Depression is one of my realities. One that I, personally, deal with on a somewhat cyclical basis. I tell myself I am too lucky, too successful, too well adjusted (hah!) too old (or young) too fill-in-the-blanks to be feeling the way that I sometimes do about my life. Then I remember that what I am feeling is not a choice, is not voluntary, not the result of a weak will or lack of faith or laziness or a lack of gratitude for the positive things in my life, that for the most part, far outweigh the negatives.
I am, one of the more successful people I am aware of in my chosen field: I have managed to make a pretty good living within the music industry, mostly on my own terms, which, as a black (lesbian) woman, is nearly unheard of.
I have managed to stay true to myself, make honest music that I felt did not degrade me or others, and, when the stakes became too high, I have had the courage and dignity to walk away from situations that others encouraged me not to. I try to keep current with my own capacity for suffering and I don’t like the feeling of “putting up with” a situation when the only apparent reward is financial. I have somehow managed to land on my feet every time I have made a choice for my own serenity and sanity against simply piling up more dollars or bits of fame.
I know that I am good at what I do, and I really enjoy the breadth of experiences that music has allowed me to participate in; not only have I gotten to play an astonishingly vast array of musical styles with so many amazing artists, but I have also been able to travel the world and interact with so many cultures.
I have good, deep, relationships with so many close friends and cherish my family and, of course, my insane and always amusing Siberian husky.
I have, as my mother helpfully dismissed, “NO REASON TO BE DEPRESSED.”
Yet, I am, sometimes.
It’s taken years for me to stop ‘shushing’ myself, scolding myself, judging myself, telling myself that there exists a foolproof antidote in the form of medication, or meditation, or therapy, or exercise or an effing POSITIVE ATTITUDE.
Some of these things work better than others, some of things I try to stay current with.
Therapy taught me that depression is a medical, physical, actual disease, not a point of view. I’ve tried being much more careful about the food I put into my body and the rest I give myself and have made great strides in these areas, even while traveling through multiple locations and time zones, insomnia notwithstanding. My attitude, unless I am reading about a particularly jaw dropping example of heartless cruelty as evidenced through some politician or another, is pretty rosy as a general rule. Meditation and exercise are both very helpful, but require participation and there are times when the feelings are so debilitating that those solutions are just. not. possible.
But one of the things I have found most helpful for me is to accept that this is, has been and may always be something I will live with and to OPEN my mouth about it. Tell. anyone, everyone, family, strangers, that it is real. unearned. not easily dismissed. astonishingly painful. real.
It’s when I have time to myself, with no commitments that the voices start to grow in volume. I am learning to stay connected to the network of people I care about, in those times. It’s been a long slow inexact process of learning and may never be much different.
I am not depressed all the time. It comes and goes and mostly I’m in a very good place.
The reason I am writing this is for all the times i didn’t say it, when it was the only thing that would make sense: when I didn’t call you back, or come out to your gig, or make that party. When I just smiled instead of told the truth or dropped off the face of the earth.
The reason I am writing this is because I am never surprised when someone who has been suffering, frequently in silence, attempts to or is successful in taking their own life. I have never truly felt suicidal, but I certainly understand that depth of despair, the sinking weight that keeps repeating, “this will never change. you will never feel any different than you do right. now.”
I know now that it will. it always does. I hope I can always remember.
I want you to know that if you can’t, reach out to someone who does understand.
You’d be surprised how many of us do.
Vicki Randle – vocalist, percussionist, guitarist and songwriter has been a ubiquitous presence in the American musical landscape for over 30 years, whether Rock, Jazz, Pop, R&B or Americana. 18 years lead singer and percussionist of the acclaimed Tonight Show Band led first by Branford Marsalis, then Kevin Eubanks. It’s a good bet you own a CD that she is credited on, have seen a video or concert she was featured in, seen a film, TV show or commercial that features her voice (California Raisins, for example.) The list of credits is impressive: She has performed with Paul McCartney, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Al Green, Angelique Kidjo and Vince Gill. Recordings include lead vocals for Herbie Hancock and a duet with George Benson, background vocals with Aretha Franklin and Todd Rundgren. Touring (lead and background vocals and variously percussion, guitar, bass, keyboards and harmonica,) with Kenny Loggins, Lionel Ritchie, Dr. John, Wayne Shorter, Laura Nyro. Her CD “Sleep City” was released in 2007 and she is wrapped up a tour with Mavis Staples in concert with Bonnie Raitt this past summer.