I’m winding down from my book release and excited about my journey in pushing this positive “Flawesome” movement and I get some devastating news. A blogger and motivational person that I have followed and supported for a while, suddenly commits suicide. The news and all the other bloggers are speculating on why she killed herself, considering her blog and her videos were meant to inspire people. However, Karyn Washington founder of For Brown Girls (http://www.forbrowngirls.com/) didn’t commit suicide for the reasons that most people thought. She was happy with her looks and proud of her beauty. Karyn was suffering with a different type of sadness.
After watching a recent video of her close friend explaining what she believed to be the reasons Karyn was suffering and how the public/media attempted to steer the conversation in a very different direction, I knew that we had a bigger issue here…
We don’t talk about depression, sadness, loneliness, and suicide in the black community as much as we should.
We are so inundated and overwhelmed with trying to survive our basic day to day, that often we don’t notice the internal struggles of our peers.
Society has made it shameful to admit that we are suffering from depression or that life’s trials often make us want to end it all just to stop the pain.
Most importantly, people have this misconception that positive and motivating people don’t have personal issues and experience sadness.
As a black woman, I’m supposed to be resilient, strong and focused. I have too many things counting against me. Between my race, the fact that I’m a mother of two boys, my income bracket, my geographical location, I didn’t finish college, and I have apparent imperfections and flaws, I can’t afford for people to know that I have suffered from depression and mental illness. It’s like a crack in my armor. How successful can I be with depression and suicide attempts constantly knocking on my door of opportunities? Let anyone else tell it (especially those who don’t fully understand depression and mental illness) you need to get yourself together and you’re in the way.
I wrote “Flawesome …Because God Don’t Make No Junk!” because I wanted to open up that discussion. It took a lot to admit to everyone the amount of suffering I endured because I didn’t value myself, I didn’t love who I was or what I was capable of, and like Karyn… I was sad. Karyn’s friend mentioned that Karyn had watched her mother suffer for a long time up until she passed away. I know what that kind of sadness is because although my mother didn’t die, her love and respect for me did when I was just 11 years old. I have always yearned for those earlier years back when I had that mother/daughter relationship to fall back on. I always became even more depressed when I looked back on the milestones she missed, the relationship we could have had, and how every young woman I know has something special between her and her mother and I don’t. A few times I attempted suicide, it was because of that emptiness I felt from not having a supportive and loving family in my parents.
During those times of pain, I never thought I could turn to anyone. Successful and happy people generally don’t broadcast that they have tried counseling, therapy, and hospitalization and nothing worked. Moguls and CEOs aren’t bragging about the fact that they have taken almost every anti-depressant known to man until they learned to self-medicate and even then, nothing helped. Depression and sadness was always something to be ashamed of. I didn’t want yet another thing to be ashamed of, so ultimately I kept my issues under wraps to everyone except those closest to me.
It took me forever to admit:
I am a young female. I’m black, married & successful and I tried to kill myself 6 times.
We are not having these conversations. We are not opening up about our struggles and how we are persevering. We only share the glitz and glamour of our lives, so that people can have aspirations for the good times but never fully understand how we triumphed through the bad times. We don’t want anyone to see any signs of weakness. Our attempt to hide our feelings and struggles make us feel superlative, when sharing our trials and tribulations can also make us relatable.
I empower all of you to open up. No one is perfect. We all get lonely and we all experience some level of sadness. However, when you feel like it’s getting deeper than you can handle, ask for help. We should seek out real friends to talk to. We should research and look into support groups, and professionals that can guide us into the right direction. We shouldn’t fear any stigmas attached to seeking help, like a doctor visit is recommended when you’re sick… going to a professional when you’re depressed is just as beneficial to your health. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
Our friends and those close to us should be more understanding. Pay attention to the things those you love are saying. Often times you can hear the struggle in the words people use and the behavior they display. People isolated all the time, introverted, not speaking or enjoying the things they once loved, can all be silently screaming for help in one way or another. By not being so wrapped up in ourselves and more supportive of one another, you could very well be that friend that saves someone’s life.
It’s time we open up a dialogue among one another and realize the seriousness of how depression affects our community. Karyn was a beautiful young woman with so much going for her and a real appreciation for the person she was, but from the testimony of her friend she was still dealing with the loss of her mother. So no matter how much she smiled and motivated people, she still experienced real pain deep down.
Let’s not let another person take their lives on our watch. Let’s start being transparent and vulnerable enough that we can turn to each other when we feel that low. There is no reason for our loved ones to not feel like this life is worth living. We can be there to hold their hand through it all.