Donald Glover and The Premium on Being OK

by Whitney Teal

DGFor much of my life, I have not been a well woman. I have struggled with depression for as long as I can remember and recently developed a mean case of what my doctor thinks is anxiety. I didn’t get help for any of my mental issues until I was 26 and very afraid for myself. When I finally did begin to see a therapist, I wondered over and over and over again why I had waited so long and suffered so much.

I know this is trite and many writers have said this much more succinctly and eloquently than I am today, but we, black people, place too much (undue) value on being “OK.” We are afraid of admitting to any problem that we can’t pray away (depression, for the record, isn’t one of them) and we stigmatize those in our communities who dare to show that they lack OK-ness.

It’s not just us, of course. American culture in general, with its bootstrap mentalities and hyper-Christian proclivities, can be very skeptical of people who are openly not OK.

Donald Glover, an actor who also goes by his rap name, Childish Gambino, got a whiff of the stigma attached to admitting emotional vulnerability when he posted a series of Instagram photos about his fears. Hollywood Reporter called them “disturbing.” Folks on Facebook said they were “brave.” I say they were just truthful. There is nothing disturbing about admitting that you aren’t always OK.

Scribbled on hotel stationary, the “long list of dark admissions,”  Hollywood Reporter said, included:

“I’m afraid my parents won’t live long enough to see my kids;”  “I’m afraid people hate who I really am;” “I’m afraid people think I hate my race;” “I’m afraid people think I hate women” and “I’m afraid I’ll never grow out of bro rape,” an older comedy sketch of Glover’s.

I don’t think that Glover’s depressed (at least not according to anything he posted) or trapped in some sort of dark mental anguish. Any thinking, feeling person has thoughts that aren’t always happy, happy, joy, joy and, as an artist with a public following, it was appropriate for Glover to share those.

What’s not appropriate is so many aspersions cast on his mental health or allusions to some breakdown.

Being OK, being happy, even, doesn’t make you a better person than someone who is not. It doesn’t mean that they are missing some important component of character or that they lack the moral fiber to jump over life’s hurdles like everyone else. What I’ve realized in my two years as a person who admits freely that I am suffering is that everyone else is suffering, too.

The difference isn’t who’s happy and who’s not. It’s who’s getting help and who’s not.

Therapy isn’t for everyone and everyone isn’t clinically depressed, but I think that I’d be hard-pressed to find the person who’s had 20-plus years of living on this earth who couldn’t benefit from some sort of professional analysis or facilitated group discussions. We rack up a lot of experiences, hurts, grievances and everything else over the years. When there’s no outlet, we’re not OK. Even when we do have outlets, we sometimes aren’t OK. And that’s OK, too.

Glover explained his feelings to Hollywood Reporter:

He emphasized that he is not suffering from depression.

“I was just tired of telling people I was tired. It felt like every day someone would ask, ‘What’s wrong. Are you OK?’ ” says Glover. “And I would say, ‘I’m tired, I’m tired.’ I didn’t want to do that anymore. I guess sometimes not telling the truth is just as bad as telling a lie.”

Still, he said he’s glad he was able to get his thoughts off his chest.

  • Apple

    The guy with the Asian fetish.. Poor him

  • Sankofa

    I read the notes a while ago, and initially did not know who wrote them. Which is good because his concerns seem like those many people share. I’m really glad he was honest about it even as someone who is is the public eye. To say I’m uncomfortable or I’m not fine outloud is so often scrutinized. It’s like everyone is always supposed to be happy and unaffected by anything, something it took me a long time to realize couldn’t be further from the truth.
    That being said, I hope if anyone is feeling like they cannot deal with things without doing something potentially life threatening, that they’ll seek help from a professional. I do look forward the commentary this article will hopefully spark.

  • KTS

    I definitely feel the stigma that depression carries with it. I also have suffered from depression and I know how it feels to be pressured to feel, or fake, being okay. No one is allowed to show insecurities for fear of being the “Debbie Downer”. Christians think that prayers to God and being grateful you woke up this morning should be sufficient for enduring happiness, but what happens when you are a Christian who just can’t seem to muster up that much faith due to depression? When you’re depressed you feel Luke God can’t even help you

    It’s hard living in a world that is trying to encourage you to a place of happiness so that THEY feel more comfortable, not you. I believe that I’ve been depressed since my early teenage years and I am now in my early thirties. I just started seeing a therapist two years ago after having seriously contemplated suicide. I was so concerned about what other people would think, and the only way I got help was when my own thoughts of what I would do to myself scared me into my therapists office. It should’ve never gotten that far. Encourage loved ones to get help when they need it and leave the judgment behind.

  • Shelly

    Whitney Teal, I never understood how people with depression can be so successful. I have had depression and anxiety for over a decade, and I feel like it makes me uninspired. I don’t know how people can the way I feel and still be motivated enough to make something of themselves.

  • KTS

    “Luke God” should be “like God”. Trying to type on my phone with autocorrect

  • https://www.facebook.com/kelley.johnson.75436 Kelley Johnson

    This dude openly hates black women. He hates black women so much that he says he won’t dake Filipinas because they’re “the black girls of Asian women”.

    And yet again, here he is on a site that caters to black women. Why?

  • E!

    Kelly: Exactly!

    “I’m afraid people think I hate my race” Ummmm…it’s too late for that. He’s already made that clear.

    This is a great article, but I’m not concerned with those who openly denigrate African-American women.

  • So Appalled

    @Apple, Kellye Johnson and E,

    This is an article about dealing with depression and the stigma of the Black community in seeking help. The article happens to use Donald Glover as an example based on something he did recently.

    How on earth have you managed to get so off topic? This is not about his racial preferences. How does that even affect who you are as a Black woman? I mean I get it, but we need to get this chip off our shoulders whenever a Black man chooses someone of another race. Plenty of Black men out there that still love Black women. I don’t see the purpose in this obsession over men that prefer other races. Who Childish Gambino dates doesn’t effect me in the slightest.

  • SEd

    Therapy helps a lot. Sometimes chasing that achievement helps to silence the negative thoughts for big enough chunks of the day to stay functional. Anyway don’t just stay depressed, get help for it.

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