“Don’t give up your friends like I did. When I first realized that I was depressed, I didn’t tell anyone for months. I had never been the best at expressing my emotions, choosing instead to play the role of the one who always goes with the flow. ‘Stifle and handle it on your own,’ is what I told myself in my head over and over again.
It was triggered by me being dumped after a relationship that only lasted for a weekend, by someone who suffered from depression. I wanted nothing more than to be there for him, but he wouldn’t let me. He didn’t want to hurt me because he was always hurting, and that was something I could barely understand at the time. I eventually began to resent him.
I had always been known as the dependable and insightful friend that people could come to when they needed help, someone who would compromise themselves for others, yet here was someone who was rejecting me entirely. How could someone who needed help reject me? How was I not good enough? It broke me before I knew it did, but even then, I didn’t tell anyone. Especially not my parents, who didn’t know about my sexuality at the time.
I got into the habit of keeping my emotions locked away in a box at a very young age. My dad hardly let me cry when I was a kid, especially when he spanked me, so I chose nonchalance over a smile. I also realized that I was interested in the same sex at an early age, and I knew I could never open up about that. I grew up in a Christian household with parents who would not accept it. I was also the black sheep in my family, finding interests in hobbies and activities that were deemed ‘too white’ for someone of my skin color.
My parents feared me trying to depart from black lifestyle and culture, so they geared me towards things that they felt would show me that life isn’t all bad in the black way of things. They were just trying to make sure that I kept an open mind. Instead, I resented them because they were keeping me away from hobbies that I cared about. Hobbies that I stopped speaking up about because I was shot down nearly every time.
When I finally got a car and a job by my senior year of high school, I pursued my interests on my own. I told myself that now, since I had the means to do so, I could start doing what I wanted without having to beg or wait on anyone else. ‘Handle it on your own.’ I felt like I was finally building something for myself that I could call my own, even if it was a few possessions I bought for myself here and there.
I went into college with the same mentality. ‘Handle it on your own.’ I did my best to ignore my baggage and excel in the new environment. I didn’t choose to be gay, so I stopped trying act heterosexual. I didn’t like rap music or most sports, so I wasn’t going to pretend like I did. I was just going to be me, the real me, as long as it didn’t leak back to my hometown.
So, in a sense, I was thriving in one environment, yet still having to close myself back up in another. My emotional security was already fragile, but I knew that as long as nothing went wrong too badly in Charleston, I’d be fine. It was my heaven away from hell. A place to be me without compromise.
When that weekend-long relationship ended, it broke something in me that took a while to reveal itself. Just as I felt utterly rejected at home, I was now met with the same degree of rejection in ‘heaven’. It didn’t matter if I wanted to be there for my ex, he wasn’t going to let me. He was afraid that I wouldn’t stick around, so he shoved me away without giving me a choice.
I didn’t know what was happening to me. I lost interest in going out with friends as much. Some days I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. What was the point? If he was going to push me off the cliff like that, what was keeping others from doing the same?
I was eventually diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder, but I didn’t wear those titles on my sleeve. I didn’t want anyone’s pity. I just wanted to get better, but I wanted to get better on my own. My social behavior became erratic, and I began burning bridges left and right.
If I felt like someone was going to abandon me because I couldn’t be the friend that I used to be, I went ahead made the decision to cut them off. If someone said that they’d be there and there was no follow-up, I cut them off. I was afraid to go to people for help because I feared that they would turn me away.
I’ve lost so many friends to my mental illness that I pretty much gave into my self-fulfilling prophecy. Now I truly don’t have many people to go to for help. And I’ve even exhausted some of their patience because I keep doubting their ability and/or willingness to help me.
Don’t let it get this bad. Don’t give up your friends like I did. It’s easier to give up, but theconsequences are devastating. Speak up and get help, because nothing worth having comes easy. The people who really care for you don’t want you to suffer, so allow them to pick you up when you can’t do it yourself. Be well, and be happy, because life is too damn short to be anything but.”