Secret Shame

This piece was written for ShePreaches Magazine, an online publication for african american women for which I am a columnist. In honor of suicide prevention week, I will be posting daily in order to provide information and inspiration. If there is something that you would like to share, please contact me. Thank you for being the loyal readers that you are. We, not one of us, are not alone…

Love,

Me

Secret Shame Image

On August 19, 2013, actor Lee Thompson Young was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment. His cause of death was ruled a suicide. Lee was a twenty-nine year old black male who seemed to have a bright future ahead of him in Hollywood.  Lee died due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A suicide note was not left behind and his family, friends and co-workers were all shocked by his death.

On June 13, 2012, the body of writer Erica Kennedy was found in her Miami Beach, Florida home. Erica was a publicist, fashion and entertainment writer and book author who also happened to be the best friend of Kimora Lee Simmons. Erica was a forty-three year old black woman who was a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. More information surrounding her death was never released but it is believed that Erica committed suicide, most likely because of an ongoing, secret battle with depression. Much like Lee Thompson Young’s death, Erica’s death sent shockwaves through her community of family and friends.

Suicide is rarely spoken about within the black community. One might say that discussing it is taboo. I think it goes a step further than just being taboo. It is a secret shame….

To continue reading, please click here to see the whole piece that was written for ShePreaches Magazine.

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Sunday through Saturday, September 8-14, 2013 surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2013. The theme this year is: Challenging our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911. 

A PSA by Abiola Abrams

I came across this PSA on Black women, depression and suicide by Abiola Abrams following the death of writer Erica Kennedy. Her words and message are so powerful that I wanted to share them with you. Remember, you are not alone.

Love,

Me

It’s not looking like Christmas…

I drove home in a fog tonight – literally. I left church and drove home through a fog so thick that I missed a turn and ended up on the other side of my neighborhood. It probably didn’t help that I was crying as well as driving through this fog. Today sucked and I hate that it did because I feel like I’ve been doing so well. That’s probably my problem – thinking that a few weeks of positive thinking somehow cures me of the reality that is my depression. I know better but it hit me hard tonight.

I spent the day by myself, trying to tell myself that all was ok. I was aware of my feelings – missing my family and wishing I was home. But being alone during the holidays triggered other thoughts. I sat with the fact that I am now divorced. No more extended family and friends Christmas parties. No more trading off the holidays, deciding which family we would be with for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

I spent the day watching movies and hanging out online, trying valiantly to get in the Christmas spirit. Seriously, thank God for social media. It helped me not feel so alone. I don’t know what I’d do without the virtual connection to my friends and family. I was determined to go to church tonight instead of burrowing under my covers and I am glad that I went. But as everyone bundled up to head home the feelings of loneliness and isolation overwhelmed me. I was going home to nothing, to no one. And I hate that it bothers me so much.

Christmas used to be my favorite time of year. Family, faith, fun and all sorts of traditions were a part of my reality. The past few years, Christmas has been the loneliest time of the year for me and I feel so bad that I seem to be overly focused on the negative. My brother tried to talk me out of my head tonight, but it didn’t work. Just for tonight, I feel sorry for myself. I mourn the loss of a life that I thought I had.

The thought that’s been recurring in my mind has been that I want to go home. All of my life, I’ve been running from home, wanting to put as much space between me and my family as humanly possible. But I can’t do this thing called life without them. When I try, it’s a much more difficult journey, one that is littered with periods of darkness and loneliness and sadness. I think it may be time for me to go home…

I know that this day is really about Jesus and I thank God that he saw fit to come be with us. Lord knows if I ever needed Emmanuel, it is right now…. I’m sorry to be so depressing on this Christmas Eve, but alas, I am depressed. To anyone out there struggling tonight, tomorrow, over the next few weeks, everyday, etc…, please know that you are not alone. Even as the tears fall from my eyes on this evening, I know that I am not the only one who is struggling.

It may not be a merry Christmas, but I pray for peace, comfort, healing and hope for us all…

Love,

Me

Ruminations and Recriminations

It goes a little something like this…

I don’t feel good.I think I may be sick.I should stay home from work.

Who wants to be around me anyway?I’m pathetic.I’m a failure.I’m divorced.I’m crazy.I run men off.Who would want me?No one can love me.I don’t even love me.

I could have done better.I should have done this/that differently.I feel so guilty/ashamed because…I will never be forgiven.

If people really knew what I was thinking, they wouldn’t love me.If people knew the real me, they would never want to be around me.If I were a better friend/employee/lover/sister/daughter I wouldn’t be alone/depressed/anxious/afraid.

What if I never have children?Does that make me a failure?Isn’t that the one thing I’m supposed to do as a woman?Who am I kidding? I couldn’t take care of another human being if I wanted to.

I’m going to be fired.My work isn’t good enough.Did I make the right choice?What should I have done differently?Why is this so hard?

I’m not good enough.I’m not worth it.I’m inherently bad.I’m irrevocably broken. There’s no hope…

What was God thinking?Is there anything good here?What’s the point?What if I ended it all?Would anyone care?Then people would know that I am really a coward.

God help me.

These are actual thoughts that have plagued me. They start off slow, without warning. They’re amorphous and at times, unidentifiable. Truth be told, if you aren’t paying attention, they can creep up on you. One minute you’re fine. The next minute, you are so sad, or even worse, you are so numb. Before you know it, you are literally paralyzed by your thoughts and incapable of emerging from the darkest of places.

When you can actually feel something, the worst feelings take over – despair, hopelessness, guilt, shame. When you’re incapable of feeling, you just know you’re bad, worthless, forgotten, abandoned. The feelings and numbness take you to dark places, make you feel like your life isn’t worth living.

They don’t seem that bad. I mean, they’re just….thoughts, right?

WRONG.

gandhi_thoughts_postcard

Rumination is the act of focusing on the things that are distressing. Recrimination is a retaliatory accusation, in this case against yourself. Ruminating and recriminating have been my downfall and are signature markers of when my depression is at its worst.

Our thoughts have the power to be life-giving or life-taking. For those of us who struggle with depression, our thoughts are things we must pay attention to and fight on a daily basis. Guilt, shame and inadequacy can literally kill us by causing us to believe that we are worthless. Many people end their lives. While I’ve had suicidal thoughts, I’ve never taken steps to kill myself. I’m not sure why…

For me, the best things in combating these thoughts are medication, therapy, exercise, and spirituality. I’ll write more about each of these later but suffice it to say, without medication (Prozac and Xanax), therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on a REGULAR basis to be exact), exercise (participating in a variety of dance styles including Pole dancing – more on the benefits of this later) and spirituality (deepening my faith life through my Christian tradition and embracing Buddhism as a way of life) I would NOT be where I am today.

My prayer is that your thoughts breathe life into you rather than take life from you.

My prayer is that if you struggle with ruminating and recriminating, that you seek help and support.

My prayer is that you are able to reclaim the goodness within and never doubt who you are, what you can do or your value ever again.

If you or someone you know are contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

For more information about treatment options, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Visit Monday’s blog posting, which may provide some support through some very powerful lyrics – Music Mondays: Shine the Light by Sugarland.

When your thoughts threaten to take you under, please remember this one thing: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Love,

Me

Music Mondays: Alright by STARBOARDERS

Today’s song holds special meaning for me for a variety of reasons.

The first reason is that the title, “Alright”, is a reminder to me in that I am not alone and that one day, everything will be alright.

The second reason is that it is written and performed by some of my best friends. Starboarders is comprised of Matt Simpkins, Bill Porter and Greg LaRose, three men that I was introduced to almost three years ago. These guys have not only become like family, they are instrumental in providing support and encouragement in my darkest moments.

The third reason that I love this song and this band is that they have managed to do something that very few people ever achieve – embrace their gifts and make a difference in people’s lives. This band writes excellent music that is not only meaningful but purposeful. The band decided that all proceeds from their first album Chroma would go to purchase LifeStraws, water filtration devices that can be used in places where people suffer from a lack of access to clean water.

This band is focused on something other than themselves, and I am learning that when we do this, our own healing takes place. So the lesson I’ve learned not only from this song, but from these guys is that we are called to care for and love one another. This brings about abundant life for everyone and helps make everything alright… Thanks guys.

Love,

Me

STARBOARDERS Links