Updated: Jan 2
In her book, Almost Everything, Anne Lamott wrote about the phenomena of wanting to drive your car into oncoming traffic and I felt seen. So, I’m not the only person in the world oddly drawn to windows with fleeting thoughts about flinging myself out of them. I’ve been depressed before I had the language to define the emotion. There’s no such thing as depression when you’re Black. My great grandma used to say I just wasn’t “cut right,” which to me meant that I was broken, wrong. From a young age, there has always been a girl who stares back at me in the mirror. She picks apart my face, my hair, my body, like we don’t have the same one. She’s always there to make sure I know I’m not good enough, always ready to offer up demented ways for me to stop feeling so much of everything. She makes me tired; she makes me angry; she tells me nobody loves me, and no one will ever love me. She is my loud-mouthed twin, Depression.
In high school, I did whatever I could to block her out. A product of forced institutionalized religion, I sought God or The Big Whoever on my own, chasing what I felt: that there was something out there bigger than me. If God can do all things, maybe The Big Enchilada could sever whatever soul link ties me to my homegirl. God has always been elusive to me, like water – I can feel it running across my fingertips, but it moves too quickly for me to catch it and make it concrete. Back then, I did a stint in Buddhism, then a long stretch as a Wiccan. I lit so many candles and burned so many incense, my mama thought I was smoking weed and trying to cover it up. I tried my hardest to practice mindfulness, daily meditations, sun-bathing white candles for days, then burning them while I prayed: “Please, Goddess, Allah, Elohim, The Infinite, The Ineffable, or Whoever, take these thoughts out of my head. Take. Them. From. Me. Please. And make me good, cut me right this time.” I imagined Depression as a bunch of black and brown little things slithering around in my brain, leaving this thick sludge all over the place – and when I inhaled, a golden liquid would flow into me and drown all the nasty bugs and the crap they left behind away. It would travel throughout my body, and with an exhale, drip out of my toes. I would feel better… for a while, then I would look into the mirror and she’d still be there.
It’s a constant battle – always in water, sometimes riding the waves, sometimes trying not to drown. My mind never stops its attempts to submerge me. I survive because of movement. I wake up. I stop myself from deeply sighing and groaning and crying into my pillows. “Today,” I tell myself, “You will try. You will move.” I get dressed. I go to work. I come home and try not to cry. I feed the dogs. I walk the dogs. I feed myself and try not to cry. I try to write. If I can’t write, I try not to hate myself for it. Move. I push my thoughts away from things I shouldn’t think about. Every day, I make myself try. I don’t know if this is working, but I’m still here. It’s scary to think that life will be spent pulling myself from one moment to the next until I feel content and it isn’t forced. Some days are easier. I wake up and feel good. Just behind me, there’s a current of potential that I only have to reach for to access and grow whatever day I need into existence. Then, there are times when I wake up and if it wasn’t for the care and keeping of my mutts, I would not move. Those are the worse days and nothing – not even my golden liquid or prayers to a patient God who I hope is listening – helps me. I’ve learned to give myself as much grace as possible, to make up excuses for myself. Excuses are easy to hand out when you love someone. It’s okay that I was late to work because I had to drag myself out of bed this morning. It’s okay that there are dishes in the sink. No one will see them, except me. I can wash them tomorrow (or the next day) and no one will tell my mom. I don’t have to answer the phone. I don’t have to scroll through Instagram and feel fat or unaccomplished or ugly. It’s okay if I can’t bring myself to write today because there will be fresh words tomorrow. I just have to get there. Get to tomorrow, Keyoka. Try. Move.
The twisted beauty about surviving with depression for as long as I have is understanding that the moods aren’t permanent. In fact, they’re as fleeting as the hours on a clock. I have good moments on bad days, which is great because that means the bad moments won’t last forever on good days. I know I just have to wait. Just breathe and wait. Maybe take a nap. Maybe eat something and let myself cry just a little. Be patient and it’ll get better. As corny as that shit sounds, it will always get better. You just gotta be there to see it.