Depression–My Dirty Little Secret!

Posted by in Diary | 12 comments

Do not download without permissionMy emotions have always been intense, even as a child. I never gave it much thought, I assumed my feelings of depression were normal. With very little effort I would find myself feeling dark and lonely. But, because my parents often spoke of their expectation that I would become a successful, self-sufficient and strong woman, I buried my sadness, as to not show weakness. When people were around, I’d tell myself, “It’s Showtime!” and I would strive to be the most engaging and jovial person in the room. But, when the crowd broke, so did I.

When I was about 10 years old, my mother shared a poem with me entitled, “We Wear The Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar:

“ WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask….”

do not download without permission.His words were just as deep to me then as they are to me now. Sometimes we swallow our emotions and put on a strong face, especially African-Americans. I was talking to my husband yesterday and I told him that it is my opinion that when we think of the things our grandparents and great-grandparents went through we feel guilty to complain of depression and sadness. It just pales in comparison. My husband, being the comedian that he is, turned to me as if he just realized I was standing there and said “I think all races acknowledge depression, it’s just that Black people didn’t start getting health insurance until the early 70’s so they had some other things to take care of before seeing a shrink.” He’s so profound <please note my sarcasm> 🙂

Whether it’s due to limited health insurance or a history of oppression, seeing a doctor because you feel sad was not the answer in my family. We pray, we bury our feelings and we put on the mask. No need for a doctor. Psychiatrist are for crazy people!

Child, you feel low?! You better read your bible and drink some water.

Growing-up, Jesus and water were the answers to all my ailments. Please do not take me as blasphemous, I believe in God, but sometimes people need a prescription before Psalms.

Where my mother preached faith, DaddyBudda (which is what I call my father) would challenge me to seek balance. “Stop going to such extremes, you should never be so happy that you fall and you should never be so sad that you aren’t able to stand-up.” Well, that was easier said than done. Fast forward 20 years later, a round of medication, yoga and numerous counseling sessions and I’m much better than I use to be. Being aware of my depression and not feeling guilty because of it, helped me a great deal. And, if I hadn’t taken the time to focus on my mental health before becoming a parent, I would have been completely taken by surprise during the first three months of S Dot’s life.

Do not download without permissionVarying forms of postpartum depression affect nearly 80 percent of first time mothers, and if you have a history of depression the symptoms can lead to emotional upheaval. But, being aware and prepared can help more than you realize. Yes, when we brought S Dot home I was a mess; crying, moping, weeping, sad and tired. But, not once did I consider myself weak or feel ashamed. I called doctors. My husband supported me. I confided in my friends. I cried in my aunt’s arms, and afterwards I looked at my son and I had faith that I would get through it. See, I’d been here before and I knew the way out.

My diary entry is this, “Don’t wear the mask so long that you forgot what’s underneath.”

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  1. Manic depression was THE most scariest experience I’ve ever faced, and when people used to tell me to “just give it to God,” I’d want to give them a black eye. I’m right there with you as a believer in God…prayer helps, but those really dark and hopeless days need professional attention. I commend you for sharing! There need to be more open conversations like this 🙂

    • I am so happy you didn’t haul off and punch someone!!! Thank you so much for sharing Bridgett. My goal is start honest conversations. My diary entries are personal and it means a lot when I find others that can relate.

  2. I think everyone goes through some type of depression in their life and various times throughout their lives. There is nothing shameful about seeking help. The shame is when we don’t seek help and try to deal with it ourselves and do the same thing over and over and expect a change. Definition of insanity. I sincerely believe that our parents don’t prepare us to be parents or spouses. Everyone says when are you getting married, when are you having kids. Almost NO ONE tells us how hard it is to do all of this and do it well. I have recently reconciled in my mind that I am not perfect and I can’t be perfect and never will be. So I’m going to do the best I can with what I have. So when I send an email with a typo, oh well. When I forget to do something, sorry oh well.

    • You are so right MJ. We are bombarded with the breathtaking images of the striking couple walking down the aisle to get married, then we fast forward and see the beautiful baby, and the perfect family…but people only talk about the pretty parts. It’s “real in the field”:-)! Life is a wonderful journey, but it’s still a hike.

      Thanks to you, I think the next MOD e-card will be, “Oh Well!”

  3. Such a great post. Obviously, I can’t talk about being African-American and being depressed, but I think with both kids I went through varying degrees of post partum.
    With The Boy I had a hard time leaving him in the NICU, and then we would have so many promises of him coming home that would fall through, and we would have to start the countdown over. I would literally cry the whole way home from the NICU. People would give me a hard time about it because there were parents there with children for several months and I’m upset over 3 weeks or eventually a month. People would tell me I should wait until I got home, before I let myself cry about it, because what about so and so’s parents who have been waiting for their child to come home for 4 months.
    With the Peanut, I cried because sleep deprivation and colic kicked my butt. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. Hubby would take the Boy out to play to give me a break, but I would cry and cry for about 6 weeks.
    There is no shame in needing help, and after trying I realized I will never be as strong as some other people (my mother), and I accept that. I can only be as good as I am.

    • Wow! Donna, I can’t imagine. I was itching to take my son home as soon as I delivered him. So, the thought of being separated from him (even for a day) would have killed me. I understand empathy…but what people expect from others is ridiculous. Thank you so much for sharing. I am in AWE of the strong mother that you truly are.

    • Donna,
      I completly understand. My son was in the NICU for 8 days. I cried as they wheeled me out of the hospital. I felt horrible that everyone else got wheeled out of the hospital with their baby in their lap and I was leaving with a plant. I cried on my way home from every visit. It took everything out of me.

      • Nakia, in listening to you and Donna I realize how often parents (especially new ones) take for granted the importance of a healthy baby. You get so caught up in whether it is a boy or girl, but to get in your car WITH A PLANT versus your child, and be told you are further and further away from taking your newborn home–LORD, it makes me want to cry just thinking about it. You can’t tell me that women aren’t strong beings. Thank you for sharing.

  4. This post is absolutely incredible and I cannot even tell you how much I can relate to this post. While I am not African American I can certainly empathize with all of the emotions you felt as a child and woman. Cheers to you and embracing your womanhood and yourself! Thank you for sharing your diary with us! You are a TRUE HEROINE!!

    • Courtney, you are too kind. I’m so far from a heroine it’s not funny :-)! But, YOU are phenomenal for taking the time to share your thoughts. It feels so good to know that there are still a few people in the world who are quicker to support one another than to cast judgment. One of my favorite songs in college was Alana Davis’ “Crazy”, it made me laugh…and every now and then I put it on and remind myself “it’s all good!”:

      “I’m not completely insane
      I’m maybe just a little bit crazy.
      There’s no one to blame,
      Got no shame ’bout my game,
      Don’t want nobody to save me…”

  5. I know I may have said this before but, I love how share your most personal feelings and experiences. S Dot is so blessed to have you as his mother. This is an EXCELLENT post. Can’t wait to read your bestselling book :). (I know you will write a book one day).

    • Aww, Ronnie! I almost cried. Thank you. Thank you. MOD is definitely turning into my therapy. And, if someone get’s something out of it, that is truly a blessing.

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