My story has a few factors, as with most people who suffer from any type of depression. For me I feel like it began as a kid, growing up in Downtown Newport News. My father has never been a part of my life, at least that I can remember. Fortunately I had a step-father who was there for me, but I feel like we never established that undeniable father-son bond, something I can only imagine unless I have a son of my own. To this day, I feel like I have issues establishing and navigating through friendships with other males because it was really something I was never able to naturally do. In my household we didn’t interact much as a family either. Everybody kind’ve just did their own thing, which as a teenager you would love, but as a kid it managed to plant seeds of loneliness that never seemed to completely go away. 

I was also somewhat of a misfit. My Mom pretty much kept a leash on me until high school because she didn’t want me to be influenced by the other kids in my neighborhood. I love her for it, but it still made me feel conflicted at the time. She made sure I focused on my studies and eventually I got into a program for gifted students in elementary school. For years I would go to class with mostly white and Asian kids, and then go home back to the hood. I made friends in both environments, but never truly felt like I belonged in either. 

This made it hard for me to really have confidence or feel good about myself as a person, because I could never be completely comfortable with who I was wherever I went. I always felt out of place. Once I got to high school, I managed to become popular somehow (I even won the stupid superlative my senior year lol) and I think it basically gave me a false sense of confidence. I also started getting into music at the time, so it was like for the first time I felt like people were really admiring me. Problem was I still didn’t admire myself enough. 

As we all know, high school popularity doesnt last forever and can only do so much. Same goes for college, or social networks. As I got older and introduced to different communities where I wasnt as popular anymore, especially as an artist, it would make me feel less valuable as a person. It took me a long time and deep reflection to realize I had been basing my self-esteem on my perception of how other people saw me, most likely a result of years of worrying whether or not I was fitting in or doing the right things socially as a kid. Once I was able to accept this realization I was finally able to just let it go; to learn to enjoy and appreciate myself and my life, no matter what other people think or how “successful” I am so far. No longer silent to me is all about vocalizing that acceptance and freedom, overcoming the battles within to give others the same opportunity for peace.

-Clayt Duncan

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