Depression is no laughing matter. Hearing of the suicide of one of my favorite comedians, Robin Williams reminded me of how I suffered with depression when I had my son. It was private and painful. Very few people knew. I was embarrassed.
Most people who are suffering from some form of depression don’t tell. It’s a big secret unless something like suicide occurs. Suicide takes over 30,000 Americans each year and over half of those occur in adult men between the ages of 25-65. The strongest rate factor for suicide is depression. Depression is serious folks. It is a mood disorder. Save.org states that “Basically, here’s how it works: the nerves in our brain don’t touch each other, but rather pass messages from one to the next through chemicals called neurotransmitters. We need just the right amount of this chemical between the nerves to pass the exact same message to the next nerve. If there isn’t enough of that chemical, the message doesn’t get passed along correctly and in this case, depression or a depressive illness can result. When it comes to depressive disorders the chemicals most frequently out of balance are serotonin and norepinephrine.”
Worldwide, it is estimated that some 121 million people suffer from some form of depression. It’s serious, not only because of Robin Williams, but for all the men and women who are suffering. Did you know that African-Americans are more likely than any other race to suffer depression? How about the fact that women have higher depression rates than men? I was shocked when I read those statistics.
Why? Because it was a reminder that no one is immune to depression. When I delivered my son, six years ago, I had no idea what post partum was or why I would be experiencing it. Why me? I had done everything in my power to keep my baby inside my womb until they had to take him early. I did everything the doctor’s said, but it was a couple of days later when the reality of his birth hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt sad, tearful, despairing, discouraged, overwhelmed, and alone. I didn’t know why. I wanted my munch, but I felt helpless. I had a lot of anxiety on whether or not he would love me or if I could do it. I was embarrassed.
It was my doctor who noticed what I was going through and explained it to me in the simplest form: When we removed the placenta, your hormones plummeted. Your body is trying to re-adjust. I couldn’t stop crying. He gave me a prescription for Zoloft to help with the transition. That depressed me even more. I sat in the hospital afraid of being released. My munch didn’t like latching on to me as I breastfed and it was overwhelming. Why didn’t he want my milk? What was wrong with me? Nothing, I just didn’t know the level of this depression.
It took me a few months to get back to my “normal self” or whatever that was. I was embarrassed for many years after that. Embarrassed because I had never known any black woman to have suffered from postpartum depression. You know the “strong black woman” mantra that young black women are taught limited my ability to understand that I needed help. But, I never took for granted the fact that I had a great doctor who was proactive in helping me. He helped stabilize my moods.
My story isn’t the same as Robin’s but depression links us all. I will mourn the loss of an incredible actor that manifested brilliance in every scene. I will watch the replays of Robin’s films and I will laugh. I will cry. I will remember. Remember a man who said in one of my favorite movies, “Good Will Hunting”:
“You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”