Into the Deep Part 1: My Depression Story
I’m a reserved, private person. I don’t easily share intimate details about myself so this is a plunge into the deep for me. But as the bone-chilling waters of exposure and vulnerability wash over my body, I’m okay. I’m okay because I know without a doubt that this transparency is needed in order to help someone step away from the edge of despair.
I battle depression and anxiety. At first, I had a tough time accepting this because it’s important to me to be a strong mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. These self-concepts I’ve established are not only how I choose to be, but they are directly influenced by my gender, my culture and my faith.
As of a result of misunderstanding what depression is, when I first sought treatment, I made some bad and very dangerous choices. I refused to consistently take medication and was argumentative with my therapist, who eventually had no choice but to kick me out of his practice.
In the African-American community, and I also believe among men, depression and other types of mental health challenges are considered signs of personal weakness. My experience as a Christian told me depression was proof of spiritual weakness or demonic possession or oppression. Not only that, but I’ve seen people excuse their bad behavior, poor decision-making and lack of motivation as products of depression or some other convenient mental illness. Everything in and around me was saying that this “depression” wasn’t — it couldn’t be real — and if it was, it was my fault.
I did everything I could from praying to pumping iron but to no avail. There were weeks when I would only sleep 2 to 3 hours each night and days when I couldn’t find strength to take a shower or get out of bed. Worst of all, I started to feel shame. The shame caused me to attack and alienate my closest friends. I isolated myself, which is the last thing anyone struggling with depression should do. In this isolation, I fantasized about dying. I wasn’t suicidal, but I fixated on the possibility of an early death. It was the only way I thought I could be free — free most of all from the shame.
Eventually, with the support of my brother-friends, I got help. It took a long time for me to accept the fact that I was struggling with depression. The diagnostic tools didn’t give me the type of concrete evidence I needed to satisfy my intellect and figuring out the proper medications required tedious trial-and-error, which often left me saying to myself, “Percevial, this is proof that nothing’s wrong.” Now I’ve come to understand, that like other parts of the body, the brain can and does malfunction. Having a mental health illness doesn’t make me crazy, not seeking help, now that’s crazy.
I’m proof that it’s possible to successfully manage a mental health illness. I endure seasons of struggle, but I manage; sometimes victory is just managing. Now I realize that it wasn’t the depression that was stealing my life. It was the shame. I won’t say that I don’t feel shame anymore–that would be a lie, but I now know shame is a trick of pride and ego. If not checked, pride can cause us to live lives of sorrow trying to keep up appearances that no one of true value even cares about.
Depression is real. If you wrestle with it, you’re NOT weak. If you’re struggling, don’t let shame or ignorance opinions keep you from getting help.