The Flawed Concept Behind “But You Have Nothing to Be Depressed About”!

The Flawed Concept Behind “But You Have Nothing to Be Depressed About”!

 

anthony bourdain
Photo courtesy of CNN

I was saddened to learn that celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain died by his own hand. When the news broke, I was in Paris for a work trip; he was also in France filming his show “Parts Unknown”. He has always been someone I wanted to meet. I’ve read his novels (Gone Bamboo, Bone in Throat). I followed his shows from Travel Channel to CNN’s Parts Unknown. Anthony had the coolest adventures, dove into a country’s politics head first, and provided me with even more countries for my travel bucket list.

 

In the last few episodes I watched, I thought he didn’t look good. He was thinner, more gray, and seemed to be going through the motions. The joy was no longer in his eyes. He was less of a prankster.

The signs were there – something was wrong.

As I realized in the last couple of years in my own life, travelling for work can be perilous. It seems glam at first —but after the newness subsides, it gets really overwhelming. Another hotel, another bed, the air conditioning in the room is not quite right, preventing a good night’s sleep. By always being away, you miss friend’s birthdays, events, dinner parties. You start to feel isolated. Add depression to the mix, and it becomes a deadly combination. You do it because you love the work (hopefully), but it can be killing you.

It’s possible that’s what happened to Anthony.

People often look at celebrities, or regular folks and say “but what do they have to be depressed about?! So and so has money, fame, a beautiful house and spouse.” The trappings of material things do not address internal emotional pain. The mindset that one has “no reason” to be depressed often serves as a barrier to either giving or getting the help that is needed.

Depression can result from any of a number of things — a “reason” is not required.

Depression is incredibly horrendous. No matter how awesome your life may be on the outside or on social media, your heart may be breaking. When you’re deeply depressed, death speaks to you. It’s like the siren’s song. It says “come sweetie, I’ll make you feel better. I’ll end this pain”. After drinking, drugs, or a painful event, she’s even more seductive. You need the voices of friends and family to drown it out, as well as a great therapist — sometimes including medication.

Depression is not something that can be prayed away, or ignored. You don’t just “get over it”. It takes work, and you literally have to fight for your life. You will have setbacks. You will have days you can’t get out of bed. Sometimes the medication prescribed to you doesn’t help, and you need a new formula. The fight is worth it because it does get better.

If you have never been in this much pain, you are lucky. It’s not because you are strong or better than someone who has been there. It’s like being in a car accident. Some people never have had one; others have. Some people get horribly depressed, others don’t. But just the same way you do not judge someone for having a car accident, you should not judge someone for depression. It’s easy to say about Anthony “oh how selfish, what about his child”. In his pain, he may have thought he was doing her a favor. Remember, depression has a powerful voice in your head, grossly distorting reality.

Never underestimate the pain of another. Be kind to others. I read a beautiful thread on Twitter of how a group of friends came together to help a friend that was suffering from depression after the death of her father. Although she was shutting everyone out, they literally came to her house en masse, cleaned up, brought food, and made it a party. It helped her tremendously. It’s risky, but is an idea on how to help a depressed friend.

If you are constantly on the road for work, try to maintain your connections at home. Take time to rest, use your vacation time, and if possible, try to take your loved ones on the road with you.

If you are in pain, seek help, and disregard the opinions of others who try to dissuade you from therapy. Fight that mute button that depression places on your throat. It’s a hard battle, but know you are loved and you are valued. You will be missed, no matter what the voices in your head say.

I say this to my fellow social justice warriors and people of color.  Please practice self care.  Please check on each other.  Get a therapist if you feel you need one. Being in the struggle for justice can take a horrible toll.

RIP Anthony Bourdain….and all others who have lost their battle with depression.

See resources on suicide prevention at http://www.sprc.org/.

If you are in the South Florida area and need resources, message me.

We’re all in this together.

M.

 

 

Rest In Peace Former Director Bobby Parker

Rest In Peace Former Director Bobby Parker

bobby parker 2 This past Saturday, former Miami-Dade Police Department Director Robert “Bobby” Parker was laid to rest. He  retired in 2009 after rising through the ranks to become the first African American in the department’s top job. Director Parker was named Miami-Dade Police Director in 2004 by then Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. Director Parker joined the force in 1976 and quickly worked his way up the ranks. He spent 33 years in the eighth largest police department in the US, doing what he did best — protecting, serving and mentoring.

My memory of him was sitting next to him in 2009, as we were giving commencement speeches to the police academy class. We had met casually before, but this was the first extended contact I had with him. When he gave his speech, he  reminded the young officers that the police uniform will bring new attention, so do not forget who you started out with. 

I thought to myself “wow, things are that hectic that the Director has to tell folks not to cheat on their partners?”

But, he was right, and it was sage advice.

Throughout my career I had seen (and continue to see) officers get caught up in power and following the crowd — in the process, destroying their families. Bobby’s words of staying grounded rang so true; I often wondered how many of those new officers heeded his advice.

Since that day, we ran into each other frequently at community events. He always had an easy smile, and a great demeanor. I saw the many causes we shared in common, and that he had a genuine concern for the next generation, especially young African American men.

I had been out of town the last few weeks at the National Black Prosecutors Conference, and attending family matters, returning to discover he had passed away…and at his own hand.

It was right after his 62nd birthday

My heart broke into a million pieces.

I don’t know what happened. All I can say is this. Never be afraid to ask for help, no matter where you are in life. There is no shame in going to therapy; there is no weakness in speaking to someone about your problems. Who cares what is “macho” or not!

If someone comes to you wanting to talk, don’t blow it off or turn them away. We need to take care of each other, and find coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of life before it overwhelms us. If you sense a friend is in trouble, just ask the question.  Put aside whatever “bro-code”. I know we have to respect the privacy of others, but also follow your gut if you sense something.

And yes I will say it. My fellow African Americans, we have to stop this stigma of “therapy and depression is a White people thing”. Because it’s not — it’s real. Depression doesn’t stop to check what race you are before it invades your mind and destroys your spirit. Depression is killing us in different ways; therapy, medications, and other healthy coping mechanisms can help sort things out.

And guess what?

There are African American therapists, so cultural sensitivity is not a problem.

My mother always had a saying “Once there is life, there is hope”.

There is no problem without a solution, you just may need help finding it.

So please. Help yourself. Help each other.

Bobby, rest in peace. You left us way too soon.

My deepest condolences to the Parker family, and to my brothers and sisters in blue who are grieving right now.

M.

bobby parker