On January 13th, 2018, months of planning came to fruition. We had our For Colored Girls Who Lead Website Launch Party. Weeks leading up to the event, I was worried that no one would show up. It was one of my greatest fears. A fear put to rest by a wonderfully curious audience who attended and to whom I am very thankful. Fast forward to the next week and I could barely even make it out of bed. To be honest, some days I couldn’t bring myself to take a shower or change my clothes. There was a cloud of sadness and nothingness hanging over my head. As much as I wanted to be happy, there seemed to be no end.
Depression and I are long lost friends. I don’t even know how she found me. One day she showed up and never really left. But depression is not something that Black people talk about. We do not get depressed, we are strong and resilient. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), African Americans are 20% more likely to experience mental health problems. Although the Latino community experiences mental illnesses in similar numbers to the general population, only 10% seek assistance from a mental health specialist.
I remember watching The Carmichael Show, and Cynthia, the main character’s mom, was depressed, but she hid it from her family. Cynthia, like many people of color, did not acknowledge the depression. She called it the “blues” and she saw it as a disease for rich white people. The thought of therapy was laughable and immediately rejected. Although this is a fictional show, there continues to be a stigma against mental illness and therapy in communities of color.
Much like Cynthia, I became good at hiding my depression. As a person with high functioning depression, it seems like I excel at everyday activities, but people have no idea how exhausting it is to keep going. All day I appear to have it all together externally, but on the inside I feel like I am falling apart. Everything (even simple things) consume my energy, and I walk around exhausted most of the time. Depression doesn’t always look like debilitating sadness and hopelessness. It can manifest in lack of motivation, pushing away friends and family, not taking care of your hygiene, insomnia. It has many faces and depression does not necessarily have an external reason. On the outside life can seem good, but you can still be bogged down by depression..
Now how does any of this connect to holistic leadership? Our tagline is “Health. Wealth. Spirituality.” Although traditional leadership focuses solely on results, holistic leadership acknowledges the importance of the whole person. A great holistic leader understands the “who” of leadership, which means understanding yourself. For the good or bad, we bring the things we deal with in our personal lives to work. Understanding your depression is the beginning of the health part of our tagline.
Don’t be ashamed because you are not the only one suffering from depression. Unlike physical ailments, mental illnesses are invisible, which makes it challenging to know who is dealing with it or not. In the Black and Latino community, there is a saying, “don’t air your dirty laundry in public.” Often, people of color are private and we don’t want to talk in public about problems at home. The idea that all problems can be solved inside of the household is a fallacy. It is okay to connect with a mental health professional. It is no different than contacting your doctor for a check up or sickness. Any discussions with your mental health care providers are confidential and they listen without judgement. Talking about your depression eases the isolation felt from internalizing your condition.
Have you heard things like pray about it? Faith and spirituality should not be your only option for healing. I am a firm believer that prayer requires action. I pray, and I work on aligning my chakras. I also take an antidepressant every morning and I visit a therapist. Reach out to your faith community for support, but the church is not your only tool nor is it enough for everyone. People are different, so the way they heal is different. It is okay to seek help from a mental health professional. Recognize your need for help and assistance.
It is okay to not be okay, but there is help.
For those of you who are interested, here is a list of resources to start your journey of self: