Would you believe me if I told you I suffer from severe depression? Would you believe that there was a point in my life that was consumed with unhealthy thoughts of harming me as well as others? Tell me, would you believe it if I told you that those harmful thoughts were almost a reality? You wouldn’t believe it because of who you see before you now. The journey to make it to the place I’m in now, alone, was not an easy one. I was blessed with the strength to overcome the state of depression I experienced, but I’m not fully healed. Depression affects individuals who experience it differently.

For a while I had thoughts of suicide. I didn’t feel important enough or wanted enough to continue living. Who would really care that I’ve gone, or that I’m not around anymore? It’s hard growing up with consistent struggle, and feeling as though you’ve burdened those around you by simply existing. Thoughts of self-hatred and doubt permeated every ounce of my being, and confidence was something unfamiliar to me. Imagine waking up every single day with no sense of purpose, and never feeling as if you mattered to those who mattered to you the most. It’s painful.

It affected me greatly. I didn’t eat much, but many who are close to me wouldn’t know that. I shut off my emotions constantly to keep from crying every second of the day. I’d doubt every positive thing anyone has ever said about me or to me. I didn’t see what they saw. I hid behind that wall of just being modest, but it was never that. I simply did my best to be there for others and help them with their issues. Why? It was a form of escape for me, to deal with things outside of my own reality. It’s one of the issues why I am an avid book lover and writer. There were other ways that I tried to cope with what I felt inside. Most were unhealthy. I used to cut myself, and to this day I still sport the scars carved into my arms, and I used to beat myself with objects. Why? For me physical pain trumps emotional and mental pain. It was a way for me to release what I was feeling inside because I felt incapable and unable to talk with anyone about my inner feelings. Not without them showing they just didn’t care or without having sent me to a doctor and receiving medication.

There was a point in time when the cutting and self-abuse stopped working. What I felt started to darken more as the current living situation I was in got worse. The thought of ending my life to escape and not feel anymore got greater, but something else grew more than that. I almost committed something that there was no coming back from. Harming someone else, getting to that point where there would be no return, was an experience I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel. The only thing that stopped me was God. I say that because at the moment where I was about to act something made me pull back. There was no one I loved, not even myself that crossed my mind to stop me. Thinking on it afterwards was when I decided to fight for change.

It wasn’t easy. Fighting depression was like fighting a dark entity that just wouldn’t pull its claws from out of my chest. I fought every second of every day to pray and change my mindset on life, myself, and others around me. I started letting go of those around me who were negative, I started my journey of self-care and love, and I started looking into where I stand spiritually. This all may sound easy, but let me assure you it wasn’t. What I was doing was outside of my norm, and the depression was like a cancer. Every time it went into remission, it would somehow find its way back on the real bad days, and there were many.

After a while my outlook towards myself, other people, and life changed. I still had issues with how to handle my emotions without bottling them up. I started talking to those I trust and with their understanding, things became a little easier. I still struggle to this day on how to handle my emotions without closing them off or detaching myself, but it’s still a battle and a learning process for further growth. One thing I didn’t mention about my depression is the heavy amounts of anger I feel. At a point I stopped being angry at myself and others around me, but I’d find myself angry for no reason. Meditation helped calm me, and now the anger has lessened. I still feel that emotion heavily from time to time, but it isn’t like how it was in the past. With every little step I took, with prayer and me constantly fighting, I got myself out a compromising position. Depression affected me mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally. It still does, but I’m no longer in the dyer state that I was in before.

I don’t talk about my mental illness often. It took a while for me to not feel shameful about my illness enough to talk about it. I’m slowly overcoming that. There is something about those two words, “mental illness,” that people react to in a negative manner. Instead of trying to understand, or be understanding many people start to see you as that disease and not who you are. We are not our mental illness; it’s just a part of us. None of us who suffer from any sort of mental illness didn’t ask for this either. I am blessed to have been strong enough to endure this on my own, and to overcome it on my own. There are many who have not survived, many who are trapped there, and many who can’t overcome. We shouldn’t be looked down upon, degraded, or stamped with the stigmas that come along with having a mental illness. You’d be surprised at how many people suffer, and you all do not know about it.

It isn’t easy to talk about this, but it’s needed. Many people need to know about what it’s like to have not only depression, but any type of mental illness. I don’t believe it’s something you’re born with, but something you develop. Everyone should be educated about them, especially those in the black community. You’re not weak if you have a mental illness. You are weak if you need to take medication for it. We aren’t weak individuals because of what we have. We just have to fight harder than most.