Friday, May 26, 2006

Depression Stop Progression

I'm not sure if it was a phrase I coined or I'd just heard it somewhere along the way and adopted it as my own but "Depression stops progression" has become my mantra. I'd yell if from the rooftops if I could but I'm scared of heights. I'm very familiar with murky depths of depression and how difficult it is keep your head above water. When you're struggling to keep your head above water it's hard to be productive. "Depression stops progression".

Years ago when mom suggested that I might be suffering from clinical depression, I was offended. Her comment fell like an accusation, one that attacked the very core of who I am as a Black woman. I was on my way to Howard Univeristy with a big suitcase filled with the intentions of of conquering the world. I felt as if I couldn't be stopped. Sure I'd experienced more than my fair share of sleepless nights and moments of fear and anxiety. I thought it was normal. But when my mom forced me to look at my life, I had to admit that sadness outweighed joy. Still in my mind, that didn't mean I was depressed. I was concerned. I was worried. And when measured, my hardships were nothing in comparison with those that generations of Black women before me had faced. I dismissed them as part of life. But after being raped my sophmore year in college, I became so debilitated I could hardly get out of bed in the mornings. The crisis forced me to acknowledge that I was, indeed, depressed. And I wasn't alone.

According to the National Women's Health Information Center, about 16 percent of African-American women experience clinical depression at least once during their lives. But this figure fails to reflect the large number of sisters who suffer from depression but don't get professional help. Therapy is seen as an indulgence and the idea of antidepressants can be frightening. To some, taking medication would confirm that you just may be crazy.

Denial is one of the most common responses to clinical depression. It's also one of the most damaging, particularly for Black women because we've been taught to keep on keeping on, no matter what. We have learned to mistake stoicism for strength. Yet our refusal to acknowledge our pain doesn't send the hurt away. Also, some Black women find it easier to express anger than sadness. If you suffer from persistent feelings of pessimism, lethargy, irritability or sadness, it's important to get help.

Ask for referrals from relatives or friends or speak to your physician or minister. These organizations may also be able to help: National Mental Health Association, (800) 969-NMHA,; American Psychiatric Association, (888) 357-7924,

Also, when you feel yourself falling into a funk, the instinct is to retreat. But consistent bonding with our girlfriends is like a balm for the soul. We are healthiest when we're surrounded by loving people and in loving relationships.

But you have to start with loving yourself enough to get help.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Permission to Succeed

If you're finally ready to get more out of life, stop procrastinating, and overcome the fears that have held you back then you're ready to give yourself permission to be successful. Sounds a little weird doesn't it? Giving yourself permission to be a success? In a society of indulgence, instant gratification and spending promiscuity you would think giving yourself permission to live, to achieve, to be self-assured, charismatic, and prosperous would be of no consequence--yet this has become the challenge of the century.

Some people think of success in black and white terms: that either you make it happen or you don't. And if you don't then it's because you've made a choice not to. And that just might be true. It may have been an unconscious choice but it was a choice nonetheless. And that's where a lot of us get caught up; stuck in a state of fusion, wanting to be successful but either we're not quite sure how to get there or we don't know how to deal with the demons that hold us back from obtaining success. So just like we made the unconscious choice not to succeed or go after what we really want in life, in order to be successful we need to turn the tables, make another choice and give ourselves permission to live life to the fullest and make our dreams a reality.

But as with anything else, on the path to success there are going to be obstacles, things that get in the way and slow you down, two in particular that I want to talk about.

First up: fear. We all know that our fears are more often than not based on some imagined outcome that most likely will not be favorable. But knowing that doesn't seem to keep fear from having real power over us. And believe it or not - with all the other things out in the world to be scared of - fear of failure is one of the greatest fears people have.

The Law of Feedback states that there is no failure; there is only feedback. Successful people look at mistakes as outcomes or results, not as failure. Unsuccessful people look at mistakes as permanent and personal and end up self-limiting themselves. Most people do not achieve a fraction of what they are capable of achieving because they are afraid to try - because they are afraid they will fail.
Guilt is the second obstacle that stands in the way of success. And this is true especially for women. Women feel guilty because we can't be super moms, successful professionals, glamorous wives with brick house bodies, and public servants all at the same time. Guilt can take a hold of you and choke the success right out of you.

Moving from survival to significance will depend largely on our choice to give ourselves permission to be successful. So dream. Dream big and go after what you want. You CAN do it. You have my permission. Do you have yours?

Monday, May 15, 2006

I'll Always Love My Mama!

I am now officially a columnist for the Chicago Defender! I will be posting my weekly columns each Saturday for those without access to the paper. I am going to post this one today because I was anxious to start! Happy Belated Mother's Day!

May 12th

I'll always love my mama

I'm a self-proclaimed daddy's girl and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I adore my father, he was and will always be my hero, but I'll always love my mama.

Relationships between mother and daughters can often be difficult at best and ours seemed to be especially challenged. My mother says I favored my father from birth and indeed, my first recollections are filled with only my daddy, often vying with my mother for his undivided attention.

If our family was compared to a building; my father would have definitely been the foundation but my mother was in charge of keeping the structure intact. And she still is. But I didn't realize that growing up.

In fact, it took most of my life and becoming a mother myself to admit what a special and substantial role my mother played in my life. Sacrifice for the welfare of her family was in her every breath and it is now as an adult, now that I can talk to my mama – woman to woman – that I cherish and appreciate all that she did for us. And I understand it because I would do the same for my children.

Mother's presence was a given. She put her nursing career on hold to stay home and raise her two girls. She was our family's safe haven, our port in the storm of scraped knees, puberty, high school drama and broken hearts. All of us soon learned that we were the focus of our mother's life, her "career". She was fully devoted and dedicated to making our home a place where we would be nurtured into adults, fortified to face the world.

Lessons from my mother came in many ways. Some lessons I mastered and accepted easily, without question. Others I challenged. All served to mold and shape me through the breadth and depth of her love.

She was our biggest cheerleader, whether we succeeded at what we tried or not. She encouraged us to explore the world, to think for ourselves, and to be independent yet compassionate.

As I consider my life, and the lives of my children, I can see the threads of my mom's lessons weaving themselves into the tapestry of our family. They continue to appear in various patterns, uniquely sewn into the fabric of who we are.

It has been said that daughters "become" their mothers as they grow older, and many times I see myself reflecting on the qualities of mine. I feel good about this--particularly when the positive aspects of her character show forth. Nothing would please me more than to have my own children say they see the same qualities in me--availability, steadfastness, devotion, diligence, encouragement, faithfulness and love. To pass these lessons on would be a blessing to me -- a fruitful legacy in them, and their children as well.

When I look at who I have become as an adult, I see my mother's fingerprints all over me. As I said, I adore my father but I'll always love my mama. Happy Mother's Day.