Mental health issues and suicide rates have been steadily on the rise, especially for minority groups and people of color. Still, only about one in three Black or African American adults who had a mental illness received care for it, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Black women, in particular, often face pressures to stay strong in the face of everything they’re dealing with and that can make them reluctant to seek help.
This tendency toward avoidance of the issue, even lack of education around mental health in general, led me to hide my own clinical depression. I’m here to share my story.
I attempted suicide. Anxiety and depression mounted and built until one day, it all just became too much. I swallowed an entire bottle of pills, hoping to end my misery once and for all. I remember blacking out, fading into my subconscious, everything turning black. I had been thwarted. My neighbor somehow discovered me in that state. I barely remember hearing her voice and the banging at my door, in and out of my mind, the sounds of the ambulance getting louder and louder, the clicking and clacking of a gurney rattling in my brain. The next thing I knew is that I was waking up in the emergency room in so much emotional pain.
“Patricia? Patricia, are you awake? We need you to stay awake, okay?” I heard them speaking about me, reading off my vital signs. A nurse held my back, her other hand had a small bowl. They had induced vomiting, and everything I’d taken left me violently. I wanted to die even more at that moment. What an awful experience.
All I wanted was to be free. Free to lay in bed a little longer when I felt sad. Free to start my day with meditation and a little workout to jumpstart my weak and frail body. I honestly didn’t think about working to get rich.
My hopelessness, depression, and confusion wore on. Admittedly, my mental state kept me from sticking to a job for too long. I lost a number of jobs simply because of my ever-present sadness, which made me unable to even get out of bed to do anything, much less get to work. I’d show up for work as soon as I felt well, but it was usually too late. Most times, the manager wouldn’t even let me in the door. I walked away from many jobs like a ghost, disappearing without a trace, gone deep into hibernation. I told myself that I couldn’t go on like that forever.
During the extremely cold winter months when my depression peaked, I barely had the energy to get out of bed, let alone travel outside my home. With this kind of irregular work pattern, I don’t need to tell you that I was either fired or voluntarily quit my jobs. I worked at over twenty different medical facilities. Each time I got a job, I would count down the days desperately trying to reach the ninety-day mark to become eligible for unemployment benefits. When I reached that mark, I would once again quit and hide from the world. I realized that if I didn’t live and work in the basement of my house, I couldn’t have built a successful business.
This went on for many years, the tortures of depression kept me down, despite my desire to rise above. When I finally learned to accept all of me including my depression, I was finally free.
Whether I was learning to cope with emotional anxiety and seasonal depression, temporary derailment by envious family members, or fighting through multiple unsuccessful attempts at starting a business, still, I found myself on the other side of adversity and emerged victoriously. Ultimately, I still feel levels of depression and despite this challenge, as Maya Angelou once said, “Still like dust I rise”, I rose and became a millionaire.
Today, mental health has become an openly discussed topic. We are now witnessing society embrace this critical issue globally and the credit belongs to the individuals brave enough to share their stories. Michelle Obama recently commented on the matter admitting, “I’m waking up in the middle of the night because I’m worried about something or there’s a heaviness, I try to make sure I get a workout in, although there have been periods throughout this quarantine, where I just have felt too low.” Obama is one of many powerhouses who have taken the liberty of speaking out on her coping practices:
“I like communication best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends let me know that my feelings are totally normal.” – Serena Williams
“It was scary and lonely,” crediting meditation and getting back to work as recovery tools. “I can’t believe I came back from that point.” -Ellen Degeneres
“I recently listened to the same advice I have given to thousands around the world and sought help from a great team of healthcare professionals.” -Michelle Williams
“I started sharing the news with friends and family—I felt like everyone deserved an explanation, and I didn’t know how else to say it other than the only way I know: just saying it. It got easier and easier to say it aloud every time.” -Chrissy Teigen
“I have struggled for a long time, both being public and not public about my mental health issues or my mental illness. But I truly believe that secrets keep you sick.” -Lady Gaga
“I remember really being so terrified of letting anybody around me know… I don’t regret opening up about what I went through [with depression], because, it sounds really cliché, but I have had women come up to me and say, ‘It meant so much to me.’” -Winona Ryder
Despite the battle you are struggling with, just know that it is natural and you are not alone. There is help. Reach out to a loved one. Contact a mental health therapist. Journal your thoughts and feelings, then send them to someone you trust. Even someone like Michael Phelps with 28 Olympic medals to his name once debating taking his own life due to severe depression. Mental health issues don’t discriminate and can overtake even the soundest of minds, as seen with Michelle Obama. So if you are feeling saddened or anxious, know that it is OK. You are loved and there is help.
You are not alone. We are not alone. We are in this together. Together, we persist.