Depression, Thy Name is Me

Depression. I spent years running away from this word. Admitting it is tough.

I am no stranger to it or therapy. My first acquaintance with therapy was following my mother’s death in 2005. My mother had fallen ill toward the end of my sophomore year. I left school before final exams. My world went from learning biology, American government to spending days in the hospital at my mother’s bedside. Some professors let me out of taking my exams because I was a good student. Others still made me sit for them. So I left my mother’s bedside to sit and take a test where I didn’t know any of the content. Meanwhile my brain was counting down the hours until I would be back on the road, driving an hour and a half, to be back with my mom.

She passed over summer break. In June to be exact.

Now, I found myself back at school in August gearing up for classes as a junior. Only those closest to me knew what happened.  How do you go back to your life before? How can you be that person again? My mother’s absence was acutely felt on my 21st birthday in October. Only four months ago, I had a mom. Now I didn’t.

My mom and I at my high school graduation in 2003. This was the last picture we took together. In 2005, she died after a short battle with breast cancer. It was her second battle with breast cancer. The first time occurred in 1995 when I was 10 years old.

My mom and I at my high school graduation in 2003. This was the last picture we took together. In 2005, she died after a short battle with breast cancer. It was her second battle with breast cancer. The first time occurred in 1995 when I was 10 years old.

I knew something was wrong. A friend recommended therapy and I reluctantly agreed. For a year, I attended therapy as part of on-campus services. It helped usher me through that first painful year of grieving.

Thing is I didn’t tell anyone. I kept my therapy sessions a secret. Only five years ago in 2013 did I tell my family about it. Many of them were shocked.

It’s hard being black, a woman, and a Christian and battling depression. Sometimes it seems like these identifiers work against each other.

Black people don’t do therapy.

You’re just being emotional.

Pray on it. God will guide you.

But I wasn’t being emotional, I was acutely aware that something wasn’t right. Why didn’t I care about the things I use to? Why did it feel like I was going through the motions? I was doing those things and saying the right stuff because I wanted the appearance that everything was fine.

It wasn’t.

I prayed. The more I prayed, the further I felt from God. The further I felt from God, the frustration and the hopelessness ratcheted up. So I prayed some more and the cycle started again.

Then I stopped praying.

I tried to rally. That’s what we do as black women, right? The world doesn’t have time for us to be broken, tired, or sad. It’s expected that we will get back up. I rallied by doing the things that I loved but I didn’t love doing them. I did them so people wouldn’t know that something was wrong. I tried. I tried so hard to love them again but I couldn’t. On the outside, I kept busy. Doing this. Doing that. But when I got home and it was just me the guard dropped and I lay in bed doing nothing. Binge watching tv shows and movies.

For two years, since about 2015, I’ve battled this depression. It’s taken me in 2018 to begin to see it as depression. It wasn’t me feeling “off.” It wasn’t something I imagined.

The hard part is I spent so many years pretending to be okay, forcing myself to look like I’m okay, that I don’t know how not to do that. I still push myself to do. Sign up for this activity. Get involved in this organization. Meanwhile, inside, I’m sinking in quicksand wanting it to all be over. To go home and just be instead of do.

Depression doesn't look like one particular thing. Here I am having an amazing career moment at the Texas Legislature in March 2017. No one knew that after that momentary high, in the quiet of my home, those feelings of doubt, sadness, and existential crisis returned. For months, I took sleeping pills to sleep as long and as deeply as possible because I didn't want to get up. Depression robbed me of my ability to sleep well so I compensated by taking pills.

Depression doesn't look like one particular thing. Here I am having an amazing career moment at the Texas Legislature in March 2017. No one knew that after that momentary high, in the quiet of my home, those feelings of doubt, sadness, and existential crisis returned. For months, I took sleeping pills to sleep as long and as deeply as possible because I didn't want to get up. Depression robbed me of my ability to sleep well so I compensated by taking pills.

My first major breakthrough came at the tale end of 2017 when it became clear to me, startling so, that I wasn’t okay. It wasn’t my circumstances. It wasn’t someone’s fault. It was me.

I had a problem.

I sought out a therapist and while its still early I’m making some headway. Much like my mother’s passing, I was grieving another sorrow. Rather than deal with it, I pushed it down. The hopelessness, the doubt, the existential ennui started and made a home in my heart and mind.

I’m tired. It still tires me to think of the work that’s a head of me. To learn how to manage this. To see the light in the darkness if only for a moment.

But I’m hopeful I’ll stand in the light again.