MHAM Submission - Seneca Ammons
Throughout yesterday, my 23rd birthday, I couldn’t help but feel reflective. I’d woken up exhausted, gone to school exhausted, but somehow felt little streaks of liveliness shoot through me whenever I was told “Happy Birthday," given a hug, or watched through snaps of me at my wildest, funniest or loneliest loveliest.
I watched as I shouted drunkenly into cameras, twerked with some of my best friends, smiled and laughed, all representative of happiness and feelings of fulfillment, yet now knowing that then, during all of those times, that behind those expressions lurked a darkness that battled hard to consume me. I’ve never been vocal about my issues, I never sought help for the things that I were struggling with and instead chose to focus on running away from that darkness, doing whatever I could to focus on the moment without turning to look over a shoulder towards the inevitable.
I don’t want anyone reading this to look back and think that maybe there were warning signs of my unhappiness or if there was something they could’ve done differently to help me, I’ll kill all of those doubts and guesses now: There wasn’t. I hid it extremely well, and even when I had a moment of weakness, I stood upright quickly after, wiped my tears and blamed it on a bad day. But most of my life has been a bad day. I think back to my childhood, to all of the mean things I’d been called from school to school, all of the horrible rumors that were started about me and I can’t help but feel sad for myself.
Well, for my pre-teen self. And then I think back to my teenaged self and remember how those mean things grew vitriolic and those rumors damaging, no longer bug-bites but now gunshot wounds and there’s a part of me who weeps for the lonely boy stuck in the Southside suburbs with nowhere to go or no one to turn to feel loved and accepted.
Depression became my shadow, long before I’d knew what it was. Depression summoned my tears and licked them away with falsities and myths. Depression made me think that in order to live, I had to go through this. Depression told me that because of the way I’d lived, which by all means is perhaps a lot more innocent and harmless than other lives, I should be ashamed and guilt-ridden. Depression told me that in order to be an artist, a writer, a poet and someone meaningful, I had to experience sadness and melancholia, I had to wallow with my thoughts and my thoughts alone, but that isn’t safe.
Eventually, those philosophical thoughts turn malevolent, turn violent, and then I’m contemplating this and that, wishing and hoping for a relief from a life that’d done me so dirty that I literally fantasized Death. Yet, I still told no one. I dealt with that in silence, called it a close-call and moved on like I’d always done before, but now with a darker approach. Like I’d said before, I didn’t know what to call It, it being depression until I was diagnosed with it last Fall. And even then, fear and paranoia told me to not take the medicine I’d been prescribed and that, like I’d done before, I’d be able to live and let live… but things weren’t the same. I wasn’t the same kid that had the energy to bounce back from those petty insults, nor was I the same teenager that had less energy but more acceptance for myself to let the rumors roll from my back. The attributes and traits that once allowed me to rise from a depressive rut had weakened and I didn’t even realize it until it’d gotten too late.
I needed something, anything, to feel whole and unfortunately, I found that in a person. I stopped hanging with friends that I’d see every day to be with this person, endured the name calling and teasing – the same insults I barked back at as an adolescent – all for the sake of meaning something to someone. I shared everything with this person, some of the deepest, darkest things I felt, listened as they reassured me that all I needed was a little bit of this and a little bit of that, listened as they talked about how crazy I was about them… and on the drive home, as I finally got a chance to think to myself, I remember thinking about how wrong it all was, about how much crap I was putting myself through and the horrible downfall. It was the same dance I’d done with the other Devils, too.
Throughout my life, there’s always been that one person that put me through similar trials and tribulations at different stages of my life, starting off with my biological father. I’m not going to go off on a tangent about having “daddy issues” or anything like that, but I now know that he was the first to break my heart. …and all of the Boss Battles that come after him, all of those that I’d fallen for and out of love with, even the ones that made me feel like there was no possible way to live without them afterward, all of them paled to the experience that dropped me to my lowest point.
Never in a million years did I think I would be where I was last semester. For as I grew weaker in will and mental defense, my depression grew stronger and reared its ugly head to block out whatever light I’d managed to keep for myself. I descended into a spiral of darkness like no other I’d felt, and without going into details, I truly believe that I’d hit the bottom. But instead of lying there at the bottom and looking up at the world that’d grown around me, I thank God that the same family I’ve found myself distancing myself from was there to notice the descent, that my mom did what she did to save me.
I don’t blame anyone, not even myself. With the cultural stigma that surrounds mental illness in the black community, the societal stigma that shuns mental illness in the population, it’s easy to think that the only option that comes with dealing with depression and other mental illnesses is running, but even Usain Bolt has to stop and to those that read this that love comics as much as I do, even the Flash has to stop. It only takes that moment when you’ve got your hands on your knees and you’re trying to catch your breath for whatever you’ve been running from to catch you. I know that now. It has not been easy since December and it felt like I struggled for most of January, but I do know that for the first time for as long as I can remember, I truly felt happy to be alive on my birthday.
I feel happy to wake up in the morning and even though there’s days where I wish I could sleep a little longer or I don’t feel like going to school, I still appreciate the ability to breathe, to think and to remember. The ability to laugh, the ability to hurt. To revel in the power of reclaiming your spirit (and your time) and learning that because you accept yourself does not mean that you love yourself.
To know that loving yourself is not only telling yourself that you’re beautiful and that you’re deserving to be alive, but that it’s also knowing when to remove yourself from negative situations and toxic relationships, it’s knowing when to say no. It’s finding a therapist and talking to them about whatever you’re feeling, it’s their job. It’s surrounding yourself around the people that love and support you the most, it’s allowing yourself to be loved and love, it’s freeing yourself in all aspects of liberty. It’s fighting for what you believe in and for those you believe in, it’s doing whatever you’ve set your mind on doing, it’s not shooting for the stars, it’s shooting for beyond it.
I’m a Survivor.
So, if no one reads this or if everyone reads this, I hope that this has shed some light on whatever y’all are going through. Wipe those tears, acknowledge the good in this world that seems so bad at times, and take care of yourself in 2018, 2019, 2020 and so on until you’ve taken your last breath. Look out for others, love your neighbors, ask your friends how they’re doing, be there for them when they’re crying, help them make the right decision and steer them in the right directions. Don’t hold grudges, forgive those that haven’t apologized and most importantly: Live your life, flourish and prosper… or as I like to say, GLOW.