All Articles Tagged "depression"

What It’s Like To Need Four Antidepressants To Get Out Of Bed

February 10th, 2016 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Though antidepressants have many side effects, my life is better taking multiple antidepressants than it is without them.

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I’ve been taking antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs for a number of years, and I know how useful they can be. Many antidepressants have side effects like dry mouth, constipation, and (gasp!) sexual side effects. Some of them raise your heart rate and can affect your kidney function. Personally, I consider all of those side effects to be minor — OK, maybe not the sexual one — when compared to what life is like without the drugs.

When my first therapist suggested I see a psychiatrist for antidepressants, I started to cry. Though I’d felt horrible for years, the idea of taking medication for my condition freaked me out. After all, everyone went to therapy but only a subsection of those were on antidepressants. Those people had real problems, unlike the small issues that I confronted in therapy. In spite of my reservations, I accepted a referral to a shrink and started Zoloft shortly thereafter.

After a few days of taking the medication, my entire outlook shifted. Where I’d been lethargic and cloudy-headed for months, I finally felt bouncy and clear. Instead of languishing in bed, trying to get up, I got up and out of the door with ease. And I felt happy. Not artificially so, I just had a good mood and a focused intention. I remember thinking that I hadn’t felt that way for years, since before I’d felt any depression symptoms. I was back to myself.

After a few years, my doctor had to supplement my Zoloft with another class of antidepressants, one that worked on a different part of the brain. Because antidepressants work on neurotransmitters, and there are different kinds of neurotransmitters in the brain, multiple medications are sometimes required for different people. I didn’t worry about taking more than one drug; my worry was that I’d return to the depressed behavior I’d had before I ever took antidepressants.

My second round of antidepressants came after I had a depressive episode while taking medication. It made me a little jittery and a little sweaty. In truth I turned into a sweat machine where I was usually the first person to perspire in any warm situation: walking down the block, working out, dancing at a party. I started to wear more black and carry extra antiperspirant in my purse. But my depressive episode cleared up, just like it had the first time I’d taken the drugs. The fact that I felt like dancing or exercising was the upside for me, so I could handle some extra sweat. Besides, I had one of those battery-operated fans to keep me cool when I needed it. I was golden.

Now, over 10 years after my first prescription for antidepressants, I take three different kinds plus a mood stabilizer to keep my bipolar in check. My bipolar depression is very resistant so I can’t remain stable taking only one pill. I still sweat a little easier than some people, but it’s not a hardship. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced sexual side effects from my antidepressants, otherwise I’d have my doctor prescribe something different. Based on my experiences, I’ll never be the person who wants to quit taking their meds. I’ve always been able to get back to myself, to the person that I want to be, with a little chemical help. And that’s the most important thing to me.

My Biggest Pet Peeves About Living With Mental Illness

February 3rd, 2016 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Living with mental illness can be exhausting: remembering your medications, monitoring your symptoms, going to doctor’s appointments. It can also be disheartening to live with symptoms, to experience bouts of depression or anxiety and to feel like you may never get better. But sometimes the hardest thing about living with mental illness is the way that so-called healthy people treat you and speak about you. They are my biggest pet peeves about living with mental illness.

Calling People “Crazy”

We know, some people seem “crazy.” Their behavior is erratic. You don’t understand why they do the things they do. There may indeed be people that are irrational and a little “off” for whom there is no explanation for their behavior. Or people who are, as the dictionary definition states, deranged or demented. Then there are people living with mental illness, who might seem irrational at times, but get painted with the crazy brush. Statistically speaking, we’re not demented or certifiable; we’re mostly living our lives just like everyone else with little evidence of our disorder. So please stop calling us crazy, and stop calling other people crazy until you know their situation. Cary-cray might not be all that good a substituted either. I’ll let you keep using that word for Donald Trump, though.

Using “Depressed” as a Casual Term

Lots of people claim to be depressed, and use that word to describe their condition when they just mean that they’re very sad. People who used “depressed” in this context probably have a reason for their profound sadness. Maybe the loss of a job or a loved one. But depression and sadness have little to do with each other. Yes, depression does contain a component of sadness and tearfullness. But usually there is no reason for the feeling, and it persists for weeks and months along with physiological symptoms like sleep disturbance and changes in appetite. Maybe people can brush up on their vocabulary and say “I’m unspeakably sad” or “I’m devastated” instead of using depression in the wrong context.

Saying that Living with Mental Illness is Simple

OK, maybe nobody says outright that living with mental illness is easy, but they imply that belief when they say things like “it’s mind over matter” and “just try harder” or “you just have to pray.” Those phrases are dismissive and ignorant of the fact that some mental illnesses are physiological disorders that start in the brain. For example, it has been shown that the brains of people with bipolar actually respond differently to stimuli than people without the disease. Just like people with diabetes have a pancreas that responds differently to sugar and insulin than those without that disease. You can’t wish or will away mental illness any more than you can do so with diabetes or a heart condition. People believe that just because something is in your brain that it is just in your mind and, therefore, simple to overcome.

Of course I have many more pet peeves about living with mental illness. Like getting my insurance company to approve my medications or the shortage of psychiatrists in New York City. But those are systemic issues that would take more than an article to discuss and change. But hopefully pointing out some small changes we can all make in our language and behavior can make life a little more calm for those of us living with mental illness.

More Than The Winter Blues: Could You Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

January 19th, 2016 - By Nneka Samuel
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You’ve heard of the winter blues.  It’s a general term used to describe mild depression that’s induced by the change of seasons and is often linked to something specific and short term, like the stress of the holidays.  But seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which begins in the fall and lasts throughout winter, is a much more severe type of depression characterized by a severe shift in mood that can impede daily function and last up to five months if left untreated.  Know the symptoms so that you (or someone you love) can get the help you need, such as light therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, from a healthcare provider.

5 Reasons Why Failing To Get Help For Your Depression May Be Hurting Your Kids

January 14th, 2016 - By Martine Foreman
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With the stigma surrounding depression, it is no wonder so many people are unwilling to ask for help. Sadly, depression is so misunderstood. I’ve heard that people with depression should just pray their way through it. Others suggest that having tougher skin may help. These types of comments usually make me mad. Managing depression has never been that simple. I wish it were.

So many people truly don’t know what depression is, what the signs are, and where to seek help. And it can be very difficult for a mom to seek help when she feels like everyone expects her to be the helper. As a mother of two, I believe that depression amongst mothers is something we just don’t talk about enough. There are more and more conversations taking place about postpartum depression and that is great, but it seems like the conversation often stops there. What about the mom struggling long after that postpartum period is over? What happens to her?

Society is quick to judge the mom who drinks too much wine, failing to realize her drinking could be the symptom of a much larger issue. People have plenty to say about the mom who seems out of it and doesn’t go out much, but fail to consider what life might be like for her.

If left untreated, depression can lead to a laundry list of unhealthy symptoms and behaviors, and possibly even thoughts of suicide. Depression can’t be prayed away (although I personally believe that prayer helps us in may ways). And I don’t care how tough your skin is, it can still take a hold of you. It’s a condition that doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone.

My own mother has struggled with depression for years. She hid it from me for a long time. It was incredibly difficult for her to utter the words, “I need help.” As a mother, and the person who did so much for so many members of our family, asking for help was such a challenge for my mom. She tried to maintain that “superwoman” image for as long as she could. Once she was able to finally share her struggles, she began to receive the help she needed.     

It is so important for mothers who suffer from depression to seek treatment as soon as possible. If my mom would have gotten the right kind of help earlier, she could have experienced a lot more joy in life. Thankfully, she is able to experience some joy now. If left untreated, not only will depression continue to wreck havoc on your life as a mother, but it can also hurt your kids.

Many mothers out there are unable to accept the fact that they might be depressed. They say it’s just a small case of the blues. They pray about it and wait. They hope the feelings of sadness and hopelessness go away soon. But when it doesn’t, they don’t know what to do. Asking for help feels too difficult. Sometimes it feels impossible.

Then there are moms who actually believe they have depression, but also believe they can hide it from their kids. The thing is, children are far more intuitive than we give them credit for. Even if they can’t piece together all the details, they know when something is wrong. And hiding it doesn’t help you or the kids. It hurts everyone involved.

If you are having a hard time facing your depression, or you don’t even want to entertain the possibility that you have depression, here are a few reasons why it may be hurting your kids:

  1. They look to you to learn how to cope. If your children realize that you are ignoring your issues and are unwilling to develop healthy tools that can help you cope with life, it will have a major impact on how they cope when they face their own challenges.
  2. They think your sadness has to do with them. Unfortunately, children often blame themselves for things that have nothing to do with them. It’s one of the reasons why parents hide a lot from kids. If you are constantly in a state of sadness, it can cause your children to wonder if you are sad because of them.
  3. They become worried (or even upset) because they can’t make you happy. Your kids want you to be happy. When it feels like nothing they do makes you happy, they can start to develop feelings of concern and frustration.
  4. They worry about you a lot. Kids worry about their parents a lot. I am stunned by how concerned my kids seem if I am sick or hurt (and they are only 5 and 3). As parents, isn’t it our job to minimize how much they worry?
  5. They can become depressed as well. It’s difficult to convince your kids that they should be happy when they rarely see you happy. Also, the previous four points can contribute to depression.

As moms we always want to do what’s right for our kids, but we have to remember that it starts with doing what is right for us. Being diagnosed with depression doesn’t make you weak. Getting help when something is wrong actually makes you pretty strong.  

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, if you or someone you love is experience any of the signs and symptoms below, you may be suffering from depression and should seek help.

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

Because of what I have learned from my mom, I take care of my health, I’ve been to therapy, and I deliberately manage my life in a way that reduces unnecessary noise and gives me peace of mind. And even with all of this, I know I am not immune to developing depression. No one is. But I also know I am not alone. Neither are you.

If you think you may be struggling with depression, please seek professional help. You deserve it more than anything, and so do your kids.

Have you been stalling to get help for your depression?

Martine Foreman is a lifestyle consultant, freelance writer, lifestyle blogger, and speaker. To learn more about her work and get great tips on how to create a life you love, check her out at CandidBelle.  

This Weekend On Café Mocha: Black Men Open Up About Depression

January 8th, 2016 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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This weekend on Café Mocha, the hosts will be discussing depression and how it affects Black men. To contribute to the conversation, KT Nelson, producer of the documentary Face of Darkness, artist Donny Goines and Dr. Renee Matthews will speak on the struggles of living with depression and how to receive treatment for it.

Afterward, be sure to catch up with the ladies of Did Y’all See? speaking about the latest Beyoncé rumor where the star will allegedly write, act  and produce Saartjie Baartman’s biopic.

Watch all “Did Y’all See?” episodes on our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/MadameNoire.
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Visit Café Mocha Radio for air times around the country and on SiriusXM Channel 141. #CafeMochaWknd  #SavvySexyCool

It Might Be Time To Let Go Of My New Year’s Underwear Tradition

December 30th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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I’m stressed out about underwear. To be specific, I’m stressed out about the color of my underwear. And not just any underwear, my New Year’s Eve underwear.

It’s a Latin New Year’s tradition — or superstition, depending on how you think of it — to match the color of your skivvies to the thing you desire in the coming year. Yellow for prosperity, white for happiness, blue for wellbeing and so forth. Since I began observing this tradition, I’ve always chosen new red or pink dainties to bring love and/or passion to my life.

The one year I wore a bright red bra and panty set, within months I’d begun a passionate love affair. Now I’m convinced that there is power in the red panties and have chosen to wear the shade again for my New Year’s underwear. Which brings me to my predicament.

My money is a little funny right now (which probably means I should focus on yellow knickers) and I hadn’t planned for any new clothes for another month. Least of all a set of New Year’s underwear that, according to my past behavior, will only be worn once. I wondered if I could recycle the good karma from the red set that I already had, but one of my Latin girlfriends assured me that they must always be new and that she would spot me a bikini. Very nice of her, but I declined.

Now, I’m stressed out about finding a set of red underthings in my size and at my price point before Thursday. I believe that my chances for love in the new year will be summarily thwarted if I don’t accomplish this quest successfully. And that stresses me out for many reasons, not the least of which is the guy I’m seeing with whom I’d like to kick things up a notch.

You might be thinking, hey this is a superstition, why take it so seriously? In my bipolar mind, it’s not really about underwear but rather about setting my choices for the coming year. I worry a lot about choices, mostly because I can’t make them very well when I’m becoming depressed. I also worry a lot about making the wrong choice and ruining my life. That’s a factor in my bipolar too, catastrophizing little molehills into insurmountable mountains. Like when I think that not being able to get the right underwear will ruin my chances at love forever, therefore finding it must become the most important thing I will do this week.

Looking forward into the future is likely a difficult proposition for everyone, but more so for those of us with a mental illness. What could be something fun like New Year’s Eve could turn into a needlessly stressful obsession over the right color brassiere. I know I’ve spent too much time over the last few days thinking about New Year’s Eve superstitions. I should probably spend my last few moments of this year planning how to be a more prolific writer or how to keep my bipolar in better control. And I will do those things. It’s just that if I do them on December 31, I’ll be wearing red underwear.

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.

How Depression And Family Tragedy Got Alison Désir And “Harlem Run” Club Up And Running

December 29th, 2015 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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Alison Desir Harlem Run

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When you think of Harlem, you think of the Harlem Renaissance. The famed (and crowded) 125th Street. The legendary Apollo Theater. Hills. Brownstones. Grandiose churches. Diddy. Mase. The Diplomats–you get the point.

You think about a lot of things when Harlem comes to mind. But you probably don’t think about a running club.

And yet, Alison Désir’s Harlem Run has amassed quite the following on those uptown sidewalks. And not only has the running club helped those in the community improve their health, but it’s also positively impacted the neighborhood as a whole.

Désir, a 30-year-old Harlem-born resident, started organizing runs in 2013. And while attendees were few and far between, in the beginning, the weekly flights by feet (which are free by the way) now get more than 150 people. She also has five other “captains” to help with those runs now. They all come together to meet people and to bond over an appreciation for running. So no headphones! That goes against the mission of Harlem Run: “We want to bring people together,” Désir said.

So what inspired Désir to get Harlem running? We asked her that, and a lot more. Check out her story.

MadameNoire: What is your backstory? Have you always been a very athletic person and runner?

Alison Désir: I was a runner in high school and middle school. I did shorter distances, like the 400m and 400m hurdles. I was actually ranked and performed really well. But after high school, in college, I ran for a couple of months and then I stopped running altogether.

I started running again in 2012, really, to try and get my life back together. I was depressed. My father was diagnosed with dementia. I couldn’t get a job. So with all of those things, one day it hit me, and I was like, “You know what? I should go out and train for a marathon. I need to do something completely out of the norm to get myself recharged.” And that’s when I started running distance. So I was an athlete definitely, but I came back really for the mental aspect of it and what running was doing for me. I ended up loving it.

MN: That really speaks to the restorative power of running. 

Désir: Absolutely. For me, there are moments where I go out there, and I’m obviously doing training runs, and I have a particular pace and distance in mind. But other times, I just get out there to clear my mind.

MN: How did Harlem Run get its start?

Désir: So I was training for my first marathon with Team in Training, which is part of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. They offer a training component in exchange for participants fundraising for the organization. So I started to blog about my experience, and people started to see what I was writing and get really excited about running. In November 2013, I decided to start a run club as a tangible expression of what I had been writing. At that time, it was called Powdered Feet Run Club because my nickname is Powdered Feet. But I don’t know if you remember, two years ago in November, it was freezing. I started the run club, and nobody showed up that day or for a couple of months later. But eventually, people did start showing up. I was using social media and was guerilla style on the street letting everybody know. At first, the most we had were like five, 10 people showing up. I changed the name from Powdered Feet Run Club to Harlem Run, which I think was a huge part of it growing because anyone searching online was using the words “Harlem” and “run club.” But the biggest change has just been in the last year. By June, we hosted our first one-mile race to benefit Harlem United, the local nonprofit. And this past summer, it was like 160 people every week running with us. In August/September, we connected with Under Armour and have since joined Team UA. So it’s been a crazy whirlwind, but the community has reacted well to it, and the community has showed up.

MN: So was it the blog that propelled it? 

Désir: People were really being moved by the stuff I was writing, and I felt the only way to show people how transformative running is was to start my own group and have people out there running with me. So that’s what prompted me to do it, and that’s what kept me out there all those months when nobody was showing up. I was like, “Someday when people show up, they’re going to love it.”

MN: You find opportunities to do a lot of good in the community. Why was this so important for you to do with the runners?  

Désir: I say that running is a vehicle for social change. Running is this thing that brings us together. And then, once we’re together, and we’re running we’re thinking more about our fitness, our overall goals, who is around us in the community, how we can make it a better place and touch other people. So we partnered with #TakeCareofHarlem. The hashtag is from a friend of ours who has a company in Harlem, and he uses the hashtag to galvanize people around giving. So we partnered with him to do various things like the toy drive we had going on recently: The Ugly Sweater Run & Toy Drive. We’re using the power of 75 people showing up, bringing gifts to make an impact in children’s lives. We also did a one-miler that benefited Harlem United, which is a nonprofit that does AIDS and HIV research. Looking forward, we’re planning our 10th program. I never had in mind to do a kids program until kids started showing up with their parents. It’s been awesome. Like, single mothers showing up with their kids initially because they had nowhere to leave them, now we’re like, “Tell your kids to bring their friends!” It’s a really cool thing to have kids out there with us. So we want to formalize that program for the spring.

MN: This is a great idea because I think Black people aren’t always looked at as the running 5k types. How does Harlem Run help to debunk the myths about what we’re capable of, running and health and fitness? 

Désir: I think as a Black woman aware of the many stigmas and ideas about our hair and looking at some of the statistics facing us with obesity and high blood pressure, etc., it all contributes to why there are not enough of us out there running. BlackGirlsRun! has had a huge impact in our community because they identified this population in particular. I think Harlem Run is doing the same — though it’s not just for Black women, it has a huge component of people of color in an historically black neighborhood. What’s so important about Harlem Run is that it’s getting people in our own community, a community of color, to see that people like them do these things. And that, though, historically, people of color may not have always had access to services, this is a free running club in the community for people who look like you. And I think that’s also why the kids program is so important to me. Because stereotypically, girls aren’t out there on the street at night running. But young girls are coming with their parents, and they’re bringing other young girls out, and they’ll know that this is something they’re capable of doing. So yeah, it’s changing the face of running in our community, and my hope is that we’ll continue to do that nationally and abroad as well.

MN: You said initially, you were in a dark place. Since you started the program, have you seen the changes in your life that you wanted to? 

Désir: Absolutely. Committing to the 16-week training plan to run a marathon is what helped me change my mindset. I felt like I didn’t have control over myself and my emotions. But when I started looking at the training plan, it was dictating to me what exactly I had to do to get an end result. It became like my Bible, and I committed to it. It gave me a sense of purpose. Week by week I was getting faster and I was doing things I really thought were impossible. So I think the 16-week training plan was a mental shift, and I was like, “Oh. In life, I can commit to these small goals, and I can reach them and then move on to the next one. So it’s certainly been helpful in changing my mind and easing symptoms of depression.

MN: I talked to Lita Lewis, another fitness guru, and she started improving her health and improving her body after going through depression. That’s so interesting that you both used your form of exercise to deal with a pain you were burdened with. 

Désir: The mantra that I created is “Finding meaning on the run.” That’s exactly what happened. I never want to make this story seem like there was this moment, and a lightning bolt struck down, and I changed. It was a gradual thing that got me where I am. When I speak to people who are depressed or have whatever issue they are dealing with, I want to let them know that it definitely is a process. There is no prescription. But I can tell you what works for me and looking at the 150-plus people who come out every week, it works for them.

MN: So it grew from five to 10 people to 150 people a week?!

Désir: It is so crazy. Every Monday I’m like, “Oh, nobody’s going to come. It’s cold out.” And people still come.

MN: You’ve created a form of discipline in them.

Désir: I know. It’s awesome!

 

Désir plans to expand the club soon. But in the meantime, if you’re looking to run for your life (and help others while doing so), you have to check out Harlem Run.

 

Your Sister’s Keeper: 6 Things To Do Immediately If A Friend Seems Suicidal

December 29th, 2015 - By MommyNoire Editor
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Trigger warning: This is a column about suicidal behavior, depression, and suicidal ideation. It is for informational purposes only and not intended to treat or diagnose any mental or physical illness. You must check with your own health care practitioner. If you are feeling like hurting yourself right now, go to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at SuicidePreventionLifeline.org or call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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What It’s Like When You Can’t Find Joy In Anything

December 2nd, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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On an average day, I’m a social kind of gal. I have friends. I have activities. I even go out and do activities with my friends. When I say “average day,” I mean an average day when I’m healthy and happy and not suffering with a bout of bipolar depression. When I’m in the middle of a depressive episode, I’m the opposite of myself. I isolate. I don’t do anything. And I don’t want to do anything. That lack of desire to live a happy life is the worst part of having depression.

A unique symptom of bipolar depression is that it generally comes with some periods of mania or hypomania. For me, hypomanic episodes are when I’m myself, only better. I feel better. I think faster. I hang out with my friends more and I’m the life of the party — or at least I feel like I’m the life of the party because bipolar mania makes you think you’re great.

After the hypomania is over comes bipolar depression, with feelings on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of thinking that I’m great, I think that I’m worthless. I don’t hang out with my friends because I can’t get out of the bed. That’s can’t, not won’t. The depression almost literally chains you down and prevents you from thinking anything good or doing anything good.

When I’m in the throes of depression, I feel so bad about myself and about life that I basically can’t even remember a time when I liked anything. Activity is good for combating bipolar depression, so my therapist often asks me what I enjoy doing. When I’m very depressed, I can’t answer that question. It’s as though the part of my brain marked “fun” has been erased. Now that I’m well, I know that I like to read, but when I’m depressed, I can’t concentrate long enough to read and understand a sentence, so I forget that I liked it. I know now that I enjoy running, but when I’m depressed I can’t see my way to taking a shower and getting dressed, let alone running a few miles, so I disconnect from the joy I experience during a good run.

Then there’s the social aspect. Right now, in a healthy state, I know that I have friends and loved ones. But with a depressed mind, I am ashamed and afraid to let them see me in a bad state. I think they won’t like me if I’m having issues. I convince myself that my friends aren’t good friends because they won’t understand what I’m going through and will only reject me. Then, when things get really bad, I stop caring about having people around me because I believe that I’m unworthy of their interest. Not that I’d have the energy to answer their phone calls or go somewhere to meet them anyway.

Clearly, having bipolar depression is not an enjoyable experience. It makes you think badly of yourself and of everything around you. Depression can make you reject happiness and any means to pursue it. For me, the important part of getting back to enjoyment has been forcing myself to have experiences. The surprise of joy in an unexpected place is often a good enough reminder that I’m still capable of experiencing pleasure. And that’s a good enough experience to make me want to fight for a future full of happiness.

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.

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 PopMomDaily.com. 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.