All Articles Tagged "depression"

Pop Mom Daily: Why Universal Maternal Screening For Depression Will Benefit Black Moms

November 19th, 2015 - By Erickka Sy Savane
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This past week, New York’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, introduced her new initiative to deal with mental health issues, a universal maternal screening for depression.  Under her new policy, all expecting moms will be screened for depression as a way to address the one in 10 women who suffer from depression during pregnancy–maternal depression– or after giving birth–postpartum depression. In New York City, that amounts to roughly 10,000 women per year.

While I applaud McCray for considering the mental health of women who suffer during pregnancy, I can’t help but wonder how beneficial it might really be. For one, are they just looking for signs that women are naturally weak? See, they wanna be out there competing with men, but they can’t even care for their babies. Second, by what criteria are you determining my mental health? Like, who makes up the test? Before you know it, I’m convinced that something is wrong with me, and I’m on the fast track to medication, which is only going to further benefit the pharmaceutical industry. No thanks. I’m fine.

But then again, I think about how I felt after having my first daughter.

The first nine months after my first daughter was born felt like a bad dream. I loved her, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t feel happy in my new life. Most days I felt sad and overwhelmed. And when I went to places like Target or to the park and saw the happy faces of smiling moms I felt worse. Why couldn’t I feel that way too? Sometimes I even thought they were pretending, putting on a face for society, or that they simply couldn’t be dealing with my level of stress. Being a new mom, the change in everything, and how life no longer resembled anything that it used to, had me feeling like I was going to lose my mind.

I had heard of postpartum depression, but when you’re in the throes of motherhood who has time to think about it? First of all, who is going to diagnose you and how are you going to pay for treatment? And what is treatment, anyway?

Drugs? A shrink? How do you fix motherhood?

My mom calls it ‘white women’s stuff.’ Try telling her about PMS or postpartum depression and watch her eyes gloss over mid-sentence. If she’s really inspired she’s going to give you her favorite line, “It is what it is, you gotta deal with it.” It wasn’t much different on my husband’s end. He’s from the Ivory Coast and would share stories of how some in his culture dealt with mental health, which they actually don’t believe in. To them, a person suffering from depression is just trying to check out of a hard life, so they show him something harder: “They take the person and whip the shit out of him and by the time they finish he usually shapes up.” Damn.

Most days I felt soft like cotton, and underserving of my Black superwoman card.

Thinking about it, I actually wish there was a universal screening for depression back then. I wish a doctor would have seriously inquired about the state of my mental health. Most questions center on the body. “Are you feeling any pain in your belly?” No one cares about the heart.

I spoke to my cousin about it the other day. She is on medication for depression and anxiety due to two back-to-back deaths: an aunt she was extremely close to, and her baby’s father. Medication and two monthly visits to a psychiatrist keep her heart from feeling like it’s going to explode. She says that she doesn’t plan to stay on the medication forever, but she’d much rather take it than deal with the pain that shoots through her chest whenever she starts feeling overwhelmed. This is how she handles her business.

“Talk to your primary doctor,” she says, sounding like a TV commercial. “We don’t know what help is available to us because we won’t talk about how we feel. And we won’t ask for help.”

She’s right. Universal screening is probably the only way a mom, particularly a Black mom, might get the help she needs. It took my cousin almost having a heart attack. Most of us aren’t that ‘lucky.’ As a mom herself, it’s something that First Lady Chirlane McClay probably knows all too well.

Nice to know someone in office has our back.

Check out Erickka Sy Savané’s column, Pop Mom Daily, right here or visit Before Erickka became a writer/editor, she was a model, actress, and MTV VJ. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Jersey City. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Why I Delayed Telling My Dad About My Mental Illness

November 18th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Source: Corbis

Source: Corbis

I’d been diagnosed for a year before I considered telling my parent about my mental illness. I was in graduate school, struggling academically and socially, when my therapist suggested I had depression and could likely benefit from antidepressants. I took his suggestion and soon saw an increase in my mood, concentration, and overall outlook. Once my symptoms abated, I thought about sharing my diagnosis with my father.

You may wonder why I didn’t share my struggles with my dad, why I didn’t lean on him during my decision to take medication. Well, you’d have to understand my dad to understand why I couldn’t reveal my disease earlier. My father is a worry wart with an extreme case of symbiosis. To put it plainly, he lives for me and did for my mother when she was living. He has said as much, and that fact has always caused a great deal of stress for me.

My dad was always the parent that worried when I wasn’t in my room in college but had my mother’s more rational outlook to talk him off the ledge. The year after my mother’s death, daddy drove over 100 miles to check on me because my answering machine had a busy signal and he thought something had happened to me. (In my defense, I’d been in the library studying for eight hours and these were the days before cell phones or even voicemail.) Now imagine how extreme his reaction would be if he found out that something was really going wrong.

Eventually, I shared my diagnosis with my father, telling him as little as possible about the disease and my prognosis. I knew that words like “suicide” and “hospitalization” when connected with depression, though not relevant in my situation, would trigger his worrying. Even though I was better with medication, my dad wanted me to quit school and come home so that he could take care of me. He wanted to come visit me at school to make sure that I was okay, even though he’d seen me weeks before. He called every day asking for play-by-play updates of my symptoms and to tell me about everything he’d read about mental illness.

Listening to my father was exhausting, as was having to reiterate that I was almost 30 years old and was taking care of myself like the intelligent person he’d raised. Through 13 years of remission and relapse and new, more refined diagnoses, my father has remained stalwart in his attention to my disease, so much so that I no longer give him any details. When he has details he imagines the worst; he worries me about it and triggers my symptoms. If he calls me and I don’t answer my phone for legitimate reasons — I’m in therapy, on the subway, in a movie, on a date — he calls my family members to grill them about seeing me. They, in turn, blow up my cell asking me to deal with my dad and his behavior.

The reality is my father’s over-protectiveness is my biggest trigger, because it makes me think that my dad finds me incompetent to manage my life and disease when, in fact, I’ve shown myself to be the complete opposite. I work. I always take my medications. I always share with my doctors. I check myself into the hospital if I feel like I need extra help. I’m the model mentally ill patient. But when my dad becomes overbearing, I wonder if I am indeed as competent as I believe. I wonder if I could’ve managed my disease better to prevent my hospitalizations, even though I know they were medical in nature. Then I start to feel bad about myself and tell myself that I am incompetent because of my disease, which triggers a cycle of depressive thoughts and feelings — all because my dad can’t regulate his own feelings of stress and worry.

I know that I can’t be the only person living with mental illness who has an overprotective parent, but sometimes I think that I’m the only 43 year old who still deals with it. The stress of telling my parent about my mental illness is sometimes hard to manage, but I try to counter it with the realization that it’s good to be cared for and loved by a parent. There are days that I wish I’d lied to my dad about my disease for years, but those are fewer than those in which I’m grateful.

Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

My Ex Got Married… I Got Depressed

September 16th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

A few months ago, or possibly when it was cold outside, my most recent ex-boyfriend called to give me an update on his life. Apparently things had been going swimmingly with the woman he was seeing — make that the woman he left me for, the woman he’d started up with while we were still dating. He wanted to tell me directly instead of having me hear it from our mutual friends, as if it wouldn’t have been equally annoying to hear from either source. I told him that I didn’t care one way or the other, which I didn’t. Then I learned that my ex got married and I cared a bit more, but not for the reasons you might think.

When your ex gets married you can be mad, or sad, or even glad if you’re one of those people who stays friends with everyone. To be honest, I’ve never been one of those “happy for my ex” people, though I know they exist. I’m more like a petty, wish you grief and unhappiness person, which is probably because I’ve been left more often than I’ve done the leaving. The last time I initiated a breakup was in my 20’s, at the height of my self-confident awesomeness when I was bold and assertive and positive about my love life. Then in my 30’s came depression and uncertainty and men breaking up with me.

I’m not exactly sure of the causality between my mood and the change in tide of my romantic fate, only that dating failures have heightened my depressive feelings. Perhaps my depression and underlying self-doubt made me a bad date, a bad girlfriend or a bad chooser of men. Either way, whenever an erstwhile suitor decided to call it quits, I sunk into a pit of hopeless despair and rumination over romantic failures. I always thought I’d done something wrong to make them not want me. I never thought I’d find the right person. I believed that I’d be alone forever.

The same feelings held true with my most recent ex-boyfriend, the one who just got married. This time, however, I’d been in love and while I thought he loved me too, I wasn’t sure we had the same definition of the word. He saw other women behind my back, which I didn’t think you did to someone you love. When I found out the truth during the breakup, I was completely devastated. I thought I’d been duped. I couldn’t trust any of my feelings because I thought my whole relationship was a lie. This breakup depression was deeper than any other I’d faced.

Then, a few years later, my ex got married. I thought I’d spiral back into depression about losing him forever, but that didn’t happen. Instead I got depressed about my own self. I was mad that a man who’d treated me so wrong could find someone to put up with his mess but I hadn’t been that lucky. I was sad about how I’d spent my 30’s and 40’s making myself sick over failed relationships instead of getting my shit together. And I was disappointed in myself for having let some jerks from my past take up valuable real estate in my head. I wasn’t going to do it any longer.

My solution was to take my issues to therapy, to talk seriously about wanting a romantic relationship but feeling trapped by my past failings. Speaking out loud to someone who could hold me accountable for my emotions and my actions is, at least to me, a good start on the path to wellness. And as for my ex — and all of my exes — we no longer speak. Cutting off contact is my way of making sure that I can live my romantic life in the hopeful present without being reminded of a less-than-successful past.

Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

Penny For Your Thoughts: Do Your Hide Your Depressed Self?

September 10th, 2015 - By Penny Wrenn
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"Depressed woman in bed pf"

I wanted to call today’s column, “When I’m Depressed, Stop Acting Like I Have Cooties.”

Having been diagnosed with clinical depression for nearly 20 years (and most recently with bipolar depression), I know from experience that people don’t want to be around me when I’m at my most depressed. And that’s okay, because there are some people who I don’t want to be around when I’m at my most depressed.

By my estimate, there are three types of people whose phone calls you should avoid when you’re a person who suffers from depression and feeling your lowest:

  1. The people who can “tell something’s wrong,” “can hear it in your voice” and just want to “know what’s going on…stop crying…talk to me.”
  2. The people who want to come over and cheer you up.
  3. The people who don’t want to hear that you’re feeling more depressed than usual. But if you insisted on telling them what’s really going on, you’d hear them sigh heavily, sounding exasperated and/or disappointed that you were feeling that way yet again.

My solitude during periods of depression is largely self-inflicted. When I’m at my most depressed, I call it “not feeling well.” Using that phrase helps because if I’m feeling sh*tty with strep throat, I don’t invite my friends over to witness my matted hair, crusty eyes, and slobber pillow. Plus, when you’re sick, there’s the expectation that you should quarantine yourself to spare other folks your germs. Thing is, there are plenty of sicknesses that you can’t catch. (And, to be clear, “sickness” is a term I somewhat reluctantly and delicately employ here.) Strep throat is contagious. But depression is not. (And this isn’t conjecture; it’s a scientific fact, further supported by new research.)

Part of why I stay to myself when I’m at my most depressed is because I know, firsthand, that being around Depressed Penny can make people want to douse themselves with invisible “Forcefield, No Backs” spray. It’s that feeling you get after you’ve spent only a few minutes at a hoarder’s home, brushing against cruddy boxes and stepping over weeks-old cat litter. But as leave you still feel imaginary mites crawling on your arm or laying eggs in your scalp, like, “Get away from me! Get them off of me!”

I wouldn’t want to be around Depressed Penny, either. She refuses to shower and will only watch the same old episodes of Frasier, Friends, and Law & Order Special Victims Unit. Depressed Penny is an acquired taste. Most people avoid Depressed Penny and wait her out from a distance. Some people, like my friend Whitney, will forcefully insist that she rejoin the land of the living. But even Whitney is not shy about expressing her dislike for Depressed Penny. She will drag Depressed Penny to Joe’s Crab Shack for a spontaneous lunch date just because she wants to spend time with whatever Penny that she can get. She won’t insist that Depressed Penny take a shower but she will insist that Depressed Penny cover her matted afro with something other than a satin sleep bonnet. During lunch, Depressed Penny will cry a lot and laugh a lot and cry some more. To Whitney, Depressed Penny is still Human Penny.

I’ve learned that while some folks, like Whitney, aren’t afraid to be around Depressed Penny, they are quite disinterested in witnessing her in her natural habitat: The couch. Who could blame them? There’s nothing fun about watching a thirty-something-year-old woman lay there lifelessly while self-medicating and numbing herself with Netflix. Such sullen behavior grosses out most people, and they’re afraid of getting the doom-and-gloom cooties.

However, the well and the unwell must coexist. People who have depression don’t live in a bubble any more than people who have HIV or cancer or herpes. What that means is sometimes we bump heads.

Recently, I made an appearance as Depressed Penny and bumped heads with the guy I’ve been dating (and who I’ve talked about in my columns recently). After I completed a drawn-out relocation from New York City to my hometown in Pennsylvania, I spent a few days on my new beau’s couch eating pizza and binge-watching Netflix. For me, it was a familiar rut and hiding place–except I was in plain sight. For him, it was worrisome. He asked me every morning, “Are you gonna get off the couch today?’ And he sent me text messages saying, “Did you get off the couch yet?” and “All that sleep isn’t good for you.” When I got defensive about his inquiries, we had a text argument that devolved into this man telling me, “Too bad you left your therapist in NYC because you’re CRAZY.”

When he said that, he may as well have kneed me in the stomach (that’s what it felt like). I have not been shy to talk about depression with him or anyone else. But telling people you have depression is one thing; letting people see you in your various states of depression is another. It is the nature of the beast to withdraw from friends and family.  But I’ve lived alone for more than a decade and I haven’t been in a relationship for many years, so I’ve spent a long time not learning how to bear with people while they bear with me.

If you have depression, how do you deal with people seeing Depressed You? Do you feel like people act as though Depressed You has cooties and needs to “clean up her act,” so to speak? If you love someone who has depression, do you ever get to see Depressed ___ and, when you do, how do you react?

Harlem Principal Jumps In Front Of A Train Amidst Test Scandal

July 28th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Harlem Principal

Source: NY Post

If you know anything the school system in New York City, you’ve heard about the all important Common Core exam.

The standardized state test, like many across the country, serves not only as a [problematic]  way to measure student learning, it also determines a school’s success rate and ultimately determines how much funding that school will receive from the state.

There is a lot of weight placed on this exam.

Sadly, it might have proved to be too much for one West Harlem principal to bear.

On April 17, the day after her students took the Common Core exam, Principal Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, jumped in front of a B train at the 135th street station on St. Nicholas Ave at 9:20 a.m.

According to the New York Post, Worrell-Breeden, a 49-year-old woman who served as principal at the Teachers College Community School, was pulled out from under the train and taken to Harlem Hospital where she died eight days later. The city Medical Examiner’s Office ruled her death a suicide.

Worrell-Breeden took her life after the school’s third graders took the English portion of the exam for the first time in the budding school’s history.

It was also the same day someone reported cheating at the school to the Department of Education.

Initially, students were not made aware of the circumstances surrounding her passing. In fact, many thought she had died in a car crash.

Later, in June parents learned the truth about the cheating scandal and were told that their students’ exams had all been “red-flagged’ and “invalidated.”

Superintendent Gale Reeves said during a meeting, “The children didn’t do anything wrong, and the teachers didn’t do anything wrong.” She refused to provide additional details.

For months, the DOE refused to provide clarification about what happened with the tests. Finally, this week, the acknowledged Worrell-Breeden’s role in the matter.

A spokeswoman for the department said, “Principal Worrell-Breeden was the subject of allegations of testing improprieties. An investigation substantiated these allegations and we closed the investigation following her tragic passing.”

The DOE still would not explain exactly what she had done to tamper with the results. And officials would not say whether or not Worrell-Breeden had been made aware of the investigation before she took her life.

Though all 47 third grade English exam scores were invalidated, they took the math exam later on April 22-24. Those scores will be released later this summer and the superintendent assured parents that all the children would graduate to the fourth grade.

The Post reports that the Common Core exams have caused anxiety for several educators with on 34.5 percent of city student passing the math tests and 29.4 percent passing the English tests in 2014.

One educator said, “A lot of people are getting sick and leaving the system because of the pressure the high-stakes tests are putting on them.”

But one parent, Diane Tinsley told The Post that Worrell-Breeden seemed to be confident and relaxed about the exams.

“She was reassuring us parents. Her whole attitude was that they’re going to breeze through this test, and that she had prepared them to ace any test.”

During the three day testing period, Worrell-Breeden served the students breakfasts and even held a pep rally.

“She had them run around the gym cheering to get rid of their nervousness.”

And while she was projecting one image to the school community, a family friend said Worrell-Breeden’s personal life was more bleak.

The unnamed friend said, “Her grandmother died last year. Her husband moved out last year. He had a child with another woman. She was under a lot of pressure at home.”

“The was the first principal at that school so she was trying to make…a good impression. Maybe all that pressure, added to what was going on at home, got to her.”

Teachers College Community School was opened in 2011 in partnership with Columbia University’s Teachers College. It boasted student access to Columbia facilities, student interns and researchers. The school, planning to grow, only served students from pre-K to third grade last school year.

I don’t know Ms. Worrell-Breeden’s character or intentions for that school, but this story seems to highlight two crucial, yet often overlooked issues, in our society.

One, the issue of mental health in the Black community. Every week, there seems to be another Black woman who is either coming forward opening up, discussing her life with this particular disease or, in the more tragic instances, we hear the story of a woman who died shockingly and unexpectedly, taking her life. We have to get to the place in our community where conversations about mental illness are so commonplace and normalized that people who are actually suffering with these type of diseases feel comfortable telling their Black friends, family members, teachers, preachers and licensed professionals that they are suffering and need help.

Secondly, this story tragically highlights the flaws in the American educational system. It seems very clear to me that standardized tests are a way to capitalize the school system. For some it might be a way to measure comprehension and achievement, but the fact that there is money tied to it, means that someone stands to gain from these exams. Furthermore, there have been countless studies have shown that the tests include racial bias that affect minority students.

At the end of the day, our country has to find a way to stop teaching for the test and start teaching for retention, however that may look for each individual student.

How I Turn Antidepressant Side Effects Into Positives For My Sex Life

June 10th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Antidepressant Side Effects

Source: Shutterstock

Pharmaceutical companies publicize the side effects of antidepressants that may affect a patient’s sex life. Most of their information focuses on how a loss of libido from certain antidepressants impacts sex and sexuality. But we all know that sex occurs in the brain and other body parts as much as it does our genitals. So before beginning a regimen it’s important to consider all the sex side effects of these drugs.

Some Antidepressant Side Effects Can Be Good For Your Sex Life

The classes of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are known to cause the greatest loss of libido for users. Serotonin is the “feel good” chemical in the brain that makes us happy, and it can be crucial for people suffering from depression or even for people in a general bad mood. The bad news is that those antidepressant side effects range from lower sex drive to complete loss of interest for many people. For women, this sexual side effect can translate into decreased feelings of arousal and decreased natural lubrication. Men experience low libido as lack of arousal and erectile dysfunction.

The good news, however, is that while SSRIs and SNRIs don’t play nice with our genitals, our brains may still be down for sex.  After all, the best antidepressant side effect is boosted mood, and your mood is a part of sex. For both men and women, this can present itself as wanting to give a partner oral stimulation and engaging in other sex acts that require a mental, if not a physical, willingness. While my particular antidepressants have never had an impact on my sex drive — other than making me want to have sex because I was happy — I have been with a man whose drugs prevented him from getting an erection. He also didn’t care for oral sex. Let’s just say that I left that encounter feeling rather unsatisfied.

Antidepressants Left A Bad Taste In My Mouth, Literally

Dry mouth is a known side effect of SSRIs, SNRIs and other newer classes of antidepressants, and dry mouth can cause bad breath. I’ve always drunk a lot of water with my pills, and I walk around with a bottle of water at all times.  I chew gum, and I carry mints. I never want to be faced with a potential sexual partner if I know I have dragon breath. My voluminous water intake means that I pretty much have to go to the bathroom all the time, including during sex, which can be something of a buzz kill, but I’ve never had any complaints. The positive side effects of drinking tons of water are clear skin, properly functioning organs, and healthy, lubricated vaginal tissue.

Lack of saliva can have an impact on kissing and other oral activities as well. A completely dry kiss is the opposite of a turn-on, and concerning oral sex, the only word I can think of is “drag,” both figuratively and literally. You may not associate sexual accessories and antidepressants, but several well-known bedroom enhancements, like ice cubes, mints, and flavored lubricants can add excitement to foreplay while stimulating saliva production. Personally, I like a sweet flavored lubricant. My flavor of choice is cinnamon. You can thank me later.

Shakes, Tremors, And Antidepressants

Some antidepressants and other classes of psychotropic drugs cause tremors, tics, and other muscular maladies. It actually sounds worse than it is. Most of these side effects are temporary, so they should disappear within weeks or months of use. But until that happens, a facial tic or hand tremor might make for an awkward interaction with a suitor.

Right now, I take a medication that causes muscle spasms that started in my face and moved to my hands and arms. The good news is that the facial spasm felt bigger than it looked, so I could get away with it. The hand and arm movements are a little bit harder to conceal. I’m single now, but I can just picture caressing a partner–and then my arm starts flailing around. Or I’m performing manual stimulation, and I can’t control my movements, so my partner loses interest. Those thoughts are unnecessarily negative though because there’s always a solution to every problem. I could use the tremors to my advantage and create a signature move when giving a hand job. Or the tremors could go away before any of this becomes an issue. Most likely, I’ll just focus on the positive aspects of my antidepressants and deal with the rest as it comes.

Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

What If Kids Could Shame Parents? RIP Isabel Laxamana

June 5th, 2015 - By Rich
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Isabel Laxamana, 13, is dead.

Early reports suggest strongly that the Tacoma, Washington, girl died after she willingly took her life by leaping off a highway overpass late last week. Her body hit a car below and she died the next day. The suicide was an apparent response to a public shaming video by her father, where he cut off her long tresses as a form of punishment.

As I suggested before, there are times where public shaming apparently works, but I loathe it with every fiber of my being, particularly in this era of unchecked sharing, social media and creepy voyeurism. Keep it real, there has always been some sort of public shaming. When your mother or father “papped” you in the supermarket? When you were showing off and had to get checked in front of your friends? These were early forms of what is now called public shaming, but it was not amplified in this digital era. They were also unplanned and simply instant discipline.

Honestly, most of these parents should be ashamed of themselves. Shaming isn’t discipline. Fact is, when a parent publicly shames their kid its almost like a humblebrag where they are trying to tell people, “Hey, everybody look at me…I’m a good parent. Watch me punish this kid in front of you all.” I definitely felt that in the last case, where the boy was failing every grade and smoking weed. The correlation between parents that shame through social media and their kids behavior has to be linked directly to the way kids were raised. I know kids have free will, but their failures are often our failures.

Father Wayman Gresham feels a lot like I feel. He recently posted a video on Facebook stating, “It’s time for me to discipline my kid the tough way! Why? I don’t play that!” But, then the video took another turn. He hugged his boy and started to spit straight facts.

“There’s no way in the world I would ever embarrass my son like that,” he says on the video. “Good parenting starts before he even gets to the point of being out of control. Good parenting is letting your child know that you love them regardless of what they are and who they are and showing them the way by example.” (If you look at his son Isaiah’s face, he’s elated to know he won’t have to endure public shaming.)

Isabel Laxamana’s dad is probably dead inside if he was any sort of father to begin with. This hurts. I’m sure he had the best of intentions, even though can’t see how he thought hacking off his daughters hair was a good idea.

What if the roles were reverse?

What if kids took their parents shortcomings and put them on social media for all to see? What if kids were able to cut their parents hair off and send them into the workplace or church with a “George Jefferson” haircut? What if they were able to put these embarrassing, mostly mean moments in front of their friends and family? What if children got a kick out of it? It is problematic that more parents don’t see this is an abuse of power or bullying that can go horribly wrong. It is not out of love and feels pathetically masochistic and self-serving. Isabel was going through a lot when she posted the following last year:

“I feel hated most of the time im in school i feel looked down on and i get judged a lot…. But what keeps me going is people like kian who have gone through the same thing as me… In a school with so many people its weird to say “i feel alone” but the truth is that you really do feel alone. So thanks for everything kian….”

Isabel Laxamana

Hopefully, parents understand the results of their actions are unpredictable and kids often exercise what control they do have in most tragic, destructive ways.

When Breakup Depression Is Clinical

June 3rd, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Breakup Depression

Source: Shutterstock

Breakup depression often feels like the end of the world. Your sweetie tells you goodbye, and you head for the tissues and your copy of Love Jones. But can you imagine going through your worst breakup depression when you’re already struggling with clinical depression? Adding the emotional turmoil of a breakup to an already fragile state of depression causes some deep pits of unhappiness. And while clinical depression and breakup depression manifest in similar ways, you want to be able to distinguish between typical post-breakup sadness and something more. Something serious.

Sad Thoughts Versus a Negative State of Being

Three years ago, the love of my life broke up with me; apparently he was seeing someone else while we were together. I was heartbroken, even though I’d suspected him of cheating but never asked. I was also going through a depressive episode before the breakup, so my existing state of depression increased exponentially. I took to my bed, the one we’d shared so many times, in tears. I watched Seinfeld, our favorite TV show, in tears. I walked around the apartment feeling emotionally devastated and empty, like a worthless dishrag. In truth, I’d been struggling with all of those feelings during my depression; the breakup only intensified my current state.

When you go through a breakup, you can question yourself, how attractive you are, and your behavior. Those aspects of your being are also challenged within a depressive episode.  Instead of thinking, “Why didn’t he love me?” my depressed brain upped the ante to, “Nobody will ever love me again!” “I must have done something wrong to make him leave me” became “I always do the wrong thing!” During my breakup depression, my clinical depression made the typical thoughts more negative and, thus, more damaging.

Apathy Versus Lethargy

When my relationship ended, I spent a fair amount of time in front of the TV with a carton of ice cream. I know, I was enacting the stereotypical behavior of a woman who has just been dumped. But ice cream is soothing, and it doesn’t require much energy to eat, so that is the reason that was my go-to comfort food during my depression and after my breakup. But eating isn’t the only depressive symptom I felt. My energy and motivation became abysmal. I didn’t change out of my night clothes. I slept all of the time and didn’t want to leave the house. I’d experienced those symptoms when my clinical depression was most severe, and the breakup restarted my lethargic behaviors.

Physical pain is another symptom I experienced after my breakup. Not just the tightness in my chest accompanying my heartbreak, but also muscle aches, pains, and headaches. Sometimes these pains were caused by staying in bed, but other times they appeared without reason. Body pains are a well-known symptom of clinical depression and, like the emotional symptoms, they were brought about by my breakup.

Choosing My Mood

After the requisite few weeks of crying at love songs and eating ice cream out of the container, I came out of the physical manifestations of my breakup.  However, the negative thoughts about the breakup remained, along with the others I grappled with in my long-term depression. To reprogram the negative thoughts into positive ones and lift my mood, I worked to put more rational thoughts in their place. If I worried about never finding love again, I started thinking, “I am loveable. I have people in my life who love me.” Or better yet, “My ex is only one person; there are so many men I’ve never met who could love me.” Putting a more rational spin on my negative thoughts helped reduce their frequency and their impact on my mood.

Shaking off my breakup depression also helped me do other things to abate my clinical depression. Once my mood improved through positive thinking, I started taking better care of myself. Instead of depression junk food I ate fruits and vegetables. I felt good enough to put on clothes instead of wearing my pajamas and bathrobe all day. My tears didn’t disappear, but they lessened since I no longer spent my days laying in bed, caught up in a negative train of thought about my ex-boyfriend. Simply put, I had to choose to think differently about my romantic future in order to start taking steps toward manifesting it.

Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

Is Your Teen Suffering from Depression?: 15 Signs to Look Out For

May 29th, 2015 - By Rich
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Some parents may never realize that their own teen is suffering from depression. Missing the signs will keep your child from receiving the necessary treatment they may need. According to How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid: The Straight Dope for Parents by Joseph A. Califano Jr., depressed teens may turn to substances to self-medicate. “Drugs and alcohol may temporarily relieve your child’s symptoms and make him or her feel better. But with repeated resort to those subtances, the benefits will disappear, the symptoms will become worse, and addiction becomes likelier,” says Califano. Click continue to learn about more information that we gleaned from this helpful resource guide–15 signs/symptoms to look out for to determine if your child is suffering from depression.

Is Your Teen Suffering from Depression? 15 Signs to Look Out For

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How My Life Has Changed Since Being Diagnosed With Depression

May 21st, 2015 - By Alyssa Johnson
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It started happening in my senior year of college. I began to feel nervous and anxious all of the time, but I just attributed it to my upcoming graduation and the stress of making career decisions. I would sit in class but wasn’t able to fully pay attention. I was lashing out at my friends on a whim. I hardly slept, and if I did, it would end after hours of tossing and turning. I would just lay in bed, staring at the ceiling until the alarm went off. I did this day after day, which rolled into month after month.

My mood had changed so drastically that my mother asked me if I was on drugs. It was at that point that I knew I needed to go and speak to someone. I had my first corporate gig by that time, and it was my co-workers who convinced me to go and sit on “the couch.”

I didn’t really know what to expect from therapy. Although not entirely familiar with it, it wasn’t a foreign concept in my household as I was privy to my mother’s therapy sessions through eavesdropping on her phone conversations from time to time. The sessions were helpful and very insightful, but still, I was embarrassed to admit to anyone that I was in therapy. I was a brown girl at an HBCU, and we were supposed to “pray away” our problems.

After deciding to receive treatment on the low, I realized that there was a deeper and more unsettling reason for my mood’s changes. During my third visit, I was diagnosed with depression. I was confused because I wasn’t really sure if this meant that I was “crazy.” That is, the type of crazy you see in the movies and read about in the news. I was relieved to be given some sort of explanation for the strange feelings I had been dealing with but still a little unsure about where I stood. I went back to campus that day and treated my diagnosis as a secret because of the stigma attached to depression at that time. I didn’t feel comfortable sharing this news with anyone; not even my line sisters. I needed time to digest everything by myself.

As everyone else was preparing for coronation, I was holed up in my room, researching depression. I learned that it was a very common thing and that there were several types.

Major depression is among the more common, but there’s also atypical depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, post-partum depression and situational depression. Depression can be brought on by life changes or a chemical imbalance in the brain.

There are many different paths one can take for treatment. Some people opt for medication in the form of anti-depressants, but this option did not work for me. I took medication for one week and felt like a zombie. I’m not sure if the right medication was prescribed to me initially, but it made me hesitant to try any other kind. Most doctors will tell you to keep trying different anti-depressants if the ones specified aren’t working. But if you’re taking the right medication you should see results within a month, once it’s well into your system.

Since my depression stemmed from lifestyle changes, I started paying attention to what my triggers were. Looking back on my life, I was able to pinpoint the exact situation that triggered a particular episode of depression and how. Making the connection between triggers and depression has been the best thing I could have ever done for myself as I am fully aware of what can send me into a downward spiral. I also practice a lot of self-care by tackling negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones because I learned that negative thoughts could easily cause an episode. I’ve also read that exercise helps as it releases the chemical endorphins that are natural pain and stress fighters.

Nowadays, I’m very open and real about my condition as I am no longer that little girl that was hiding behind the negative stigma of depression. I’m also very proud to see more and more women of color come out and speak up regarding this issue. If you’re suffering in silence, it’s time to be vocal. You can’t get help if no one knows you’re hurting on the inside. Research your symptoms, make an appointment and start receiving the treatment that works best for you. Facing depression is the only way to defeat it.