“You’re just having a bad day.”
This was only one of the responses I got when I tried to open up about my depression. For so long I had kept it hidden, but finally, I was ready to talk about it.
During my freshman year of college, I started to feel these sad, negative feelings. There were days where I didn’t want to get out of bed, days where I felt like I had no purpose. I didn’t like these feelings and as much as I tried to suppress them, they only got worse. At the time, I was in a not-so-great relationship, constantly arguing with my roommate, and school started to feel like an unpaid chore. Yet, I still asked myself, “What do you have to be sad about?” Unfortunately, that’s how depression works. It makes you feel bad that you’re having these feelings in the first place.
Because of our history in America, black people are told to be strong. Instead of dealing with our feelings, we joke and replace the sadness with sarcasm. I wish that when I told my mom about my depression that she would’ve just held my hand and asked me why I’m feeling this way. Instead, it was dismissed. Honestly, I don’t blame my mom because it was foreign to her. It was never a conversation that she had with her mom or a conversation that my grandmother had with her mom. That is where the problem lies. If we started having these conversations, they wouldn’t be so foreign, and maybe it would allow that dialogue to happen in black households.
Also, when there is an issue, religion is thrown at us even when the people throwing it have no real relationship with God themselves. What people need to understand is that in those moments of feeling low, it’s difficult for a person to pray and have faith because their emotions are all over the place. My initial reaction to my depression was to pray—and I did. But in those moments, that wasn’t enough. I needed a physical being that I could feel and touch, someone to respond to me right then and there.
Fast forward almost three years later, at the beginning of my senior year of college, I was probably the most content I had ever been in life. I let go of my not-so-great relationship, I was living back at home where I was comfortable, and I was two semesters away from my degree. As graduation got closer, the what’s next after college question started to come up. I started searching for my “what’s next” and was so excited when I was accepted into a graduate teaching fellowship in Houston, almost ten hours away from home. My family was unsupportive about me moving and made what should’ve been a happy moment kind of sad. There were people in my family who had more negative things to say than positive. I had so many questions about moving because I had never lived on my own, but my family didn’t make me feel like I could come to them because of their negativity. I would’ve loved to have them help me with the process, but instead we never spoke about it. I was making plans to move all by myself.
As the time was getting closer for me to leave and start my new life, I ran into a great deal of financial troubles. Long story short, I had to withdraw from the program and rethink my future. And just like that, my depression flared back up. I began isolating myself from my friends and even some family. I changed my number and disabled my social media accounts. I felt like a failure because I let such a great opportunity slip and had to face the fact that I was now an unemployed college graduate with no career plans and my family just expected me to get over it. All of this happened about two months ago, so I am writing from a low place, but also from a place of optimism. I would be lying if I said that my depression has gone away, because it hasn’t. Most days I don’t leave the house or interact with other people. This is my first time fully opening up and it is giving me the strength to talk to my family, this time with an understanding mindset.
Black people, I urge you to listen with the intent to respond helpfully. I understand that it may be easy to dismiss something that you don’t understand, but if we’d just listen then maybe we could understand. Depression is REAL and should be taken seriously no matter the race, age, or gender.
Author: Victoria Sanders
Link to social media: Instagram @imthevic | Twitter @callmevic_