Kid Cudi Has Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

This story was originally posted on REVOLT TV.

Tuesday evening Kid Cudi announced via Facebook that he has admitted himself into rehab for depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. In a lengthy post on his social media account, and in the midst of a promotional tour to highlight his fifth studio album, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’, Scott Mescudi cited a litany of reasons for checking himself into a healthcare facility. He stated that he wasn’t at peace. He classified himself as a damaged human being. He acknowledged that there is a violent rage that exists within him and the crippling control anxiety and depression have taken over his life. It was a stark, heartbreaking jolt of reality.

But it wasn’t just Cudi’s announcement that hit me. It was his overly apologetic tone. At the center of his acceptance and willingness to get help, Cudi said that he was afraid that he was disappointing those around him. He stated that he was sorry for letting others down, ashamed of allowing the situation to reach its current level. Well here’s a message to you, Kid Cudi: Don’t be ashamed, because you’re not letting anyone down. If anything, Cudi’s commitment to saving himself should be viewed as an act of courage and hope.

You see, depression is an issue that I’ve become all too familiar within the last couple of years. Not too long ago, I was sitting in my 2012 Ford Focus, heavily inebriated as a result of downing a six-pack of Cayman Jack and a fifth of Grand Marnier. I was entrenched in a steady state of decay, rapidly losing my grip on reality, and unable to cope with my seemingly endless list of failures. To make matters worse, the more I tried to reconcile my issues, the more I sank into despair.

Never mind the fact that I was a father of two with an enviable job and an impressive sneaker collection. I was filled with worry, sadness, and anguish. At the time, I believed the only viable solution to escape my sorrows was death. On this particular night, the urges to meet my maker had never been stronger. If it weren’t for a few fortuitous events that evening, followed by a healthy barrage of counseling, I’m not sure I would be alive to write this. And thanks to Kid Cudi’s melancholy lyrics and infectious, syncopated rhythms, I found solace in his music.

Which is why I identify with Kid Cudi’s struggle. I am not a celebrity. Nor am I a rapper, singer, producer, or actor. I’m just a writer. And most of the time, I’m not even that. I’m the guy who tutors your kid so he or she can get into college so you can justify the second mortgage you took out on your house. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have an inkling as to what he’s going through.

You see, during my bout with depression, I found solace in Cudi’s musings. I lived in it. If Cudi’s work served as his catharsis, it was also my sanctuary. Some days (most days) it was all I’d listen to. Mescudi’s soulful, off-kilter voice provided refuge; a much-needed distraction from the crumbling chaos that was my existence. Man on the Moon II and Indicud are as much responsible for recovery as therapy.

“Mojo So Dope” became my daily soundtrack. Cudi’s verse on “Brothers” became my mantra for living life.

No sweatin the ho shit, too in tune with the family
I do got the ones that do know Scott
They give me the love that a nigga need
If its a place to stay or a dime sack of weed

-Kid Cudi, “Brothers”

The raw emotion permeating from Kid Cudi’s introspective lyrics resonated with my soul. And the more raw, unadulterated, and emotional the Cleveland rapper became the greater my confidence grew with respect to defeating my own malignant spirits.

While the treatment and diagnosis for depression has increased exponentially with the advancements in modern medicine, the illness is still considered taboo in many cultures. The African-American community is among these, as depression is commonly misdiagnosed as merely being sad. We frequently oppose therapy out of a misguided obligation to keep our issues hidden, or worse, for fear of appearing weak. Sitting on somebody’s couch talking about our trivial worries isn’t going to solve our problems, or so we think. For black males especially, the maintenance of false bravado and masculinity prevents us from acknowledging our thoughts and seeking the proper care that we need.

In the case of celebrities dealing with personal demons, we tend to brush it off as isolated issues of overindulgence and lack of accountability. We define their struggles as being mere fabrications of the environment and lifestyle they have chosen to adopt. We rarely empathize with their illnesses because we don’t acknowledge them as such. We trivialize their pain by saying things like, “They’re rich and famous, what could possibly be wrong with them? Maybe if they didn’t use so many drugs, they’d be fine.” But pain and struggle are relative. One cannot begin to fathom the hell people endure. Celebrities are people too. And while fame, money and social media present an opaque facade that distracts us from underlying issues, the absence of trouble within the public eye doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

Which makes Kid Cudi’s decision to seek help so remarkable and necessary, not just for his well-being, but for others as well. Too many times we don’t know of black celebrities’ struggles until it’s too late. I remember when actor Lee Thompson Young, who played the main character on Disney’s The Famous Jett Jackson, committed suicide at 29. We were shocked. Many of us couldn’t comprehend what drove him to end his life so young with so much promise. After all, Young possessed a multitude of desirable traits such as good looks, charm, and charisma, and his acting career seemed to find new life as he was starring in more television roles. But little did we know, he was struggling far greater than anyone could have imagined.

For those of us who have thought of taking our own lives, suicide is not a cry for help. It is not an over-dramatization or an act of selfishness. It’s not just a failure to cope or find solutions to our problems. For us, suicide is the answer. It’s a means to end the sorrow that has become our existence. It’s flawed, misguided, and heart-wrenching. And without the proper guidance, support, and counseling, it will kill us.

With Cudi’s admission into a treatment facility, at least this time, we aren’t catching wind of his struggles after the fact. I don’t know what has occurred in Kid Cudi’s life for him to reach this point, and frankly, it’s none of my business. But I’m elated that he’s seeking a way to improve his mental state for himself, his daughter, the people around him, and his fans. Maybe this act provides a glimmer of hope for someone else to follow. Personally, I’m happy an artist that I admire, and whose music provided comfort during my darkest time, is committed to this journey called life just a little longer. Stay strong, Kid Cudi. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.

Advertisements

The Crippling Ghost of Depression

In October 2015, during a pickup basketball game, I experienced an uncharacteristic amount of built up anger, animosity and sadness. I remember shouting at one of my homeboys for not passing me the ball after I managed to get free for a wide open three-point shot. It didn’t matter that he scored on an easy drive to the basket. I still lit into his ass. I yelled and berated the living shit out of him over the next three games (somehow we kept winning, and he managed to refrain from kicking my ass). It was a colossal overreaction (but he should’ve passed me the ball dammit).

A few hours later, after downing a six-pack of Cayman Jack’s margaritas, I found myself crying in the parking deck of an emergency room with thoughts of suicide. This is the story of my battle with depression.

I can’t recall what catapulted me into this dire state of mental agony. I suppose it’s important to understand the source of what caused this downward spiral, but honestly, I can’t pinpoint a single scenario.

It could have been work-related stress and the pressure to live up to the gaudy expectations of others (back then I’d recently received a promotion and felt I needed to out-work my self-inflicted, exaggerated hype). It could have been anxiety over my place in society and the growing desire to have a bigger impact on those around me (I wanted to do more than peddle t-shirts and sneakers). I could even attribute my feelings of despair to the unnecessary racism and unwarranted police attention that I encountered on a daily basis while living in Birmingham, Alabama. (How many times do you have to be called a nigger before it starts to bother you?) In retrospect, it was probably all of it, and then some.

IMG_2016An actual text message from an unknown associate.

I tried to talk to a few people about my head space (my fiancé, close family, and friends) but they brushed it off as simply being down. They all made a concerted effort to draw my attention to the many great things that were present in my life. If I even dared to mention the dreaded “S” word I was condemned as being a poor Christian, or worst, over dramatic. They simply couldn’t understand how a decent looking, intelligent, funny, father of two, with a great job, a clean bill of health and an impressive sneaker collection could be sad, let alone depressed.

They told me to pray and offered their prayers as reinforcement. They showered me with text messages containing Bible verses and positive quotes. It was hard for me not to channel my inner Hannibal Buress in response to this outpour of support. “So you ain’t gon’ do shit for me then,” I remember thinking (an anecdote from one of Hannibal’s stand-up routines). “You just gon’ sit there and send some fucking memes and Jesus quotes, huh?”

giphy
It’s not that I didn’t appreciate their concern. Deep down, I genuinely did. They were all doing what they thought would help, providing their best form of encouragement. Unfortunately, their lack of understanding, coupled with my deteriorating mental state, only made the situation worse.

I found myself becoming increasingly estranged from the very people who cared the most. In some instances, I stopped communicating altogether. I bottled everything up, put on a faux smile and went about my business. I may not have felt better, but I was going to put on a facade as if I were. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

After all, I am a Black male. Melanin-rich, penis having motherfuckers, are not allowed to be depressed. This was reserved for Kevin Spacey-like dudes from American Beauty. Or spoiled, pretentious suburbanites who can’t come to terms with their vast entitlement.

Moreover, I wasn’t a victim of abuse, I didn’t experience a grave loss, and I didn’t suffer from a traumatic brain injury. Frankly, I was just overwhelmed and extremely stressed. Given the current climate of our society, I wasn’t experiencing anything unusual.

As you might expect, internalizing the struggle only exacerbated things. Soon everything became a laborious chore. I suffered from severe bouts of insomnia and didn’t sleep for days at a time. I drudged through simple, monotonous tasks at work. I had trouble focusing, and on occasion, became completely detached in intimate settings – mostly, in the presence of my beautiful infant son.

Soon my mental problems began to manifest into “real” physical issues. First, I began to suffer from chronic migraines and extreme sensitivity to light. Then came the increasingly frequent lash outs against others. That was followed by excessive weight gain and erratic weight loss, various gastrointestinal illnesses that flared up without warning and finally short-term memory loss. I was losing mind to the point where I had become unrecognizable to myself and those around me.

I once visited with a psychiatrist who was determined to assist me in recognizing my illness. She said to me, “If there were a zombie apocalypse that occurred right now you’d probably just walk out there and let them eat you. Your adrenaline has declined so much that your innate will to survive doesn’t exist. This isn’t a bad dream or some dark fairytale. Depression is real. It doesn’t discriminate based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or even socioeconomic status. It infects your mind and leaves you in doubt. It robs you of your character and your best intentions. And if you’re not careful, it will kill you.You need help.”

I’d like to say that my point of awakening came shortly after this conversation, or following some other life altering event. I had certainly experienced my fair share of them. Over the course of a year, I saw my romantic relationship deteriorate, put on 50 pounds, developed an unhealthy drinking habit, was in jeopardy of losing my job and tragically lost a friend to a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Any of these should have woke me the fuck up. But they didn’t. My struggle persisted.

Oddly enough, my personal reflection didn’t come until about two months ago following an episode of Game of Thrones. In it, there is a scene in which Tyrion Lannister (played by Peter Dinklage) is speaking with his brother, Jaimie, and says, “Death is so final whereas life is full of possibilities.” For some reason, the line resonated and stuck with me. Its simplicity was incredibly jarring.

tyrion-dancing

Though I’ve pursued counseling as a means to slay my personal demons, I found my greatest refuge comes in talking and reading about the struggles of others with similar problems. One author, in particular, is Alexandra L. Smith (more commonly known as Alex Elle). Her book, ‘Words From A Wanderer”, gave me some perspective. There was also my close friend who had experienced the same depths of hell I was enduring.

I’d like to think that everything is better now, and I’m completely cured. But I’m not. I still have good days and bad days. Some are worse than others, but they’re few and far between. I find that my faith helps, and I still have a strong support system to rely on should I desperately need them. Most importantly, I feel like myself again. I find joy and happiness in everyday activities, like giving my son a bath or playing a frustrating round of golf.

I’m not penning this to seek any pity or support. Frankly, this isn’t for me. I’m writing this because along this journey I’ve discovered that there are other people out there, just like me, fighting this internal battle every single day. The age of social media has made it difficult to see the warning signs. Everyone seems to have their shit together. But beneath this digital veil, deep down inside, a lot of us don’t.

Some of us are wrangling with the darkest inner thoughts, aimlessly clinging to any glimmer of hope. If this is you, I implore you to get some help. Seek out what works for you and come to terms with your battle. You don’t have to endure this pain alone. I hate to sound cliche, but there really is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it feels pitch black. After all “Death is so final whereas life is full of possibilities.”