“You have clinical depression.” So many thoughts ran through my mind as my doctor stated those words. Part of me was glad to know that something was actually wrong with me and that I wasn’t really going crazy. The other part of me was confused. Confused because I couldn’t understand why or how this was happening. I kept playing back, in my mind, my life over the past few months, reading through my journals, looking for something that would tell me what was going on with me. Of course I’d experienced moments in my life that didn’t go as I would have hoped for, had stressful days and days where I didn’t want to be bothered. But, those are just a regular part of life, right? But, what was happening to me was that I was engulfed into these type of days more frequently. I was stressed, snappy, tired and it was becoming a struggle just to make it through each day. So I did what I do best. I prayed and kept praying. Surely God would pull me out of this funk. I kept praying, praying several times a day, in the shower, in the car,when walking Maxx, wondering why God was moving so slow because I didn’t believe that he would want me to be so miserable and broken, but with each passing day nothing happened. In fact, I was starting to feel worse.
One day, without any warning, I broke down. I was washing the dishes and out of no where the tears started falling, non stop. Even when I tried to stop crying, I couldn’t. My heart was beating fast, my hands were shaking and the room was spinning. I kept thinking if I made it the bed, to lay down, I would be ok. I barely made it from the kitchen to my bedroom before I collapsed on the floor and continued crying, uncontrollably. It was hours later when I woke up, still lying on the bedroom floor, confused. Was I dreaming about what had just happened? As I stood looking in the mirror with swollen, blood-red eyes, I knew it hadn’t been a dream. It was at that moment that I realized I couldn’t fake it anymore. No longer could I force the fake smile, hide behind my work and continue to respond, “nothing,” to the countless people who constantly asked, “You don’t seem like yourself. What’s wrong?”
The next day I texted one of my close friends, Dionne. I was on the edge that day and about to lose it. In the past, I’ve reached out to Dionne when I’ve felt this way and that day was no different. I needed to have one of our “my friend is a psychologist but this will be a girlfriend chat because I don’t want to be treated like a patient which would confirm I’m going crazy” talks. Being a licensed psychologist, I knew she would be able to answer my questions. “How do you know if you’re depressed,” I asked her. She sent me the criteria for major depressive episode from the DSM-V, American Psychiatric Association. It only took me a few minutes to recognize at least six of the nine symptoms had been my life for the past several months. Still, I couldn’t understand what triggered those symptoms. I continued to text with Dionne asking her, “How do people get depressed? Is it something hormonal?” She told me that sometimes it’s actually a hormonal/chemical imbalance and the only thing the will balance it out is medication. I thought, “she must be crazy ’cause there’s no way I’m taking medication.” I went back and forth, with myself, about whether or not I should make an appointment to see my doctor. Dionne’s last text read, “this is serious so go see a doctor.” A few minutes later, I was calling Dr. Yanni.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS – I had mixed feelings about telling my mom and those that I’m closest to about what I was experiencing. There were times that I felt ashamed because I felt that I was using depression as an excuse for how I was dealing with things in my life. Then there were times that I couldn’t communicate what I was experiencing because I didn’t know what to say. I just couldn’t put into words how I was feeling because I didn’t know what I was feeling. I didn’t know where it was coming from or what triggered it and therefore couldn’t (and didn’t want to) talk about it.
I knew that I would have to tell my mom because it was important for her to know what was going on with me. I knew I didn’t want to talk about it over the phone because I knew she would ask so many questions and many of them I didn’t know how to answer. So I sent her a text message that said I was diagnosed with clinical depression and that I would call her later because I didn’t want to talk about it. She said,”ok,” but hours later she called me and kept calling when I didn’t answer. I didn’t answer because I didn’t want to talk. I knew I would have to tell her soon since I’d already opened that door by telling her my diagnosis, so I sent her a very detailed e-mail. In the e-mail, I outlined everything that I had been going through and told her what the doctor and Dionne had communicated to me. Along with some information about signs and symptoms of depression, I told her about the anti-depressant medication that Dr. Yanni prescribed. I ended the e-mail asking her to not share this information with anyone. The next day, I sat on the edge of my bed crying, as I read the text message (emojis included) from my mom. As expected, she would be there for me no matter what.
After sending my mom that e-mail, I knew that I would have to tell someone else. I didn’t want her having to deal with this alone and wanted her have her own support system. I decided to tell my god-sister, LaTonya and my best friend, Keyoka. Tonya has been a constant in my life since I was a child and she and I are extremely close. I trust her with my inner most secrets and know that she will always be there for me and never judge me. Keyoka and I have been friends for more than 20 years (she’s the mother of my goddaughters) and she’s been a part of every major thing that has happened in my life, since high school. They are my sisters! I was still not in the mood to talk to anyone, so like I did with my mom, I e-mailed them. They called, texted and e-mailed me making sure I was ok, before giving me my space. They didn’t ask a lot of questions but assured me that they loved me and would be there when I was ready to talk.
SPIRITUALITY – YOU CAN’T PRAY DEPRESSION AWAY! I was convinced that whatever I was experiencing God would work it out and deliver me through it. I believe that sometimes God has to break you down in order to build you up, so I thought this was my “breaking down” moment. So I prayed and prayed and prayed, leaning on my faith because it was all I had left. At first, it seemed like things would get better. I listened to God, stayed steadfast in the word, connected to my sisters in Christ, but after a while I was losing my way. I called my good friend, Angel, a woman of God and in between my sobs told her what was going on. Angel and I have been friends since high school, were college roommates and I knew if there was anyone I could connect to spiritually, it would be her. I knew I could be honest with her about how I was feeling and secretly I was hoping and praying she would be able to give me scriptures to read, prayers to pray, that God would speak to me through her and that everything would be alright. Angel had given me all of those things and more, but still everything was not alright. It was then that I realized my spirit was broken. I knew I had to get help because I couldn’t tackle this alone.
WORK – It was no secret that I wasn’t happy at work. I thought that every “bad” thing that was happening to me was a result of me hating my job. I hated California and convinced myself it was because I hated my job. I had no passion, no motivation to be at work. I’ve always been so driven at work, so career focused, so committed to being successful, professionally. I always knew that even if I never got married, never had any children I would always have a successful career. But this time was different. I had NO MOTIVATION! I never wanted to be at work and my “I don’t care attitude” was in full effect. The thing is I actually don’t like my job, but the way I’ve been dealing with it is what’s different. In the past, if I wasn’t happy at work, I found a way to fix it and if I couldn’t fix it I still worked hard until I moved on to something else.
Every day was a struggle to get out of bed, for work. I’d cry, in the car, as I drove to work. Once in the office, I forced out good morning to my co-workers and I headed straight to my office and closed the door. Everything and everyone got on my nerves. I sat in my office, the Director of Human Resources, and hoped no one would need me for anything. That was wishful thinking and it surely didn’t happen. Each week, my boss would ask,”what’s wrong with you?” I kept telling him, “nothing,” but he wouldn’t go away. On one of his questioning days he sat in my office and said, “I know something is wrong with you but you keep saying nothing.” I looked at him, eyes squinted, side of my lip turned up and said, “well if keep saying nothing then stop asking.” Then we stared at each other for about 10 seconds before I blurted out, “I’m not happy and I don’t want to be here.” Two weeks later, I resigned.
I thought once I resigned I would feel happy, relieved that I would no longer have to come to a place that I despised. But I didn’t feel happy. I didn’t feel relieved. I felt confused. I was supposed to be happy, but I wasn’t. Since the anti-depressants side effects could make me sick, I informed my boss of what was going on in the event I would be sick and need to come in late, work from home or be off work. He was convinced it was the depression that was making me not like the job and was happy, thinking that once I became stables on my meds I would realize that I really do like my job and decide to stay. I smiled at him and said, “depression or no depression, I really don’t like working here.” If I wasn’t sure about anything else, I was sure about that.
SUPPORT SYSTEM – Most of my support system is in Chicago. Although I’m able to reach out to my family and friends via phone, e-mail, text messaging, FaceTime, letter writing, etc. I still struggle with not having my family and friends with me. I desire their hugs, hand holding, rubs on my back, letting me know that everything is going to be ok. I am grateful that I have a small group of people in California that I can depend on to be there for me. People that check in on me, just letting me know that if I need them they will be there (and they have been). I recently reached out to someone who’s battled depression and without hesitation she responded, “do you have time to talk tomorrow?” Even as she continues through her own journey, she’s made herself available to me and countless others. The day she left for an extended stay out of the country, she took the time to send me a book, her book “From Stress to Peace. An Intimate Journal on the Journey from Living in Darkness to Living in the Light.”
And so I begin my own journey. See you on the other side of the darkness, to the light!