A few weeks ago, I was on my way to the Bronx to do an interview for the LDM Show. As I stepped on the train with the rest of the crowd, I noticed a girl of no more than sixteen. Her hair was pulled back in a curly ponytail and her skin was sun-kissed dark, which made the scars on her forearm stand out all the more. The scars ran parallel to her wrist and reminded me of prison inmates counting time by marking their cell walls. The young lady was a cutter.
In high school I’d known one or two people, girls, who had harmed themselves by deliberately cutting their bodies. But those girls weren’t black. Our teenage years were as angsty as anyone else’s, as we struggled to discover who we were and make that fearful transition into adulthood. Things like relationships, homework, parents, and college admissions all threatened our sanity at some point. We all coped in different ways; my way was music. Most times it worked; sometimes, however, the stress got to be too much and I lashed out in destructive ways. I, like most other people, learned how to better manage my emotions.
Turning the turmoil inward upon oneself is a constant reality for too many adolescents and adults, and it is something almost never talked about the black community. I hope that with Kid Cudi’s recent admission to rehab for depression, and Adrian Broner’s suicide scare this past week, that more people of color can finally have some honest, constructive dialogue about mental health — dialogue that doesn’t include clichéd, insensitive words like “Oh, just pray to God,” or “man up.” I hope that Cudi does make it through, and although I’m no personal fan of the man, Floyd Mayweather’s offer to take Broner in until he gets back on his feet may be the kind of heartfelt gesture the man needs. Many times those of us who are in pain just need someone to reach out and offer a helping hand.
Being black in America seems to require, at the very least, an outward show of strength that many other races do not need to display. Wearing our emotions on our sleeve, or showing vulnerability often renders one subject to ridicule and accusations of weakness. It doesn’t have to be that way; it’s often after coming through a low point in our lives that we find true strength. Life is hard enough as it is. Let’s not make it any harder on ourselves and each other by being unavailable to help and be helped. If you’re in pain, reach out to someone you trust — or even a complete stranger. If someone is reaching out to you, listen. No, really. Listen. Just being able to get things off your chest can be the best therapy in the world.