I have often struggled with depression. Some years it was just a low grade, couldn’t-get-my-groove-back type of feeling. And at other times, it was a debilitating feeling of dread and desperation.
Of course, I explained my feelings away by convincing myself that my extreme sadness was due only to work stress, or that it was the result of being a single mom, or it was due to the daily microaggressions that I faced at work. And we all know that any one of those issues alone can wreak havoc on your mental health.
But even though ALL of that was true, I was still reluctant to NAME what I suspected it really was —depression. Why? Church and culture had convinced me that being depressed was a sign of weakness and a sign of being faithless. And so, I was admonished to pray more. But what I really needed was some prayer, a therapist, and a little bit of Prozac. Let the church say amen!
But instead of finally naming my depression, I numbed it. I worked harder, exercised more, ate more, prayed more, and nagged my son more. I did more of everything but tell the truth. I did everything but NAME the hope-depleting, joy-sucking feeling which I knew was depression.
Thank God I am liberated from those toxic beliefs. I now know that we MUST normalize talking about mental health, therapy, and trauma. We must also talk about the ways that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, poverty, health inequity, toxic religion, systemic oppression, white-washing, gaslighting, suffocating norms, and toxic individualism compound the need for being more intentional about our mental health and about seeking support. And we must normalize that finding the RIGHT therapist, coach, or counselor may take time. Yes, it may take a few months and a few failed attempts to find the person or group that most resonates with you. So, please don’t stop going to therapy or seeking help because the first therapist could not resonate with you or your lived experience.
My friend, we live in a society where over 17 million people have experienced at least one major depressive episode. Because of COVID, civil unrest, past trauma, and so many other gut-wrenching losses, some people have experienced chronic depression and struggle every day.
Because of its prevalence, discussions about mental health must be normalized and talked about in the home, in schools, on our jobs, and in our faith-based organizations. It is dangerous to be silent about depression, and it is irresponsible to stigmatize people when they need support, community, and compassion.
In Deciding To Soar 2, I talk about my bouts with depression, and I will keep talking about it because it is important for people to know that depression can be treated and healing can be trusted. Never forget that your mental health matters because you matter. (Chapter 7)
What I know for sure: Therapy saved my life. Racially sensitive and culturally informed therapy helped me understand how historical trauma and racial trauma stripped me of my power and trapped me in a world of self-loathing. It helped me understand how I was consciously and unconsciously taught to hate myself and devalue people who looked like me. It helped me understand how my faith tradition was steep in patriarchy, which polluted my relationship with God. It helped me understand that I was worthy of wealth, abundance, love, and rest.
Therapy helped me SOAR HIGHER than the prerogative paradigms, perspectives, and prescriptions that held me down and tried to help me back.
Therapy is not a luxury. It is essential if you want to live an authentic, audacious life.
I am cheering for you!
You can heal!