Two years ago, one of my sister-friends found herself divorced with four children under 10 years old, recently bankrupt and living with her mother-in-law (of all people). In her eyes, she had hit rock bottom -- life had not worked out as she had planned. For my sister-friend, it was a devastating place to be in, especially as a highly educated woman from an upper middle class family.
Out of the blue, her marriage had come to an abrupt end after discovering her husband had been cheating with his office clerk for almost five years of their seven-year-long marriage. It was too typical and completely cliché, but true. After vehemently protesting the affair, she found herself with an empty bank account, locked out of her sprawling home and the only thing left was a note from her “husband” saying she should expect divorce papers soon. A copy of her prenuptial agreement was attached to the note.
One day she called me at wits end as she contemplated suicide. We’d already spent many nights on the phone while she cried uncontrollably for hours. I let her weep and deal with the emotions because I believed that was the only way she was going to be able to release. Over the months though, I hadn’t seen a change and with this call I knew that enough was enough.
“That’s not an option,” I exclaimed! She was seeking more sympathy, which I didn’t believe was going to be helpful. She was already wallowing in self-pity and it was becoming a conundrum from which she was not going to be able to recover. “Snap out of it, you’re creating more pain for yourself by not pulling yourself together and moving forward. If you end your life, that’s the end. No more living, no more anything. It’s going to get better! It always does,” I preached as hard as I could.
But I wasn’t coming straight from a self-help book, even though I’ve read many. I was talking from experience. I too, a couple of years before, had found myself in a deep depression and didn’t know how to get out of it. At the time, I didn’t even realize I was depressed because as a Black man that wasn’t even a part of my vocabulary. The truth is, I was very depressed and although I never fully contemplated suicide, I understood it for the first time in my life.
During the time of my depression, the world was dark. For me, it was stranger than normal because I’d lived most of my life in the light. Getting out of the bed was a chore, as well as other simple things like showering. Thankfully, I have a naturally resilient spirit and I fought as hard as I could to get to the other side.
“I’ve been where you are and I promise you that it may not seem like it, but there is a rainbow at the end of this storm,” I shared. It was the truth! On the other side of my dark journey, I began to find the light again and in a brighter version than I ever had before. First, I had to deal with the issues that put me in the depression in the first place. In my case, it was valuing myself based on material things and other people’s praise. If you do that, and it goes away, what are you left with? Nothing.
For my sister-friend, she had to get over the fact that life had not worked out as she had planned. Oh well! It rarely does for anyone. That, however, does not give you the right to give up on it. Moreover, with four kids, anything except a fight to the end was selfish and weak. She had to accept her circumstances and turn those lemons into some sweet ass lemonade.
Thankfully, with support from her family and friends, she was able to find the strength to survive inside of her that lives inside of all of us. Two years later, she has re-entered the workforce, fought for a substantial settlement from her husband and is now engaged to a wonderful man who loves her and her children. (He's a much better guy than her ex-husband.) When I see her, I know the feeling she feels -- true happiness. It’s an awesome feeling, especially following a storm.
During these rough times, both economic and societal, many of us are experiencing a strain on our spirits. Whether it’s because you’re gay/lesbian in a non-accepting world or you’re a divorcee with the burden of raising a family alone, just know that giving up is not an option. You must keep going because it ALWAYS gets better!