Tuesday, May 24, 2016
There are times when everything in the Universe aligns in a way that is unexpected yet validating and comforting. This past week has been one of those weeks. At a time when I was feeling alone, despondent and in need, something told me to speak up. To speak loud and clear without hesitation to share a very intimate, vulnerable and private part of my life. For as long as I can remember I have battled with depression, specifically dysthymia which is long term chronic depression. This differs from clinical depression in that it is mild - you won’t necessarily find me in a dark room, unable to move for days (however that can happen) like major depressive disorder however it can last much longer, up to two years. My most recent bout of depression has been going on in one form or another for about a year, but reached a head about two months ago when after I did my mandatory duties as a single parent - cooking, school pickup and drop off and homework, I pretty much checked out, laid on my bed (fully dressed) and did the bare minimum.
I tried to work through it but nothing happened. I talked about what was happening to me very minimally and wore a mask that hid what was going on. Most people identify me as a gregarious, fun loving, adventurous mom, living life like it is golden - except I’m not. I wear an S on my chest not for bragging rights but because that is just what women (particularly women of color) do. Not only is this expected but having a mental health issue is often stigmatized in the Black community. Despite writing about my depression in the past, last week I decided to take off my mask and do a facebook live post explaining my situation and asking for help.
I explained that despite seeing me smiling, dancing and having fun at parties, my depression is ruling my life and even mundane tasks are a challenge. Most days are spent sitting on the couch watching marathons on Netflix. My work as a professional blogger became stagnant and it was a chore doing the bare minimum to earn a paycheck, let alone pursue more work. Exercise is the self-medication that keeps me even and despite being widely known for health and fitness (after documenting my 50 lb weight loss on social media platforms) I haven’t consistently exercised in over year.
I revealed my true self, took off my mask and asked for what I need - words of encouragement, love and understanding. Amazingly my inbox was quickly filled with people not only encouraging me but sharing their stories. Many comments on my post co-signed what I was feeling. Strangers and friends told me I was giving them a voice, being a voice for the voiceless.
That was less than a week ago. My situation hasn’t changed. But, I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I still don’t have access to healthcare that I need but I do have friends, family and strangers who are helping me climb out of the abyss I find myself in. My major concern has been my child, I do beat myself up about not being the “perfect” parent for him. It is my hope that later in life he will understand that I did my best for the both of us.
It seems as if the Universe was conspiring with me to share my story because not only is it Mental Health awareness month but this weekend the hashtag #MyDepressionLooksLike was trending on twitter. As more of us battle this insidious disease, it is important to speak up, ask for help and practice self-care. Until mental health issues are normalized and treated like other illnesses, many of us will continue to keep our struggles under wraps and sadly we will continue to hear “but she seemed okay” when one of us decides to end the pain by taking his/her life.
My face is the face of depression. I often wear a mask but behind my brilliant smile is a woman trying to come out of the darkness. I ask that if you or someone you know struggles with depression, please take time to watch my video. It will make a difference in your life. I promise.