Monday, August 3, 2009
Beating the D
The other day I stood quietly by my locker as I watched a coworker speed pass me like his life depended on it. I managed to catch his eye briefly, and in that moment I saw him carefully wrap his hands around a bottle that he held ever so tight. He was visibly agitated and when I asked if he was okay he responded softly then replied “I will be, just as soon, as I take, my meds.” I tried not to see what “meds” he was talking about because this was no business of anyone else but him. But before I could turn away he stuck the bottle in my hands and all my eyes could focus on were the words D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-O-N. It was as if they were superimposed not just me, but anyone else who was listening. And then I froze. I was unable to think of what to say next. It was awkward and I had no real way to recover? So instead of responding with some sort of generic response my mind starting flashing back to previous conversations I’d had with him. He was 26-years-old, black, good-looking and the father of a beautiful baby girl. I know none of this really matters but what it showed me was that depression had no labels and its ill effect can strike any of us. He and I flirted with each other months before this, until I reminded him that I was "old enough to be his momma” speech, every time he asked me out. I was flattered, but what I felt, that day, was an overwhelming sense of “what if?” What if I had chosen to go out with this young man. Or what if I had entered a relationship with him. What would it have meant for us? Would I be able to handle the momentary episodes that often come with this crippling disease? Would I continue to be the strong woman that I so often profess to be and love my friend through what could be many rocky roads ahead? Or, would I simply walk away without trying to understand? I also thought of my own family, the cousin with bipolar, another who is no longer with us but was drawn to a state of confinement unable to leave her home for fear of what might be outside her door or the grandmother I never met. The one I’d always heard stories of, the plain woman, the talented yet meek woman who died in a sanitarium or crazy home for those who knew differently back then. And when my journey was over, I thought of all the other friends, family, coworkers and strangers I’d had conversations with who proved themselves brave enough every time they woke up or walked out their own front door. Beating the D….beating the stereotype that depression can sometimes hold against them, the stigma of the D that many fight to break free from everyday. And in that moment I smiled to myself, not because I was grateful to God for allowing me to be spared from this but by allowing me to be in the path of that young man to simply say “It’s okay.” “Pray.” “It’s going to be okay.” Whether we know it or not, perhaps dewing, or saying something, just might be enough.