Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. (c) Khalil Gibran

A very touching article written by a dear friend of mine that you NEED IN YOUR LIFE! Shout to Mr. Sesay (@thegreatone1) for all you twitter folks… You must follow him! He’s pretty much spectacular

“Damn 7:47! Shit I set my alarm. Ight, no time. Gotta be at work by 8:00 though. Fuck it, I’m already late. How could this happen though? Yesterday I slept for so long. How can my energy be so zapped. I literally slept all day man.....”

“Man, I got a raise. I just got my settlement. But something is missin’ man. I...I don’t feel right... I just don’t....”

“Each day I literally have to time when I’m going to eat that pack of Ramen that I have in the cabinet, because I only have two for the week. I don’t know where my next meal is coming from...”

“Man, I can’t focus. I’m not sad, but I just don’t feel like doing anything today...”

Now trivia time folks, which one of the three do you believe is clinically depressed? *cue jeopardy music* Pencils down, If you answered “number 3, you are dead wrong. The correct answer is all of the above.

When most people think of Clinical Depression, they think toward people who usually can’t handle a rough patch in life. It is an affliction that is believed to be self imposed and merely a figment of the sufferers delusional thoughts combined with an over zealous doctor’s desire to fatten up his bank account through nonsensical prescriptions. In a recent survey 54% of people polled consider depression to be a “personal weakness”. Diagnosis of the disorder in the U.S. has expanded as of recent years along with a massive marketing push from the ever so opportunistic drug companies.
Clinical Depression is seen as a disease that only attacks “the white folk” , who in most African American and African circles, are viewed to not have the ability to handle internal problems and deal with suffering as well as there “darker skinneded” counterparts. It is this dynamic that is illustrated in the virtual void of research data on the relationship of Clinical Depression and African Americans. I perused almost every article possible and all I could drudge up was a book called “Say it Loud: I’m Black and I’m Depressed” by Don Barbera. I’ll spend the 19.95 plus tax at a later date. It’s a recession holmes.
Part of the reason of the void is the lack of available culturally competent researchers who are familiar with the African American community and it’s commonalities and quirks. Another is the African Americans fear of how the research data will be portrayed. As we seen before, (see our whole entire history in life with white folks), mainstream science has gone out of it’s way, at times, to muck up the trust of anything that comes out about Africans and African Americans.
Since I am a miser and there isn’t any real test data or subjects I can interview for this feature, I feel that I have to go to my ace in the hole. Who better to know about the subject than, myself, a sufferer of Clinical Depression.
I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression on July of 2009. I, like many other black men, come from a proud stock. My African heritage added an extra level of spice to that pride stew. There is no such thing as “psychiatrist” in my culture and all problems that are “feeling” oriented is to be handled internally.
Now a little bit of background into my story before I move forward. I lost at least one person every year of my life that was close to me in some capacity starting with my father in 2003 until as recent as this past November with the passing of my older cousin. I’ve had almost every imaginable thing happen to me while I was in school, most too personal to even name in this article. Quite frankly, I am the strongest person that I know besides my mother, who had to watch me suffer through these things and Jesus. But it wasn’t until this year that I really was starting to see the effects. I went to seek psychiatric help when my cousin passed on Christmas in 2006 but that was more for an excuse for my professors just in case my grades dropped. This go round was a little different.
I was unemployed and on the brink of starvation for the majority of 2008. I leaned on my faith and determination to pull myself out of the gutter essentially. I scored a part time job in July then a temp job in September off of grit, shoelaces, a bus pass, and ramen. I rode the bus to and from the job and my apartment and stayed humble until I got hired on full time in May of 2009. I endured another death of a close friend in December but I still trucked on. During that time though, I gained a considerable amount of weight and became increasingly ill. I had no drive to workout and was more of a recluse. It all came to a head in late May after a trip to Atlanta.
In May of 2009 I got a raise and my settlement from a car accident came in (which was a year and a half, two lawyer battle). All of my hard work and dedication was finally paying off. I decided to go to my hometown because I have not been there in a year. When I got Home, something was felt off. Here I was in this plush hotel, with everything ahead of me. I hadn’t been successful that long so it wasn’t stress from that. Something was not right. I felt it in my soul. I go to church. I am a God Fearing man. It was faith that pulled me through all of those trials and in turn made me better for it, but I still was miserable. Also as shown, I am very strong in my resolve. I wasn’t suicidal because I have so much to live for and knew the consequences that would befall the people I left behind, so I knew it wasn’t depression, but things felt so far out of whack . I was just down for know reason. It felt like a lead cape was on my back.It was as if I ran two Marathons and I had nothing left in me to fight for an extra inch, So I decided, when I get back to Ohio, I will seek help. I felt that the shrink would suggest to me some things to snap out of it. I was wrong.
Me and the shrink talked about a lot of things in my 1st visit, but he really didn’t diagnose me with any form of depression. We just talked about life in general. Since this was company endorsed I was cool with it, but I still was exhausted and still was in and out of being sick and I was without a definitive answer. So the next step was to go to the Doctor. It was one of the finer decisions of my life.
I was in the office and we went through a battery of test. I explained to him my problems. After all of the test results showed no adverse results other than high blood pressure, he started asking me personal questions. Nothing too invasive. “How’s your diet, what hobbies do you have”. But it was in my answers that he began to put the pieces together and find the resolution that I needed to move forward out of this fog that I was in.
I told him how I was unable to finish projects anymore because of how tired I would become, and how I once was a workout warrior and how the weight I was at was the most I weighed in my life. I also told him that my appetite really dropped. The doctor paused and just gave me a questionnaire. “Depression Questionnaire”....
“Naw man, not me” I thought.”
“I’m stronger than that. I’m not crazy” , After answering all the questions truthfully and fully, it was in stone: I was a long standing sufferer of Clinical Depression. But how? I wasn’t suicidal, I wasn’t crazy. I have hella friends. This doesn’t match up with the picture I had in my mind.
According to the Doctor, it didn’t have to. Clinical Depression, as explained to me, is chemical imbalance in the brain that involves Seratonin levels in the Brain which rise and fall at points of time where emotionally traumatic events happen to you. So to explain to you in simpler terms, as it relates to myself: With every traumatic event that happened to me I was knocked down a level, and everytime I looked to get out of that level, I just got kicked down again by another event. Problem is I used will power and self dependence to move forward, always trying to place the past harsh event behind me as quickly as possible. I never truly addressed those issues nor address that I was a victim of any of those issues. I never even allowed my self the opportunity to mourn. All of those years of setbacks held into my reservoir of anguish until one day “my emotional dam broke”. The showing wasn’t outward. It just broke my body and mind down. Here is another way that I can relate it to you. It’s as if you are driving a car at night in a snow storm to a location that is just too far, but you have to get there. Your visibility is low, but you have to get there. Roads are slick, you have to get there. That is what my life was for 6 years.
The only problem was that there was the unknown of the treatment. You hear of the rumors of the medicine that is associated with going on the medication that is needed to cure symptoms of this disease. That’s what Clinical Depression is, a Disease of the Brain. After talking with my doctor and consulting a neurologist on how the medicine works and despite my fear of an opiate like effect and addiction I went forward with the treatment.
It was the best decision of my life. The effects are not instant by no stretch. My thoughts became gradually clearer, and my energy levels returned to normal. My ability to interact socially were at normal. The only side effect was initial sleepiness. I still got sad when it was warranted, I was still happy, when was warranted. I cry, I laugh at appropriate times. The key difference was that I wasn’t down for no reason. I wasn’t uselessly wandering, wondering what my next move was going to be. I was back to my old self.
My point behind this is to give a face to Clinical Depression. It is a Disease, that has to be treated much like the Flu. No, you do not have to be suicidal or an outcast to have Clinical Depression, your life does not have to be in shambles, and no, you are not weak. Also it is a colorless, faceless, hopeless, and harsh disease that has to be cut at it’s root. It can zap the potential of some of the best and brightest that our community has to offer. I just hope my story gives courage to another to break the stigma and chains of the disease and move forward in their life. Thanks for your time.