The Self-LoveBelow: An Open Letter From A Black Man Battling Depression
I’m confiding in you all because, frankly, I don’t think I should hold it in for just my family and close friends. Writing this piece forces me to confront the skeleton in my closet that I’ve been avoiding for the majority of my life. It’s in the headline of this piece, so it is no secret what I’m talking about. But first, I should share how I came to grips with realizing I was depressed.
I’m originally from northeast Ohio—a place that already isn’t high on the happy meter — and I’ve always used creativity as a point of self-expression. Living in close proximity to “The Mistake By The Lake” meant taping songs off the radio and TV to make my own mixtapes, fighting imaginary monsters in the backyard for fun, and practicing martial arts on my little sister’s stuffed animals to get my Taimak on because we didn’t have the kind of attractions you’d normally find in a major city. The older I got, the more I gravitated to people, places, and things that looked like me. I’ve always been proud of who I am and how I look. If anything, I wanted my first name to be Marcus instead of Kevin because… Eddie Murphy in Boomerang.
Despite a natural love of self, there was always an issue hanging over my head that stemmed from my childhood. I was the product of an outside relationship between my father and his (ex?) wife. The “other” family lived in a neighboring town separated by a mere county line and my siblings would rather hug a rattlesnake than consider me a brother. I, on the other hand, always wanted to have older siblings. My mother was pregnant with another boy before I was born, but he didn’t survive. Learning I had an older brother and two older sisters made me—at the time—happy AF. I grew up the opposite of LeBron James. I was surrounded by white folks from an early age, and for a while I only knew how to exist between the line of carnival attraction and criminal threat. To have people who had already navigated this reality talk to me about their experiences was going to be the education I’d use to teach my own little sister. That never happened. Instead, I was belittled by my siblings, shunned even, as they told me and my younger sister that we were unwanted by them and better off dead (or at least not coming around to visit anymore).
The controversy of my family history would haunt me throughout my days in different ways. In high school, I’d lash out and rebel. In college, I gave up on finding out the story behind it all, choosing to simply honor my mother and father as my parents. When I moved to New York, I seemingly let it all go. I was living my best life in the place I’d wanted to be since I was 11. But Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis attacked my kidneys and caused them to begin failing in 2012. From that point on, I was on peritoneal dialysis and my life was a mix of hospitals, needles, and prescription pills while hoping for a kidney transplant. Throughout that journey, I was on an emotional roller coaster, wanting to feel better, hit the streets with my friends, and simply be a healthy human being. My depression was no longer rooted in past trauma but based on current circumstances. Another betrayal, this time of the physical sort. Now, as a post-transplant patient, I’ve decided I’m not going back to my old life. As of this post, I’m a little under two weeks away from beginning my first therapy session. I’m finally taking the step to get counseling for the issues and concerns that I have in my life.
My relationship with the people whom I call family is strained, but not broken. I didn’t talk to my father for most of 2018 (outside of a birthday call from him) and my mother and I had a falling out after a family trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture because she’d rather attack me and my health than let a brotha go to yoga class in peace and tranquility. Either way, the sibling that is in my life –my younger sister — and I are on the same page and are working together to keep what’s left of our family communication in tact via our kids because of their need to connect to their grandparents.
Despite messages that tell you a man who comes from my circumstances is doomed to repeat destructive familial cycles, I’m proud of the way I have learned to give and receive love. In addition to therapy to work through mental and emotional issues, my wife and I are working out together as part of our commitment in 2019 to be our best selves in physical form. Yes, I’m a work in progress, but with this year being a manifestation year, I’m eager to dive in to said work and bring it to fruition. (If you want to follow my journey –or are just in need of some good new music and experiences — check me out @KevitoClark on Instagram and Twitter.)
If you’re someone who’s hit a point in your life where you didn’t know what you wanted or how to get it, please share some tips with a young scribe who is still confused and needs help figuring it out. This is my attempt to take self-love to another level.