How Frank Ocean Encouraged Me To Fight For My Mental Health And Go To Therapy
"How you living Mr. Kinsey?"
Every once in awhile I have conversations with myself in my bathroom mirror. These conversations aren't very meaningful normally. They usually involve me practicing my Oscar acceptance speech, or working my way through the eventual Oprah interview special I'm sure to have. But earlier this year, I chopped it up with myself in a way that I really hadn't before.
Like any other day I came into my apartment and dropped my things on the floor in pure disgust. Like any other day, I pulled out my headphones in agony as an R&B gem from my childhood played on. And like any other day, I walked into my bathroom and looked at my oily ass face in the mirror and asked: "How you living Mr. Kinsey?"
But unlike any other day, I actually lost my s**t. The world cracked over my head like a fresh ass Trader Joe's egg and rained over me unlike anything I had ever felt before. I cried. Like real tears. It honestly felt like anything bad that had ever happened to me manifested itself into those tears. They rained down my face until it was constricted with the tightness of the stress I had been feeling over the past few weeks.
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In an effort to calm myself, I changed my clothes and hopped in my car with a Whole Foods waypoint in mind. Pineapple always soothes my soul, and organic overpriced pineapples were just what I needed at the moment. En route, I plugged my iPhone into the AUX chord and played Blonde by Frank Ocean. "Nikes" blasted over my speakers as I drove past intertwining telephone wires diving in and out of each other between telephone poles. I zoomed past parents running behind their kids as they biked freely down the sidewalk completely unaware that me, myself, and all my feelings were hauling ass to get comfort food.
I parked my car in the Whole Foods Parking lot. I moved to grab my phone to pause my Spotify account. As I pushed my thumb to the lip of my phone, Frank Ocean crooned these haunting words over a chopped and screwed beat:
Throw up for A$AP. RIP Pimp C. RIP Trayvon. That n*gga looked just like me.
Ocean’s lyric hit me like a brick. A big ass, Georgia clay brick. I burst, yet again, into an uncontrollable sob. One, lone soldier tear, followed by a legion of loyal behemoth tears rained down my face. “What the f**k is wrong with you?” rang a dark voice in my head. “These three black men had their lives taken from them prematurely, and your ass is crying in this bougie ass grocery store parking lot?”
“You ain’t s**t.” the voice said coldly.
I had heard this voice before. It followed me around on a daily basis. It whispered obscenities in my ear as I tried my hardest to go to sleep at night. It lurked around corners of my office job as I worked up the courage to have simple interactions with my coworkers. It convinced me otherwise when I wondered if I, as a black son, was making his black parents proud. The voice had haunted me for years, and what’s worse is that it sounded exactly like mine.
This chilling voice of mine had manifested itself over my 24 years of living. I never really considered myself a confident child growing up, but not because I wasn’t good at things. I did well in school, I played instruments, I read complicated novels. I was the black kid who “spoke so well”. These bursts of outside validation weren’t enough to drown out the chilling voice in my head, which grew increasingly louder and more powerful as I got older. It was almost as if it fed off the increasingly stressful situations that come with age. Everyday experiences that come with teenage years were wars I had to wage with myself simply because this voice that had made a nest in my brain and wouldn’t shut the hell up.
Fast forward to my post-college years and the voice had matured just as I had. It gained a bit more bass, learned some new vocabulary words. But one thing that hadn’t changed was its constant want to tear me down from any sort of positive thought. As I got older, I had accepted the voice as “normal”. “Everyone has depressing thoughts, right?” I’d say to comfort myself. “I’m not going through anything that anyone else isn’t going through.”
And of course, my personal favorite passage aggressive affirmation: “Get the f**k over it.”
But as I sat in my black Toyota Scion, struggling to breathe with waterfalls streaking down my face, I knew I couldn’t get over it. I was tired of trying to fight this voice on my own. I had tried to ignore it for so long, that it only grew bigger and smarter than me. I had to do something. This wasn’t normal. So in that moment, after years of denying it and saying I didn’t need it, I decided I needed therapy.
Looking back, the weight of that moment was way heavier than I could have ever imagined. As a black man, I stayed away from therapy simply because I thought I needed to be strong enough to brave this storm. I had always lived with this ‘never let ‘em see you sweat’ mentality that kept me from being vulnerable even with the people I loved. I carried all of these burdens over the years because I didn’t want people to think I was weak, not realizing that these burdens were actually just wearing me out. I couldn’t fight this monster that lived in my brain and sounded like me alone because I wasn’t supposed to. By not trying to seek help, I was letting this voice break me down and keep me from being the best version of myself that I could be.
Therapy in itself has been a challenge for me, one that I never thought I’d have to face. I’ve had to deconstruct walls and barriers that have been built over the past 24 years by a monster that knew me better than I knew myself. But the great thing is that I’m starting to see cracks in the foundation of why I’ve been so terrible to myself. I’ve been able to dismantle the bricks that were laid by conglomerate of negative thoughts and figured out a way to combat them going forward.
Frank Ocean was the fulcrum in the battle for my mental health. Listening to this young black man be so free about his thoughts and the things that he struggled with every day made me realize that I could do that too. It made me realize that I had to do it because the voice in my head that sounded like me was only going to get bigger and stronger, so I had to do the same. And as this cold voice still rings on in my head, a new, more powerful voice gets this small burst of power every day. It makes constant strides toward greatness and looks at the world with more clarity than its darker counterpart ever could.
And the greatest thing about this new voice? It sounds even more like my own.