Facing Depression When A Happy Song Isn’t Enough

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  • Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

    Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

    Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

    Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

    These are the words to the chorus of the unofficial song of the year by Pharrell Williams,  a hit that’s has become a staple on pop and R&B radio stations around the world.

    If hearing a song like this can change your mood from sad to happy or from indifference to caring you’re probably not suffering from depression.

    Mood disorders like depression and their prominence in our community is finally getting the kind of attention it deserves.  Post partum depression, post traumatic stress and bipolar disorder have been linked to some very high profile instances of people committing violence towards others, harm to themselves or both.

    One of the most recent tragic deaths by suicide is the founder of “For Brown Girls,” 22-year-old Karyn Washington.

    Recognizing the signs of extreme depression in ourselves and others can save lives and sadly one more death like Karyn Washington’s is an impetus for getting us closer to where we need to be.  Just the mention of the illness opens up conversations that many people were once afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to have.

    It isn’t a pretty subject, but cloaking mental illness under a veil of darkness is uglier, and yes deadlier too.

    I’ve had my own personal bout with depression and I know just how deep, dark and scary it can get.  For years I dismissed feeling anxious, worried and unable to sleep as just being part of life. And besides, I had too much to be thankful for to let sadness get the best of me. To some I was living a dream life.  A child of a middle-class, loving two-parent family,  a student at the real  H-U,  number one on my list of universities, I was a wide eyed girl ready to make my way in the world.   But after I was raped my sophomore year of college there were no doubts.

    I had spiraled into a place that was clearly depression and I couldn’t get out of it without help.

    Luckily, my mother had dealt with bouts of depression herself and intervened quickly.

    At one point my it got so bad that if my mom called me from work, and I didn’t answer the phone, she would either come home or send someone to make sure that I was still alive.

    At some point it simply became too much.  As a parent now, I shudder when I try to imagine how it must have felt to watch their child suffer this way.

    My father – who normally has a pretty good handle on his emotions – did all that he knew to do, and probably saved my life.  One day he nearly picked me off the floor, embraced me in a hug so tight all I could do is collapse and give in to his strength.  “Just hold on to me, “ he said practically in tears. “I won’t let you go.  I’ll never let you go.”

    In that moment, things changed.  I was a long ways away from a good place but I was open to doing the work.  If not for me – for my parents.

    But to the outside world looking in, things still looked picture perfect.

    You can never tell a person’s mental state by looking outward—yet that’s as close as many of us choose to get, even when evaluating ourselves.

    How many times do we say of celebrities, what do they have to be depressed about.

    Depression is about what’s going inside, but there are some tell-tell symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored.

    Mental health advocate and author of “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting,” Terrie Williams reminds us to check on each other often and she’s right.  As women, if we’d look out more for each other it would make a difference.  Calling our sisters, girlfriends, nieces and co-workers and asking them if they’re ok is a great way to keep in touch, lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on if needed.

    But a lot of us know that some people who are depressed are masters of disguise and have learned to mask the pain so well that it can elude the people who care about them most.

    Denial is huge piece that those of us struggling have to overcome.  Most women have seen their moms, grandmothers and aunties endure way more than we think could have.

    Some would have us think an admission of depression signals a problem with our prayer life or that it will lead to opening up areas that shouldn’t be privy to anyone but Jesus.  And this is exactly the kind of thinking that compounds the problem and keeps us from moving forward.   My mantra many years ago became Depression Stops Progression.

    If you’re suffering from depression, there are times when you’re very low, but there are also times when things are pretty okay.  If you’re in an okay space, those of us who love you need you to take action.  There are resources that you know you can use and the time to get help is when you think things are getting better, not when you’re feeling too helpless and hopeless to reach out.

    I was blessed to have a support system, my parents, who wouldn’t accept my explanation for my behavior.  An outpouring of love from dad and assuredness that he would be my rock when I thought I couldn’t stand anymore was enough to get me to take the first and second steps….admitting I needed help and seeking it.

    We can call 9-1-1 if we’re having a heart attack, but our chances for survival are much better if we visit our doctors and do the things we need to do before the situation reaches the trauma stage.

    You don’t want to live like this but you do want to live.  Help is here.

    National Alliance on Mental Illness

    1-800-950-6264

    Mental Health America

    1-800-969-6642

    1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)

    1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE)

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