Being transparent is always a double-edged sword. Rarely are people (readers) comfortable with what needs to be shared. And one would think that those who offer help would be more comfortable with taboo topics like suicide being openly shared, but they’re not either. After learning that Karyn Washington, my friend and popular blogger, committed suicide I got this brilliant idea to open up to my readers, the random Internet perusers, and hell, the entire world. I confessed to battling depression after my mother died within a year of being diagnosed of stage 4 Lymphoma. Watching my mother die and then wanting her to die because of all the pain she was in, put me in a terrible head space.
Depression and suicide had never been topics I even considered writing about, but I blogged about it to process my own feelings. After my words were retweeted, reposted, copied and pasted in major publications like Cosmopolitan magazine, I received an overload of emails. Most were from women who thanked me for candidly sharing my story, and the other emails and comments came from women who felt the urge to confess their deep secrets and details of ongoing trips to their therapists. Some even confessed that they had previously attempted suicide! Then I received a handful of emails from “Jesus freaks” (and I use that term with kissy faces and heart-shaped hand gestures) praying for my soul and asking that the Lord to banish my demonic thoughts.
YIKES! That’s not what I meant. It was just a blog post.
I felt something and I wrote about. I did the same when I saw those fly pair of cobalt blue multi-printed wedged heels. Even though I was being honest in my blog post and I hoped readers wouldn’t judge me, they did. I was instantly that girl. For the first time I felt that horrible stigma. It hurt. I started reading other blog posts quoting my words about Karyn. To read someone else say that I had thought about committing suicide sounded like a lie. I wanted them to delete it. It was only OK for me to say that out loud, not strangers who knew nothing of my journey before that post. Now I understood why people don’t share their intimate thoughts out loud, on the Internet or even to the best of friends. In some ways, those Jesus emails gave me a hearty laugh as much as they felt disturbing. For instance:
“Every lying tongue that whispers for to you take your life and be depressed, I rebuke in Jesus name. I even command for the atmosphere of your home to be surrounded by Gods ministering angels. May the power of the Holy Ghost saturate the atmosphere of your home and may he drive out any darkness in your heart, soul, and thoughts. In the precious holy name of Jesus I pray.”
That is just an excerpt from an eight-paragraph Facebook message I received from someone who read my post. Yes, eight whole paragraphs filled with scriptures and a visual of someone throwing holy water on my head and dipping me in dirty pond water. In my heart, I know this woman was merely trying to help (I think). But her words represented all the reasons why I am not friends with devoted Christians who date Jesus on a regular basis (and I say that with kissy faces and heart-shaped hand gestures).
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in Jesus and the Lord, but I was exasperated. The first thing I thought was, I should have never even said anything. I even went back to edit my words to add that I had never experienced suicidal ideation (a medical term for recurring thoughts of or preoccupation with suicide, sometimes to the point of plotting your death). I wanted people to be clear that I had never physically tried to commit suicide and I’ve actually never been diagnosed as being depressed. Seriously, I wanted to take it all back. I felt ashamed and now my words seemed in vain. I wanted to delete everything…everywhere! I was no longer sold on what I was preaching anymore. You know, being transparent and sharing it all for everyone to feel. It was all crap to me. If I were really on the edge of taking my own life, those Jesus freaks’ emails would have set me off. Literally!
Because of all the hype surrounding my post, I was asked to be a panelist on HuffPo Live to discuss Karyn’s death and the effects depression has on Black women.
I was appreciative of the opportunity, but I once again I felt judged. Right after I spoke about how I dealt with my mother passing another panelist, who is a mental health activist, stressed the importance of finding a grief counselor. Her brash delivery jarred my thoughts. Maybe I was being sensitive, but I felt like she judged me for writing that I fought off my depression with “cocktails, tears and hugs from my boyfriend.” I thought again: why did I ever say that I was depressed on the Internet?!
I often sit and look at old pictures of my mother. I pull out pictures of her before the cancer took her long silver tresses and turned her almond skin into a pale dusty brown hue. I never got the chance to record her voice, (like I suggested to Karyn) but turns out I didn’t need to. My mother and I talk a lot. She even visits me in my dreams occasionally. She believed in spirits. She believed that when her soul finally escaped her body, she’d become my personal angel. I thought that was silly at first, but now I know it’s the reason why I’m still here beyond depression. It’s the reason why I still share, despite possible judgment.
Although I wish I could burn all the notes from those Jesus freaks (and I still use that term with kissy faces and heart-shaped hand gestures), I know what I shared was needed for that girls in the world who don’t have their own personal angel. Here’s to all of the Karyn Washingtons still out there. May you find peace in your heart and be inspired by my words and others who chose to open up.