I wrote the following Facebook post on January 31 to commemorate Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” Day — a day that aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. I thought that I should also share it with you on my blog. My hope is that through my candour and transparency that you will be touched/inspired/encouraged/educated.
I was inspired by Elo Deb Kaznowska‘s post. So, ok. Let’s really talk about mental health.
One day I was talking to my good friend Luke Glassford and he told me, “Simone, I’ve been meaning to tell you this — you sound depressed and you need to seek professional help.”
And of course I was like, “Me?! Depressed? Look at me laughing and washing dishes and talking to you. I’m fine!”
But then because I was still feeling “blah”, unable to get out of the bed in the morning, constantly late for work, always tired, messy apartment, lacking motivation and energy and generally hating my life, I decided to see my doctor. In his referral to a psychologist, he cited “mild depression.”
It was a diagnosis (?) which hit me in the gut. But because, years ago, I had become a trained facilitator of the Dr. Nedley Depression Recovery program and I had been working in the area of mental health at the time, I knew I would eventually be OK. I knew I wasn’t “crazy” — I was just struggling. I was just having a hard time.
In retrospect, I wasn’t surprised I was depressed: I was burnt out from law school, I got sued, I failed the bar four times, I had been sexually harassed at work, at one point I was on welfare, I had been unemployed, I was/am single and lived away from family and friends in cold, wintery cities, and having polycystic ovary syndrome and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis put me at an elevated risk for depression, not to mention what it’s like being a (somewhat curvy 😊) Black woman. I had to navigate a lot in a short period of time, and my health took a hit.
That’s the thing — depression is not a condition of the weak — it often plagues the strong. Therapy isn’t for the weak — it’s for the strong. It takes strength to admit that you’re struggling, and the things that may be revealed in therapy may challenge you (I’m not trying to shame those who may not be able to access support for whatever reason). I’m not weak or incompetent — I’m just temporarily tired. I need compassion — not judgment, not ridicule, not criticism and certainly not fear.
Thanks to plenty of exercise (Zumba!), nutritious whole foods, vacations, continually seeking out work which aligns with my strengths and my passions, regularly seeing a therapist, an understanding manager and an accommodating employer, I’m on the mend.
I share my story because in so many of the circles to which I belong — West Indian, Christian/church, Black — mental health and illness is so stigmatized. Ironically, the fact of the matter is that these groups of people may need help the most (that’s another story). Many of us are mentally ill or struggling and we don’t know it (or refuse to admit it). What with our history of living in abusive, devaluing systems, the microagressions we face on a daily basis, the toll of racism and sexism, the widespread acceptance of abuse as a parenting mechanism — you’ve probably been seriously wounded and need healing. You probably need therapy if you are a POC. Therapy is not only for White people.
And if you read this and say, “I don’t need therapy” then chances are you probably would benefit from therapy. Most people would benefit from personal training. Likewise, I am firmly of the belief that most people would benefit from therapy. I’ve done both and I’m the better for it. At the very least, therapy makes you think about your thinking and how you think, which is important.
(And on that note, prayer is powerful but faith without works is dead. I know Jesus and I pray and at one point I was vegan but I still was depressed.)
A funny thing happened when I would disclose to friends that I was seeing a therapist — they would tell me that they were too. There are more people seeing therapists than you think. You wouldn’t be the only one, should you elect to see one.
Just like everyone has physical health, everyone has mental heath and we need to take our mental health as seriously as we do our physical health. You only have one body, and likewise you only have one mind.
Take care of both.
If you’re struggling, get help. There’s no shame in that.