Depression and Black People – How This Black Girl Is Taking Charge of Her Mental Health

By |2019-03-25T09:56:21+00:00March 25th, 2019|Health, Life, Wellness|6 Comments

The start of my year was a hot mess; I won’t play it down; life felt like it was not going my way.  What I faced in January went beyond the blues or a bad month. I was depressed, and I needed help.  Depression and black culture is not an easy subject but I wanted to share my journey today.  Hopefully it helps you in the future.

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Depression and black culture. Finding help isn't always easy when you're depressed and in black culture. I share my struggles with depression as a black christian and how I am taking care of my mental health.

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I have struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager, but I haven’t had the words to express how I dealt with depression as a black person until recently.

 

Depression and my Christianity

Growing up in a Christian home, I didn’t understand the concept of depression until I was in my early twenties.  In our house, depression was something other people faced.

Also, our faith encouraged us to face life with the strength of Job.

When something terrible happened, we were supposed to have faith and praise God for giving a challenge.  To do otherwise was acting ungrateful.

If you read my post about keeping my virginity, you might have noticed the role religion has played in my upbringing.  I don’t hate Christianity, but I’m not in love with it after the experiences I’ve had.

 

Depression and Black culture

If I wasn’t facing the guilt of Christianity, I had to deal with Black culture.  I love my Blackness, I love my culture, but the way we deal with issues like mental health isn’t always healthy.  Thankfully, the entire world is going through a shift in how we approach mental health, but during the ’90s and early 00s, it was a different story.

When I needed help the most, the culture said depression wasn’t real; it was just a case of temporary sadness.

Seeing a therapist was considered “white people stuff.”  We only saw people going to therapy in movies or tv shows, and the characters did not look like us.

On top of that, mental health support was not easily accessible in the Caribbean.  Getting professional help in the Caribbean (during my teenage years) meant having access to money.  My family did not fall into that category.

Between culture and Christianity, there wasn’t an opportunity to work on myself and my issues.

 

Depression and black culture. Finding help isn't always easy when you're depressed and in black culture. I share my struggles with depression as a black christian and how I am taking care of my mental health.

 

Getting help for my depression

The first time I was able to access support for my depression I was in university.  Since I went to a Christian university, therapy came with a healthy dose of religion attached.

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While some of it was helpful, those sessions were steeped in that same rhetoric of “be thankful for hard times.” In the end, being told I was questioning God left me feeling more confused.

My mantra after that turned into suck it up.  In my head, that’s what black people did – that’s what black women do.  I believed if I didn’t suck up the problems and issues I felt, I wasn’t a good black young woman.

You can only absorb so much before you crack.

A few years later I was suffering; I finally got on medication and started seeing a therapist who wasn’t associated with the church.  That was the first time I allowed myself to embrace the idea that I was suffering from depression.

I moved forward and clung to the coping tools I had learned but here’s the thing, you have to work on yourself.  I had learned those coping tools ten years ago. In that period, I had developed from a young woman into a grown ass woman.

I believe the struggle I faced at the start of the year was so intense because I the methods I was using to cope where outdated.

 

Life is a struggle when you’re depressed

On the blog I shared a bit of the struggle I was facing before it all fell apart in January; I highlighted how I felt like I was lost in a maze for the past few years.  I also shared some of the goals that I wanted to accomplish this year.

Although I wanted to end 2018 marching triumphantly into 2019, my attack plan was ten years outdated.

 

When It’s Up And It All Falls Down

In January I reached the lowest point I’ve been at for years.  I think writing about my struggles on the blog and spending the holidays in a reflective space gave me time to think about my life and I wasn’t happy with what I saw.

Thankfully some of my internet buddies talked me through those first days of feeling like I was spiraling and they all encouraged me to get professional help.

Finding help for depression in London isn’t easy. Going through the NHS could mean waiting for months.  When I looked at private sources, I was shocked to discover the waiting list was still long.

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Almost every place I turned to wouldn’t be able to see me until March.  Imagine being told in January that you would have to wait until MARCH to possibly get help.  It felt hopeless.   On top of that, a lot of the places that could take me were incredibly expensive.

 

Depression and black culture. Finding help isn't always easy when you're depressed and in black culture. I share my struggles with depression as a black christian and how I am taking care of my mental health.

 

How therapy helps me

Since moving to London two years ago I have faced culture shock, I’ve endured loneliness, I have dealt with the trauma of my fibroids by myself, it was stressful finding a job in a new country, on top of dealing with past trauma that continues to haunt me.

I needed to talk.

I cannot express how thankful I am to be in therapy and to have a black therapist.  Being able to speak with a black woman who understands my jokes, who doesn’t force me to code switch, who has natural hair and who treats me like a human being is refreshing.

Entering therapy is a form of putting myself first.  One of the most significant issues I’ve faced throughout my adulthood has been putting others first and not setting appropriate boundaries.

That is changing.

 

Black people deserve help for their mental health

When I faced a low time in January, I knew therapy was the best option for me, and I wasn’t ashamed to go that route.  However, I know getting  help is a taboo subject in our communities.

I am going to write this with emphasis – FUCK.  THAT.

Taboo will limit your growth, your experience, and your opportunities.

If I had limited myself to “stay in my lane,” I  would have continued to exist in my pain.  My chance to walk down this new path of self-discovery would have been stunted.

In no way am I healed, and maybe those of us who are in therapy will never fully heal; humans are complex beings.  For today, for this moment and this time, I am operating more clearly.  That is why I will encourage you to do what is best; get help for yourself today.

Let me know below, is mental health a taboo subject in your home or culture?  Do you feel you have the resources to look after your mental health?  I hope this post was helpful and thanks for sharing!

 

6 Comments

  1. Arun Dahiya March 25, 2019 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Glad you are getting help. I am able to relate to it. Since I live in India and the mindset is almost same. I have bpd and seeking therapy from last few years.

    • Olli March 25, 2019 at 7:56 pm - Reply

      I’m glad you’re in therapy. I am happy you’re able to relate to my background, A lot of cultures hold similar views towards mental health but it is slowly shifting. The individual needs to do what is right for themselves.

  2. Natonya March 26, 2019 at 12:19 am - Reply

    Empowering post sis. I’m so happy you found a way to deal with your depression. You have to do what’s good for you, finding a method that works in your favor and not against you. It’s true. Being black, we are taught that depression doesn’t exist or it isn’t “our issue” and only white people see therapists. I’m glad we live in a time where things are becoming a bit more acceptable to help those around us. Now, I do still live with the mindset that if I have any issues, I embrace those challenges and turn to The Lord for comfort and help. But I take my leanings and experience to share with others and hope it brings inspiration. Again, you gotta do for you and it sounds like you’ve found your way sis <3

    Natonya | http://justnatonya.wordpress.com

    • Olli March 26, 2019 at 12:29 pm - Reply

      Amen, amen.

      I felt bad when writing this because I don’t want people to think I’m dragging religion. It just so happen that the church I grew up in was very restrictive and there was a lot of weird, almost cultish behavior that def impacted my life in a negative way.

      There are churches out there who are more helpful and accepting of various issues.

      I’m happy I am in a place where I can get help, where I can recognize I need help and where I can encourage others to seek help.

  3. Johnny April 4, 2019 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    My hands are so cold and I’m struggling to type atm but I’m gonna try anyway loool

    I’m happy that you’ve gotten through your bad patch. It’s funny that us as black people generally think we’ve got a superpower that makes us immune to mental health issues. But obviously that’s slowly changing for the better as you’ve said, I’m always glad when I meet black women and tell me they work as mental health nurses – as small as it may be that’s key to raising everyday awareness like your post is doing. We only have 10% access to the brain and human yet we’re neglecting and sugarcoating it – mind you an area of the body that helps us speak, understand and remember things.

    Signing off this post with the title of a famous Drake track: Take Care! (Of yourself)

    Johnny | Johnny’s Traventures

    • Olli April 14, 2019 at 10:03 am - Reply

      Thanks for leaving a comment even with cold hands Johhny! And I’m so grateful for you, you were def one of the people that encouraged me. Everything you shared in your comment is so true and I hope by sharing what I’ve been going through, I can help black PEOPLE to get the proper help and care for their mental health.

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