People are usually very complimentary of me and the “amazing” things I do and have accomplished (praise God). If this is your first foray into Trendy Socialite land, I’ve done a couple of things over the past few years.
Creator of International Natural Hair Meetup Day, #1 multi-city natural hair meetup in the world
Creator, iGrind Naturally (FB group for brand owners, bloggers and event planners)
Workshop facilitator, webinar master and speaker
Coach and consultant
Not to mention I am very active in my church. I am often asked questions about how I manage multiple projects, groups, commitments, etc. Sure I have time management applications, note taking apps and other things I can and do use to help me manage the “things” in my life.
But how do I manage Adeea?
A series of events, tough conversations and awkward silences this past weekend caused me to realize–I haven’t been managing Adeea at all. In fact, I have managed to literally run myself into the ground emotionally and mentally.
Yes, I am depressed.
According to the Mayo Clinic depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. I don’t think I’m “sad” very often, but I’m also not happy either. When an acquaintance asked me this weekend if I was happy, I said, “I’m content.” Which has been my answer for a long time. And because I’ve been content and not sad, I’ve overlooked, “pressed forward” and worked beyond my feelings of melancholy and temporary bouts of sadness. But I can no longer overlook the way I’m feeling and the way I behave sometimes.
The symptoms of depression can include (from the Mayo Clinic):
Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness
Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility
Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Out of these 12 symptoms above, I can say I exhibit 8 of them. The one area I don’t exhibit is thoughts of suicide. But I often think of running away and not returning or contacting anyone. And for those of you that know how close I am to my friends and family–you know that’s MAJOR. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that while Caucasian people suffer more with depression, it is more pervasive and severe in African-American Women. According to the National Survey of American Life, part of the reason for that is African-American women avoid emotions as a survival technique. This is me ALL DAY LONG! According to this survey, 5 reasons for avoiding sharing our mental health struggles are:
Might hurt the family
Might ruin their career
People might think they are crazy
They cannot afford to appear weak; and
Each of these reasons could be its own verse in the song of many African-American women. And I would be less than honest if I said these same doubts had not crossed my mind even in writing this blog post. And so many of my fellow sisters suffer in near silence. But the pain seeps out in other ways like destructive behavior, lashing out at loved ones, addictions, etc. If not dealt with, some of us pay the ultimate price of attempting to end the pain through ending our lives. When Karyn Washington of “For Brown Girls” took her own life at the tender age of 22, the natural hair community and brown girls everywhere were devastated.
Photo courtesy of Rolling Out
Many theories circulated as to the cause of her despair. And this deeply personal tragedy in our community caused an uncomfortable, but necessary conversation about African-American women and mental health. There is a great deal of education that still needs to occur even with fellow African-American women about what depression is and what it isn’t.
One point of consideration is that yes I can be accomplished and still be depressed.
Why Amazing People can be depressed
We are the “go to” person for others, but have no one to “go to” ourselves
We tell you not to worry about what other people think, but secretly we worry about what you may think if you knew we were depressed
We give great advice to every one–but ourselves
We say “yes” to others, and “no” to ourselves
We have bought into the hype that we must work past our hurts and feelings in order to remain accomplished
The primary reason I am writing this blog post is to take the SHAME AND STIGMA from a dis-ease that many more of us suffer with that than we are probably willing to admit. Depression hasn’t stopped my life, but it does shape and color it. I am not ashamed that I have this issue to deal with. However, I would be ashamed if I continued to ignore it. Dealing with depression is a sign of self-love. I am a very process oriented thinker. Over the last 24 hours, I have thought of how I am going to deal with this challenge in my life. This is my plan for “getting back to me”…and dealing with this period in my life.
Take a step back.An acquaintance brought this to my attention. At the time, I didn’t want to consider it. We were having “heated fellowship” and I wanted to resolve it then. He was emphatic that it could not and would not be resolved then. As I drove off in anger (real talk), I started thinking. Which is what I do. I have to process afterwards (Adeea factoid). And true to Adeea form, I agreed (never tell him I said that). If you realize you may have a bout of depression, you have to take a step back so you can determine a plan of action and how you will deal with it. As with any physical illness, having a treatment plan is crucial to healing and restoration. This is the same for depression. And sometimes in order to create one, you have to take a step back. I have already begun to modify my interaction, acceptance of appointments and taking on new projects for the remainder of the year. I have enough projects to finish, modify and roll out to keep me busy for the next year anyway. So I think not taking on anything new for the next few months will be ok.
Have a day (or two).Whenever I’m sad, I get tired. I have to do like older people and “take to the bed.” That has been my place of solace since I was a teenager. My friend said to me last night, “sometimes the only thing that will fix it is these sheets.” LOL! It’s ok to have a day where you either spend it in the bed, or make it a point to go to bed early. For me, I do not produce my best work if my spirit is vexed. So the best thing for me and the people I serve is to have my moment(s) so I can get back to me–and thus get back to you.
Seek help.Mental illness festers on isolation. You have to seek help! And you will likely need multiple types of help. I am a Christian, and I truly believe God is my ultimate source of healing and restoration. HOWEVER, who am I to question HOW He chooses to heal me? It could be through the Word of God, friends, a licensed therapist, prayer, etc. Seek help! I am in the process of interviewing therapists now so I can find the best fit for me. Here is an article from Psychology Today on how to choose the therapist best for you.Talk.When you’re ready. I’m not quite ready to talk about all my stuff just yet. But when you’re ready, talk. Not just to your therapist but to a select group of trusted friends on what’s going on. Let them know you are seeking help and you solicit their active support. Let them know you will be ok eventually–but it’s not going to happen overnight. Give them permission to continue to check on you. But let them know that some times you will not be in a place to communicate how you feel.
Surround yourself with the RIGHT people.You have to have people who are willing to walk with you THROUGH this process. And unfortunately, everyone is not equipped to handle it. It is more than your just having a “bad day.” If you have a conversation with a person and they contact you the next day and say, “are you better?” this may not be the person to have closest to you at the onset. It is not something a good meal and a good night’s sleep will “cure.” It takes time, thought, energy and a plan. People who contact you to “check on you” or to “see if you need anything” or simply to say, “I’m here!” are more inclined to be willing to walk with you through it. Even in language, people show their heart towards you. A text “are you better?” is a yes or no question. And if you say yes then it’s like WHEW! But if you say no, they too are helpless and likely at a loss for what to do or say next. You have to have a high level of discernment during this time. Treating depression is the ultimate game of Survivor. You have to align yourself with people who will aid in your healing and CUT OFF people who will attempt to shame you, make you feel guilty or just feel sorry for you. NONE of which is helpful. You even have to be careful with people who give you too much “tough love.” You certainly need to deal with some things, choices and maybe even consequences, but what you don’t need is a “get over it” drill sergeant who tries to beat you into getting over your depression.
Have a plan.It is important to have a treatment plan. In my opinion, the only way to truly treat depression is in a HOLISTIC way that addresses all aspects of you as a person. I think this is best expressed in the wellness wheel (pictured below).It is my firm belief that when you treat depression in this holistic way, your results may be quicker and certainly more sustainable. I think a reason for part of our depression results from lack in one or more of the areas on the wellness wheel. You can even have people in your life during this time that help you in these areas:
Intellectual: Keep your mind stimulated. Read a lot. Educate yourself on depression. But read a variety of things. You can find inspiration and motivation everywhere.
Social: Don’t operate in isolation. Try to remain social to a degree. You may not feel like parties or events with lots of people, but at least try to have lunch or dinner with a friend or two every 1-2 weeks.
Physical: Exercise. The endorphins from physical activity are known to be instant mood boosters!
Spiritual: No matter what your faith, or even if you don’t have faith at all. you need to feed your spirit with positivity. When dealing with depression, the mind is the ultimate battlefield. And the only way to combat it is through prayer, the Word, positive thoughts and affirmations, meditation, etc.
Occupational: Sometimes changes in this area may take longer. I think if some of us were honest with ourselves, our jobs are literally making us sick (emotionally, mentally and physically). We may need to consider changes in employment. No job situation is perfect, but life is too wonderful (quoting an acquaintance) for us to be miserable 8 hours a day. If you like your job, make small adjustments. Buy fresh flowers. Rearrange your office. Make it a point to have lunch with co-workers.
Emotional: Seek therapy or counseling. Find appropriate outlets for your emotions like exercise or writing in a journal. You cannot avoid or suppress emotions. You just need to find appropriate ways to acknowledge and address them.
Environmental: Our environments can have a huge impact on our psyche. If you can’t take a vacation, improve the environments around you. Clean your room and houses. I’m doing that after this blog posts…smile. But it also means that you should avoid places that trigger sad feelings.
If you think a friend or loved one is suffering from depression, or they have told you they are depressed; here is how you can be an amazing friend to them during this challenging time:
Take a step towards them.Remember I stated that depression and mental illness thrives from isolation. One of the ways to help minimize the length and perhaps the severity of your loved one’s depression is to walk with them closely during this time. Depression isn’t contagious; but joy is. And your walking with someone you care about during this time could be just the help they need. Nothing is more devastating to a person already struggling emotionally than for someone you confide in or ask for help to step back or turn away from them.
Listen when they are ready to talk. Your loved one may not even be able to articulate their feelings and emotions. But when they are, please be ready to listen.
Offer Feedback when asked. One of the pervasive feelings people dealing with depression have is helplessness. Trust, we want to be better, do better, feel better. But sometimes, we don’t even know where to start. Give prayerful thought as to some helpful, specific things you can suggest to your friends. I will say, you can’t bombard or overwhelm them. But suggest a thing or two at a time. That’s why treating depression takes time….
Physical touch is reassuring. I’m not talking about in a sexual way. But hugging, holding hands, even just a reassuring arm around someone can do wonders. There are physical side effects of depression, but touch could help tremendously!
Encourage them to get help.Don’t browbeat. But lovingly encourage them to get help.
Help in your own way.Looking at the wellness wheel, there may be an area you can specifically help your loved one in. Perhaps you can be the one to exercise with your loved one to help in the physical area. Invite them out to help in the social area. Offer to go to church or find a women’s Bible study. You don’t have to be all things to your loved one, but try to be at least one thing to them to help them conquer their depression.
Watch closely.Watch your loved ones for changes in their behavior, especially if the behavior worsens.
Educate yourself.Learn about depression, especially what it isn’t. Your loved one isn’t crazy nor is this something that they can’t overcome and live an amazing life…after all, I’m doing it!
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
For more information and help:
Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting by Terrie Williams by Terrie M. Williams
Saving Our Last Nerve: The African American Woman’s Path to Mental Health by Marilyn Martin, M.D., M.P.H.
Devil, you tried it…but “greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world!” (1 John 4:4)
Because in all things I am “more than a conqueror through Him who loved us!” (Romans 8:37)
Depression is a very real challenge that many face. But with a plan, help, prayer and motivation you can continue to do amazing things and overcome depression–which is amazing in and of itself! If this post resonated with you, please do the following:
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Do a “wellness check” with your loved ones and offer your assistance when and where possible.
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