Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Testimony Tuesday | The depressed male

This week's contributor comes with a twist! While we have had so many women share their testimonies, I thought it would be impacting to get a male voice in the midst of all of the estrogen in this series. Please welcome Chepe Jose, a man of God that is in my community of friends and believers in Florida (and also a transplant from Bridgeport, Conn.), as he opens his heart about his struggle with depression. Enjoy another week of #TestimonyTuesday.


Depression: a mental disorder characterized by extreme gloom, feelings of inadequacy, and inability to concentrate.

Depression can be taboo among men especially when you mix being a latin man of the charismatic faith.

In 2011, I suffered the loss of my sister who battled cancer for seven long, uncertain years. The shock of the loss wore off after a month and then I entered a full month of wailing. No exaggeration when I tell you I cried during my car ride home every day in the month of April of that year, sometimes parked in front of my house, banging the steering wheel and yelling just to give room for any backed-up crying. It was so scary, I thought I had gone mad and was not going to recover from it. I continued, once the crying was over, to go about my day and keep to myself. I would replay memories in my mind and think that the best days were gone and from here on out I would be a sad human being. It seemed that everyone’s life was better than mine and I ought to get used to it or God ought to just come already and take me out of this world that appeared to be getting worse for me.

On top of my grief, my community was unsure how to deal with this.

My coworkers gave me a week off from work and a card expressing their condolences, and for them, it was business as usual.

I went to church and many expected me to be ‘okay’ because "Gods in control" or "God was going to use her death to glorify Himself." In that case, what a cruel God to use my sister’s life in order for others to have a better one, as if her life was less important than theirs. I didn't know what to think about those comments, but it didn't make me feel good in the least bit.

My family just didn't talk about it because it was too sad for us to discuss. We didn't only carry our own grief, but we carried one another’s grief too, and we were all depressed. My friends, well they didn't know what to do with me either. I am normally the one who enjoys going out and being the life of the party, always laughing and joking. I just didn't feel like that part of me existed anymore.

I would wake up thinking the morning was my enemy and I would weep at the sight of it at times. Brushing my teeth was a betrayal to my grief and I brushed my teeth crying many times and sometimes would just hunch over and cry shaking my head side to side because of the disbelief of my new life. I was down and out!

One friend kept on checking on me and allowing me to fully express my pain and I found some ability to heal because of the openness.

When a man is depressed, he needs someone to be aware of it and allow them to ask the right questions without making him feel emasculated.

When a man feels depressed, it is important to allow him to express thoughts and feelings that may seem irrational or fall far from their personal belief system.

A man needs a safe place.

There is a thought in society that it’s only okay for women to express themselves emotionally, but it is unacceptable for a man because expressing oneself goes against strength and everything a man should be. We as parents, teachers and leaders in society must stop! We need to allow all people to express who they are and allow people to process when they are in a gloomy state so that they can journey into a healthier place.

We will all experience some type of depression.

Some may be a bit more intense than others. I have had family members who had to be medicated because of their depression. Depression can be an illness. I am a man of faith and also believe that depression can be a spirit that one needs deliverance from. I believe that medicine, counseling and prayer all are blessings and can lead people to healing.

We should be aware of changes in moods in ourselves and in those we encounter day-to-day.

Some questions to ask a Man (or anyone) to see if they might be depressed:

1) What have you been thinking about lately?

2) What makes you feel that way?

3) Have you been feeling differently lately about your life?

4) Do you have a change of appetite ?

5) What is making you so tired?

6) What do you feel about (dramatic current event)?

These are just a few questions that can help you and that person notice they might be needing to confront some depressed feelings. I know what my symptoms were and they vary for everyone. It’s a battle we as a community have to fight together, we have to talk about it and we have to embrace healing. Im not that kind of person who likes to be coddled nor do I like to coddle anyone else either, but this is not coddling. This is being intentional.

Dear society,
Men are not exempt from pain and the lows of depression. Its our job to make sure we see the symptoms and we respond accordingly. Men -- we must do our work. Our spouses and children need a fully present and healthy dad. My depression was directly related to a loss. Do not rush someone’s process of grieving because you can cause more damage to the person. I am no therapist but I have done so much research on grief and depression because I wanted my healing. I cannot say that I still, at times, don't have lows. However, I am able to function and be an active member of society. If you feel you cannot function, I recommend you see a specialist who can assist you.

Remember, depression knows no gender, race, age or religion. It attacks us all without any remorse.

Chepe Jose lives in Orlando, Fla., and is a member of Body of One Ministries (BOOM) where he is actively involved in ministry and their city wide Bible studies.  He is also the Social Media Ambassador at Sunglass Hut in downtown Disney and studied Urban Ministries at Orlando Metro Ministers Learning Community. You can follow Chepe on Instagram at @ChepeJose.

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