By: Quin Elliott
“We aren’t going to claim that, LaQuinta. Pray about it and the Lord will see you through.” That was my mother’s response the first time I told her that I thought I was depressed. I just shook my head and left it alone. I didn’t realize at the time that my mother wasn’t the only one who thought that a quick prayer could solve anything and that a disease would go away if you just simply ‘didn’t claim it’.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m religious but I also know that, that’s not always how things work. Being depressed seems to be a stigma in the black community. It’s almost as if black parents feel like being depressed just doesn’t happen, it’s written off as a phase or just being sad for a little while. There is a great difference in being depressed and being just ‘sad.’
Sad is the feeling you get when Chic-Fil-A is closed on Sunday’s and you’re craving a milkshake but imagine craving that milkshake from a restaurant that was closed so long that you didn’t know when or if it would ever re-open. That’s depression, craving happiness and a way out when you’re stuck in a situation that you see no nearing end to. Why don’t black parents understand that?
Depression is a sickness, it is a disorder of the mind, it is not just a phase. I read a post on twitter the other day that said ‘Dear Black Parents, It’s not always the devil. Sometimes, its Emotional, Medical, Psychological, Sometimes, most of the time, it’s you,’ a lot of people read it and were immediately offended commenting ‘you’re saying that black parents cause their children to be depressed?’
That wasn’t what the post was saying at all. As someone who suffered from depression, telling someone you trust when you think something is wrong with your mental health and they just write it down on the prayer list for the sick and shut-in makes you feel worse. You feel like you have no one to talk to because no one believes you, they think you’re just craving attention when you’re actually just craving love. You try to force yourself to write it off too, which leads to even greater consequences.
I’ve lost more friends than I should have for that very reason. They were the children of parents who didn’t believe depression was real, they thought it was something only white teenagers suffered from. They went to them and their families as a cry for help and no one took them seriously. So what did that lead to? Losing their battle because they had to fight it alone.
When I wrote my first article about my battle with depression I went to my sister and asked her to share it, when I told her what the article was about she looked me right in my face and said ‘Quinta you were never depressed.’ I was so offended that I didn’t even care if she shared it anymore which she did without even reading.
That same attitude from family members leads to the deaths of so many girls my age because they feel alone. We have so much going on already in our 20s; we’re trying to find ourselves and love ourselves in a society that’s just starting to love us, we’re looking for careers in fields that don’t want to see us prosper, trying to finish college and not be a statistic of our troubled past and on top of all of that young black women have to act like nothing can break them or get them down.
I’m here to share with you all that it is okay. It’s okay to let people see you cry, it’s okay to have a bad day and let it show, it’s okay to not be okay. If you’re having a bad day that happens to turn into a bad week or month please tell someone, and if they don’t want to listen, tell someone else, tell me! You’re not alone, you are never alone in this struggle no matter how much your mind tricks you into thinking so, no matter how many times you hear the cliché phrase ‘you’re never alone’ its true.
If I wouldn’t have shared my story and received such an overflow of responses I would feel alone too and never know that my struggle was universal. When my mother brushed off my depression as sadness I took matters into my own hands, I went talk to a professional and then she finally realized, ‘maybe something is wrong with my child, maybe this isn’t just routine sadness.’ Then she realized that some days she’s depressed too and it’s okay.
What about those who take matters into their own hands and a parent’s prayer for their child to stop claiming depression turns into prayer for the strength to bury their child? I reached the lowest of lows and was too afraid to actually go through with suicide but what about those who are fighting and aren’t afraid of death? The thought of death sounds so peaceful to some people that that’s what they want to reduce their lives too, all they fought for, all they’ve accomplished and have yet to accomplish reduced to, ‘here lies our beloved sister, mother, friend’.
This article is for those of you who have reached a low point or know someone who has hinted to you that their sadness may not be just sadness. Don’t wait until a high school friend that you haven’t spoken to in years commits suicide to contact your own friends and family to say ‘life is short, I love you and if you ever need to talk I’m here to listen’ tell them that now, make them feel like they can come to you before tragedy strikes instead of sending a generic text just because you got a wake-up call at the life of someone else. Our sisters are killing themselves every day and they don’t get those messages often so be the one to reach out to them.
You never know what someone is going through that their hiding. I cried myself to sleep every night for 3 months and until she read my depression blog, my roommate didn’t even know it, we shared a wall and she wasn’t even aware that I was on the verge of losing my battle. I had gotten so good at hiding it like so many of us are used to doing because we feel like no one will take us seriously.
That leads me to my next point, just because someone doesn’t look depressed or like they need a shoulder to lean on doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer your ear. Depression is more common than we think and all it takes is one person to reach out to someone for them to feel like someone cares. Going through depression alone is something I wouldn’t even wish on my worst enemy, being in that mindset is something that is so dangerous and so many people don’t realize it.
Depression is a silent killer and we have to stop treating it like a myth in the black community. We can’t get those back that we’ve lost but we can save those who are on the verge of ending it all. It takes less than a minute to text or call someone just to tell them that you love them, I dare you to do it and listen to the change in that person’s voice when you say it. It makes a world of difference and you could save a life. To all my black parents out there, it means nothing to pray for you child if you’re not putting action with it. When someone tells you they’re depressed, believe them.