This past year has been tremendously difficult. An extraordinarily arduous time for me (and my family) due to untimely, soul-wrenching deaths ( my stepfather, followed by my Daddy and now my grandmother) and the termination of my marriage. *Read about it here*
It’s been a series of indescribable devastation and grief with, seemingly, no pot of gold at the end of this oppressively, gloomy ass rainbow. But here I stand.
Black Americans and Caribbean Latinos are more likely to not be treated for depression even though we are more likely to suffer from it. Mental health issues in our community are not taken as seriously as they should be.
It is a well-known fact that blacks were/are often used as guinea pigs in medicine via white medical “professionals”. The Tuskegee Experiment, white neurosurgeons experimenting with black boys in Mississippi during the 60's and 70's and the Genetic Violence Research Experiment by Columbia University in New York during the 90's are just a few of the many remnants of white America’s medical reign of terror on blacks and latinos.
Although we have very valid and genuine fears and cause for concern, we can’t continue to not treat ourselves. Our lives depend on it. My life depended on it.
My faith helped but it cannot make me better. Depression can’t be prayed away.
I was spiraling out of control and quickly. Although I was surprisingly functional, I managed to write, stay, partially-active on social media, pay bills and even stay active in my ilé; I was becoming a danger to myself and others. My anger and grief caused emotional tornadoes where in which- my rage would have me wanting to punch everybody in the face to collapsing into a sobbing baby at any moment. This was a daily occurrence.
I hated and loved my people at the same time. I wanted to be around them and for them to leave me the fuck alone all at once. I wanted to live and die simultaneously. Yes, I wanted to die. But being an additional cause of my daughter’s and family’s already fragile mental states would not be something I carried with me into the after life. Besides, my egun, especially my Daddy, would kick my ass and SEND ME BACK FOR COPPING OUT. It wasn’t worth it.
All of this happened while my daughter spent the summer away. Thank God.
But I swore that I was fine though.
This is grief, right?
I am mentally strong. I repeat. I. AM. MENTALLY. STRONG. Except even the mighty get weary.. even the mighty get weary.
You cannot pray depression away.
One of the biggest misconceptions in our community is that depression can be “prayed away”. We have, traditionally, relied on faith to get us through many of life’s ups and downs. We pray for the winning lotto numbers, for it not to rain on Keisha’s wedding day, for Julio’s hooptie to start and even for Pookie to make it through high school.
I get it. We pray. But prayer doesn’t cure mental illness or acute mental health issues. Praying doesn’t prevent suicidal thoughts or the feeling of completely losing control. It didn’t restore my appetite causing me to lose roughly 40 pounds within a span of two and a half months. Nor did it satiate my rage. Prayer didn’t stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks at the many triggers which reminded me of my Mufasa and my stepfather, Pedro, daily.
I SUFFER AND HAVE BEEN FORMALLY DIAGNOSED WITH CLINICAL MAJOR DEPRESSION.
I was “unofficially” diagnosed by my younger sister who happens to be an amazing psychologist. But due to ethical factors like “conflict of interest” and her being knee-deep in the same issues of grief, one of the people whom I trust most in the world could not treat me.
I, probably, would not have sought treatment had my mami and sister not intervened. They were willing to walk away from their jobs and other responsibilities to make sure that I was ok. They loved me enough to sacrifice their own mental health to help me with mine. The two surviving members of my nuclear family, fighting through their own grief, deserved better than what I was offering.
I did not want that on my conscience.
So, I got help. White therapists and black men were not options for me, I scoured the web and asked for referrals. I found a mental health professional with whom I identified. And she is phenomenal. On my personal Facebook statuses, I hinted at needing help and not being ok. I offered teasers of my despair. I spoke about my sadness but this is the first time that I’ve openly and HONESTLY spoken about being suicidal and not being able to cope.
And I write this in tears because had it not been for my family, I wouldn’t be here. Keka would not be here. Reading this gives me chills...
Even the mighty get weary and we are not required to carry all of our burdens. Even your therapist has a therapist. Believe me.
Get help. You are not crazy. I am not crazy. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. We wouldn’t high blood pressure untreated. Our minds are just as important.
We can overcome depression.
I am still a work in progress. I see a therapist twice a week for grief as well as the ending of my marriage. I have homework and my daughter has even accompanied me to one of my sessions. I still cry and I still rage out but I am now in better control of my emotions. I’ve also renewed my love of working out which provides natural endorphins to lift the spirit. I have a 40 pound head start. I feel better. Not amazing but better and every day gets a little brighter.
I am learning that...
I am mentally strong. I repeat. I. AM. MENTALLY. STRONG.