This post is dedicated to each person struggling with depression. You are not alone and don’t give up.
NOTE: First and foremost, I want to make clear that I am not a mental health expert. I spent years studying psychology but abnormal psychology was not my main focus. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please see a mental health expert.
I’ve struggled greatly with mental issues. Growing up in the Black community, depression did not exist. If I told my family that I was depressed, it was equated to sadness and quickly dismissed. Now, when I was young, I had no clue about depression. I dealt with old girlfriends that suffered with depression but were more bipolar than depressed. I could see the manic periods followed by depressed periods. I could tell the difference because I knew how they were contrast. This often made it hard to look at myself. I decided that what I struggled with was not depressive enough.
The first dimension that weighed heavily on me is the spiritual aspect. Mental Illness is not a real thing. It is caused by negative spirits in your life and it is nothing but the devil. You need to pray more. You need to get in the bible more. Something is wrong with your spiritual life. This was extremely difficult to face. During my first undergraduate tenure at Illinois Wesleyan University, the counseling services there thought I was dealing with depression. I did not want to admit that, because in some weird way, it showed a lack in faith. But, no matter how much I read the bible, you can’t fight a enemy that you see. Because I refused to acknowledge the problem, I couldn’t address the issues.
Eventually, I decided I couldn’t continue to face my problem without addressing it. Even with God’s will, I had to admit that I was struggling first. But, they came with a cultural and familiar issue. Mental illness does not exist in the black community. My family’s general response was, “You just have to push through it” or, “Well, I have those problems too, that must mean we all have depression” or my favorite, “I would kill for your situation right now, what do you have to be depressed about?” All these are valid comments from their points of view, but it lacks the sensitivity to your struggle or understanding about mental illness at all.
It got to a part that I couldn’t talk to my family about my struggle. They just didn’t understand. I didn’t know where to start or how to deal with it. Nothing changed, I knew what it was but, nobody knew how to help. I just carried it around with me.
My issue (that even after successfully overcoming depression multiple times and experiencing it now) is that you often don’t know the cause. You don’t understand why, you just have a dullness, sense of confusion or simply a feeling that something is off. The first thing people ask you is why? I don’t know why, I barely know what it is. My depression was not just sadness like it’s described. It was sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, lack of motivation, fear of failure, fear of success, helplessness, and a myriad of physical issues ranging from hunger, sleep and panic problems.
The difficulty increased when my depression combined with anxiety. Everything would connect with itself. My depression would make me listless, my anxiety would keep me from going to class or talking to anyone, and I would get more depressed because I was slowly spiraling away. Things got out of hand.
I got desperate. Nothing was working and I couldn’t see anything else. One day, when talking to my psychiatrist, he suggested that I might have ADHD and a book called Delivered from Distraction by Hallowell & Ratey. This book opened up a lot of life lessons that helped me defeat my depression for the first time. So much came from this that I can’t explain it all here. Check back tomorrow for Part 2 and don’t forget to share any stories below.