Monday, August 27, 2012

Someday We'll All Be Free

Kai's SONG OF THE WEEK: "'Someday We'll All Be Free' is a 1973 song by Donny Hathaway from the album Extension of a Man. The song was released as the flipside to the single "Love, Love, Love". Though the song was only released as an uncharted A-side, it is considered an R&B standard, having been covered by many artists over the years. The lyrics were written by Edward Howard, for and about the mental pain that Donny Hathaway was experiencing at the time." (Wiki) (Lyrics)

Kai's Thoughts:

Dear Donny,
You have saved my life over and over again and for that I thank you. I thank you for telling me to hang on. I thank you for creating notes that folks had never heard sung before, so blue. In your voice I recognize a sadness, a deep sadness, but also a deep desire to hold on and to struggle for dreams and freedom. You held on as long as you could and I appreciate and respect your struggle. Thank you for leaving something behind for a queer Black boi like me to hold on to. I thank you.
Yours in Love and in Struggle,
I go to the ocean to cry. I go to the ocean because it reminds me of a day when my mom, my dad and me went to the beach. We had a picnic basket. I remember being excited because, at least for a moment, I could pretend we were a family---my dad protected us and my mother stared lovingly at him and laughed at all his jokes. But we all knew that we were playing out some heteronormative fantasy that never quite existed for us Black folk in the same way. We probably wouldn’t have used those words, but that is what it was. For a moment, even though we knew it was play, it was nice. It was nice to feel held and protected in the shelters of patriarchy. If only that were really the case, if only we had really been protected and safe. That dream so quickly turns to nightmare and the beach fantasy fades away leaving us still poor and still Black in a country that spends more money and energy on killing the poor instead of changing the conditions that produce the poor.
I have struggled with depression for most of my life and I mean that. I can remember sitting in the dark of my mothers closet burying myself in mountains of clothing and feeling comforted by the darkness and the calming cool of the space. I was young, very young and I would go in there and sing a song, my song, “nobody loves me, nobody likes me.” I sang this over and over again until I could cry. I remember one afternoon my mother caught me and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to tell her what was wrong because I didn’t know. She asked me if it was because my Dad was away in prison and I said yes. She tried to comfort me then. My sadness went deeper than my Dad’s incarceration, but I didn’t have the words to articulate a feeling, a thing that I continue to carry even now. There was no particular reason for my tears, but they still came. I felt like I had to justify them, but I’m learning how to not. How to just let them fall how to take deep breathes and release. The ocean always changes for it is always moving and we couldn’t stop that if we wanted to—and some seem to be trying.
This post is difficult to write because my depression feeds off of being hidden in closets, at night alone, I sneak away and when I am alone I am met with a deep sense of sorrow.
Don’t have to justify my tears/ I go to the ocean and breathe in God/I breathe out all that has been bound in here/In my chest/But for now I give myself rest
When I was in high school my feelings of sadness I discovered came from not being able to articulate anger, not feeling as though I could say I don’t like this or that, yet I still felt all of those things. I would listen to Donny Hathaway albums and cry after cutting myself. I cut myself because I wanted to cry, but could no longer get to the tears. The physical pain helped me to cry. I wanted to feel and not to feel all the things that felt just to heavy to bear. I didn’t know how to articulate these things because I hadn’t been taught how to deal with hurt feelings. I was taught to forgive, forgive without working through and move on. Keep moving. No matter what, keep moving. I had to be strong because there were moments in my childhood when there weren’t people around to protect me.
In high school I learned how ask for what I want/need. I learned that it was okay to ask for what I want and to tell someone what I don’t like. As a survivor of childhood sexual trauma, I still struggle with feeling like it’s okay to ask for what I want/need and what I do not. I’m not afraid of the tears. I’m not afraid of the sadness. I know it is all there and I listen to it. I stopped cutting after high school, but I can still feel the kind of pain I felt back then. What I do to manage these days is to talk about it even though it’s hard, even though I still feel a great sense of shame around my struggles with depression.
I write this to let other folk who struggle with depression know that it is okay. You are not weak. You are very strong and I love you. If you struggle with sadness and depression, what are some of the tools you use to keep yourself healthy? If you are an ally/friend to someone with depression, what are the tools you use to support? Here are some of my tools:
1) As I am taking hormones, I have to be extra careful about the balance of chemicals in my body, so I take supplement like St. John’s Wort (comes in tea form). I also drink other hormone balance teas. Vitamin D supplements are essential for me. When I was in high school I discovered that I had a very serious vitamin D deficiency. I had to take an overdose of vitamin D for years. A lack of vitamin D can seriously affect ones mood, so get your levels checked if you can). Here is a link with some other herbal suggestions.
2) Talk therapy has been good and very necessary in moments while in others it has simply felt like an unhelpful task that I resented. Figure out if talk therapy works for you and mostly that’s about finding the right therapist. Don’t be afraid to ask your therapist for what you need. If you need assignments, if you need more feedback, if you need feedback in a particular way—let them know. This is a space that is about you so don’t be afraid to make it work for you and take up the space you need. There are also other forms of therapy that are based in somatic practices that might be useful especially if you are trying to deal with trauma.
3) Meditate. For me meditation sometimes comes in the form of sitting and conscious breathing. Sometimes I do yoga poses, but what has been the best kind of meditation is hiking. Find your meditative practice, a time where you encounter yourself whole and consciously aware of both your mind and your body. I have a difficult time being fully present in body which is why I like meditative hikes because I spend time asking my body how it feels and observing and feeling all of myself as I move. Of course sometimes it is good to be still. Can you be still?
4) Regular physical activity is a MUST. I do some kind of strenuous physical activity at least three times a week (recently I have been running). When I can feel myself falling into a bout of depression I know that I need to workout more even though those are the times when I just want to hide away in bed. I have to push myself to do the activity knowing that I always feel better afterwards.
5) Check in with friends. People love you and care about you. If you’re having a hard time let someone know. If you can, ask for what you need. I have a really hard time reaching out to people when I’m depressed because I feel ashamed. I also don’t want to feel like a burden. Yes, you have to be careful of boundaries, but let your friends and loved ones know you are having a hard time because they love you and as much as you might feel like it, you are not alone.
Freedom in my heart/ Freedom in my bowl/ And my face is black/ Like my freedom/ Like my soul/ The thing that can never be bought or sold/ Black is beautiful/ Black as night/ Black and the time is right/ To escape we don’t need the light/ We just need each other
That’s all I have for now. What are some your strategies for coping with depression? Please share.

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