A Long Line of Depression and Anxiety: The Stigma Stops Here
Why can’t you just be happy?
You know, you have it better than most people? You should be appreciative.
These are things I have heard since I was officially diagnosed with depression in 2000. It’s insane to think that in 2018, I still hear this from friends and family.
My father and mother were never diagnosed with bi-polar disorder or depression, respectively, neither were my grandmothers on both sides, even though all parties involved knew they had some form of mental illness. In the black community, mental illness is such a stigma.
My mother, wanting to break the cycle, took my sisters and I (triplets) to see a psychologist who soon after diagnosed two of us with depression. I remember being so grateful for my mother, especially after the medication set in! It was an amazing feeling knowing that I was not crazy, but rather, had a chemical imbalance that could be treated through medication and therapy. Even though I was happier, I was ashamed. I never shared this with any friends or family. Only my immediate family knew.
Fast forward to 2016, I was in a REALLY bad mental and physical place. I was taking opioids, drinking too much, had a job where my boss was an alcoholic and had been dumped in the worst way possible – via text. And, on top of that, before this relationship, I had been in an abusive relationship in 2012 and never got treatment. I was a mess. As a result, I ended up in a psychiatric hospital in Washington, DC for a little over a week. I always tell people that it was the experience I needed. I discovered that not only had I had depression but severe anxiety and that’s why I was self medicating.
Now, I am proud to say I have depression and anxiety and proud to say I have a therapist and take 3 different pills. In fact, I have met a group of friends at work and outside of work that have had similar battles with mental illness and we often share our highs and lows of the day. We joke and say things like, “I’m only NORMAL because I’m on my meds.” We know mental illness is not funny, but it’s nice to be around people who can normalize it with me.
So, while at first, people saying: “Why can’t you just be happy?” And, “you know, you have it better than most people? You should be appreciative,” used to really get to me. Now, I tell them, “My heart loves and appreciates my life. I just have to remind my brain of that!”