Depression: Easy to Understand ?
by Keita O. Erskine
Depression is easy to understand if you’ve ever been sad. Imagine that lump in your throat, the one you get right before you start to cry. Keep trying to swallow it, but every time, the lump just grows larger and larger until you’re choking on your emotions. Unable to breathe, the only way to move on is to just heave huge sobs and force the lump out. Depression is that same sensation, without the ability to cry. Every second of everyday, choking on that lum
It all started in middle school. I started to have the most fantastic anxiety attacks. My brain built up these awful scenarios and tortured me with them constantly. Each night, I’d close my eyes and see the shadows creeping up around my bed, taking my family in their mouths and chewing, blood gushing from between their teeth. Each night, I couldn’t do nothing to stop those dreams, and I felt powerless. That powerlessness planted the seeds of my discontent. The more nights I had to spend sleeping in my mom’s room instead of my own, the weaker I felt. That weakness ate me up.
Once I got to high school, I had no choice but to ignore those feelings. I was alone. Sure I eventually made friends, but I just knew that if any of them could see inside my shell, the seeds of pain would scare them away. Depression is easy to ignore. Food pushes past the lump most of the time. The lump doesn’t prevent you from breathing, most of the time. Occasionally, the feelings spiked. When I slammed my helmet to the ground during football practice. When I slapped my best friend in the face. When I smoked pot for the first time. The littlest things would get to me, and my poor behavior only resulted in worse thoughts and feelings. The downward spiralperpetuateditself. AmachinerunningoutofcontroldrivingmefurtherintoaholeIcouldn’t climb out of.
The good thing about high school? The extremely small and close-knit community we fostered there. We looked out for each other like family, and the constant stimulation of having your peers around you makes it easy to ignore, even forget depression.
‘Til one day, you graduate.
I lost my safety net all over again. And even though I made fast friends at the collegiate level, I fell in love with alcohol. Depression is easy to drown. Like a turkey in the rain, depression just sits with its mouth agape awaiting each drop until it’s full. But depression never drowns. Only you do.
Before I knew it I was out of school. Sitting in my mother’s house, watching television all day and letting the darkness surround me. There was no drowning or ignoring the lump now.
Depression is easy to succumb to. LIke an addict, I had to hit rock bottom before I could climb out of the hole.
Depression is easy to understand. But that lump in your throat makes it really hard to talk about. You can’t ignore it or drown it. The only way to get that lump out is to heave it out. Cry.
Scream. Do something. Otherwise you’ll die from lack of air. Or you’ll cut your own throat just to get it out.
(Keita’s piece was written January 2017)
Mr. Keita Erskine is an aspiring fiction writer and poet living in Chicago, Ill. Hailing from New York and New Jersey, Mr. Erskine is a graduate of Rumson Country Day School, The George School where he was an editor of the school’s award-winning publication, Curious George. While a student at George School, he attended Columbia University’s prestigious summer program for aspiring journalists, after completing his studies at George, he attended Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism and during the summer months he served as a staff member for VONA/Voices, voted one of the top 10 Writing conferences to attend in North America by The Writer Magazine.
Footnote: I am a mother who has watched her son struggle with anxiety and depression. I to this day still cannot find the words to express the depth of my regret and sorrow to see the person I love above and beyond all of life itself, suffer. When I look back over the arc of time to Keita’s early childhood, I realize that in all likelihood, I have had two bouts or episodes of Major Depression. In my case, it was both undiagnosed and untreated even though during at least one of the episodes I was seeing a therapist on a regular basis. This was also probably true during the second episode as well and speaks to the fact that even when an African American is exposed to therapy recognition of what is happening to the person and treatment options are simply not offered. I can share with you now, and this is certainly the first time I have ever shared any of this publicly, my symptoms were all somatic or body based.
Both Keita and I continue to grow and heal, for this is not how our story ends. I hope his story will help someone rather child, youth, or adult, heal and return to wholeness, may this be so.