I was hesitant to write this post because I was embarrassed. Me, the former therapist, mental health advocate, was embarrassed to discuss depression, go figure.
In recent years, you’ve heard people talk about mental health a lot more than they use to, especially in the black community. All of this awareness made it possible for some people to not only get the help they needed, but to share their story with others and inspire them to seek help. As I observed this slight shift in our culture, it appeared as though most people at one time or another has experienced some level of depression. Whether it was trigged by a certain event (loved one’s death, childbirth, etc.) or just showed up, a lot of people have danced with depression. Everyone except me, of course.
Earlier this year, I went for my yearly check up and I was telling my doctor about some extreme fatigue I had been experiencing. Her response was, “are you depressed?” In my head, my response was, “girl, who are you talking to? I take trips, I meet friends for lunch dates, I go to events, I’m involved in my church, I have an active prayer life. I’m out here living my best life!” But instead I told her, “no, I don’t think so.” She went on to talk about vitamin deficiencies that could cause certain symptoms and said that stress also plays a vital role in our physical well-being (which I knew). So, I decided that I was stressed. I left the doctor, almost offended that she would think that me and my awesomeness could be depressed.
Fast forward to a month or so later and I’m meeting up to have an early dinner with a friend who graduated with me from my therapy program. I was physically drained but we had been trying to meet up for months so I knew I couldn’t cancel. As we’re catching up on life (it had been almost a year), and I’m explaining to her my current state of being, she says you should go talk to someone. It had been over two years since I’d seen my counselor, and I’d considered going but it never really seemed necessary. After all, it’s not like I was depressed. But when my friend suggested it, I realized she was right. I NEEDED to talk to someone.
There are different types of depressions. According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (what doctors/therapists/counselors use to make diagnoses) it is considered a mood disorder, which sounds pretty scary. People hear depression, and they automatically think suicide, which is not true. Suicidal thoughts can be a symptom of depression, but many people do not experience it as a symptom. Other symptoms include:
- Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).
- Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day
- Significant weight change (5%) or change in appetite
- Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Change in activity: Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness
I know some of you are reading this and telling yourself, “omgoodness, that’s me!” Like I said before, most of us have experienced some symptoms of depression at certain points in our lives but an official diagnosis should come from a medical professional (in my opinion, a counselor/therapist/psychologist, but that’s just me).
So, what now? I scheduled an appointment to meet with my counselor. My counselor isn’t big on labels so it’s highly unlikely she’ll say, “yes, Jocee you are depressed,” and I don’t need her to. I think some people need a diagnosis to know they are not crazy for feeling how they feel (no one says anything when someone gets diagnosed with diabetes after experiencing extreme thirst for months, which is a symptom of diabetes). If this is you, seek help and get better. If you’re like me and perhaps experiencing the symptoms but not interested in the diagnosis, seek help and get better. Someone can believe they do not have diabetes, but if their sugar levels says some sort of intervention needs to happen, they should seek treatment even if they reject the label.
I’m not going to lie, I feel like I have a strong case of that black woman syndrome. Life is a lot right now (for no particular reason, I should add), but it just doesn’t seem that bad. I tell myself other people have it worse and I have to just get through it. But my friend helped me realize, my life can be better than this. God intended for me to enjoy the fruit of my labor (Ecclesiastes 5:18) and that’s what I’m going to do. I encourage you to do the same thing.
And one more thing: Stay off the internet and talk to a live person. This is your confirmation, this is your “sign.” Sometimes you can’t talk yourself through a situation (like you’ve been trying to do), you have to pray and talk yourself through it with someone else who knows what they’re talking about. If you don’t have insurance, this is a site with licensed professionals at a reasonable cost and some offer telecommunication (video chat) and phone calls https://openpathcollective.org/ (there is a $49 sign up fee). And it’s okay if you have to try a few people before you find a good fit.
Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.