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Surviving the Darkness of Depression

As with many people who struggle with depression, it is difficult to know where to begin. It took me years to determine when it all began.

depressed woman behind glassWhen I was a teenager, a close friend committed suicide. That event is what sent me over the proverbial edge. His death left me feeling incredibly alone. The deep sadness and emptiness I felt when I lost my friend turned into a hollowness that I couldn’t seem to fill. The pressures that I continued to place on myself and the excellence I expected from myself was overwhelming and crushing. I couldn’t believe that I was good enough. I shut down. I shut people out. I told myself that no one cared what I was going through and no one would understand. I was afraid.

I hid my fear and my loneliness behind a sunny smile and I longed for the comfort of my bed at night. I spent every ounce of my strength just trying to get through each day. I developed a routine so that I could walk around and pretend that I was fine. I let everything I cherish fade away. I believed everything bad about myself. I built an impenetrable wall around myself and the wall nearly killed me.

An unusual (and perfectly timed) conversation with a friend pulled me far enough out of the darkness to accept help. Unfortunately, I then left for college with an anti-depressant and best wishes from a psychiatrist who couldn’t have cared less. I developed insomnia as a side effect of the medication. I thought I was going crazy and so did my roommate. She took/dragged me to a counselor and introduced me to an amazing and supportive group of women. For the first time, I felt connected to the world.

Every day got better. I found a psychiatrist who cared. I built a network of friends. In counseling, I faced the things that contributed to the wall I had built. I found strength in myself that I had never allowed myself to believe in.

Today, I live a wonderful life. It goes up and down but I’m alive. I survived the darkness. I get out of bed every day (even if it isn’t with a smile). And every once in a while, when I feel the hollowness creeping up on me again, I force myself to look around. I see the family and friends I thought would never understand or accept me. And wonder of all wonders…they love me. It’s been years since they pulled me up from the darkness and they are still my anchor to the world. They remind me that there is always something worth living for.

— Will County Female

There is No Shame in Suffering from Depression

It’s an internal sickness, silently sentencing the stricken to their own personal hell. There may or may not be obvious signs to friends, family, foes and coworkers.

For me, a couple of coworkers who had become friends — who were as close to me as family — became my foes. They proclaimed I’d developed a strange attitude and wasn’t myself anymore and opted out of my life.

They no longer wanted to be in my presence because I had lost the ability to keep their worlds happy, whole and right side up. Little did they know that happy was the mask I donned for my whole world, that had skidded into an upside-down realm of existence.

When did it happen? How did it happen? All I know is that I was going about my business, and life just got too full. True, life had filled up before, but I always managed to pull a rabbit out of my hat and magically morph back to magnificent. Not this time.

The rabbit hopped away wearing the hat, leaving me with nary a trick up my sleeves. And though I was still able to function within my day-to-day responsibilities, my very essence was ebbing. I had entered the world of depression.

I was scared, sad and ashamed. My greatest challenge was being depressed and black. Oh, not for black’s ethnicity’s sake, but because there’s an unwritten rule in the black community that we don’t get depressed; we don’t talk to counselors, psychiatrists or psychologists, and we don’t pop pills. We suck it up and move on, because that’s part of the strength in our character that sets us apart from our white brothers and sisters.

So, I didn’t share my struggle with anyone in the hood — big mistake. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Depression for me was like existing alone in a grey world while standing on the edge of nonexistence with my foot raised as I anticipated a plunge into nothingness … still faithfully going through the expected motions in life of trying to be everybody’s everything.

I crashed and burned and ended up six seconds from a successful suicide, because when you run out of you, you can walk away from life. But that’s a whole other story for a whole other day.

If you’re depressed seek help. There’s no shame in needing support, but shame on you if you deny yourself of it.

Keep Walkin’ the Talk,

— Paula Morris Thomas