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According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, depression is the leading cause of disease and injury for women and men worldwide. Now when we typically think about being injured or being sick, depression almost never comes to mind at all. I guess with so many different stereotypes that come to mind when you bring up depression, many never speak on it. Most people that suffer from depression go through their entire lives completely sad and irritated with life itself and no one may ever notice it because it is often kept a secret. These secrets limit any visible indications of the mental illness itself as well, so most suffer in silence. Me personally, I never spoke on my depression until this year when I began our #MentalHealthMondays segment. I have suffered from it for the last 3-4 years now, but silently.
Reasons For Staying Silent during Depression
- For me, I had multiple reasons for not speaking up about my depression at all to anyone. First reason was I could never find anyone good enough to talk to about it other than my school counselor during college. To me, it seemed to be that people who have never dealt with depression were always the absolute worst people to talk to about my depression. Their words would never help and only made things worse for me because I wasn’t being careful with who I was confiding in. When I say I was not being careful, it means that I was depending on everyone to understand where I was coming from, not realizing that not everyone cares about what you are going through especially if there is not benefit in it for them personally. Or most have never been through depression before so don’t understand it. Most of the time the response I always got was “just think positive” not realizing that was the main problem…..you can’t. Your mind won’t allow you to do that. Thinking positive is no longer under your control. Then they would get mad at me for not being able to control things how they could not realizing I had a big problem that I needed help with.
- Second reason I never really opened up and shut down often is because others tended to judge me not only to my face but to other people behind closed doors for entertainment which always got back to me. I was often told that I was not listening or that I did not “want” to be better which never made sense to me especially if I’m coming to you reaching out and pleading for help. I have often been accused of being hard headed and lazy, or the famous one “you’re crazy”. But I’m not crazy and I am listening and I do want to be better ….I just never knew how to go about it. I was crying out for help and they didn’t see it. Really they didn’t want to see it, I was just entertainment for the time being.
- Third reasoning for being silent was because in my head I believed and I felt like depression is when you’re sinking into that sunken place and can’t get out. The more you speak on it, the more you sink. The less you speak on it, the more you sink. The more you think, the more you sink. I knew it is a full blown disease, not just a condition you can just snap out of so I often believed that there was no cure for it. Nothing could help me out of it. I believed that this is something that would stay with me forever.
- Fourth reasoning ties back into number 2, there are too many stereotypes in the African American community for people with any type of mental illness. I have often heard of and noticed other people of other different races are able to go to their families and close friends for help for something like this, and it is taken more seriously, but that was not an option for me. I had a fear of being judged by my own because I watched them judge their own while growing up who may have been going through the same issues and problems. I did not want to feel like my family and friends were disowning me simply because I needed help with something. I also did not want to make them feel like I was being needy. I wanted them to not have to worry about me and see me as being strong even if it meant I was killing myself deep down inside by staying silent.
- Fifth and last reasoning was my location and environment. I was raised by my grandmother who is well into her 80’s now in one of the Bible Belt states, South Carolina, so you already know it was drilled into my head to rely on my faith and the church to solve all my problems. Till this day I do not agree with that way of thinking. Yes, you should always keep your faith and trust in the Lord to make a way out of no way, but what happens when that is not enough? Some would automatically respond “the Lord is always enough” but lets think realistically here. When you are physically injured, say a broken bone, do you run to the church for help or do you go to the hospital and allow them to put your bones back together? You go to the hospital, so why do we tell those with mental illnesses to run tot he church instead of running to a counselor of some sort?
Since I have come to grips with my problem and accepted it for what it is, this year alone has been the most progress I have made towards maintaining my depression better. I did end up going to a counselor but only to have someone to talk to in general with no bias or pre-judgement. As you can tell, I really like to talk and it doesn’t really matter what it is about, but mental health is honestly a new and scary topic for me. Beforehand, I just thought I was too sad or what most call being weak but I was reassured over these last couple of months that I am in fact one of the strongest people around. Being able to keep a straight face through it all and smile through the pain is only something someone who is stronger than what they are going through is capable of doing.