Content Warning: The following blog post is a reflection of my experience with depression, and may hint suicide, trauma, and emotional abuse. This is meant to bring awareness of how I’ve been able to live with it, and the lessons I’ve learned that may help others who are depressed as well.
Depression looks like many things to me. A smile, a dance step or two, a walk around the park, or playing my favorite songs. It took a while for me to learn that it wasn’t just the unexpected sadness, bursts of anger, or the uncontrollable late-night crying that would often happen at night.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression at 15 years old, but I’m sure I was experiencing it as early as 12. At that age, I begin having excruciating nightmares about my father that would occasionally appear for five years. From being a daddy’s girl until age 10, I didn’t understand the concept of abandonment and denial, and why I no longer mattered to him. The emotional abuse I experienced is irreparable, and those nightmares revealed just how afraid I was of someone who was once my favorite person in the world.
I wouldn’t say that relationship caused me to have depression, but the lack of knowledge on how to work through trauma did. Since I was a baby, I grew up in the church. I prayed every night, read the bible weekly, sang soprano in the children’s choir, and joined the liturgical dance ministry. Because of my mother, I know how to be strong in my faith, and to love God for providing me with that strength. However, I didn’t know how to love myself. I didn’t know how to address the pain I was feeling. I didn’t know how to heal and find healthy ways to process other than prayer. That’s when I was introduced to therapy.
Lately, I’ve heard stories from people in their thirties talk about their relationship to therapy growing up. I’m surprised that therapy wasn’t and still isn’t seen as a positive thing for some people, and that’s not what my mother taught me. Although she depends on God, she also knows therapy can heal just as much. At 15, I begin to imagine what life would be like without me here and hadn’t I told my mother about those thoughts, I don’t know if I would still be here to say this. I went through quite a bit at that age, including issues in high school, such as self-esteem, weight, and lost friendships.
There was one particular lost friendship that hurt the most and it took a long time to forgive myself for. Because I had not dealt with the trauma that I carried in my early childhood, it followed me through high school. I was horrible at communication, I was afraid to connect with people, and at times dishonest about my feelings. It wasn’t until later in my adulthood that I realized how emotionally abusive I was towards them. I remember days of insomnia, regret, malnourishment, and meeting with a therapist during that time was crucial. I needed to learn that I mattered and still worthy of life, even when people choose to leave. My high school years taught me so much about friendships, which I’m still imperfect at, but the patience I receive from those in my life now is something I thank God for every day.
Although therapy appeared a great portion of my teenage years, it’s not so prevalent now. Insurance as an adult has been a barrier that has made it difficult to seek a therapist who is not only is a person of color (preferably a Black woman) but who is affordable and in-network. Much of my college years, I was managing my depression well because I had dealt with much of my early trauma. It’s normal for me, then and now, to expect periods of depression throughout my life, and I would usually ease it by first acknowledging the emotion or reaction, not hold it in, and then proceed to find a source of joy like music, writing, and reading. I am still open to therapy again, but in these weird times, I need representation; someone who can understand me as a Black woman. On the days when I’m angry about white supremacy, systemic racism, and police brutality, I need more than allyship in the therapy session.
Depression looks like many things, but it doesn’t define me. I know that it may always be a part of my life as I continue to be patient and kind to myself, but it’s not an interruption or burden. It only means that I need much more time to process difficult moments than others, and that’s okay. Weirdly, experiencing depression gave me more empathy for others. I can never claim to be in anyone’s shoes but my own, but I do know not to step on others’. As soon as I fill myself with love, I send it to others because I know that pain of not having it. It’s not always easy, but it’s a journey to choose myself every time. I know I belong in this world for some reason, and although I don’t always see it, I know it would be a great loss if I wasn’t here to see all the ways I’ve been able to spread some light.
If you haven’t heard this yet, be easy on yourself. Allow yourself to love all of you. Be strong when you need to, but don’t be afraid to ask for support. You deserve time to heal.