Low Grade Depression

Photo Credit: NPR

Recently, Michelle Obama launched her own podcast, which is already successful with many people tuning in each week. The most recent episode has her discussing her “low grade depression.”

Actually, the statistics suggest that 1 in 3 Americans are suffering from a similar low mood, given all the stress we are under in our personal lives and the collective society. If you are having a consistent low mood these days, know that you are not alone.

For Obama, she noticed that she is slower in what she is doing, going to bed late, waking up in the middle of the night, not always working out — and trying to go easy on herself and accept how she is feeling in the moment without feeling guilt or shame about not getting to everything as she used to.

She notes she combats her low grade depression with exercise, routine, rituals such as eating dinner together, and finding ways to connect with her family on a regular basis. These are all sound steps to finding a rhythm that honors the current mood, but also allows one to be in the low mood without pressure to have to get out.

Americans are taught on some fundamental level that mental illness, like depression, is not real. Rather, we control our capacity to not feel depressed. If we are feeling this, there is something wrong with us. We are not positive enough, we are suffering from a condition that is not real, and more. So many of us have to pretend that we are not depressed in order to meet society’s expectations otherwise we are judged and dismissed.

I am grateful to Obama for naming her low grade depression to help name something that many, many people experience, especially during a pandemic where our lives have been significantly curtailed. I appreciate her normalizing that a low mood is something common and to be present to it rather than push it away. Naming it, being present to it, and taking action to help one’s self ease the depression are all keys to feeling better.

So, if you too are experiencing a low mood, make space for it. Create rituals and routines that will care for yourself. No need to push it away, but recognizing it and being honest that your are in a low grade depression is essential. Yes, engage with people. Yes, take a news diet. Yes, engage in activities that promote your mental health well-being. The list goes on and on, but do not deny or run from it.

If your low mood continues to persist or it worsens, seek out therapy to treat your depression. Sometimes working with a counselor can help alleviate your symptoms as well.

Be well!

A White Michael Jackson Performance

African American Michael Jackson King of Pop

I happened to attend the Seattle Symphony a few weeks ago and the concert was titled The Best of Quincy Jones. As you can imagine, it was a concert full of Jones’ music over the past many decades he has been writing and composting songs. There were a few surprises for me — the fact that he is the composer behind the Sanford and Son theme song and that he only wrote one song with Aretha Franklin. Another surprise? A white Michael Jackson.

During this concert, there were a trio of back-up singers, all whom were African-American. Further, there was an African-American female artist who sang many of his famous songs that he wrote for women, such as Aretha Franklin. Quincy Jones is a black artist and many of his songs he composed were written for African-American artists.

No one would probably be the most famous artist that Quincy Jones composed for than Michael Jackson, the King of Pop himself. Largely, it was the winning combination of Jones’ songs magically sung and performed by Jackson that made him such an incredible artist. You can imagine the last act of this concert focused on Michael Jackson.

Imagine my surprise where a white man came out to take the spotlight and sing Michael Jackson’s song, with an African-American man backing him up on songs like Billie Jean. Something about this was just so wrong. The longer I listened to this young man singing and making his moves like MJ, the more annoyed I became. Apparently, this performer is an artist in residence with Quincy Jones, but it did not feel appropriate to have this person singing Jackson’s finest songs on the stage.

Every other song was perfomed and backed-up by African-American artists, except for the role of the King. A white young man was chosen to sing this part. It fell flat for me and I also felt it was disrespectful on some level to the legacy of Michael Jackson.

Is this reverse racism? Should I want the best person, regardless of color, to be the one to perform? Just because Michael Jackson was a black man does not necessarily mean that a white man cannot meet his standard. Yes, true. Yet, Quincy Jones is a black composer and song writer and Michael Jackson was a black man who sang those songs like no one else ever could have. It feels respectful to give an African-American the chance to perform live with the Seattle Symphony some of Quincy Jones greatest songs.

My opinion — that is all.

Book Review: Good Talk by Mira Jacob

Looking for an interesting memoir that is hip and takes on the uncomfortable topic of race, particularly for those of us who are biracial?

Then, let me recommend Good Talk A Memoir in Conversation. I heard the author, Mira Jacob, discuss this book on NPR earlier this fall and I knew I had to read it. If you are interested in hearing an interview with Mira Jacob via PBS. To my surprise, it is a graphic memoir.

Don’t let this format fool you, though. this book takes on the tough topic of racial identity, especially for those of us who identify as biracial. The author was inspired by her son, who started asking many questions after he got into Michael Jackson after his parents, the author being one of them, gave him all the Michael Jackson albums to listen to. Out of curiosity, her son starts asking about Michael Jackson and if he is black or white or both? And, whatever the answer his parents came up with, they knew their answer was going to have a profound influence on him.

As usual, the issue of color often comes out in our daily activities, such as the music we share and listen to each day.

The author was asked during her NPR interview about the faces she had drawn on the characters’ throughout her memoir. There was the comment that the people in her graphic memoir do not appear to be sad over the experiences she is drawing our attention to. This was a deliberate choice on her part to allow the reader to carry their feelings and not have the characters do more of the “feelings work” for the reader. Aha! This is a hard-hitting book!

For my part, this is a thought-provoking book about one’s own racial identity. Her message across these many conversations is delivered in an interesting medium that seeks to get at truths, universal ones experienced intimately by this author and her family, in an interesting, culturally relevant way.

I would love to hear if you have any books on racial identity that you would suggest I read.