Like many this week I read and discovered that Kid Cudi checked himself into rehab for “depression and suicidal urges.” It is intriguing that at 32 years of age this Black man checked himself into a place that will address his mental health. This is fantastic if you ask for my initial thoughts. Folks of color need this because realistically “we,” do not address much of the trauma (mostly mental but some physical) that we endure throughout our lives. In the Black community, showing any form of weakness is taboo. African-American men are especially taught to be strong and not give any indication of weakness. Many hide such vulnerabilities behind fortresses that prohibit any emotions from breaking out. Addressing mental health within the Black community is much more important today as we still face racial inequality, police brutality and other barrier that prohibit us from reaching our full potential in society.
When I was a flight attendant for a regional airline I was sexually assaulted on a layover. I was drugged and taken advantage of by two men and still to this day cannot identify them; however, their smell and voices still are glued into my head only to haunt me. I just recall waking up in extreme pain and a sight that still gives me nightmares. I did the only thing I could do, which was to clean myself up and go to work. The trauma led to more issues as I unknowingly infected my boyfriend at the time with an STI, which led him to believe I was cheating on him. This led to physical and verbal abuse, which only made things worse on my end. I never reported the rape because I never believed that the police would believe me nor understand how to deal with a gay man being raped. I was messed up internally and based off of the trauma the only way I dealt with it was through the only outlet I felt at the time was reasonable…. sex. The amount and types of sex I had to this day is a blur. I can tell you there was so much of it and even to this day I run into people online or in person who expect me to remember them and our encounter and I am completely clueless. As I was starting to phase out of the addiction of sex I was faced with another event, my HIV diagnosis. This sent me into a deep depression and a rise in my anxiety. I called out of work, stayed in bed, was not in the mood to eat, contemplated suicide and did not even open my blinds or turn on lights to give myself light. At one point I took a handful of pills in hopes that my life would end. I thank God that I am still here today. I credit my initial medical provider and caseworker at Whitman Walker for saving me as they directed me to a therapist. Much time was spent addressing my PTSD, depression, panic attacks, and anxiety through sitting down on a nice futon styled couch or by taking additional pills to my regimen.
Friendship, fellowship and being vulnerable to allow people into my
life worked just as strong as the treatment path I was on. Having people who acted like the roots to my tree provided stability, nutrients and the necessary affirmations needed to bring me back from a very dark place. In the beginning of this year while on a trip I was hospitalized due to viral meningitis. While sitting in my hospital room the doctor, who was an intern, came in and said “I feel so sorry for you.” She went on to explain that what was causing the meningitis was a strain of HSV-2. “You are 26 years old, black, HIV-positive, and now with another infection that is cAusten by sex you have so much life to live but you just are wasting it away,” she said with judgement. Although I was able to tell her that I stay affirmative and focus on my health and moving forward, deep down inside I was shocked, disappointed and angry at myself. I was replaying the rape, finding out my HIV diagnosis in the nasty way I did and feeling dirty. I hate when people use the word CLEAN to identify their STD status; however, I just felt filthy and wanted to scrub myself raw in hopes that I would be able to remedy myself of this new information I obtained. I ended up falling back into another deep battle with depression and feeling the anxiety creeping back in. Back at work I felt like I had to be this Ice Queen because if I would open up about my life then people would immediately know I was Poz and HSV-positive. I would check my entire body every day and night to make sure I was not breaking out anywhere. When people would try to get close I would simply push them away. Every time my back or neck started to get tight or cramp I would immediately call my doctor and beg him to run more tests. I was a mess but I forced myself into therapy to help work through the issues. She encouraged me to try to push myself past my comfort zone, be social and try to make new friends while maintaining the friends I left behind.
I’ve been blessed to have good friends that continue to check on me although I may not reciprocate as often. My good friend in Florida always calls me to check to make sure I am doing alright. My gay dad in San Francisco always sends positive healing vibes my way. Being accepted by three amazing queer men of color at my job for who I am and the social awkwardness that comes with me makes me feel worthy of continuing
this journey that is life. On the trip we worked together they included me in almost everything. We even purchased makeup together and also had a spa day and gave each other facials. Having my bestfriend call me when she has not heard from me and when I pick up says “Where you been ho!”sounds silly and borderline offensive but just immediately places a smile on my face while making life just a little more bearable. Although I still remail closed off to much of the world, especially where I am at presently I still try my hardest to be vulnerable about my feelings, be willing to receive hugs, say I love you and mean it, and appreciate the calls to check-in on me. I share my story because we all go through shit and acquire so much trauma through our lives. We shouldn’t be afraid to seek a mental health professional, talk to friends and other support structures and be willing to take the necessary steps to take care of the issues we are dealing with. Cudi described himself exactly as I feel at times which is “a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday in my life.” As someone who continuously deals with depression and PTSD from my sexual assault and diagnoses it is nice to see a Black man speak up transparently about his own mental health.
My therapist is on speed dial. Although I am in a good space right now I still work hard to see her. My therapist and medical provider are critical pieces to my puzzle toward greater holistic health. NEVER be afraid to see someone to help you work through the internal struggles.