Today I want to write about mental illness… my own.
Anyone who knows me, just a little would use these words to describe me: happy, cheerful, and never stressed. My husband calls me his “optimism”.
He also says I can be a “Pit Viper”.
I’ve suffered off and on with depression since 1997. I know what I’m talking about. Not sad or a little down but, depressed. During these years, I raised two children, maintained a healthy marriage and taught school. How? You ask. With the help of my big sister who suggested (insisted) that I, at a very young age, twenty-two to be exact, go to a clinical Psychologist. “GO!” She said. “Just trust me and GO!”
She didn’t explain how it would make my life better, but assured me that it would. She was right. I was exhibiting signs of depression then and she saw it. My psychologist helped me to have a deeper understanding of myself and how certain depressed feelings could be affecting the choices that I made. Not his job to judge my choices or to change them, just to help me make the connection between my depressed feelings and my choices; after all, I did have free will. Looking back, he never even used the word depressed. I was young and he was good. No stigma, no darkness, no shame.
This was unheard of in the deeply southern black community from which I had come. This was and still is taboo. Suggested remedies would have been; go to church, pray harder.
Mental health just doesn’t work that way. Neither does dental health. You could no sooner pray away depression than you could pray away a cavity. We do best when we pray and use the resources we’ve been given. Abandoning my Southern Baptist upbringing was not necessary but being open to other things, was.
Mental Health needs to be dealt with aggressively, like Cancer. We pray…yes, but we also use Chemo when we need it. Is there any shame in that? No.
What did help me? Exercise, Mindfulness Meditation, journaling, therapy and years later…medicine.
Managing all of these in the name of depression also gave me a great defense mechanism against stress, which causes my MS to be more active. I can never really separate these things; MS and depression and stress.
The larger point of this post is: a few days ago a beautiful young brown girl, Karyn Washington, only twenty-two years old to be exact, committed suicide.http://www.cosmopolitan.com/celebrity/news/karyn-washington-suicide
Karen was the creator and founder of “For Brown Girls”, http://www.forbrowngirls.com/, an online inspirational blog which was there for other girls, an undertaking well beyond her years. Her mother recently died of cancer.
She was a gift.
I wish she had had a big sister like mine; or an Auntie, a Teacher, a Minister, a Friend …a STRANGER who cared enough to say “GO! Just trust me and GO to a psychologist”! Someone who understood what was happening and could take the ridicule. There is no shame in that.
There is shame however in letting our ignorance and fear cause us to lose even one more precious gift. We need to open up. Talk about mental health and suicide. Talking about it doesn’t make it happen, just the opposite, it prevents it.
New York Times Article: Suicide Prevention sheds Light on Longstanding Taboo.
Please share your thoughts and experiences: