Lisa Brown Alexander is the CEO of Nonprofit HR, the nation’s leading full-service human resources firm focused exclusively on the nonprofit sector. But despite her success, she was keeping something secret from her family, friends and colleagues.
“I am a successful career woman who has battled with depression for five years.”
Alexander’s book Strong On the Outside, Dying On the Inside hopes to help other women realize they are not alone.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), research reflects that only 12% of depressed African-American women seek help and treatment.
“Many African-American women do not get treatment because of a widespread belief that depression is evidence of personal weakness and not a legitimate health problem,” Alexander says..
Depression is characterized by changes in mood, self-attitude, cognitive functioning, sleep, appetite and energy level.
Strong On the Outside, Dying On the Inside is a moving and personal written account of Lisa’s anguish and strong determination to heal holistically, identify emotional triggers, seek treatment, while being authentic to one’s self.
“As entrepreneurs, mothers, wives, daughters and friends, sometimes it’s our very success, however, that causes us to bury our pain deep under our education, our titles and professional credentials, our expensive make-up, designer clothes and late-model luxury cars. We cannot and will not let anyone – even our closest loved ones, see us sweat, or cry, or be lost. I want to change that and speak out openly about my challenges and restoration as a business leader.”
Lisa Brown Alexander’s Tips to finding freedom from depression:
- Be real with yourself about your emotional pain and mental health. Be strong enough to unveil your mask.Silence and prayer is not enough. If symptoms of depression persist or worsen, seek professional help.Understand that it’s okay to ask for help. Seeking help does not represent weakness but strength.
- Understand that depression is treatable. Stay in recovery by being honest with yourself and maintaining healthy relationships.
Lisa Brown Alexander answers your questions below:
It’s very difficult for us to do it all as women, yet we do it all the time. Depression, left untreated, can become all-consuming.
Ask someone that you love and trust to take care of your children once a week for a few hours so that you can get the help that you need. Your family needs you to be well and healthy. Make your wellness and health your priority so that you can be there for your family and loved ones.
I am a 46-year-old with chronic depression. I have been fighting for a very long time. I am currently on medication, which has done wonders, but lately the frequent triggers have exhausted me. I have lost close relationships over the years and might be in the process of losing another one for distancing myself when depression and anxiety raise their dirty hands. Although I consider myself a fighter, I am tired of fighting. Help.
I feel your pain. Stop fighting, sis. Stop fighting, brother. Turn that energy in the direction of getting help for your situation. If you are on medication, that would suggest that you are already under the treatment of a psychiatrist. That’s good. You might also consider seeking the help of a therapist or a psychologist. While these professionals cannot prescribe medication, they can provide you with the additional therapy that you might need to overcome depression. Depression is a treatable illness.
Hey Mrs. Brown, I suffer from menopause and depression. I read somewhere that going through menopause brings on depression. Is this true and what do you suggest?
I’m not a physician and so I can’t speak definitively to the connection between menopause and depression. If you are experiencing prolonged periods of sadness, despondency, disconnection from those things that once brought you joy/pleasure, are experiencing loss of appetite or sleep, or long periods of unexplained anger or sadness, you may be suffering from depression and should seek help from a mental health professional.
Good morning. I’ve lost 3 premature sons at birth. It was my dream to bear a son. I raised 5 girls that my brother left behind with no problem. Now I’m almost 40 and after my loss, I know its too late for me. My life is a mess now with my boyfriend and my job. I think I’m slipping away. I got help when I was pregnant but it really just stressed me more. I’m ready to get well but I don’t know how.
Being ready to get well is such an important first step. I applaud you for your willingness to admit that you need help. So many people remain stuck in their depressed state because they deny that they have a problem. You’ve clearly experienced some major trauma. The loss of three babies would be difficult for anyone under any circumstances. Now that you are ready, ask someone who is close to you to go with you to see a psychologist, psychiatrist or mental health provider. Getting treatment from a professional is such a critical part of your healing process.
Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your story. As I listened to you, tears welled up in my eyes. I also suffered from depression in silence. On the outside I looked like I had it all together. But on the inside, I was broken and insecure. I felt alone even when other people were in the room. It wasn’t until my husband and I went to marriage counseling that I realized I was depressed. And that realization was the beginning of my path to wholeness. Thank you…!
Wow, sis… I am so happy that you’re back on the path to wellness. Continue to walk strong. Be vigilant against those things in your life that were triggers for your depression and if you feel the symptoms coming back, do not hesitate to tell your husband AND seek the help of a counselor. So glad that you’re on the other side of your pain.
I just went to my doctor about my depression. It took me a while…It started after my second child two years ago. My doctor prescribed me Zoloft. Do you take medicine for your depression? I struggled to take medication but I find it to be helping.
I was fortunate enough not to have to take medication but many people suffering from depression find it helpful. No judgment here. I encourage you to continue with your regimen if it is helping you. Pay close attention to how you’re feeling and be alert to any side effects that you might experience. Also continue to work on your physical, social and emotional health. Every day is a step forward. I’m so happy for you.
What do you do when you realize you’re suffering from depression and your spouse makes it seem like it’s because you don’t love them or aren’t happy with the relationship, when that’s not the case. They make the way you’re feeling more about them and their feelings and not what you’re dealing with.
You’re in a tough spot. Having a supportive, understanding spouse can make all the difference in the world. Continue to be open about what you are experiencing and ask your spouse to accompany you to get help. Tell him/her that you want to get back to a place of healing and that doing so will allow you to show them the love that they need from you. Praying for you and your family.
I can connect with what Lisa Brown was saying. My depression started with the death of my daughter two years ago. I’m raising her child now and do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. My son is not doing well in school and my spouse was laid off.. I work hard and I haven’t seen a mental health professional because I can’t afford one and feel it can’t even help me.
You’ve taken on a lot of responsibility. We do that so often, as women and as Black women. You indicated that you haven’t seen a mental health professional. I would strongly encourage you to reconsider that. Getting professional help can absolutely be a critical part of your healing and recovery. You can’t make time for everyone else and neglect yourself. Your family needs you to be healthy and present. Please, please, please, get the help that you need. Check with your health insurance plan, your local nonprofits, or your church for a referral to local community programs. Please do not continue to neglect you.
What type counseling should a parent of a child that has been diagnosed with depression get to know how to deal with it?
Depression not only affects the person suffering from it but often also their families. As a parent of a child diagnosed with depression, you are likely facing significant pressures and challenges of your own. Speak with your child’s treatment professional and ask him/her about referrals to others who can help you. Talking about your feelings and have an outlet to release the stress associated with caring for a child living with depression is essential to your own health.
PHOTO: Courtesy Lisa Brown Alexander