All Articles Tagged "depression"
My Own Battle With Depression: Why People Should Empathize With, Rather Than Criticize, Karyn Washington
“Yeah, tell me about it. Stuff around here has been crazy for me too. I can’t even begin to explain. But I can tell you that there ain’t no crystal staircases around here,” I said in a telephone mouthpiece.
I knew I had butchered Langston Hughes in my attempt to sound profound, but I was too broken to care.
And so was the long-lost girlfriend on the other end of the line. We were never super-close really, only knowing each other in a professional manner. But we were cool enough to the point that I didn’t mind her reaching out to me for help not too long ago. At the time, I just didn’t understand what she thought I could do. “Yeah I know. I’m just going through everyone in phonebook. It’s just really bad right now,” she said, as her voice trailed off into a whisper.
Admittedly, it has been a tough period in life for the both of us. She, a part-time artist, lost her full-time job back in August 2012; Me, a part-time writer, I lost my full-time gig a few months after she did in October. I was saddened to learn that, like me, she too had been struggling to make ends meet while trying to forge new paths in life. The news was somewhat stunning at the time, considering that my colleague always seems to be involved in one thing or another. If she isn’t volunteering for park projects, she is organizing events in the community or having an artist showcase. I see her name and face tagged in all sorts of happy pictures on social media, and the times I had run into her, she always seemed to be extremely positive, optimistic and in good spirits. But she was actually feeling the opposite way.
“Somedays I can’t even get out of bed. And I’m starting to think I have depression,” she confessed.
I was pissed at my friend for not reaching out to me sooner. But that annoyance quickly evaporated when I looked inward and reflected on my own inability to reach out. Then I understood: Who am I to judge?
I think this is why I find myself irked when reading the threads and conversations around the passing of Karyn Washington, founder of For Brown Girls and #DarkSkinRedLip. In particular, it is the lack of empathy and casual dismissals, which have found their way under my skin. I’m not going to call anyone out specifically, because I’m not trying to accidentally throw these specific cowry shell hawking, anti-black women ministrants anymore publicity than they already don’t deserve. But I want to speak to the less opportunistic lot of you, who seem confused about how someone can act as a beacon of empowerment for other women, and not be that for herself. Although I admired her work, I never met Washington, so I can’t tell you her whys and hows. But I can share with you my own battle with depression, which hopefully will give you insight:
I was convinced that losing my job was a universal sign that it was the time to go out and give my part-time dreams a full-time whirl. All of them. I was going to excel professionally (and more importantly, financially), find love and travel. For a while I was really believing that. And then winter arrived – both literally and figuratively. First the heater went. Then the polar vortex happened. Then my plumbing messed up because of the polar vortex. Then the parking authority had it out for me. Then my dog got injured and I had to put him to sleep. Then my grandma died. Then money wasn’t adding up…
Basically, the grand investment in myself, which I was sure the universe had co-signed, had turned into the sequel to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Incidents.
And yet, I was walking around with a fake smile. When anybody asked how things were going, my response was always, “fine.” That’s what we are suppose to do. That’s what we are taught to do: Think positive thoughts. Think so that one day you become. Don’t give into the negative. Negative thoughts become you.
Abracadabra, laws of attraction and all the rest of the self-help jazz hands.
But by mid-February – after the umpteenth snowstorm, fifth personal crisis and the second blue letter from some utility company threatening to cut-off my lights and heat like I wasn’t still living there – I finally snapped.
I went around the house, cursing the heavens, throwing stuff and turning over furniture. It was actually quite therapeutic–until I smashed one vase too many and a fragmented piece ricocheted off the hardwood floor and smacked me right in the eyeball (To this day, I still think I have a piece of porcelain in my eye, but medicaid hasn’t expanded in my state, and I’m too poor for Obamacare, so if there is glass in my eye, I just have to make due with looking around for it right now). Man, I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I couldn’t even get angry and throw s**t, correctly? I curled up into a ball on the floor and wailed from both the emotional and physical hurt of it all.
I thought about it. I thought about the box of over-the-counter sleeping pills in the cabinet. At the time, it totally made sense. What was it all for? What am I doing here? Nothing I do seems to matter. I don’t feel like I matter, and if this is the case, I might as well make an early retirement and find out for sure what is on the other side.
I would like to say that it was faith, which told me not to take those pills that night. Believing in others, and truthfully, even myself, has not always been a strong suit of mine. Rather, I think it was actually hope that kept me strong that night–the hope that I’m wrong about everything, and that I do matter and what I do matters out here.
And it is that contradiction within myself, which inspires me to write daily on principals of justice, equality and empowerment, even at times when I feel powerless. And I imagine it is also why my friend volunteers her time and energy into the community; and why poor people in general tend to be more charitable and helpful to others than their more wealthier counterparts; and why some of us, who harbor the most personal insecurities and hang-ups, teach the virtues of loving yourself to others; and why those in lockdown are often the ones who sing the loudest about black folks gaining their freedom from racial oppression. It’s the hope that whatever we put out into the world will find ways to manifest in our own lives. Maybe.
Some folks may think I’m weak and a hypocrite. But while we ponder over the strength and vitality of those, who have thought about taking their life, and those who have actually given in to the thought, let us also remember those times when we criticized, mocked, denounced and sometimes angrily confronted people, who talk too much. You know who I’m talking about: the over-sharers on Facebook with baby-mama/daddy drama; The random lady with the frowny-face on the subway you just commanded to “smile” because, “it ain’t that bad”; The sensitive guy, who you laughed at because he dared to show tears after a hard breakup or some other personal loss. As a society, we are good at being judges and jurors, but suck really badly at being good stewards and helpmates to one another.
“Honestly I think the answer is that we have to stay connected with each other. Like, that is the only way we can get through life,” said my long-lost girlfriend on the other end of the phone line. I listened to her wax poetic some more about the emotional and physical value of interconnectedness. She made some solid points. I told her that if she is ever feeling down, I don’t care the time or day, to give me a call.
Then I hung up with her and reached out to another girlfriend, who too is part of the long-term unemployed, on top of her other personal problems. She told me she was happy I called because she was, at that moment, going through it. We talked old-school style with a single bottle of malt liquor on a park bench, unloading on each other. She listened without judgment and I listened without fake concern trolling. Nothing in any of our lives was solved that night. But at least we helped each other to not feel alone.
People suffer from depression for all sorts of reasons. From a horrible break up to just a rough patch in life, depression can hit at any time, and for some it’s a never-ending condition they have to cope with every day. If you are dealing with depression, don’t think that dating is out of the question — or that you should hide it from your partner. Here are 14 tips for dating with depression.
As black people, we are often praised for our strength. We’re tough. After all, we’re the race that endured 400 years of slavery, the Civil Rights movement of the sixties, and still deal with modern-day racism disguised as something else. Still, statistically, blacks see substantially lower rates in jobs and higher rates in poverty than most other races, but still we’re told to just hold on and be strong.
This strength, whether loud or quiet, is one of the reasons I take pride in being a black woman; but just like most things, it’s sometimes a gift and a curse.
This strength is one of the reasons why I’ve suffered from bouts of severe anxiety and never mentioned it to anyone, often telling myself I’m tough and strong women don’t cry or break. And I’ve even seen other people experience issues that could only be classified as mental illness go without help. Yes, this ‘strength’ that most black people wear as a badge of honor is sometimes the same thing that kills us.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Services, blacks are 20 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than whites.
Still, most of us don’t seek help. We can do it. We can get through it. We’re fighters. We’ll pray on it. These are only some of the ways we try to convince ourselves. And for a while it may work, but just like any issue that goes unresolved, things usually get worse.
While some consider suicide an act least associated with our community, I disagree. We also kill ourselves, and many times, not just in the literal sense. High obesity rates, several physical illnesses, increasing poverty and high incarceration rates are telling of the times. One in every three black males is expected to go to jail at least once in his life, and if that’s not enough, studies show that black teenagers are twice as likely as whites to get pregnant at a young age. While we don’t necessarily end our lives physically, some stressed decisions slowly kill our dreams, our hopes, and our happiness.
So what’s the first step? As cliché as it sounds, being honest with yourself is most important. Admit that you’re going through a tough time, that you have issues stemming from your past, or that you’re tired of having to be so strong. Then make up in your mind that you will be committed to living a better life than your ancestors, because you have more resources than they did to speak out, speak up and seek help.
We don’t have to hurt alone or even be ashamed of our pain. As strong as we are taught to be, even the strongest people can crack, and when we do, we should seek help. Whether it’s ‘daddy issues’, a poverty-stricken childhood, sexual abuse that was swept under the rug, or low self esteem, black people need help to, and there’s no shame ins seeking out help professionally for our issues.
I come from an emotionally-stifled family. Showing extreme emotion in either direction always seemed frowned upon by elders of the family. You had better not get too giddy, especially if you were a little girl. It wasn’t ladylike to laugh loudly. You better not sit too long sulking or being sad. You have too much to be grateful for to allow that. And if someone made you angry? You better not fly off the handle. In fact, you better perfect your poker face so not even the slightest hint of anger can creep across your face.
I had no way of realizing it for a long time, but I had been taught to be emotionally dead for most of my childhood. I would smile when it was appropriate. I would grieve in private. I would stifle my rage over injustice. I would bottle my feelings up to maintain a comfortable space for those around me. I was a robot.
I had stuffed the height and depth of any emotion so far down into myself that I didn’t know how to express the overabundance of joy I felt at times, or how to feel and express the red rage I felt at other times. I didn’t know how to deal with my long and hard bout with depression. I didn’t even recognize it as depression for the first year.
It took hours of prayer, meditation, Bible-reading, journaling, sunlight, upbeat music, self-reflective questioning, and conversation for me to reach deep enough to find myself again. Under all the buried thoughts, feelings, emotions, screams and cries, there I was. It hit me like a left jab to the jaw:
The more I stifled my natural joyous responses to minimize disapproval from the more reserved members of my family, the more depressed I felt, and the more negative emotions sank into my spirit. The more I tried to fight negative emotions, the deeper their roots grew and the more I was controlled by them. That’s not quite right, is it? I had to learn that negative emotions WILL pass if I decided to take control of them by ALLOWING them their time. If someone gets under my skin, I allow myself to feel anger. If a situation hurts me, I allow the hurt to wash over me, but only for a time. I give myself time to be human in feeling whatever comes to me. And then, I get up. I look for and apply the lesson in it, I channel it toward something creative and I move forward.
Understanding and healthily expressing my emotions creates a safe space for me as someone in a society that increasingly embraces the disingenuous for appearances’ sake. Being free to express emotion honestly should be a right from birth, not an epiphany had during a quarter-life crisis. My trajectory has shown me in 3-D that it is important for sanity, honest and open communication with others, and genuine self-expression. I wasn’t gifted the opportunity of space and time on this earth to be a robot, clone or drone. Some of us wait a lifetime, but I’m elated that I’ve been blessed to make this discovery, now, at 27 years old. Now, I can live a lifetime of free expression.
La Truly is a writer, college professor and young women’s empowerment enthusiast. She mixes her interest in social and cultural issues with her life experiences to encourage thought, discussion and positive change among young Women of Color. Follow her on Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly and check out her site: www.hersoulinc.com.
Bill de Blasio’s 19-year-old daughter, Chiara de Blasio, is talking candidly about her struggles with drugs and depression, just days before her father’s inauguration. Up until now her father’s campaign team had worked hard to suppress the details about Chiara’s problems, so as not to distract from the image of a happy and tight-knit family from Brooklyn, reports The New York Times. But she’s coming clean in a new video that has been posted for the public.
In the five-minute clip, Chiara speaks candidly about her adolescent battle with depression, which led to drinking and drug use. These habits heightened when she was attending college in California last year.
In the video, Chiara, dressed in a colorful headband and a taupe T-shirt, speaks in typical teenage cadences, saying her effort to become sober has been “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
She also described a sense of “physical insecurity” after leaving her parents’ home in Brooklyn for Santa Clara University in 2012. It was during this period she grew dependent on marijuana and alcohol.
Chiara’s video announcement was met with a statement from the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House, who praised her “tremendous bravery in speaking out about her recovery.”
According to the de Blasio team, the video is an effort to help those who might be suffering from similar issues during the holiday season. Others says that Chiara’s substance abuse has long a subject of speculation in the New York political world and the video allows the family to approach the subject on their own terms. Still others say the timing was important, with many people choosing to “dump” unfavorable news during the holidays when the public are more concerned with holiday festivities.
“She speaks to it with incredible courage and clarity and, you know, with a voice that really suggests an incredible wisdom for someone who’s only 19 years old,” the mayor-elect said.
According to an individual familiar with the situation, Chiara had wanted to speak out about her substance abuse during the mayoral campaign, but her parents were concerned about how that might affect her recovery.
New Yorkers responded positively to the personal nature of de Blasio’s campaign – from talk of Bill de Blasio’s family problems growing up (his dad committed suicide), to his wife’s changing sexuality — and might do so as well to Chiara’s video.
“Now, every one of those members of that family is part of our lives, and will continue to be for as long as Bill de Blasio is in office,” Hank Sheinkopf, a political consultant, said. “They will be part of our daily New York drama, whether they like it or not, and whether we like it or not.”
Queen Latifah Talks “Numbing” Herself With Alcohol In The Past To Deal With Molestation And Her Brother’s Death
Queen Latifah is having a pretty awesome year. Her talk show is a huge hit, and she’s happier than ever. But she wasn’t always feeling on top of the world. Queen La opened up to Good Housekeeping about going through a state of depression in the mid ’90s that had her numbing herself with alcohol. This sadness was brought on by the death of her brother, Lance Jr., who died in a car accident in 1992, riding the motorcycle she bought him. It was also amplified when she was carjacked and her good friend who was riding with her almost died after being shot the carjacker. Here’s what Latifah had to say about how she dealt with that time:
“My life was rocked to the core. And I felt guilty because I was angry at God.
Drinking a bunch of alcohol, numbing myself. Every day I would be faded, like a painting that’s just not vibrant, whose edges are dull. I wasn’t living my full life.”
After she was arrested in 1996 for driving with marijuana and a loaded gun (which she had to protect herself after the carjacking), she took the advice of good friend Jada Pinkett Smith and sought therapy to deal with her depression. By doing so, many things that she was hiding inside came to light, including pain from being molested when she was a five-year-old by her babysitter. The therapy was the first step to her getting back to happy.
“We ignore our feelings a lot, I realize. Many of us have to…until they really bite us in the butt. What set me free was looking at it from a different perspective. I was 5, manipulated and afraid. You have to say something. The power of those who perpetrate the abuse is your fear and your shame…and that’s unacceptable.”
She also came to grips with the loss of her brother through her faith in God:
“I was continuously praying. I realized that wasn’t helping me or my brother. I learned that God was going to provide comfort; I know He is always listening and guiding.
I got this little message in my head that I feel was from God. It was as clear as day, like a voice that said to me, Dana, don’t let it all go, because you’re gonna get through this. Nobody is perfect. I know that I’m not a saint, but God’s love is there for me. I know that I need help to make it through every day, so I pray to God to help me do the best I can, to lift me up when I am tired and help me develop into the person He wants me to be…I am always surrounded by His love, and He is always there.”
Looooove Queen! Check out her full interview with Good Housekeeping here and let us know what you think of her story.
One day I was normal and then suddenly I wasn’t. I remember being a happy teenager with hopes and dreams, silly crushes, loving school, my family and friends. Then, I noticed that my dreams were being replaced by a sense of utter hopelessness and despair. Friends stopped being fun and school became drudgery. I was sixteen and all I knew was that getting out of bed every morning was becoming a struggle. This was the beginning of my seven-year battle with depression.
October is Depression Awareness Month. It is estimated that yearly over 19 million adults and approximately 33% of all teenagers suffer from depression in some form.
Referred to as the “dark night of the soul,” this disease is not always easily diagnosed. In fact, for most of my depression, I simply thought I had just become short-tempered and mean. I hated my bad attitude, but I didn’t have the energy—or mental wherewithal—for anything else. Negative thoughts consumed me and I sought solace in isolation. It wasn’t until others confronted my harsh exterior and stopped letting me hide that I mustered the courage to ask for help.
Maybe you or someone you love is dealing with depression and perhaps you don’t even know it! Here are a few signs and suggestions for turning on the lights and outing depression:
1. PMS Every Day: Depression sends our emotions into overwhelm and constant irritability may be a sign that something is wrong. During the “dark night of the soul” nothing feels normal.
For me, regular daily tasks became energy-draining chores. Brushing my teeth, combing my hair—such simple things—required focus. I was channeling all my energy into keeping it together—so dealing with others quickly sent me into emotional withdrawal, which played out in spurts of anger, irritation and even acting overly passive. I just couldn’t deal!
2. Fashion Failure: Before my depression, fashion was one of my passions. I loved dressing up—even for high school. To be honest, I was a bit over the top! But gradually, I lost interest and stopped caring about my appearance. If you notice a change in a loved one’s appearance—or your own desire for self-care—it could be a sign of something more.
Read more at Essence.com
Every month, women around the world are experiencing pre-menstrual syndrome, better known as PMS. The symptoms of PMS vary and are based on where women live, their occupation, and diet. But regardless of the differences, most women will tell you they do not feel like themselves in the week prior or during their monthly cycle.
As common as PMS is, some women experience symptoms that are even more severe, which is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), or “PMS on steroids,” and according to NPR, under the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM-5, PMDD is now considered a distinct mental disorder. While as many as 85 percent of menstruating women have at least one PMS symptom, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, no more than 1 percent of menstruating women are affected by PMDD, which requires the following criteria for diagnosis:
- The symptoms have to correspond with the menstrual cycle for a minimum of two successive months.
- The symptoms must be truly disruptive to a woman’s ability to carry out her normal activities. That’s different than in PMS, where most symptoms are mild.
- PMDD women must report that they aren’t depressed all the time, just in the days leading up to their periods.
As Dr. C. Neill Epperson, Director of the Penn Center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness, told NPR, the woman must clearly have “symptoms under a certain hormonal state that are not there under another hormonal state.”
While PMDD’s inclusion in the DSM-5 is a victory for Epperson and others who served on a work group in charge of updating the manual, the decision was not without controversy. She explained:
“I think any time a disorder occurs more frequently in women or only in women, there’s going to be a group of individuals who have concern that this will diminish women’s role in society, their sense of being capable.”
One such individual is Sarah Gehlert, PhD, who studies health disparities in the school of social work at Washington University in St. Louis. Gehlert is on a quest to find out how many women actually have PMDD to see if there is “any evidence for this disorder.”
“I wanted to go into it as scientifically and objectively as possible,” she told NPR, expressing concerns over how this label may infringe on how women are viewed in society.
“Say a poor woman was in court, trying to see whether she could keep custody of her child. Her partner’s or spouse’s attorney might say, ‘Yes, your honor, but she has a mental disorder.’ And she might not get custody of her children.
“I would feel much, much more comfortable if we understood the biology behind it. Even though we found evidence, the question remains: Is what we described real?”
I’m sure to the women who experience PMDD, this is very real. But whether they feel it’s a real mental disorder will be interesting to watch. What do you think about this new labeling?
We’ve all felt pressure at some point in our lives, especially when it comes to balancing a stressful 9 to 5 and tending to our family’s needs. Sprinkle in time for the hubs too, and by the time you can grab a couple minutes to take in a breath, you are worn out. That life can get completely overwhelming, and you may experience bouts of depression and even contemplate suicide. Celebs are no different, only they lead their lives in the limelight for all to see. They, too, harbor feelings of self-doubt and a sense of worthlessness at times, to the point of wanting to end it all. Unfortunately, some celebs couldn’t handle the pressure, and ended up doing just that. Let’s remember these cherished celebrities who’ve committed suicide.
Lee Thompson Young
Former Disney star Lee Thompson Young committed suicide without leaving a note. The 29-year-old actor of Rizzoli and Isles died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and was found by his landlord in his North Hollywood Apartment. Friends and family were not aware of any life issues the young star was going through.
As the world continues to mourn the tragic death of 29-year-old Rizzoli & Isles star Lee Thompson Young, family, friends and fans remain in the dark about the circumstances surrounding his untimely death. While his death has been confirmed as a suicide, the question of why still remains. What caused this bright young man with so much talent and promise to take his own life?
As previously reported, investigators are still trying to find motive to explain the former child star’s actions, but the chances of solving the complex puzzle seem pretty bleak. After going through his diary and personal computer investigators remain stumped; however, a new detail regarding Young’s mental health history may have shone a bit of light on the investigation. Although those close to him say that they were not aware of any major life issues that he was dealing with, a family member reportedly told authorities that the Famous Jett Jackson star was a victim of “depression issues.”
According to TMZ, a list of doctors who may have treated Young for his condition have been contacted by authorities in an attempt to gauge the severity of his depression.
Our prayers and condolences continue to go out to Lee’s family. Hopefully they are able to find some sort of closure in the wake of this terrible tragedy.