I began to understand and to feel God’s love for me. Oh I song it as a child, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” But, could I feel it? I couldn’t. I couldn’t understand it either. How could God possibly love me and allow all of these bad things to happen to me? It was not until I began to understand love from a Higher Power is different from this earthly love. It wasn’t until I began to make sense out what it is to have life and what is life. I am talking about what makes sense to me and not what others have fed me. I gathered my own information about life from a spiritual perspective and learning hard lessons from my own poor choices and just life experiences. It wasn’t until I started looking for my purpose. It wasn’t until I realized that my perception of life and it’s meaning was personal and universal. It wasn’t until I realized my idea of life will change and broaden. It wasn’t until I had a solid perception of death. It wasn’t until I understood that in order to feel God’s love I had to have a personal and deep relationship with God and that my relationship with God wouldn’t look like the church or others told me it would or should look like. God, the Creator, the Universe, loves me and that love is greater than the love I have for myself and the love that others have or do not have for me. Other’s not having love for me, falling out of love with me, does not give me a right to take my life. My precious life. Nothing, no pain, no tragedy, none of these illusions that make me think I can’t handle it, gives me a right to take my life. Not anymore. I didn’t say I don’t think about it, I said it does not give me a right. I choose life.
But it gives me understanding, why others do. It gives me compassion for their souls. And I do not see them as weak. I see them as strong, fighting all of this time. I see them as not understanding things as I do or as others do. They are not me. I am not them. We do not, did not, will not, have the same experiences and carry them in the same way. We have other factors that weigh in. It is not my call. It is not my trial to judge. And I don’t do sending people to hell well either for suicide.
All of the love, all of the sadness, all of the inspiration from these two souls, that touched people from all over the world, they couldn’t see it or feel it. They couldn’t see it or feel it from their own friends, associates, and family. I couldn’t either. So, I understand what it’s like to be blind to all that is around you, to walk empty and to smile, to go through life like a robot. I understand how pain and not knowing how to deal with it, manage it, thinking irrationally, can send you to the edge over and over and over. So many things factor in. Too many unseen and unspoken for me to judge.
I anchor myself with love for myself (which includes therapy!), love for others, and love from God. I unhook that anchor sometimes…I get out there in the deep, but love…one or all of these loves bring me back in.