Sunday, September 26, 2010



But it is off the field issues that I want to talk about.

A few weeks ago Owen Thomas, a team captain for the University of Pennsylvania football team, committed suicide. It was later discovered that his brain suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and when that kind of diagnosis is confirmed in someone as young as Owen, it is shocking. Usually, it is something that you find in older, former long-time professional football players. Owen was 21.

This past month has actually been pretty frightening for me. Like Owen, there really isn't anything in how I was carrying myself that would have given anyone around me any clue of how bad I was feeling. Sure, I have been mopey in my entries, but since I have been like this for most of the year, who would have noticed a further degradation in my status? And there is NO WAY I would let anyone in my environment know... yeah, there are reasons why, but nothing that I care to talk about. Part of why is a tactical decision and the rest I will get to in this entry.

When I think of someone so young dealing with the kinds of issues that I am working with, I could not imagine myself at 23, trying to get a grip on the world that is a struggle for me at 43. For instance, how do I describe how doing the most simple tasks, literally walking and being able to eat without choking, are things that I no longer take for granted. Not only are their emotional states that are aggravated by the injury, but they are also complicated because of social interaction and simply coping with living. Particularly when it comes to the different cultures.

Owen's Mom asked herself how she could not know what was going on with her son... and I am going to take a leap and say that for her, the frustration is borne out of a misunderstanding of their relationship. I am sure that she spoke to him about more substantial subjects, asking him 'how things were doing' being a prelude to more invovled conversation. She prolly felt that they had a level of communication in their relationship where she felt that if Owen had something to say to her, he was comfortable confiding in her.


...they are just the truth.

In the speculation over another footballer's suicide, one Kenny McKinley of the Denver Bronco's, Dr. Alvin Poussaint speaks to the 'mask of machismo' that black men have when it comes to mental health issues. I don't only think it is only black men, but a culture than exists in most ethnic minorities in America.

As with Owen Thomas, the incident was a contrast to the external personality that Kenny had. According to one investigator, he had even made statements to the effect that he would be better off dead. I don't know about you, but whenever I have heard someone say something like that, I have stopped and waited for confirmation that it was a misuse of an expression. I could not ever let someone say that to me and 'let it go'. But often enough, those kinds of signs, as clear as in Kenny's case, will go ignored.

One reason is that the numbers of suicide among ethnic minorities, while growing, still don't approach the numbers for whites. I think that is more out of 'opportunity' than it is culture or economics. For some reason, it isn't seen as a 'way out'. Perhaps it is a residual feeling left over from the inherited struggle that comes with being born into an 'oppressed state'. As a child recording how people deal with the pressures and issues that will more than likely be waiting on that child growing into adulthood, I think, makes a person who grows up in that condition desensitized to how bleak or mundane their life is.

That attitude plays a role, I believe, in the lack of awareness in these communities when it comes to mental health issues. Also the constant pressure is seen as inescapable collectively, and is often regarded as a natural right of passage to be dealt with, individually. Escaping your environment is a badge of honor, accomplished with guile, will and often unacknowledged luck (which is a topic for another time).

As far as what I know... the insensitivity to mental health feeds the poverty cycle. I understand the difficulty in someone who is living in or just above poverty from being able to afford good mental health, but there are resources within reach that provide assistance for people who are having problems with depression. Sometimes, being able to talk to someone who is willing to listen and let a person express themselves without the reproach is often what a person needs. I wonder if Kenny McKinley felt that he could talk to someone about some of what I could clearly see as a problem in the reports about him. Maybe that would have made a difference. What I do know is that it has to be a terrible feeling to have, that maybe you were rightthere as someone was drifting out and you did not recognize their distress.

BECAUSE I TRUST MYSELF (and the sanest days are mad)

Long ago I came to the conclusion that the closer people were to me, the more likely they were to let me down. When I was younger and more filled insouciance, I had little concern for the perceived drain that people were on me. Factoring in the insensitivity that blacks have in matters of mental health, with my diagnosis and the way my relationships with MD had deteriorated, I made the executive decision to no longer pursue any intimate relationships with women (or anyone else, for that matter, smart guy!.

Though she no longer blogs regularly, Jo Ann Donley is a Facebook friend who has 'broken the code' to some of my status updates. My most recent are lyrics from the Morrissey song 'Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself'. I feel that I will emerge from my episode in short order, taking small steps one following the other, each one based on the premise of what is best for me.

One of the reasons that I make a point of my owning my 'Early Burglary Years', has been I don't want anyone to be able to say that didn't see something coming, when I know that they had an idea of what they were getting into. And it is in thinking about future conversations with possible candidates for a relationship that this song, those lyrics in particular, came to mind and I decided that they fit my 'status'. They weren't 'aimed' at anyone in particular but a personal observation. My being sensitive and understanding of how I am seen is one thing... but in the lack of those same things being returned, which has occurred more than once, is simply too taxing for me.

The same kind of 'thing' that makes blacks think that somehow they are immune to mental health problems (and by association, makes the community insensitive to MY PROBLEMS) is paralleled by the ostracizing nature that comes when you don't fit the mold. Rather than waste any time trying to find common ground in a relationship, I figure I would go somewhere and make sure I had good relationships with the agencies responsible for helping me with my life, remain steadfast on the path I have chosen.

As for 'if something happens, it will happen' when it comes to romance, my new role model is Lisbeth Salander. Y'all know her, 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'.


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Loved the Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo, just ordered book 2 and 3 and looking forward to reading them.

That corgi :) said...

having dealt with someone who said on multiple times she was going to kill herself (daughter) I learned to never minimize any of those statements when someone said they were going to hurt themselves. It saddens me when people take their lives, the despair that lives them to do it. I do hope if you are ever on that road of contemplating, you will definitely seek out help Mark


Toon said...

I'm always confused when star athletes have problems -- they had it made and got a free ride when I was in high school. They rode a wave of popularity and promise. It was the nameless dorks who had issues.

LceeL said...

My oldest son used to threaten to kill himself - used to wonder why he existed - used to see 'no point' in being alive. Truth be told, I have no idea how we managed to get him through to where he is - 28 and alive.

All races, cultures and peoples deal with mental health issues. Some better than others.

It seems that whole 'machismo' thing is more widespread than you might imagine - and it has just as much impact in the 'white' community as it does in Black and Latino groups. It's a MALE thing, and has little to do with the color of one's skin.