What I am about to reveal is designed to be helpful to those who have faced a certain uncertainty in which, they had no vision nor could they conceive their life in any other way. Therefore, this is written to those who have faced in their own way or in their own right, the idea of a permanent means to solve a temporary problem.
I can say that my most vivid recollection with a near death experience was a dream. I was small, young and brought somehow to a schoolhouse. I had those “New kid,” fears but there was a woman standing beside me. She was walking with me towards the side of the schoolhouse, which looked like it was from the 1800’s. All of the colors were so bright to me. The grass was unbelievably green and the white shingling on the side of the schoolhouse was nearly blinding. There were two little girls jumping rope. Their dresses were white. Their hair was long and the color of light almond.
They had white bows in their hair and little white socks with black shoes. And there was a boy on the swings behind them. He was looking at me while swinging back and forth. His hair was swept and parted from the right side over to his left, neatly, without a strand of hair out of place. He wore a short sleeved, white collared shirt, white pants and black shoes.
I assumed the woman was a teacher of some kind. She was leaning down to comfort me. She pointed to the other children, as if to explain, “When you’re ready, you will come here.” Everything moved in slow motion. No one was angry or unkind. There was something pure and innocent about this, but yet, the teacher comforted in a motherly way. Then she turned me around as if to say, “It’s not your turn yet” and the next thing I knew, I woke up on the floor at the tail end of convulsions—where, put simply, I almost died by my own hand.
I offer this to you, not as a deterrent or as a means of promotion. Instead, I offer this with hopes that somehow, my experience might shed some light on the confusing aspects of life in the face of depression.
For as long as I can remember, I was trying to find the right place. I’ve always wanted to be cool, to be wanted, included and invited. I wanted to know who I was and of course, I wanted to know where I fit in.
I cannot explain this any differently other than there was something unmatchable about me. I would try to coexist and get along. I would try and fit in, but yet, there was something so awkward and uncomfortable. I knew about the word depression. I knew what the word meant but then again, I never knew that depression was a part of me. I knew what anxiety was but I never knew this was me. All I knew is there were too many fears. There were too many worries. There were too many complications and too many times when I would be worried about the upcoming problems or the impending doom. I’d be waiting for the next rejection, almost expectedly; as if rejection was guaranteed and that even if I were to be accepted someplace or with someone; either the connection was short-lived or the club that would have me was not a club I’d want to be a part of.
However, in fairness, I wanted to now how to be a man. What’s more, did I even know what a man really is? At best, my version of manhood was the inaccurate versions of what I was taught. My best versions of romance were taught to me by older kids from the neighborhood and by people with selfish intentions. I add this to the inaccuracies and the deception of my perception; plus, I compile this with the emotions that I had to contend with—which, put in the most basic terms; I thought too much. I felt too much. I worried too often. I believed that I was out of place. I thought there was something wrong with me or that I was somehow defective. In which case, all I could do was follow the blueprint of what I thought manhood was supposed to be. I thought manhood was the way you stood. I believed this had to do more about what was in my pants than who I was as a person. I believed that manhood is the way you appeared in the crowd; it’s the way you approached or walked or the way you held a beer in your hand or a cigarette, if that was your thing.
I believed that man could take pain. Never explain and never complain; this is what men do. Eat everything on your plate, work hard, drink beer and drink blackberry brandy when it’s too cold outside. This is what men do. Don’t cry. Have the answers. Always know what to say. Never be submissive or vulnerable and when all else fails, never hesitate and never show an ounce of fear. Do not expose regret or emotions of any kind. Be tough. Learn how to fight. Take the pain and if you bleed, lick the wounds and say, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll be just fine.” This is what I thought men do.
If someone hurts you, just shrug it off. If someone confronts you, punish them so that they’ll never confront you again. There were so many goddamned rules and too many hiccups to keep me from feeling smooth. I never saw myself as equal; therefore, I had to compensate for my weaknesses.
I never thought that I was capable of succeeding or achieving a happy and successful life; therefore, I believed I had to cheat to get ahead. And I believed this wholeheartedly. I believed this down to my core. I held myself in such deeply rooted contempt that I could not think clearly or function properly. At best, I was always at full-tilt—I was always on guard and always in crisis mode. I could never rest—even if I wanted too—I could never calm down or let go of my shields; at least, not unless I had something to help me. Whether it was a drug or an alternative substance or person, place, or thing, nothing could satisfy me on a long-term basis. Everything was only instant gratification, which meant that I was constantly looking to re-up myself.
This is why I went back to my old patterns. This is what led me back to an old routine and more tragically; this is what led me back to my habits that I had sworn off. It’s not much to cross the line. It wasn’t much to convince me. It wasn’t much to go back to the old default settings and find some kind of self-medicated help. And then it was worse. Then the shame hit me harder than I could have possibly expected.
I found myself back in a facility, seeking treatment, and back to a place where it had all began for me. I “Relapsed” and had to face the truth about my lies. I had to face the demons that I ran from and more, I had to endure the light that exposed me.
Sometimes when the mind trips, it leads us down a path to where we forfeit our choices. Sometimes the self-fulfilled prophecies are ways that we deceive ourselves into believing, “There’s just no other way.” The mind just wants “A fix.” This is the emotional mind. This is the little child inside—or in my case, this is the child who screams because he’s afraid of the dark. He’s afraid to be picked on again or punished. He’s afraid of feeling so unforgivable and so unalterably different that no one will ever want to play with him or want him around. I believed this. Therefore, I believed there was only one way out.
I can say that I am a survivor. In fact, this is where my stage takes place in my first book of prose called, “Operation Depression.” During my last moment of true helplessness, I found myself on my knees. My eyes were up towards the ceiling. I was pleading with myself or God or anyone who would listen. I decided that I couldn’t live this way anymore. However, much different from the time when I woke up on a bathroom floor after surviving a suicide attempt, I decided to go in a different direction. Rather than choose to die; I chose to live. The very first thing I wrote was “My redemption has nothing to do with your response.” These words are as true to me as the day that I first wrote them.
I realized that throughout all of my years, I was building my life according to the wrong plans. I had to learn how to redefine my version of manhood. I had to allow myself the freedom from my own harsh judgments and finally, I had to forgive myself for allowing this personal judgment to last as long as it had.
I don’t know if I have fully defined my version of manhood. I don’t know if I have changed because I’ve allowed myself or if I changed because I gave myself a break from personal judgment.
I know this: I’m still here.
I know that although there are tough times, I have the ability to improve and more than this, I have the ability to overcome—I just have to give myself the chance; and so long as I do, I am capable of anything.
And so are you.