OP-ED: KID CUDI AND THE STIGMA OF DEPRESSION IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
10/6/2016 by Michael J. Payton
The story recently broke that Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi, a.k.a Kid Cudi checked himself into rehab for depression and anxiety. Afterwards an outpouring of support from the hip-hop community was levied on social media, with many Black men using the hashtag #YouGoodMan to either voice their support, or talk about their own battles with depression and mental health. For me, as a 25 year old Black male, this story really hit home for me, and has inspired me to open up about my own battles. For better or for worse, I think it is important that more brothas open up and start to erase the stigma around talking about our feelings.
Although never formally diagnosed, for the majority of my life, I have long dealt with severe feelings of anxiety and depression. Like Cudi, I cannot think of a single period in my life that I did not have these feelings - where I could say that I am good with who I am and where I am at. For most of my life, I have struggled with figuring out who I am, and although I have had amazing opportunities and achievements in my life, I still can never feel happy. I always feel I am never good enough, and very often things will happen that I feel reinforce those sentiments. I have anxieties that make it difficult for me to focus, or feel good about myself. I have difficult time to delaying gratification, as I always look for things that’ll make me feel good right away and cover up my pain.
Recently, I have been putting a lot of thought into why, for most of my life, I have felt this way. I am starting to believe that the cause of much of my anxiety and depression stems from me struggling to cope with my identity in a world that does not value Black people - men in particular. All my life, I was told that I was exceptional, that I was smart, that I was destined to be somebody. However, I haven’t truly been able to appreciate, or capitalize on my God-given potential. Despite having a high IQ, a college degree, and never using drugs or alcohol, somehow I still find myself clinging to shady characters, or putting myself in situations that could potentially ruin my whole life. I know that I am capable of doing amazing things, and have had so many amazing things happen for me in my young life, but for some reason this has not brought my satisfaction. I never feel good enough; I never feel truly desired or valued. It feels like no matter what I do, it’s never enough to bring me happiness, joy, or even good friends. I have never been able to foster truly healthy relationships with others - particularly with other Black men and Black women. It has caused me to feel isolated and lonesome. I don’t know if this is because of my anxiety and depression, or if my anxiety and depression is because of that.
I know that I am not alone. I know that there are so many others like me who may feel similarly, and that is why I am writing this piece. Maybe by opening up about our mental health, we can begin the process of healing ourselves, and thereby healing our broken relationships with our community. Just look at our culture, and see how many young Black men are self-medicating themselves with drugs and alcohol. You can hear it in our music - so many songs today are detailed exploits about experimenting with pills, lean, weed, among other substances. Why is this? It’s obvious that we as a people we are hurting. Look at the persistent and never ending trauma that we face in our communities.
With over four-hundred plus years of slavery, Jim Crow, drugs, poverty, etc in this country, and we still have to deal with the fact that we constantly feel under attack. Look at all of the police shootings, the backlash over Kaepernick's protest, and the fact that we actually have to defend the saying “Black Lives Matter” to a large portion of our population. And not only do we feel America doesn’t love us, too often it feels as though we do not love ourselves. I’m personally confused. I want to love my people, and be loved by my people, but the feeling is almost never reciprocated, at least in my experiences.
As a Black man raised in a family full of beautiful strong Black women, I want to love a Black woman, and be loved by a Black woman. But after so many failed relationships with many different types of sisters, I get the feeling that Black women don’t want me. In every single relationship, no matter how hard I try to be a “good man,” I get pushed away and kicked to the curb for men that are liars, who are abusive, or not truly interested. It seems as though we don’t even know what to look for in a healthy relationship. When it comes to black business, I want to do business with my people and build a foundation of wealth, but I always find myself giving too many “hookups” or “joogs” to my folks, and people still not wanting to pay or be professional.
I know that there are some of you out there who will say “you just been dealing with the wrong people,” but therein lies my struggle; these are the people that come from where I come from, who share the same experiences of struggle that I have. Where the hell can I go? If I stray too far into the mainstream, not only am I not really comfortable because I don’t feel welcome, but I get labeled a “sellout” from the people who I love. On the other hand, if I stay complacent and only deal with the people that I know, I am limiting myself from meeting my full potential, and on top of that I have to deal with feeling rejected from my own people. It’s confusing; it’s sad; it’s lonesome; it’s scary. I am a college graduate, yet, I don’t feel it means anything. When you grow up in society that has a history of racism and discrimination towards Black men, you almost anticipate being rejected by the larger society. But to be rejected by your own people whom you love is a weird feeling for me personally.
I don’t know if these sentiments are shared by other Black men out there, or if they’re unique to my own life experiences, but either way I am sure there are a lot of us out there struggling with knowing and understanding ourselves. I don’t have the answers. But I all I do know is that I am tired of pretending - tired of putting up a front like everything is okay, and that I’m strong enough to keep all of my emotions to myself. In our culture, men who talk about want to discuss their feelings are often deemed “weak,” “soft,” or “all in your feelings” (look at how Drake is often harshly ridiculed by the culture for being open about his emotions in his songs). I reject this idea of Black masculinity that says we have to be unemotional, and thereby not speak on the things that are troubling us inside. Yes, a man should be strong, fearless, and unshakeable; I believe that we are to truly be all of these things, we must be strong enough to be honest with ourselves. I thank Kid Cudi, and all of the other Black men who are opening up this conversation on mental health. I hope that this dialogue will continue and that more of us will reach out to one another to start the healing process.
Michael Payton is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of CSuiteMusic.com
Contact Michael at
Twitter and IG: @mpaytonmusic