Editor’s Pick 2012: To Be Young, Gay & Clinically Depressed
After completing my graduate course work, moving back across the country and looking for full time employment, this post really spoke to me at a time where I was in my life. Many times you get tired of hearing people suggesting you pray or that you’re actually fine. I still have yet to understand how someone can tell you how you feel. Many times in our community (black and/or gay), we don’t discuss the importance of seeking help. Depression and suicide are not just thoughts bullied teenagers think or feel, but even as adults we go through the same emotions. The author, Bama B., inspired me to open up about my feelings and seek professional guidance – outside the Bible.
So you find yourself sitting at the edge of your bed in silence. On the side of you, there’s a bottle of Jack Daniels and on your dresser, you’re having a staring contest with a bottle of prescription pain pills. The tip of the bottle grazes your hand as it rolls closer to you, and your mind spins in chaos because you are actually considering combining the booze and pills to finally have some type of peace.
You’ve been here before. In fact, you’ve found yourself in this scenario three days in a row. You’ve already spent the last few days avoiding conversation with friends and family, and you’d rather spend your days in bed sleeping because it’s much easier than facing the day. It’s been 3 weeks since you’ve felt a smidgen of happiness, but you know that you have a lot going for yourself. You’re young, successful and loved. However, you can’t feel anything. Perhaps you haven’t felt like this but this is my story. Welcome to the life known as clinical depression.
Almost 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression. At first attributing my depression to being a closeted gay black male from the South, I felt that the majority of my depression would go away once I was able to finally establish myself as an open independent individual. However, I soon discovered that my depression extended past what I thought were the obvious problems. None of that mattered at that time since I was still living at home with my family, too afraid to tell anyone about my sexuality, yet alone discuss my bouts with depression. Since time has passed, it’s now easier for me to openly discuss my experiences with the disorder.
Clinical depression, otherwise referred to as Major Depression Disorder, is a severe form of depression that affects a person’s emotions and mental perception. Think of it like this, you know what you should feel when things are going well in your life, but for whatever reason, those good feelings filter through your brain as negative feedback. It’s like a cloud is casted over you, blocking all the good sunshine from ever gracing your presence with its rays. In all honestly, it fucking sucks. No one wants to be depressed all the time, so by no means is this cry for attention. On the contrary, most severe cases of depression involve reclusive behavior to avoid drawing anyone’s attention. Reclusiveness can be brought on by symptoms, such as loss of interest in hobbies and activities you’ve once enjoyed. In my case, I lost interest in performing poetry, writing, and yoga, all of which I used to combat my depression. Also, I grew less interested in going out with friends and being around family. Other symptoms included insomnia, self-loathing, lack of appetite, and sadly- thoughts of suicide. The opening paragraph spelled out a difficult period I had back in June 2010, before considering the use of antidepressants to help stabilize my mood as suggested by my therapist. Yes, therapist.
Therapy helped me a great deal during that period because I knew my emotions were out of whack. I blamed my emotional distress on trying to balance my personal life, academic studies, and career. Not mention dealing with the ups and downs of being a closeted black gay man. Black Gay Chat Live and Adam4Adam did not aid in my quest for acceptance either; it actually served as fuel for my self-loathing, negative thoughts. My mind would tell me that I wasn’t good enough to be like the men with whom I’ve chatted with online. With such thoughts, I began deeming myself an outcast amongst outcasts but an outcast, I am not.
Through cognitive therapy I learned to take my negative thoughts and flip them into something positive. Although it sounds simple, it actually took some practice. Sadly, some people find it hard to acknowledge their self-worth. Overall, others find it hard to accept that they may be experiencing some form of depression. If you feel depressed for more than 3 weeks, I implore you to seek the professional help necessary to get treated. Yes, you can try to treat yourself by adapting a healthy lifestyle, engaging in music/art therapies, and other relaxation therapies; however, some cases may require the aid of antidepressants. I opposed the usage of antidepressants for a great deal of my time in therapy, but after having an emotional breakdown to the point of considering suicide, I knew a change had to be made because I wanted to live to see things get better, which they have.
In the past two years, I’ve come out to my friends and parents, graduated Cum Laude, held down my job, and moved to Atlanta on my own. During all of this, I’ve put effort into my blog to reach out to other LGBT youth who may be experiencing similar issues.
Feelings of sadness, grief, and stress are a normal occurrence of life; however, if you possess these feelings more than usual, you may be depressed. Clinical depression can be treated, but you have to be proactive in getting the necessary help to lead a normal life. I have my ups and downs day-to-day, but I want those who are suffering to know that it can and will get better.