by MacArthur Flournoy
Shhhh. Depression. Hush, don’t say it too loud for fear that others might think the voice that utters the word is – well, depressed. I liken it to the days when as a small boy, my mother in conversation with one of my aunts or our neighbors would whisper “you know she’s (pause) pregnant.”
Such words were not spoken aloud for fear of some form of recrimination. As I see it, pregnancy – like depression is just another facet of life.
In a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association, they refuted the notion that LGB folks are more depressed than heterosexual people. The data proves otherwise. Part of the cause has to do with discrimination and the perpetual mental and emotional micro-aggressions, many lesbian, gay and bisexual people endure daily, in our families, communities, churches, workplace, and society at large.
Unfortunately the study did not include data about members of the transgender community. There is a need for more work to be done in the area of mental health in transgender communities.
Let me speak candidly. I deal with major depression – and I have for as long as I can remember. To be perfectly honest, it’s not something I feel comfortable talking about or necessarily at ease disclosing. However – in the the wisdom of some friends that I love, I know “you can’t heal what you conceal.” So I break my silence to save my life.
The longer I live, the greater the evidence that I am terminally unique – my similarities with others far outweigh my unique distinctions – despite the protests of my ego. The truth is many people around the globe deal with depression, dysphoria, and seasonal affective of disorder, particularly around this time of the year.
Another reason I’m raising depression is out of the hope, and prayer that others will be encouraged to know that they are not alone. As corny and trite as it may sound – we really do need one another.
My unhealthy inclination around this time of the year, is to hunker down and wait it out. My head tells me that if I sit by myself, long enough, eventually feeling of depression will pass absent my active participation in my health. I just need to keep to myself until I “feel better”.
That’s a really bad idea, to put it bluntly.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1) Connect. No matter how I feel – I need to connect with at least one other person outside of my home, daily.
2) Call somebody. More often that not, I’d rather text than call. However, I find there is something poetic in hearing the voice of someone else. It gets even better when I ask what’s going on with them – and listen intently.
3) Outdoors change my attitude. Going for walks – whether in the woods, which I love, or around my locale lake gives me life.
4) Meditate on my miracles. I intentionally call to mind the many blessings I have in my life; my family, the special person I’m in love with and my new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. I have to especially concentrate and call to mind the many times I anticipated the worst (characteristic of depression and anxiety) – only to discover something beautiful was on the verge of unfolding in my life.
5) Touch. I enjoy hugging others when they’re comfortable being touched. My growing edge is learning how to receive touch – even though I feel human touch is sacred, healing and beautiful. Be it platonic, sensual or sexual – it’s all sacred as far as I’m concerned. It seems to me – we need to be touched lovingly – often.
This year – this holiday season in particular , I can honestly say “screw depression.” God knows that has not been my truth for a long time. But this year has been radically different for me. I still experience moments of malaise. But on the whole, I feel substantially better than prior years. I hope my words don’t come across as dismissive, or minimizing the devastating impact depression has on the lives of millions. It’s real and if left untreated – depression is lethal. It has the capacity to rob us of our joy, our laughter – our lives. I love the music of Bobby McFerrin, but this is not a “don’t worry – be happy” reflection.
Instead, I want to encourage us to scan our circles for who is not at the table. Who haven’t we seen or heard from recently. Who’s missing? Neither should we be fooled by those who are socially active, emanating a charismatic glow. Some of us wear masks as a necessary accoutrement to our attire. A call, an email, a text or better yet, a visit, can save a life . There are many who are waiting to hear from you.
Here is a particular biblical scripture I’ve been recently meditating on: “brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Phil.4:8
Let’s think on these things – as we extend our arms to connect with somebody. Shalom