When you’re a disabled person, depression is an easy possibility. Think about it this way. The media is constantly advertising a specific disabled person. People either see the disabled person in the wheelchair or they see the person in the wheelchair with the speech computer. Occasionally, we’ll see the happy child that desperately needs your help. But the reality is clear: When people are analyzing our capacity before we’ve done anything, that’s enough to cause severe depression.
I’m writing this as a person that knows about motivation issues. I know about the disease of complaining, and how that habit ravishes people’s spirits. I know how the wrong kind of network leads anyone to believe that (whatever) is impossible.
The first step is learning to tell yourself you’re worth something more than the life people have “prescribed for you”.
People ooze “prescriptive thinking”.
Prescriptive thinking is messaging to a struggling person that communicates, if he or she does X or Y, or X and Y—problems are solved. However, recovery from depression is never that simple. It will begin from the bottom up. Recovery means admitting when we’ve settled. It’s hard to admit settling when we must re-network, and start fresh.
When disabled people clean house and begin searching for new relationships, there’s an added fear that metastasizes into urgency. The non-disabled person does not have to answer these questions. Will the new person not look at me like I’m a science project —always being the “needy” one?
A better question is: Will the new person not attempt to use my disability to take unfair advantage of me?
I’ve struggled with bouts of depression since my Cerebral Palsy diagnosis in 1986. This depression and poor self-esteem led me to choose toxic relationships over healthy ones because I believed that I needed a protector. Realize that some people are so caught up in see all disabled people as “anxiously attached” that they don’t have the time or patience to comprehend that every single disabled person has unique strengths and weaknesses.
Messaging is important. If family, friends, and media tell the disabled individual that he or she must be the “needy” man or woman, etc. —eventually the will for bravery vanishes. The disabled person will believe they must always nervously attach to someone as their “SAFETY VALVE”.
The worse fate is: The “suffering disabled” syndrome takes over. The suffering disabled says: I’ll always be “broken”. I’ll always need help… or I’ll never find fulfillment.
People are often shocked to realize that one disabled person might be an excellent writer and communicator, but he or she may struggle with some physical activities.
Some disabled people are successful comedians. Have you heard of Josh Blue? He’s a comedian that has Cerebral Palsy, and he isn’t the only disabled comedian.
The umbrella style of classifying disabled people is not a long-term strategy to comprehending disabled life. In fact, the idea that we’re still doing this frightens me.
If your network is full of people that aren’t changing in the way you must change, you’re “crippled” before you start. In school, I was identified as the “crippled, bow-legged boy”. I was tripped. I was hit with a rubber-band in my eye. I fell often. I nearly dropped out of high school and my father wanted desperately to cart me off to resource classes in Special Education because he couldn’t handle the reality that I was really depressed. He wasn’t the only one who could not see it.
Looking back, I can see that my bouts with depression began as early as middle school. Although college was better, I still was starved for affection and attention.
Often, I’d insert myself within groups of people who were not necessarily healthy for my growth. Worse yet, I was black man confronting the reality that my music tastes and style choices conflicted with the homogenized version of blackness that I saw around me.
While my cousins were wearing Starter Jackets and listening to Master P, Tupac, and Michael Jackson, I devoured mix-tapes full of Blink 182, Linkin Park, Third Eye Blind, NSYNC, and the Backstreet Boys.
While my grandmother played the blues, I listened to Pink, KORN, and Papa Roach. I had to confront the reality that I was listening to “white music”. Luckily, I wrote poetry and somehow I got through a painful deviation from what was expected of me.
How did this story get better? I understood that in order for me to change I had to go through a painful season of realizing that I needed counseling. Then, I eventually understood that the people who truly wish to see me grow won’t quickly desert me. Luckily, I never needed meds to deal with my depression. Some people do.
People of color are still caught up in an identity crisis when it comes to confronting mental illness. It still amazes me how easily White America—-or any America other than African-American America—-can own depression. Well, I take that back a bit. “Theo Huxtable” did confront dyslexia, but we’ve still got work to do when it comes to people of color and mental problems. Many still support the theory that just because we’ve conquered slavery without access to modern medicine, we’re destined to never need doctors, medicine, or psychiatry. There’s this subversive idea that only white men and women deal with mental disabilities and identity crises, that the “opoioid crisis” is killing only one kind of person.
Many blacks —-not all—think that we just “GET OVER” the scars that our genetics reveal about us. My point is: If someone born with a disability needs physical therapy, how would one just bounce back from traumatic experience without some mental therapy?
While there are few success stories, the vast majority of people are often not that fortunate. I was born bi-racial. To confirm this fact, one need only look at the different complexions of my mother, my aunts, and some of my uncles. Race is critical to the black conversation about depression. I hope and pray it’s a part of the (insert ethnicity/nationality/race/ here) conversation—for everyone. We cannot solve the problem that contribute to any mental illness without speaking about race and its effects.
Finally, another contributor to my depression was my conflict with body image and sexual orientation. Because I had grown up Pentecostal and Black, I wasn’t exactly confident about my naked body and I let others opinions guide the clothing I wore for a very long time. Body image and sexuality are issues that the depressed person must confront, if he or she ever hopes to be authentic. The media is not the black advocate in terms of showcasing healthy models for our growth. If shows like Love and Hip Hop and Black Ink are our examples, we aren’t exactly getting good ideas.
While I understand that some persons of color use marijuana as a coping mechanism for depression, every use of the drug is different for different people. I don’t support the idea that medical marijuana for all is the answer that will solve black depression, black disability, or black morale. It’s not that simple. It’s an easy way out, and the reality is far more complicated.
By design sexuality by default hooks viewers and monetizes lifestyle without demanding explanation. Simply, there’s no need to explain why X has sex with Y, if it’s entertaining to watch. The issues surrounding depression are complex, but the idea that depression should be reduced to a lack of effort or a lack of will is mind-numbing.
Self-esteem is often the biggest component to depression treatment, but in my experience people who are infatuated with an attachment to a person, place, thing, or group; do not see self-esteem problems as a means to solving their depression hang-ups. It is my hope that someone, somewhere reading this understands that being depressed does not mean being unworthy or being “broken”.
You can fix yourself! But fixing yourself means admitting that you’ve accepted something that isn’t good for you. The hardest part of depression is unpacking the reasons why we choose the people, places, and things we choose. That alone is enough to scare us into believing that we are forever doomed to never be enough for ourselves.
That alone is enough to make a once famed engineer settle for a life among dead and dying people. That alone is enough to make a confused 40-year old man take his life. That alone is enough to convince a 27 year old man that the only love he’ll ever get is the kind he has to compete for.
That alone is enough to convince a 20 year old girl that she must love a screwed up person just because she’s a bit screwed up too. That’s enough to make a 23-year old believe that she might never get a college diploma because her father is too rough on her.
It’s enough to convince a 60 year old man that his son will never have a family because his sexual orientation and depression have defined him as “worthless”. And that idea is too uncomfortable for a therapy session.
The idea that one is “never enough” for one’s self is the kind of toxic dream that forces a friendly and giving woman to value a marriage that’s long been over because her faith and her self-esteem say she can’t start over. I’m writing this to say: You can and you will start over. But you must be honest with yourself. You must be brave enough to walk away from the person, place, or thing that holds you hostage. If you’re disabled like I am… you are far more likely to face abuse before you stand up and love yourself. But you can love the you— that you are. And it is time that you started.