I know first hand how difficult it is to be living with a depressed person.
The depressed person I live with is me with dysthymia. I can feel it before my eyes even open when I wake up. It’s going to be one of THOSE days. There is a churning in my stomach. Everything seems wrong. I just want to go back to sleep. And I do. In fact, everything seems pointless. So, I go between sleeping & staring at the wall. Being a performer saves me. An audition or a booking are the only things that can get me up & out of the house. Anyone who really knows me is aware that I am mostly a cup half full person. However, on these days, I cannot find the person I usually am. Where did she go? The effort to look for her seems useless. Quite honestly, nothing is really wrong. The life I lead is pretty magical. There is nothing specific that has me depressed. On the sad days depression just takes the magic away. It leaves me to live with this depressed person.
It’s not something acquaintances would ever guess about me. It’s not something I talk about. Mostly, because I do not like to give oxygen & energy to the negative. I prefer keep my focus on the things I want more of in my life. The other reason is because people just don’t understand or think it is real. I refuse to set myself up for any “snap out of it”, “people in xyz country/living situation have it much worse than you” or “you should feel great about yourself! You’re beautiful & talented”. If only I had a de-stigmatizing wand the universe would flow so much easier. Instead, I do what I need to do to manage it. Over the years this has included 1 or usually more of the following:
- eating healthy food
- talk therapy
- an anti-depressant (this decision took YEARS of trying everything else to get to. I didn’t want to do it.)
- getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep
- being kind to myself with my thoughts (This is 1 reason I love quotes so much. I choose to replace negative self talk with positive quotes. I repeat them like a mantra to block the negative noise in my head))
I pride myself in being a strong person. Dealing with depression is one thing that makes me feel weak. At my lowest point I went weeks without doing anything but the bare minimum to get by. I slept constantly. I ate & bathed hardly. I got dressed from a pile of clothes on the floor when I did go out. I called & spoke to no one. I cried & hurt in isolation. I never felt suicidal. However, I would hope that maybe if I stayed in my apartment long enough someone would realize I was missing. They would come looking for me & show up to help me. No one ever seems to think I need help. How would they? In the world I present a very well put together me. I am the tough one in my family. No one could know. Candidly, as a Black woman, I believed that I did not have the “luxury” of breaking down. I have to work. I can’t allow my mood to make me appear to be yet another angry Black woman. I live in a world where I work twice as hard to be considered half as good (Thank the Goddesses I do not believe that particular lie anymore). Myself nor my family can afford to put me in an inpatient facility for a few months so I can focus on getting well. Breakdowns are for rich people & celebrities who can have their PR machine say they checked into the hospital for exhaustion. I tried to force myself to hold it together. Inside I was unraveling.
Thankfully, slowly, I get past it. Getting past a breakdown takes work. Managing depression after you get past a break down takes work. I had a therapist ask me if I would feel weak for having cancer. The answer is no I wouldn’t. I’d make up my mind that I would kick cancer’s ass. I would prepare to do treatment with power & grace. I would surround myself with supportive people. I am eternally grateful to that therapist. I am as kind to myself about depression as I would be to someone with cancer now. I am able to go thru the bad days with awareness at the very least.
I decided to write this blog because mental health is a key component to living authentically. In my community, talking out loud & in public about the “family’s private business” is a high offense. I lost a friendship with one of my best friends in the owrld due to Bi-polar mood disorder. She did not want to take her medication. She did not want to acknowledge that she had an illness. It cost her a HUGE career opportunity, many, many, many friends & acquaintances. I started reading about mood disorders. Books have always been there for me. I have many an inbox conversation on my social media sites because I reach out to support when someone says they are feeling depressed.
So, I write this to say you are not alone. Depression & other mood disorders are real. It does not make you a weak person. There is help. It can get better. If the best thing you can do is call a friend to make an appointment for you, do it. I am a positive thinker who believes in the self help movement & still battle depression. I had to seek out help on how to manage my depression so I could lead a joyful life. You can too. No, you will not “just snap out of it”. Depending on where you are, you will not feel like working on it. However, with support, you will get through it. Even without insurance, there are low/no cost resources that can be found with a little research online. There is happiness & peace of mind on the other side. Remember, self-care is so sexy.
- Hyperbole and a Half: Adventures in Depression – This article made me laugh till I cried it’s so accurate.
- Depression out of the Shadows: Terrie Williams (author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting) PBS Interview
- Let The Truth Be Known: I suffer from depression (bestisyettocome.wordpress.com)
ESSENCE REVEALED – Essence Revealed is first generation Bajan born & raised in Boston. She got her BFA at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and MA at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education. Her writing has appeared places such as $pread Magazine, Corset Magazine, BurlesqueBible.com and 21st Century Burlesque. She’s been published in two anthologies: Pros(e) & Johns, Marks, Tricks & Chicken Hawks. She now performs & teaches nationally and internationally both solo and as a member of Brown Girls Burlesque. Her favorite thing to do besides reading is to lay on the beach in Barbados to rest up for a night of calypso dancing. Help Essence get to the Milan Burlesque Awards!