Turning Pain Into Laughter Since 2011
It’s Monday morning, August 21, and I’m sitting at my desk at work fighting back tears. Speaking and smiling at my coworkers while literally fighting back tears. And It’s also my birthday. The first birthday, in a long time, that I have spent doing nothing. No partying, no drinking, no activities with my friends…nothing. In fact, I only had 2 friends to text or call and wish me a happy birthday. It’s amazing how people, even your friends, rely on social media to remind them of your birthday (I deactivated my Facebook account). Since the beginning of this year I have been trying to make some changes in my life in regards to my career and living location. Anyone that has been on the hunt for a new job knows that the process can be very stressful and can move very slow. I am a person that expects instant gratification, even though I know that’s not realistic. I have also dealt with friends not being the friends I thought they were, seeing a few people for who they really are, and ultimately pulling away from people that I love and care about. The process of losing friends sucks and can bring you all the way down. When you go from talking to someone on a regular basis to having that person ignore your calls and not tell you why is very hurtful. I think the weight of everything and the months of holding everything in, on top of it being my birthday, was finally coming out.
Over the last few months, I’ve pretended that everything was fine, while inside I was breaking down mentally and emotionally. I didn’t want to appear weak and I didn’t want people to stop wanting to be around me if I admitted that most of the time..I’m sad. I stopped talking to everyone, stopped answering phone calls and texts, stopped wanting to do ANYTHING! I only talked to people when I had to. All I really wanted to do was sleep, because if I was awake I was constantly overcome by worry and anxiety. I started having panic attacks and didn’t want anyone to know. Anytime I feel like I am going into panic mode I quickly make an excuse to leave, if I am around someone. Recently, I even left a friends house at 1am because I felt a panic attack coming on. I’m sure he thought I was bat-shit crazy because I left with no excuse at all. But I just didn’t want him to see me have a full blown panic attack. After I calmed down I went back, which probably made me look even crazier.
Depression is one of the biggest stigmas among Black people. It is not something that is openly talked about in the Black community. It’s definitely not something I wanted to claim. I figured, like many people, that this feeling would eventually go away. Often times if we are experiencing a down period or even a chemical imbalance that is throwing us off mentally and emotionally, we are told to “pray about it” or “you just need to go to church, take it to Jesus.” But don’t you DARE speak of the word depression. For Black people, that word seems to be a myth. It’s like one of those ‘things white people deal with’…Black people don’t get depressed, we just take it to Jesus. Those are actual words that someone spoke to me. I didn’t understand how that could be true because what I was feeling was indeed DEPRESSION.
It’s time we start paying attention to the signs that some of the people around us may indeed be experiencing depression. Stop telling people all they need is Jesus. What about those people that don’t believe in Jesus? What do you tell them? What is their outlet if ‘the church’ is not an obvious option for them? For those who choose not to go to therapy, their friends and family are the next best thing. I decided to use my own experience to help my readers recognize some of the signs of depressions in their friends or family members.
*If they go from communicating with you on a regular basis to not answering phone calls or responding to text messages. Or they are slow to responding to calls or texts.
*If they aren’t as talkative when you talk to them or are short with you when they respond to your texts or calls.
*If they stop going out, being social, and just don’t want to be around anyone. They don’t want to do anything, especially if they are normally a very social person.
*If they are sleeping more. Always tired no matter what time of day it is.
*If they order an alcoholic drink every time you go out with them, whether it’s at lunch, brunch or dinner, no matter what time of day it is. And if they can drink several drinks and not seem to be affected by them, it could mean that they have been drinking a lot lately and their tolerance level has increased and now they have to drink more for the alcohol to have any effect on them.
*If they just seem unhappy all the time. Nothing you do or say seems to help cheer them up.
*If they make up excuses every time you ask them to go anywhere.
*If you have no desire to attend important events or family functions, like weddings, graduations, baby showers, or birthday events.
*If their birthday rolls around and they have no desire to celebrate in any kind of way.
*If their stress level is high or they seem to be zoned out every time you’re around them…like they are physically there but their mind is somewhere else.
*If there is a change in their appetite and they are suddenly losing or gaining weight.
*The smallest thing or occurrence can set them off…making them angry or sad.
The one thing you don’t want to do is show frustration or anger at someone for suddenly changing. Before you judge or get angry at your friend or family because they haven’t been around, try asking them if they are ok. Don’t just assume that they are acting funny. I had a friend to text me and basically accuse me of being a bad friend because I had been so distant. After trying to explain to her that I just needed some time to get myself together, she said it had been a month…I guess a month should have been enough time for me to get myself together and get back to normal. Don’t put a time limit on anyone’s feelings. Everyone deals with things differently and everyone’s healing period is different. I think it’s time we start taking depression seriously among Black people and stop being afraid to admit that we [Black people] get depressed too.
Although Black women are less likely to commit suicide, it is the third leading cause of death among Black men. Which is all the more reason for us to start being more in touch with those people in our lives that we love. Stop being all about self and busyness and start staying in touch with our family and friends. Don’t let too much time go by before you reach out to someone you haven’t heard from in a while. Stop holding grudges and being mad over something trivial…call your friends and family while you can. Especially your strong friends. They will be the ones that are less likely to reach out for help. Black people get depressed.
Until next time,