“Check yourself before you wreck yourself” – Ice Cube
When I was 16, I was no stranger to suicidal thoughts. I precisely remember one time where I was sitting on my friends window seal with my legs hanging out, going over the pros and cons of jumping. It just felt like the reasonable choice.
What I didn’t know then was that I was suffering from depression. Depression that had crept into my life over the previous years, stemming from a love deprived childhood and an incident of sexual abuse I to this day haven’t gotten over.
Being that this was over 10 years go, I can’t tell you anymore what depression felt like. What I can tell you is, that while left untreated, it caused me to completely check out of school and turn to negative behaviour.
Two things saved me: Hip Hop and Therapy. While Hip Hop was a therapy in itself for me, bringing my pain to paper in the form of rhymes and creatively expressing myself, only my therapist and two years of weekly sessions got me to graduate from high school. My grades were horrible, but at least I made it through.
Things became better after therapy but I was still battling many demons, one of them being an eating disorder, which I still suffer from today, and the other a complete lack of self love and self esteem. This caused me to make many wrong choices for myself throughout the years and it wasn’t until I embraced spirituality and became self aware, that my life got on the right track.
I look back at the hardship in my life, and today I can embrace those times, knowing that it shaped me into the person I am today: incredibly strong, self sufficient, loving and kind. I am truly happy with my life today, even though I still deal with my eating disorder (I say “my” because it is a part of me), and even though I still encounter tragedies. But I know to handle them. A few months ago I was faced with a truly traumatic experience, which led me to cut off contact with my parents. The time following was hard, no doubt. And I could feel myself slipping into depression again, I could feel it getting too much for me to deal with. But I applied the lessons I had learned in the years before, I practiced self love, turned to the people that mean the most to me and have made it through the worst of it now.
I’m sharing this with you to show you, you’re not alone. Depression, addiction and other mental illnesses are incredibly common and most of the people you encounter in life have or are dealing with one or the other. What matters is that you take it seriously and take care of yourself, that you seek help. You don’t have to do it alone, and it doesn’t matter who you are, no one will believe you to be weak for asking for help.
You might ask yourself, what is this doing on a Hip Hop blog?
For one, Hip Hop was a key component in my recovery. Without Hip Hop, I’m not sure I’d even still be here to write this. And, to come to the more important fact, we (Hip Hop) don’t talk about health enough. Both mental and physical health. Hip Hop is a masculine culture, and masculinity is often associated with strength. Men are less likely to admit to being ill (unless it’s on the mic ;-) ). Many men believe that admitting to being sick means admitting to weakness and therefor go untreated. Whether it’s due to mental or physical illness, we have lost far too many of our heroes, of our brothers. Most recently Phife Dawg.
We can not afford to loose you, my brother or sister. And I want to ensure you that taking yourself to the doctor, getting checked out, getting treatment for whatever it may be, only accounts to your strength. Your strength to detect that something is wrong within yourself, your strength to care for your loved ones, by making sure they don’t have to mourn you. There’s nothing stronger to me than that.
Look, I get it. There’s a stigma attached to being sick. And many people might have associated my story with weakness. But I’m a survivor. I didn’t let myself fall off the ledge that day. I took myself to therapy again and again, when I could hardly get out of bed. I continued to run my business by myself, each and every day, when the pain in my heart made it hard to breathe. That’s strength. And I’m sharing this story with you now even though these are the darkest stories of my life. That’s strength. I want you to be strong with me. I want you to live.
If you have a story of overcoming or living with mental or physical illness you would like to share, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .