Black Men and depression have had an interesting relationship.
We are not socialized to psychological and emotionally see men.
Many of our behaviors people wrongly assume is just maleness asserted itself. Many of our behaviors people mislabel as men being men. Violent, moody, silent and unresponsive. We simple chalk it up to a gender deficiency and move on.
When we simplify a problem by assigning it to a particular portion of humanity , we miss important opportunities to change not only men but young boys as well.
Black Men are hurting.
Men have worlds of pain inside that come from not dealing with a multitude of failures covering everything from parenting to career choices and silent complicity with a status quo that none of us created but are expected to uphold.
I was an emotional wreck when I lost my favorite Uncle almost twenty years ago. I am not sure if any other men in my family had the same reaction.
His death is never discussed.
When we are not allowed to properly grieve, we simply perform in ways that leave us resentful, angry and entitled to any small piece of joy that we can steal.
As black men we must demand optimal emotional health( bell hooks). There must be space created for us to weep, grieve, discuss past disappointments. I have noticed when men approach any discussion regarding failing or an obvious shortcoming is not a conversation that any one wants to have.
In all recovery, there comes a time when the choice must be made that the unknown is more important than the fucked up familiar.
Ten years ago, I suffered a major breakup and the most severe depression I’d ever experienced in my life.
Five years into a relationship that I assumed would last another 50, we broke up and both realized we would never change the other.
I was devastated.
Having spent so much time as a couple, I no longer remembered what it felt or looked like to think and behave as a single person. I leapt into the seductive and licentious world of casual and anonymous sex.
Being in this world was an addiction.
Being in this world allowed me to be seen, to be a part of a community, to experiment with emotional death and levels of sexual experimentation that kept loneliness out while inviting alternate realities in.
In this world, I could invent new personas and rely on wit, charm and an ever changing parade of bodies to quiet the voices of shame (for not succeeding in my most recent relationship) and the constant barrage of “not enough”.
If someone was willing to fuck me, I must be enough.
During this dark time, many friends stayed away.
It appears that black male pain is shocking, unjustifiable and should remain unseen.
While there are no textbook responses to how this (pain which leads to crippling depression if left untreated and unrecognized) should be managed and or eliminated, I have a few ideas that worked well for me.
If a person has just been through a death ( a serious relationship qualifies), this is not the time to give them space no matter what they say.
Run the risk of being labeled pushy or a busy body.
What black men need is someone to let them know that they matter.
Simply say: you matter to me and I am concerned about your behavior and choice making.
Another way might involve just being in the same space.
Men rarely ask for what we need emotionally.
We ask for more money in interviews and more sex from whomever we’re with currently.
We don’t ask for recognition or more emotional and psychological intimacy.
We hit the brakes when it is time to request the thing that will make our lives better and improve our relationships with ourselves.
We don’t ask for what we need. We become resentful and angry when our primary needs go unnoticed and yet refuse to share the fact that we have them.
Black Men ask for what you need. Friends and communities listen and respond well without interruption, direction or poorly thought out solutions.