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, nmha.org; American Psychiatric Association, (888) 357-7924, psych.org.
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.