The black woman and depression: It’s not always sadness

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Growing up in the black community crying was not an option. Many families did not know how to embrace emotions because for generations we were not allowed to show emotions. For hundreds of years emotions were a sign of weakness (crying) or short lived (happiness). Over time the one emotion that we were good at showing was anger. Anger showed on our faces even if we were not aware of it. Anger seeped in our conversations even when we tried to be friendly. Anger even showed up in our work as we used it for energy to be productive in the fields. Anger was the go to anger for protection against all the sadness and pain we were feeling in our generational past and even today.

So let’s fast forward to today. In my own personal experience I remember saying “I don’t have time to cry”. That was my go to saying when I was feeling sad, hurt, embarassed, frustrated, or even happy. Crying took time. Crying meant that my sadness was real. So I would quickly resort to being withdrawn and always irritable (another form of anger). I see this a lot not just in clients but also in family, friends, media, characters on television, and on social media posts. Again anger was a way to be protetive of yourself against the vulnerability that came with being sad. However behind that anger was a deeper rooted issue. Depression.

Depression does not always show up as not wanting to get out of bed. It is not always crying for hours or days. It is not always feeling blue. It is not always skipping out on family and friends or things that you love to do. It is not always feeling and admitiing to feeling suicidal (that’s another upcoming post). In the black community depression can show up in those above mention ways but it also shows up as anger. It shows up in spending time with family and friends and feeding your pain with drama to make you more irritable. It shows up as the attitude. It shows up at the dinner table as  we take in more food than we normally would on a good day. It shows up as pretending to have it together. It shows up as emotional suicide as we cope with the red wine every night. It shows up as smoking a blunt or doing a line or two in order to make it through your day. It shows up in yelling  at our kids for simple things. It shows up as being withdrawn from our kids or other love ones. It shows up as the mask that we wear and call it being independent; strong or “that bitch”.

I like to tell people that no matter how we internalize our thoughts and feelings it will show up. Crying makes it obvious and with the stigma behind tears in the black community we dare not cry; not even over spilled milk.  We better get angry! 

We better get help. There are different ways to getting help for your depression instead of getting or feeling angry.

First seek professional help to assess for depression or depressed mood. Talk about what you’re feeling and thinking and how it has affected your day to day living. Sometimes this may include getting a formal diagnosis and medication if the medical professional recommends it (I’m not a doctor so I can’t talk much on medicaiton).

Second find a therapist that specializes in working with depression disorders. There are different types of therapy that can help such as talk therapy, DBT therapy, CBT therapy, and experiential therapy (these are the modalities I use). Your therapist will assist you in developing a course of treatment to help address the underlying issues and develop skills to cope in a healthier manner.

Third utilize your support system. In the black community we also have the stigma surrounding going to therapy and keeping our flaws to ourselves. Let’s end that stigma. It’s time to  connect to those love ones that will be there to help you get through your tough times; make you laugh, and hold you accountable for your treatment. Healthy relationships and connections can lead to healthier recovery.

Fourth develop a routine of getting outside and getting some exercise. This can be something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day. Exercise helps with the whole body; mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Fifth and lastly know that you are not alone. It is okay to not be okay but what’s most important is that you acknowledge what you are feeling and seek the appropriate care.

Ladies we don’t always have to be strong and independent. It is okay to take care of ourselves and get our mental health in check. Sending lots of love and hugs xoxo

 

Tahiyya xo

 

If you or someone you know is depressed and feeling suicidal please get help and call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Other resources

Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting: Terrie M. Williams …

Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America: Charisse …

If you live in the Matthews and Concord area and need a therapist please contact me at www.tahiyyamartin.com/contact

 

 

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