This is another one of those “Am I really about to write this?” posts.
Yeah. I’m really about to write it. Because I believe it needs to be said.
(Before I start, look up the lyrics to 'Cranes in the Sky' by Solange if you don't understand the title. I think it would give you some context. Basically, when there's something in your life you need to deal with, no amount of distracting yourself to avoid it will make it go away. This is the story of how I stopped feeling my metal clouds all the time.)
Kid Cudi released a letter to his fans yesterday, explaining that he made the decision to check himself into rehab for his depression and suicidal urges. He went on in the letter to explain that he was not at peace, that he’s been tormented by these feelings as long as he can remember and they’ve rendered him unable to live a regular life. He talks about how he doesn’t want to leave home or interact with people, and he believes he deserves to be happy, so he’s stepping away from his music to focus on self-care and healing.
The one thing that REALLY got me about his letter, though, is the final paragraph:
“Love and light to everyone who has love for me and I am sorry if I let anyone down. I really am sorry. I’ll be back, stronger, better. Reborn. I feel like shit, I feel so ashamed. I’m sorry.
And, as I read the final paragraph of what was probably the most difficult thing Kid Cudi has ever written, I started crying... and realized in that moment that I have a story to share that someone may need to hear.
I have no idea who I’m writing this for. I just know that I won’t have peace until it’s written.
My grandmother’s death in 2011 threw my life into a tailspin that I am still trying to recover from. I had no idea that something as natural as the death of an elderly grandparent would have such a huge affect on my life. In retrospect, how could it not? I’m an only child, and I was my grandmother’s absolute favorite. Without sharing too many family details, Nana’s death forced us (my parents and I) to make some financial adjustments that included me sacrificing a few things that were quite important to me. I walked away from my career as a teacher. (I can’t say Nana’s death was the reason I stopped teaching, but it was definitely a catalyst.) I developed irritable bowel syndrome, a really weird gut dysfunction that is often caused and exacerbated by stress, and ended up losing a bunch of weight as I adjusted to this new way of eating and living in an attempt to avoid spending my entire life with my head in a toilet.
Life happened really fast for awhile. Nana died, I moved, I developed the IBS, I had to learn to live on an entrepreneur's salary (which is SUCH AN ADJUSTMENT OMG), I lost a few really good friends, and I left my childhood church, the only church I had ever known. My entire life was a series of recoveries, one disappointment, one loss, one huge adjustment after the other. This, by the way, is still going on. I'm still adjusting.
I also developed an anxiety disorder.
I’ve always been a bit of an overthinker. I’m a dreamer. A writer. Being constantly bombarded by one thought after the other wasn’t anything new to me, but when Nana died, those thoughts became unmanageable. I wasn’t hearing voices or anything, but the constant barrage of thoughts began to affect my ability to live normally. Eventually, the anxiety attacks started. I did my best to hide them from my family and friends. I’d crawl into my walk-in closet and sit up against the wall behind the clothes, and cry, and struggle to breathe, and pray, and squeeze my eyes shut until the attack passed, which could’ve taken a few minutes or several hours.
The thing about anxiety... It comes from your thoughts. Your brain. It’s always with you, you know? Even when you’re having fun with friends, or doing something you enjoy, or, hell, even SLEEPING, the thoughts are always there. You can’t turn them off or separate yourself from them. You live with them all the time. Creative people (writers, artists, musicians, ect.) are no strangers to this constant anxiety. It fuels your work, but destroys your life. Kid Cudi is an excellent example of that.
Anyway. So I was very quietly living with this anxiety disorder that I was afraid to share with anyone, because the idea was that I was handling this life thing flawlessly. That’s what I wanted everyone to think. I owned a business. My son was doing well. I was in control. All was well. I worked hard to keep that façade from crumbling. In fact, the act consumed my life, and eventually, I got lost in the charade. I stopped being able to tell the difference between who I really was and who I wanted everybody else to think I was. I didn’t have the time or the energy to sort any of it out, though. I was working full-time on my master’s degree, raising my son, running a business, active in church, and trying to make everybody think I was fine. Who had time for self-care in the midst of all that?
2015 changed everything for me. Everything fell apart around me.
The crumble was a very subtle one, actually. Two people I really trusted betrayed me. I could go into detail, but I’ll leave it at that. The first happened in August. The second was in November. After the second time, I lost control over my ability to keep making everybody think I was okay. These two incidents were the straw that broke the camel's back.
I literally fell apart.
I cried every single day. The weight of the grief I felt sat in the middle of my chest and it was so heavy that I literally could not breathe. I couldn’t find the words to explain what I was feeling, but I knew it was the worst pain I’d ever experienced. I gave up on everything. I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to talk or function. I didn’t want to be a mother.
I didn’t want to be alive.
I wasn’t feeling suicidal, but I’d lie in bed at night thinking that I’d be cool if I fell asleep and didn’t wake up. It was in the middle of the night one night right around Christmas that I knew that my anxiety had become depression, and I needed help.
I reached out to two people who were extremely close to me and told them what I was feeling. One of them told me I needed to figure out a way to “get happy again” because my being unhappy was making everybody around me unhappy. The other just sort of abandoned me. She stopped talking to me. It was like she just couldn’t handle my sadness, which I understand, but I needed her. When I confided in her that I didn’t wanna live, she lectured me about how selfish I was for thinking that way. “What about Michael? What about your parents? Think about them and stop focusing on yourself.”
That was all I could take. I didn’t know what else to do.
(In their defense, these are people who would never say anything to hurt me on purpose, but depression isn’t something we’re taught to properly deal with. It’s so much bigger than “just being sad.” Most people don’t understand that, and it’s not their fault.)
While I was on vacation during Christmas break, I found a therapist in the area and started seeing her. Going to her and talking to her helped. It definitely made me feel less sad to be able to be totally honest with someone who wasn’t judging me and didn’t expect me to have it all together, but the anxiety was still there, and it was still absolutely crippling. I couldn’t stop the thoughts. I couldn’t control the rate at which they came. I couldn’t keep them from snowballing. I was relying on sleep aids to get through the night. I was seeing the therapist once a week, and still hiding in my closet to get through the anxiety attacks.
Ten months into 2016, I can admit that I am in a totally different place in my life emotionally. Here’s the work—WORK—I did:
First-- I trusted my network. I taught my mother how to deal with my depression and anxiety so that she could be a source of support for me. I learned how to tell my friends that I was having an episode, and they’d always be okay with me coming to them and sitting with them until it passed. I learned to open my mouth and share what I felt, so that I could get the support I needed.
Next, I learned myself again. I put aside all the bullshit about wanting to look like I had it all together and figured out who I really was, even if the real me was a hot ass mess. When I tell you this process is hard work, I’m severely understating. I had to allow myself to be broken completely in so many different areas in order to decipher the real from the façade. I had to admit that my logic was flawed, that I had been brainwashed in a lot of ways, that I was building my life on the thoughts and ideas of others instead of on my own thoughts and ideas. I had to literally break my entire life apart to figure out who I was, and then love the woman I found in the rubble. It continues to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
Then, I had to let go. There’s one person that I don’t know what I’d do without. I am completely honest with her. I give her all I have... all my fears and anxieties and dreams and hopes and goals. And, in return, she’s completely honest with me. She has never shied away from a conversation with me, not even conversations that she knows will break my heart. She’s been such a huge part of my deconstruction/ reconstruction process because she’s not afraid to call me out on my shit, but she breaks me down to build me up. She’s patient. She’s kind. And her love for me has helped me to love myself again.
Now, I see a psychiatrist in addition to my therapist. I’m taking meds now to control the anxiety and it helps so much. For the first time in my life, my mind doesn’t race out of control. I’m so much calmer, more in control of my thoughts and ideas. I’m able to start and finish a task without being distracted. And I’m more in control of my emotional responses to things, which means far less yelling and lashing out.What I know is that mental health continues to be an issue in the black community. There are so many people living with mental health issues that they are afraid to share with other people, because they are afraid of how they will be perceived or judged. There are people hiding in their closets, afraid and alone, crying and anxious, with no idea how to fix things. I am blessed because I had people to literally come into that closet with me, who sat there with me until I was ready to come out and then held my hand until I was able to stand on my own.
I’m coming into your closet after you, whoever you may be reading this.
I know this is long, and I’ve been writing forever, but understand me.
There’s help for you and your anxiety, your depression. There are people who can direct you to solutions that will totally and completely change your life. Don’t worry about what folks will think of you. You deserve to live the best life you possibly can. You deserve to be free, to be happy.
And damn it, don’t apologize for it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
I’m still working on this, by the way... but mental health issues aren’t anything to hide. Or hide from. You can’t pray sadness away. Stop letting these pastors tell you that if you’re depressed, you’re outside the will of God. THAT IS A LIE. Prayer helps, I promise it does, but God has given us resources in addition to praying that help. There is nothing wrong with you. You don’t have to be in that space by yourself. I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is life after depression. You can learn to live with anxiety if you’re given the proper tools to navigate it.
I am a living example.
Changing my hairstyle didn't fix it. Eating it away, dancing it away, sexing it away, reading it away, working it away... None of that did anything for me. I tried to drink it away. I hid in closets. Spent unnecessary money thinking new things would make it better. Tried keeping myself busy. Slept a lot. Nothing changed until I admitted that I needed help and focused my entire life on getting the help I needed. Only then, when I admitted that I didn't wanna feel the metal clouds anymore did they dissipate for me. (Look up the lyrics to the song. Trust me.)
I’m an author. An editor. An entrepreneur. A mother. A daughter. A sister. A friend. Every day, I make a choice to keep moving forward. I rely on my support system. I take my meds. I listen to music I love. I say things instead of holding them inside. I live out loud, walking in who I know myself now to be, and not in who I thought other people wanted me to be. Braided, tattooed, pierced, unashamed, vocal, and free.
No, I am not happy every day.
Yes, it bothers me sometimes that I have to take meds to function.
Yes, every day requires work on my part.
But oh my goodness, YES, it’s all worth it.
So. This is my story. I hope it helped someone. It sure helped me to tell it, to finally get it off my chest.