So I was on social media not long ago, just minding my own business, when I scrolled past this post:
Now for those of you who don’t know, Farrah Gray is a well-renowned entrepreneur, philanthropist and best-selling author (#LifeGoals) who became a self-proclaimed millionaire at the age of 14. So he’s actually someone worth listening to. But in this particular case, I beg to differ.
Let me just explain something real quick. Depression is not something you can just “shake off.” It’s not an emotion that just comes and goes whenever you feel like it. It is a real, live mental illness that results from all types of ish going on inside of your brain, whether it be from an overwhelming amount of stress, a chemical imbalance, or medical problems. People who suffer from depression already feel like crap. So chastising someone who is depressed by telling them that there’s someone else in a hospital who’s doing much worse than them isn’t a very effective approach. In all actuality, it just makes that person feel crappier.
Ever had a “blah” day, where you just felt like crap for no tangible reason? Those gloomy days where, on a scale of one to 10, your level of bitter is a solid Janet Hubert, and you simply “don’t give a kitty” about anything else going on in the world? Now imagine feeling like that indefinitely. Yeah, not a good feeling.
I actually cried on my graduation day. Not tears of joy, but tears of confusion and frustration for feeling so unhappy on a day that was supposed to be one of the most joyous moments of my life. But I was mentally and physically burnt out. I had become severely depressed during my last semester at Howard. I had a lot on my plate and honestly didn’t know what to do with it all. I was a resident assistant, an active member of Delta Sigma Theta, the co-chair of a huge conference on campus, and a graduating senior with 18 credit hours to my name. I had gone through a terrible breakup and my physical health had begun to deteriorate out of nowhere. After a while, I stopped caring about my appearance (so y’all KNOW something was definitely wrong) and I began making a lot of poor judgment calls, most of which were executed under the influence of weed and/or liquor. I felt lost inside of my own mind, like I had absolutely no control over my life. But somehow I managed to push through my last semester and made it across the stage. Shortly after graduating, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called dermatomyositis, which I discovered was a big contributor to my depression. Long story short, it took months of prayer, family support, and changes in my overall lifestyle to ultimately improve my mental and physical state of health.
I say all of that to say this: We’ve got to let go of this dismissive stigma that depression is an emotional weakness. It’s literally a mental disease that can be cured with the proper treatment and attention. Yes, there are folk laying up physically sick in the hospital; but there are lots of other folk who are walking around mentally sick, trying to understand what their life is about. And quite frankly, that’s not something you can just “shake off” before going to bed.
This video on depression that one of my best friends made for BuzzFeed pretty much sums it up: