I’m Black. I’m a man who was raised on the South Side of Chicago by my mother and step-father. In my lifetime I have traveled the world, gone to some of the best schools, performed for thousands of people and been blessed to have brought several of my dreams to life. I have also been homeless, struggled to find work, sold drugs, gotten banned from Chicago Public Schools and attempted suicide. My life has been a full one, but one of constant battles. The greatest one has taken place in my brain. I have Major Depressive Disorder.
As a playwright and a director, I have an obligation to my audience. I owe them the best I have to offer and for me to continuously elevate the quality of what is considered to be my best. They deserve honesty, intelligence and integrity. When they purchase a ticket to a Theori Stages performance, they are paying to share my world. They have made a choice to invest in my vision, with the return being an entertaining evening that they will remember for a lifetime. For me to provide that, I have to be willing to expose the complexities of my spirit and the reality of my heart. Clearly, this presented a problem.
I want my audience to leave with a sense of joy and levity. Often I would leave my own performances and go to my apartment (or wherever I was sleeping at the time) and stew in my on sorrow. I want the people who paid to see my art, to leave with a broader perspective of the world and how they can affect it positively. Immediately after the applause ended however, I would find myself plummeting from the high right back into the dark, claustrophobic prison of my thoughts. What I wanted for my audience I wanted for myself. I wasn't being dishonest with them. I truly believe the messages that I put out. There was something blocking me from being able to hold on to the feeling that I was trying to convey.
There was this darkness everywhere I went. No matter what I did, I couldn't escape it. I prayed. I fought. I smoked. I drank. I womanized. I abstained. I exercised. I binged. I cut. When I could do nothing else, I went to get help. There were no more options. Poison had failed me twice. Guilt at what my family would have to see stopped me from slashing my wrist or blowing my head off. I considered tricking the police into doing the job. Lord knows no one would suspect a Black man of trying to get killed by the police. I couldn't bring myself to ruin an innocent person’s life because I was screwed up.
I couldn't leave my sisters. I may not have been much of a big brother, but I was (am) still big brother. When I thought of them, I wanted to live. It was enough to make me go to the emergency room. It helped me through 6 days of being kept on the psych ward under suicide watch. It’s what keeps me going today and gave me a doorway to find two more reasons to live: The prospect of joy and to help others like me make it through. Through therapy and medication, I was able to find the strength to fight this illness. One year later, I debuted my first one man show, Wendell Tucker Hates the World, the story of my battle with depression. In this show I chronicle the events leading up to my breakdown, how the community has failed its members with mental illnesses, and how I fought for my life. The hope is that my story will encourage others suffering from MDD to get help and motivate people to be on the lookout for the warning signs in their loved ones.
When I wrote this, I was on the 23rd day of a 40 day fast, with the goal of raising $25,000 to create and produce plays and documentaries to teach about depression and suicide prevention. In the time frame of my fast, 38 members of the US Armed Forces, Director Tony Scott and countless unsung individuals have committed suicide. The majority of their friends and loved ones are completely shocked. It’s hard to recognize the signs and nearly impossible when you don’t know them. I want to help. I need your support to do so. Please visit www.thetheori.com, make a donation, or come to a performance of Wendell Tucker Hates the World and join in the fight to defeat depression.