‘Depression is probably the most common but most ill-understood disease in present times. Let me make this clear, I have no data, stats, or doctorate degree to back this claim up so that statement is purely just my opinion. So I know you’re thinking “Well, if you don’t know if that is true, why you talking about it Janae?”
Well, let’s go back. The year was 2008 and I had just fallen in love for the first time ever! I was 15 and he was 18. He was tall-ish, dark skinned, handsome, football star, ladies man and he wanted me…ME! Looking back, I really wished my parents locked me up in a chastity belt, handcuffs and a straight jacket to keep me away from him. He was every parents worse nightmare in a suitor for their impressionable, low self esteem having daughter. Throughout our three year ‘relationship’ he was manipulative, mentally abusive, and controlling. He had convinced me that I didn’t belong to anyone but him but he would not be exclusive to me. I, being naive, attached my self worth to him. My hair wasn’t pretty until he said it was. My outfit wasn’t fly unless he said I looked nice. I didn’t have good enough grades until he said they were good (at least he encouraged me to get good grades for college *cue church organ). My mom noticed a strong change in my behavior and naturally she wanted to do something to help me steer in the right direction. Off to therapy i go…
My therapist, while a nice lady, couldn’t relate to me. I was young and black in Amerikkka with daddy, religious, and parental issues. She was an immigrant with multiple degrees, no husband or kids, and was so smart she skipped high school entirely. I couldn’t honest and open with someone who couldn’t understand me. She was basically too smart to relate to a child like me. Every week, she listened to me talk about my hatred for the man who left his family to raise someone else’s child while neglecting his own flesh and blood (aka my mothers first husband aka my birth father); she has a father that has been her biggest fan. I told her how I didn’t have a relationship with God because if He was real he wouldn’t have let bad things happen to a good person like me; she was Buddhist. I cried when I told her how sad I was when my dog passed away a couple months prior; she was a cat person. I didn’t know why I was so angry and rebelling against everything I was taught but I knew that I was crying out for somebody to help me. I couldn’t talk to my friends, my sister, and definitely not my parents.
Right after my 16th birthday I was diagnosed with Depression. I walked out of my therapy session thinking “Thank God there’s a name for what’s wrong with me.” But as quickly as I saw the light at the end of my depression tunnel, it was snatched away when I told my ‘boyfriend’ what I had to which he replied, “You ain’t sad, you just need this d**k.” So, attempting to reach out, I told my mom to which she replied, “What the heck do you have to sad about? You don’t pay no bills”. It felt like yet another rejection from people I care about. I felt once again that I didn’t fit in anywhere. It was shortly after that, I stopped seeing my therapist. As much as she didn’t understand me I was sad that my one listening ear was gone! Poof!
I tell you all (my internet family), not to receive sympathy or to bash the people I love but to explain the misconceptions that come with suffering from depression. Many people think depression is just being really really sad. You hear the word depression a lot when someone suffers from a loss of some kind. You’ll hear, “…shes feeling depressed.” But depression isn’t a feeling or emotion or a t-shirt. Emotions and feelings can change based on circumstances and often change with the calendar year. Emotions are like seasonal clothes. Although we cannot determine what the weather will look like each day we CAN prepare for it. You wouldn’t walk out the house in snow with shorts on right? So before you leave the house to face snow you put on your snow boots, heavy coats, gloves, scarf etc. Same thing with our emotions. We can walk into work feeling good, feeling fine but sense work drama pouring from the building before you enter and we prepare ourselves. Some of us put on our best ‘Dont Mess with Me’ face. While others of us stay in our car to say an extra pray to keep our composure. Depending on which you choose it could shape your day in a positive or negative way. Let me make it clear, that is NOT how depression works. Depression is there, constantly. It is as much unchanging and constant as bills, Donald Trumps toupee, and war…. okay bad examples but yall know what I’m trying to say.
Misconceptions About Depression
1. Depression Levels- While depression effects everyone differently, there are no levels of depression, you can’t be a little bit depressed or a lot depressed. I also have allergies and trust me pollen has never given me a little bit of a reaction. Either pollen is trying to kill me or it’s not. When it is not pollen season I’m not less allergic to it. It just means that at the current moment pollen isn’t effecting my health. When pollen is present there are things I wouldn’t normally do but I have to so I don’t get sick. Same thing with depression, days that it hits me hard I have a ritual that helps me get up in the morning and go about my life. But it doesn’t mean my depression goes away. I’ve learned how to quiet the feeling of wanting to stay in bed all day or not eat. But some times the depression wins and my rituals don’t work just like sometimes my allergy medicine doesn’t always stop a reaction from coming.
2. Black People Don’t suffer from Mental illness As a black human being we are taught (and we teach) that mental illness is an excuse only privy to white people when they act up. In black culture, when we do something unusual its always attributed to a behavior problem, not knowing Jesus enough, or being too emotional. How many of us made excuses for John Allen Muhammad, the DC Sniper? I remember when the world discovered that he was a black man immediately we all, myself included, decided that he did all this for a specific unspecified reason and he didn’t go to church enough. Maybe those people did something to him. Maybe he was poor and needed money. Maybe he was trying to make a point about the police or the government. How many of us growing up got anointed with oil when we were misbehaving. You got caught doing something you wasn’t supposed to and momma pulled you into her bedroom and anointed your head with oil and your butt with a belt. “Black people don’t go to therapy, we go to church.” is a common saying in the black community. We (as a people) don’t have the luxury of having a mental illness. I’m here to dispel that myth. We have mental health issues and I’m one of them.
3.Depression Goes Away With a Prayer- I’m a true believer in the power of prayer. I’ve seen God do awesome things because of a fervent prayer. Whenever I’m having a ‘depression day’ the first thing I do is quietly pray for relief and I’ll be honest, most of the time before I open my eyes I can start to feel the weight coming off. But please understand that on those days I have to stay in a state of constant prayer and meditation in order to just find the courage to literally put my feet on the floor. Depression is a constant whispering of your biggest fears. So whatever you’re physically, emotionally or mentally afraid of is where your depression lives. It hones on you fears and forces you to relive your biggest mistakes and fear all at once in order to do small daily things. It produces an irrational manifestation of a carnival filled with your worst nightmares. For me, it’s like being forced into a room full of spiders, ex-boyfriends, enemies, and failure all at the same time and being told to walk through them all to get out of the bed and brush your teeth in the morning. It’s overwhelming to say the least. And its scary because you have to do it yourself. I know what ‘The Saints’ are thinking… you not praying hard enough. Read The Word it’ll get you through. Go to your Pastor. Get on a prayer line or a prayer list. Joy comes in the morning. God doesn’t put more on us than we can bear. You aren’t the only one going through something. If you was more in your Word you wouldn’t be feeling this way. Recite the scripture in your time of need. To which I will politely reply…
4. Depression is a Result of Your Time of the Month- Nothing irritates my soul more than when I’m in a bad mood and someone says “Is it that time of the month.” First, that’s none of your business. Two maybe you’re just annoying me at the moment. Three, my new response to that question is “I don’t know, you wanna check for me?” Depression is like a having a bear on your back. It doesn’t matter what mood I wake up in, I already start my day off in a negative deficit. Most people’s daily routine involves getting up, brushing teeth, grabbing coffee or breakfast, then head to work. My day looks like, wake up get mad that you didn’t die peacefully in your sleep. Then lay in bed thinking about what i have to accomplish today, make a mental list of all the things I can procrastinate until tomorrow. Make another mental list of the things I wont be able to avoid (like work) then come up with a plan on how to not do those things without and anxiety attack. Next, put both feet off the bed while crying profusely out of fear of being a failure for the day. Then wipe tears, stand up and immediately crawl back in bed breathing deeply hoping a natural disaster will take you out before you have to be at work. Check the time and realize nothing is going to happen to get you out of work (or any other responsibilities) rush to get dressed grab breakfast or coffee. Head out the door to work while listening to your head telling you that you aren’t good enough for *insert goal and thinking about how your significant other is gonna leave you because you *insert irrational fear, and how much you’d rather just lie in bed. Sounds super dramatic right? WRONG! This is everyday. EVERYDAY. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY! erryday! Every once in a while I have an incredibly difficult day where I physically couldn’t get out of bed. For two hours I tried to put my feet on the floor. Every time I tried to move my legs, I cried. And I’m talking about sobbing uncontrollably. Sobbing to the point that I couldn’t see. I spent more than 10 hours in my bed. I didn’t eat, I didn’t pee, I didn’t drink water. I didn’t even watch TV. I didn’t move. I prayed for God to help me. I begged Him to help me I felt like I was drowning and people were just standing around watching me.
To wrap up, someone asked me to describe how it is living with depression. To which I said, “Its like being trapped in your body with no way out. You have on a straight jacket but your knee itches so bad, You know you’ll never be able to reach that itch unless you get our of the straight jacket but there is no way to get the jacket off. Scissors can’t cut it, fire can’t burn it, hands can’t rip it. Someone can scratch the itch for you providing a temporary relief but its only a matter of time before it returns so you live in fear of when it will return.”
-k, good talk