MS: Let’s talk about Mental illness…mine.

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”.

Is this the face of depression? Look again.

Is this the face of depression? Look again.

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.karyn-washington-

Karen was the creator and founder of “For Brown Girls”,, 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.

Helpful Links:

New York Times Article: Suicide Prevention sheds Light on Longstanding Taboo.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Depression and Chronic Illness

Psychology Today Magazine

Please share your thoughts and experiences:





Filed under Mental Well-Being, Uncategorized

9 responses to “MS: Let’s talk about Mental illness…mine.

  1. carliebrowne2014

    You have a beautiful story and are a role model. Thank you!

    My daughter, who is biracial, suffers from bipolar and deep depression. Being someone who has suffered from depression on and off since I was 13, I know that some days, some years for that matter, are better than others and have learned the importance in doing things, regardless of how I feel at that moment. I encourage her to stay in therapy, practice meditation, express her thoughts through art, and be active, especially when it seems hard, because the tools help give her power to transform it into something beyond the present.

    Depression and bipolar run on my side, so I could recognize the symptoms, even when she was young, but I refused to use the labels until recently. This was more to explain to her teachers, her school, and others dealing with her behaviors so that they might understand the challenges she faced. My daughter has since researched on her own so that she might better understand herself and I have been explaining the labels do not define HER.

    As far as stigma is concerned, I suspect mental illness exists on her father’s side, as well, but they do not believe it is a real thing. Anything that happens is blamed on bad parenting or behavioral issues, which has caused my daughter to distrust the professionals treating her, and me, for that matter. I did not understand this lack of belief until my daughter’s current psychologist explained that mental illness is not really recognized in the African American culture and that many suffer in silence.

    I am also saddened to hear when positive role models succumb to the pain of life, stealing one more story of inspiration from those who might need it. I believe we really do need to help one another through our individual messages and hope that our children can overcome their obstacles and the stigma of mental illness.


  2. grrateful1

    Masterful…! xoxo


  3. Great post. I, too, suffer from depression amongst a long list of other chronic illnesses and mental illnesses. I currently am seeing 3 different psychologists. I have a team. I see each one once a week, that’s 3 sessions per week, but I have so much going on besides the depression, it takes a team to keep me alive and it’s working. I have one that helps with all the physical pain issues. I have one that helps with everything else and whatever else happens to come up or that I’m struggling with at the time and I just started with the 3rd therapist doing DBT group. Depression is a life long illness and needs to be treated. I am not ashamed. Just like my doctor said, “no one thinks twice if you have a heart problem, but when you have a problem with your brain, which is no different, people freak.” It’s just a problem with a different part of our bodies and people need to understand this and get the help they need. No shame, it’s no different. I really liked this post and you sound like such an inspirational woman. Keep it up, you’re doing great. I wish you the best on your journey. Nothing wrong with you and you’re not alone with this battle of depression. Take care.


  4. Carlie, I wish I knew what to tell you about the African American community being in denial. It breaks my heart to know how many of “us” struggle and we don’t have to.Thank God for my sister. Even within MY family there is the taboo. I think my sister and I are just Bad ASSES! But…the Bad asses that we are, was still not enough to save one of my siblings. I know that I’ll write about it one day. I’m just not ready.Maybe never.
    Oh, and your daughter will be fine 🙂 being 14 is hard to do even without extra stuff!


  5. Mental illness is a monster of great proportions, in and of itself. Add any chronic illness/disease to it and monster grows in epic proportion.

    I am very saddened to hear this beautiful young woman lost her battle with depression.

    I have fought the demon called depression most of my life. I have used and continue to use, a variety of tools to beat the damn monster back down to a manageable size. When the MS I now know I’ve actually had for decades, was finally diagnosed in late 2012 and my neurologist encouraged me to see the hospital pyschologist, I groaned. My first thought was, “here we go again, pawn me off on yet another shrink who will tell my symptoms aren’t real!”

    But I eventually caved and am so glad I did! He see’s both my husband and I every few months and has been a huge help for both of us coming to terms with what should have been caught a long time ago, and in figuring out how to go forward from here. Mostly, it just helps talking to one that has a thorough grasp on exactly what MS is, and what it does to our bodies!

    Now, if only my family doctor did.

    Great post! 🙂


  6. Well hey there! I’m so glad you’ve been back to check my updates out. Even though I haven’t updated yet 😦 I’m gonna, I swear :)I do wanna say though that I really appreciate you sharing. It feels sometimes as though I am the only person in THE WORLD who has this reality. I know that’s not true, and I know that putting it out here is sometimes frightening. I do it anyway because I know that someone, somewhere, is gonna read it and then feel better about themselves. When you so comfortably comment about your own life…it just makes them feel even better. No, it’s not just that lady with the big mouth that has no filters :))


  7. You’re welcome! I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. Filters or not, I love your sense of humour! 🙂

    Just no more cliff hangers about heart attacks, okay?! 😉


  8. Okaaaay:( I promise!


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