I remember sitting at the stop light as the train began to approach in the distance and the gate slowly came down. It was last year, sometime during the spring. It was a pretty day out and the sun was shining while a nice breeze ebbed and flowed like water through the sky. I was heading home from washing my clothes and had the windows down– I needed fresh air. I glanced over at the car next to me and wondered if the mild aged white man in the truck to my right would have enough time to run over and stop me before I walked out onto the train tracks. I looked at him for some time. . .contemplating if he would even care enough to try and stop me. I slowly raised my foot off the break and inched closer to the tracks. I put my car in park and took off my seat belt. The train buzzed by and I continued to contemplate. When the gate lifted, I shakily changed gears and drove the thirty seconds to my house. When I walked in the door, Reese welcomed with a face full of dog kisses and I sat on my bed and cried until I had no more tears left.
There’s a stigma that surrounds mental health in the Black community. We rarely speak of it and when we do its often in hushed whispers. We’re told to pray or suck it up or get over it. But no one ever tells their grandma to pray away her breast cancer and not go see a doctor. No one tells their granddaddy to suck up his diabetes. No one yells for their mama to get over her sickle cell. So why in the hell am I expected to magically erase my depression? Yeah, sis, we need to talk about it. It actually is that deep.
I don’t exactly know when my depression started. I can’t quite pinpoint the day. I just know when things with my ex-were bad, things with me were worse. When we were good, I was great. But when shit hit the fan, which it did often, I was a wreck. A drunken, anxiety attack having, breaking down at work, months without talking just to act like things were fine when he called and told me he still loved me, screaming fuck you, driving to Dallas and crying on his mama’s couch as he wiped the tears away and told me it was ok, back to screaming fuck you wreck. So by the time senior year rolled around and we were a year and a half year into whatever the hell we were doing, my psyche had had about all it could take and I snapped.
I never wanted to die but I always felt like disappearing. I would wonder who would miss me if I just went away to the edges of space in a really dark corner and never came back. I remember coming home from class and isolating myself every chance I had. I was still heavily involved — a… .perk? of my high functioning depression. I was SGA Vice President, an active member of my Sorority, MLK Week for Peace Chair, and a helping hand when Tay needed one for M.A.X. events. I would constantly keep myself busy so I wouldn’t have to worry about the thoughts in my head. I was balancing all this while working to pay bills, taking a full course load, and watching my personal life burst into flames while I danced in the fire. I would come home as soon as I could, after whatever meeting or event or shift I had to wade through that day, and drink. And when I say “drink” I don’t mean a day here and there. I mean bottles of Jack Daniels with a splash of coke if I didn’t want to overdo it.
I was lost, AF… and I didn’t care.
After graduation I wanted to get the hell out of New Orleans and leave behind every dumb ass mistake I made there. So, I did TFA in a small town in North Carolina and met the most amazing kids I will ever have the pleasure of knowing. As much as my kids stressed me out — and Lord knows they did — I owe my life to them. They saved me. They saw something in me that I had lost sight of in myself and I could never repay them for that. I knew that in order to be the person they needed me to be, I had to get better. After a night of blacking out and waking up to my house destroyed — glass and food covering the kitchen floor because I emptied my fridge and cabinets and threw the contents against the walls and all my paperwork littering the floor– I realized I needed help. For the first time, I went to see a therapist. I had two shots before I went into the office and never went back after the first appointment. It’s true, old habits die hard and kicking this one was tough. As much as I loved my kids and as much as it hurt, I knew that staying in North Carolina wasn’t what I needed. I needed to refocus and I needed to get back to the person I lost somewhere along the way.
When I came home, things were a lot better. I felt safe and my mama always had a way of shifting my focus back to what was important. I started taking my prerequisites for graduate school, got a job, and began shadowing at the local OT clinics. For the first time in a year, I felt like I knew what the hell I was doing with my life. That’s not to say the suicidal ideations stopped — they didn’t. From to time I would still drive by the lake and think about how many people would miss me if I drove my car in. I scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist and he told me I had dysthymia — a mild long-term form of depression — and everything finally clicked. We decided that a low dose anti-depressant would be ideal for me and since taking it, my life has taken a 180 turn.
I very rarely drink these days and when I do it’s in moderation. I no longer have suicidal thoughts and I am consistent with my psychiatrist appointments. I actively seek ways to maintain my metal health and I constantly remind myself of what I have overcome. This fall I’ll be attending graduate school at Florida A&M and pursuing my Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy. I am the happiest I’ve been in three years.
I learned a lot about myself the past two years. I learned that my depression does not come in the form of being sad — it comes in the form of bouts of anger, isolating myself from those I care most about, and drinking to numb the pain. I learned that I have to remove certain people from my space in order to detoxify my energy. I learned to stand tall in my truth. But, most importantly, I learned to love who I am without apology.
For anyone struggling with depression or any other form of mental illness, you are not alone. You are worth it. You can make it through. And, I promise you when you do, you’ll appreciate every battle you had to face to get there.
Stay up. Be easy. Love yourself first.
written by Asia Knowles of Drippin Melanin Blog