Friendship and Movements


Note: While I’m not in danger, I’m affected by current personal and political events like any other person. I’ll be okay, but I’m feeling different right now. I’ll get better with time and trust. If you want to check in, text or PM is fine. Thanks.


Last night we had a showing of the film, King in the Wilderness. When I set it up originally, I was pretty excited. It’s become a favorite. But lately there have been things going on in my life that pushed that feeling away. I wasn’t sure I was going to even show up for an event I’d planned. I felt a sense of shame as the air let out of the balloon in my mind about it and started asking for help.

Today, I’m waiting in the pharmacy for a refill and, as I take notes on a set of beautiful dark violet feelings I am struck by the sharpness of why I feel the way I feel.

There’s a scene in the film where MLK’s lawyer and advisor Clarence Jones is discussing the ramifications of King taking a position on the war in Vietnam. He describes that, in addition to the public excoriation he received, there was a private loss as well. Friendships that were the backbone of his personal life began to fall away. Ministers that supported him personally distanced themselves from him but also no longer welcomed him into their homes. He wasn’t just losing political power but the emotional safety net he needed to survive. Jones remarked that others close to him saw that he was depressed and, at one point MLK actually thought he needed to seek psychiatric help. Jones, his loyal friend and confidant, stated that he agreed but knew “every word would end up in the hands of the FBI.” The scene closes with a look of resolute, wizened pain on Jones’s face as he says King never got that help.

Ive thought a lot about that scene in the past few weeks.

I get a lot of psychiatric help, most of it covered by some form of insurance. I’m reasonably med-compliant, so I can take liberties with my life as a person with bipolar 2 that other folks can’t. But the thing that I have the most of, the thing that MLK didn’t have, was a public face that included this struggle as part of what folks saw. I tell people what’s happening and (for better or worse) link it to my work. It’s all wrapped up together anyway (I mean, fam there’s no escaping the link) so I figure why not relate them. But folk from his time wouldn’t do that, especially Black folk. I still get emails from family about how risky this all is. But looking at the film, with the look of sorrow on Jones’s face as he talks about literally advising his friend to basically stay in depression without something as critical as psych care for the good of a struggle that was calling him ugly names and leaving him low… seems to be a bigger risk.

I was honest with folks at the beginning of the showing that I’m just not able to hold much more emotion other than my own and handed responsibility for their feelings off to someone else. White people, in particular, get little quarter from me right now. I avoid folks who I don’t think will understand. When the scene came on, I could only shake my head at Jones and MLK’s pictures… at times with the same facial expression. I feel shame and guilt that someone so great could get so little from all of us.

My prescription is ready but I’m not quite all the way there. I take a second as violet turns a steel blue, put up my hood and hit the rainy streets.