It was a very dark and cold day–scratch that. It sounds like the beginning to a murder mystery. However, one day last week, when I was in a very dark mood and feeling the cold from this snowy winter, things seemed just plain bad. Ironically, while checking my Twitter messages, there was one from Brittany G. (@blackposimage), Founder of Black Positive Image regarding the You Don’t Know My Story campaign.
She and I had previously spoken about black and depression, so she reached out to me regarding telling my story about coping with chronic depression. Here was an opportunity to share my experience and to inspire others to continue enduring despite feelings of despair. I have reprinted my submission below.
You Don’t Know My Story–Thriving While Living with Chronic Depression
At the end of 2002, I told myself that I would write a book called Twenty-One. It would chronicle my 21st year of existence. Mine would be a story that would inspire young women everywhere to keep fighting through the challenges they faced during their transition into adulthood, while navigating relationships, and while working hard to provide for themselves. The only problem is that I hadn’t yet figured that out.
Earlier that year, I remember lying in a hospital bed looking at the ceiling wondering if I should keep fighting. Just a week earlier, I’d flown to Northern California to meet a man that I thought genuinely cared for me, only to find out that he wasn’t the person who I’d been communicating with. He never came to see me, and the impact to my self-esteem was profoundly painful. I remember thinking only of taking my own life.
This wasn’t the first time I’d experienced such paralyzing sadness. Throughout grade school, I’d been seen as a problem child, always causing disruptions, constantly fighting, and frequently in the principal’s office. Inside, I dealt with feelings of inadequacy, not quite feeling like I fit in. I was a brilliant child, but that was only distinguished with test scores, and not by school performance. What was prescribed for me by educators was never hopeful. They’d just be glad if I made it at all.
While meditating on how I ended up in a mental health facility, I couldn’t make sense of my life. At that point, there was nothing to look forward to. I was a very spiritual person, so it didn’t seem that faith was the problem. I just felt overcome with hopelessness for ME. I knew God had a plan, but was I in it? Was I worthy? Did I deserve to be alive at all?
Looking back, I remember feeling that I was the only oddball experiencing such overwhelming feelings. I felt rejected by my peers because, up to that point, they had never experienced hardships that were all consuming. Life was all fun and games to most young people around me, so seeing me in a more serious and even melancholy state was a bummer.
The truth is, the stigma attached to depression should be alleviated. While I don’t expect everyone to suddenly confess that they too feel swallowed up by emotions, depression is a very real problem amongst the African American community. We tend to cover it up with or spiritual rituals and crying it out at church, but at night, several of us are in a fetal position wondering how they are going to make it through another day.
The only way I have been able to endure my feelings was through the support of friends, family, spiritual assistance AND mental health professionals. I have been under a doctor’s care periodically monitoring me and prescribing nutritional and physical regimens to support me in my battle.
If you deal with depression, you have to recognize your limitations and not put too much stress on yourself. Additionally, eating properly, exercising regularly, getting sufficient rest, and following a routine can provide some relief.
I still have bouts of depression. Every winter, I feel immensely worse, perhaps because of the shorter days and lack of sunshine. What helps me though is staying busy. Though now I’ve made the adjustment to being self-employed as marketing and publicity consultant, I make it a point to follow a schedule. It helps me maintain a measure of control when control of emotions seems elusive.
One of the best pieces of advice I heard was in a public discourse to young impressionable youths. “Keep living.” The solution to your problem just may be around the corner. Giving up and giving in to depression won’t allow you the chance to live to see that. I’ve had my share of ups and downs and in enduring this plague, I can say that there are bright points. I’m glad that I have continued to live so that I can see them. I will keep on living to see yet more.
About the Author
Jasmine Powers is a marketing and publicity consultant and owner of J Powers Marketing & Publicity and the author of the Cultured Girls Only blog. She enjoys reading, jewelry making, and sewing and has hopes of opening a retail establishment to sell her goods. She resides in the New York area.