*content notice: depression, anxiety, anti-Blackness, suicide*
It’s one of those nights, where I have tons of work I “need” to do, and a panic attack is bubbling just under the surface of my skin, and all I can manage is listening to bands that seemingly speak to my depression even though these white boys probably don’t share much of what makes me depressed. I’ve been Black all my life, but my major mental health problems started in sixth grade from what I remember. They primarily took the form of a variation of social anxiety that I could only describe as paranoia. It was a constant self-destruction that I managed to get under control over the last five years. I don’t know when my depression started, but this past year it’s intensified beyond what I thought possible. (This past year, I also came out to myself, my college friends, and the internet as trans, but my family is still unaware.) To make matters worst, I had my first panic attack in February. My next one came early October. Notice the six months between them. I was fortunate, and after the week of recovery from this last one, I thought maybe it could be another six months. But only two weeks later, I feel like I’m suffocating again.
What happens when you combine depression, anxiety, being Black, a history of paranoia, a pseudo-closeted trans(feminine) identity, and the bonus of being a student ? I’m living the answer and it’s killing me slowly. There are few ways to cope. “Self-care” often means not doing schoolwork leading to a build-up of schoolwork that causes more anxiety. Getting sleep means sleeping too much and missing classes. Facebook is inundated with a video of Black girl being beaten by a cop in the middle of a classroom leading you to discover that your capability for rage has faded and you can only feel despair. Being around college friends makes you hate yourself and feel resentment that they seemingly aren’t failing as much as you are. Being around home friends makes you happy until you remember they don’t know how fucking queer you are these days. And when you do try to do school work, your heart and chest feel as if they are about to burst.
Now you’re sufficiently fucked. Then you think a little bit about death because these white boys are singing about it. And hell, you’re a Black girl (almost and/or afraid to admit it) so if they are thinking about death, then you have every right to. But you don’t want to die. You just want to feel like you’re not dying. I guess I should get to my point now. There’s this common phrase about suicide, that “it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Seriously, don’t say this. Don’t think it’s helpful. And don’t dare tell me or anyone else that these problems are temporary. Especially in the midst of these problems occurring. The thing is, permanent solutions look great when problems feel permanent. In my case, they all do. I’ve got the paranoia under a little control, but it has persisted for a decade. Being Black and trans won’t change in any foreseeable future. And my depression and anxiety attacks just started to kick off, so who knows how long they will stick around.
This phrase always struck me as particularly selfish. It’s someone prioritizing their discomfort with suicide over my discomfort living with ceaseless dread. Telling me any of these problems are temporary is an assumption on your part. It provides me a useless fantasy that only makes me feel pressure to “get better” without actually helping me to be better. I don’t need to think of my problems as temporary, I need ways to deal with them. I don’t care if it gets better at some point when I need a little relief now. Mental health problems like depression and anxiety are persistent. Dismissing them as transient ignores the toll they take in the moment, and the impact that makes you anxious for the future. If you are someone who’s overcome mental health issues, sharing strategies for healing would be much more useful than instructing someone that eventually, at some point in time, someday, in the future, they will heal.
Sitting in bed, I don’t ponder the possibility of suicide because these white boys make it sound fun. It’s just something that seems like it could be less painful than living. It’s not about instant gratification; it’s about survival. I’d love to be Black and trans without the oppression, but it doesn’t seem like that will be possible any time soon. And I’d love to live without depression, anxiety, and paranoia, but I don’t have enough energy to keep dreaming of that possibility anymore. And some people have been long out of energy. So don’t condescend with hope. And don’t call mental health problems temporary and imply I or anyone should wait it out. We’ve tried. It doesn’t always work.