Every morning it gets more difficult. Crawling out of bed to prepare myself for eight hours of tedious, unfulfilling work saps me of my emotional energy before the day has really begun. With eyes still heavy from the previous night’s cry-fest, I attempt to make myself presentable. The routine has not changed in months, but on this day, something is different. I’ve relied on faith and determination to propel myself through the spiritual haze in the past, but I am yet stuck. I know this feeling. I am depressed.
The holidays are not particularly joyous for me. Each Winter I pray the Christmas spirit will consume me. It never does. The “most wonderful time of the year” ain’t so great for us black sheep. This is a difficult season for many with less than picture perfect family ties. We are left feeling empty with no choice but to watch as everyone around partakes in the fun. As I hear stories of traditions, celebrations, and reunions, I feel lonely as ever. Wake me up when December ends.
The realization that I‘m depressed came suddenly - my past episodes have made the signs clear; however, the sadness builds slowly. I was prepared to contend with the third anniversary of my father’s death, but I hadn’t expected to endure exhausting battles with my emotionally unavailable mother, crumbling associations with a group of malicious women, or dissolving relations with a captivating yet indifferent man. When your entire house of cards begins to fall, the weight becomes unbearable. Moreover the drear winter weather has not helped. We are a tropical people, and by “we” I mean those of us bred below the Mason-Dixon line.
I feel like an asthmatic gasping for air. Elementary tasks become laborious. I struggle to breathe, to shower, to laugh, to smile, and eat. My demeanor has changed. On my best day, I am a vibrant 20-something woman, but at the moment I can suck the life out of a room in an instant with my unstable energy. The loneliness and alienation that spur my depression also perpetuate it. It is a vicious cycle. As I withdraw, I sink deeper.
Divulging my turmoil goes against my secretive, Piscean nature, but silence kills. Audre Lorde spoke directly to me when she wrote “your silence will not protect you.” So I will continue to discuss my pain with candor in the hope that these words may serve to liberate someone because I have so benefitted from the openness of women like Bassey Ikpi and the many sisters who have shared their stories here.
Depression has been that family member with boundary issues who routinely shows up at your door unannounced. It’s been coming around since I was a kid, and we are well acquainted.
For now, the cloud continues to cast a shadow over my disposition, but I am beginning to see my way out. I have concerns about anti-depressants -- though I have not ruled them out, so under the advisement of my therapist I opt for non-chemical remedies. Self-care -- namely therapy, diet, and exercise -- has been my successful treatment. I’ll also have to make efforts to reconnect with those I’ve pulled away from over the past few weeks. Thankfully, I have incredible friends, and I know they'll understand my absence.
This is a hectic season, but set aside some time for reflection and self-care. Cast off the fear and shame that so often accompany suffering. Reach out.
Kimberly Foster is the Editor and Publisher of For Harriet. Email her at Kimberly@ForHarriet.com with comments or find her on Twitter.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
For Harriet is an online community for women of African ancestry. We encourage women, through storytelling and journalism, to engage in candid, revelatory dialogue about the beauty and complexity of Black womanhood. Learn more.