I feel fortunate to have discovered so many wonderful writers and stories via this magical thing called the internet. The world wide web, like anything with great power, can be used for good or for bad. I prefer to focus on the good. As I process all of the current events and my own experiences with depression as well as my own experiences with race, I am reminded that it is all one life.
I met Ashley at BlogHer where she shared a beautiful piece she’d written on how the events of her life cannot be separated. How one thing leads to another. How life is often about being grateful and mournful all at the same time because it’s all one life.
Though I sat down to write about my own experiences with depression, I discovered Karen’s piece about how she has been affected by people’s perception of race. More specifically, how she has been affected by white people’s perception of her because of the color of her skin. And I realized, that for me, it is all one life right now.
Hearing the news about Robin Williams was a bit of a trigger for me. To be clear: I’ve never been suicidal. But as someone who’s been at the mercy of depression and anxiety, I understand how it can get to that point. I feel the tragedy deeply, regardless if the news is about someone famous or not famous, as Elaine wrote about recently. I understand that feeling of “Oh, Crap” that Glennon wrote about. That feeling of being found out. That feeling of losing a kindred spirit, someone fighting a similar battle. Someone from my team.
The day that my oldest daughter started preschool – she was two and a half – I sat in the parking lot the entire morning instead of making the 20 minute drive back to my house. As a new mom with only one child (and who arrived under no less than miraculous circumstances), I couldn’t bring myself to be that far away from her. What if she needed me? I brought books and snacks and for two and a half hours occupied myself in my little Honda CR-V as I waited for her short school day to end. She was fine. And eventually, so was I.
But the next week I got an email from the director that a mother with two children at our school, a 2 year-old boy and a 5 year-old girl, had taken her own life. Oh Crap. That can happen? As a newbie parent there, I didn’t know her. I had never even seen her. But it hit hard. As it has every time since then when I hear a similar story.
The depth of sadness when you are in the throes of depression isn’t logical. Anxiety and depression often go hand and hand, as they do for me. One can lead to the other. Maybe that’s how it worked for me, but most importantly: it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter why I am the way I am. The “why” doesn’t make it go away.
It’s probably not a surprise that I am particularly sensitive to terrible news.
The twitter feeds regarding the situation in Ferguson coupled with my current state of mind make me feel hopeless to an extent. Maybe powerless is a better word. Probably both are true. As a white mother to multi-cultural children, as a wife to someone with whom I do not share a skin tone, what is the right way to have this conversation? Clearly I cannot just “hope” that because it’s 2014 I don’t have to worry about the way my husband or my children are perceived because of the color of their skin or the features that make them look this way or that way. If an asshole decides he (or she) feels a certain way about you based on the way you look, what do you do?
And so, although our stories, our lives, our history are not the same, I agree with A’Driane and her piece that she shared at BlogHer: you have to play defense. You have to be ready for the ideas and prejudice and misinformation. You have to be prepared to be better, smarter, kinder, gentler. Because it doesn’t matter if they are wrong about you. What matters is that their misinformed perceptions put you at risk. And in some parts of this country, that risk is life or death.
I live in a suburban area outside of Houston. There is some diversity in our neighborhood, but the majority of the residents are white. I can’t help but think after reading Karen’s piece: “What if she was running on my street?” We live less than 30 miles from each other. Would I be reading about it in our neighborhood Facebook group, which often posts pictures of “suspicious” cars and other “questionable” goings-on? I honestly don’t know.
All of these current events leave me feeling the same way, because it’s all one life. And this means I have to continue to both hold it together and find a way to answer my 8 year-old’s questions about her skin color and my skin color and her daddy’s skin color and why skin color matters so much to people when all it really means is our families came from different places. That our histories are different, but we are one family now.
And hope that when she is my age, the news won’t be so terrible.