I Forgot How To Smile
Opening-up about depression is hard. Writing this down confirms I have a mental illness. As hard as it is to write about depression, it’s freeing to let it go. For so long I lied to myself saying “You are okay; you just need this or that.” “You are okay, you just need to pass this class.” That was the worst thing I could’ve done for myself. Walking around campus I began to feel like everyone could see my depression. I isolated myself for weeks. I was lazy and lethargic and never wanted to leave my dorm. I did not care about my hygiene or my appearance. Family and friends would call or text, I would not respond. They would ask “How are you doing?” I responded with the same lie I told myself each day; “I am okay.” I repeated this for years until I realized: “I am not okay.”
I experienced the death of a maternal grandmother, the murder of a friend, death of two mentors and watched my brother struggle with PCP (Phencyclidine aka angel dust) and now has lung cancer.
These issues all happen in a two-year span, but I did not seek help initially. I thought I could push through it. Trying to push only dug my pain deeper making it worse, leading me to seek help. Seeking a mental health professional was challenging, but I said to myself “So many black men suffer from mental and physical illness and do not seek help because of pride.” I was not going to allow myself to succumb to that notion.
So, I set up an appointment and at that moment, I took a sigh of relief. I can remember my first meeting. Nervous to walk in and sit-down, the therapist turned on the white noise machine after I took my seat. The white noise machine, placed by the door, allows the room to become sound proof canceling out all outside distractions and it made me feel comfortable.
No one could hear my issues that were about to be discussed. Hesitant at first to open up, I was asked a few questions as a primer. After those question, I began to confess the things I held in for so long. The most interesting thing I learned from that first meeting was how the brain was a muscle. Something to be exercised (same as I would go to the gym to work on my body). I compared my depression to Derrick Rose; on top of the world, happy, working hard, obtaining my goals, then suddenly, my body gives out on me. However, instead of it being a knee or an ankle (like Derrick Rose), it was my mind.
This became evident as I would go to more sessions. I began to open-up about childhood traumas that I hid from myself deep within my subconscious. I did not realize these tramas affected me and my relationships with friends, family and female companions. I began to try and correct my destructive habits. Another issue revealed is I had a problem with saying no to friends and family. I would over extend myself to satisfy others putting my best interest second. We also uncovered that I had a perfectionism complex and I hold on for things for too long. This created unneeded stress as it is important to let things go as too much weight slows you down on your journey through life.
This exclaimed the importance of forgiving myself for past mistakes and issues I dealt with. Forgiving myself was the hardest part. I was on a trajectory for success so failing and accepting mediocrity was foreign. I had a victim mentality and felt sorry for myself. I was extremely insecure and not confident in myself or my abilities. I had to forgive myself for those moments and grow from them and use my past as a testimony to strengthen me instead of a burden to hold me down. Forgive others around you especially family. Parents have some toxic ways but blaming or being angry with them did nothing but put their burdens on me. I forgave them, love them for who they are and continued living my life. Once I let that hurt go and forgave for past issues I began to feel free. Unburden by things I can’t control I’m now able to focus on the things I can, and my life goals became clear.
This was why losing my maternal grandmother was so crushing because that was the person I went to when I didn’t feel strong was gone. So my new strength came from prayer and meditation, because it became important to release the weight of things I dealt with and will deal with in the future. Because I put my faith in God and ultimately myself and my life has become one of abundance ever since opening up about the issues that lead to my depression allowed me to know what I had to personally work on. The things that happened are a part of life, although traumatic they are a part of life.
Coming out of a depressed mind state is not easy. I had to stop selling myself short and living in fear. Each day I give myself positive affirmations and appreciate everything in life. Reading books like Relentless or The Subtle Art feeds my mind those positive thoughts. It’s a long road but “You can either sit there and feel sorry for yourself or take action to get help and take control of your life”. Life will not go as planned so when something bad happens, if I cannot fix it, let it go. My new strength came from prayer and meditation, because it became important to release the weight of things I dealt with and will deal with in the future. Because I put my faith in God and ultimately myself and my life has become one of abundance ever since.