Still Water

In the 7+ years that I’ve been a writer, covering music, sports, culture and everything else that I’ve had an opinion on, people have always asked me, “How do you write? What’s your writing style?” And I never had some elaborate, complex answer for them, it’s always have been the same thing. “I just write until I can’t write anymore.” And that’s the truth, I’d have a subject, whether commissioned to me or something that I’ve pitched (I HATE pitching stories, but that’s a whole different story), I’d throw some music on and get to writing. Sometimes I’d have one train of thought and my eyes would scan the document and see something that I should change and I stop with that sentence and make the edit, then hop right back in. It’s a style that I’m sure others use, but it’s been the best for me ever since college, if not before that. I haven’t written anything for the public in a while. It’s been partly because the life of a freelance writer is similar to some dystopian, “Mad Max” wasteland (ask any freelancer you know to corroborate my story, bet they agree). But it’s also because I haven’t been able to. I’ve been stuck. I’ve lost the sauce. So it’s funny that as I write this, I’m doing so in my traditional, go-to writing style, and I have a subject, well, kinda. It’s me. I’m the subject. And as much as I don’t want to, I know what exactly I have to write about.

I battle depression. I am depressed. It’s taken a lot to actually write that down, a word to describe a condition that I battle every day of my current life. No, I haven’t sat on anyone’s couch yet (yes, I plan on doing so) but for me it’s been like falling in love: I may not have known exactly if this is it, but from what I’ve seen and heard, it damn sure feels like it. I, like anyone else, have had “some shit with me,” you know, things that affect us throughout our lives that those closest to us have told us to “pray on” or “deal with,” but I think I truly realized what this was in the Summer of 2016. I had broken my leg in some freak accident ( I did NOT see that amplifier there, man smh) and my Summer was reduced to sitting and sleeping on my hand-me-down couch. While my roommates and friends enjoyed those Brooklyn Summer nights that you can’t find anywhere else, I lived vicariously through them through late-night drunken Tweets and long Instagram stories. I ended up getting really sick from developing blood clots near the bone break, and had I not complained of great discomfort when I slept, the doctors would’ve never discovered that there was a clot at all. But at the time they couldn’t find it, so I had the experience of being told that I may die. Some pretty wild stuff. I obviously ended up healing physically, although my leg still aches from time to time, it was mentally where I regressed. I developed serious cases of cabin fever, and with me going through this during my “entrepreneurial phase” (re: I got laid off and decided to try my hand at consulting and freelance work), you know what they say when you’re all alone with your thoughts; you tend to think about shit. I was cut out of a business that I had given my all to. I was made to think I was tripping. I was giving myself creatively to projects that others considered passively. It made me realize how distant I had gotten with my family, the family that had been such a integral part of my story, the family that I strived to make proud daily, the family who’s shadow I longed to outrun. It made me realize that in what was then three years, now five, that my father has never come to visit me. It made me realize that my stepfather would go from routine calls to check on me, to only reaching out to me when it came to listening to a new artist he was working with. It made me realize that my mother, my best friend in the entire world and the one person who knew me best, couldn’t understand why I was sad all the time. As my bones healed, my wounds didn’t. I felt myself drowning both in debt and in pessimism. I wanted to get away. I considered jumping in front of a train one day, on the way to a job interview, no less. It wasn’t the first time I considered killing myself, but it was the first time I felt strong enough to to actually do it.

My bones did heal, and my wounds did too, a little bit. I ended up finding a job. I pulled myself out of debt. Actually started to save money. I started to feel like “myself” again. Well, that’s a loaded phrase because I don’t know the last time I’ve truly felt like myself. Someone asked me when was the last time I actually felt “happy.” I couldn’t answer them. I still can’t. I don’t know. But I was starting to feel content with everything going on. I felt like I was growing, and at the turn of my 30’s, emotional freedom was on the horizon. “The best thing about your 30’s is that you’ll take the lessons from your 20’s and finally know how to apply them,” my father said. I was ready for that. I was ready for that freedom of feeling GOOD. I was ready to put the work in. I was ready for that vacation that I’ve never had. I was ready. I was even more ready when I left my job of just under a year to venture into a field that I was certain would catapult me into the next stage of my career. From the people who owned and ran it to the brands they worked on, this was it. My next big step. What I was not ready for was to work on over 5–6 accounts at one time, hurry in the creation of several big ideas for campaigns only to be laid off after nine weeks of work. “We don’t think you fit what we’re doing here,” I was told literally a day after submitting a campaign idea for one of the biggest video games to come out this year. And then I was out. Out of the program, fresh out of two and a half months rent on my brand new apartment. I was out.

“Unemployment Depression” is a real thing, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It was like a lightbulb went off in this dark room that had become my life. I had felt worthless. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for what it was that I considered myself an authority in. I felt like I was laughed at. I felt cheated when I would see some of those same ideas I had given, MY ideas, used in a campaign well after my lay off. And more than anything else, I felt lost. I had no clue what I was gonna do, what field I was going to try and enter, nothing. I would keep a smile on my face and laugh with my friends on a daily basis, but on the inside, I felt cold. I would wake up with anxiety and go to sleep with sadness. Funds were low and debts became high. I would apply to jobs KNOWING that this ain’t the way I’d get hired. I’d reach out to people that were the homie when I was in the cool gigs and get the same “oh word, I’ll see what’s up around here.” Texts stopped getting answered. I didn’t matter anymore. That’s the nature of the business, the game is the game. The anxiety would slowly turn into an unshakeable feeling of helplessness and fatigue. I’d wake up tired, not as if I didn’t get enough sleep, but tired of the life I was currently living. As I’d see the announcement tweets of one after another of my friends, homies and industry peers telling the world of some new venture or new job they’d taken, I’d question when it would be my time in the sun while congratulating them on theirs. It became harder and harder not to feel some form of resentment. It reduced my ability to be social in both platonic and intimate relationships. I found myself always wanting to be alone, yet I yearned for that company to keep me above water. It started to test my faith. What I thought was to be a dream job of mine suddenly seemed in reach. A month-long process then had me down to the final three candidates. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, I could see myself climbing up out of the darkness. I could see my blessing in front of me. I found out I didn’t get the job while leaving another interview. I was hurt. I was confused. I spiraled downward in a emotional plunge. I questioned His word. I questioned why. But more than anything, I was TIRED. I was tired of this life in this moment, and I didn’t want to live it anymore. I wanted it to be over. Considering killing yourself is some introspective shit. I ended up thinking about everything that I probably should’ve. I thought of what would be the most painless way to do it, cause shit, I’m not trying to actually FEEL that pain, you know? I thought about all the social media posts dedicated to me by people that I haven’t heard of in months. I thought about how everyone would write about me, how “close” we were. I thought about what my father would say, who I haven’t seen in months, if he’d have regrets on us not being as close as we both want to be. I thought about how heartbroken my mother would be, and how me taking my own life and releasing myself from the pain and sorrow I feel on daily would bring her a sense of pain that I can’t even imagine. I thought about my stepfather, a figure who I consider as a real reason as to who I am today, who taught me about life in this world, a man who I haven’t talked to in over two years and counting, who would see me and shake my hand like someone he once knew at times we’d be at the same events. I wondered what he’d say, how he’d feel. I thought of the pain it would leave my brothers and sisters, leaving them behind and not being the role model that they tell me I am to them. I thought of my friends and the pain it would cause them. In that moment, I thought of everyone except myself, which is what I think God wanted me to do. It made me remember that I have a lot more to live for other than myself and for His will. I didn’t kill myself. I went to sleep.

I’m still not well, even as I write this. Days are hard to get through with notifications of past due bills and low bank accounts with little traction. But there has been traction. I find myself having more conversations that are leading to future opportunities. Light is shining towards the end of the tunnel. I’m nowhere where I want to be, but I’m getting far from where I once was. This shit isn’t easy, and I’ve begun to find solace in new things. Cooking brings me peace. Shutting off social media for a while does, too. Music keeps a smile on my face in the outside world at times where I feel the farthest from happy. As hard as these times are, I have that faith that I’ll emerge from this with an armor that I never had before. I know that I’ll have the understanding of what it’s like to be hungry so I never forget it when I’m full. As much as it has wavered, my faith in that these tough times are only temporary has gotten stronger. It feels a little easier to get up in the morning. Something moved me to write this, not just in my journal, but to write this for public consumption. I’ve always toed the line of being a frontward-facing “personality,” that everything always has to appear alright on these social networks and these computers in order for more opportunities to come. The smile can never fade. But with this, I don’t care, at least as much as I have in the past. I’m not sure if I’ll every publish it, but if I do, I want that person reading it to not feel sorry for me, but to understand that I get them, that I understand what they’ve gone through in the past and what they’re going through in the present. You aren’t alone in this fight, just as I realize that I’m not alone either. I feel the pressure lifting off my shoulders with every keystroke, with every word appearing on screen. Maybe that’s why I was supposed to do this, to free myself of some of the struggle going on in my head. I don’t know what my story entails in the future, but I’m sure I’m gonna be strong enough for it if I went through this shit. For those I’ve felt wronged by, I don’t hold it against you. It hasn’t been an easy road to feel that way, but I can’t live with that negativity in my heart. For those who’ve been there for me, you’re literally the reason I’m still here on this planet to write this. Thank you, and I say that with all my heart. I would always end my journal entries with “God got me,” and “everything is gonna be alright.” Today I’m gonna put that, but I’m gonna add on to it. To the person who’s reading this, you are loved. You matter. Your presence is a present in the lives of the people around you. Your time is coming. You just have to keep the faith, no matter what. Battling depression isn’t a weakness. It’s a strength. You are strong. We are strong. God got us. Everything is gonna be alright. I’m glad that I can finally write again.

-CT

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Cory Townes

I write from time to time. God reminds us what it's like to be hungry so we never forget being full. All social: @CoryTownes