Rarely am I moved by something that I read. As I sat researching topics for my next SPORK! piece I pondered what I should write about. I questioned the validity of my words. Sure, I am proficient in my work. I can read and report as well as anyone else. What I like most about writing is being able to share with others. I like having the ability to have someone else share in my experiences, even if the experience only lasts a few paragraphs.
This particular experience that I would like to share is not my own. The experience that I am going to share tugged at strings of empathy deep inside of me. It made me think beyond myself and get a glimpse into what life is like living with depression.
The experience I am sharing is that of Terrel J. Star, who wrote the piece “The Night I Spoke Up About My #BlackSuicide” for Buzzfeed.
In his article Terrel talks about his childhood, growing up in a violent home and his ultimate plan to kill himself.
As I read Terrel’s article, I felt sick. Terrel’s words and struggles hit close to home.
Terrel grew up in Detroit, MI. A city known for its violence and crime. I myself grew up in Youngstown, OH – another city whose nightly news stories rarely talked about more than shootings and murder. Like Detroit, Youngstown is known for its flaws. Gangs and violence are a regular occurrence, often taking place in a child’s own home.
Growing up, I, like Terrel was taught to survive. I was taught to not talk about what was bothering me. I was taught to tuck my feelings away in a hiding place that no one would ever find.
Terrel noted the effects that his childhood had on his adult life. He talked about depression amongst African Americans and the silent weight that comes with it. He talked about bottling his feelings, the feelings that would in turn absorb him long into his adult life.
He talked about feeling low – so low that suicide seemed like the only answer.
Reading Terrel’s story left me with a lot of questions. Is depression black and white? Is it easy to spot and diagnosis? What happens when an individual is in denial? What happens when they don’t want to seek help because asking for help is like giving up?
Seeking help is hard, asking for help is even harder. Any one of us can open our laptop and do a quick google search. We enter our worries into a box and hit enter before we are given a litany of presumed answers. A static page that must have all of the answers, because, well – the internet said so.
Deep rooted unhappiness tends to dwell when left on its own. It is like a visitor that you never actually invited over. This visitor drops his/things off in the spare bedroom with no intention of leaving. Depression can rest within a person forever. Unwatched it will grow, slowly suffocating its life source with no avail. Hope for relief can seem like a distant wish that may never be granted.
The Internet and all of its world wide connectivity can be that wish. It can be a tool for knowledge and in turn a tool for hate. We are living in a time where social media has never been more prevalent. Rather than see social media used as a tool for racism, bullying and hate I would like to see it used as a vessel of understanding. A place for people to come together and share in common struggles and triumphs. A place for people suffering from depression to feel safe. A place where we can boost one other to know that we are all in this together.
My hope is that more people like Terrel will come forward and tell their stories. I hope that when a person is lost in despair, that they too know they aren’t alone. As a society we have to work together to minimize the stigma of depression. We have to help one another understand that suicide doesn’t have to be the answer. We have to understand that every life matters.