Depression is a very real thing. In the black community however, we tend to ignore these things. Historically, black folks have had no desire to attend therapy. We do not encourage our black men to attend therapy, at times because of toxic ideals surrounding masculinity. In the old church, women were encouraged to pray the demon of sadness away. When I sat down to write this I had started reading a book entitled, “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting” by Terrie Williams, LCSW. It was recommended by one of my colleagues. When I opened the book I saw a poem I absolutely love by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “We Wear the Mask.” The poem is a timeless classic and is depression personified. I do not deal with depression. I have my own set of issues, but I know many people who do.
Recently I lost someone I was acquainted with to tragedy. He dealt with depression. We had hours of conversation over the short few months we knew each other about it. I encouraged him to seek therapy. For certain, those closest to him probably did not know his struggle. For many, it is easier to confide in someone not directly in one’s inner circle because of fear of judgment and that someone would see under the mask that we often wear.
I am pretty sure he did not start those sessions before his untimely passing. He, like so many others, hid behind the positive posts on Facebook. Pictures of smiles and memes of Christ and positivity did not do much to address the personal angst he felt inside. I would notice his posts sometimes got dark with gloom only to awaken to posts of laughter and jest. My method was to send a lighthearted text to ask, “Are you ok? I noticed your posts last night.” He would shrug it off with, “Don’t you see I’m on the timeline having a good time now? I’m straight.” But I knew he was not. A little piece of me wonders if I should have pressed. As a clinician, I know that I could not I am often burdened with the desire to help everyone and to build black men and women with my bare hands.
Women have these same struggles and battles. We often wear the mask of being strong when we really want a place of refuge. It is hard to kick and scream and have a tantrum when everyone is watching and judging any hint of emotion. Because people vilify the strong black woman archetype and demean a woman who shows any sign of weakness. Where is the win? When do black women get to unmask pain? Black Girl Magic celebrates the achievements of black girls and women that so many overlook and take for granted. I would like to believe that a manifestation of our magic is the ability to be vulnerable and to be truthful about pain and depression. In a world that often tells us that we are not enough, it is through our faith, strong sister circles, a good therapist and a strong support system that we find our greatest magic, which is being healed and whole.
If you have depression symptoms which may include an increased desire to sleep, feelings of worthlessness, suicidal thoughts, irritability, changes in appetite, sadness, anxious or empty feelings, please reach out to someone for help. This list is not exhaustive but include some of the more common descriptors of depression. You owe it to yourself to live an authentic and unapologetic life. Be free.