According to Mental Health America 13.2% of the population in the United States identifies as African American. Data complied and released by SAMSHA for 2014 shows that over 16% or 6.8 million had a diagnosable mental illness. I am one of the 6.8 million. I have lived with an insidious depression since I was at least 15 years old. This year I will be 55. My depression is stealth like mercury. It can seep through any crack no matter the size. My depression can lie dormant and then quietly wrap itself tightly around my mind without detection. Once my depression gains a foothold, its toxicity sets my brain on fire. During some depressive episodes death, meaning suicide, stalks me daily pushing me to end my life. Over these many years my depression has relentlessly pounded and pushed me past the end of myself. Though incapacitating, for many years no depressive episode lasted long enough to swallow me in its rip current. That is until 2006.
In 2006, my marriage ended and I found myself starting over with two children, two months of outstanding mortgage payments, an empty refrigerator, and $120.00. This seismic life shift caused the pain that I worked hard to repress during my fourteen year marriage to explode forth like champagne from a bottle. The empty cavity that remained held a depression so firmly entrenched that for the first time I needed medication to manage it. I hate taking medication including antidepressants. When my symptoms abated, I stopped taking my medication. This had extremely serious consequences. Not taking my depression medications as prescribed will eventually trigger a mental health crisis. My crises are scary. A sense of foreboding settles upon me like dew. I mentally unravel. At times I am suicidal. I alternate between wanting to either turn myself into the nearest hospital emergency room or jump off the highest part of said hospital. Early on I would return to my then internist who patched me up. I then repeated the same destructive cycle again and again. Eventually, my internist asked me how many times I intended to do this to myself and by extension my children. My doctor’s rhetorical question gave me pause. In a moment of clarity I decided to follow her advice. Several years have passed since that moment of clarity. I still hate taking medication but know that following my treatment regimen is essential to my mental and physical wellbeing. However, I am currently transitioning to a new chapter that threatens to smash my peace into broken pieces.
Over the last seven months my son graduated from college and started his first full-time job. I also took my sweet baby girl to college. In a blink, my season of full-time mothering ended and I am now a solo mom empty nester. I am very excited for both of my children as they transition into young adulthood. This is their time. It is also my opportunity to reclaim mine. That said I worry that the transition from a life overflowing with activity to one of solitude will trigger a downpour of depression strong enough to push me into a crisis.
When I started over more than eleven years ago, I was beyond critically depressed, overwhelmed, and did not want to get out of bed. In those early days, my children were my reason to rise from my bed despite an overpowering depression. I had to dig deep and keep going. With my children gone, I wonder if I will value myself enough to rise in the midst of a depressive episode.
After eleven plus years of working to extract my depression from that empty cavity. All that remains are weeds. It is time to sod and reseed. My prayer is that these seeds will grow into what is true, wonderful, authentic, praiseworthy, gracious, and beautiful rather than the darkness and hopelessness that is depression.
Slowly I am evolving into the person that I was created and redeemed to be. And so I begin this new chapter committed to the work and vowing not to allow my insidious depression to break me. So mark this the first month of my new year and stay tuned.