I remember when I was first told that I might have depression, I thought this :
This is what White girls get.
My mother had this inside joke where she said, “When it is my turn to get sick, I’m gonna be bipolar!”
But with the vocal nature and candor of Jenifer Lewis with her bipolar disorder (read The Mother Of Black Hollywood), compounded by the willingness of Taraji P. Henson to discuss her struggles with anxiety and depression? I believe it is now safe to say this—-not just non-melaninated people depressed or have mental health issues.
We as a culture have incubated and indoctrinated this adage to be Black is to be superhuman! Invulnerable to pain or heartbreak. Or disappointment. Or loss. Or not deal with any sort of trauma outside of vices or self-destructive activities.
The conversation is being had. The comfortable conversations that involve personal histories, that lead to what can (in some cases) be seen as maladaptive coping mechanisms. There are Black psychologists, therapists, counselors and mental health advocates whom are holding space for people who are ashamed to access services—or may not know certain access even exists!
As a Black woman whom was once a Black child, I was told I had an attitude—not asked why I had an attitude. I have been accessing services for my own mental health and I am better for it. My therapist, the lovely Karen Banks, allows me to pour out my head, and wade through darker waters. She reminds me to count the wins. To embrace what I can’t change, learn to rest and not be so hard I myself! And as always, when I need help—to say so.
Ah, the horocrux of Black women—ask for help when you need it. Stop when necessary. Stop holding up the world.
There are apps now that link the young, gifted and Black to therapists and counseling services. There are outlets for little Black boys to talk to counselors also—and have the right to be heard and recognized for their trauma as well.
Let us begin to rewrite this history of drinking sorrow and trauma as if we won’t die—because that’s just what we as a people do. No, no more. Zorro Neale Hurston said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
Embrace the joy. Say what you need, need what you say. Sometimes we have to be lead out of the darkness with someone with a brighter lamp. For some, like myself, I need Jesus and a therapist—and it’s okay to have both.
Don’t die in your pain because you refuse to open your mouth. Life is waiting on you to join it—don’t be so quick to be content to leave it because change is hard.
Stay in the world with us. Make history, while showing up for your own future.
[images from The Safe Place and mhanational.org]