Life, Depression, and Responsible Love
Welcome to blog post #2. Y’all probably thought this was gonna be something light, huh? Nah, we’re keeping it real. Depression’s a word I’ve been hearing a lot in my life lately and it’s properly partnered with anxiety like peanut butter and jelly. While I’d much prefer an actual sandwich, the reality is depression is real and it does not just go away because you will it, wish it, pray on it, or any other existential nonsense.
So let’s talk about it. For some of us, depression has its ways of being ever-present in our lives. It can seem like no matter what you do there’s always something trying to keep you from living to your fullest. You accomplish one thing after months of wanting to get it done, i.e. making a website, and then you’re met with loans on loans on loans and needing a job and graduating from a prestigious university with prestigious debt and, oh yeah, zero job. For some of us, depression is remembered in an old lover, in a memory you thought you’d forgotten, in a place you didn’t think you’d see again. Sometimes it’s in good moments and it comes up when you don’t think it will, when someone else’s laughter comes out of your mouth, when you’re not sure where you got that little giveaway or tick from but then you remember. When you’re trying to pull yourself together but it doesn’t seem like it’s enough, when you’re tired of feeling and always feeling tired, and when you’re eating because you have to, not because you want to — or not eating at all.
Unfortunately, depression does not just go away. For many people of color, and specifically to the black community, depression is a taboo, and it’s only recently something that people want to actually acknowledge. Instead, everyone would rather positivity! Self-care! ~Inspirational quotes below Instagram posts~. Okay, that’s cute, but I’m still depressed.
For me, depression comes and goes in waves. We often forget that sometimes depression is a feeling like any other feeling, and like happiness, it is not ever-lasting. It is realistic to experience depression. It is unrealistic to be happy all of the time. Anyone who tells you they’re always okay is lying. No one is always okay. Flowers are not always beautiful flowers, sometimes they’re just trampled on, rained on, limp leaves and dirt. But! Flowers are still flowers and everything has its time to be beautiful and its time to be completely hideous.
This past week has been hideous for me. It’s been encompassed in the repetition of a 40 hour work week, in the fact that I really wanted to do a braid-out every day but I wound up putting my hair in a poof and calling it a day, every day of the week. Yes, I’ve smiled, yes I’ve laughed so much my stomach has hurt, but I have also dissociated, cried, avoided the gym, let my phone die on purpose, sat in the shower for too long, ate crap and regretted it a stomach ache later, and maybe didn’t put coconut oil in my hair and my silk scarf on a few nights, which I paid for in the mornings.
For those of us who’ve just dedicated four or more years of our lives to our education and ourselves, it seems like we are owed or have earned a well-paying job and that we should all either protest the redundancy of the system, or go on strike or something until we get what we feel we’re due. The reality, though, is that no one actually cares if you feel some kind of way about the debt that you have, or the lack of apartment, or the lack of space for mental clarity -- and that there is the very problem. That is why I’m currently writing this. Oftentimes, it’s why I write anything I write, to point out what no one else will say. To illuminate a reality. To let you know that you are not alone -- no one cares, no one sees it as a problem and they should. We’re angry at this! This is not what we expected. We expected more out of life and all of the hard work we have put in. We are angry at the way the world has structured itself so stupidly. There is just so much stupidity in this world it is almost ingenious.
I found myself asking to no one in particular the other day, “Isn’t there more to life than this? There has to be.”
Recent conversations with my friends make me think this is a generational thing as older family members say “it is what it is” and that my complaints are unnecessary and unproductive. Older generations seem more set in these ways of living and are more willing to compromise mental sanity for the sake of work. It’s not unknown that “self-care” and “self-love” are trending topics. Everyone wants to love themselves. No one truly knows how because they don’t have any experience to pull from or anyone to guide them through this process. And so, it’s hideous. Loving yourself is not always pretty. It can’t possibly be.
Loving myself means confronting parts of my past that I thought I’d left behind and even more so, parts of myself. Loving myself means saying things like "internalized sexism" and "internalized racism" and "colorism". Loving myself means going to the gym daily to take care of my mind but it also means having a conversation with that eleven-year-old snaggletooth girl who thought she was getting too old for beads and barrettes in her hair and telling her that stretch marks are okay. That no, she cannot look like the little white girls on Disney Channel and that’s okay, too. It means going back to those days of not wanting to eat and to times where I cut my food in half a little too much. Loving myself means I’m smoothing lotion over stretch marks to keep my skin moisturized, washing my face to get rid of acne that I get from stress, that I have to appreciate every scar and thank my body for healing. This kind of self-love is constant healing. This kind of self-love is constantly saying: It may not be okay right now but it will be okay, just do not leave yourself. You will be okay.
Many of us can get stuck in the idea that we need certain people in our lives in order to be our best selves. Sometimes those people think they need to be in our lives when they really don’t. What we have to focus on is not clutching onto other people to keep us balanced and stable, but to instead hold tightly and caress ourselves. This can be hard. Holding onto yourself can be hard because you are tired. You want to leave and go somewhere else where you aren’t quite a thing and in this way, you can rest. (but like okay not dying though. no death. and not quite sleeping? it’s weird.)
In this very long and quite jumbled blog post, I’d like to say: Hold onto yourself. You need to hold yourself like you would hold all the things you want in life. You need to keep you here because you are worth everything you are telling yourself you are not worth. You are worth love and good things, if you have people who are standing in the way of this, you have to let them go. You may find that you are in fact the very person standing in the way. You are worth good people with pure intentions and as much as you want these kinds of people in your life, remember to also be the person you want other people to be to you, and to love yourself the way you love others. You are worth retribution and reverence and you are worth being texted back so if they ain’t responding to you, cut em off.
Life is, in short, weird right now. I’ve heard it from people 4 years older than me, 10 years older than me, and even 20+ years older than me that they have no idea what they are doing. The awareness that no one really knows what the hell they’re doing can make life itself seem pointless and like we’re all just someone’s Sims with the “free will” turned off, but this is real.
I ground myself in love. I hold myself here in love. We were put here to love if we were put here for anything at all. Love is real. Love is worth it. (Some people may think when I say “love is worth it” that I mean that glorified and romanticized unconditional kind of love where you do anything and everything for someone. No, I do not mean that. I don’t want unconditional love. There are terms and conditions to loving me. People who cannot accept the terms and conditions don’t get access to do just that. I want love with conditions and standards and love that holds me accountable. I want responsible love. I have responsible love. You have to love yourself responsibly. Call yourself out on your own sh*t. Hold your own hand. More on this in another post.)
For someone who needed to hear it today: This is real. You are real. You are valid. You are loved. You are more than the material and superficial things of the world. You are more than your body or your sadness. You are more than your job or your productivity. Your greatness is not measured in terms of your ability to work. You are more than work. You are valued. You are appreciated just as you are and you do not need to have things to quantify all of your quality.
For someone who needed to hear this bit: No, money is not the answer to everything, and no, the focus of life is not money. However, let’s not lie again. This space is an honest and open space. It is a raw space. It is a real space. While money isn’t everything, it damn sure is something. No, I am not my 9-5 and my 9-5 is not me, but my 9-5 makes sure I can eat from 6pm on. No, having a 9-5 is not easy, and I truly don’t understand why people do this like really, it’s not mentally healthy (will expand on this and how to cope with the 9-5 nonsense in another post too!). It’s definitely exhausting and I feel like I’m walking through a world of fuzzy TV screens or the Mr. Krabs meme but hey, it’s what I gotta do right now. Regardless, I do not place my value here. I am more than my productivity and you are too, but you still have to take care of yourself. So do what you can with what you have.
I suppose to end with a quote again, a favorite I always passed on my way to the gym on Brandeis' Campus by Louis D. Brandeis himself: “If you would only recognize life is hard, things would be so much easier for you.” It is hard like this now but it will not be hard like this later. It will be hard but it will not always be like this.
You will be okay. Hold onto yourself. Hold tight. Love yourself responsibly. You will be okay.