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Black Mental Health: How I’m Battling My Depression

Jay Julien | July 9, 2019

Three years ago I was suicidal.

I was supposed to die on December 31st, 2015. Just thinking about where I was and how much pain I was experiencing brings tears to my eyes. I want to spend these next few minutes sharing my experiences and the lessons that I’ve learned while I was depressed. Hopefully my story can help or inspire someone else.

I battled with depression the majority of my life. Depression was so much a part of my life that I adopted it as a personality trait. I lived with it. I flirted with it. I befriended it. I used it to create art and to tap into it so that I could help others. I started relying on it and after a while I was afraid to lose it because I thought it would change who I was. Everything that I felt was good about me was connected to me being depressed. Or, at least I connected it. People categorized me as an introvert. They saw me as wise, compassionate, empathetic, generous,  a good listener, a lover and so much more. I feared that if I lost my depression, I would lose the heart that was molded and designed for me to feel for others. I think I also was afraid that I if I lost my depression I wouldn’t have a crutch anymore. I couldn’t blame my failures or shortcomings on anything else once the depression was gone. So, I held on to it. – for too long.

I held on to it until it almost killed me.

It was very important for me to start of my story by acknowledging that I was suicidal. Because in my experience there was a big difference between being depressed and being suicidal. I’m not a mental health expert so I can’t break down whether there are different phases or stages that lead up to being suicidal. I can’t truly say whether there is a common process that most people go through. But, when I was suicidal it felt like someone had downloaded a virus in my psyche. It was very hard to control my thoughts. For a long period of time I felt like someone else was controlling me. I would drive by a bridge and for no reason start wondering what it would feel like to jump off of it. I would be at the train station and start wondering what would happen if I just jumped in front of the train. I’d be walking down the street and a voice would say step in front of that car or bus. Anytime I was on a rooftop or any high surface area, something would tell me to jump. Sometimes I would feel like I was in a good mood so it would always confuse me. Why would I tell myself to do such things when I felt like I was in a good space? I think the deeper question should’ve been, am I really in a good space? My spirit wasn’t at peace. I was just at a place where I learned how to cope with the pain. I found comfort in a dysfunctional place and I tricked myself into believing I was ‘ok’ when I wasn’t. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually I was suffering. And I wasn’t equipped with the tools to dig myself out of that space. To be honest, I wasn’t even concerned about getting out of that space. I just thought that this was how life worked. I was existing, not living, which was killing me.

I never thought that I was going to escape the space I was in. I can still feel it. I’m not sure if the pain will ever go away. But I do know that I have matured and evolved so much that the pain, emotions, and memories no longer take me to a dark space. I can feel the pain but it no longer feels like it is a part of me. It feels more like a memory from a past life. I am totally grateful for how far I’ve come and I want to share a few steps that I’ve taken to help get me to this peaceful space I am currently in.

First, I got rid of all of my personal cravings and my desire to find happiness or joy outside of myself. I stopped being married to a specific outcome and I opened myself up to the limitless possibilities that the universe has to offer. Through my studies I learned that Buddhist believe suffering is created through selfish desires and personal cravings. And if you detach yourself from those desires and cravings you can decrease the suffering in your life. I wish I was conscious of this spiritual truth 10 years ago. I was slightly aware of it at a very basic level. But it didn’t resonate with me until I realized that at the root of my depression was the fact that I was worrying about selfish desires and personal cravings. Not living up to my personal expectations of myself devastated me. There were certain things that I wanted to accomplish and a certain status that I wanted to attain. I wanted to be able to do certain things for my family and friends. I attached my value to what I was able to do or give. But I was focused on giving the wrong things. The best things in life that you can give are free. And our value isn’t connected to what we do or what we have. We are measured by who we are as an individual.

 

Another step that I took that was very important was that I started to manage my thoughts. “As a man thinketh, so is he.” Or as Descartes says, “I think, therefore I am.” I had to work diligently to reprogram my thoughts. I bought a bunch of books on psychology, anthropology, spirituality,  and self development. One of my favorite books was “Learned Optimism” by Martin E.P. Seligman Ph.D. In “Learned Optimism” I learned that when you have thoughts that are permanent, personal, and pervasive that will lead to depression. So, to counter my depression I started to become more optimistic. I decided that my circumstances weren’t going to be permanent and I wasn’t going to take things personally. I made sure that the majority of the information and content that I was consuming was positive, empowering and edifying. Even if it meant staying in the house and reading. And to some people that may be extreme but my life depended on it. A few other books that I enjoyed was The Four Agreements, The Seven spiritual laws of success, Happy this year, The Seat of the Soul, and the Noticer. A few of my favorite people to listen to are Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Gary Vee, Wayne Dyer, Gary Zukav, and Eric Thomas. Hopefully, these books and individuals can have a positive impact on your life as well.

 

Last but not least, every morning I wake up I ask myself what needs to happen in order to make today meaningful and fulfilling. I take note of my answers and I aim to make those things happen. I no longer am living on accident. I live on purpose for a purpose. I don’t wait for good things to happen to me. I determine what’s good for me and I make it happen. I’m no longer a slave to my conditions and my circumstances. I am the master of my own destiny. The weight I used to carry while wondering why life was treating me so badly has been removed. Life isn’t happening to me, I am happening to it. I’m not a victim, I am victorious. Understanding how powerful I am has helped me tremendously. Taking each day into my own hands has motivated me to work harder and has inspired me to shoot for the stars. One day at a time I proved to myself that I can do what’s best for my mental, physical and emotional health. And it feels good to know that you can trust yourself. It feels good to know that you love yourself. And it feels awesome to know that no matter how tough life gets, you can depend on yourself to fight through it.

 

Throughout this year I will like to be more transparent and hopefully my life experiences and lessons can help someone else. I am not a mental health professional. So, if you are suicidal or battling depression it is always wise to consult a professional or a suicide hotline. Looking forward to growing with you all as much as time will allow. Wish you all the best. Love you!

Written by Jay Julien

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