My Story of Depression, Culture and Community by Giovannah Philippeaux

It makes me angry sometimes when I think of the pain, loneliness, sadness, and frustration that come with closeted depression. I am a 28-year-old Caribbean-American female from a deeply-religious family. Depression, therapy, and help are not topics of discussion. My family did the best they could, but like in many Caribbean and African-American families, the symptoms and afflictions of depression were never addressed. At best, you get prayed over or, in my case, you get offered the option of an exorcism.

As I look back on my life, I realize that I began to show signs of depression at an early age. At school, I was failing nearly every subject. Outside of school, I would spend days and weekends in my darkened room playing with matches while lying on my bed. Things reached their worst when I began taking classroom chalk home so that I could draw on my bedroom walls. I remember this now as a clear indication of a nervous breakdown. Why was I feeling this way? I do not know, but it was real, raw, and dark. It was a step beyond pain; I had become numb.

I look back and ask: “Why was no one there for me? Why did no one reach out to me and say something, anything?” Simple: In my experience, in Caribbean and African-American cultures, depression does not exist. There is no space for this difficult conversation, and this attitude persists.

I recently shared with my father that my therapist wanted me to go on anti-depressants. His response: That I needed to be more active, to get out more. On another occasion, I revealed that I sometimes felt like I was losing my mind. His response: “Go ahead.” Yes, these comments were insensitive and ignorant, but they were not his fault. They are symptoms of a culture that continues to overlook the reality of mental illness. That, at worst, chooses to ignore the issue or, at best, chooses to pray it away. What we do not realize is that by continuing to do this, by continuing to remain silent and uninformed on the issues of depression and mental illness, we make it worse.

I wish there had been someone in my life to notice that I needed help, guidance, direction and support. I wish there had been someone there to see that I was struggling and drowning. If so, I might have gotten help much sooner. My life could have been much different.

I do not resent how my life has worked out. I do not write this to assign blame. I write this in hope that someone will read it. Someone with a child, sibling, or spouse will read it and think it is time for a very difficult conversation. Trust me: You want to have this compassionate conversation sooner rather than later, because if I had not gotten help when I did, I might not have been writing this now.

Originally posted on The Huffington Post. Yeah!!! Me on The Huffington Post…awesome. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/giovannah-philippeaux/my-story-of-depression-cu_b_5742466.html

Cleaning My Apartment With Steinbeck In Mind by Thomas Henry

I recently dedicated a day’s work to cleaning my apartment. It’s something anybody who can’t afford a maid has to do every now and then. I don’t mean a simple tidying up, either. I mean a full day’s work of cleaning like my mother used to do. I got up around 9 am (early for a day off from work) and started with laundry. I started tackling the bathroom while the first load was in the wash. I scrubbed down most of the tile and the tub then it was time to transfer the wet clothes into the dryer. Now, the dryer in my place isn’t too efficient so I set it to run for about an hour and a half and finished in the bathroom. I took mine and my girlfriend’s toiletries off the shelf, cleaned the shelf, and put them all back neatly, I cleaned the window and mirror. I cleaned the sink, toilet, emptied the litter box and cleaned the floor. I moved onto the living room next.

In the living room, I tidied up, wiped down surfaces, and vacuumed. I recovered some broken chess pieces on a set I keep in the living room for decoration. The pieces were scattered because cats can be jerks sometimes. After things looked neat and tidy in the living room, I took the laundry out of the dryer. I bagged up another load and threw it in to wash, then came back in to fold the clean clothes I had just taken out. Once the clothes were put away, I hit the kitchen. I wiped down all the surfaces, including the top of the refrigerator where we keep our appliances, and washed all the dishes. I transferred the clothes from the washer to the dryer and came back into the kitchen to organize all the shelves and clean the cats’ food and water bowls. I cleaned the floor and moved onto the bedroom. I made the bed, tidied up and organized our belongings and vacuumed. I took the laundry out of the dryer and started another load. There was a lot to do.

It felt great to do a detailed cleaning of the house. When you clean your living space and go through all of your belongings you get to know your space better. In getting to know your living space, you get to know yourself, the “you” that you’ve been lately. It helps to assess where you are and what you’ve been up to. I moved into this apartment with my girlfriend in January and in the amount of time we’ve been here, we’ve taken small steps towards making the place ours. Neither of us plan on living here forever but it’s good to personalize and make your place really feel like home. Doing a detailed cleaning has helped me out with this a great deal. I compare it to a farmer’s attachment to his plot of land.

A few months ago, I finished reading Steinbeck’s famous work The Grapes of Wrath in which an Oklahoman family is forced to leave their land and move west to California in search of work. I was struck by how difficult it was for the family to leave their home. It must be difficult for anyone to leave their home but it was particularly hard for the Joad family in Grapes of Wrath because that was land that they worked on. It was held by their family for several generations and they all worked hard on it. I’m not trying to say that anyone can have this sort of attachment to a place they rent for a few years but it is worth thinking about. When you put the work into moving your belongings around and cleaning small spaces you normally don’t pay any attention to, you start to develop a vested interest in that space because now you’re actively concerned with its upkeep. Some people spend a lot of time in their apartments and I bet it’s just like it was for the Joad family for anyone forced to leave their place of residence for whatever reason. Living in Brooklyn, I hear a lot of stories about people being bullied by landlords or being bought out or forced out to make room for tenants who will pay more money for the space that they occupy. It’s sad to hear about and it reveals how important a work Grapes of Wrath is. Steinbeck really understood something about the way the world works. It can be harsh and unsettling but it’s the world we live in and everyone has to find their way through it.

My main point is that cleaning your apartment is a good way to connect with your living space and better understand who you are today. We express ourselves in everything we do, especially in how we choose to decorate and maintain our homes and what we surround ourselves with. It seems obvious but these are things we don’t pay attention to on a daily basis and isn’t it nice to have a sense of who you are and where you stand? It’s such a fragile thing that is easy to lose track of. Take a day to get to know your living space and go through all your stuff. Don’t be afraid to throw stuff away if you have to. It’s important to understand who you are now. If your belongings don’t reflect that, get rid of them. Most things aren’t worth hoarding.

Introducing Our Newest Writer – Thomas Henry

Give a warm welcome to Thomas Henry. Joining us from Brooklyn, NY Thomas will be sharing his view points on a number of topics. We look forward to his contributions.

Thomas Henry has been reading and writing for as long as he can remember.  He received his BA in English from Pace University in New York City.  He is a writer who is primarily a poet.  His work has been published in various magazines and anthologies and he has performed his poetry all over New York City.  He loves books, food, movies, music, and stimulating conversations.  He lives on a quiet street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn with his girlfriend and two cats.

To all the ladies feeling down on yourself, that includes me, here is a message for you. Enjoy!

Cause It’s Friday…Enjoy

Yes Girl! YES!

The ball girl catches a flying bag on the court during the US Open quarterfinal match between Caroline Wozniacki and Sara Errani.

Every time I see this clip all I can say is YES GIRL!! Yes!! I clap, I cheer, I smile ear to ear!!! And they say big girls can’t run. She is natural, big, brown, and beautiful and I just love her for that. For those brief 15 seconds of fame this unknown ball girl makes me so happy, so proud, so glad to be natural, big, brown, and beautiful. Yes Girl! Yes! You Go!

Welcome Back!!!

Update

We relaunch Monday September 8th……Get Excited!

Update

Dear Readers,

Hope all is well.

Minus The Box will be shutting down for summer vacation until the fall as a result posting will be disabled.

Thanks for your continued commitment. If you have any questions please send me an email at info@MinusTheBox.org. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Breaking Up is Hard to Delete by Ren Kolozak

i deleted that email you sent me two years ago

the one that detailed the curve of my hip in the palm of your hand

and how hours of video game marathons were better shared

a compilation of memories made up into a single desire

that reflected the one burning in the cage of my ribs that I refused to free

you broke up with me this last time three days before you remembered

the whiskey-soaked tears on my shoulders that dried by morning

and you repeating “I’m so sad” like it was a secret

i threaded my fingers through your hair and lied to you

saying that we would always be together

knowing that when you sobered up that it would end

you let me go while holding me so tight it almost hurt

the echo of that ache has yet to leave my bones

when you texted me on my birthday, i wanted to scream

instead we discussed the details of the Empire’s beauracracy

and whether Sith Lords get short-term disability

after my third glass of wine, i went searching through the archives

for proof that you had loved me

i only started to cry when i remembered i had already deleted it

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The Gentle Rocking Motion Just Before You Become Complacent by Ren Kolozak

There are times when rejection feels like the status quo and the idea of success is terrifying.

I’ve been an aspiring (syn. struggling) author for many years now. I have figured out how to properly balance artistic desire with practical awareness, and now I’m able to eat without worrying that my meal will take away from buying gas. It’s been a hard-won battle, and one I’m glad is over.

The issue now is complacency.

I now have to fight against the comfortable, against sinking too deep into the pillows of my bed for fear that I will never rise again. Instead of fighting to type words onto the screen, I contemplate my upcoming Netflix marathon. Rather than worry about my upcoming audition, I sigh with relief that I can cover my student loan payments.

It’s a sweet, gentle lull, and if I’m not wary, it will suck me below the tide. Soon enough, ten years will have passed, and my novel will sit forgotten in my hard-drive and my theatre resume will wilt from disuse. And, the most terrifying thing I can imagine, is looking back and wondering “Where did all that time go?”

It’s good to count pennies and have Ramen nights once in a while. It reminds me of where I’m from. It reminds me of where I’m going.

“We need to strengthen such inner values as contentment, patience and tolerance, as well as compassion for others. Keeping in mind that it is expressions of affection rather than money and power that attract real friends, compassion is the key to ensuring our own well-being.”

“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” – Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933); Author, educator, clergyman

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” – Marcus Aurelius (121-180); Roman emperor, Stoic philosopher

“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” – George Horace Lorimer (1899-1937); Editor

“He who allows his day to pass by without practicing generosity and enjoying life’s pleasures is like a blacksmith’s bellows- he breathes but does not live.”- Sanskrit proverb

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” ~ Nelson Mandela

 Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Cantabile: A Love Story by Ren Kolozak

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale dusty air.

But, that is not where this story begins.

It begins with bird and a star.

A bird whose songs caused willows to weep. Its voice rang through dusk and the dawn and all who heard were made beautiful.

A star who burned brighter than any of its brethren. It turned its ear towards the earth and heard the bird sing.

Stars are not meant to be moved, yet the star found itself moving to listen.The bird did not notice the star captivated with each note, unable to look away.

The bird did not notice a star fall in love.

Until, one night, the bird looked upwards and saw the star, bright with adoration. The bird felt starlight kiss its wings. When next it sang, the song was so beautiful the universe wept.

It was the first love song.

That’s not how the story ends.

The bird sang songs for its beloved until it died. The star collapsed with grief, the carbon of its corpse falling from the sky into the earth. Millions of years was all it took.

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by darkness. He opened his mouth to a song. Out of that darkness, a man came forward, his eyes like supernovas.

The man, who was once a star, reached out his hand. The man, who was once a bird, took it.

That is how the story begins.

—–

My entry for Figment’s June Challenge

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